Ron Dreher, back in April, explained the battle over Same Sex Marriage cuts very deeply into the culture, about as deeply as its possible to go.
What makes our own era different from the past, says [Philip] Rieff [in The Triumph of the Therapeutic (1966)], is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.
Rather, in the modern era, we have inverted the role of culture. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions.
How this came to be is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism, the advent of the Enlightenment, and the coming of modernity. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his magisterial religious and cultural history A Secular Age, â€œThe entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).â€ To be modern is to believe in oneâ€™s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.
Gradually the West lost the sense that Christianity had much to do with civilizational order, Taylor writes. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and goodâ€”the more of it, the betterâ€”and that sexual desire was intrinsic to oneâ€™s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.
To Rieff, ours is a particular kind of â€œrevolutionary epochâ€ because the revolution cannot by its nature be institutionalized. Because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge of binding truths transcending the individual, the revolution cannot establish a stable social order. As Rieff characterizes it, â€œThe answer to all questions of â€˜what forâ€™ is â€˜moreâ€™.â€
Our post-Christian culture, then, is an â€œanti-culture.â€ We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.
Gay marriage signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology. In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation. This is why gay marriage negates Christian cosmology, from which we derive our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Whether we can keep them in the post-Christian epoch remains to be seen.
A must read.