Written by R. R. Reno |
Thursday, October 27, 2022
We have deliberately deregulated our culture. The old, culturally reinforced pathways to normalcy have been dismantled. We have restructured our society to cater to the “sexually marginalized.” The normal has been recast as “repressive.” This project has been sold as noble. Many progressive Christians have declared it to be a fulfillment of the gospel. But it has meant transferring resources, social prestige, political power, and legal privileges to those whose desires are disordered. H.R. 8404 is one example.
Our ruling class seems determined to drive our country into a ditch. H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, is a case in point. Ostensibly, the bill is meant to codify the right to same-sex marriage that was discovered by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges. In view of present realities, it serves little purpose other than to flaunt the power of the Rainbow Reich.
Gay marriage is a luxury good in our society, largely the province of professional men and women. Meanwhile, among Americans without college degrees, marriage is collapsing. The decline is not happening because heterosexual men and women are co-habiting in stable relationships. Recent studies show that the number of individuals between the ages of twenty-four and fifty-four who are living alone is increasing, and now approaches 40 percent. Not surprisingly, fertility and family formation are declining as well.
These hard numbers point to a reality only the willfully blind refuse to see: the increasingly dysfunctional relations between men and women. Why the male–female dance has broken down over the past generation is not easy to explain. But it does not take a graduate degree in psychology to recognize that children need clear pathways toward adult life as men and women. Nor does it take a degree in sociology to see that those pathways are precisely what we have systematically denied to children, often in the interest of making our society more “inclusive.”
Gay marriage is not an innocent innovation, a win-win for society that, as many claimed, would strengthen the institution of marriage by making it more available. It was always implausible to imagine that our society could celebrate homosexuality and honor it with the institution of marriage without undermining the socialization of children into healthy patterns of male–female reciprocity. Given the ambition of the Rainbow Reich to restructure social attitudes, transgender ideology and the current epidemic of gender dysphoria were entirely predictable. Gay liberation was never solely about legal rights. It undermines the normative status of heterosexuality. As the more honest activists always insisted, the goal was to “queer” society.
Well, we’ve gone a long way toward achieving that goal. Spend a few hours with mainstream media, and you’d think a third or more of people were homosexual. The messaging has been effective. The rate of people identifying as LGBT has risen dramatically, especially among the impressionable young. A recent Gallup poll has more than 20 percent of Gen Z checking the LGBT box.
No doubt the severe decline of norms that privilege marriage, family, and heterosexual coupling has been beneficial for a small class of people whose desires are abnormal. But for the majority of Americans these changes have come at a great cost.
Family offers a safe harbor in the rough seas of life. For most, it’s a reliable place of comfort and a source of profound satisfaction. Public health officials scratch their heads, trying to explain the extraordinary decline in life expectancy in the United States, a shocking trend for a country so rich. Their captivity to progressive ideology makes them invincibly ignorant. They cannot acknowledge the obvious truth, which is that isolated, disoriented individuals deprived of the norms that would guide them toward marriage and family have dim prospects. They are more likely to stumble through life and engage in self-destructive behavior.
Count me among those who are no longer willing to pretend. We need to reckon with a harsh reality: Their premature deaths are by design. That is, our elites have destroyed the structures that foster healthy lives. Our educational ideologies celebrate critical methods that “disorient” and “deconstruct.” That’s what “queering” means. Our elites applaud Drag Queen Story Hour, believing that putatively stultifying “stereotypes” are being shattered and children are learning to be more “open-minded.” As the data accumulate, showing how bad life has become for ordinary Americans, those who repeat progressive platitudes are complicit in their neighbors’ misery.
Things will get worse, I’m afraid. We have deliberately deregulated our culture. The old, culturally reinforced pathways to normalcy have been dismantled. We have restructured our society to cater to the “sexually marginalized.” The normal has been recast as “repressive.” This project has been sold as noble. Many progressive Christians have declared it to be a fulfillment of the gospel. But it has meant transferring resources, social prestige, political power, and legal privileges to those whose desires are disordered. H.R. 8404 is one example.
No man is an island. We respond to incentives and social signals. Our cultural elites cheer Rachel Levine, the Biden administration’s assistant secretary for health. A man with two children who was divorced in 2013 and refashioned himself as a woman, Levine is held up as an exemplary American, heroically loyal to himself and a pioneer of liberation. Are we surprised that increasing numbers of people, especially those who lack social capital or are psychologically vulnerable, are now living dysfunctional and self-destructive lives?
Sexual minorities are people, made in the image and likeness of God. But we must not remain silent about the great costs that the imperatives of “inclusion” have imposed, often on the most vulnerable.
In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, St. Paul gives an account of our descent into bondage to sin. Verses 18–32 draw upon the Wisdom of Solomon, which gives an extended account of the spiritual, moral, and social disaster of idolatry. In his compressed version, Paul explains how humanity turned away from the invisible nature and eternal power of God, which is clearly manifest in creation. Our minds darkened; we became fools. Claiming to be wise, we raised up graven images, exchanging worship of the living God for devotion to dead idols.
The Bible often uses the term “vanity” to denote the spiritual import of idolatry. We assume that “vanity” refers to a conceited self-regard. But in its literal sense, vanity means emptiness or nothingness. Idol worship is thus vain in a metaphysical sense, a spiritual project oriented toward emptiness, a dead end that sucks the life out of us.
In his perfect justice, God honors our choice to exchange worship of the source of life for worship of dead idols. As Paul explains, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity [patheatimias—dishonorable passions].” We get what we want, an emptiness that we fill with disordered desires. Paul goes on to specify, playing on the theme of exchange: “Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and their men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
Paul, who goes on to list a host of vices, is not saying that homosexual acts are the sole form of impurity. He is identifying same-sex eroticism as emblematic. For just as idols are lifeless, homosexual acts are intrinsically sterile. The life-giving potential of our instinctual drive to act upon our sexual desires is perverted, made vain, which is to say empty and fruitless. In this way, homosexual acts typify the dead end of sinful transgression.
It is important to read this passage correctly. Because of the power of instinct, in most instances sexual sins are far less grave than those committed with premeditation and malice. Homosexual acts are, however, metaphysically singular, serving as a “condensed symbol” of our fallen condition.