LIVING THROUGH A REVOLUTION

I was reading a fictional account in which a gay man asks a pastor, a long-time friend, to perform his same-sex wedding. Although the pastor tries to keep his cool, the prospect  appalls him. He warns that if this event did occur, he would avert his eyes in disgust if the two men kissed in front of him. He would be “totally grossed out.” Ultimately he decides that he cannot perform the wedding, mainly because “I’m a little worried about eternal damnation.” So I ask you: what kind of backwoods fundamentalist fringe church are we dealing with here? Plenty of Christians reject the idea of same-sex marriage, but the overwhelming majority would surely respond much more charitably to a practice that has acquired solid mainstream respectability. Fear of hellfire over that issue? Really? Is this Westboro Baptist?

The story-line I am describing actually occurred in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury cartoon strip in 1999, and the characters were Doonesbury veterans. The gay man was former campus agitator Mark Slackmeyer, and the fictional cleric was Scot Sloan, another holdover from the turmoil of the 1960s. (His name is meant to recall William Sloane Coffin). In his prime, Rev. Scot was lauded as “the fighting young priest who can talk to the kids,” and his radical principles continued into later years, as he struggled for the rights of Central American migrants. Yet as recently as 1999, the very liberal Trudeau was still depicting the idea of gay marriage as so off-the-wall radical, and alarming, that it will panic even a veteran ultra-liberal.

Incidentally, lest you wonder about the story’s resolution, Mark and his partner eventually say their marriage vows in an airliner over the Pacific, without the benefit of a clergyman. The event is accompanied by music from the Hanoi Gay Men’s Glee Club, which fortuitously happens to be on board.

Obviously, I am using here the work of one author, and moreover a comic satirist, and I make no claim that that story arc in itself says much about American social attitudes. But it does point to the scale of changing attitudes to same-sex marriage, and the extreme rapidity – in historical terms – with which that sea-change has been accomplished. No author today would portray a “Rev. Scot” character in such terms because readers would find it utterly implausible. In real life, the modern-day Rev. Scot, more than anyone, would be leading the charge for Marriage Equality.

Just within the present century – fourteen years or so – Americans and Europeans have experienced a social and cultural transformation that would have been inconceivable only a very short time before. It was for instance in 1996 that noted far Right reactionary extremist Bill Clinton signed the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and as late as 2004, there was still serious discussion of a US constitutional amendment to prohibit same sex marriage. The first key judicial decision granting the possibility of same sex marriage on US soil was handed down in 2003, in Massachusetts (Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health). All the revolutionary change we have seen has taken place in strictly contemporary history, mainly since the election of George W. Bush in 2000, and (for example) after the arrival of Amazon, Google and Netflix. Compared to other historical social transformations, that is change at a breakneck pace.

The speed of that revolution is almost impossible to conceive, even for many who lived through it as conscious adults. Suppose, for instance, we are looking for survey evidence to track shifting attitudes to same-sex marriage, to find what earlier generations thought of the idea. Look long and hard, and you will find precisely nothing of the sort from the 1970s, or the 1990s, or from anywhere in the twentieth century. A Wikipedia entry on Public opinion of same-sex marriage in the United States discusses polling data from 2014, 2013, and so on all the way back to a generic historical entry on “Older polls (2009 and earlier).”

Ah, the ancient world…

There were no earlier surveys from, say, the 1980s, because the gay marriage issue was then regarded as so bizarre and extreme that no serious polling organization thought to inquire about it. It did not exist as a matter of serious public debate.

We could draw many lessons from the speed of this change. Gay rights advocates might, for instance, be a little restrained in denouncing remaining opponents of same sex marriage as hopeless reactionaries, sunk in visceral homophobia. It really is not that long since the views those conservatives express actually did represent an overwhelming social consensus. Only twenty years or so, in fact.

Meanwhile, churches of all shades could take note of the revolution, and extrapolate it only a very little. In the West at least (a crucial qualification) the same sex marriage issue is close to being settled in public opinion. Even if many ordinary citizens do not actually favor the practice, the vast majority do not want to see it legally prohibited or sanctioned, because they have been sufficiently convinced by “live and let live” arguments.

I would suggest that by 2020, or perhaps a little later, same sex unions will be so thoroughly accepted, so completely mainstream, that opponents of any kind – even those who base themselves in strong religious traditions – will be regarded pretty much as most of us today view critics of interracial marriage. By that point, churches publicly criticizing same-sex marriage, or even refusing to endorse it wholeheartedly, can expect to lose enormous numbers of their remaining young adult members, and frankly, much of their membership apart from the very old and the politically ultra-reactionary. That is a hideous prospect.

If churches formally reject the practice, expect guerrilla action by individual pastors and priests, illicitly carrying out de facto marriages, or blessings that are marriages in all but name. Expect the Roman Catholic church to be the scene of widespread dissidence.

One other thought. Since about 2000, same sex marriage has gone from fringe and unthinkable to almost totally mainstream. So what ideas or theories are circulating today that might stand poised for a comparably rapid escalation and mainstreaming? In particular, which of those ideas is likely to demand that churches and religious institutions rethink their moral assumptions as completely as has occurred in the case of gay marriage?

I see one major and, I would say, inevitable example, and that is the issue of gender crossing, of granting full social, legal and cultural equality to the transgendered. Among other things, that means granting adoption rights, medical benefits for gender reassignment, and a host of other controversies scarcely yet on the horizon. Expect massive changes in our everyday linguistic usage.

Is this our immediate future?

In a religious context, our next revolution would entail granting the transgendered the right to become clergy at all levels, it means marriage ceremonies, and it likely implies rewriting liturgies to abolish anything suggesting the archaic dichotomy of he and she. It would demand new Biblical translations, not to mention much theological rethinking. Yes, I know the transgender issue is anything but new for churches, and Christianity Today was publishing on The Transgender Moment back in 2008. But I’m envisaging a much more sweeping movement, and a more general crisis of conscience. Those are going to be the key issues roiling the churches in the near future, igniting bitter confrontations, legal wrangling, and outright schisms. Worry seriously about new schisms between Euro-American churches and their counterparts in the Global South.

