Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Gay Marriage and Miscegenation

Noah Millman has a brilliant take on why gay marriage is a big deal for many American Christians, and how the issue resembles the fight over interracial marriage. After reviewing the rapid progress of Civil Rights in America from 1954 to 1971, he writes:
Considering the depth and longevity of official white supremacy in American history, we broke with the past with what one might call “all deliberate speed,” and moved quickly to moral condemnation even though huge numbers of people stubbornly refused to change their no-longer-respectable views.

Now, I’m not arguing that the analogy is a good one in all respects. In particular, the social and legal disabilities that gay people and black people suffered under in American history are wildly disparate in their operation and effects. I’m just saying that the end of legal and social support for miscegenation in America was radical. It didn’t radically redefine what marriage was – but it radically redefined what the United States was. It made it impossible to argue that the United States was a country by and for white people, and arguing that the United States was precisely such a country had a long, long history in America.
Gay marriage, he says, is also a question about the sort of country we live in:
I am suspicious of claims that gay marriage radically redefines marriage as such. It seems to me instead that it’s a capstone achievement of the “Romeo and Juliet revolution” that treats marriage as rooted in love, and that sees its legal purpose as an institution for mutual aid and responsibility between individuals (particularly for child-rearing), rather than as a means of securing legitimacy for heirs and the continuity of extended family lines – and, not at all incidentally, of the feminist revolution that questions any distinction between “natural” male and female roles as likely to be a way of enforcing an inegalitarian distribution of power.

But gay marriage may, in fact, make it extremely difficult for traditional Christians to continue to think of the United States as a Christian country. Which, notwithstanding that equality for non-Christian citizens goes all the way back to the founding, we have a long, long history of thinking of this country as being. That, I think, is where the radicalism of gay marriage really lies, for America’s many conservative Christians. And if I’m right, then the potency of the analogy with miscegenation may not be so weak after all.


G. Verloren said...

The collapse of America's de facto privileging of Christians is long overdue, especially given the de jure secularity of the nation's founding almost two and a half centuries ago.

I'll be curious to see how the Christian element handles the final collapse of their ivory tower. It's been slowly crumbling for years now, and judging by their hysteria, they seem to recognize the general situation they're in. They're terrified of losing their historic special treatment - horrified by the thought of being reduced to a state of mere equality with others.

What remains to be seen is what extreme measures they end up taking while attempting to cling to their fading place in the sun. After all, the bloodiest conflict ever fought on American soil was born from people desperately clinging to a system of unfair and immoral privilege and power over others whom they viewed as lesser. With yet another such system of privilege rapidly crumbling around them, there's always the real potential for violence from such a historically belligerent group.

pootrsox said...

Mr. or Ms Verloren, I agree with you here-- as I do on virtually everything you post :)

I love the "horrified by the thought of being reduced to a state of mere *equality* with others" statement. I think it cuts to the very heart of their position.

nerowolfgal said...

I also completely agree with both the post and Verloren's comment. The trouble can be that desperate people tend to become more strident and extreme, sometimes even violent. Truth and good sense, let alone common courtesy disappear.