David Marshall on How the State of Marriage Looks from China & Within China
As happy as I am to have spent much of the Obama administration in China, my relief only grew this past spring, during the run-up to the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision on so-called same-sex marriage, and during the weeks of endless commentary and celebration following it. But distance may also lend a certain perspective to the ongoing train-wreck. In any case, as I climbed a hill in southern China one Sunday, and watched as the sun broke through the clouds and flooded a valley and the surrounding hills with light, a mass of unbidden and somewhat unexpected reflections on the new landscape of American culture seemed to flood suddenly into my mind. Among them are the following:
• I doubt that, by itself, this Supreme Court ruling heralds the end of Western civilization. (Though I begin to almost wish that it did.) The Greeks were cheerful about buggering boys (in Lucian's heaven, every boy or woman always said yes—which reminds me of C. S. Lewis's famous comment about combining a hell for humans and a heaven for mosquitoes). Yet that buggering civilization conquered much of the ancient world, and in later centuries inspired both Christendom and Islam with its science, art, and philosophy. Clearly, ready acceptance of grotesque sin does not by itself immediately doom civilizations.
• The madness may indeed be a sign or consequence of—or an aid to—the demographic implosion that is greasing the wheels of Western decline while China and India rise.
• Chinese civilization still puts family first, however women were held captive within the Confucian family system (until the gospel liberated them), and however small and strained modern Chinese families have often become in our day. (Some of my students stay in school on weekends to avoid the complexities.) But prioritizing father and mother raising children who are expected to obey and care for them in turn, within the social matrix of an extended family, is how China reached its present population of almost 1.4 billion people. Inconsistently restrained but heavily prioritized sex between lifelong mates, and the longing that arises from that restraint, is the theme of many Tang poems, which the Chinese still learn and still love.
• Obergefell need not be the sign of the end of Christianity in the West. We managed to adjust when some of our preachers quoted the Bible to justify slavery. In some African and Caribbean countries, homosexuals are sometimes lynched. So social mores do not always unambiguously progress or decline. As Lewis was fond of noting, each generation faces its own special temptations, often corresponding in some way to its virtues (or to what Jacques Ellul called the "myths" arising from the spirit of a particular age, which propaganda inevitably
• What may be as bad as same-sex marriage itself is that the Untied States now appears to be ruled in part by a ruthlessly dishonest oligarchy of five officious nannies on the Supreme Court. They appear ready to tell any lie to arrogate power over 320 million Americans too stupid (in their eyes) to discern right from wrong and to make laws for themselves like adults in the best of the Anglo-Saxon tradition.
This is a political tragedy. America has been a great nation, despite its flaws. And I believe (and many here in Asia will affirm) that it has often been a tool in the hands of Providence.
• I am afraid that horrible things will be done by pedophiles under the cloak of this new "right." I am afraid that the police will be too cowed or corrupt to stop it.
And I am afraid that when Christians (and others) run up against this new "right," they will be persecuted for following their faith.
David Marshall is the author of several books, including most recently, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story (Kuai Mu Press, 2015). He blogs at christthetao.blogspot.com.
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