You might think my comments here about the coming crisis of gender redefinition are overwrought. Come back in a decade and we’ll see.

 

 

  • Antiphon411

    In addition to the speed with which this moral and social revolution has occurred, the other striking thing is how ineffectual the resistance has been.

    Not only have the supporters of traditional marriage failed to prevent gay marriage in law–not surprising given the support gay marriage has received from cultural and political elites–but they have also failed to win (or rather keep in the fold) hearts and minds, as poll after poll shows. Again, this is no great surprise, for as soon as the primary end of marriage and sex, viz. the rearing of children, was forgotten, marriage ceased to be much more than a vestigial form.

    It has long been my feeling that the public fight against today’s diabolical errors is a losing game. It requires too many compromises. The politicians and para-political figures promise an end to such errors, but the would-be supporter must also sign on for other propositions (wars, economic policies, etc.).

    The only real resistance is interior resistance. Call it innere Emigration or apoliteia, or whatever else you will. It is the total rejection of the current system. It is the radical turning away from the world and back to God. Will it change the world? It has before, but the primary aim is to prevent oneself and one’s family being changed *by* the world.

    It is the strategy that will prepare us for any coming persecution or tribulations. We will not persevere in the name of Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. The intercession of Sean Hannity will not save us. The GOP is not the Communion of Saints. We need to be preparing for a spiritual contest, not a political one.

    One final observation: You mention that the Catholic Church will be a scene of widespread dissidence. As a Catholic I firmly believe in the indefectability of Holy Mother Church. She will resist and She will remain true to the Faith given to Her by Our Lord. Many of the “Faithful” will leave Her and bay for Her blood. Many of the clergy will join them. But the Church and Her teachings will remain a beacon for all.

    Case in point: contraception. The Church maintains her condemnation of the artificial avoidance of conception. Though we all know that most who call themselves “Catholic” ignore the teaching and I suspect many priests and even bishops privately dissent, the Church will not and indeed cannot change Her teaching. It has been heartwarming to see the bishops forced by Obamacare to defend Church teaching publicly on this point.

    The same will go for gay marriage. The Church cannot do it and so will not do it. If it comes to persecution we will see some rather reluctant martyrs, but their crowns will be no less bright.

    • Dorfl

      Not only have the supporters of traditional marriage failed to prevent gay marriage in law–not surprising given the support gay marriage has received from cultural and political elites–but they have also failed
      to win (or rather keep in the fold) hearts and minds, as poll after poll shows

      I think this has a lot to do with the fact that ‘supporters of traditional marriage’ never took the time to actually support traditional marriage. I mean, you put a lot of effort into opposing gay marriage, but opposition is just opposition, it doesn’t magically transform into support of anything.

      • ron_goodman

        That pretty much sums up the conservative approach to a lot of things.

    • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

      Being a martyr is easier than changing to adapt to the world around you. Those entities that cannot adapt, die out.

      • BooBooGlass

        True. And, in this world, those who “adapt” will flourish.

        You use the word “martyr” like it’s a bad thing.

        • Andrew Dowling

          You honestly see people “dying” for their opposition to gay marriage? . . .oh please.

          • BooBooGlass

            “Martyr” was a term introduced by the post I was replying to, Andrew. It’s a term which includes the suffering – short of death – which comes from doing the right thing.

    • RoverSerton

      “It is the strategy that will prepare us for any coming persecution or tribulations”. The coming persecution has many past examples. Racism being perhaps the best recent one. Back in the day, so many of my parents generation used the “N” word that it was normal. Today, it is extremely rare. If you casually throw it out there now, you will be looked at and treated with disdain.

      You start out with how ineffective the opposition has been. Then you go to how the RCC will never change their teaching. You make this sound like you totally support the churches stance to keep SSM discrimination “their crowns will be no less bright”.

      Evolution is true. Change when the environment changes or die. True to passenger pigeons, true for churches and other social groups.

    • John Byde

      Well said, Antiphon. However, it’s a shame the bishops have to be “forced” to react and stand up for catholic beliefs: they should do it automatically. I also think the author is being too pessimistic. Yes, it’s a giant change in such a small time but wrong is wrong, evil is evil. I’m sure after Roe v Wade there were lots of similiar “game over” articles, and who would have predicted the fight back since. I also disagree with the idea that any church sticking to traditional morals (are there any other?) will lose its younger members. Au contraire! It’s the liberal churches who are dying out. Yes, it looks like persecution and martyrdom are on the way, but so what? That is what Jesus predicted and we should get used to the idea.

      • Antiphon411

        Persecution and martyrdom may be coming or they may not. Whether or not they come, preparing for them interiorly (if you’ll allow the word) is a good thing. Detachment from the concerns of this world and greater attention to the things of heaven make good sense in fat times and lean.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “Though we all know that most who call themselves “Catholic” ignore the
      teaching and I suspect many priests and even bishops privately dissent,
      the Church will not and indeed cannot change Her teaching.”

      Who is the Church beyond the people who make it up? The sensus fidelium has already spoken . . .the Church has changed its teaching regardless of what the Catechism says.

      • Antiphon411

        The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. The Catholic Faith is the teachings the Lord entrusted to the Church. This is called the Deposit of Faith (depositum fidei). The teachings of the Church are true and eternal, as any truth must be. It would not matter if all the Faithful and the entire clergy and hierarchy rejected a doctrine; it would still be true and they would be wrong.

        • Andrew Dowling

          “It would not matter if all the Faithful and the entire clergy and hierarchy rejected a doctrine”

          OK, so these fallible humans could reject a doctrine, but when these fallible humans create doctrine, God ensures it’s completely perfect and true?

          • Antiphon411

            God has devised mechanisms whereby the truth of His teachings is preserved and guaranteed, yes.

    • Dan Kimble

      It is still very important to fight back politically. And, this means in one aspect, to fight back against the Leftist Agenda, and this means, essentially, fighting against the leftist democrat party in America, the host which the Leftist agenda has attached itself to.

      • Antiphon411

        “…fight back against the Leftist Agenda…”

        Dude, America is founded on the Leftist agenda. USA is a Liberal nation founded on Liberal principles.

