My Sunday School teacher made an insightful statement last week that is applicable to the Marriage Protection Amendment discussion. Teaching on one of Israel’s kings, Ahab, who wanted another man’s only vineyard despite the fact that he didn’t really need it, my teacher said “If Ahab had thought logically, he would have realized he did not need the vineyard for use as a vegetable garden at his summer palace. But he wasn’t thinking logically, he was thinking carnally.” Usually carnal thinking is contrasted with spiritual thinking. I had never heard it contrasted with logical thinking, but it makes sense. Sometimes our personal desires can be so strong that they overrule not only our knowledge of Scripture, our consciences, and the Holy Spirit, but they also overrule and defy clear logic. We see this many times in ministry. What is logically clear to almost anyone about a particular course of action is often never clear to the one contemplating that action. Time after time we sadly watch people end their marriages, cheat on their spouses, or wade into internet emotional affairs, and then be surprised at the result. Human beings have an incredible capacity for creating their own personal fiction and believing it.
Sometimes fiction is created and even promoted to society at large. Social experiments are undertaken in which traditional institutions are abandoned, man usurps the place of God, and then the world is surprised at the disastrous results. The most stunning example of this is the rise of Nazism in Germany and the accompanying genocide of more than 6 million people based primarily on race. In Hitler’s totalitarian state, traditional religion and traditional education were no longer promoted. Hitler was free to perform his horrendous social experimentation, costing not only the lives of the six million murdered by his regime, but millions more civilians in war and almost one half million Americans in combat during World War II.
In the old days, the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party was attributed to economic conditions in Germany. Scholars in more recent years have realized that economic conditions alone could never explain the tolerance of the rank and file German citizenry for Hitler’s rhetoric and policies. These scholars have turned their attention to ideologies that gained prominence in the early 20th century and have concluded that the influence of these ideologies played a definite part in certain movements, including Nazism. Darwinian evolution, its application to society known as Social Darwinism, and the ultimate expression of Social Darwinism, eugenics, played an important role in preparing the minds of the populace to accept Hitler and his evil ideas. To read one of many articles on eugenics and Nazi Germany, go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website and read “The Biological State: Nazi Racial Hygiene, 1933-1939.”
Eugenics replaces the belief that all life is created by God and therefore sacred with the belief that man is a bundle of chromosomes and nothing more. As such, “good” bundles of chromosomes should be encouraged to reproduce with other “good” bundles and “bad” chromosomes should be weeded out in some fashion. Genocide is the most extreme example of this weeding out, but even here in North Carolina the belief in eugenics led to the sterilization of people whom state or county officials determined to be inferior through the Eugenics Board of NC, which operated from 1933 to 1977. It is worth noting that sterilization was also viewed as a money-saving device to prevent increased welfare costs. Sometimes these sterilizations were done against the will of the individual being sterilized. Mecklenburg County had the largest sterilization program in the state, sterilizing 485 people of the 7,000 sterilized in NC. Today North Carolina is ashamed of its eugenics program and a task force has recommended paying reparations to the victims of the program. At the time, however, the eugenics program was the pride and joy of the intellectual elite. Hanes Hosiery and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco got together with other powerful business interests and formed a group called the Human Betterment League. The League published glossy brochures touting the eugenics program as a way to rid society of “morons.”
Why do I cite this example? I want to illustrate the point that the conservative, traditional position is not always the wrong position. As eugenics rose to philosophical prominence in the early 20th century, creationists were ridiculed and the intellectual elite abandoned the church and traditional morality. Without a foundation of traditional morality, anything man could engineer for the supposed betterment of society was game, including the practices associated with eugenics and ultimately Nazi Germany. Because the social movement foremost in most Americans’ minds is civil rights, a struggle in which the radicals were the ones who got it right going all the way back to the abolition of slavery, many Americans cannot conceive that the more liberal or radical position can also sometimes be wrong. It can be, and has been, wrong.
Many times society jumps on ideological bandwagons without anticipating the logical results. Anyone 50 and under has lived with changing sexual mores and corresponding changes in our legal code. As attitudes toward sex became more casual and self was exalted to godhood in the 1970’s, divorce became easier and abortion was legalized. I remember the 1970’s summer that many sets of parents in my neighborhood got divorced. I felt a growing sense of terror that my parents might be next. (They weren’t.) These were people in their thirties and forties, born just after the “Greatest Generation” or right at the beginning of the boomers. Certainly most of them grew up in two-parent homes. Those at the younger end of the spectrum were perhaps spoiled a bit by parents who remembered the difficulties of the Depression and the WWII years. I don’t think much serious thought was given to the effects of their decisions on their children. There was no research because this was a new phenomenon. The old-time preachers talked a lot about the fall of the Roman Empire, but that was not considered particularly relevant in 1975. Today we know the results, and they are not pretty. Higher poverty rates, higher incarceration rates, higher rates of suicide and depression have been the price children have paid for higher divorce rates.
