I’m not going to say anything about morality, anything about theology, or anything about tradition…. I’ll be making a philosophical argument, with some appeal to social science, largely to get at a public policy purpose of marriage. The question that I want to ask and then answer is, what is marriage from a policy perspective? What is the state’s interest in marriage? How does the state define marriage? How should the state define marriage, and why?
Below is the full speech, followed by a Q&A that was both challenging and refreshingly respectful. If you know someone who doesn’t understand the reasons for opposing a change in the definition of marriage, this is the lecture to share.
A summary from Anderson's response to the second question on why this matters:
What we know is that marriage is the institution that, when it’s stable, it protects children from poverty, it increases the likelihood [that] those children will experience social mobility, it protects children from committing crime, and it prevents the state from having to pick up the pieces in the form of a welfare program or a police program.
So more or less everything that you could care about (if you care about social justice and you care about limited government, if you care about the poor and you care about freedom) is better served by having a healthy marriage culture—a civil society institution that takes care of raising that next generation—than by having the government try to pick up the pieces of a broken marriage culture.
The most important part of the case is the (7-2?) dismissal of the dangerous idea advanced by the Obama administration that the “free exercise” of religion includes only “worship.” Religious people have the right to start “closely held” companies that reflect their religious point of view. The radical idea that the First Amendment and religion are only about worship is dead at the Court. This is of great importance.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ginsburg agreed that the Green family’s “religious convictions regarding contraception are sincerely held” (p. 21). Nevertheless, she argues that their sincerely held beliefs are not a sufficient reason to find in their favor. For her, it doesn’t matter if their beliefs are sincere. The only thing that matters is whether or not those beliefs are valid. Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer believe that the job of the Supreme Court is to pass judgment on the religious views of the American public. In this case, they believe the Greens’s views were not “substantial” and can be dismissed as irrelevant. This is chilling.
Chilling, indeed. If religious freedom only exists as far as judges agree with the validity of the religious point of view, then religious freedom no longer exists. Since the reason why we need to protect religious freedom in the first place is the fact that people disagree on the validity of religious points of view, requiring our protectors to agree with our view before they protect us kind of defeats the whole point.
And finally, a warning from Ben Domenech, who points out that this decision will only mean that the government will shift the requirement to pay for these drugs from Hobby Lobby to all of us, through subsidies or Medicaid. As he says, most of us “are already subsidizing all sorts of life-destroying pills and implants, whether [we] like it or not”:
That’s one reason why the culture wars have only just begun. When the battleground shifts within a culture, moving from “my body, my choice” to a demand that others pay for and affirm those choices, the aggressors are incentivized to enshrine their perspective as broad mandatory policy, not just as a socially laudable practice. That’s why we’ve moved from a point where corporations providing benefits to employees was considered a good thing to a point where corporations which provide some benefits but not all must be made to suffer. You only pay for 16 out of 20 forms of birth control? Fascist.
The decision on whether or not corporations like Hobby Lobby are protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from being forced to provide free abortifacients via their insurance plan came down from the Supreme Court today. Here’s a quick summary of the decision from the NRO editors:
[T]he Supreme Court did not deny access to contraception to anyone. Rather, it ruled today that if the owners of a closely held company have religious objections to providing contraceptives or abortifacients in their insurance policies, the Obama administration cannot force them to do it.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) trumps the administration’s regulations. The act says that religious objectors must be exempt from a government policy that imposes a substantial burden on their beliefs if the government has a less burdensome way of advancing a compelling interest. Five justices of the Court ruled that closely held companies can be religious objectors protected by the law, and that the government can indeed make contraception more affordable without coercing these companies….
Congress remains free to enact a new law that requires employers to cover abortifacients and contraceptives and explicitly rules out any RFRA exemptions. It remains free, for that matter, to repeal RFRA altogether.
Just one important clarification, then I’ll have more on the decision tomorrow: The Supreme Court decision wrongly refers to the Hahns' and Greens' "sincere religious belief that life begins at conception" as being central to the case. That isn't the controversial belief in question. A new, whole, live and growing member of the human species begins to exist at conception and continues to be a live human being until he or she dies. That's just a scientific fact.
The actual "sincere religious belief" of the Hahns and Greens being violated by the HHS mandate is one that claims every member of the human species has value and rights, regardless of his or her age, size, or characteristics.