        “…fighting against the Leftist democrat party…”

        By allying with the Lefist republican party? “Sure we’ll end gay marriage, just as soon as we finish off-shoring America’s industries and bombing Iran.

        A plague on both your parties!

        • Andrew Dowling

          Yes, the monarchy/theocracies of the pre-Enlightenment age were far superior. I have a hard time actually believing you believe what you write . . .

    • osu84

      Very well said. As a Catholic I concur. If the Church hasn’t bowed to the contraception crowd they won’t bow to so called Gay Marriage. But, the larger point is Catholics who are serious about their faith must reject the current culture on all fronts. And, this includes the materialism and “throw-away” mentality so common these days. Having started this process myself I can tell you that it’s sort of fun!

  • Mack Enchesee

    I don’t understand. What is gay about sodomy? What is the need to suddenly see this deviant minority as normal and mainstream? Why do we ignore the reality of mental health issues this deviant minority suffer from?

    • Magnus Elric-William

      Rethorically speaking: Why did the world ignore the deviant Nazis of the 30s until it took a world war to end their madness?

      • Donalbain

        Nice. I was waiting for a Nazi reference. Thank you.

        • Antiphon411

          Reductio ad Hitlerum.

    • John Byde

      Sssssh, Mack! You really haven’t read the script have you? No, seriously, what we are being asked to do is tell our own children that sodomy is fine and that this lifestyle is wonderful, despite all the social stats to the contrary. Homosexuals are loved by God and deserve our respect as fellow humans, but as for their lifestyle being “gay” and just another choice – no thanks!

    • Hominid

      The notion that the psychopathology of gayness and the farce of SSM have acquired solid mainstream respectability is false. The vast majority of rational people continue to be repulsed by these perversions. Their contempt has simply been driven underground.

      • Andrew Dowling

        Speaking of psychopathology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delusional

      • Shannon Menkveld

        Although there’s no way to demonstrate it, (because if you’re right, and it’s all social pressure, most people will lie when polled,) I expect that you’d only get a “vast majority of rational people” if you define “rational people” as “people who agree with me.”

        But even if you’re right, it doesn’t help you… it buys you 2-3 generations at most, and you’ve already burned through about 1.5 of them already. I’m a Gen-Xer. When I was in high school in the late 1980s, “I don’t care” was about as pro-gay as a suburban teenager could get without risking serious social repercussions.

        My daughter is now a freshman in a suburban high school, in a neighborhood where Evangelical Christians and Chaldean Catholics make up a clear majority. For most of her classmates, sexual orientation is not a moral issue at all. I mean that quite literally: to these kids, homosexuality as such has no moral dimensions of any kind. The moral parameters of sexual behavior simply do not consider the genders of the persons involved.

        –Shannon

  • Gabriela Garver

    We are mid-chastisement here. It will get worse, which many people (even non-believers) sense. The post-Christian West has become so unarmored (having lost the protective breastplate of the Truth) that only God Himself can set the record straight on SSM (and abortion). God will intervene–it could be very painful (called “learning by experience”). His timing is perfect. But woe to those who force Him directly intervene on these matters.

    On the bright side, He always preserves a remnant from which to re-start the world (for instance, after Fall of Rome, the Byzantine empire took up the mantle of Truth and effectively saved Western civilization by preserving the writings of the Holy Fathers, indeed, they saved the Bible and pre-Christian philosophic works which God wanted preserved for the benefit of mankind. That is, God wanted the works of Aristotle preserved for the use of St. Thomas Acquinas (among other reasons). We could use a St. Thomas Acquinas today to tell us the Truth and enlighten and guide the flock. Alas, only dung heads on the courts and in the academy.

    The RCC will not be overcome with error, of course. Jesus Christ said so, and He was, is and always will be true God and true man.

    • Antiphon411

      Great comment. One correction: Much was preserved in the Latin West, as well. The Dark Ages were not devoid of the light of Christ. It is the modern-day pagans who consider them a dark age, between what they perceive to be the splendors of pagan Rome and the pagan revival of the so-called Renaissance.

      • Andrew Dowling

        “It is the modern-day pagans who consider them a dark age”

        . . . he types on his keyboard, lol.

        • Antiphon411

          “…he types on his keyboard, lol.”

          You got me there: I *did* type my comment on a keyboard! LOL!

    • Antiphon411

      On this period I would highly recommend Henri Daniel-Rops’s The Church in the Dark Ages, the second volume of his monumental History of the Church of Christ. The translator is Audrey Butler and I would suggest getting the two-volume Image paperbacks rather than the abridged hardcovers. Here is a link (though you might find better prices): http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000VGBJ1C/ref=mp_s_a_1_10?qid=1399823089&sr=8-10&pi=AC_SX110_SY165_QL70.

      The whole series is great. It stretches from the beginning to the reign of Pope Pius XI. I believe they were written during the 1940s-1950s in French.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “It really is not that long since the views those conservatives express actually did represent an overwhelming social consensus”

    I’m not sure you can call social consensus on an issue that most people simply never thought about. It being absent from public consciousness doesn’t necessarily equate to an affirmation of the negative.

    • philipjenkins

      Hmm, I’m not sure about that. When the same sex marriage issue was raised, eg very sporadically, by the gay rights movement in the early 1970s, it was reported only as a joke item. I think we are talking consensus.

      • Andrew Dowling

        That’s actually the point , , ,if something is only mentioned in the context of a joke, it’s not being seriously considered. I remember the 1970s . . .gay marriage was not a dinner-table conversation like it is now. No-one talked about it outside of gay rights activists and conservative religious activists (and even the latter very rarely)

  • Matt Moran

    The supporters of marriage equality are winning because they have better arguments. Gay marriage harms nobody, does not adversely affect straight marriage, and falls nicely under the ideals of liberty. The only arguments that remain are religious and religious groups (even majority ones) do not get to write laws based only on religion. It is well established that prohibitions require a “public interest” but there is none in prohibiting gay marriage. Most people now see this clearly. It is remarkable how fast this revolution happened, so the author has that right. But the reason for the rapid revolution is as simple as the clarity of the arguments for it.

