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William F. Buckley and Hugh Hefner discuss Judeo-Christian sexual ethics

Apr 12, 2011 By Abraham

From the show Firing Line, 1966…

Buckley to Hefner:

The Judeo-Christian code, obviously, as we know, antedated Puritanism… So I’m not talking about whether or not you reject Cotton Mather’s accretions on the Mosaic law, but whether you reject the Mosaic law.

This is a remarkable conversation on a number of levels.

(via Classic TV Showbiz, MetaFilter)


  1. Anna says:

    I am utterly charmed by Buckley’s accent and wish that there were a similar show on today. They both look like they’re suffering from indigestion though.
    I find it curious that Buckley equates Mosaic Law with monogamy, though. Christian ethics require monogamy, certainly, but Mosaic Law didn’t.

  2. Zach says:

    Hugh Hefner’s body language comes across as shockingly insecure in this interview, which is curious when you consider how assertively and intelligently he’s articulating his view. And, to be fair, Buckley’s says he has absolutely no interest in Hef’s actual opinion, which is also strange for his pursuit of such a discussion based format. This is a very intriguing interview.

    1. Todd says:

      I noticed the body language, too – I found it interesting and completely opposite from the little I know about him today. I’m not sure I agree with your assessment about the intelligence with which he was defending his position, though.

      His statement toward the end (paraphrasing here…) that the idea that sex has no moral place prior to marriage is not “Christian per se” but grew through the ages demonstrates that he has no understanding of what he’s talking about. While I would agree that the church has suffered from (and continues to suffer from) a negative, legalistic view of sex, Scripture is absolutely clear about marriage being the only context in which it is appropriate and blessed, and proposing anything other demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the “code” he’s attempting to refute…

    2. Jason says:

      Hefner fails to actually make any substantive arguement for his case. His statements about sexual taboos not being directly from Christ are ignorant or obscurant. It was, after all, Christ himself who both affirmed the Mosaic law, and applied it beyond just the actions, but to the heart itself.

      I think Hefner was just trying to keep his head on straight as long as possible so that those who wanted to believe what he said would have an easier time of doing so.

  3. ED... says:

    The remarkable thing to me is that the questioner asks for Heffner’s justification for setting aside the Jewish/Christian ethical framework. That wouldn’t happen today. Now it’s assumed that the Jewish/Christian ethical framework is outdated and irrelevant at best, and oppressive and immoral at worst.

    The reason Heffner seemed coherent was that he was articulate. For all practical purposes, though, he was simply dressing up the idea of “sex as appetite” in 20th century language. Paul dealt with the ideas succinctly in 1 Cor 6. Paul rejected both “puritanism” – i.e. any view of sex which sees it as being inherently bad, and “appetite” – i.e. any view of sex which equates it to other appetites, devoid of spiritual or moral dimension.

    “Situational ethics” was the mid-century pseudo-intellectual way of saying “do what seems right to you”. Heffner appeals nebulously to “psychology” for his moral authority, assumes that ongoing scientific investigation has taken us to a new vantage point from which to understand man’s sexual needs, and says his philosophy is only one part of the wider ethical re-evaluation going on in society: he believed that the 20th century was “evolving” moral anti-puritanism, and restoring “naturalistic” values. (Nature’s values when it comes to sex look to me to be amoral rather than moral, but that doesn’t seem to trouble Heffner.) He was trying to establish a “new morality” to replace the “old legalism” which he claims made no sense to him. I wonder if he simply wanted what he knew to be wrong and found he had to justify it. He claimed that Americans suffer from “puritanism” and that the old morality’s rules “lead them out the window”. I notice that he doesn’t get down to specifics. Specifics always support the view of sex that Paul enunciated.

  4. Kell Brigan says:

    If I could put a thought bubble over Hefner’s head, it would read “Whatever. I just wanna get it on ON THE BODIES OF CHILDREN.” (He makes no argument whatsoever, other than that the existence of psychopathology/crime/cruelty/sexual selfishness and exploitation means that it somehow must be tolerated as normal because everything that exists must be normal. Standard paraphile (look it up) LIES.

    Look at the history of cartoons over the decades where Playboy’s been selling child rape as somehow normal and desireable.





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