Thanks for nothing, Ireland. Your people are the first in the West to approve of same-sex marriage through the ballot box. And with it, you’ve continued the social revolution – I don’t mince words when I say “revolution” – that is surely to be affirmed by the United States Supreme Court this summer.
American social conservatives may balk, but their time is limited. Liberalism has won the culture war. The proof is overwhelming. A recent Gallup poll showed that for the first time in decades, more Americans identify as socially liberal than conservative. Big Business is now firmly on the side of pro-gay marriage. In the recent uproar over Indiana’s religious freedom law (which was subsequently watered down to the point of being ineffective), few national Republicans supported Governor Mike Pence. The one political party that’s supposed to protect religious liberty was too cowed by public perception.
Barring an extraordinary event like World War III, the Supreme Court will end all state bans on same-sex marriage this June. Only naïve simpletons living under a rock still believe the high court will defer to states on marriage. Our robed overlords will somehow find the right to gay nuptials in the Constitution. And just like that, America will take yet another turn away from its generic Christian cultural background and one step forward to egalitarian enlightenment. Liberals will rejoice. Conservatives will recoil as an institution two millennia old has been turned into a contractual love fest in the span of only 7 – yes, 7! – years.
From a rational perspective, what’s so wrong with gay marriage anyway? Why does any sane person care if two dudes want to get together, cohabitate, engage in sodomy, and call it holy matrimony? America is the land of live and let live, right? Why can’t traditionalists stop fretting over what people do with their private parts?
I’m not trying to unfairly stereotype supporters of same-sex marriage. But those really are the questions they ask. And it’s easy to see why they are baffled by the opposition to gay marriage. Who can really get in the way of love?
The biblical conception of marriage – a union ordained and sanctioned by God, meant to foster a loving environment for children – is not rejected by modern Western society. It’s simply no longer understood. The idea that marriage is something more transcendent than a courthouse document has fallen by the wayside. There are many reasons for this – increase in no-fault divorce, loss of stigma against premarital sex, general rise in mobility and uprootedness – but there is one that dominates: feel-good relativism. If it feels good, do it; and to hell with anything else. That’s the leftist mantra slowly achieving sway over the American public.
In that context, it’s easy to see why gay marriage is a-OK with a majority of Americans. But it doesn’t explain the vitriolic manner in which same-sex marriage supporters demonize their opponents. The national outcry in Indiana was just a precursor to the Saul Alinsky-like tactics that progressive activists will use to get their way. Recently in Nova Scotia, a lesbian couple demanded a refund from the owners of a jewelry store who hung a pro-traditional marriage sign inside their business. Prior to the kerfuffle, the store proprietors generously worked with the couple. There was no denial of service. But when the two haughty gals noticed the sign, it was time for an apoplectic episode. They demanded their money back and contacted the media. One half of the offended couple, Nicole White, told CBC News, “[The store owners] just said that that’s their beliefs, and they think they can put up whatever they want. I just said it was very disrespectful, it’s very unprofessional and I wanted a refund.”
Notice how easy she finds it to demand a complete schism between religious beliefs and business, as if believers simply go agnostic when they clock in for work. It’s always religion that must to take a step back when it comes to the public square – never secular values. This insistence, whether its practitioners know it or not, is part of a larger effort to undermine the religious influence on culture. It’s not so much a war over sex as it is over limits in society. And right now, the no-limits side is winning the argument.
Conservatives tend to reject government-placed limits. They see such barriers as an impediment to liberty, thus preventing individuals from flourishing. But without order, freedom is just another word for chaos. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive.” You can’t have a society without some kind of limits on behavior. Otherwise havoc reigns.
Here’s the thing conservatives (and libertarians) need to understand: someone or something is going to determine sexual mores in a society. Call it Lenin’s “who, whom?” principle. If God or the church play no role in proscribing deviant sexual behavior, then there are two other options: government or the individual. Right now, America is witnessing what it’s like to have the federal government play a decisive role in sexual relations. Gay marriage is not only permissible, but celebrated. Judgment is not allowed, at least publicly. Dissidents are considered non-persons without rights.
On the individual level, presumably all sexual decisions will be vetted through individual ideology. There is no standard outside of personal conviction. This is is an area of pure non-judgment. As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy famously wrote in the Planned Parenthood v Casey case, “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Years back, I bought into that mentality hook, line, and sinker. Now, I’m not so sure. Individual reason is fine, but it needs some guidance from a larger force. Without an authority outside of the self, we are left unmoored in a sea of wild, pathos-driven instinct. That kind of disorder of the heart is more dangerous to societal stability than the most tyrannical of governments.
Unrestricted living is something adored by college undergrads and wayward youth; not responsible adults. If conservatives, or anyone for that matter, wish to preserve traditional moral understanding, they will have to preserve it themselves, without the government’s assistance. Blogger Rod Dreher calls this the “Benedict Option.” A teleological understanding of man and nature can’t be forgotten in an era of increasing relativism and feel-goody optimism. It will require resoluteness as heretics are ferreted out and proverbially burned at the stake.
Make no mistake, a new dispensation is arising in America. It will be what Irish journalist John Waters calls, “a new climate of prohibition concerning certain forms of thought and speech, an Orwellian revisionism directed at texts and records bearing witness to old ideas.” Waters’ homeland just confirmed it. Next stop is the United States. From the beginning, the U.S. was hardly a perfect nation. Biblical scruples not always adhered to, but at least they were largely understood. Much of the population knew the basic code of sexual morality, even if they indulged in what was considered sinful. The loss of that general understanding is going to have devastating effects. Just wait and see.