  • http://www.swordcrossrocket.com swordcrossrocket

    I don’t think it will be like that. Neither abortion or even evolution are considered settled questions for many, and SSM’s success is based on the idea that gays and lesbians want monogamy. I think when it’s shown that very few actually do, the idea will lose traction.

    • josh

      “…SSM’s success is based on the idea that gays and lesbians want monogamy.”

      no it isn’t.

  • Great Grandmas Cat

    I, for one, don’t really care if gays want to be ‘hitched for life’ to their loved ones but there are ways to accomplish this without the hate-filled brouhaha they have raised.

    First of all, I can’t imagine why they want to give up the tax benefits of being single. They give up one social security income at retirement which may be really important to their well-being in old age and they give up lots more taxes each year when they file. What have they gained besides legal rights when their partner gets sick?

    They say they want “acceptance.”

    One doesn’t gain true “acceptance” by force. The best they can gain is grim tolerance because they have turned amenable people into those who object to them because they went about getting this right in such an in-your-face, hate-filled, objectionable way that they have alienated a great many people who might have been friendly to their cause if they had approached the problem with friendship, persuasion and reason.

    I would like to hear from one of them how they feel about the gay promiscuity issue that creates and spreads so many of the world’s new diseases. A case in point is the new MERS virus that science thinks comes from men having sex with camels.

  • Dan Kimble

    Just to be clear, there never has been any true reason to create turn the definition of “marriage” upside down. The objectives of the gay community could have been solved through other measures, with less harm done to our traditional cultures, which go back so many thousands of years that we cannot even calculate the time span.

    The never ending, bellicose, and bullying nature of the LEFTIST agenda simply bulldozes it’s way through our human cultures throughout the western world, scraping through the topsoil of the vibrant, vividly colored, richly productive cornucopia of the heritage of Western Civilization, and depositing in it’s place the seeds of foreign species, leaving a surely disruptive effect upon our rich cultural environment, of which we have no idea what the ultimate effects will be.

    • josh

      “The never ending, bellicose, and bullying nature of the LEFTIST agenda…”

      its moved well past being a leftist movement some time ago.

  • Phil Mitchell

    The speed of this transformation has been truly astonishing but I think there are several factors that account for it.
    First, no one feels personally threatened by allowing gay men and women to do what they want. There is no great increased affection for homosexuals–except in our Leftist elite. But the average person could care less what gay people do. So personal “self-interest” does not hold back this revolution. No one feels they have anything to lose by it.
    Second, it is the natural consequence of the paganizing of a culture. Among our elite, including and especially Hollywood, there is no such thing as sexual immorality. And if that applies to heterosexuals surely simple equity would apply it to homosexuals.
    Third, pagan sexuality is the default position in a secular culture. Although our literati would believe that adultery is wrong on some level they would have a hard time arguing why.
    Is the analogy of abortion a good one? It’s been 40 years since Roe v. Wade and the bullets still fly. It may be the same with paganizing sexuality. 40 years from now the battle lines may be drawn the same way.
    Philip, you are very knowledgable regarding the “global south.” Does it look like they are heading in our direction? Right now I would say no.
    Finally, we have no idea what the consequences are of the gay revolution. Will gay promiscuity decline? Will gay marriages prosper? Will gays even marry? They do not appear to be heading to the altar in large numbers in Canada or the European societies that allow it.
    So, yes, let’s check back in ten years from now. Or forty. I think the results might surprise us.

    • philipjenkins

      It depends where you are looking. Parts of Latin America are very European/US in their legislation right now, and same sex marriage is spreading rapidly. Most countries of Africa and Asia, of course, are much more conservative.

  • Mike D’Virgilio

    This is wishful thinking for the deluded. Human sexuality is fallen and distorted, and same sex lust and practice are simply extreme examples of our dilemma as fallen creatures. This is why the comparison of same-sex attraction to race is fatuous in the extreme. There is no such thing as “sexual orientation” or hetero or homo sexuality; these faulty constructs are not ontological certainties about the nature of people and their sexuality. But this is an impossible argument to make in a blog comment among people who all assume something that is simply unproven and unprovable.

    But what I will say is that we are all made in God’s image, and we cannot violate that image without consequence and without conscious. Everyone knows that sex between two people of the same gender is not the proper end of sexuality, whether they will admit it or not. Saying that something is good or right or true doesn’t make it so. And average Americans who are not terribly political or ideological will never see people who believe marriage is what it has always been are akin to racists. This desire our cultural elites have to turn reality upside down will in the end not work. And orthodox Christians will never, ever, submit Biblical sexual ethics rooted in creation AND redemption to cultural, political or legal pressure. This of course doesn’t mean the enemies of Christianity will not try.

    • ron_goodman

      Your logic means absolutely nothing to those who don’t share your religious views. If that’s all you have, you’re going to lose the argument, or already have.

      • Mike D’Virgilio

        Ron, you completely missed my point! But I do appreciate that you recognized some logic in what I had to say.

        There are some very good arguments for real marriage that are not at all religious. Read the most excellent book, “What
        Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense” by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T Anderson and Robert P George. Even those who don’t agree with them acknowledge it is a well reasoned dispassionate case for what marriage has always been, and not a religious assertion in sight.

        What as my point? I don’t care if someone believes they were made in God’s image, or if they think they are the product of aliens from another planet, they are still in fact made in God’s image. The natural law is written in their being. This, for example, is why every human being knows the difference between killing a fish and killing a person. They know there is a qualitative difference between the two that is more explainable than that the molecules happen to be put together differently for some reason. Hitler, Stalin and Mao didn’t believe human beings were of any more value than animals, so treated them as such, in fact much worse.

        The natural law also instructs our innate view of sexuality, that some things are right and some wrong. There are those whose who choose to ignore their consciences and will argue that what a person does sexually is merely a preference with no moral content whatsoever, but they know that is a lie even if they won’t admit it. I would wager that even they would say there is something perverse about a man or a woman having
        sex with an animal, or a mother and son or father and daughter or brother and sister having sex. On what basis does a materialist draw any line? They have no basis for saying anything is inherently wrong with these forms of sexuality.

