|The Abolition of Marriage (2)|
In the previous article, I argued two basic points: first, marriage historically and anthropologically has always been about uniting fathers and mothers with their children to provide a stable environment for children to be born into and raised; second, although the Western world has systematically dismantled the essential elements of marriage over the past 50 years, same-sex marriage represents the final, possibly irrevocable legal destruction of the institution of marriage as it has been understood in all cultures throughout history.
The impact of this change is unpredictable, especially given the one universal of human society, the Law of Unintended Consequences. And experience tells us that those unintended consequences are rarely positive. It is clear the changes will almost certainly be far more sweeping than most people realize, given the fundamental role marriage has played in human society.
The most obvious impact will be on family. As has frequently been pointed out, once you eliminate the idea that marriage is about the next generation, which the Supreme Court has essentially labeled bigotry and only motivated by animus against homosexuals, then there is no rational reason to limit marriage to two people. Similarly, since sexual orientation is now increasingly becoming a legally protected category, other “orientations”, such as pedophilia, can emerge that will also demand legal recognition and protection. The first steps have already been taken to advance both of these agendas, and we can expect them to accelerate.
In an era in which many social problems can be traced to the collapse of the family and particularly the absence of fathers, the abolition of historic marriage is likely to increase social pathologies. In particular, it will likely accelerate out of wedlock births and lead to a general decline in conjugal marriage culture. There is already some evidence that this has happened in countries in which “same sex marriage” has been legalized.
Parenting by same sex couples will likely also lead to problems among the children, as the most recent and comprehensive study has shown (despite political pressure to come to different conclusions). Psychologists have long known that children learn different things from their mothers and their fathers, and depriving them of either has consequences for their development. This simple fact has been ignored in the push to normalize same sex relationships and to allow same sex adoptions.
Even greater threats
These and a variety of other problems have been discussed extensively by supporters of traditional marriage. But there are other issues as well that are not as well understood and that have enormous implications for civil rights and the role of government in our lives.
First, as has often been argued, normalization of same sex relationships threatens religious freedom. Proponents of so-called same sex marriage have claimed that it is an issue of human rights, a claim which the European Court of Human Rights has rejected, incidentally.[i] In making this claim, they argue that it is the next step in the civil rights movement, and since it is illegal to refuse to serve African Americans at a lunch counter, it is similarly illegal to refuse to photograph or make a cake for a same sex wedding, or to rent a room at an inn to same sex couples, or to refuse to make a wedding chapel available to same sex couples. Each of these has been upheld in courts in different cases around the U.S. The “right” to a same sex marriage thus trumps the guarantee of the “free exercise” of religion by compelling people to take part in actions that violate their consciences. I suspect it will not be long before supporters of same sex marriage start coming after churches as well. (They will probably not go after mosques, however, out of fear of the backlash that would follow.)
A less obvious implication of same sex marriage is that it vastly increases the role of the government in regulating our private lives. It has long been recognized that governments have the right to regulate marriages, but this is because marriage performed a public function: it provided a stable, institutionalized structure for children to be brought into the world and raised, and thus provided for the continuity and stability of society. Once this role is rejected as the fundamental purpose of marriage, what other public role is left? It becomes nothing more than a private relationship between two (or more) people.
Same sex marriage thus opens the door to the government regulating private relationships, relationships which have no public function. Let that sink in. What gives the government the right to do that? And once that power is established, where else could it lead? Legalizing same sex marriage is, in fact, an unprecedented and dangerous intrusion of government into our lives, and is therefore a step toward totalitarianism.
So where has the church been in this process?
Where’s the Church?
The answer is simple: Protestants and evangelicals have been AWOL.
Rather than taking the lead and being salt and light in the culture, most churches have simply acquiesced to the changing norms and standards of society.
Protestants have long argued that there were a few legitimate reasons for divorce; when the culture began promoting no fault divorce and remarriage, we went along with it. The idea of staying together “for the children” was regularly mocked, though in retrospect it was the simple truth. Some evangelicals were reluctant to accept divorce at first, but eventually they joined in as well. Once we accepted divorce and remarriage, we gave up on a key component of marriage, its permanence.
Everything else in the degeneration of marriage flows from there.
Then there are the reproductive issues. Artificial birth control was never an issue for non-Catholic Western Christians, of course. And when abortion came along, it was largely embraced by Protestants and even evangelical leaders.[ii] Then came in vitro fertilization came along, which we regarded as an un-alloyed good.
And as a result, we acquiesced in separating sex from reproduction.
At this point, the only thing we objected to was the sexual revolution. We argued against premarital sex as a moral issue, but we offered no reason beyond arbitrary rules of behavior. And against a culture that is as oversexed as ours, arbitrary rules don’t have much power. To be sure, there are good reasons for God’s rules for sexuality, but we don’t know what they are so we can’t teach them.
The net result is that sexual behavior in the churches is no different from the larger culture. And the churches have largely given up discussing or teaching about the issue, whether from fear of the reaction of the congregation, ignorance of the rationale for sexuality, or lack of concern about active disobedience in our churches.
And once we gave up on God’s sexual norms, we were powerless to resist the argument that people who had same sex attraction should be permitted to follow their desires. Since the culture as a whole is increasingly accepting homosexuality, and since we’ve already bought into a significant part of the culture’s casual attitude toward sex, we have been largely impotent to resist the emotional appeal of same sex marriage.
So what’s the point?
So what is the point of rehearsing this history?
Paul tells us that we are not to let the world mold us but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2). That is precisely what we did NOT do. We are in the position we are in now because we have casually gone along with the culture without thinking through the implications of what we were doing. And by the time we realized what was happening, we were being driven by the society’s norms rather than being salt and light in the culture.
Hard as it may be for evangelicals to admit this, the Catholic Church has been way ahead of us in understanding these issues and where they lead. We would do well to learn from them when it comes to moral theology.
The question is whether it is too late to do anything about the decay of the culture.
As much as I’d like to have an answer to this, I don’t. And it really doesn’t matter. What God expects from us is clear. We need to repent from our past compromises and develop a fully formed Christian worldview that prophetically critiques the culture. Like the men of Issachar we need to understand the times and what needs to be done (1 Chron. 12:32). That means doing the hard work of thinking things through and being willing to learn from Christians outside of our own camp that have longer and richer intellectual traditions than we do.
We must then commit ourselves to radical obedience to God whatever the cost. This means speaking the truth in love about sexuality and repenting of our own sexual sins, including all extra-marital sex and pornography.
Such obedience will cost us. Paul tells us that anyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). It may cost us friends, social standing, even our jobs. It may mean jail time. Jesus tells us we need to count the cost before we commit to following Him (Luke 14:28). We need to take that seriously, and if we are going to claim His name, we need to be willing to pay that cost.
[ii] A summary of some of the figures who supported abortion can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-dudley/how-evangelicals-decided-that-life-begins-at-conception_b_2072716.html
Email a link to this article to your pastor and several church leaders, and ask them to respond to you. If they don’t, follow up with a phone call. Take a stand and insist that your church begin to address the question of marriage more openly and more forcefully.
How did we get into this situation? We let the thinking of the worldview wash away a Christian worldview. Glenn’s book, Why You Think the Way You Do, explains. Order your copy from our online store today. You might also benefit from reading the article, “The Mind of the Flesh,” by T. M. Moore.