The Right to Rites, and What Ever Happened to the Gay Marriage Debate?
Last week I wrote about a new case in Oregon wherein a would-be foster mother was denied the privilege because she was deemed an unfit mother with an unfit home, according to the established religion of Oregon. The mother in question is a Christian and she refused to affirm, as part of her foster/adoption application, that she would raise children in an affirming home, i.e., she would not commit to brainwashing them with queer dogma or facilitate the sacrifice of their flesh to the god of liberatory androgyny. I employed some Fustel (Ancient City) to show that instruction in and perpetuation of religion is, even in the ancient world, inseparable from parenthood. It’s part of the job. The Bible says so too. Our law still protects this right, for the time being, at least for natural parents, for now—part of my point was that the slippery slope is currently being greased. We instinctively know it.
My argument was not meant to be comprehensive but polemical, geared toward several provisional arguments, and concentrating on the constitution of familial life to draw out contradictions.
The basic, universal point is that if parents are not inculcating religion they are not parenting and if a family is irreligious, it is not properly a family, only analogously so. Just as Richard Baxter said a commonwealth is only rightly so called if it is oriented to true religion, and that those built on false religion or irreligion, insofar as the latter exists, are only analogously participatory in the essence of commonwealth.
And so, Fustel’s documentation combined with history and tradition of our own country combined with true religion of Christianity equals a proper family in every way, one serviceable to the nation because it is rightly ordered internally. That the family is the foundational socio-political unit, a precursor to and microcosm of, larger units is a basic Aristotelian insight that needs no explication here. (Interaction and interrelation between the little commonwealth and the large commonwealth, or the little church and the larger church, is a separate and later question.)
I did not suggest in my piece that the question of which religion was irrelevant, only that to deny Bates (the Oregon mom) her pedagogical duty was to deny her true parenthood. The two go together. The regime knows this. That’s why they’re doing it. It’s a very forward looking, shrewd sorting strategy too. But I won’t say anything of any replacement theories, of course. That would be crazy. What I will say, as alluded to already, is that the slope is, indeed, slippery. That’s how these things work. If the Oregon DHS policy is not defeated now, and on the basis of what I’m laying out as the proper family, it will soon—sooner than most expect—apply to the natural as well as the adoptive family. Note too that the fact that Bates is, in her case, only attempting to foster and not necessarily adopt, is irrelevant. The same DHS application applies to both scenarios; the same standard is applied to either case. For all intents and purposes, then, we are talking about adoption.
Now, none of this negates a state interest, in this private aspect of religious practice and childrearing, even as there is tolerance. (Ignore, for now, the somewhat artificial bifurcation of public and private.) There are always limits. The only question is one of standards and metrics.
The state has a legitimate interest, of course, in screening adoptive parents. It will do so according to established religion and morality. This is unavoidable. Again, the point I was making is that you can’t have parenthood without religious pedagogy, the perpetuation of the sacred fire.
So, when you deny religious instruction around the hearth you deny parenthood, full stop. Even if, let’s say, Bates had agreed against her conscience to the stipulations in the Oregon DHS application and then gritted her teeth and abided by them while providing all other maintenance for the foster children, she would not, properly speaking, be parenting. For she would not be perpetuating her household gods.
The foster or adopted children would not properly be initiated into the family—Fustel deals with adoption too. Moreover, to draw out internal contradictions in predominant thought, the piece was meant to challenge anti-Christian nationalists. What if the standard was Christianity? You would all howl in righteous indignation. That challenge is for people who still deny the inescapability of the which not whether choice always and everywhere before us.
But all this, at a grander level, is not just about Bates. Her case is illustrative of system level problems already mentioned. The regime is shrinking its range of toleration, and that regarding a key vector of evangelism, so to speak, of the previously predominant and therefore competitor religion. Smart move on part of the regime. People should recognize this. And while I am sympathetic, obviously, to “religious liberty” arguments for the sake of immediate and pressing goals, people should also recognize the relatively short, remaining life expectancy of said arguments. They were designed for a different world and, in some respects, contain the demise of Christian America within them, even as they were coded Christian from the beginning. You either like that end result or you don’t, but if you don’t then you are in a pickle. And this goes even for those less assertive than Christian nationalists. I mean those who still make the Christianity is necessary for liberal democracy and religious liberty but can’t be enforced argument.
In any case, and in this way, the responses went right where I wanted them to: the recognition of the inescapability of establishment. What we have in Oregon is not religion versus irreligion, two competing religions. One is simply armed with the veneer of normativity and assumption—the mark of establishment.
Now, we must arrive at what prompted this expansion of commentary. The very welcome question raised by one poster is a good one. The anonymous eigenrobot wrote an interesting response thread to my initial piece.
Namely, especially in the case of foster parenting, this is exactly when the state’s interest—on the front end, so to speak—is most heightened, given that the transfer being requested is not that of a natural child to state custody, but of a ward of the state to citizen custody. Indeed, the burden of proof is on the applicant-parent to demonstrate fitness, and there will always be a standard for that. And it will conform to the established religion, even a soft or loose one.
Eigenrobot also rightly criticizes the pursuit of a “rootless cosmopolitan god,” by which I take him to mean the sort of amalgam of personalized, privatized, voluntarist “faiths” that, even if Christian in expression, provide limited if any socio-political cohesion. And, we both agree, that cohesion that can only be provided by shared (and established) religion is indispensable to society. I do not think its cynical to talk about the sociological and political function of religion. Such considerations are necessitated by the acknowledgment of the indispensability of establishment. Societies, nations, require shared moral vision and standards of virtue for the sake, at bare minimum, of trustworthy interactions and decision making. Yet again, something will always supply this. We simply live in a moment of conflict between the old standard and the new. Of course, as Tom Holland and others have shown, the old standard can never be completely shed but it can be adulterated and repurposed. E. Digby Baltzell, considering history generally, noted the same: the past isn’t totally discarded, and nothing is exactly new.