        God has drawn the lines in reality and on our nature, and two (or more, why not?) people cannot be married because deep down everyone knows that two people of the same sex cannot be married. So no matter how hard our cultural elites continue to push this absurdity, it will never, ever play out like race issues have.

        • ahermit

          I haven’t read the book, but I have read the original paper they based the book on and I would say that although they may have carefully stripped the explicitly religious language the argument made by Girgis et al is still philosophically a religious argument, relying as it does on concepts of “natural law”.

          It’s also irrelevant to the legal arguments since the inability to procreate is not a bar to marriage for any heterosexual couple.

          • Mike D’Virgilio

            Are you saying Mr./Ms. Hermit that any religiously based argument is invalid? Is fraud an invalid legal concept because “you shall not bear false witness” is a religious concept? But since you haven’t read the book how can you say it relies on “natural law”? In fact it does not. I haven’t read their Harvard paper it was based on, but they say this on page 10, “Our argument makes no appeal to divine revelation or religious authority. “ And further on the same page, “There is simple and decisive evidence that the conjugal view is not particular to religion, or any religious tradition.” Religious arguments in favor of real marriage are absolutely valid in the public square, but you don’t need them to argue that two people of the same gender can’t be married.

            And that some couples can’t have children is a real shallow argument for redefining marriage to make gender irrelevant. The only reason marriage has ever existed in all of history in every culture, every tribe, every nation, was because men and woman CAN produce children, not that they do. And if a couple married but didn’t consummate the marriage, the marriage was invalid, whether that act would have produced a child or not. The possibility of procreation is why marriage exists, not its guarantee. If children were not produced by the sexual union of a man and a woman (assuming the race could continue in some other way), marriage would not have evolved (or been instituted by God, as I believe), no matter how much they loved one another.

          • ahermit

            I am saying that placing religious dogma above human compassion is a kind of bigotry.

            I have read the Harvard paper, and I don’t buy the attempts to distance the argument from religious dogma. The assumptions on which the authors are relying are transparently religious in nature.

            It is an extremely narrow and ahistorical view of marriage that restricts to one man and one woman for the sole purpose of producing offspring. More importantly it is not reasonable to exclude same sex couples from the legal rights and benefits attached to marriage on the basis of a standard which is not applied to heterosexual couples; if a heterosexual couple who cannot or choose not to have children can be legally married then the issue of procreation is simply irrelevant. (So we don’t even need to get into the argument about the value of children produced by in vitro fertilization or surrogacy or who are adopted…all methods by which same sex couples can indeed become parents.)

            You may very well apply those arguments to your religious institution’s view of what kind of relationships you will solemnize in your own churches, but they can’t be applied to the rest of the population who are not members of your particular creed. Unless you’re arguing for theocracy?

          • Mike D’Virgilio

            You know what is extremely annoying about the modern mentality of many people like you is that your assumptions are allowed as legitimate and “objective” even though they are as faith-based as any religion, but if someone has so called religious assumptions, even if not overt(!!!) then they are off limits!

            How do you define human compassion, ahermit? Completely destroy the meaning of marriage because homosexuals want some legal rights found in marriage? They can have as many legal rights as they want as far as I’m concerned, but they can’t change the definition of marriage, I don’t care what you or any court or any law says. As I said in my initial comment, everyone knows what marriage is, and it isn’t something to affirm two people’s romantic/erotic relationship.

            And ahermit (why don’t you use your real name?), if we are going to completely decimate the meaning of marriage, why can’t three or more people be married? You have ABSOLUTELY no rationale that would be logically consistent with your so-called “compassion.” Why does marriage even have to include a romantic relationship? Why can’t two brothers marry to have the same legal rights as two homosexuals? Just because the homosexuals have sex????? Really, that’s your argument?

            No, my ahermit friend, your “compassion” is destruction disguised as concern. This destruction doesn’t come from allowing homosexuals to marry, but from redefining marriage out of existence. Good luck with that experiment.

          • ahermit

            After thirty years as a husband and father I think I have e pretty good idea of what marriage and family are all about and it doesn’t threaten me in the least to see the families of my gay and lesbian friends and neighbours given the same legal considerations as mine. I see them facing the same challenges as my wife and I have over the years and sharing the same joy. I see people loving and supporting each other There is nothing destructive about any of that.

          • Mike D’Virgilio

            Why is it all about you? And who said they couldn’t have legal considerations? Why do you insist the definition of marriage has to be changed to get those? People can’t love and support one another if the definition of marriage isn’t changed? Really? So of course you ignore my questions and miss the point. Ideology really has a way of blinding people.

          • ahermit

            It’s not about me at all. It’s about all those loving couples who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They also deserve the same legal rights and benefits as other couples like my wife and I. There’s no good reason for denying them those rights and benefits;doing so has absolutely no effect on my relationship or yours or anyone else’s.

            That’s the point. It’s not about you or your preferred definition of one word, it’s about real people with real lives being treated fairly under the law.

          • Mike D’Virgilio

            Lordy, are you purposefully ignoring the words I actually write. One last time and I’m done. These people can have whatever rights are fair without having to redefine marriage. Since you don’t want to acknowledge this, I must assume your agenda is more pernicious and has nothing to do with anyone’s rights and benefits. Good day.

          • ahermit

            “These people can have whatever rights are fair without having to redefine marriage.”

            How do you propose to accomplish that?

            Why not just include them in the existing legal definition? Isn’t that the simplest and most efficient way of accomplishing the goal of fair treatment? Is your own ideological commitment to a narrow definition of one word really more important?

          • Andrew Dowling

            I still for the life of me can’t understand how two men or two women marrying affects, at all whatsoever, my marriage to my wife. If it did, we need counseling! :)

          • ahermit

            Well to be honest, since they legalized same sex marriage here in Canada our marriage has just gone all FABULOUS! >;-}

          • Andrew Dowling

            “Completely destroy the meaning of marriage”

            Are you married? If yes, please share how gays being able to marry has helped to “destroy” the meaning of your marriage . . . .

  • josh

    the whole problem with the same sex marriage debate is we think of it in a religious context to begin with….or i should say, those left standing who oppose it do, which is why it’s inevitable….sooner, 2020, or later….but inevitable.

