Several years ago I had the honor of hearing one of the world’s most distinguished scholars of natural law expound the nature of the basic good of marriage. Considering the times, a great portion of his lecture had to be devoted to why marriage is intrinsically heterosexual. The talk was perfectly logical, but to most people it would have seemed esoteric. During the discussion period, therefore, I asked him how he would make the case to ordinary people.…He thought for a little while, and then said, “I think it makes its own case.”
Exactly. And that is the classical approach. One cannot convince people of what they grasp already; one can only draw it out of them.
—J. Budziszewski1 (pronounced Boo jee shef skee)—
Key point: Same-sex marriage denies the importance of male and female differences in the marriage relationship itself, in parenting, and in the nurture and upbringing of children. Also, it robs children of either a mother or a father. By contrast, all of these are affirmed and upheld in natural, man-woman marriage.
Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.
We are considering myths that led to the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges two-and-a-half years ago, a decision that departed a great distance from sound legal reasoning. Last time we highlighted four myths related to the Supreme Court, government, and the law, including the US Constitution. Here is a review.
- Myth #1: Marriage is a government construct over which government and government alone has oversight.
- Myth #2: The federal government, especially through its court system, has absolute authority over marriage.
- Myth #3: The government bestows rights; therefore, the government can take them away.
- Myth #4: The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of disputes in the United States.
While in this article we will refer to the decision of the Court in at least one instance, I’d like for us mainly to think logically about marriage itself, including what nature tells us about it and the implications that arise for marriage when a same-sex relationship is considered a marriage.
Nature Has a Great Deal to Say About Marriage
In the 1970s and even into the 1980s, a series of advertisements featuring Dena Dietrich as Mother Nature promoted Chiffon Margarine. The ads told us that Chiffon Margarine tasted so much like butter, it fooled even Mother Nature herself. She was incensed! It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature! Here is one of those ads.
The truth is that no one ever can fool Mother Nature. Efforts to do so, however well-intentioned they may be to produce outcomes believed to be beneficial, backfire anyway. Such is the nature of reality when we push against it by pretending that it is something it is not or that it is not something it is. This is the situation with regard to the redefinition of marriage in the United States.
No one can fool Mother Nature. Efforts to do so, however well intentioned they may be to produce outcomes believed to be beneficial, backfire anyway.
Myth #5: Gender is absolutely meaningless in marriage.
Fact: Gender and gender differences—physical, emotional, psychological, and relational—form the bedrock foundation on which marriage rests! The innate differences between men and women
- set the stage for interdependency in a marriage, and thus a journey away from selfish independence and toward oneness;2
- set the stage for practical needs to effectively be met within the family unit, which often includes innocent, vulnerable, and helpless infants and children;
- set the stage for God to display His image through the couple’s relationship. While this is true especially in Christian marriages, even non-Christian marriages offer a picture of God’s qualities and character.
Men are strong and independent and often are initiators. Women are intuitive, relational, patient, and supportive. This doesn’t mean that men can’t be relational or that women can’t ever lead. It does mean that, generally speaking, the husband is better suited to be the protector and provider of his family, and the wife is better equipped to be the nurturer and the source of warmth and encouragement in the home.
From Christian psychologist W. Peter Blitchington, we gain a great deal of insight into how male-female differences help foster emotionally healthy individuals and a healthy society—and how, from a Christian perspective, certain aspects of God’s image are reflected in each partner.
To Eve, and to women in general, God gave this important role—the ability to create new life; to deliver a unique human being, fashioned after his initial design. Woman represents the life-giving, nurturant side of God’s nature. Her capacity to give birth to a child represents God’s ability to give life to an entire universe. She represents God as the life-giver. The roundness and softness of woman were not designed just for the enjoyment of man alone (although that was part of the plan); they are also symbols of God’s tenderness and gentleness.…
But God didn’t stop there, for he is the life-sustainer as well as the life-giver. He could have made us without the capacity to create children after our own image; or he could have made us so that we give birth to independent, self-sufficient children who need no care or nurturance from their parents. But God chose to create us so that we would produce helpless, dependent children who needed our care and love in order to grow and develop. And so a woman’s breasts were created not to be mere ornaments but as life sustaining organs—reminders that every object in God’s creation is not made just to be selfishly admired and enjoyed (as important as beautiful things are), but to be used for others in some capacity. And appropriately, he placed those life-sustaining organs right over the heart of woman.
But the woman’s nature didn’t reflect God perfectly because it didn’t contain his power and strength, his initiatory activity and energy—in short, his masculinity.
So God created Adam—man—to reflect this side of God’s nature. He made Adam taller, more muscular, signifying the man’s role as the protector of his family. He was to be the first link in God’s chain of authority. God also created man to be more aggressive and dominant, more logical and analytical. All of these traits complemented the female traits perfectly. Adam submitted to God and Eve to Adam. All were in harmony. Since neither sex could fully represent God’s character alone, a unity between the two was required. Thus by his plan of marriage, God insured that there would be an opportunity for continual growth within the family.3
Let’s be sure we don’t overreact to the word submitted in this last paragraph. According to Christian teaching, within the Godhead—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—the Father is the decision-making member of the Trinity, or the initiator. For the Son and the Spirit to submit to the Father causes no strife or resentment. Thus, since marriage is to reflect the diversity and unity within the Godhead, the idea of submission ought not to create strife in a marriage.
