Wednesday, March 20, 2013


             Saul of Tarsus was a Roman citizen of the first century, A.D., who had been a harsh persecutor of the early Christians.  But in one of history's most famous conversions, he experienced a life-changing epiphany when he heard the voice of God while traveling on the Road to Damascus.  He emerged from this conversion to become St. Paul, the great apostle who played a paramount role in spreading the seed of Christianity that would ultimately serve as the greatest civilizing influence for much of mankind.

                Twenty centuries later, an outbreak of epiphanies of an entirely different sort is taking place in one of the most rapid and dramatic transformations of fundamental beliefs in human history.  These conversions are not occurring under the influence of the voice of God on the Road to Damascus, but under the influence of tout le monde on the road to something like Gomorrah.  As though on cue from some unseen drillmaster, millions of Americans are suddenly marching in lockstep support of a concept that, not so many years ago, was so alien and radical as to be far outside the realm of serious contemplation – the strange oxymoron of marriage between persons of the same sex.

                For the entire two millennial span of the Christian era, the nuclear family centered around one man and one woman united in marriage has been the fundamental organizing unit of civilized society.  Century after century of modern history has passed without any significant doubt or dissent regarding the exclusively heterosexual nature of marriage which, after all, is an inevitable reflection of the natural order.

                But now, in the early years of the 21st century, millions of Americans are experiencing precipitate conversions to the view that marriage is not, after all, a union between a man and a woman to facilitate the procreation of children and the establishment and nurturing of families.  It can just as well, they now profess, be an entirely different kind of coupling between two men, or two women, without any capacity for conjugal procreation or the establishment of biological families. 

           What had somehow escaped the knowledge or even the suspicion of the brightest and most imaginative human thinkers through the full span of civilized history has been suddenly and simultaneously discovered by millions of ordinary Americans not heretofore noted for their reflective bent -- the discovery that civilization's historical restriction of marriage to opposite sex couples has been a profound and glaring mistake all along.  As they might say in the current jargon, "Who knew?"

                The most recent prominent "convert" to this view is a 57-year-old Republican senator from Ohio named Rob Portman.  In 1996, Portman had voted in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), which established marriage as solely between one man and one woman for purposes of federal law and which was signed into law by President Clinton (who has now likewise experienced the same epiphany and repudiated the very legislation he had unhesitatingly signed into law).  Presumably, Portman gave considerable thought to his vote on this important bill, and it is fair to conclude that his vote reflected his mature and considered opposition to same-sex marriage. 

                But last week, with eyes moistened on the brink of tears, Portman dramatically announced his conversion to supporting same-sex marriage in a maudlin interview – which he had initiated and requested -- with a fawning CNN reporter.  He declared that he adopted this position because his son, a student at Yale University, had revealed to Portman that he (the son) was a homosexual and Portman wished to be supportive.  This patently incoherent mode of reasoning leads one to wonder whether Portman would announce his support for legalizing heroin upon learning that his son was an addicted  heroin user.  The notion that a parent should abandon previously held moral and religious standards because they conflict with a child's desire to enjoy activities that conflict with those standards is preposterous.  In a saner era, it would be taken for granted that the son should attempt to conform his behavior to the moral standards passed down to him by his father.  But we live in the Age of Inversion.

                Portman is merely the latest prominent politician to perform an about-face, fall into step, and march with the growing mob in support of the oxymoron known as same-sex marriage (SSM for short).  Clinton and President Obama (who opposed SSM when he ran for President in 2008) are the most prominent converts, but their ranks now spread across partisan lines.  More importantly, various polls assert that in the past decade a majority of the overall population (58% according to a just-released Washington Post/ABC News poll) has abandoned the historical understanding of marriage and now support SSM.  Most disturbingly of all, another recent poll purported to show that a majority of self-identified Catholics also support this view, even though homosexual acts (let alone the sanctification of a union based upon such activity) are unambiguously condemned as intrinsically sinful by firmly established Catholic doctrine

                The above-noted Post poll also shows an astonishingly precipitate reversal of American opinion on this issue, from only 37% support of SSM in 2003 to 58% only ten years later – i.e. roughly 60 million epiphanies in a single decade.  The extraordinary speed of this widespread popular conversion (at least in America) on this fundamental matter is stunning, and highly suspect.  After all, the understanding that marriage is exclusively heterosexual has been longstanding, uncontroversial, fundamental, and shared across all subdivisions of society throughout the history of Western Civilization.

