As discussed last week, the noted anthropologist, J. D. Unwin conducted what is arguably the most exhaustive examination of sexual ethics and their affect upon society. In brief, Unwin discovered that throughout history, the state of a given society was directly related to its sexual ethic. Monogamous cultures prosper and those disinclined to restrain sex to monogamous marriage remain primitive or, if once successful, they decline. Unwin also observed that legally recognized and socially reinforced marriage was the only effective means for regulating sexual behavior. Where marriage is strictly defined and reinforced, monogamy rules.
This assertion led many proponents of same-sex marriage (SSM) to argue that since monogamy is—according to Unwin—central to the health and prosperity of a given society, we should offer “marriage” to same-sex couples for the purpose of promoting monogamy among gays. So it seems I must address this charge before continuing in our defense of marriage.
Attempting to promote monogamy among homosexual couples by rearranging marriage ignores the fact that homosexual acts are patently obvious distortions of the human biological design. We are born biologically male or female and as such we are sexually dissimilar but in complimentary ways. The male/female sexual union works, in other words. This is true of every species on earth. Every living organism has a particular way of reproducing and rearing offspring; its anatomy is biologically designed to support that way. If one believes we are products of an evolutionary process, then homosexual acts are a deviation from the procreative design and homosexuality is therefore a genetic defect because it fails to propagate the species. If one holds to the belief that we are created, then it defies the design and intent of the Creator. Either way homosexuality violates the given design.
Gay advocates argue that homosexuality occurs throughout the animal kingdom and therefore this somehow validates or normalizes homosexual acts. While there is evidence that some animals (usually males) will, on occasion, attempt intercourse with another of the same sex, this remains an aberration, as it still fails to achieve the procreative principles inherent in that creature’s biological design. On its surface, this is a ridiculous defense. Sexual acts beyond the biological design are a perversion of human sexuality and therefore contrary to the maintenance of sexual morality.
We are reluctant to say this today because our culture has been inundated with gay-rights propaganda that carefully avoids the sexual reality of homosexual behavior. Instead the emphasis is on the so-called emotional and romantic aspects. As a result, we feel sympathetic; we may feel like we should capitulate to their demand for marriage in the name of equal treatment. However, equal treatment of persons living the homosexual lifestyle is a completely different issue than redefining marriage. No thinking Christian opposes the equal treatment of homosexuals, because they are fully human persons made in the image of God. Furthermore, gay men and women are free to have sex, experience romantic relationships, and live in whatever arrangement they choose. (Of course, there are consequences to these choices.) What is not their choice is to redefine an institution essential to the social welfare and common good such that these benefits are nullified. The demand for SSM is not about equal dignity and treatment but rather social affirmation of a particular lifestyle.
Any given thing is what it is based on its possessing certain essential characteristics, features, or qualities. For example, water is what it is by virtue of it possessing a particular chemical structure (two atoms of hydrogen combined with one of oxygen). The possession of these essential characteristics is what defines and distinguishes water from every other liquid. You might attempt to define water by some other characteristic, i.e., fluidity. However, while fluidity is certainly a characteristic of water, it is not essential to defining water. If we were to exchange the essential feature—chemical structure—for the nonessential feature, you can imagine the problems that would result. You might receive a glass of gasoline in response to a request for water!
This is analogous to redefining marriage apart from its essential characteristics. Human procreation is essential to marriage. Procreative acts are biologically exclusive to male and female conjugation. In the event children are realized, marriage represents and reinforces society’s expectation that the mother and father will remain committed to the rearing and care of those children. This also represents the natural family structure for human beings. Suffice it to say, marriage, strictly defined, serves a vital social interest that rests ultimately on the welfare of children and not the self interests of adults. Thus marriage cannot be redefined apart from its essential role in regulating human procreative potential.
I received a rebuttal from one SSM advocate that “the procreative argument is easily dismissed based on the fact that many heterosexual married couples are unable to procreate due to infertility or other physical or medical issues. They have a sexual relationship … but they have to rely on other mechanisms i.e., in vitro fertilization, surrogates, to have children. Homosexual couples are likewise biologically disadvantaged and rely on the same above mentioned methods to have children and build their families.”
Homosexual couples are not biologically disadvantaged—they are biologically incapable. No matter how homosexual couples may acquire children, they still rely on a process that is heterosexual (male sperm and female egg) and beyond their own biology. Regardless, even if children are not realized in marriage or a married couple chooses not to have children, they nonetheless participate in the same procreative acts essential to defining human sexuality; these acts are essential to what is marriage and vice versa.
SSM advocates want to redefine marriage apart from these essential characteristics by appealing to the nonessential characteristic of erotic love, arguing that because they love one another they should be allowed to participate in marriage. However, as our analogy of water demonstrates, defining water apart from its essential characteristics renders the definition of water meaningless. One could then argue that because he loves his dog, he should be able to marry his dog, etc. The possibilities become ridiculous and marriage becomes meaningless.
Unwin’s research and human history confirms that acceptance of sexual perversion always follows the modification of heterosexual monogamy within marriage. In other words, once a society begins to extend sexual opportunities beyond the exclusive relationship of marriage between a man and woman, the society’s sexual ethic begins to descend. Sexual profligacy ensues, perversions increase, marriage and the natural family erode, and birth rates decline until the society is unable to sustain itself—all in the name of serving our own selfish desires.
© 2008 by S. Michael Craven
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S. Michael Craven is the founder and President of the Center for Christ & Culture
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.