Standing Athwart the March of History, Yelling, “Stop! Wait for Me!”

With its managing editor endorsing same-sex marriage, will National Review join the ranks of the Church's persecutors?

By The Editors Published on May 21, 2015

For decades, National Review has performed a hygienic function on the right, defining the bounds of respectable conservatism, marking it off from unreasoned, bigoted or conspiratorial worldviews. It acted as a virus check, targeting ideas which in fact were Trojan horses for dangerous radicalism — whether racial, religious or ideological. On several occasions, that magazine used its power for good, excluding from its pages apologists for ultra-nationalism, eugenics, racism, anti-Semitism and paranoid anti-government hysteria.

For many of us, National Review is indispensable daily reading. It hosts many of conservatism’s most gifted writers. Indeed, The Stream is proud to publish columns by such NR stalwarts as Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry and Kathryn Lopez. This is why the publication of a long essay defending same-sex marriage by National Review’s managing editor Jason Lee Steorts  is so distressing. Steorts defends both same-sex “marriage” and, by implication, sexual relations between people of the same sex. His isn’t merely the misguided but understandable libertarian plea for the state to “get out of the marriage business.” Rather, it’s a lengthy critique of what he calls, somewhat dismissively, the “traditionalist” view of marriage.

We wonder if that magazine now intends to relocate defenders of natural marriage to the “fever swamps.” The left would certainly welcome that act of intellectual cleansing, which neatly fits in with the actions of progressive elites to demonize, bankrupt and criminalize dissent from the gay agenda. This pressure strategy includes the Obama administration’s thinly veiled threat to target non-compliant churches and tax them into oblivion. Can’t you hear the business lobbyists now, as they bully legislators in statehouses across the country, “Even NATIONAL REVIEW won’t defend what your pastor is saying. Do you really want to be seen as an extremist?”

We have heard first-hand reports of the strong-arm tactics used by the lobbyists for billion-dollar companies in the Texas legislature, tactics used to strangle a bill protecting pastors from lawsuits if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages. If National Review is indeed taking an editorial stand on behalf of same-sex marriage, it should make that clear; and its readers should know what that implies: organizational support for the attack on religious liberty, the rights of the family, and indeed the very existence of a free civil society. NR would be joining the move by big government to smash up the “little battalions” that Tocqueville and Burke cited as crucial barriers between the Leviathan state and the citizen. If the family, the church and every civic organization must pass the federal government’s gay litmus test, then what is left of our liberties?

We will each then stand alone before the full force of a federal Leviathan intent on imposing a godless ideology on individuals whose convictions — drawn from the wholesome stock of classical reason and Christian faith — will be lumped in with blind racial hatred.

Steorts’ essay itself is entirely unpersuasive to any principled conservative, betraying at several points its author’s casual acceptance of profoundly leftist principles. For now, we’ll leave his casual and ill-informed dismissal of natural law to others. Here let’s touch on just a couple of Steort’s embarrassment of glitches.

He writes that “equal treatment is both a legislative and a judicial concern.” He means that, legally, we should treat same-sex couples the same as man/woman couples by being willing to issue a marriage license in either case. But it is unjust and irrational to treat unequal things as equal. False equality is the business of progressives. We do not and should not regard as equal all the claims of:

  • Legal and illegal immigrants;
  • Married and unmarried couples;
  • Christian pastors who seek religious freedom and foreign imams who want to impose sharia;
  • human rights and animal rights; or
  • Married couples and homosexual partners.

Equating the claims of married couples with those engaged in habitual sodomy, Steorts writes that

couples belonging to either of these two groups have the same reasons and motivations, rooted in their love for each other, to abide by the standards of conduct that we traditionally associate with marriage, namely exclusivity and fidelity subsequent to a vow of permanent commitment.

No doubt there are same-sex couples who have made such commitments. But it is not our business as citizens to form the law according to each person’s “reasons and motivations.” To do so is to open the door to a bottomless hole of subjectivism. A father and his adopted son may have reasons and motivations to “marry” that seem compelling to them (alas, this isn’t a mere hypothetical). We are not obliged to mutilate the law to recognize said “marriage.” Nor should we.

We make law based not on pleasing each citizen’s whims, but on our perceptions of reality. Those perceptions are formed by observing human biology and reflecting on the conditions in which human beings are most likely to flourish. That marriage involves a man and a woman is the conclusion of reason and the unanimous verdict of every culture until the day before yesterday. We know, everyone knows, that two people of the same sex simply cannot have the same type of relationship that two people of the opposite sex can. It is delusional to pretend otherwise, and it does not cease to be delusional just because lots of people are coerced into playing along.

Moreover, the entire Christian tradition, and the Jewish tradition before it, regards homosexual unions as evil in themselves — as no more sacred than the connection between an addict and his dealer. Even if we do not appeal to special revelation, however, we have no reason to believe that homosexual unions lead to the flourishing of the individuals involved, to say nothing of any children involved. As a result, we have no interest as a society in trying to make homosexual relationships more permanent and enriching; in fact, we should prefer that they were fleeting. By equating homosexual and marital relations, then, Steorts betrays the thinking of a secular leftist who has abandoned reason and revelation.

Here is one objection that Steorts seems to think is decisive:

For now, as a kind of intuitive test, simply imagine that some friend of yours had been cheated on by his or her spouse of the opposite sex and had confided this in you. How would you respond? Probably you would understand your friend’s sense of having been betrayed and offer condolences. Now imagine the same scenario, except suppose that your friend’s spouse were of the same sex. Would your reaction be terribly different? Would you say something like, “Well, your expectation of fidelity and indeed your whole relationship never made any sense to begin with, so what’s the big deal”?

No, we wouldn’t say that, at least out of politeness. But we should certainly think along such lines, because our thoughts should mirror reality — and not be preemptively filtered by secular relativism or the fear of boycotts and federal prosecution. Through our minds should run something like this:

As sad as this is for my friend, I hope he sees this betrayal as evidence that the relationship could never have been what he wanted it to be. I hope that he gives up on his doomed quest to build love on the shifting sands of sin, and opens his heart to God. I will pray and make sacrifices to show him that love more vividly than I’ve been doing. God forbid that my own sins cause me this much suffering.

If that kind of reaction — if the Christian answer to sin — is to be marched off into a kind of internment camp among Americans, then we have no liberty left, and no reason to defend the country that stole it.

The founder of National Review — William F. Buckley, Jr. — grew up in Mexico, and saw first-hand the devastating effects of state assaults on religion. His first book, God and Man at Yale, was a sustained response to relativism and subjectivism — fallacies which Steorts accepts with a shrug as simple common sense. Buckley used his vast talents, charm and wisdom to create a journal of resistance. Will it now be surgically altered into an organ for collaborators?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Like the article? Share it with your friends! And use our social media pages to join or start the conversation! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, Instagram, MeWe and Gab.

Opportunity for the Impossible
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
More from The Stream
Connect with Us