In his dissent from the 2015 Supreme Court decision in the case that required all states to recognize same-sex marriage, Justice Samuel Alito noted that the decision will “be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”
He is skeptical of the majority’s reassurance that the conscience rights of those who maintain a traditional view of marriage would be protected.
“We will soon see whether this proves to be true. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools,” Alito writes.
How quickly he was proved right. How abruptly the tone changed from one of love and tolerance and assurances that same-sex marriage would have no effect on those who did not believe such a union was a real marriage.
The vindictiveness of the victors toward the vanquished was swift and relentless. In the blink of an eye, “progressive” rhetoric went from “live and let live!” to “punish the wicked!”, as “gay megadonor” Tim Gill put it regarding his determination to go after Christians who hold traditional views about sexual morality.
Small businesses owned by Christian bakers, florists, photographers, and even a pizza chef were targeted aggressively by pro-LGBT organizations—not for refusing to serve gay customers, but for refusing to use their art to celebrate homosexual unions. Many were harassed, and some were driven out of business by ruinous lawsuits. “Live and let live!” gave way to “bake the cake, bigot!”
A New Target
Now it seems the Antifa group in Berkeley “has targeted a new enemy—a soft-spoken Asian member of the student government named Isabella Chow, the daughter of Malaysian-Cambodian immigrants who campaigned on a platform of representing ‘Cal’s Christian community,'” Nancy Pearcey wrote in the Daily Caller. Chow’s crime was, as Antifa put it on Twitter, her “horribly homophobic and transphobic ideas” and her “disgusting position.”
Chow had abstained on a resolution to condemn the proposed restoration of the word “sex” in Title IX to its original meaning of biological sex. In her mild and civil statement, Chow spoke out against bullying and discrimination and for love and compassion. “That said,” she stated, “I believe that God created male and female … and designed sex for marriage between one man and one woman.” She could not vote for the student senate’s bill without compromising her values and her responsibility to the community that elected her to represent them.
Chow was harassed and lambasted across campus, not least by the student newspaper, which denounced her but refused to allow her to publish a response, and by the student senate, which harangued her for three hours in a packed meeting.
The student senator who introduced the original resolution for the Queer Alliance and Resource Center expressed outrage that Chow would actually ask the senate to “respect her ‘beliefs’ as she does ours.” He said in a statement, “What Senator Chow expressed tonight were not beliefs at all—they were hateful prejudices that deserve nothing less than the strongest condemnation.”
Overheated as the anti-Christian rhetoric may be, it points to a profound divide that has opened up—or rather become more evident than it was before.
Rationality and Marriage
Views of sex and marriage that had been uncontroversial across the political spectrum and the centuries now become incomprehensible to cultural elites. Some proponents of the new orthodoxy claimed that marriages of same-sex couples had been excluded in all cultures throughout history purely out of prejudice and bigotry. Inconveniently for this theory, in cultures where homosexual relationships were highly valued, they were not confused with or seen as equivalent to marriage.
It is true that, as orthodox Jews and Christians taught, the Bible condemns all sexual acts, fornication, and adultery as well as homosexual acts that occur outside marriage between a man and a woman. In the anti-Christian, sexually liberal view, this strict sexual morality simply demonstrates the irrational and pleasure-denying nature of the God Jews and Christians created and worshiped. They can see no rational basis for God’s moral instructions to his people, other than the arbitrary exercise of will and power.
But, at least in the central Catholic tradition, Christians emphasize precisely God’s rationality. He wills that we follow his commandments because that is how we are made and how we flourish as individuals, families, and societies. Following the moral law makes us free to live and thrive without destructive habits or vices that enslave us.
From this perspective, Christians behave rationally when they follow the moral law; they do what is good for themselves, their families, and societies, as well as their souls. So there is no contradiction between what Christianity teaches on one hand and, on the other, what is rational and based in the realities of our nature and what is needful for human flourishing.
In cultures across the world, in different faith traditions, marriage has been recognized and ordered in the very earliest legal codes, because of the importance of sex and babies to the survival and flourishing of any human society. It is the way every human society adjusts to the realities of human reproduction. That is, it expresses society’s dependence on the sexual union of a man and a woman in the one and only sexual act that can in principle create new life.
Marriage takes account of the long maturation period human babies require to reach adulthood. Children depend on the mother’s care (or a substitute’s where necessary) over many years, and the father’s provision and protection of mother and children. Marriage exists, with its legal, social, cultural, and emotional norms and requirements, in order, as an early pagan lawgiver put it, to create fatherhood. That is, it was to ensure, as far as possible, the optimal social arrangement for the bearing and raising of children.
Most striking about the new progressive orthodoxy is the extent to which it is based on a denial of reality, breaking the links that connect marriage to sex and both to children. It strips from marriage any clear rationale for its central features—an exclusive sexual union between a man and a woman in a social context that supports the bearing and raising of children.
Instead, marriage is reduced to a kind of state-registered friendship, with no rationale for sex as a defining feature, for exclusivity, or for sexual complementarity.
The disastrous results of this sexual revolution for women, children, and the flourishing of society are increasingly clear and undeniable, but that is the subject for another column. Here I maintain, more modestly, that it is not at all clear, as those who harass and denounce Chow at Berkeley think, that it is the Christians, not their enemies, who are bigots and deny reality.
Paul Adams is a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Hawai‘i and was a professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Case Western Reserve University. He is the co-author of “Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is” and has written extensively on social welfare policy and professional and virtue ethics.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.