Also in Christian teaching, marriage depicts Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Is it a burden for the church to submit to Christ, the One who laid down His life for her? Not at all! It is a joy to submit to Christ. Christ is Lord, but He doesn’t “lord it over” anyone. Similarly, since the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it, there should be no bitterness on the part of the wife responds positively to her husband’s leadership. Would any woman married to a man who truly loves her as Christ loved the church have difficulty responding positively to his leadership? How could she, unless she already has resolved to remain independent of him? Yet marriage is about unity and oneness, not individual independence.
Myth #6: The fact that procreation occurs naturally only through heterosexual intercourse has nothing to do with marriage and the family.
Fact: The fact that procreation occurs naturally only through heterosexual intercourse is a part of nature’s testimony that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. In 2003, a BreakPoint commentary by Chuck Colson emphasized this strong testimony. The commentary read in part,
The first line of yesterday’s Associated Press story says it all: “An appeals court ruled that Canada’s ban on homosexual marriage was unconstitutional, and hours later two Canadian men tied the knot in the country’s first legal same-sex wedding.”
This is the beginning of a vast social experiment initiated by judicial fiat. Canadian Justice Harry LaForme wrote in his opinion, “The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offence to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them. The result is they are denied the autonomy to choose whether they wish to marry. This in turn conveys the ominous message that they are unworthy of marriage.”
The argument, you see, is that to deny homosexuals marriage is manifestly unfair. But it’s not unfair. Gays and lesbians are not unworthy of marriage; they are incapable of marriage.
Gays and lesbians are not unworthy of marriage; they are incapable of marriage.
In his wonderful new book, What We Can’t Not Know, University of Texas professor J. Budziszewski states that the purpose of marriage is procreation—the begetting and rearing of children. The future of the human race depends on marriage understood as the union of one man and one woman. Relationships between two men or two women are by their very nature sterile and, thus, not marriage.
Budziszewski writes, “To call procreation the purpose of marriage is not arbitrary; alone among all forms of human union, the union of the sexes produces children.…A legislature [or a court] can no more turn sodomitical unions into marriages than it can turn dogs into cats; it can only unravel the institution of marriage by sowing confusion about its purpose.”
A legislature or court can no more turn sodomitical unions into marriages than it can turn dogs into cats; it can only unravel the institution of marriage by sowing confusion about its purpose.
Budziszewski makes this case for heterosexual marriage on page 188 of his book.4 Just prior to making it, he describes the cultural backdrop with regard to the debate over marriage and shows how it has been rigged. A noble ideal, marital purity, in this case—the self-evident meaning of marriage as a permanent commitment between one man and one woman—is attacked in the name of another noble ideal, that of fairness. It isn’t fair, we’ve been told, to honor the request of a heterosexual couple desiring marriage while denying the request of a homosexual couple saying they, too, want marriage. We see this idea in Colson’s commentary in this sentence: The argument, you see, is that to deny homosexuals marriage is manifestly unfair. Yet this argument distorts the true nature of fairness. The principle of fairness in its truest form does not forbid treating people differently, but arbitrarily treating them differently. Likewise, fairness prevents us from arbitrarily treating people the same. Context is important.
Here’s an illustration. If we totaled up the score between two opposing football teams at the end of a game, divided it by two, and awarded each team the same score, that would not be fair. Why? Because competition is one of the inherent purposes of football. Such an approach would obliterate competition from the mix and change the very nature of the game.
If we totaled up the score between two opposing football teams at the end of a game, divided it by two, and awarded each team the same score, that would not be fair. Why? Because competition is one of the inherent purposes of football. Such an approach would obliterate competition from the mix and change the very nature of the game.
A fundamental inherent purpose of heterosexual marriage is producing children. While it may seem fair recognize a same-sex relationship as a marriage, doing so obliterates from marriage one of its inherent purposes. Same-sex couples, by the very nature of their relationship, cannot procreate! Yet they can be married? This stands contrary to reality!5
Myth #7: Gender is absolutely meaningless in parenting.
Fact: Mothers are not fathers, nor can they be fathers to their children. Similarly, fathers are not mothers and cannot act, in any ongoing way, adequately in the mothering role. This is not to say that moms can’t ever challenge their children to take reasonable risks or that dads can’t ever be nurturing. It is to say that men are equipped physically, emotionally, and relationally to be dads, and women are equipped physically, emotionally, and relationally to be moms. Men and women parent differently, and children of both sexes need the nurturing love of a mother and the strength, safety, and challenge a father will give. Children need both parenting styles for emotional balance and healthy development.
