The issue of same-sex marriage is one—and a major—battle between two worldviews. One draws on the Abrahamic faith tradition, known in our society as the Judeo-Christian ethic. It understands the human being as possessing a conscience or soul, made in the image of its Creator. That means that it resonates with a set of objective and eternal ethical values for the redemptive actualisation of which the Creator fashioned this world. This spiritual dimension or inner conscience may be culturally and personally repressed in individual human beings but, conscious or unconscious, it is the foundation of our humanity.
The soul or conscience sits together in the person with body and mind. The latter two are termed the “psycho-physical” dimension, from which many impulses contrary to our inner moral sense can arise. The essentially human conflict of our psycho-physical and spiritual selves is the source of our freedom: to follow either. It is also the source of our responsibility to make the spiritual-moral sense prevail over the psycho-physical impulse. The boundaries, purposes and distinct identities set up through these universal ethics are there to actualise and manifest the Divine within the creation. Traditional heterosexual marriage is a key form and agency in the Divine plan, which the Abrahamic faiths have transmitted.
The second worldview is that of contemporary hedonistic materialism, an aggressive secularism—though multitudes of its fellow travellers (including some liberal religious sects) do not comprehend it as such. It is the attempt to eclipse the Creator and His likeness within the human being, the soul. It sees the human being as a psycho-physical being without a soul upholding an objective (its Creator’s) moral compass, with its boundaries and purposes for the specific beings, including men and women, within creation. Without any inner spiritual review or resistance, the psycho-physical human in its quest for sentient gratification is encouraged by this worldview to morph received values and boundaries, identities and purposes. It grasps the human being as driven and identified by his or her morphing impulse. Freedom—which is the choice between impulse and conscience—is absent in this worldview. Absent too is responsibility, which is the moral imperative to recognise and engage in the struggle involved in that choice. The same-sex-marriage movement is a species of this worldview. Its unfree concept of the human being is the seed of its systemic coercive manifestations.
This essay, along with three others addressing same-sex marriage, will be re-printed in the upcoming October edition of Quadrant
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The moral compass of the soul or conscience defines boundaries not only in the interpersonal sphere, where people are capable of, and so must be prevented from, harming each other physically or materially. It applies also in the private realm, which includes sexuality. Sexual relationships do not become moral simply by “consent” of adult parties. The consent of adult siblings to an incestuous relationship does not make it moral. Nevertheless, the flagship society of contemporary hedonistic materialism, Sweden, has legislated for the incestuous marriage of adults who are siblings by one parent.
The same-sex-marriage movement presents itself as compassionate, but in fact expresses a corrupted and inverted compassion. Compassion, as any good parent knows with regard to his or her child, does not mean demolishing rules and boundaries in response to mere wants and desires. True compassion acknowledges and defends boundaries while at the same time making a gesture of love and care. The balanced consideration of the other is the beauty of compassion. Corrupted compassion turns this beauty of consideration of the other into a narcissistic and vainglorious concept of one’s “compassionate” self. This purported compassion is imperious: as it breaks down boundaries in its misguided “love”, it enforces the boundary-breaking with an extraordinary harshness. From an essentially unfree conception of the human being and the inverted compassion of the same-sex-marriage movement come, as we now note, a number of wrongs.
The first area of wrong, coercively applied through homosexual marriage, is upon generations of unborn children. Since the human being uniquely knows himself or herself as the offspring of its parents, homosexual marriage with its commitment to reproductive technologies with donor gametes and/or surrogacy creates generations of orphans. In addition to this it imposes dysfunction into these relationships due to the same-polarity of the partners, with resultant known generic forms of instability in male and female homosexual relationships. Moreover, the ethos of demolition of traditional boundaries in human relationships, enshrined in the deconstruction in marriage, itself weakens commitment—a boundary—in the institution of marriage generally. Both are trends of the same thing. The outlook which places “love” and sex ahead of the interests of children is of a piece with the de facto culture, which does the same, by placing the cohabiting relationship ahead of a stable structure into which children are born. Both are symptoms of the culture of hedonistic materialism.
