The Marriage Debate: Lessons and Prospects
Tom Hoopes at CatholicVote.org recently posted his assessment of what lessons the “gay marriage” debate has taught those of us on the pro-tradition side. I was going to write about this myself, but I’ll go ahead and examine his four lessons as a starting point. My intention is be constructive, because as Hoopes correctly points out in his opening lines, the pro-equality side of this debate has been very successful at defining the parameters and central issues of the debate thus far. We need to assess and regroup. If Mr. Hoopes would like to reply to this, I would certainly welcome it.
“1. We learned that being grossed out by homosexuality hurts us.”
Hoopes recalls a discussion with someone raised by homosexual parents:
“What people like my mom see in the religious right is people who say, ‘Ooo, this is icky and disgusting and horrible,’ reflexively, without explaining why,” he told me. “Then my mom and her friend look at their own lives, at their sacrifice and friendship and generosity and say, ‘Well, these people are just hate-mongers.’”
“There is no reason we should feel special disgust at homosexual acts compared to any other sexual sin. And there is no reason we can’t appreciate the mutual friendship and authentic love in a long-term homosexual couple. If we know what marriage is, a thousand such couples shouldn’t in any way threaten us.”
“Disgust” is a very peculiar phenomenon in that it is neither irrational nor easily expressed with words. Animals in nature have the physical senses to warn them of potential dangers; human beings in society have certain social senses to ward of certain dangers as well. I can’t explain why rotting garbage smells “bad” (even if I can offer a scientific account of why it smells the way it does); I affix the label “bad” to it because it is something I want to avoid, and I want to avoid it because I have an involuntary gag reflex that triggers when I inhale the odor.
Homosexual behavior is repulsive to us because it is harmful to society (more on that later), and we are social beings. The comforting narrative that homosexual activists have developed – that any aversion to homosexuality on the part of a heterosexual is a sign of repressed homosexual desires – is a way of making their positions and lifestyles unfalsifable. If you accept them, great. If you don’t, it is a sign that you secretly do. There can be no legitimate opposition. If you think gay is gross, you probably are gay. A fascinating self-defense mechanism, but one not supported by a shred of serious evidence.
Next, homosexuals aren’t averse to displaying their hearty disgust with heterosexuality (their derogatory name for us is “breeder”) when it suits their own desires and interests. They also go out of their way to provoke anger and disgust with their unjustifiably obscene public marches through major cities, which I consider to be acts of violent ideological aggression against Western Christian civilization. So I’ll take their complaints about our disgust seriously when that word is publicly denounced and banished from their lexicon, and when they aren’t actively trying to provoke disgust in society at large. To imagine that you can deliberately dress, speak and act in ways that you fully know and intend to make people uncomfortable and offended and then complain about people’s discomfort and offense has a proper label: sociopathy. To acquiesce to it is a sinful act of cowardice.
One other thing is required: an acknowledgement that the pro-tradition side has developed rational, secular arguments in favor of its position, instead of a default assumption that it is all either based on “eww gross” or decontextualized passages from the Pentateuch.
“2. Being okay with heterosexual sexual sin hurts us.”
True, but does it really need to be pointed out? Who among us “ok” with sin? The kind of people who tend to think that sin is no big deal, or doesn’t even exist, aren’t exactly the type of people to favor traditional marriage. The people who are in favor of traditional marriage at virtually any level beyond the ballot-box are well aware of the need for consistency on these matters. If major pro-tradition groups were habitually indicating that they were less than firm on matters such as pornography, fornication or adultery, then we might have a problem.
“3. Our opponents don’t have an argument, but they do have a history of injustice.”
So do Christians. Anti-clerical regimes led by Freemasons and Communists murdered millions of Christians in the 20th century all over the world. Christians are persecuted today by Islamic governments all over the world. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t read about an Islamic massacre of innocent Christian civilians somewhere between Morocco and Malaysia. Non-Christians don’t seem to care in the least. This doesn’t mean we should return the indifference, of course, but we should realize that “injustice” isn’t really the issue here.
Our opponents’ tactics are undesirable, but understandable. Homosexuals have spent a lifetime being sneered at and bullied.
Certain homosexual individuals may experience bullying, yes. But the suggestion that radical gay political tactics are the result of bullying is really naive and must be challenged. These tactics are essentially continuing the tradition of radical left-wing tactics employed by communists, feminists, and others for over a hundred years now. It is about the unbridled pursuit of political power to establish domination and crush resistance. In other words, it is war.
Radical homosexual groups routinely denounce anyone who disagrees with them, regardless of what they have actually said or done, as hateful, oppressive, and intolerant. They do not care whether or not such statements are truthful, because the ends justify the means. If it advances their political agenda to label all dissent and opposition as “hate”, then they will do it.
The CEO of Chick-fil-A was declared a gay-hating bigot on the basis of remarks that no sane or honest person would regard as hateful (which is why millions of people ended up supporting him). Is the explanation for this really that “gays have been bullied”? Of course not. The explanation is that they have absolutely no moral qualms about aggressively lying to achieve their goals, just as the pro-abortion group NARAL had no moral issues with saying that tens of thousands of women died from back-alley abortions every year. They didn’t.
“4. At this point, we can only win this the hard way: Through charity.”
The way pro-lifers turned the tide of abortion opinion was through charity: Finding the wounded people at the heart of the problem, and serving their real needs. Without the long, sustained effort at loving unwed mothers, we never would have had the pro-life victories we received.
Comparing the marriage debate to the abortion debate is a very risky maneuver. And it isn’t so easy to pin-point a single cause of the success of the pro-life movement. I happen to believe that it was the willingness of pro-life groups to be confrontational, especially with detailed, graphic images of aborted fetuses, that turned the tide. People needed to see that when we were talking about abortion, we weren’t talking about a “clump of cells.” People needed to see the mangled, butchered human form on display, because the success of the pro-choice movement depended almost entirely on the claim that the “fetus” wasn’t really a human being. Once we destroyed that claim, it was the beginning of the end.
In any case, one thing is certain: the pro-life movement has been on the offensive. It did not allow itself to be guilted and shamed into silence. Whenever some voice of “moderation” attempted to reign in the movement, the rank-and-file activists rejected them and became more outspoken. They did so because they know that there can be no compromise on the sanctity of life.
If we feel this way about marriage, then we must act it (and if we don’t, we really ought to shut up and go home). We must be on the offensive, relentless, confrontational, shocking – but always in truth. The images that destroyed the political power of pro-abortion groups were truthful, they displayed a shocking reality. The pro-life movement always had truth on its side and so its confrontational tactics were perfectly justifiable. If the pro-tradition side of the marriage debate wants to succeed, it too must be confrontational in truth. And we can only do that when acknowledge that we are at war.