    • Antiphon411

      Though I am Catholic (by the grace if God), I always make the argument on non-religious grounds. Indeed, it is ridiculous to reduce the marriage question to a religious, specifically Christian issue. Marriage is a natural institution and was only made sacramental by Our Lord.

      The natural argument is grounded in the proper end of the sexual act, which is the procreation of children. Sodomy, whether between a man and a woman or between two men, does not do this. Neither does oral sex. Neither does masturbation.

      The procreation of children through the sexual act requires the complementarity of the sexes.

      The random begetting of children can cause problems within human society, and we must remember that man by nature is social. All societies that I know of have turned to some form of marriage to regulate procreation through the concept of legitimacy.

      Now, since homosexuals cannot procreate there is no need for them to marry. If they want to put their sexual and other organs to unnatural uses, that is their business–I certainly don’t care about it. Marriage is not fundamentally an institution founded on what people do with their sexual organs, but with the rearing of children.

      See? No God. No Bible.

      • josh

        “The natural argument is grounded in the proper end of the sexual act, which is the procreation of children.”

        this just doesn’t hold up, but you’re welcome to try and rally support for the proposition.

        • Antiphon411

          “…this just doesn’t hold up…”

          The observation that procreation is the purpose of sex doesn’t hold up? What then is the purpose of sex, to get better radio reception? Millions of years of evolution would seem to argue against your position.

          • josh

            i think you know better….

            you were arguing that marriage is an argument rooted in procreation.

          • Antiphon411

            No. To be more precise, marriage is a social institution based on biological facts about procreation. Marriage exists in all societies that I know of to regulate births by assigning legitimacy to some. This promotes social stability because parents will be more likely to invest time and money in legitimate offspring, whereas there is a disincentive to producing illegitimate children. (For a fuller statement, see my response to ahermit below.)

      • ahermit

        Except that no heterosexual couple has ever been denied the legal rights and benefits of marriage simply because they were infertile. Fertility is not a requirement of legal marriage, so your whole argument is irrelevant.

        • Antiphon411

          No, because that would be a defect of nature. If all things are working properly, then the result of a sexual act (or two) between a man and a woman should be a conception. This is not the case for sodomy between a man and woman or two men.

          Marriage, however, is not biology, but rather it is a social institution with roots in biology. The purpose of sex is procreation. The institution of marriage exists in order to regulate procreation by assigning a certain status to certain offspring. The children of a husband and wife are legitimate; whereas the children of a man and a concubine or prostitute or mistress or rape victim are illegitimate.

          Questions of legitimacy are important for social stability, as one can see in populations with high rates of illegitimacy.

          All this is to say that since homosexual men cannot produce offspring there is really no grounds for marriage. Infertility in couples is a trickier question, because sometimes is can be temporary. Even if it is permanent, it would not be something certainly known before attempts to reproduce had been made. Such couples are still married, as I said, because their infertility is a defect of nature rather than intention, etc. (Incidentally, Evelyn Waugh’s first marriage was annulled by a Catholic tribunal precisely because he and his first wife had no intention of having children. This defect of intention is what made their relationship not a marriage.)

          It is interesting to see you and the gay marriage crowd shying away from the hard facts of marriage. Usually you like to say that it is religious people who are anti-science. You have some sappy, sentimental notion of marriage: “It’s about looove and finding your soul mate!” No, it’s about procreation.

          • ahermit

            One of the purposes of sex is procreation, and one of the features of marriage is sex. It doesn’t follow that therefore the only or even the most important feature of marriage is procreation.

            When my Grandfather remarried after his first wife died was his marriage to the woman I knew as Grandma a “defective” relationship becasue they never intended to have any more children?

            You’re also ignoring the fact that there are options open to same sex couples such as in vitro fertilization, surrogacy and adoption. Contrary to your crowing science is not on your side here.

            Or are you going to tell me that families with adopted children are “defective” too?

            But since there is no legal impediment to heterosexual couples who are unable or unwilling to have children there is no argument to be made that procreation is an issue here. You can’t impose an impediment to a legal right or benefit on one group of people if you don’t also impose that impediment on everyone.

            And I’ve been married for thirty years, and raised children to adulthood by the way, so I think I have some idea of what a real marriage is all about, and it’s far more than just procreation. It is about love and partnership and supporting and sharing our lives through good times and bad.

          • Antiphon411

            “One of the purposes of sex is procreation, and one of the features of marriage is sex. It doesn’t follow that therefore the only or even the most important feature of marriage is procreation.”

            There might be a hierarchy of purposes, but the main purpose of sex is conception leading to procreation. That’s why birds do it, bees do it, and (I have it on good authority) even educated fleas do it. Of course sex can be used for many things: to make money, to express love, to keep your boyfriend from dumping you, to terrorize a conquered population, to humiliate a rival, to reward a husband for mowing the lawn, etc.

            You must realize that these are secondary ends. The primary and only essential end of sex is procreation.

            “…what a real marriage is all about, and it’s far more than just procreation. It is about love and partnership and supporting and sharing our lives through good times and bad…”

            Awwww, you are so cute!

            I have a very good friend who is a man (as am I). I think that I could have a deeply fulfilling life with him in some sort of Holmes-Watson situation, but we wouldn’t call that a marriage because something essential is missing. To a degree the missing element would be sex. That physical intimacy is integral to our concept of marriage. A brother and sister could live together in perfect contentment, as in Anne of Green Gables.

            But more than sex is needed. After all people can gave sex outside a marriage with no intention of marriage. Marriage is a social institution wherein a man and woman confer an (generally) exclusive right to the use of each other’s body for sex. Provided there is no natural defect, sex will lead to conception and the birth of (hopefully many!) babies. These children will be legitimate and this family unit, rooted in biology, will be a building block of society.

            That is what marriage is for. That is what marriage essentially is. Now there are secondary important benefits, but many if these could be satisfied in different ways. What makes marriage, marriage is sex with a view to procreation.

