California’s Proposition 8 defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The voters voted it, but the courts are undoing the will of the people.
It’s easy to believe that same-sex issues are likely to tear apart denominations. Its impact is huge on religion, even as headlines like LUTHERANS ENDORSE SIN say it all. Those pastors and congregations who stand for the traditional understanding of what the Bible says about homosexuality are likely to feel the brunt of disapproval, legal repercussions, and cultural isolation.
I turned to Dr. Benjamin Wiker, Senior Fellow at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, OH, to make sense of how Christiandom has come to where we are today on this issue. He’s the author of the recent 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read (Regnery, 2010). What happened to Proposition 8, I asked? He writes:
“We must attend to a prior question. Why was there a Proposition 8 to begin with? Or, if we might take an even more illuminating angle, what would the founders of our country think about a proposed amendment to a state constitution that declared that ‘only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California’?
“The answer, I think, is simple: They would find it incomprehensible. The notion that a state would try to define marriage as between a man and a woman by an explicit law would strike them as a waste of state power to impose the obvious, like a state law defining teeth for chewing or feet for walking. For them, the union of male and female was the natural foundation of family, and the family was the natural foundation of society. It was beyond defining simply because it was beyond question. The family was the natural first principle from which laws were derived, not something that law itself had to establish.
“Our country’s founders were heirs of the Christianization of the West. They assumed that marriage was between one man and one woman because Christianity had rejected polygamy, concubinage, pedophilia, homosexuality and divorce all of which were quite common in the Roman Empire.
“In defining what were sinful aberrations of sexuality, Christianity was clearing away all that was unnatural from marriage and sexuality, and returning marriage to its intended natural form. Christendom bent itself to conserve this natural form in its purity. In this sense, Christianity is conservative, and conservatives defending marriage today are defending both what is natural and the patrimony of Christian civilization.
“So, we’re back to our question: Why was there a Proposition 8 to begin with? Because the West has suffered wave after wave of de-Christianization, and we are returning, morally, to the situation in ancient pagan Rome.
“We are not merely being turned back into ancient Rome. The force driving our re-paganization is modern — modern liberalism.
“Modern liberalism likewise releases sexuality from monogamy and childbearing, but goes beyond ancient paganism by assuming that there are no natural barriers defining good and evil, or more accurately, that all natural obstacles must give way to human will through the manipulations of technology.
“Ancient pagan advocates of gay marriage realized that their sexual unions were unfruitful, and therefore that their civil unions were a single-generation dead end. But modern advocates have sperm banks, in vitro fertilization, and who-knows-what-next to produce children where nature before had barred the way to procreation.
“They have therefore overcome the one natural limit that previously had provided an unquestionable natural distinction between heterosexuality from homosexuality, and this natural distinction was the source of the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. It is the natural distinction upon which Christianity built its understanding of marriage that, up until the last century, was the unquestioned foundation of civil law.
“But for modern liberalism, nature is no longer a standard, and so there is no unnatural sexuality. Moreover, Christianity is the obstacle standing in the way of full liberation from nature, so its influence must be eliminated from law as well. And that is what happened to Proposition 8.”