What are some specific ways men and women parent differently? Glenn Stanton, social researcher at Focus on the Family, names several in a must-read article. Here we summarize some of his major points.
- Moms and dads tend to approach their children’s play differently. From Mom a child learns the importance of equity, security, and building bonds through shared experiences. From Dad the child receives encouragement to compete and to strive for independence. Also from Dad, a child learns how strength and safety can be intertwined. Roughhousing with Dad teaches the child that Dad is both strong and safe. This is foundational for self-assurance and confidence.
- Moms tend to encourage and offer security while dads tend to push their children to move beyond their comfort zones to accomplish what they’re capable of achieving.
- Moms are verbal and personal in their communication style; dads use fewer words than moms and tend to be more direct or “bottom line.”
- “Dads,” Stanton writes, “tend to see their child in relation to the rest of the world. Mothers tend to see the rest of the world in relation to their child.”
- Moms provide a gateway for their children to view the world of women; dads provide the gateway for them to view the world of men. Because all children are, generally speaking, surrounded by women in infancy and in their earliest years, it is understandable that dad’s connection to the world of men is especially important for young boys. In another article, Stanton discusses the truth that boys must learn to be men. How else can they learn this essential skill unless they spend time in the company of other men?
- When children see their opposite-sex parents interact in healthy ways with each other, they learn much more than the relational dynamics involved when two people interact; they get to observe the core qualities and subtle nuances of interaction between the sexes. Though this interaction, kids learn what mutual respect for members of the opposite sex looks like and feels like.
Stanton’s conclusion offers this key statement: “When we disregard the gender distinctions of parental influence as unimportant or unnecessary, we seriously diminish the proper development of children.” In addition to Stanton’s article, this piece is well-worth reading.
Myth #8: Marriage is really all about adults—not children.
Fact: You won’t find advocates of same-sex marriage actively promoting this idea as expressed here. In fact, a focus on the needs of children has been at the forefront of the arguments for same-sex marriage. Read this portion of Justice Kennedy’s decision in Obergefell. Writing for the majority, he said,
[M]any same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently being raised by such couples…Most States have allowed gays and lesbians to adopt, either as individuals or as couples, and many adopted and foster children have same-sex parents…. This provides powerful confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families.
Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.
We readily acknowledge that the first sentence we have cited here is correct: A great many same-sex couples do indeed provide loving and nurturing homes for their children. This and a generous number of other statements in the majority opinion reflect concern for children’s well-being. Even so, the question is not whether homes with same-sex parents can meet a wide range of children’s needs and offer a loving and caring environment. They can and they do! The question is whether we are willing to acknowledge the critical element that is lacking for children in every same-sex-parent home.
Every home run by same-sex parents not only fails to provide a fundamental need children have; it actually denies children this need. Children need both male and a female parents, parenting together, and only an opposite-sex couple can meet that need. Please reread our discussion about myth #7 and consider it in light of myth #8. As noble as statements about the needs of children sound, it is crystal clear that same-sex marriage, because of what it is, shortchanges children by placing the desires of adults above the needs of their children.
Same-sex marriage shortchanges children by placing the desires of adults above the needs of their children.
I cannot express it any better than Katy Faust and Dawn Stefanowicz have in this video, which is produced by Alliance Defending Freedom. You can learn more at marriageisourfuture.org. You can hear them tell their own stories of growing up in homes with same-sex parents here.
There are even more aspects to this myth. This isn’t just about the impact of same-sex marriage in homes with same-sex couples; it’s also about the message that society sends to everyone in the culture, especially to members of future generations. In their excellent book, Marriage on Trial: The Case against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier answer the question, “How could same-sex marriage harm my children?”
Same-sex marriage teaches children and their generation that marriage is merely about fulfilling adult sexual and emotional desire, nothing more. Many approaches and philosophies of heterosexual marriage already teach this, and same-sex marriage will only help solidify it.
Same-sex marriage—like easy divorce, cohabitation, pre- and extramarital sex, and unmarried childbearing—relativize family relationships. It promotes a smorgasbord mentality for family life: choose what suits your tastes, and one choice is as good as another. But no society has ever been able sustain itself with such a view of family life.
Same-sex marriage will teach little boys that the idea of being a good family man—caring and sacrificing himself for one woman and their children—is not expected or even virtuous, but merely one’s lifestyle choice among many. Same-sex marriage teaches our daughters that being committed to and helping socialize a husband and bearing and raising children with him is also only one family lifestyle choice among many.
In short the entire meaning and significance of marriage itself, and what it means to be male and female, will be radically changed. So will the choices and behaviors of those who grow up within that altered social context.6
We now have considered eight myths, but we’re only about halfway through our list. Next time, we’ll turn our thoughts toward Christmas, but soon thereafter we’ll resume our quest to expose the harmful myths responsible for redefining marriage.
Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 2003), 204-205.
2W. Peter Blitchington, Sex Roles and the Christian Family, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1981), 51.
4J. Budziszewski, 188.
6Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier, Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 55-56.