            It is not some sappy sentimental “Love Is….” comic strip. Homosexuals cannot marry because theirs is a sterile relationship. Let them bugger each other till the cows come home, it is not marriage because the natural-social end of marriage cannot be met.

            “You’re also ignoring the fact that there are options open to same sex couples such as in vitro fertilization, surrogacy and adoption.”

            There are many artificial and unnatural ways to create babies. It is best to stick to nature. Many look askance at things like IVF. Aldous Huxley was no Christian

          • ahermit

            Even if we were to accept all of that as given (and I wouldn’t since that would place marriages like my Grandparent’s into some kind of inferior or, to use your word, “defective” status) none of it would be relevant since no heterosexual couple is being denied the rights and benefits of legal marriage just because they can’t or won’t have children. If we don’t exclude heterosexual couples on that basis then we cannot reasonably exclude same sex couples on that basis.

          • Andrew Dowling

            You completely ignored his most relevant points:

            i) What about couples, particularly older couples, who know a marriage will not produce children (or know one of the other is infertile) Are their marriages invalid?

            2) What about adoption? You just went on about IVF . . .many heterosexual couples, even ones who could naturally have children, choose to adopt. In the real world, many thousands of children never get adopted and remain wards of the state until they are adults. Gay couples can choose to adopt those children just like heterosexual couples can.

          • Antiphon411

            I was content to ignore these points because his argument is sloppy. I argued in general principles, which he did not answer at that level. Instead he adduced a couple of minor exceptions as though that undermined everything I had argued. Since, however, you would like a response, I shall give one (we aim to please).

            1) As I have argued, marriage is a social institution rooted in a biological fact. The purpose of marriage is to regulate procreation in a socially responsible way. This has been the case, more or less, for every society that has existed. This socio-biological need has normalized marriage between a man and woman (or women). This is the starting place to answer your objections: Marriage is between a man and woman for the purpose of procreation.

            2) There are a number of secondary ends of marriage that arise from the socio-biological foundation: companionship, mutual help and interdependence, etc. It would stand to reason that a man or woman who lost his or her spouse would come to miss this companionship. Consequently, even if he or she were too old to procreate, a new marriage might be formed to fulfill some of the secondary purposes. Here again, the fruitlessness of the marriage would arise from a defect of nature rather than of intention.

            3) Again, because the normal family structure rooted in a biological-social truth is marriage between a man and woman, it would make sense that adoptions would occur into families constituted in this way. Whether a couple has children or their own or is unable to do so, they might want to adopt a child. They would adopt him into the socially normalized male-female family. Certainly you would not agree that a consortium of investors might adopt twenty children for use as domestic servants would you? No. Children are to be adopted into families. Families are established by marriage. Marriage is a social institution rooted in the biological fact that sex between a man and a woman tends to result in a baby.

            4) Homosexuals cannot reproduce together, therefore, there is no need for them to get married. Adoption agencies could decide to allow two homosexual partners to adopt a child (as you point out), just as they could decide to allow an unmarried woman to adopt a child. That is their business, but there is no need to define a homosexual partnership as a marriage, because it cannot be.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I agree with you that the primary focus of marriage has been the producing and rearing of children. And so it shall be, now and into the future. Since most people are not homosexuals, the wide majority of marriages will remain between a man and a woman. There’s no logical argument why the fact that gay people can get married harms the marriages of straight people.

            You also talk about “families” like the nuclear family is the traditional norm . . it’s a completely modern invention. In most cultures throughout human history children were reared by extended family and others ie the village in which the parents lived along with the parents (often the father was pretty much out of the picture though), helped by blood kin but also their neighbors (I know, conservatives hate that term “it takes a village,” even though that IS the “traditional family”) If a mother died in childbirth, as was very common throughout most human history, and her family was predominantly male (say, she had 6 brothers), the child would be raised by mostly men. If sisters, almost wholly by women. The notion that the “biblical” manner of raising a child is mom-dad-children together in a cohesive unit is a complete myth, and I didn’t even have to bring up the polygamy that runs rampant throughout the Hebrew Bible.

          • Antiphon411

            1) I don’t know whether “gay marriages” would harm straight marriages. I’m just saying that the notion of same-sex marriage is ridiculous from the socio-biological view of the institution of marriage. I was responding to a challenge above that “traditional marriage” is only ever defended on religious grounds. In fact it should not primarily be, but rather on the grounds of the natural purpose of marriage.

            2) Frankly I could care less whether “gay marriage” is legalized or not. The harm to marriage in the Christian West has come from its desacramentalization, its being rendered dissolvable by law, and its becoming sterile through contraception. Let the sodomites and lesbians join in the fun. In a way the carnival aspect of the farce is amusing: watching the social conservatives getting all worked up over the latest stage of decay without recognizing their own decadence.

            3) You are right that in many populations ancient and modern there is an extended kinship or clannish aspect to family. There are those who would argue, based on historical/anthropological evidence that European society largely rejected these forms in favor of the more compact and flexible nuclear family unit. While it might be true of the African bush that a village raises a child, it is less true in Florence, Lyons, Chichester, Aachen, etc. To be sure there was more of a sense of extended family, but one can still discern the priority of the nuclear family.

            4) I have really enjoyed our conversation. It is always useful to test and sharpen one’s own understanding and arguments in a spirited debate. Many thanks for exploring these ideas with me. I am sure we shall cross swords again!

  • Aliquantillus

    Gay Marriage will be short-lived. Not because it will be strongly resisted and eventually abolished, but because its victory will lead to the complete destruction of Western culture and all its traditions.

    My prediction is that Gay Marriage and the cult of masculinity that comes with it, will in the future combine with the political movements of the far right, at least here in Europe, and will inaugurate a kind of Gay Fascism. One of the characteristics of it will be a fundamentalist secularism, which not only despises but vehemently persecutes all traces of traditional religion and broader of traditional family values. The homosexual culture is one of utter intolerance, as we are already seeing today. Gay Marriage is not the end, nor the end-goal of the Gay Activists. Gay Marriage is only a means of destroying, mocking and parodying traditional religious-, family-, and other societal values. The end-goal is to stamp these values out, to trample them under foot and to completely destroy them, in order that nothing remains in Western culture which reminds of G-d, of a divine order, of the idea that man has a soul to be saved or to be lost. The end-goal is Gay Supremacy.

