Peter Hitchens, writing in The Spectator last March, asked why we should be concerned with stopping several thousand homosexuals from getting married when heterosexual marriage is so threatened by dysfunction and divorce. The social conservatives’ obsession with the subject is, he argued, simply “a stupid distraction from the main war,” like the battle of Stalingrad. Hitchens concluded that, anyhow, “There is no important difference between a civil partnership and a civil marriage, and changing the name will alter nothing substantial.”
Recently, I reviewed a book about George Orwell, the author of which imagines that for the past 62 years Western intellectuals have been preoccupied with the question “What would Orwell have done (or said)?” in any given situation. I am not one of those people. Indeed, I had been unaware that they existed. In the case of Peter Hitchens’ article, however, I was moved to consider the writer’s forgetfulness of Orwell’s well-known remark about people losing their freedom when words lose their meaning. And it occurred to me also that Hitchens’ failure to recognize fundamental distinctions of category is similar to that of Henry VIII, which led to all sorts of unpleasant theological and political consequences and explains why the English equivalent of the more or less satisfactory Gallicanism across the Channel was the dishonest and destructive Anglicanism in the British Isles. Weeks after Hitchens’ piece was printed, the New York Times ran a story describing current efforts in Britain to replace the United Kingdom’s historically strict divorce laws with the no-fault kind that has virtually destroyed the institution of Holy Matrimony across the pond. Perhaps the urgency of combating this and similar initiatives was what Peter Hitchens had in mind.
Nevertheless, the uniqueness of marriage in the linguistic, social, and legal senses of the word is, for two fundamental reasons, in still more urgent need of defense. The first is a concern for the intellectual and moral honesty on which civilization depends, the term marriage having been anciently invented (“in the mists of time,” as Burke would have said) to denote the institutional union, of equal antiquity, of a human male and female and understood to mean, until a few short years ago, that and only that. The second has to do with one of the simplest and plainest of sociobiological realities: Marriage is a relationship of purpose, a purpose starkly biological in nature. Marriage is about the potentiality for regulated human biological reproduction, as distinguished from reproductive futility, on the one hand, and sexual promiscuity, on the other. When people say that words have consequences, they are acknowledging that words have precise and settled meanings; that a word, in a sense, is one with its meaning. The word is the thing itself. I do not intend to intrude on linguistic theory here; yet to deny, overlook, toy with, or fudge the fact is to enter the wonderland looking-glass world of Lewis Carroll, where words mean whatever anyone wishes them to mean. The “gay” rights party has done everything it can, with huge political success, to obfuscate the truth and muddy the rhetorical waters by presenting marriage as an affectional relationship of love, sensual gratification, solidity, companionship, and legal and financial advantage. But there are many words in most human languages to describe such relationships, and marriage is not one of them. The basis of the marital relationship, what makes marriage marriage, is a relationship with a member (or, in polygamous societies, members) of the biologically opposite sex, entailing the possibility of biological issue, including in those instances where sterility on the part of one spouse or the other seems apparent. (I say “seems”: Sarah was nearly a hundred years of age when she conceived a child by Abraham.) Single-sex couples are incapable of issue from their loins, and so are so-called transsexual people. The most they are capable of is a relationship of intimacy at one level or another; but that relationship can never be a marriage. The thing is both a physical and a metaphysical impossibility, reflected by the impossibility of any linguistically logical application of the word.
A notable characteristic of our age is its rebellious refusal to recognize and accept the fact of fixed identities and the inevitable limitations identity entails. A clear example is the Special Olympics, whose purpose is to allow people whom nature never intended to be athletes to take the role of athletes anyhow. So wheelchair-bound men and women toss basketballs at hoops, people with developmental disabilities run foot races, and so on. I suggest Special Metropolitan Opera Auditions for people who can’t sing, Special Pulitzer Prizes for those with no talent for writing, Special National Gallery Exhibits for colorblind people or people who, lacking arms or hands, are compelled to hold the paintbrush in their teeth. Gay marriage is the equivalent of a Special Olympics event for people unsuited by inclination or will to matrimony and the marital act that consummates a marriage.
