The results remain outstanding, but as I write it looks like Ireland is going to approve same sex marriage in a national referendum. Responding to the polling and early returns, a columnist in The Telegraph had this to say:
Never mind that both stories crumbled under scrutiny – the popularity of them spoke to a growing sense that everything wrong with Ireland was due to the imported tyranny of Catholicism. Shake off the last remnants of traditional religious authority, it was reasoned, and Ireland could finally join the 21st century. Au revoir, Father Ted.
To emphasise, the Yes vote was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians. But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism. How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It’ll require a lot of hard work and prayers. [emphasis added]
The most recent issue of Imprimus features NR writer Davids French on the Indiana aftermath:
First, the battle is not between gay rights and religious liberty—although religious liberty is certainly at stake—but between the sexual revolution and Christianity itself. This means that Christians are faced not with allegedly “minor” or “insignificant” theological changes to gain leftist acceptance, but with wholesale changes to the historical doctrines of the church.
French goes on to explain his point:
First, the conflict is not between gay rights and religious liberty, but between the sexual revolution and Christianity. The fury of the gay rights movement was so palpable during the Indiana controversy that it’s easy to forget the Hobby Lobby RFRA case, a case that had nothing to do with gay rights. Abortion battles continue to rage, sometimes with an intensity that matches or exceeds the arguments over gay marriage. (The Wendy Davis filibuster in Texas captured the imagination of the Left just as much as the battles over gay wedding cakes.) And just over the horizon are new, widespread battles over the very definition of what it means to be male or female. Simply put, the sexual revolution questions everything about sexual morality and identity—demanding changes in every aspect of traditional sexual morality and, consequently, orthodox Christian theology.
The gay rights movement is inseparable from the sexual revolution, and the sexual revolution is inseparable from the gay rights movement. The principles of radical sexual autonomy, freedom from any form of moral judgment, and government support to ameliorate the consequences of sexual libertinism are present in the fights over abortion, gay rights, and now transgender issues. Those who surrender on one issue tend to surrender on others as well. With similar moral principles implicated, similar moral outcomes result.
I cannot argue French’s logic, but I think he casts it wrongly to define it entirely in terms of sex. Sex is a potent tool in service to an even broader battle against orthodox Christian morality and understanding. It is the oldest battle in the world – it is the battle of the self against the idea that there is something greater than the self
Nonetheless, whether this is the war itself or just a proxy war, what is clear is that it is war and the sides are playing to two different goals. The pro same-sex marriage side, a.k.a the liberal side, a.k.a. the libertine side is looking not merely to beat the forces of religion, but to destroy them. Oh, there will be a church if they get their way but it will be so utterly different from anything we now know of as church as to have effectively destroyed church as it is traditionally understood. The conservative, Christian side is simply playing to win.
The question for us on the conservative side of things is “Is winning enough?” We have won this battle many, many times. But our opponents just keep coming – they do not quit and they do not take “no” for an answer. One must wonder is anything short of their destruction can ever end the war. On a theological level the answer is of course, “No.” But I do not want to discuss the theology here, just the practicality.
Destroying our opposition is not an option for us. It violates one of the most basic facts of Christianity, we seek to redeem not condemn – to save, not discard. But how do we redeem that which simply refuses to be redeemed? This being true the first thing we need to do is endure – endure the constant attacks we currently suffer, endure the pain of derision, endure the false accusations – endure to the limits of our endurance and beyond.
One has to think that many of the “advances” our opponents are making is because people are simply tired of conflict. Like the parent that eventually buys the child the sugary cereal if they promise to not speak for the rest of the time they are in the store, many of the people who now support same-sex marriage are doing so just to make them shut up. Which, also like the parent that concedes to the child’s demand for the cereal, in the end only leads to more demands. That’s French’s last two sentences in the pull quote above in somewhat plainer language.
And that illustrates the second thing we have to do. We have to reach out to the people that are tired of the fight, not to bring them into the fight, but simply to make them a friend and to help them endure the noise. Many is the time in the store I have witnessed a parent just about to give in to the incessant demands of their child, and rather than tell the parent not to, or tell them how bad the cereal is for the child, or call their judgement into question, I just smile and say something like, “That tenacity is amazing, isn’t it?” The parent, now no longer feeling alone in the situation often tells the child “No” one more time. And the child, now feeling ganged up upon, usually quiets a bit.
This fight is not an opportunity for evangelism. Most people know there is something “off” about same-sex marriage. We don’t have to teach them why, we don’t have to help them memorize the related Bible verse, we just need to encourage them to go with their gut on this one. There is a time and a place for teaching and converting. This is not it.
Ireland notwithstanding, this fight is not lost, not if we play it right.