The ambiguous use of the word “life” to mean both “living” and “valuable” is confusing and misleading. If our culture can fool itself into hiding behind the notion that we can’t even know whether or not the unborn human is alive, we'll never be forced to openly face the real question of value and rights head on. If we don’t clarify the difference between “life” and “value,” noting where the disagreement actually lies, this equivocation on the word "life" will continue to obscure the real issue at stake, which is universal human rights.
I explain more about this needed clarification here.
Remember when I said that we should expect more attempts to erase the differences between men and women, and that the conflict in our culture over sexuality is, at root, a disagreement over “whether human nature is something in particular or a sea of possibilities bound only by what we can imagine for ourselves”?
It's a strange hypothetical scenario to imagine. Pressure to accept a medical treatment, no tangible proof of its necessity, its only benefits conferred by the fact that everyone else already has it, and coming at a terrible expense to those 1 or 2 percent who have a bad reaction. It seems unlikely that doctors, hospitals, parents, or society in general would tolerate a standard practice like this.
Except they already do. The imaginary treatment I described above is real. Obstetricians, doctors, and midwives commit this procedure on infants every single day, in every single country. In reality, this treatment is performed almost universally without even asking for the parents' consent, making this practice all the more insidious. It's called infant gender assignment: When the doctor holds your child up to the harsh light of the delivery room, looks between its legs, and declares his opinion: It's a boy or a girl, based on nothing more than a cursory assessment of your offspring's genitals.
Male and female aren’t particular things. They aren’t real. And they certainly have nothing to do with what genitals your baby has. They’re merely a doctor’s “opinion,” and he’s stepping completely over the line by forcing his opinion on the baby.
According to the author, Christin Scarlett Milloy, “assigning” a gender to your child is potentially damaging:
We tell our children, “You can be anything you want to be.” We say, “A girl can be a doctor, a boy can be a nurse,” but why in the first place must this person be a boy and that person be a girl? Your infant is an infant. Your baby knows nothing of dresses and ties, of makeup and aftershave, of the contemporary social implications of pink and blue. As a newborn, your child's potential is limitless. The world is full of possibilities that every person deserves to be able to explore freely, receiving equal respect and human dignity while maximizing happiness through individual expression.
With infant gender assignment, in a single moment your baby's life is instantly and brutally reduced from such infinite potentials down to one concrete set of expectations and stereotypes….
And there it is. We cannot stand to have any sort of ruler over us. We are gods, able to create even our own being by our will and desires. We answer to no one and nothing. No reality of what it means to be human defines us—not even our own bodies. We define all. We create all. We transcend all.
“Polyamorists are coming out of the closet,” according to the opening of this article by Celina Durgin. Acceptance of their lifestyle is increasing, but there are still legal obstacles to overcome:
Diana Adams, the other co-president of Open Love NY and a founding partner of a New York City law firm serving LGBTQ and non-traditional clients, has worked with polyamorous households. Sometimes she helps draw up agreements between married poly clients to prevent marital problems from arising because of their sexuality.
The policy concerns for poly community generally regard securing domestic partnerships among the members of a polyamorous relationship. Some of Adams’s poly clients want to opt out of the adultery ground for divorce and do so in out-of-court contracts.
“At this point, polyamorous people are not seeking to redefine marriage as a whole for all Americans,” Adams told NRO. “They are seeking to find stability within existing legal institutions, with creative use of the law as it is now.”
I can think of no consistent reason under the new definition of marriage (“people who intensely care about each other”) why these people should be denied what’s legally available to others. Why should only they have to use the law creatively in order to have their commitments recognized? This inconsistency in the law can’t survive. The reasoning will work itself out to its logical conclusion.
When you remove complementary genders from the definition of marriage, you also remove its natural boundaries (two sexes, two people; a union that creates children, a union that must be exclusive and permanent). Therefore, there’s simply no rational reason to deny polyamorists their “right” to marry under the new definition (even if you think practical problems could result).
As predicted over and over, despite the adamant protests of same-sex marriage promoters to the contrary, the eventual support of multiple-partner marriage will be one of the consequences of changing the meaning—and legal definition—of marriage.
“In almost all cases, I see parents who are exploring their own romantic and sexual possibilities on their own time, and that’s not affecting their children at all,” Adams said. “The same-sex marriage movement has initiated a lot of that conversation. Is it possible to have committed love and partnership without traditional marriage? The conversation is expanding our sense of possibilities.”
[Leon Feingold, co-president of Open Love NY] also acknowledges parallels between the LGBTQ movement and the polyamorous movement. Many consider polyamory an orientation rather than a choice. He called the broad acceptance of polyamory the “next big frontier for public perception to cross.”
