Gay Marriage and the Future

Two articles on gay marriage have appeared recently that you need to take note of if you haven’t already. Both of them are written by men who believe in traditional marriage in the same way that I do. Yet both of them are suggesting that social conservatives can no longer stand against gay marriage as a matter of public policy. They are not saying that social conservatives shouldn’t stand their ground. The are saying that social conservatives can’t stand their ground. There simply isn’t a viable political coalition to make it happen. Legal gay marriage in all 50 states is inevitable at this point, and so social conservatives need to reconsider how to move forward.

Rod Dreher’s article is extremely insightful as to where we are as a culture. Even if you don’t agree with him about “retreating” from the issue, his cultural analysis is dead-on right. Dreher argues that social and religious conservatives have lost the argument over same-sex marriage and that they “would be smarter to retreat behind defensible borders.” By that he means three things:

1) We should understand that this was not an argument we were going to win, in part because the elites, especially in the media, were dead-set against us, but mostly because SSM makes sense given how most people today, especially younger Americans, think about marriage and sexuality…

2) The Republican Party is not going to do anything significant to protect traditional marriage…

3) SSM opponents would do well to abandon the fight against SSM, and instead focus on the threat SSM poses to religious liberty — this, while there is still the prospect of energizing a majority of people to protect religious liberty.

The latter part of Dreher’s piece is going to frustrate a lot of social conservatives, but they need to read it anyway. I think there are too many good conservative folks who are unaware how far-gone our culture is on this issue. On that much, Dreher is right, and that must inform what we do moving forward.

Ross Douthat penned a short piece yesterday that basically agrees with Dreher. He writes:

I think the post-Romney G.O.P. could improve its position by changing in ways that don’t necessarily dovetail with my own preconceptions and beliefs. The first, perhaps over-obviously, is the issue of gay marriage, where my side of the argument has lost enough ground with voters to render the Republican Party’s official position on the issue — and particularly the call for a never-gonna-happen constitutional amendment — an empty gesture to a now-collapsed consensus, which is likely to soon alienate more voters than it mobilizes. It’s probably no longer a question of “if” but “when” the party beats a strategic retreat on the issue…, and it makes a certain raw political sense to pre-emptively declare a big tent on the question, and make the party’s litmus tests support for federalism rather than a Supreme Court settlement and… support for the broadest possible protections for religious liberty. I’m not sure how such a shift would affect the rate at which evangelicals and conservative Catholics turn out for Republicans — that would be the big strategic risk, obviously. But my sense is that the party would just be formally acknowledging what many religious conservatives already accept — that a political platform can’t hold back a cultural tide, and that if the American understanding of what marriage is and ought to be someday turns back in a direction that cultural conservatives find congenial, the details of the Republican platform will be largely incidental to that shift.

As a Christian and as a pastor, I will never retreat on the issue of marriage. It’s just too important. I will continue to teach and preach what the scripture says on whatever platform the Lord allows me to stand on. As a citizen, I will continue to support policies that protect marriage, and I will speak in favor of them publicly.

That doesn’t mean, however, that those arguments will have any traction in the current culture. Nor does it mean there will be a viable political coalition to carry them forward into actual policy. In fact, I’m pretty certain there won’t be. The ground has shifted beneath our feet, and how to move forward in terms of public policy is going to be the question that social conservatives have to come to terms with very soon.

15 Responses to Gay Marriage and the Future

  1. Dave Stotts November 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Dreher and Douthat’s positions seem to suggest that it’s self-evident that we choose a position that will win.. or at least don’t champion something we KNOW will lose. I hate losing. I’ve hated it even more these last 10 days. But maybe we’re supposed to bet on “losers” and finally be seen as the fools the Scriptures say we should be.

    • Denny Burk November 16, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      I agree with that Christians will have yo be like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. We are not going to budge on these things. I don’t think Dreher or Douthat will budge either. But in terms of putting together a coalition to advance a certain public policy favoring marriage, I think we are past the point if no return. It’s not going to happen.

  2. David Thomas November 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    I think what we are seeing globally, in pretty much every arena (politically, economically, diplomatically, socially, spiritually) is truly eschatological. Everything is different, heightened now because of globalization, and comparisons to previous epochs fall short. We cannot know if this is /the/ End, but it is certainly /an/ End of sorts.