With the legalization of abortion came the need to address the abortion question in school. I shudder when I think about how glibly we debated the pros and cons of abortion in my 9th grade health class. As anyone who has been a 9th grader knows, under the best of circumstances mature discussion does not come easily, nor does mature understanding. Did adults in the culture honestly think we were mature enough to drink at 18, have sex at 16, abort the result and come out unscathed? Even we teenagers had sense enough to realize that wasn’t the case, but often that understanding came only after the price had been paid through painful personal experience.
Today society as a whole has jumped on the ideological bandwagon that every social institution needs to be re-framed in terms of individual rights, and that homosexuals are an oppressed minority. The difference between those of us who will support the Marriage Protection Amendment and those who oppose it comes down to whether or not we will jump on that bandwagon. In other words, what we believe about the inherent nature of sexual orientation and what we believe about the sanctity of marriage as it has been traditionally defined should be the determining factors in whether we vote for or against Amendment One. Rabbi Judy Schindler, a leader of the opposition to the Marriage Protection Amendment, is a good example of a person whom I can respect due to her consistent position, even though I disagree with it. She has publicly stated the same thing. If one has come to the conclusion that sexual orientation is an inborn characteristic, he or she will fight to have every social institution re-engineered to be gay-friendly. Rabbi Schindler has actively protested and even accompanied gay couples out of state to do their weddings. At least this is logical, unlike the op-eds I am sick to death of reading that scream in one sentence, “THE MARRIAGE AMENDMENT DISCRIMINATES AGAINST GAYS!!!” followed by the whispery-sounding “and besides we already have a law against gay marriage.” If being gay is the same as being black or being female shouldn’t you fight to overturn the existing law that denies marriage to homosexuals? Shouldn’t these op-ed pieces scream “THE MARRIAGE AMENDMENT DISCRIMINATES AGAINST GAYS AND WHILE WE’RE AT IT, LET’S DO IT AWAY WITH THE 1996 LAW BANNING GAY MARRIAGE!!”?
Actually, that is exactly what will happen if the Marriage Protection Amendment, or Amendment One, fails. There has already been an organized protest in Asheville called “We-Do” in which gay couples were called upon to flood the Buncombe County registrar with requests for marriage licenses, which then would have to be denied. This sets the stage for the filing of a lawsuit, making the 1996 NC law banning same sex marriage vulnerable to be overturned by the judicial branch of the state government. In states where this pattern has been followed and the state law overturned, state supreme courts almost always find something in the state constitution that guarantees equal protection, and if the justices operate from the position that being gay is an inherent quality, they will rule for equal protection every time.
And it is this idea--that being gay is an inherent quality-- that I beg anyone reading this to deeply, deeply consider. The millennial generation has been so exposed in so many ways to the idea that people are born gay that it is difficult to get even the most conservative among them to consider an alternative. Oprah-watchers have heard a parade of folks come and go who chant the “born-this-way” mantra. I watched one day as Oprah interviewed a victim of sexual molestation who had been told by the secular psychiatrist treating him that he was NOT gay, but had an attraction to gay sex as part of the aftermath of the same-sex molestation. She seemed determined to make the man admit that he was in fact gay! This is a good example of how an idea can powerfully take hold against all reason. Who is Oprah to disagree with a professional psychiatrist who had a patient in treatment for many years? Do we have adequate proof that anyone is actually born gay? Conversely, are there any signs that pushing a gay agenda to the broader culture will warp the thinking of the culture and its young people and do more harm than good?
I believe the answer to this last question is “yes,” and I would like to explain why. I would like the other side of this debate to at least afford me the respect that I am thinking about this and have agonized over trying to get to the truth. For the last 24 years I have been raising children and for 15 years I taught middle school. My husband is in ministry and so I have had the opportunity to hear from many people and know their personal stories. I have been around all types of people and probably have known more people in the underclass personally than most of the affluent people in Charlotte. I’m not afraid of people who are different than I am, and I am not afraid to hear and think about ideas that are different from my own. I’m not a Rush-Limbaugh rabid conservative and I hate the kind of political/entertainment media in which people just scream over each other constantly. But I have serious, serious concerns about advancing the “gay agenda” for the following reasons based on my personal observations over the past twenty years.
