Where do these ideas lead in practice? A recent article says the ultimate goal is no marriage at all. In the ideal relationship, the author writes, "each member is an autonomous, free individual, who can come or go as she or he pleases." The author says she treats even her three-year-old daughter as "free and autonomous."
In reality, of course, her daughter is nothing of the sort. She is dependent, vulnerable, and in need of adults who are morally obligated to her. As Bertrand de Jouvenal once commented, social contract theories "are the views of childless men who must have forgotten their childhood."
The facts of biology and history both teach that humans are intrinsically social beings. Statists of all stripes have promised to "liberate" the individual from those social bonds, by substituting reliance on the state. As Rousseau wrote, "Each citizen would then be completely independent of all his fellow men, and absolutely dependent on the state." This is a dangerously totalitarian mindset.
To speak effectively into the public realm, evangelicals must make the case that marriage and family are morally binding covenants rooted in biology and human nature. Marriage is not something we create so much as a pre-existing social institution that we enter into. In the elegant words of the wedding ceremony, we "enter into the holy estate of matrimony." In the Bible, marriage and family even provide rich metaphors for the Kingdom of God — precisely because they are the primary experience we have of an obligation that transcends mere choice, and is constitutive of our very nature.
At the same time, evangelicals must prepare to minister to the wounded, the refugees of the sexual revolution whose relationships have been wrecked by false promises of freedom and autonomy. When people are persuaded that they are free to "come and go" as they please, relationships will grow fragile and fragmented. Those around us will increasingly suffer insecurity and loneliness. The new polarization can be an opportunity for Christian communities to become safe havens where people witness the beauty of relationships reflecting God's own commitment and faithfulness.
That is genuine liberation.