March 23, 2013


Same-Sex Marriage and the Abyss of Nihilism (Carson Holloway, March 18th, 2013, Public Discourse)

To embrace same-sex marriage is to plunge headlong into the abyss of nihilism. It is to step into a realm in which there are no longer any solid or reliable public standards of judgment as to what is right and wrong, just and unjust. It goes without saying, I hope, that this is not what the defenders of same-sex marriage intend. It is nevertheless the end toward which their position tends.

Tradition plays a larger role in some societies than in others. Put another way, some societies are more dynamic and forward-looking than others. Nevertheless, tradition is an important source of public standards in all societies. No community can afford to be so "progressive" as to disregard tradition entirely. To do so would be, in principle, to embrace chaos, since it would require constant renegotiation of the rules by which its members interact.

There is, however, no older or more widespread notion than that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. It would be no exaggeration to call this definition a tradition of the human race. It is safe to say that a society that rejects this definition has also, whether it wants to admit it or not, rejected the idea that tradition should exert any authority over the present.

America, however, has never been guided only by tradition. It has looked to other and loftier sources of guidance. America is a branch of Western civilization, which has been defined since its origins by its quest for principles of judgment more solid than any particular society's traditions, and by its willingness to judge its own traditions by these higher standards.

Perhaps, then, we could reject the traditional understanding of marriage without making the leap into nihilism, since we could still orient ourselves by the higher principles of right to which we have always been dedicated. A few moments' reflection, however, would show that affirming same-sex marriage necessarily entails rejecting these higher principles as well.

As Leo Strauss famously observed, for Western civilization those higher standards have come from faith and reason, or from biblical revelation, on the one hand, and nature as understood by philosophy, on the other. Same-sex marriage is incompatible with both of these sources of wisdom.

The Bible could hardly be clearer that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. In both the Old and New Testaments it never speaks of marriage as anything else. When it speaks of sexual unions outside of marriage, it identifies them in order to disapprove of them.

No doubt many liberal Christians will want to deny such claims, but they really cannot do so without throwing overboard the very basis of their own identity as Christians.

Posted by at March 23, 2013 11:28 PM

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