The Future of Marriage & the Natural Family
Late in June, the United States Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the Constitutional status of same-sex marriage. Despite some promising hints of second-guessing by a justice or two during their April hearing on this question, the majority of seasoned court observers still expect a ruling saying that the penumbra of the Constitution mandates same-sex marriage. A hopeful minority look for a deference to at least some of the states.
For mere Christians, the issue actually lies at a different level. Authentic Christianity has never been a "national" movement. Whether viewed from a spiritual or a political perspective, the Christian communion has always been transnational. While paying necessary deference to the array of "Caesars" that history has raised (or thrown) up, Christian truth transcends them all.
Viewed this way, same-sex marriage is merely the current enthusiasm of a relatively small number of deracinated, secularized, mostly childless, and largely white elites. The push for this novelty has been most successful in Western Europe, where the culture of death appears to be secure. Even "conservatives" there, such as Angela Merkel and David Cameron, have signed their own pacts with the devil on this and related "family" matters.
It is important to remember that the same-sex marriage movement has won in the United States only because of judicial activism. In its absence, the matter would be but a minor irritation, confined to a few of the "border states" (i.e., next to Canada).
Internationally, of the nearly 200 lands represented in the United Nations, a mere twenty or so have adopted some version of the practice. Despite intense forms of bribery and extortion now practiced by the United States and the European Union, few others are likely to join "the West" in this latest surrender to the sexual revolution.
The Universal Declaration
The stalwart 90 percent of the world can find full support for their position in that most remarkable of United Nations documents: the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). While indeed expressing universal truths, this Declaration does have a significant Christian accent. It was an indirect product of Christian Democracy, a movement ironically brought to fruition by the European disasters of fascism and Nazism. With roots in the thought of Pope Leo XIII and the Dutch pastor/politician Abraham Kuyper, post-World War II Christian Democracy featured theorists such as Emmanuel Mournier, Etienne Gilson, Wilhelm Roepke, and Etienne Bourne.
Rejecting extreme individualism, these men argued that the good society was communal in important ways. They called for a defense of "natural institutions" that necessarily stood between the individual and the state. As Roepke explained, "the most indispensable, primary, and natural [of these] is the family."
Notably, the direct architects of the language in the UDHR were: Charles Malik, an Arab Christian Democrat from Lebanon who served in 1948 both as Secretary of the U.N.'s Commission on Human Rights and as President of its Economic and Social Council, and Rene Cassin, a French specialist in international law who, while himself Jewish, was highly sympathetic to Christian Democracy.
Specifically, Article 16 of the UDHR declares that "men and women of full age . . . have the right to marry and found a family" and that "the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and entitled to protection by society and the state."
There can be no ambiguity here about the definitions of "marriage" and "family." During debate on the future Article 16, a delegate from Uruguay urged the deletion of the word "natural," arguing that "the way in which the family was constituted was of secondary importance." However, his amendment was soundly rejected; the words "natural" and "family" remained firmly bound together, a clear testimony to the triumph here of natural law.
In recent years, the Barack Obama administration has twice led efforts at the United Nations to gut Article 16, seeking once more to oust the word "natural," and insisting that marriage and family come in many forms. Despite new rounds of threats, bribes, and extortion aimed especially at vulnerable lands in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, these efforts at a new Western imperialism have again failed miserably.
Surviving & Thriving
If the Supreme Court embraces same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right, it will—in the long run—mean little. Some children will suffer. For a time, the United States will formally join that small cluster of Western governments giving priority to cultural nihilism. However, healthy subcultures of orthodox Christians, Jews, and (yes) Muslims will survive the political madness; despite intermittent persecution, they may even thrive . . . just as Christians did in pagan Rome during the third century a.d.
Predictably, a political counter-revolution will also emerge in unexpected places and ways. In paganized Western Europe, for example, young Christian leaders have recently brought over one million persons into the streets of both Paris and Madrid in defense of pre-born life and natural marriage. Expect American equivalents.
The twenty-first Christian century should actually be an exciting time to be alive for believers called to witness to the Truth. Despair is useless. Hope is certain. Draw strength from your Christian brothers and sisters in other lands in a spirited defense of God's created order! •
Allan C. Carlson is President of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society in Rockford, Illinois (www.profam.org). His books include Conjugal America: On The Public Purposes of Marriage and The Natural Family: Bulwark of Liberty. He is married and has four children and is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is a senior editor for Touchstone.