The California Supreme Court, in striking down the state’s ban on same-sex “marriage,” has issued a declaration of independence from the human race.  Progressives have inevitably compared it to the legalization of interracial marriage, but the same progressives just as inevitably will hail the legalization of cross-species marriage as the next giant step for mankind.  After that we can expect to see a whole series of taboos collapse like dominoes: incest, pederasty, and cannibalism–consensual, of course.  We’re not savages, after all.

Conservatives are naturally shocked by this latest proof that this is not the America found in their McGuffey Readers or in back issues of National Review.  The conservative delusion is that America, despite a few kooks in high places, is really a sound, decent, Christian nation.  All we need to do, as one of Rush Limbaugh’s callers said recently, is to get “our message” out to the American people, and before long we will rule the planet from our safe haven of offshore drilling, low taxes (and high deficits), and good old public schools (c. 1959) with pretty, drug-free cheerleaders and the Ten Commandments displayed proudly on the walls.  This may be all that conservatives have left to cling to.  But, for that reason, it is all the more pernicious.  We are not going back to the 1950’s.

If we stick just to issues of marriage and family, can anyone seriously suggest that America is a Christian country?  Down to the beginning of the 20th century, Christians were pretty much in agreement on these issues.  Abortion was evil and had to be kept illegal; contraception was an immoral means of frustrating the natural purpose of sexuality as designed by the Creator; divorce and remarriage were wrong except in extreme cases.  While Catholics and Protestants might have disagreed about what constituted an extreme case, they agreed perfectly that divorce could not be justified except where incest was discovered or where one party had so abused the other (by adultery, desertion, etc.) as to make living together impossible.  There is no need to trace the steps by which divorce, contraception, and even adultery became acceptable in many large denominations, but it should come as no surprise when progressive Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregationalist, and Lutheran ministers express approval of “gay marriage,” or even go so far as to give their blessing on these unions.

From the pre-Christian point of view, marriage is a contract between a man and a woman and/or their respective families to cohabit, enjoy conjugal relations, and rear children.  The husband, generally speaking, was required to support his wife and the children, though her family might well have to provide a dowry.  If the marriage was dissolved, the husband kept the children (a rule that persisted down to the middle of the 19th century) but had to return the dowry.  Governments had almost nothing to say about marriage except as it involved inheritance, dowries, guardianship, and the marriage of heiresses.

With the spread of Christianity, a more spiritual dimension to marriage was added.  A minister was invited to give the Church’s blessing on the union, and Christ’s statement on divorce was enforced: A man who puts aside a wife to marry another is himself an adulterer as well as an agent of his wife’s adultery, should she marry again.  Protestants and Catholics would dispute the details of this prohibition, but the dispute hardly touches most divorces today.  The state’s involvement came during the Reformation.  Luther disliked the Catholic Church’s intervention in certain cases (recognizing clandestine marriages against the parents’ wishes) and turned the regulation of marriage over to the princes.  In England, the Church remained the regulatory agency, but She was under the supervision of the crown and parliament.  If Protestants made a mistake, it is one best recognized in hindsight, since their object was to strengthen families, not to weaken them.

Christian marriage is a spiritual as well as a natural union of a man and woman, unbreakable except in extreme cases.  Judges and politicians can tell any lie they like, but there can be no such thing as “same-sex marriage” any more than heat can be cold or nothing something.  Government has nothing to do with marriage, and we should cease expecting governments to provide a remedy for a disease they have willfully and maliciously created.

The creation of the welfare state and the massive taxation imposed to sustain it mean that a couple will have to secure a license, but Christians should begin to regard that document as nothing more serious than a dog license.

Should conservative Christian defenders of marriage throw up their hands and give up?  Of course not.  Even if they fail at every turn, they have the duty to bear witness to the truth.  At the same time, they should try to understand the error of permitting the state to usurp the authority of families and the Church.  A church that performs marriages involving divorcés or divorcées who have willfully and unjustifiably abandoned their spouses has rejected Christ’s teachings.  These same churches acknowledge homosexual rights, feminism, and even–prayerfully and painfully–regard abortion as a woman’s right.  If they cannot be reformed, they should be abandoned and left in the hands of the Lord of This World, who is their true master.  And let all Christians, who accept Christ’s word as law, come together, not only to condemn divorce and “gay marriage,” but to reaffirm the sanctity of marriage within their communities of faith.