Perhaps the profoundest victim of the ideology of same-sex marriage is the homosexual person. In reality, there is a wide spectrum of homosexual tendencies: from deep-seated physical dispositions through to less deep-seated tendencies which may have psychologically treatable causes, through to individuals who can have heterosexual relationships but make a “lifestyle” choice to enter or experiment with a homosexual relationship.
The attempted ban on reparative or conversion therapy tars all of these with one brush, where in fact—as documented by Robert Spitzer, Stanton Jones and others—therapy can and does work successfully for a significant range of the spectrum. The homosexual is locked in by the ban on therapy, his or her destiny sealed. The diversity of sources of homosexuality and its treatment makes this “fate” imposed by the same-sex-marriage movement the more poignant. The opposition of the psychological associations to therapy is no more than a corollary to the political—non-scientific—statement that homosexuality is a “normal” variety of human sexuality. In the United States this led to a travesty of justice in the refusal of a court, which shut down an agency offering this therapy, even to hear expert evidence of the success of reparative counselling.
The ban operates not only through peer-marshalling and threatened deregistration of professionals who offer counselling. It has emerged in legislation in Australia through new devices such as the Victorian Health Complaints Bill of an inquisitorial Health Commissioner, who has been politically charged, with the assistance of third-party helpers, to search out and eradicate all such counselling.
The most concerning impact and coercion worked by the same-sex-marriage movement is the attempt to educate young children in “sexual diversity”. This posed originally as a movement to stop the bullying of homosexually inclined children, though it was clearly intended (as one of its designers admitted) to validate homosexuality to young children. While bullying of any kind and for any reason is cruel and must be stopped—and there are a variety of ways to do this—a specific program, the “Safe Schools” program (with different names in different states) has been introduced to schools. Its agenda is to win acceptance for homosexuality as a norm in childhood education, the best place to accomplish an overall cultural shift.
The Labor Party in Victoria declared before the state election in 2014 an intention to impose this program on every government school, which having been elected, it is now carrying out. The program invites young children to identify themselves sexually (heterosexual, homosexual and so on) and thereby to lock themselves into a sexual identity. At an age where, according to some paediatric opinions, up to 26 per cent of children experience fluidity in their sexual identity, this is plainly dangerous. A girl’s passing crush on another girl could be identified and confirmed as lesbianism. Quite apart from the ethical wrongness of this program, significant psychological harm could be imposed by presenting sexual options to young children for their selection and identification. The program not only uproots the moral culture of the Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic tradition, it also endangers children’s normal development.
This trend has been backed up in Victoria by supplementary measures: the exclusion of optional traditional religious education during school hours, and attempted legislation to prevent religious schools from selecting staff who model the religious ethos of the school, where this conflicts with the “same-sex marriage” agenda. Fortunately, this failed. Finally, it has introduced a program into the school syllabus throughout the school years, to relativise religions as a comparative general study, alongside secular humanism (the option of non-belief) in place of the traditional instruction of children in their actual family beliefs.
It is not only the education of children that has been affected by the wider ideology of same-sex marriage, hedonistic materialism, but also the freedom of debate and inquiry in the universities. One of the most disturbing features of the movement to institutionalise homosexuality is the intensity of the attempt made to silence reasoned and critical discussion of it. The ideology of “marriage equality” as part of hedonistic materialism is a credo of the politicised culture of the universities. From the universities come cadres of journalists, schoolteachers, bureaucrats, lawyers and health professionals all steeped in the same credo. From kindergarten to the university and its professional graduates, the coercive culture of hedonistic materialism has corrupted education in the widest sense.
Our task is not simply to inveigh against the darkness of this momentary eclipse of the human spirit. It is also to reaffirm and reassert the human spirit: that it—not the psycho-physical torrent within the human—is sovereign; that authentic pleasure and good come with the actualisation of objective and universal, Divinely-given values. Traditional marriage is prescribed by those universal ethics and it is the great vehicle for the transmission of those ethics. It should be an ideal which illuminates us all.
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen is the founder and director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilisation. This is a modified extract from his book Homosexuality, Marriage and Society, published by Connor Court in 2016.