    Traditional Christians, and members of other traditional relgions, such as orthodox Jews, will first be mocked and despised, then they will lose their jobs, because of their culture of “hate-crimes” (sic!), in other words simply because their convictions will no longer be considered acceptable. At the end, they will be burnt at the stake.

    Gay Identity is such a tenuous identity because it is rooted in perversion, in rebellion against the divine order of things. That’s the very reason of its totalitarian intolerance. They cannot suffer even tiny denominations of traditional Christianity to continue their biblical stance. In their eyes, these churches are dangerous and must be destroyed. That’s the future awaiting us. The destruction of religious liberty, and in the end of all liberty. The end of Western civilization. No culture can survive which destroys its own roots. A Western culture which destroys its Christian roots and values is doomed and heading for total destruction.

  • Jim

    A decade? Hardly. About half the country already lives in marriage-equality states. Windsor imposes marriage equality on the federal government. The dwindling number of anti-marriage equality states are living on borrowed time; they’re losing badly in federal and state courts because none of their state constitutional bans withstands judicial scrutiny. 2015 is likely the year of marriage equality victory in SCOTUS. After that, who cares what powerless, irrelevant churches do? What influence will they have? Whether the churches accommodate gay-friendly reality or live in spiteful anti-gay fantasy, they’ll make no difference whatsoever to the lives of gay people. The churches had their chance to stand for justice for gay people. They blew it. They don’t get a second chance. No, not ever. Gay people have won justice on their own. The churches aren’t invited to the victory party.

    • philipjenkins

      Please read what I actually said. My “decade” remark was about transgender issues, not same sex marriage.

      • Jim

        I take your “by 2020, or perhaps a little later” to be about a decade from now (which you intended). Gay marriage is normal now, commonplace, and hardly even interesting. Only religious whiners raise any fuss and they’ll whine until the sun dies. They don’t matter. They never did. They never will.

        • philipjenkins

          I know! None of that pointless religious whining is going to do anything like end the slave trade, bring social and humanitarian services to cities, or basically create the civilization we have today. What a waste of time. Good thing those issues don’t matter to any reasonable person.

        • josh

          i have nothing but love for religion.

  • johnmonno

    The religious amongst us will always consist of the small minded and dimwitted. I find it pointless to discuss complex issues with ‘those people’.

  • stefanstackhouse

    We here in the US are so self-centered, we tend to forget that there is a bigger world out there. What is the opinion of what has already become the majority church, and is on track to become overwhelmingly so? Quite a bit different than what is apparently becoming accepted mainstream opinion over here, evidently.

    Maybe what faithful biblical Christians in the US need to do is to cast our lot and our fate with our brothers and sisters overseas, and stop worrying about how big or small a minority we become in the US. We are part of something big, even if we end up being not all that big here.

    • josh

      some good could become of that.

  • ortcutt

    While I’m sure that same-sex marriage is a revolutionary change for same-sex couples, I’m also quite sure that it has less impact on the lives of different-sex couples than the Smartphone Revolution or the Greek Yogurt Revolution.

  • Doug Johnson

    Gay marriage will fail. The homosexual community will discover what the heterosexual side thinks: What is the point of marriage at all? Gay marriage is meaningless outside of benefits and as our social structure changes to provide for people, the need for “marital benefits” will become obsolete. The church can use this confusion to promote the real meaning and function of marriage and this will attract thinking people. We need to remind ourselves that the Gospel and Church functions exist for a good reason and we have nothing for which to be ashamed.

  • Guest

    The change has been great, and I am convinced that God’s Spirit is moving – I see it all over the world, and I have seen it in my own heart and life; I have seen it happen in much the same pattern that has God’s fingerprints all over it.

    Re “The Transgender Moment:” that was a watershed article. For me it was more because of the comments I posted in response, which speak directly to the point of change discussed above. Later, even years later, I learned those comments have influenced people around the world, and they were the whispering of God’s Spirit to me for His John-9 demonstration of power in my own life.

  • axelbeingcivil

    A curious question that this article brought up: Would the Catholic Church ordain a trans-man/trans-woman? If they declare that a transgendered person, pre- or -post-op, is still the same gender as they were socially assigned at birth, then doesn’t that mean a trans-woman could become ordained and effectively the first female minister?

    • Adam King

      The Catholic Church only ordains men whose sexual organs are intact. Trans-men would be excluded because their sexual organs, even if surgically altered, don’t include functioning testicles.

      • axelbeingcivil

        Righto. That answers that, thank you.

  • Vitaly Klitschko

    The language of “gay rights” is, by definition, pleasure seeking: a demand for narcissistic self-serving convenience at the expense of others. And those others are most obviously the unborn child, the disabled, elderly and infirm – who are increasingly seen as an inconvenience. The causal link may not be obvious at first glance, but it is undeniable. However, once you obliterate the wider moral context of marriage – defined gender roles of husband and wife, the concept of consummation, a child born in wedlock who will continue the family line, the concept of adultery, etc – marriage becomes solely another extension of Self. In short, rights without responsibilities. The main consideration of course is the loss of the concepts of sexual sin and sexual pathology, which is what gay marriage has achieved. Pleasure seeking at any cost means that both institutions and individuals who are in the way must be trampled underfoot. The homosexual on no account wants to look within or consider for a second the possibility that there might be something wrong with himself or his behavior.

    A woman asserting her “right” to choose (to murder her child) is really saying “the world revolves around me”. This is precisely the same mentality as the gay activist – and they use the same language. For both, moral consequences are inconvenient. The idea that some kinds of behavior might attract punishment is distasteful. The only protection for the unborn and the infirm and elderly is an absolute moral law telling us that killing them for convenience is wrong. By redefining marriage to be about convenience and extracting any vestige of morality to suit homosexuals, we are being led down a very dark road indeed.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “And those others are most obviously the disabled, elderly and infirm – who are increasingly seen as an inconvenience.”

      Funny how concepts such as basic handicap access never arose through 1500 years of Christendom in the West, and only came about post “secular” 1960s.


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