Christianity,  Politics

How the Gay Marriage Agenda Advances

Once again, Ross Douthat has some shrewd observations about the gay marriage debate. This time he talks about the factors that have caused public opinion to change so rapidly over the last ten years. He rightly argues that the law not only reflects society’s values, but it also shapes them. Douthat insists that there is a “link between law and culture” and that “stigma, harassment and legal sanctions” play a crucial role in “changing attitudes and behavior.” He writes:

The cause of gay marriage has indeed advanced because many millions of people have been persuaded of its merits: No cause could move so swiftly from the margins to the mainstream if it didn’t have appealing arguments supporting it and powerful winds at its back. But it has also advanced, and will probably continue to advance, through social pressure, ideological enforcement, and legal restriction. Indeed, the very language of the movement is explicitly designed to exert this kind of pressure: By redefining yesterday’s consensus view of marriage as “bigotry,” and expanding the term “homophobia” to cover support for that older consensus as well as personal discomfort with/animus toward gays, the gay marriage movement isn’t just arguing with its opponents; it’s pathologizing them, raising the personal and professional costs of being associated with traditional views on marriage, and creating the space for exactly the kind of legal sanctions that figures like Thomas Menino and Rahm Emanuel spent last week flirting with.

Our laws reflect our values, but they also influence them. That is why gay activists want to enshrine gay marriage in the laws of our land. When they do, a social stigma attaches to those who only recognize traditional marriage (e.g., Christians), and their influence can be pushed to the margins. If you doubt that what I am describing is true, then you are not paying close attention to this debate. I should mention, by the way, that this agenda is confirmed and celebrated in Linda Hirshman’s new book Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution – How a Despised Minority Pushed Back, Beat Death, Found Love, and Changed America for Everyone (HarperCollins, 2012).

Yes, we must be about changing hearts and minds. For Christians, that involves first and foremost the preaching of the gospel in fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). That is the only means by which heart and minds can be truly changed to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

But in another sense, changing hearts and minds also involves promoting a culture that values marriage as God has defined it. To that end, we should not forget the importance of pressing our democratic privileges in favor of laws and policies that promote human flourishing and the good of our neighbor. In short, we should not give up on keeping traditional marriage privileged in law.


  • Paul Abella

    Yep, you get my real name for this one Denny –

    Where the right really, totally and completely screwed up on this one was in not acknowledging the need for some capitulation from the get go. Had the right set the terms of the discussion from the beginning, even advancing the notion of civil unions recognized throughout the country, with caveats, you could have written in language allowing for religious speech. You could have acknowledged that next of kin issues do exist, that property rights issues exist and that benefits issues exist.

    When the fools that try to write laws to win elections starting drafting constitutional bans on gay marriage, they weren’t seeing the forest for the trees. So, sure, right now, you’re winning elections with help from Muslims, Hindus and just flat out bigots, but as people start looking around and realizing that their coworker couldn’t tend to his/her partner in the hospital, couldn’t adopt a child even though they totally had the means and skill set to do so, there is going to be a backlash. A big one. And then, ALL talk about homosexuality as sin will be hate speech. That day is coming, and it’ll indeed be a sad one for ALL Americans, not just Republicans who were trying to win elections in 2004.

    • Jason Ruzek

      “acknowledging the need for some capitulation from the get go..”

      You got the verb right. The only agreement the left accepts is surrender.

      There is no logical reason to give homosexual relationships any implicit or legal privilege. No argument can be made for it other than emotional appeals and incongruent assumptions about the pliability of culture. If this cause loses its is principle, logical, and civilization that loses. As a for instance, no one is banning anything, but this is commonly put forth by persons who have not considered the matter and their words very carefully. But it sounds so good, and it feels so right and that’s all that matters.

      Civil Unions are a harmful acquiescence because it is on a stepping stone for the revisionists. This is shown by the fact that those who were working towards gay marriage in NY state were very disappointed that any religious groups would be exempt from participating in or acknowledging the union. The pro-gay marriage crowd wanted nothing less than, as you said, unconditional capitulation. Again, no one quarter can be given to to the revisionists because the golden is to make everybody endorse everything about them by the force of law. And for what? Codifying friendships? Friends with benefits? Why in the world should the government be putting their imprimatur on feelings? With a man and a woman, there are not only several objective points which are absent in all other revisionist formulations, but it is the only way in which children arise, one man and one woman. Why codify anything else? Only some variation on, ” I wanna!”

