Rod Dreher on Gay Marriage
April 12th, 2013




A pretty deep essay about the cosmological nature of the fight:

Too many of them think that same-sex marriage is merely a question of sexual ethics. They fail to see that gay marriage, and the concomitant collapse of marriage among poor and working-class heterosexuals, makes perfect sense given the autonomous individualism sacralized by modernity and embraced by contemporary culture—indeed, by many who call themselves Christians. They don’t grasp that Christianity, properly understood, is not a moralistic therapeutic adjunct to bourgeois individualism—a common response among American Christians, one denounced by Rieff in 2005 as “simply pathetic”—but is radically opposed to the cultural order (or disorder) that reigns today.

They are fighting the culture war moralistically, not cosmologically. They have not only lost the culture, but unless they understand the nature of the fight and change their strategy to fight cosmologically, within a few generations they may also lose their religion.



  1. Gabriel April 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    A great essay and I’m tempted to agree with it until I remember that Christianity has survived and thrived through:
    * The failure of the world to end around 50-80 CE
    * The mission to the gentiles and abandonment of the Jewish law
    * Various schisms (proto-orthodox/gnostic, orthodox/Donatists, Chalcedonian/monophysite, Latin/Greek, Protestant/Catholic, high church/low church, etc)
    * Modern biology, geology, and neurology
    * Source criticism and comparative religion

    In the short run it seems like Dreher is basically right that “It seems that when people decide that historically normative Christianity is wrong about sex, they typically don’t find a church that endorses their liberal views. They quit going to church altogether.” However in the broad view it seems like rejecting a specific aspect of traditional sexist ethics, even one attested to in multiple places, shouldn’t be any more damaging in the long-run than rejecting circumcision or giving an allegorical reading to the first few chapters of Genesis.

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  3. Gabriel April 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    oops, that should be “sexual ethics” not “sexist ethics,” I’m not trying to characterize the waning view pejoratively.

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  5. mrmandias April 17, 2013 at 10:39 am

    It sounds plausible, but Orthodox Christians think that *everything* goes back to cosmology/theology. Sometimes immorality is just immoral.

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  7. troy garrett April 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I hate to be the one to break it to you because as a liberal it feels like gloating, but only 1/3 Americans goes to church/temple/etc. The vast majority of Christians in the USA say I am a christian, but, I never read the bible, never go to church never think about it. In terms of life style they are much more like atheists. So the horse has left the barn we are not a religious country any more.

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  9. cdonovan April 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    When President Obama was elected to his first term, I reread 1984. When the conflict between homosexual marriage and religious liberty sharpened (the sexual revolution has done battle with the Church from the very beginning, as readers of the history of the sex radicals know), I read Brideshead Revisited for the first time. That novel, which I had only seen dramatized via the BBC series, shows, a century ago, the power of sexual ethics in a contest with seemingly dead and staid religion. Its last paragraph, about the vigil light in the decrepit chapel that somehow is never snuffed out, is one of the best in English literature. Christianity will survive – the wars that swirl about it, the human characters that haltingly embrace it, the prelates and pundits who cannot convey its fullness. Dreher reminds me how great our losses might yet become, and well should we ponder how to minimize them – but extinction is not an option.

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  11. James O'Gara April 23, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Mmm, Donatism.

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  13. Jack April 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    “in the broad view it seems like rejecting a specific aspect of traditional sex[ual] ethics, even one attested to in multiple places, shouldn’t be any more damaging in the long-run than rejecting circumcision or giving an allegorical reading to the first few chapters of Genesis.”

    You couldn’t be more wrong, Gabriel. The experience of mainline Protestant churches in North America is that abandonment of traditional views on sexual ethics leads to unbelief [there are plenty of Protestant clergy of various denominations who do not believe in the Resurrection] and eventual abandonment of the church.

    Sexual ethics are absolutely central to the Catholic Church. This is why there can be no Catholic accommodation of the broader society’s liberal view of human sexuality. Instead, the Church has the much tougher job of trying to convert the broader culture.

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  15. Nedward April 29, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Hadn’t read anything by Dreher in maybe a decade but that’s one for the professional clip file. Not many op-ed laborers try Everest, i.e. The Great “Sixties” Unraveling Of Everything, from an experimental route, so kudos to Rod.

    He did overlook Phase II of the progressive spiritual crusade du jour–Official Transgender Routinization, which none other than The New Republic has decreed “America’s next civil rights struggle.” Permanent Kulturkampf for permanent peace

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