First, any Christian of any age needs call the belief that people are born gay what it is: the belief that God created people gay. You cannot believe in a Creator God and claim to believe in the authority of Scripture and also believe that being gay is a state into which one is born. These are incompatible positions. The only position set forth in the Bible is that homosexual behavior, like all forms of sexual behavior, is a choice. People are born with a gender, male or female. What they do with their sexuality is up to them. There is a strong New Testament correlation between the inflammation of lust in individuals and society and an increase in all forms of what the Bible calls “sexual immorality.” I refer you to Romans and 1 Corinthians for further study.
As sexuality has been forced upon children who are not even into puberty, I fear confusion has resulted. A friend of my children’s has just “come out” on a blog. He states that he knew he liked boys in third grade. This makes me want to cry! All boys “like boys” in third grade. All girls “like girls” in third grade. It is the stage of their child development in which same-sex, non-sexual friendships are the norm. Opposite-sex sexual attraction should develop at some point through the changes associated with puberty. But our culture tries to make ten year old girls into sirens and consequently we have them so messed up that they go on you-tube asking “Am I ugly?” and letting a sick public vote and comment. I fear that many awkward tweens and teens who in days gone by would have been late-bloomers but would have developed heterosexual preferences are being led into experimentation with the same sex at younger ages due to the obsession with sex that dominates our culture. This creates the illusion that they are “gay.”
Along the same lines, when emotionally immature individuals are inundated with sexual ideas and content, they stereotype, leading to bullying. This same young man blogs about being exposed to pornography and also being called names in high school because he was artsy. When I have pressed members of the millennial generation (born after 1985) about gay friends they often back down from the path of least resistance, which is “born that way,” and admit that their “gay” friend used to like the opposite sex, but experienced so much rejection and bullying for being artsy, gentle, you name it, that when the gay community accepted him he became gay. I fear the promotion of the gay agenda and the legitimate attempt to help those who are being bullied has perhaps had the unintentional effect of causing more rigid stereotyping among emotionally immature teens, leading some to believe that they are gay when they are not.
As sexual activity has become more explicit and graphic in the media, along with a blurring of the boundaries between heterosexuality and homosexuality in sexual expression, lust has been fueled, warping the sexuality of young people. If you want to see the most terrifying movie of recent years, forget “Paranormal Activity” and watch “The Social Network,” set at Harvard University and in California and telling the story of Facebook’s founders. The ruthlessness of the younger generation with one another, their love of status and money, and the generally pathetic state of the women in the movie will make you want to lock your daughters in a closet. In one scene two girls have to make out with each other as part of losing a game of poker at some kind of fraternity party. I don’t know how accurate that scene was to life at Harvard, but it was inserted into a critically-acclaimed movie. How many teenagers watch such scenes, hear songs like Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It” or see music videos that simply fuel lust for sex with the same or the opposite sex?
As homosexuality has moved into the mainstream of education, well-meaning teachers and counselors have jumped on the “gay” bandwagon. Mary Forrester, whose late husband was a leader in the NC legislature’s fight to get Amendment One on the ballot for the people to decide, told a story recently as she spoke at a Concerned Women of America conference. Her grandson, who lives in California, came home and told his mother that he “might be gay.” When she asked why he thought so, he told her that his teacher had said that “we all might be gay” and that each of them should think about it. I have heard many and much more heart-breaking stories along these lines that I am not at liberty to share publicly, including cases in which counselors have convinced young people that they are gay, despite their dislike of gay sex.
Lastly, I have come to the conclusion that sexual abuse is far more pervasive in American society than anyone is willing to think or talk about. Having criticized Oprah earlier, I will give her, along with Tyler Perry, credit for trying to make us think about the issue of sexual molestation and its life-altering effects. Virtually every woman I have ever known in what we would call the underclass has been sexually abused. The only lesbian that I have really spent a lot of time with was sexually abused by a man. An NC pastor told my husband that every lesbian he knew had been molested. How many gay men think that they are gay because their first sexual experience was with a man who reached out to them with unwanted advances?
Marriage, as the rare institution society promotes, legitimizes relationships and sends a powerful public and legal message to the culture at large. Legalizing gay marriage specifically sends the message that people are born gay, that they are an oppressed minority that deserves special civil rights protection, and that homosexual relationships are the norm just as heterosexual relationships are the norm. Passage of Amendment One, or the Marriage Protection Amendment, places the sanctity of marriage in our state constitution where it can only be un-done by another vote of the people. I believe this is a necessary step, not because I hate or want to discriminate, but because I have grave concerns that, like earlier ideologies, the untested waters of redefining marriage will prove perilous in ways we never expected.
 Rose, Julie, “A Brutal Chapter in North Carolina’s Eugenics Past” NPR.
Thu, April 26, 2012
by Beth Harris