Greg referenced this article by Paul McHugh (former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins) on the show Tuesday, and it's worth posting an excerpt here, as well:
[P]olicy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.
The transgendered suffer a disorder of "assumption" like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists. With the transgendered, the disordered assumption is that the individual differs from what seems given in nature—namely one's maleness or femaleness. Other kinds of disordered assumptions are held by those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight….
Psychiatrists obviously must challenge the solipsistic concept that what is in the mind cannot be questioned. Disorders of consciousness, after all, represent psychiatry's domain; declaring them off-limits would eliminate the field….
We at Johns Hopkins University—which in the 1960s was the first American medical center to venture into "sex-reassignment surgery"—launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as "satisfied" by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn't have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a "satisfied" but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.
It now appears that our long-ago decision was a wise one. A 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden produced the most illuminating results yet regarding the transgendered, evidence that should give advocates pause. The long-term study—up to 30 years—followed 324 people who had sex-reassignment surgery. The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription….
At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. "Sex change" is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.
Listen to what Greg had to say here (starts at 1:24:40).
I can remember reading The Hiding Place(the story of Corrie ten Boom, a woman who risked her life to save Jews during World War II) and desperately praying that I would have Corrie’s courage and self-sacrifice when I'm eventually confronted with a time that requires it.
How does one become such a person? Jonathan Parnell has some thoughts about this on the Desiring God Blog, where he writes about Jon Meis, a young man who risked his life to save his fellow students during the recent shooting at Seattle Pacific Unversity:
Who, then, are the ones like Jon Meis — a student considered a quiet and selfless guy by fellow classmates? What kind of person could actually be willing to step up in the face of danger? The answer may be getting clearer.
The person who’d be willing to put the good of others before himself in the event of great loss is the one who puts the good of others before himself in the hundred events of little losses everyday. “We are always becoming,” as Joe Rigney puts it, “who we will be” (Live Like a Narnian, 52). “Right this minute, we are headed somewhere, and sooner or later, we are bound to end up there” (52).
The person of great sacrifice, therefore, must be the person of little sacrifices — the person who has discovered that the life of sacrificial love is the life of greatest joy. The response of sacrificial love in the midst of panic is the end of a trajectory that gets played out as sacrificial love in the midst of normalcy….
The big moment of courageous action doesn’t occur in a vacuum, but has behind it tiny moments of simple sacrifice that have been trending that direction all along. In other words, if we can’t wash dishes and change diapers, we shouldn’t kid ourselves with the idea that we’d step in front of a bullet. If we are stingy with our time and money toward those in need, we’ll be stingy with our lives when a gun gets pulled on innocent people.
Stories like Jon’s should make us pause and ask whether we’d respond like he did. But the question isn’t what we’d do in a particular situation; it’s about what we’re doing now.
We won’t truly know who we’ve become until we’ve been tested. Until then, pray the Holy Spirit enables us to give up our lives in the everyday moments. “The person of great sacrifice must be the person of little sacrifices.” Now is the time to practice dying by His power, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.
[W]hoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45).
We usually focus on secular reasons for maintaining the man/woman definition of marriage because there are plenty of publicly accessible reasons to give, and because until now, the people who have needed convincing about the definition of marriage weren’t those who would take the Bible into consideration.
But just because solid arguments can be drawn from natural revelation (i.e., by observing the world around us to discover what marriage is and the consequences of redefining it), that doesn’t mean there aren’t specifically Christian reasons for man/woman marriage that we ought to understand and appreciate as Christians. (See here and here, for example.)
And now that people like Matthew Vines are setting out to persuade Christians that God does not oppose same-sex marriage, it’s more important than ever that we think about how marriage fits into the bigger story of the Bible. It’s more than just a question of interpreting a few Greek terms and a handful of verses.
With Christian or Jewish presuppositions, or indeed Muslim, then if you believe in what it says in Genesis 1 about God making heaven and earth—and the binaries in Genesis are so important—that heaven and earth, and sea and dry land, and so on and so on, and you end up with male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity so that a male-plus-female marriage is a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.
If you say that marriage now means something which would allow other such configurations, what you’re saying is actually that when we marry a man and a woman we’re not actually doing any of that stuff. This is just a convenient social arrangement and sexual arrangement and there it is . . . get on with it. It isn’t that that is the downgrading of marriage, it’s something that clearly has gone on for some time which is now poking its head above the parapet. If that’s what you thought marriage meant, then clearly we haven’t done a very good job in society as a whole and in the church in particular in teaching about just what a wonderful mystery marriage is supposed to be.