On Same-Sex Marriage, Are Christians No Better than Racists?

At the core of the gay totalitarian push to suppress Christian sexual ethics is a false comparison to laws against "race-mixing."

By John Zmirak Published on April 22, 2015

Christian defenders of biblical sexual morality stand at the tipping point. Will our faith be consigned to the same medical waste dumpster as eugenics and racism? Both of those ideologies once held sway over elites and the masses alike, but public campaigns by highly motivated groups dismantled their arguments and shamed their defenders into silence and obscurity. And rightly so.

Should Christianity follow them into the trash bin? Even should the faith deserve to prevail, will it be crushed in America anyway? We can’t count on the sheer numbers of self-professed Christians in America to save biblical morality from being pathologized and punished. People change their minds, especially when they’re being kicked in the head, or slyly seduced. As Soviet interrogators learned, most effective of all is to alternate threats and bribes. Resist, and you’ll be locked out with the bigots and psychopaths. Collaborate, and all the really cool people will praise you. Exorcists report that they get the same treatment from the hostile spirits they try to expel: a constant switcheroo between buttering up and bullying.

It’s gruelingly hard to keep the faith when the most prestigious voices in the culture are all chanting the same slogans, backed up by the coercive power of the government, the financial weight of billion-dollar companies, and the new shaming mechanisms of social media. Muslims ground down the once-mighty churches of North Africa not so much by massacre as by degrading social restrictions and heavy taxes on “dhimmis.”

If we do intend to stand firm, we need to counter the opposing argument at its heart, which is simply this: Gay people have the right to form erotic relationships and receive the exact same public recognition and endorsement in same-sex relationships that people do through opposite-sex marriage. If you oppose that, you’re being as irrational and evil as Americans who opposed interracial marriage and imposed Jim Crow laws to prevent “race-mixing.”

In an April 3 column, Jonah Goldberg did a fine job of explaining how religious freedom laws are not remotely comparable to legal segregation. But he didn’t touch the central question, which is the “problem” those segregation laws were intended to solve. And that was “miscegenation,” or race-mixing. It was that, much more than black political power or economic advancement, which racists considered the ultimate threat to the “white community.” (The irony that most mixing of the races occurred when white masters raped black female slaves was almost entirely repressed.)

I finished a Ph.D. in English that focused on Southern literature, and saw in detail how much of it is shot through with the profound anxieties of Southern whites about the sexual power and reproductive activities of non-whites, especially black men — and the fear that white women might find their vigor irresistible. From D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation to William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, and Allen Tate’s The Fathers, you feel the ripples from this deep-seated cultural superstition.

Laws prohibiting interracial marriage were among the first that whites imposed after Reconstruction ended, and they were often the last repealed. If you read the demagogic rhetoric of white racist leaders from decades past, you’ll see incessant references to the “honor of Southern womanhood,” and “female chastity.”

Racist theory posited that black men had primordial sexual power, insatiable desires, and an animal allure which must be controlled through violence — through laws that rendered it criminal for black men even to speak to white women, and through lynch mobs that often hanged black men without trial. An imaginary epidemic of black men raping white women provoked a genuine plague of lynching across the country — and “respectable” Southern Democratic senators fought anti-lynching laws tooth and nail. A key reason for segregating public schools and swimming pools was to keep white girls and women “safe.”

This is the background of Jim Crow laws, and the basis for the comparison between conservative Christians today and yesterday’s segregationists. Because this much is true:  There are couples who want marriage licenses, which we don’t think should be granted. Thus far the parallel holds.

Now before hyperventilating here because this appears to prove gay activists’ case, remember that almost everyone still agrees that the state must pick and choose which kinds of relationship contracts it will ratify and enforce. Here is a short list of sexual relationships which states refuse to grant official status:

  1. Covenant marriages. In most states, there is no provision for people (for instance, Christians) who wish to make their marriage indissoluble, or less dissoluble than no-fault divorce laws make every marriage nowadays. You might write such a contract, but the state will refuse to enforce it.
  2. Polygamous unions. Saudi princes who bring their harems here will have to pick just a single wife to enjoy that legal status. Mormons who wish to revive their ancestors’ practice can face arrest for trying it.
  3. Incestuous unions. Brothers still can’t marry their sisters, or fathers their grown-up daughters.
  4. Sadomasochist contracts. You might decide that you’re somebody’s “slave,” and sign a contract to that effect, but the 13th Amendment prevents the state from enforcing it.

I could go on into even more lurid territory, but you get the idea. The state protects the common good, and the interests of children, and sometimes decides that these outweigh the wishes of consenting adults. This is a point that Rick Santorum made ten years ago, and was brutally cyberstalked and vilified for daring to mention — a sure sign that he had grasped the nub of the issue.

Christians don’t oppose same sex “marriages” because we think that they are less ideal than heterosexual unions, or tacky or icky or gross. We think that they are impossible. By the very nature of what it means to be human, people of the same sex simply cannot marry, any more than they can sprout wings and fly. To say so is not to commit hate speech against either birds or human beings. It is simply and starkly a fact.

The state already is, and needs to be, in the business of deciding which marriage contracts to enforce or prohibit — just as it decides which employment contracts are legal, forbidding wages below the legal minimum, for instance. The only deciding question here is this: Are the grounds for not equating same-sex relationship with natural marriage rational and grounded in solid arguments about the nature of man and society? Or are they based on pseudo-science that’s covering up for irrational hatred or contempt?

In Part Two, I will do a side-by-side contrast between the spurious arguments used to oppose marriages that dared to mix the races, and those that insist that a real marriage must mix the sexes.

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