      • Paul Abella

        This is a nation built on the acquisition of property.

        Denying some people the right to divvy up property how they see fit to who they see fit is a problem.

        Denying someone the right to ironclad next of kin rights is a problem.

        Denying someone the cash that you paid into social security because it’s not the right person according to Denny Burk or Jason Ruzek doesn’t agree is a problem.

        This isn’t a religious issue. Sure, homosexuals are sinners. But so are greedy bankers that put profits before God. Is the religious right trying to do anything to stop them from sinning? Nope. Adultery? Denny, when was the last time you got onto the phone with your local representative and demanded that they start enforcing the adultery laws on the books? Causing your fellow humans to stumble in their walk is a sin, but have we tried throwing Joel Osteen in jail yet? Nope. This isn’t a religious issue at all. Because if it was, then all of the above scenarios would have been talked about just as vociferously as gay marriage is. But you don’t care how greedy the bankers at Chase are. You don’t care if someone’s sleeping around (as long as its not your pastor or someone else that could make you look bad). You don’t care if Christians stumble due to the acts of stupid “believers.” Your actions speak louder than your words.

        It’s a property rights issue. It’s a taxation issue. It’s a next of kin issue. It’s a benefits issue. But, don’t insult God by saying that it’s an issue in his name. Because I don’t remember at all the verse in the New Testament where Paul writes to the Corinthians and tells them only to fight sins against God when they don’t contradict what the rich guys at the RNC say.

  • David Thomas

    Regardless of the second guessing, this is merely history repeating itself. What is commonly regarded (rightly or wrongly) as the “Golden Age” of Christianity (viz. the primitive church) is also an era in which Christians were villified as misanthropists and atheists because they refused to share in the debauchery of the day and they refused to bow the knee to state-sponsored idolatry.

    If we read the record of the pagan historians and the early church fathers, what was said about Christians then and what is being said about them now is fundamentally the same thing. Again, people (even Christians) persist in framing this whole issue as if it were a PR fumble. What is ignored is that the crucifixion is /THE/ PR fumble of history–and it’s the basis of all salvation.

    Christians have botched the presentation of salvation in every era and will continue to do so, but that is beside the point. The increase of the “sin of the Ammonites” and their hatred for the truth is part of the territory, was fortold, and will accompany us to the End.

  • Kamilla


    If I may be direct – the agenda is given a great shove forward by Christians such as you who capitulate on the language. There is no such thing as gay “marriage”. The thing is a metaphysical impossibility. It does not, can not and never will exist no matter how many linguistic fictions we engage in to make it look otherwise.

    • Jason Ruzek


      What should he and we call it? No less an authority than Robert George uses it in the short hand while he is simultaneously deconstructing it, demonstrating its utter incoherence. It seems to me that as you think just using the phrase is a tactical error and some sort of betrayal to the traditional cause, it would follow that you would share an optional appellation acceptable to you.

      • David Thomas

        Kamilla’s heart is in the right place regarding the absurdity of a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex constituting marriage, but her rhetorical frame of reference makes her overreact when someone else doesn’t conform to the markers she has determined as the litmus test for orthodoxy. Similar spats arose in another thread on this blog because a person /assumed/ based on a comment or two that didn’t fit their paradigm, so the accusations began to fly.

        Kamilla, from ancient times the “marriage” of Sodomites has been referred to by historians as such, even as the selfsame (pagan) historians condemned the action as a comically absurd violation of nature. It does little to no good to be as hair trigger senstive about individual statements as are the gays. Christians should listen, understand, and respond appropriately to the /spirit/ of what is being said.

  • Kamilla

    I don’t think I am at all, Denny. Just think about how the feminist cause has been emboldened and enabled by the new language in bible editions.

    It’s a rhetorical victory for the remakers of society.

    Jason, I think Dr. George is wrong. I think his friend (and mine) Tony Esolen has it right, tho the term will never catch on. Tony calls it pseudogamy. And that’s exactly what it ia.

    • Jason Ruzek


      That will definitely improve communication and clarity of discourse.

      To think that everyday conversation is a direct semantic parallel with dynamic and literal translations of the bible. If I say that a person is “pro-abortion” some know what I’m talking about, but if I’m trying to explain to a pro-choice friend why their position, and thereby, appellation, is incoherent, if I start with semantic games, no one is going to listen. Did the leg work and explain why the term gay marriage doesn’t make any sense instead of hoping a term to do it for you.

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