                What would cause so many people suddenly to reject the long-settled and heretofore virtually universal understanding of such a fundamental human institution?  Is it likely that the millions of digital-age Americans (with their notoriously limited attention spans) who now profess to "support" same-sex marriage have actually sat down and carefully pondered and sorted-out the issues and implications entailed by such a radical societal change?  Or is it more likely that these abrupt conversions reflect a widespread desire to conform their views to those considered "acceptable" among the most prominent and influential opinion-makers in popular society -- to simply march with the right crowd? 

                The latter is the far greater likelihood --  especially considering that any carefully reasoned decision to support the legalization of same-sex marriage would also require most of such converts to first adopt the following radical or insupportable corollary positions:

                      --  Endorse the view that conjugal reproduction and family formation by and through the married couple is now entirely irrelevant to marriage, because it is flatly impossible in same sex marriages (artificial reproduction via third-party sperm or egg donation is something entirely different, and an utterly alien and implausible alternative for society).

                         --   In the case of persons who are adherents of most prominent religions, reject and violate a fundamental doctrine of those faiths.  As noted above, for example, to lend support to the legalization of same sex marriage would be in direct violation of fundamental and invariable Catholic doctrine.  The same can be said for other prominent religions, such as Islam, Mormonism, the Southern Baptist Convention, and Orthodox Judaism.

                          -- Conclude that legalization and normalization of SSM will not increase the popularity and attraction of homosexuality, and therefore will not result in more widespread adoption of the homosexual life, a reduction in heterosexual marriage, and a commensurate reduction in the birth rate – UNLESS the convert believes (a) that there is nothing undesirable or counterproductive about an increase in the portion of the population practicing a homosexual life; or (b) that adoption of a homosexual life is in every and all cases compelled by genetic predisposition and entirely involuntary, even, for example, in the case of the class referred to as bisexuals, a position which is in clear conflict with observable reality.
                           -- Endorse and accept the proposition that there is no moral, social, medical, or hygienic difference between heterosexual and homosexual sex activity, because the mandatory legalization of SSM entails that position.  This point is linked to the radical argument that is essential to the legal and constitutional establishment of same sex marriage, namely, that there is no "rational basis" to the limitation of marriage to a man and a woman.  If, for example, homosexual sex is more dangerous and risky to health than normal heterosexual intercourse -- and there is every indication that it is -- then there is plainly a rational basis (wholly apart from the fundamental interest in simply propagating the race) for limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

                          -- For related reasons, those who endorse SSM should be prepared to accept a regime whereby children will be taught (as they already are in some locations) that homosexual practices and homosexual marriages are in no respects inferior to the heterosexual alternatives.  Stated another way, are those who purport to support SSM prepared to state that they are wholly indifferent to whether their own children are heterosexual or homosexual?  If not, they do not embrace the "equivalence" thesis, and the critical premise for their support collapses.

                        -- Converts must also reject the principle, followed in various religions, legal systems, and traditions, that heterosexual consummation is a prerequisite to a valid and binding marriage, in the sense that absent consummation, the purported marriage is subject to nullification.  This follows because such consummation is impossible in a same sex union.  Nor is the requirement for consummation an obsolete relic that has no relevance today, because it serves at least two relevant purposes:  (1) the avoidance of fraudulent marriages; and (2) the prevention of marriages that could not possibly result in spousal procreation against the legitimate expectations of at least one of the marrying couple.
                Regardless of where one stands on the above issues and implications (and there are many other omitted for brevity here), they surely warrant thoughtful consideration before one joins in the radical transformation of a historical institution which, like traditional marriage, has served as a foundation for civilized society for so long and so well.  But if the recent polls are even close to the truth, it appears that millions of Americans are prepared to embrace a contorted re-invention of marriage without the slightest regard for the disturbing consequences. 

              They seem content to accept a confused new vision of marriage in which white lace and promises must make room for black leather and the ambiguous arrangements of a strange new world.

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