Family-Oriented by David Marshall



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
appeals to).

• 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

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!

personal subscriptions

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

RENEW your print/online

Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

RENEW your online subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!

RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.

more on marriage from the online archives

29.1—Jan/Feb 2016

Wilberforce for Good

on Marriage, Moral Corruption & the Christian Duty of Witness by Regis Nicoll

24.1—January/February 2011

The Romance of Domesticity

Marriage Thrives in Reality, Not in Our Dreams by Nathan Schlueter

30.1—Jan/Feb 2017

The Heart of Paradise

The Godly Hierarchies of Love & Marriage by Diane Woerner

more from the online archives

32.6—November/December 2019

God Fearers

An Open Letter to Christian Readers of Jordan Peterson & Roger Scruton by James Bryson

20.8—October 2007

The Pearl of Great Wisdom

The Deep & Abiding Biblical Roots of Western Liberal Education by David Lyle Jeffrey

22.6—July/August 2009

Unhappy Fault

on the Integration of Anger into the Virtuous Life by Leon J. Podles

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone