My friend Peter Leithart thinks the “most promising, and most peaceable” way out of our current marriage law impasse is a bill currently making its way through the Alabama legislature.
“SB377 would remove the duty of confirming marriages from county probate judges and allow marriages to be recorded by the state after filing a simple contract between two people eligible to be married that is solemnized by a pastor, attorney, or other authorized witness.
“This means that should the bill pass, only heterosexual couples will be eligible, but if gay marriage is legalized across the country by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, that eligibility would be expanded to homosexual couples.”
And that last phrase shows why this proposal presents no way out at all. If the Supreme Court decides in favor of traditional marriage, then Alabama doesn’t need to change anything. And if they decide against, then the change will have been worthless. It will have been worthless because states which are in agreement with the biblical definition of marriage will then be required to deny righteousness and affirm unrighteousness, and we will continue to have all the same “celebration” battles over registered couples.
This battle is over social and cultural approval. The battle is happening because a particular class of persons wants their sexual perversion to be their ticket into the high nobility of the civil rights movement — what they want is for the march to be from Selma to Sodom, not realizing it then proceeds from Sodom to the Sea of Fire. As long as Christians have the legally protected right to withhold their approval of sodomy in public, this battle will continue. The battle isn’t going anywhere. Neither am I, incidentally.
On top of all that, back in the day when your great grandparents simply showed up to register their marriage (and I would rejoice to see a return to that day), this practice occurred in a society that knew what Christian marriage was, and which drove the Mormons out to Utah for not knowing what Christian marriage was.
And furthermore, this proposed action would not get the state out of the marriage business — so long as we have custody battles, adoptions, divorce settlements, foster children, and so on, the state will be called upon to be active in this institution, and the approval (or not) of society will always be at stake. So will incestuous couples be allowed to register? What guidance will the hapless marriage registrar have when three sex weirdos show up instead of the allotted two? Why? By what standard?
The questions that were asked by Supreme Court justices when this current case came before them show that the sex radicals can’t have it both ways. Male/female marriage is not sacred, but the number two is! We reject centuries of tradition when it comes to heterosexual marriage, but we affirm the necessity of tradition when it comes to limiting the carrying capacity of marriage to two and only two persons. There are attorneys arguing before the Supreme Court that we must burn down the tradition for the sake of the homo-units, and we must stand for the tradition for the sake of the mono-bigots. Suit yourself, champ.
And more to the point, will sermon series through Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Leviticus 18-20 still be protected speech? For those who rush to assure us that of course it will still be protected speech, I have two responses. First, who believes you anymore? When the homosexual activists of old gathered on Lot’s front porch, they were nothing if not persistent. “And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door” (Gen. 19:11). In order to be persistent in this kind of cause, it is necessary to break your promises constantly. Your contempt for the seventh commandment is constantly mirrored in your contempt for the ninth. All your activity is centered on finding the door, and you will weary yourself doing it. And if you ever find the door, you will do what it takes to beat it down. There are angelic visitors in there who have to be dragged out into the streets of San Francisco and shown the sights.
Second, if is established by the Supremes that homosexual mirage is a constitutionally protected activity, please outline for me what legal argument/s you will use to defend my constitutional right publicly to argue from the pulpit that their constitutional right must be taken away. And will those arguments still be functional if I move from being an outlying and lonely voice that everyone ignores to a voice that might actually persuade a bunch of people? In other words, will there be any constitutional authority to crack down on agitators who might succeed in taking away the “constitutional rights” of others?
So that means, in my view, this proposed measure from Alabama is not really part of a thought-through tactical retreat. Rather it is just one more small part of the general rout, and whatever we do, we must not throw down our weapons and join the general rout.
Do you want to hear a real solution? A real solution will only be found in simple defiance and refusal. We are past the point of nuance. A true solution will be for faithful lesser magistrates to just say no, and for ordinary citizens to just say no. If the Supreme Court decides righteously, we will all rejoice and thank God. If the Supreme Court pulls an Is. 5:20 on us, then we will refuse to comply in any way that touches us. We will not do it, we will not help them do it, and we will not say that what they are doing is fine with the God of Heaven — because, I would remind you, it isn’t.
During the heyday of persecution against the French Huguenots, a decree went out that Protestant preaching was to be a capital offense. If you were caught preaching, it was death for you. In the month following that decree, there were something like three thousand ordinations. That’s how you do it. Not surprisingly, many of the established conference circuit preachers in France didn’t like this aggressive approach to the problem and had fled, needing to get to a country where they could write thoughtful articles on post-Christian France for theological journals. Meanwhile, back in France, Antoine Court remained, laboring faithfully, in order to train and ordain bakers, photographers, and wedding planners.
And Sam Gamgee knew what to do when he returned and found the Shire overrun by the Tolerance Brigade.
“‘All right, all right!’ said Sam. “That’s quite enough. I don’t want to hear no more. No welcome, no beer, no smoke, and a lot of rules and orc-talk instead. I hoped to have a rest, but I can see there’s work and trouble ahead.”
I have not yet read it, but Charles Murray’s latest book is now on its way to my door, and I ordered it on the strength of the subtitle alone — “Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.”
In the meantime, in the midst of days that are admittedly very dark, let me pull out my postmillennialism for a moment and have a brief, encouraging look at it.
In the long run, moral stupidity is never workable. The rebellion against limits is to create for yourself the ultimate authority of the utter frozen limit. Hatred of creational limits is to embrace the final limits imposed by the outer darkness. The process ends hellishly, and it is recognizable early on. Chesterton put it well in Orthodoxy.
“Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.”
You want a marriage with two dudes? Why stop there? We clearly need water that flows uphill so we no longer have to spend our money on pumps. We need four-sided triangles so that kids who are “different” in geometry, and who are consequently bullied by the other kids, can feel affirmed in how these triangular quadrilaterals make them feel. You go, girl. We need short-necked giraffes so that the picture will fit in the only frame we were willing to buy. In this grand societal bed and breakfast of ours, we insist on universal hospitality, hospitality for all, no exceptions, and so it is that every bed in every licensed bed and breakfast must necessarily be a Procrustean bed. What are a few severed feet and stretched guests in the pursuit of Equality?
Why is this encouraging? It is encouraging because thrones are established by righteousness (Prov. 16:12; 25:5). Such righteousness is defined by God alone, and our central obligation is to define as God defines. Those who would rule us according to their renegade lusts are corrupt teachers with maggots under their tongues. They are more interested in sniffing thrones than in establishing them, and that never ends well for them.