Politics

Worshipping the State

Worshipping the State

Author and speaker Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D. has published eleven books, his newest being Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion. His website is www.benjaminwiker.com

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As the Supreme Court hears arguments for and against gay marriage we might stand back from the whole judicial fracas and ask ourselves a larger and hopefully more startling question: “What is the government doing deciding what marriage is?”

This is really two questions in one. First, how did it come to be that we, as a culture, are in a position where something seemingly so natural, something that existed long before any governments were around, is now up for debate? Second, why is it that we would look to a branch of the government to settle that debate?

The answer to the first question is rather complex. For centuries (not just decades) liberalism has been picking away at the Christian foundations of Western culture. Liberalism is, in essence, a secular and secularizing movement; it is historically defined by its opposition to Christianity. Wherever secular liberalism spreads, Christianity recedes. Look at Europe.

Christianity defined marriage by what we might call radical monogamy: a life-long, entirely exclusive union of one man and one woman. No sex before marriage. No concubines. No polygamy. No divorce (except for infidelity). No homosexuality. No fiddling with little boys.

The pagan Roman culture into which Christianity was born smiled on sex wherever, whenever, and with whomever it occurred. Marriage was an important social institution in Rome, but it was not defined by radical monogamy. Concubines? No problem. Sex with your male and female slaves? No big deal. Divorce? Happens all the time. Got a favorite boy? Don’t we all. Like pornography? We’ll paint the walls of your villa next week.

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Homosexuality was as widespread in Rome as it was in Greece, and, yes, in Rome there was gay marriage. Right at the top of society. The emperor Nero married one Pythagoras, and we have reports of other such unions.

That was the marital, sexual status quo of the society into which Christianity was born. As Rome fell, and Christianity rose, the Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage transformed the Roman Empire—proto-Europe, we might call it. With that transformation the radical monogamy of Christianity became the social, moral, legal standard, so normal that it was regarded as natural.
It is only because Christianity won out over pagan Rome that we are having arguments about marriage today. If Christians had been summarily extinguished by imperial Rome, radical monogamy would have disappeared with it, along with opposition to homosexuality.

Christianity’s radical monogamy is indeed based in nature, in the obvious complementarity of the sexes, male and female. But admittedly it asks a lot of nature, pushing beyond mere convenience, and upwards to perfection. In a very real way, Christianity asks more of marriage than mere mortals—in all our weakness—have the power to give. But that is, in fact, a central doctrine of Christianity: we are fallen and need God’s grace to do what is truly good, truly right.

Modern liberalism, arriving on the scene, said “no” to Christianity. “No” in the secular sense of denying the existence of God, and hence of the whole social, moral, legal apparatus of Christianity. But also “no” in the allegedly humanitarian sense—Christianity asks too much; it sets the bar for sexuality and marriage too high.

And so liberalism said, “Radical monogamy is too much to ask. Loosen up the strings on sexuality and marriage.”

The sexual revolution is the loosening up of strings—so loose, in fact, that we have returned pretty much to the situation of ancient pagan Rome.

So, that’s the answer to the first question. We are debating what marriage is, and considering instituting gay marriage, because history has run a great arc. De-Christianization has led us right back to pagan Rome, to the good old pre-Christian days when sexuality was free to run wherever the passions led it. The re-affirmation of homosexual marriage just completes the historical arc.
Now for the second question. Why are we looking to one branch of government to settle the issue of what marriage is?

Historically, liberalism is a top-down revolution. It uses the power of the government to reform society—through control of public education, through the courts, through executive orders, through bureaucratic agencies. All organs of the state.

Liberals look to the state, in the way that Christianity looks to the church—as the institution responsible for evangelizing society. When persuasion doesn’t work (through public education or media propaganda), they resort to the blunt use of judicial fiat.

That’s why liberals want the Supreme Court to redefine marriage in Hollingsworth v. Perry.

But that makes it, at the same time, an issue of church and state—the secular state saying to the Christian church, a very imperial “We say that marriage is this. You will affirm gay marriage. You will bend the knee before the state.”

And that just means, “Christians, you will bend the knee before liberalism.”

Author and speaker Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D. has published eleven books, his newest being Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion. His website is www.benjaminwiker.com

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