The dangers inherent in the gay-marriage fantasy are enormous, and a cause for real alarm. Who knows how far the liberal impulse behind it will go? “All have won,” said the Queen at the conclusion of the caucus race, “and all must have prizes.” The chief prize of marriage, of course, is children, so what does this suggest? Could heterosexual couples possibly be compelled to surrender a percentage of their offspring to gay couples whose cohort has exhausted the supply of children available from the orphanages and adoption agencies, so that “married” homosexuals may indulge themselves in the gruesome familial pretence to which they have been legally entitled? Or medical laboratories forced to manufacture babies through in vitro procedures in order to satisfy the demands of homomarital equality? No one can say. In the postmodern age, no imagined possibility can be ruled out as impossible.
Another recent Times article (“Evolving Donor Network in Gay Marriage Drive: Washington and Wall Street Add Their Heft to Hollywood,” March 24), on page one above the fold, detailed the financial support provided to gay organizers seeking to “persuade” the U.S. Supreme Court to “establish” (meaning to “discover”) a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, overriding the laws of the separate states. Supporters mentioned by the reporters (Adam Nagourney, a gay-rights activist, and Brooks Barnes) included a list of prominent Jews in the entertainment business and in finance—some of them Republicans and self-described conservatives—plus a number of liberal gentiles active in the cause. The story fits easily with the grand theory of Kevin MacDonald, professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, that left-wing, countercultural, and multicultural projects from the mid-19th century to the 21st have been substantially the work of diaspora Jews living in Western countries—another example of a group evolutionary strategy pursued by the Jewish people throughout their history to subvert and weaken the host societies and create a social structure and a cultural climate optimally suited to Jewish survival and success in gentile lands.
MacDonald’s thesis is grounded in voluminous source material and supported by the work of Jewish as well as gentile scholars. Yet, as MacDonald notes, the Jewish collaborative influence has played a necessary, but hardly a sufficient, role in the subversion of Western society in modern times. Just how insufficient, he seems not to understand: MacDonald quite overlooks, while implicitly dismissing, the substantive historical role of genuine religious piety in Jewish and Christian societies. For MacDonald, religion has always been, for the Jews, essentially a cultural phenomenon, an aspect merely of their millennia-old survival strategy; while the Christian religious tradition as a living system of belief and a collective spiritual commitment by the West is strangely absent from his work.
I do not believe that this neglect of the crucial importance of the Christian Faith, sincerely held, to Western civilization is a deliberate attempt on MacDonald’s part to rig his thesis. Rather, I suspect that, as a non-Christian himself, he simply overlooked a subject in which he has no particular interest (not to mention, perhaps, competence). Still, it is an important oversight. Whatever damage the Jews, as a people, have inflicted upon what used to be called Christian civilization, Christian civilization had been bringing upon itself for several centuries by the time Jewish emancipation occurred at the end of the Enlightenment. Slow-motion suicide is easier to accomplish than slow-motion murder, and the Western world is primarily a victim of the former, rather than the latter, crime. In short: The Jews (or any other outgroup or -groups, as MacDonald would say) couldn’t have done it by themselves. Our abetment in the process was required—and we lent it, enthusiastically.
About the time of the first of the great immigrant waves to America, in the decades following that previous attempt at national suicide, the War Between the States, Americans—the old upper class and the new entrepreneurial one, at first—began their slow abandonment of orthodox Christianity in favor of progressivism, positivism, the Social Gospel, and our present state religion, the Church of Nice. Less than a century later, following the second of the two major intervening wars, upper-crust America, having trained itself to believe in nothing, discovered that it no longer believed in itself and, thus, in its natural right to dominate and its duty to lead society. The collapse of nerve was massive, sudden, and, as the events of the 1960’s showed, terminal. Having been born in 1947 and attended the best Eastern schools, etc., I witnessed the catastrophe at firsthand. It affected my relationship with schoolmates, and later with the young ladies in my social circle. Even before the 60’s I was aware, however vaguely, of what was happening—partly, I suppose, because my family was keenly aware of the spreading disaster and referred to it so often in conversation that we might almost have been Southerners living in the postbellum South.
Gay marriage is one result of the social and political deluge. The celebration of homosexuality has been an aspect of every decadent civilization known to history, but never before has celebration proceeded so far as an endorsement of homosexual “marriage”—perhaps because, while many previous societies have been our equals in immorality, they remained more logical and honest in their thinking. A society prepared to recognize gay marriage is a society self-launched upon the descent to Hades. The prophets of old were quite prepared to indict entire societies. Calculating the appropriate location of our modern Sodom in the infernal bolgias is an imaginative feat that would strain the inventive genius of the great Florentine himself.