New Booklet: How Did We Get Here?

The Davenant Institute has just published a new Davenant Digest by me, on the subject of the causes for our current sexual landscape. You can get a free online copy by subscribing to the Davenant email list or you can buy a print copy here.

The romantic tradition of the West has been widely characterized by a narrow focus upon a love disentangled from all external ends, necessities, persons, sociality, history, laws, constraints, and duties—indeed, romantic love has often been accentuated precisely by pitting it against all such things. It should not surprise us that the movement for same-sex marriage has trafficked heavily upon the conformity of same-sex couples to our ideals of the purity of romantic love. In campaigns for same-sex marriage, marriage has been fairly consistently presented as a form of lifestyle choice for individuals, rather than as a social institution with norms and duties to which everyone must submit themselves. While such social norms and constraints have found much of their rationale in the natural ordering of the sexual union of man and woman to a greater telos than the couple’s private ends, without such a complicating natural end, same-sex unions can represent the liberal ideal of releasing marriage from external social norms and the championing of chosen bespoke models of marriage.

The connection of marriage with a vision of self-realization and expression ought to be appreciated here too. For our culture, marriage can be focused upon self-realization, social status, and its ideals of high levels of consumption. The extravagant and romantic wedding, in which a couple gush aspirational sentiments at each other, surrounded with tasteful expressions of their families’ wealth and social status, has become the most prominent symbol of marriage. Once again, same-sex couples can conform far more effectively to our cultural visions of marriage as the idealized state of the consumer than many male and female couples can, not least because children more readily represent extensions of the logic of same-sex couples’ consumption than constraints upon it.

Get a copy to read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Culture, Davenant Institute, Ethics, My Books, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Technology, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to New Booklet: How Did We Get Here?

  1. evan773 says:

    If the two paragraphs you’ve quoted are representative of the booklet, I’m looking forward to reading it.

    I’m a conservative evangelical (PCA) who does not oppose same-sex marriage. I arrived at that view because I concluded that same-sex marriage is generally consistent with the views of opposite-sex marriage that our culture—including conservative Christians—adopted decades ago. Truth be told, we ditched traditional marriage decades ago, and few seem to be in any hurry to return to it. I’ve been to two marriages ecently of conservative Christians recently. Both ceremonies focused almost exclusively on secular notions of romance, and the price tags for each weekend’s events likely exceeed 150,000 USD, not including the guests’ travel and lodging expenditures. Both wedding weekends were grotesque displays of conspicuous consumption.

    Even so, most evangelical arguments against same-sex marriage turned a blind eye to the devolution of our marriage practices over the past 7-8 decades. It was always unclear to me how guys like Al Mohler, Rod Dreher, Ryan Anderson, and Denny Burk proffered these arguments with a straight face. For the most part, they were judging same-sex marriage for its failure to live up to a standard that we evangelicals stopped imposing onto opposite-sex couples decades ago. No one with a functioning neuron or two could ever take such arguments seriously. And those proffering such patently cynical arguments surely knew that they were engaging in pure casuistry. But they, like Donald Trump, answered to a constituency that simply wanted a one-sentence reason for opposing same-sex marriage, even if the reason itself was a lie.

    So, I’m encouraged by this booklet. At least it acknowledges what, in my view, is the strongest argument for permitting same-sex marriage, both in the wider culture and in the church. To my knowledge, this is the first evangelical publication since Carl Trueman’s 2013 “Yuck Factor” piece that admits that we evangelicals dumped traditional marriage long ago in favor of a consumeristic celebration of inwardly focused romantic love and [hetero]sexual attraction.

    I tend to believe that the underlying epigenetic phenomena that give rise to what we call homosexuality are fairly natural, as every tribe and society needs a certain number of people (probably around 10%) who are unbound by the duties of having and raising children. It’s no accident that notions of “homosexuality” arose at about the same time that marriage started to become an inwardly focused semi-isolated (nuclear) mini-institution centered around the parties’ romantic and heterosexual desires. As Michael Hannon noted in his excellent First Things pieces from 2014 and 2015, the emergence of homosexuality as a social phenomenon is largely a consequence of our culture’s embrace of heterosexuality as a social phenomenon.

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