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Thursday, June 24, 2004

A Deafening Silence

Isn’t it odd? Although the leaders of dozens of Christian groups have denounced gay marriage, the rank and file have not had much to say about it. From such disparate sources as the Washington Post and Chuck Colson, the chattering class is beginning to become aware of a simple fact: most Christians don’t care.

It raises an obvious question: why don’t they care? Colson opines that the lack of outcry is due to pessimism and defeatism amongst the rank-and-file. Christians are so oppressed by the culture that they are throwing in the towel. Other Christian leaders pin the problem on larger distractions: the war in Iraq, the economy, etc. Everyone says it may have something to do with it being an election year, arguing that this is traditionally a time when controversial issues are avoided.

Bunk and balderdash.

Election years are precisely when controversial issues are embraced. Christians haven’t thrown in the towel: they are still pushing hard on things like television and radio decency controls, for example. Nor have they surrendered on a myriad of other issues. The problem is simply this: no one thinks homosexuality is a big deal. The left won this issue before the religious leaders even woke up to the idea that there might be a fight. And I can tell you exactly how it happened.

I became aware of the problem over a year ago in a discussion with a local activist. She and her husband were working to stop a strip bar from opening in a city neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois. They were gathering signatures in front of every church. I stopped after Mass to sign their petition, and to ask them a question. Peoria had recently passed an ordinance outlawing job or rent discrimination against active homosexuals. Why hadn’t I seen them out in front of the churches trying to stop that ordinance, which had been front page news just before the strip bar surfaced? The answer was simplicity itself: “Well, we don’t get into bedroom issues.”

“Really?” I responded. “So how is the door to a bar different from a door to a bedroom? They are both doors. They are both guarding access to private property. Would you drop your opposition to the strip bar if someone actually slept there every night, thus making it a bedroom? Would you drop your opposition if the bar featured live sex instead of simply featuring strippers?”

She was offended by the question. She insisted that gay sex was not something she had a right to an opinion on, but a strip bar was: it would lower property values.

You see? She was only allowed to have an opinion on the strip bar because it wasn’t a bedroom issue, it was a tax issue, a property valuation issue. Gay marriage is neither a tax nor a property valuation issue – at least not in any obvious way – so Christians don't care.

But it goes much deeper than this. The Christian attitude towards sex is, today, very simple: “as long as no one is hurt,” you may engage in whatever sexual practice you like. Dr. Dobson of the Family Research Center has no problem with masturbation. Most Christian denominations have no problem with contraception. So why should we oppose gay sex or gay marriage? After all, what is the real difference between masturbating, having condomized sex, or having gay sex? Each provides about the same amount of physical gratification, and sex – like marriage – is primarily about gratification, right?

I am married as long as my spouse is willing to serve me, as long as I am being fed, as long as I am getting something out of the relationship. When that stops, when the relationship is “spiritually dead” or my spouse is getting physical pleasure elsewhere through an affair, then I can divorce. If we assume that this is a reasonable way to act, it is not possible to make a case opposing gay marriage.

The reason we can’t make the case is we don’t have a case, not anymore. You see, contraception within marriage redefined marriage, just as the Washington Post and the Pope predicted it would back in the 1930’s. Once contraception is acceptable, marriage is no longer about family, it is now about me. Now every relationship hinges on one thing: what’s in it for me?

The public acceptance of gay sex and gay marriage is functionally identical to public acceptance of contraception. Heterosexual contraception has already brought us legal abortion, a fifty percent divorce rate and a pornographic society: all of these problems mushroomed only after contraception was legalized. Gay marriage is just contraception without the chemicals or condoms. How can you convince a woman on the pill or a man with a wallet full of condoms that gay marriage is going to harm heterosexual marriage?

It can’t be done because it isn’t true. Marriage was dealt a death-blow when the Protestant Comstock laws were struck down. Once we were no longer permitted to forbid the manufacture or sale of contraceptives, we lost the ability to deal with deliberately sterilized sex in any form whatsoever. Like masturbation, gay sex and gay marriage are just another form of contraception. Indeed, the beauty of gay marriage is that their divorces are much less likely to impact children, since they will, by definition, tend not to have any. Contracepting heterosexuals know a kindred spirit when they see one. They certainly aren't going to cast a stone at gays.

The move to amend the Constitution to defend heterosexual marriage will fail. If it succeeds, it will follow Prohibition in being repealed. It cannot be otherwise.

No one quarrels about contraception anymore. The people who used to do so are mostly dead. Likewise, the only generation that quarrels about the gay issue will be dead in another thirty to sixty years. The next generation will care even less than this one about that topic. The next fight will be over pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, sado-masochism and the rest. And Christianity will lose those fights too. Pleasure is the measure. The war was over when we surrendered the Comstock laws. And that surrender could not have happened if Christians had not acquiesced.

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