But on all or most of this, eigenrobot and myself agree. His comments on “Catholicism” dealing with—absorbing—many ancient pagan practices and the like is a little narrow. I’d quibble there that pre-Reformation, the right way to think about the organ of assimilation is western Christianity, not Catholicism. Moreover, I’d insist on referring to post-Reformation “Catholicism” as Papism or Romanism not for pejorative purposes but for accurate representation of the causes of sixteenth century western fracture, the commitments of the magisterial Reformers (their precursors and progeny), and post-Trent, Counter Reformation emphases. But that’s off topic. What he points out is true if crudely stated. Anyway, the primary position eigenrobot is taking is more or less the inevitability of state religion. On this we violently agree. The real inquiry is as I sketched above, viz., the replacement of Christianity with the new egalitarian secular sex cult.
I’ve cited William Prynne on these dynamics before. Even Nebuchadnezzar was right in principle to punish blasphemy, heresy, and etc., he was just wrong in the object. This is inevitable and analogously, in the case of Oregon, good. The only question is one of true religion. That said, I renew my position that what Oregon is doing is not simply facilitating foster care but denying proper parenthood to Christians. That should not shock people at this juncture, but it should scare them. The passivity of Neutral World will not save them.
A Foregone Conclusion
Not unrelated to the foregoing is the news last week that Kim Davis, the Kentucky woman who was jailed in 2015 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay people in the wake of Obergefell, is being forced to pay over $200,000 in legal fees to the “couple” that sued her. This, in addition to the $100,000 in damages she has already paid.
If you don’t believe there’s always an established religion and that religion itself is, in a sense, constitutive of other alleged “pre-political” associations—a term I typically reject as nonsensical but use here colloquially—see above. If you still don’t believe blasphemy laws are similarly perennial, keep reading.
Things undebated, unquestioned, and unchallenged are the things that are thoroughly engrained in societal expectations. They are things we, consciously or not, build our way of life around. They are part of us because they are accepted, expected, and supply common notions that are intricate to the public reason. They are fully codified, we might say.
It’s not inconceivable that something so thoroughly embedded could change, but it’s kind of like changing what side of the road we drive on. It’s not bothering anybody. Why change it? What’s the fruitfulness of debating it? And, to invoke Baltzell again, backlash to certain new entries to the public, moral lexicon do not demonstrate weakness in the establishment. Indeed, some level of resistance, protest, and even violence are not evidence of a teetering regime but a strong one. There’s some threshold where these dynamics flip, but you take my point. Thus far, an acceptable level of resistance was felt and then absorbed.
“Conservatives”—another term for which I have diminishing tolerance—see no need to make a stink about gay marriage today, at least not at actionable scale. This means the issue is thoroughly embedded in the public reason. It makes sense and is unquestioned in any real sense. Even if some people don’t like it there are now bigger fish to fry, fish that coalitions can be built around. And so, the root cause, the first defeat and its externalities, is forgotten.
Or pick a more morally charged issue. Even among the real deal white supremacists—i.e., not pocket Nazis or proponents of academic standards—or actual lost-cause neo-Confederates—i.e., not people who have ever said anything favorable about Jefferson Davis (no relation to Kim)—you don’t see efforts to revive chattel slavery, at least as far as I know. There might be segregation suggestions, but slavery seems like a moot point, at least in our part of the world and if we forget about trafficking across the open southern border. What would be the point of debating it at all? Everyone is favorable toward, or comfortable and accepting of, where we’re at.
Gay marriage is getting that way, even in “conservative” circles. At this stage, some of our best friends are gay. Some of them are “parenting” themselves, with a little help from their friendly neighborhood surrogate. Some of them are anti-woke! They are celebrated.
Post-Obergefell, the debate was over. And no one got hurt. David French assures us that religious liberty is secure, second-class parallel society is open for business. Well, almost no one. Kim Davis is a forgotten martyr. But the rest was a velvet revolution to the extent that it is almost boring to talk about “the marriage issue” now.
Curious too is that even if SCOTUS decisions are theoretically expected to be definitive, they usually aren’t. See Roe v. Wade. Almost immediately after it came down from on high, counter campaigns started. We see no such thing materializing around Obergefell. The frontline is occupied with keeping transgenderism out of school curriculum and bathrooms. Notice how limited or concentrated this stage of the “culture war” is. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter, but it does demonstrate how the presentation of the most extreme frontiers of the sexual revolution have a way of making prior advances palatable. Explanatory options available suggest that this is either a near fatal overreach by the revolution or a strategic excess designed to solidify past gains. Maybe it’s a little of both. The only purpose of pointing all this out here is to remind everyone what stands behind current attempted advances. If the prerequisites for said advances are continually ceded in retrospect enemy progress is almost guaranteed. This is just a reminder of how rapidly and how far public discourse has moved over the past decade. Not an encouraging thought. Even the Vatican is falling in line, little by little.
All that to say, Christians need to renew their resolve against the degradation and mockery of marriage. Yes, this includes no-fault divorce, unfettered access to contraception, and all the rest. These things should be thought of not only as causally related but as a sort of policy package. The reason the state of Oregon will eventually, assuming the continuance of the current trajectory, start taking kids from Christian parents is because of—inseparable from—these prior advances. The establishment can only get more assertive and brash as these advances stack up and are accepted as a fact of life by dissenters. Don’t accept them.
Image Credit: Pierre-Antoine DeMachy, Une Exécution capitale, place de la Révolution, 1793.