We need each other in order to reach an understanding of viewpoints that differ from our own. Why should we bother to do this? Because no one person or group is right all of the time, and it is a natural human tendency to tend toward arrogance, self-righteousness, prejudice, and the demonizing of those with whom we disagree.
As a guy who traverses the (mostly) conservative world of Evangelical subculture, and the (mostly) liberal world of the secular arts culture, I often feel like a fish out of water.
I’m pretty sure everyone gets the case for “marriage equality”: fairness, equal treatment, non-discrimination. But based on news and commentary that I see, it strikes me that supporters of “marriage equality” almost universally misunderstand the motives of Evangelicals in the debate. The word schadenfreude has entered the mainstream, as the Left gloats over how fun it is to watch “anti-gay” people “lose” the battle. (Schadenfreude means to feel pleasure at another’s misfortune.) I’m curious as to what “marriage equality” supporters think that Evangelicals have to lose in this debate.
There seems to be an assumption that Evangelicals somehow need to hate, in order for their “religion” to work. Or that Evangelicals hope to forcibly impose their “religious beliefs” on everyone else (as if that has ever worked for anyone.) Or that Evangelicals don’t know any gay people that they personally love.
I certainly can’t speak for all Evangelicals, but I’ve had one foot in theologically conservative Evangelical subculture all of my life, and none of the above points are true for most of us. Of course you can find jerks and buttheads on the Left, Right, and Middle of every group. Finding one, giving him press, and making him the poster boy doesn’t promote understanding.
So what do Evangelicals stand to lose in the gay marriage debate?
Nothing. We’re not in this for ourselves.
We believe we’re standing for a public policy that will be the most beneficial for future generations; one that will guarantee the most freedom for the most people, and that will be safest and healthiest for the most vulnerable members of society, namely dependent children, who have zero political power.
There is nothing in our worldview that somehow needs to keep gays, (or anyone else,) down in order to thrive.
It is mainstream Evangelical belief that, in the new covenant of Jesus, we do not have human enemies. The apostle Paul clearly states that our enemies, our weapons, and the battle itself are spiritual in nature (Eph 6:11-17.)
There are many gay Evangelicals who struggle with same sex attraction, but choose to live according to their biblical beliefs. This is their choice. They are not second-class citizens.
Evangelical marriages will be just fine if gay marriage is recognized by the state. This is true because we have an ethic that doesn’t depend upon public policy. But public policy does affect the culture in general. As the institution of marriage is redefined into oblivion, as the incest taboo falls, as monogamy in marriage ceases to be the ideal, as gender in marriage and parenting comes to be seen as irrelevant, the consequences for society at large will be grim. If traditional marriage goes down, it’s going to cost everybody. Government will increasingly need to step in to preserve order and safety, and there will necessarily be a loss of freedom for everyone.
You may be thinking, “Slow down there, cowboy – we don’t really know what will happen if the government redefines marriage to include gay couples.”
Well, technically you would be correct, since, until recently, this has never been done before in the history of the world. But that’s kind of like saying we don’t really know what will happen if we redefine food. We do know. ‘Take GMOs. Genetically modified organisms look like food. They smell like food. But they don’t do what food was designed to do.
SImilarly, we do know what will happen if marriage is arbitrarily redefined.
Changing marriage isn’t like adding another color of socks to the sock drawer. Marriage and the nuclear family is the universal and fundamental organizing societal unit in virtually every culture in the world. The reason it is universal and fundamental is that heterosexual sex universally results in offspring. Gay sex fundamentally doesn’t. When offspring results, it is in every society’s and every government’s interest that the two parents who produced that offspring take care of it. If they don’t, it often costs everybody else in some way.
We happen to have an example of what happens when heterosexual, monogamous, lifelong marriage ceases to be the ideal standard in contemporary culture. We need only look at black subculture in America. I have some personal familiarity with this example as I raised my family in the racially mixed inner city of Kansas City for a couple of decades. I chose to send my two oldest boys to a charter junior high school that was 3% white. The family problem in black America is a widespread failure to form marriages in the first place, and a high divorce rate when marriages do form. The out-of-wedlock birth rate for blacks is now over 70%. Think about that. And that’s with black babies being aborted at five times the rate of white babies.
I was struck by the irony that, while the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments about “marriage equality” in DC, blacks were rioting in Baltimore. What’s the connection? I wonder how many of the young men rioting and looting grew up with a loving father raising them and teaching them how to actually be men? I wonder how many of the looters were married men with children at home? I don’t know the answer, but we do know that generally speaking, it’s not gangs of happily married family-men hanging out on the streets at night and raising hell. It’s generally not women committing most crimes and engaging in destructive behavior. It’s mostly single men.
Single men are every society’s concern because of the way men are wired. Marriage is one, pitifully insufficient tool in society’s toolbox to induce single men to commit to one woman, and to any children they may produce together. This is why the government has an interest in monogamous, lifelong, heterosexual marriage. It makes perfect sense for the state to create strong incentives to increase the likelihood that kids will grow up with their biological mother and father if at all possible. Yet “marriage equality” says biology is irrelevant and biological parents are dispensable.
The problem of racism pales in importance compared to the problem of the disintegration of marriage and the nuclear family within black culture. You can’t have a 70% out-of-wedlock birthrate without deep consequences. Through no fault of their own, these kids will grow up disadvantaged compared to kids raised by a mom and dad who love them and who love each other. Thus the cycle will tend to repeat. Single moms, extended families, and black churches are struggling heroically to hold it together, but it’s an overwhelming problem now. Some have argued that black culture is where it is largely because of well-meaning (usually white) people trying to help. Consequently the state has replaced fathers in many black single-parent families. This is the reason journalist Jason Riley has written a book called, “Please Stop Helping Us – How Liberal Policies Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.”
So what does the plight of black America have to do with gay marriage?
It highlights the importance of heterosexual, lifelong, monogamous marriage for society. It shows that good intentions don’t necessarily produce good results. Crime and poverty are not racial problems, they’re fatherlessness problems.
Critics counter that “marriage equality” will result in more marriage, not less. Isn’t that what we want? How will allowing other groups to join the legal institution of marriage hurt anyone?
During recent oral arguments, Chief Justice Roberts nailed it with his statement, “You are not seeking to join the institution. You are seeking to change what the institution is…”
The disintegration of marriage has been devastating for black America, and thus for the rest of the nation. Similarly, the redefining of marriage at the federal level will change marriage not just for gays, but for the general population as well. If one aspect of traditional marriage can be changed, then so can the other aspects. For example, gay spokesdude, Dan Savage openly argues that gay marriage will help hetero marriage by normalizing the idea of consensual sexual infidelity. He calls this “monogamish” marriage. He feels this will help heterosexual marriage because “monogamy is impossible.” Savage wants to change what marriage is.
There are prominent leftist authors, such as Masha Gessen and Shulamith Firestone, who have openly advocated for the elimination of marriage and the nuclear family for the sake of equality. Whether or not this is the intention of the “marriage equality” movement doesn’t matter. It will certainly be the result. The term “marriage” will eventually be rendered meaningless for society in general, as there is no logic that will limit “equal treatment” to gay couples only.
If this were a religious issue only, I would keep my opinion inside the walls of the church. But the dynamics of marriage and family touch every person on the planet. It’s not the fault of Evangelicals that the welfare of children is inseparably linked to hetero sex and marriage. It remains compassionate, just, and rational to support sexual complementarity in monogamous, lifelong marriage. The legitimate concerns of the “marriage equality” movement can be addressed without redefining an already weak, but indispensable, institution.