Hell-Bent: Why Gay Marriage Was Inevitable. by Aaron Wolf (part 2)
Aaron D. Wolf
Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. July 2013 (pp. 16-19)
http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/ (the article is not published on the site, but other writing from the author can be found here)
Americans who are convinced that homosexuals are “born that way” are also confident that one day science will confirm it. Every so often, we read the latest breaking news or see it on television—some peer-reviewed journal has announced that an incontrovertible discovery has been made that solves the mystery of why some people are born gay.
These breakthroughs tend to begin with a bang, but end with a whimper.
In 1993, scientific researcher and self-identified homosexual Dean Hamer claimed he had found the gay gene…There have been numerous other studies, of course, but today the unfruitful search for a gay gene has yielded to the burgeoning science of epigenetics, which studies not the genes themselves, but sex-specific “epi-marks” that regulate the transmission of genes…
You know who doesn’t like any of this? Gay activists.
In a letter to the editor…in the New York Review of Books, homosexual historian and activist Jonathan Ned Katz took…gay-genetics-friendly researchers to task:
I honestly don’t understand how biology can play any role in determining all the different, discontinuous forms of human relationship revealed by historians: “heterosexual,” “homosexual,” and “bisexual,” “lipstick lesbian” and “old butch,” “ancient Greek pederasty,” “Victorian true love,” “romantic friendship,” “early-colonial sodomy,” and the Native American “berdache” (so-called by the French colonizers.
I don’t see how biology can determine the social, historical, and political use of sexual preference to create two dominant and subordinate classes, “heterosexuals” and “homosexuals.”
What Katz and many other gay activists deny, then, is both the ability of science to identify a specifically gay gene or biological marker and the very existence of homosexuals and heterosexuals overall. And their reasoning is clear: If science could locate the biologically determinative factor that “causes” homosexuality or “makes homosexuals,” that factor would be a mutation, a deviation from the biological norm, a scientific basis for classifying those who experience same-sex attraction as a “subordinate class”.
Thus, when gay activists such as Katz insist that they didn’t “choose to be gay,” they are not claiming that “sexual preference” is biologically determined. Instead, they are declaring that they eschew all categories that would constrain their choice of sexual partners. They are denouncing the very notion that sexual deviancy exists at all (apart from a purely conventional age of consent). They are rejecting the notion that “heterosexuality” is the norm, because for them there categorically cannot be a sexual norm…
This perspective becomes even more interesting when we consider that, in the words of The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta, “probably less than 2 percent” of Americans identify themselves as homosexual. The title attached to Franke-Ruta’s piece, “Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are,” elucidates the finding of a [sic] ongoing study by Gallup, which discloses that, based on 2011 data, “U. S. adults, on average, estimate that 25 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian.”
Of course, The Atlantic’s goal is to mollify those homophobic holdouts who are ignorantly afraid that…there will soon be round-the-clock gay weddings on every street corner. What’s more interesting, however, is the disparity itself, the gap between opinion and reality. Why do most Americans…assume that one fifth to one quarter of Americans are homosexual?
And for that matter, if only two percent or less of Americans are self-identified homosexuals, and a fair number of them see same-sex marriage as a threat to their sexual freedom, why has same-sex marriage triumphed politically and culturally?
Perhaps we should as why it took so long. Living as we are in the moribund late phase of what Harold O. J. Brown (and his mentor, Pitirim Sorokin) called a “sensate culture”, we should not be surprised by any of this. Long gone is the ideational culture that built the West, in which Christianity’s foundation of divinely revealed biblical truth shaped society, restraining man’s darker impulses. Since at least the Enlightenment, European civilization has been hell-bent on throwing off the shackles of the Christian Faith, consigning it to an ever-shrinking private sphere of life. In its place, the sensate culture demands that truth be drawn only from the immediate experiences of our physical faculties. One by one, the remnants of public morality grounded in revealed truth are questioned, jettisoned, then put on display for public ridicule. And as the sensate culture reaches its late and dying phase, virtually unguided by any ideational truth, all that remains is pleasure.
