Wilberforce for Good
Regis Nicoll on Marriage, Moral Corruption & the Christian Duty of Witness
Following the legalization of so-called same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, there has been a lot of chatter among social conservatives. Some, including a number of Republican presidential hopefuls, are pushing for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. Others are suggesting that articles of impeachment be initiated against the justices. Many are looking to the ballot box, believing that if we elect officials who respect the rule of law and embrace conservative values, the country will pull out of its moral tailspin.
Nearly all are placing hope in some political solution. But if history has taught us anything, it is that political affiliation, policies, and fixes are no guarantee that conservative values, like the sanctity of life and natural marriage, will be upheld.
Persons of a certain age will recall that, as governor of California, Republican Ronald Reagan pioneered "no-fault" divorce in 1969. Four years later, Roe v. Wade was decided in a Republican administration by a Supreme Court in which six out of the nine justices had been installed by Republican presidents. And let's not forget Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man who has often been the swing vote in decisions against socially conservative positions over the last three decades. He was appointed by President Reagan.
Yet none of those actions originated in the grey matter of our government leaders; rather, they percolated from the soil of our moral consensus. That's because law and politics are reflections of society's cultural values, not the other way around.
When the Supreme Court took us over the "gay marriage" Rubicon in 2013 by overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), public approval of its legalization had reached 50 percent. But neither the ruling nor popular sentiments were the problem, only symptoms of it.
The problem, as evidenced by the incidence of, and even attitudes concerning, non-marital sex (among other things) in the Christian camp, is the Church's neglect of its foremost duty: to form believers whose lives reflect the teachings and example of Christ. The failure of Christians to exemplify the standards of sexual morality they demand from homosexuals goes a long way toward explaining the waning moral authority of the Church and the growing acceptance of homosexuality.
The Results of Neglect
Indeed, in the two years following the DOMA ruling, support for same-sex marriage increased by seven percent. With 59 percent of the general public favoring it, Fortune 500 companies like Wal-Mart, Apple, Starbucks, and Target have come out boldly for "marriage equality." Having read the collective moral conscience correctly, a number of corporate titans have successfully pressured legislators for anti-discrimination laws and have threatened to cease doing business in states promoting religious liberty—all without consumer pushback or loss of market share.
In the same two-year period, the number of states legalizing same-sex marriage skyrocketed, from nine to 37. While all but three of the decisions were by judicial fiat or legislative decree, it is doubtful, given the rapid shift in popular attitudes, that the results of public referenda would have been markedly different.
By Way of Explanation
Regis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and physicist who is a Colson Center Fellow and Christian commentator. He currently writes for BreakPoint, Crosswalk, and Salvo magazine, and serves as the lay pastor of an Anglican church plant in Chattanooga (www.hamiltonaf.org).
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