    Christendom was always an aberrant expression of the Christian faith. Witness from a position of weakness is the true nature of Christian discipleship. I believe we should stand our ground in this dark age, provided that we understand that does not mean defending some sort of Christendom. We need to stand our ground as persecuted and rejected witness. If we find our defense in arguments or voting blocs instead of the power of the Holy Spirit we are hoping in the wrong things.

    • Denny Burk November 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      Amen! Amen!

  3. Don Johnson November 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    I think the religious liberty battle is the one to take a stand on, and I have been saying this for a while.

  4. Andrew Orlovsky November 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    What these gentlemen are saying does make a lot of sense. I remember George Barna did a worldview survey a few years ago where he determined less than 10% of the population have a biblical worldview. Its likely that only that percentage truly opposes gay marriage on solid biblical grounds. If 50% of the tota population opposed gay marriage, the remaining 40% opposes gay marriage simply because they find homosexuality to be “icky” and that population is going to dwindle as homosexuality becomes more normal within our culture. Gay marriage is inevitable is our country unless there is an explosion of Americans adopting a true biblical worldview, and I don’t see that happening with the biggest conservative mouthpieces being Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, neither showing that have any semblance of a biblical worldview.

    • Denny Burk November 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      You are right about that.

  5. Jordan Mogck November 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    As important as marriage is, it’s not ultimate. One could easily consider this kind of blogging a “clanging symbol”. I don’t know that I’d correct them.

  6. Jacob Lupfer November 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    Sounds like you (and others on the Xian right advancing this argument) are preemptively excusing the GOP’s inevitable capitulation on this stinker of an issue to assuage your conscience about continuing to be the cheapest date in all of politics — always going back to the GOP though it uses you in the worst possible ways then never lifts a finger to stop any of these moral evils you’re so adamantly against.

    Maybe the logic will be like what we who believe you can’t legislate morality tell people: If you think abortion is murder, don’t have one. If you think homosexual behavior is a sin and you’re gay, be celibate. And if you think gay marriage is abhorrent, don’t get gay married.

    You know, most evangelicals throughout the world find that their Christian faith compels them to support left- and center-left parties that advocate on a broad array of issues: poverty, war and peace, the environment, labor, etc. A significant minority of American evangelicals, especially nonwhite ones, do likewise. White conservative evangelicals are the exception, not the rule, in supporting a right party. The GOP is not the only game in town. But as long as you let them know you’ll always be there for them — even as you watch them abandon your most fervent cause of the past decade (and practically bless them as they do) — then they never have to give you more than empty promises. And generally, that’s all you get.

    Just the perspective of someone who sees things a little differently than you do. I do enjoy your writing and commentary. Best wishes.

  7. Todd Leonard November 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    You are too defeatist Denny (I know, I know, we win in the end); I really appreciate historic pre-mil theology but pick up some Sandlin and Brian Mattson! I greatly appreciate your work brother! Keep it up!

  8. Ben Carmack November 19, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    Denny,

    I too appreciate your voice here. I’m gonna have to give some pushback here though.

    Both of these men are Roman Catholic intellectual figures. Which means they know a few things, but are blind on quite a few as well. They’re looking at the travails of the Roman system and despairing. I don’t think we have the same problems.

    We have the true Gospel. We have the Reformation. We have a culture of piety and devotion that we need to remember and renew.

    Elections come and go. This one was the first time since 1916 that a president was reelected with fewer electoral than he received the first time.

    Christ has promised that the Gospel will be proclaimed in all the world before He will return. He has also commanded us to disciple all nations, a task I believe He is waiting for us to finish. And the Father has decreed that this will happen.

    The future is for us, not our adversaries, and certainly not for the Roman form of Christianity ( as opposed to Catholic Christianity).

  9. John Klink, Jr. November 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    The Republicans didn’t pass the Federal Marriage Amendment when they had the chance. They also have not repealed Roe v. Wade in almost 40 years of ‘trying’. As a result, I don’t trust them to protect my religious liberty in any meaningful manner outside of a worship service. How is defending my religious liberty to say, “homosexuality is sin” and to operate my business according to that conviction, any different than defending tradtional marriage in the eyes of the voters that the GOP is trying to win?

    Perhaps, Brian Brown (as quoted here: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=39181) is correct. Maybe same-sex marriage is not as inevitable as Dreher and Douthat think.

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  3. Gay Marriage and the Future - November 18, 2012

    [...] and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar.  He blogs on matters concerning politics, theology and culture.  This article is used with his [...]

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