With reference to the Irish SSM referendum as usual some of the best analysis was done at All along the Watchtower, first in Geoffrey Sales’ Reality Checks for Irish Bishops, then in Chalcedon’s superb Seasonal Reflections on the Irish Referendum. Also as usual, I am late to the party but, I do have some thoughts as well.
First, and maybe least important for our concerns here, SSM has passed the tipping point, in civil society, it’s here, and the argument is over. In Christianity, it may well be a different story, I am inclined to think so, and do so believe but, by definition, the referendum was about civil society.
Tipping points are funny things, usually we can only find them in retrospect.
For instance actual, overt racism, and segregation was doomed, not when the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 were passed (mostly because of Republicans, I note). It was doomed when a Fifteenth Air Force bomber crash landed on the beach in Italy and the crew was picked up of by members of the Red Tail squadron, the recognized best escort squadron in the AAF, who never lost a bomber they were escorting. That squadron is usually called the Tuskegee Airmen, and every member of it from Colonel Davis to the newest recruit doing KP was black. The rest is history.
The same is true, you’ve all heard me say the cold war was won not in the 1980s but in 13 days in October 1962. that doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait, one has to keep on keeping on, but the weight of history shifts at such times, usually on a quite small pivot.
Someplace in the last 15 years we will someday find the tipping point on SSM, and then we will realize it. But we can see some broad outlines already.
I firmly believe that it doesn’t really matter what the state does, to us as Christians, with the sole proviso that the state must protect out rights, as it does all people’s. That’s a pretty American concept, flowing from our revolutionary past, and the separation we imposed between the institutional church and the state.
I’ve often said that the US is a continuation of English history, and broadly that’s true. But its mostly a continuation of two sectors of English society, the Puritans, who formed most of the parliamentary army in the English Civil War, they’re actually pretty close to Geoffrey’s bunch, and the Anglican low church, formed from the second sons and daughters of the minor aristocracy that became the ‘First Families of Virginia’, as well as a good measure of what have come to be called the Scots-Irish, not to be confused with the later Irish-Catholics Where all agreed was in the leveling tendencies, and to that we owe our lack of an aristocracy.
In addition, we might throw in the Germans in Pennsylvania, who while not Lutheran, had picked up some of Dr. Luther’s ideas as well, such as the “Two Kingdoms”, which I think forms one of the bases of the separation of church and state, as implemented, if not strictly as written.
In an article from February 2014, Damon Linker said that
But things aren’t quite so simple. Just flip through the opeing pages of everyone’s favorite work of secular prophesy — Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835–1840) — and you’ll find a provocative alternative interpretation of Christianity’s indispensable role in the creation of the revolutionary ideal of human equality. The stunningly rapid rise of support for gay marriage over the past two decades is just the latest in a very long line of victories for that consummately Christian ideal — and it’s unlikely to be the last.
Tocqueville begins the introduction to his two-volume study of American democracy by noting that “a great democratic revolution is taking place among us.”
For Tocqueville, the march of equality was upending age-old institutions and moral habits “in all the Christian world.” It was a “providential fact,” by which he meant that there was nothing anybody could do to stop it.
The ultimate source of the democratic revolution — the motor behind its inexorable unfolding — is the figure of Jesus Christ, who taught the equal dignity of all persons, and declared in the Sermon on the Mount that the last shall be first and the first shall be last, and that the meek shall inherit the earth.”
Continue reading How Christianity gave us gay marriage
I think he makes a fair case. We believe what we believe about homosexual sex, and SSM, and indeed what we believe is what Christ and the Apostle’s taught. But neither did they believe in the equality of women, or at least they didn’t say so, clearly and definitively, but we do, even though we do believe they are not the same, we do believe they should have equal opportunity to use their God-given gifts.
The enlightenment is this context is, of course, the beginning of the modern world when we began to question pretty much everything, and yes, I do think that to be a very good thing. As I and many others always say, the thing about the truth is that it stands on its own, it doesn’t need all the support and force to support it.
As an aside, I suspect Islam, specifically ISIS is going to find this out some day, that in this world, truth and equality always win, not because America says so, but because history does, in the meantime, we’d be wise to do our best to limit the damage they are allowed to do, one Thirty Years War was bad enough, we don’t need another, with or without nuclear weapons.
In some ways, Ireland is and always has been the cockpit where two worlds attempt to live together, it’s the place where Rome and its traditional temporal power intersected violently with England and the Common Law, built up on precedent instead of the traditional top-down Roman model. It seems that the Irish people have decided, for good or ill, to firmly plant themselves in the secular world, with all its pitfalls for the spirit, and all its opportunities for the advancement of the human race as well.
What happens next? I haven’t a clue.
But, I do know this, Equality always wins, so if we want to ever win, we must claim equality in at least some of its forms, say ‘equality of opportunity’ as opposed to ‘equality of outcome’ as our own and stick to being for something rather than against everything. Even with my ingrained distrust of novelty, I know that our world is much better, in so many ways than what has gone before, that it’s not even conceivable to think of returning.