….in his 1990 book The Invention of Heterosexuality…[Katz] notes that the very terms homosexual and heterosexual did not come into use in the United States until the tail-end of the 19th century, round about the time that the population began to shift from the country to the city, mechanization and technology began to boom, and the human body began to be seen as less an instrument fit for work and production and more of a vehicle of consumption and pleasure. With Christianity and Victorian societal mores on the wane, physicians began to speak clinically about normative (“heterosexual”) versus deviant (“homosexual”) sexual behavior, appealing to science to save the appearances of a bygone social order.
Coincidentally, I would add, this transition marks the beginning of American society’s acceptance of contraception. But the decades-long public debate over its use (at first, of course, permissible only within the confines of marriage) and its first churchly blessing at Lambeth (1930) were not cause but symptom of the deterioration of society, the dimming of the light of a sensate culture in which pleasure is always the goal because pleasure is always the good.
In this materialist milieu, the marriage vow of love is not seen as a sacrificial commitment to the good of another. Love then degrades into mere acceptance of the other, which amounts to little more than a refusal to deny the other whatever pleases him—coupled with a reciprocal demand for acceptance. And that which pleases is not limited to sex or the fulfillment of sexual attraction.
In an episode of AMC’s often insightful series Mad Men, a show about the advertising culture of the 1960’s, creative director Don Draper is faced with the fact that government-sponsored studies have challenged his ads’ claim that Lucky Strike cigarettes are safe and healthy. Rather than challenge those studies publicly (thus drawing attention to the cigarette’s association with cancer and death), he convinces the tobacco company that all they need to do is change the subject. He thus sells the makers of Lucky Strikes on an ad campaign that says simply, “It’s toasted.” His reasoning?
Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams, with reassurance, that whatever you are doing is OK. You are OK.
This is why gay marriage was inevitable. In a moribund sensate culture, pleasure may come in a variety of forms—overeating, shopping, even deviant sexual behavior; or it may come in the form of simple acceptance….
A tiny portion of the population has successfully overthrown an institution that has existed since the Creation of the world. How? In 1993, two same-sex couples in Hawaii simply wanted to be married, and we as a society have no publicly recognized basis for saying no. But more to the point, like the very neat categories of hetero- and homosexual, gay marriage “screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is OK.” Gay marriage screams acceptance to the vast majority of Americans who do not personally experience same-sex attraction, but who want public reassurance that whatever they want to do—whether to consume deviant pornography, or to trade in their wives over irreconcilable differences, or live in deliberately childless marriages and accumulate toys—is OK. You are what you are because that’s how you were born. And any challenge or restraint on what you want to do, on what pleases you, cannot be tolerated. Fair is fair.
Conservative Christians have failed to stop the juggernaut of gay marriage because we have embraced the values of the sensate culture. American society is not ruled and normed by Scripture, and so any appeal to it…in defense of “traditional marriage” appears as nothing more than special pleading, an appeal to what pleases us. Christians who follow the “pleasure ethic,” to borrow from Katz, who divorce at a higher rate than the unbelieving world, who view marriage chiefly as a means of self-gratification and not an opportunity for service and sacrifice are in no position to speak a prophetic word to society. Our God is no longer the Holy One Who loves creatures that are in open rebellion against Him and takes upon Himself our just punishment, but a god who “loves us and accepts us just as we are”, a judge who never judges. Our sermons are therapeutic, and even “the best lack all conviction.” Thus saith the Lord—although let us preface by saying that we love and accept everyone, regardless of his or her chosen lifestyle…
If “marriage equality” is the law of the land, then technically, metaphysically, the thing that the state offers by way of contract is not marriage in any real sense. Government mandated “marriage equality” turns real marriage into a mere civil union.