Monday, June 05, 2006

The Great Liberal Death Wish

Previous civilizations have been overthrown from without by the incursion of barbarian hordes; ours has dreamed up its own dissolution in the minds of our intellectual elites. Not bolshevism, which Stalin liquidated along with the old Bolsheviks; not Nazism, which perished with Hitler in his Berlin bunker; not fascism, which was left hanging upside down from a lamppost, along with Mussolini and his mistress—none of these, history will record, was responsible for bringing down the darkness on our civilization, but liberalism. A solvent rather than a precipitate, a sedative rather than a stimulant, a slough rather than a precipice; blurring the edges of truth, the definition of virtue, the shape of beauty; a cracked bell, a mist, a death wish.
-- Macolm Muggeridge, "The Great Liberal Death Wish", 1977

A random reaction while perusing coverage of the proposed gay marriage ban.

UPDATE: Commenter The Polite Liberal requests exposition. How can someone else's gay marriage diminish or endanger one's own strong, happy straight marriage? Well, let me sally forth with a housing metaphor. I live in a plain yet sturdy brick ranch that was built in the 1950s. It has a thick foundation, X-bracing between the floor joists, true two-by-four construction throughout. It's a little banged up around the edges, but it is a solid structure. So, why should I care if the building codes are altered to allow houses to be built of styrofoam and popsicle sticks? That's strange and counter-intuitive and nothing I'd care to be mixed up in--but what business is it of mine? As for the future, well...

I'm a great respecter of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Long range ripples sent out now can roil society in unforseeable ways far into the future. The legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts has already brought on one such consequence: The most venerable adoption agency in Boston, Catholic Charities, has discontinued its work because the law will no longer let them follow Catholic doctrine of not placing children with gay couples. Children languishing in orphanages--who would have expected this to happen just because Adam and Steve want to wed? And this is not some legal technicality with civil unions, which a bit of policy wonkery could sort out, that's causing this. It's a battle over the matrimonial state itself. It's not a matter of semantics. It matters!

The institution of marriage keeps the moral world in being, and secures it from an untimely dissolution. Without it, natural affection and amiableness would not exist, domestic education would become extinct, industry and economy be unknown, and man would be left to the precarious existence of the savage. But for this institution, learning and refinement would expire, government sink into the gulf of anarchy; and religion, hunted from earth, would hasten back to her native heavens.
-- Timothy Dwight

And why don't libs ever stop to consider, as they heedlessly kick the supports out from under the edifice of our civilization, that one day they may bring the whole works crashing down on everyone's heads?


  1. Perhaps you can explain this issue to me. The conservative obsession with gay marriage, I must admit, is one of those issues where I tend towards simple bewilderment at the arguments raised.

    I've been married for more than a decade, now. I have a four year old child.

    If homosexuals are allowed to marry, this affects my marriage how? If Elvis-themed elopements lasting less than seventy-two hours haven't harmed the institution of marriage enough to affect mine, how will this?

    To be honest, I can't understand why the issue even requires the DOMA, much less a constitutional amendment. Nonetheless, you seem to be predicting that it'll lead to nothing less than the collapse of civilization as we know it. How?

  2. So, following your metaphor, by the time my children are interested in marriage, only gay marriages will be available to them because of--some equivalent of the cheaper construction costs involved in your styrofoam and popsicle stick metaphor?

    Your metaphor is interesting but doesn't really seem appropriate. The problem with allowing popsicle-stick-framing is clear--contractors would love it for the cheap construction costs, leaving potential future homebuyers vulnerable to inadvertently buying a substandard structure. Is it your contention that future couples might inadvertently end up in a gay marriage? Or that gay marriages, by some strange application of Gresham's law, will drive out heterosexual marriages?

    The fact that one can't make any arguments based on your metaphor that make sense makes me suspect that it simply isn't an analogous concept.

    You're right--clearly the decision of Catholic Charities to suspend its previous practice of placing children with same-sex couples, and then to stop placement services altogether to defend their new policy wasn't an anticipated consequence of gay marriage.

    There are consequences to not allowing gay marriage when it comes to adoption as well, of course. Children placed with a gay couple in states that don't allow gay marraige are often formally placed with one or the other parent alone, since from a legal standpoint an unmarried gay couple isn't a "family." If the adoptive parent of record dies, the child is often dumped _into_ an orphanage, as the other parent has no legal standing at all.

    Allowing gays to marry doesn't appear to be "kicking the supports out" from under anything. It leaves heterosexual marriage unchanged (as opposed to the older idea of domestic partnership rights, which really did conflate cohabitation and marriage). It doesn't change sacramental marriage at all--priests aren't obliged to carry out same-sex marriages.

    To be frank, our day-to-day experience of our civilization depends far more upon our constitutional form of government than upon ill-defined notions of "the edifice of our civilization." It isn't liberals that are threatening that.

  3. You're doubtless familiar with the old Abraham Lincoln quote, about how many legs does a dog have, if you call his tail a leg. Answer: four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one. The gist of my misgivings stems from that: I don't believe the whole basis of talk about gay marriage is starting from calling things by their right names. Confusion on that definition will cause ever-exfoliating conundrums, the same as, when you start your first button in the wrong hole, no subsequent buttoning can make it come out right.

    As for priests not being obliged to perform gay weddings, check out Christopher Johnson's archives some time, to see how very similar issues are cracking up the Episcopalian Church.

    Key word for the consequences I'm apprehensive about is "unforseeable."


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