Saturday, May 14, 2011

Conservatives and Same-Sex Marriage

The following post was published on The Edmund Burke Institute website in the June edition of the Reflections column.

There is a disturbing trend among conservatives both in politics and in the media. Not an insignificant number of them are softening up on same-sex marriage. Some deny the importance altogether like Fox News commentator Glenn Beck and others affirm the importance of it but do not believe it to be a higher priority than the economy like 2008 presidential candidate Michael Huckabee. Gretchen Carlson, host of Fox and Friends, has said that homosexuality is not immoral. Sean Hannity insists that he doesn’t care what couples- heterosexual or homosexual –do in the privacy of their bedrooms. There is, of course, Bill O’Reilly who wavers on the subject but nevertheless maintains that it is permissible that same-sex couples have the right to adopt. And in recent years, Rush Limbaugh has been more subdued on the subject.

A Fox News article, confirmed that there is a cultural shift in favor of same-sex marriage. The article cited a Pew Research Center Poll which found that “Americans were opposed to gay marriage by nearly 2-1 a decade ago, while the latest poll showed 45 percent in support of it, with 46 percent in opposition.” The point is that Americans are not the only ones relaxing their moral standards on this issue. Conservatives are also being influenced by socially liberal values. I’m afraid that fewer of them see the close relationship between the Christian meaning of marriage and the freedoms they seek to defend.

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century most Westerners instinctively understood that the sanctity of marriage and the nuclear family were the bedrock of civilization. Pope Leo XIII gave voice to this fundamental truth when he said the following:

“The family may be regarded as the cradle of civil society, and it is in great measure within the circle of family life that the destiny of the States is fostered…If in their early years they find within the walls of their homes the rule of an upright life and the discipline of Christian virtues, the future welfare of society will in great measure be guaranteed.” (On Christians as Citizens, 1890)

This truth of civil society is not apparent as it once was. In the political world where not only the commitment to a party’s agenda is expected but loyalty to fellow party members is a sacred duty, it is a predictable occurrence that religious and moral principles get compromised for the sake of fellowship. This is especially the case when so many politicians have family members, friends or colleagues who are practicing homosexuals. Under these circumstances promoting Gospel values as it pertains to the dignity of life and the sanctity of marriage comes across to many as being judgmental. As such, many conservatives take what they imagine to be the high road by being “non-judgmental.” Indeed, if some fellow party members are practicing homosexuals then there is a temptation to withhold judgment on the lifestyle itself. Nevertheless, any position or strategy based on whether a minority or majority of colleagues favors the same-sex lifestyle makes for a poor moral foundation. As St. Paul said, “[W]hen they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (II Corinthians 10:12)

Section II of post:

Conservatives put a high premium on free enterprise, liberty, progress and national security as I do. But they undermine their attempt to save these things by compromising on social values; most especially with regard to marriage between a man and a woman. In centuries past, the relationship between the institution of marriage as defined between a man and a woman and the welfare of the State was a self-evident truth. This is not the case anymore; even among those conservatives who want to safeguard the founding principles of this nation. However, the Constitutional principles which have occasioned free enterprise, liberty and progress in America rest upon Christian morality. The famous passage from George Washington’s farewell address in 1796 makes an indirect but unmistakable reference to Christian morality’s ties to political prosperity. He said, “Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.”

Approximately forty years later Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, said that the surest pledge of liberty is morality. There should be no doubt that the sanctity of marriage was understood by the Christian churches in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as being between a man and a woman. Furthermore, its relationship with the welfare of the State was taken for granted by the people of this time period. Due to their Christian education, they more easily perceived the big picture of life; that is, the unity of religion, morality and politics. Twenty-first century conservatives, however, are compartmentalizing Christian morality apart from political prosperity; that is, fewer of them appreciate that “Religion and Morality are indispensible supports” for civil liberties, balanced budgets and national security.

Suffice it to say that a wise and loving governance of children by two parents in the home is but the precursor for a wise and just governance of citizens by the State. Those who rule and those who are ruled come from one kind of family or another. Children who become citizens, who then become politicians, learn their philosophy of governance primarily at home and secondarily at school. In many respects, the family is the laboratory for government. Under the parental authority of a mother and father, love and justice work together for the welfare of the child. As a rule, the parental power to rule is never divorced from the love and the best interests of the child. Although the right of civil authority to rule comes from God and is delegated by the people, it is true nevertheless that civil authority borrows its force and character from parental authority. To be sure, parental authority is the tutor of civil authority. A child who knows not the affection of a mother and the discipline of a father will struggle to find the right balance in governing as a representative of the State.

All this presupposes one fact: same-sex couples cannot provide the balance of mercy and justice, love and authority, stability and longevity that a heterosexual couple can provide. If you doubt this presupposition there is not short supply of studies which have demonstrated the inherent instability of same-sex unions. There is overwhelming evidence that promiscuity, violence and short-lived relationships are common traits in this demographic.

We need not content ourselves with mere studies and statistics; Scripture is today, as any time in the past, a reliable source of truth. Man and woman were created in the image of God to complement each other; to become as one. The union of male and female not only benefits the two spouses but the child as well. The child comes to know him or herself, the world and God himself through this image. It is the lens through which reality is grasped. If this image is distorted then the child’s perception of reality will be distorted. Every person should know that the clarity or distortion of this image has political implications. When parental governance is unnatural or inherently dysfunctional as is often the case with same-sex unions, then this translates into an unnatural or oppressive governance by the State

If conservatives want political prosperity, as I know they do, then they must begin by safeguarding the sanctity of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Political endeavors to retain and advance Constitutional principles in our country will prove futile if parental authority, second only to divine authority, is not publicly acknowledged in its biblical context.


  1. True conservatives would support taking the government out of the marriage issue completely. Government initially got involved with marriage licenses in the 1800s to prohibit interracial marriages. Let individuals, through their communities and churches, decide what is best for their families and communities. Enough of this nonsense that politicians can institute morality through government force.

  2. True conservatives want to see their nation enjoy political prosperity...which, by the way, is on the decline in the US. And according to George Washington, one of the greatest conservatives, said you cannot have political prosperity without morality & religion. John Adams too said that the Constitution was made for a religious people. If the State does not protect marriage as between a man and a woman we are finished!!And David, to legislate is to legislate morality. Do you not think the budget debate has a moral component? or our national security? or the take over of the private sector by the Obama administration? Conservatives are beginning to compartmentalize religion & morality away from politics. But our Founders did not do this!


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