Gay marriage is not primarily about gay marriage; it’s mainly about silencing gay consciences.
Given that so few homosexuals and lesbians actually marry when given legal opportunity, their vigorous and often vicious campaign for gay marriage has always puzzled me. After reading Brendan O’Neill’s The Trouble With Gay Marriage, I’m puzzled no more. Although O’Neill doesn’t approach this from a Christian perspective, his post-referendum article on the Republic of Ireland’s move to legalize gay marriage shines a bright light on the ultimate aim of most gay marriage campaigners – and it’s not gay marriage.
Validation and Recognition
O’Neill begins by noticing how little talk or commentary there actually was about gay marriage in the aftermath of the “Yes” vote. As he puts it, “Instead of saying ‘We can finally get married’, the most common response to the referendum result from both the leaders of the Yes campaign and their considerable army of supporters in the media and political classes has been: ‘Gays have finally been validated.’ All the talk was of ‘recognition’, not marriage.”
He then piles up quotation upon quotation to prove his point. For example:
- Ireland’s deputy PM Joan Burton said the Yes vote was about ‘acceptance in your own country’.
- Writing in the Irish Examiner, a psychotherapist said ‘the referendum was about more than marriage equality… it was about validation and full acceptance [of gay people]’.
- PM Enda Kenny also said the referendum was about more than marriage — it was a question of gay people’s ‘fragile and deeply personal hopes [being] realised’.
- In the words of novelist Joseph O’Connor, the Yes vote was an act of ‘societal empathy’ with a section of the population.
- The official Yes campaign went so far as to describe the Yes victory as a boost for the health and wellbeing of all Irish citizens, especially gay ones.
- A writer for the Irish Times described his gay friends’ pre-referendum ‘nagging shadow’, a ‘feeling that [they are] less somehow’, and he claimed the Yes victory finally confirmed for them that they now enjoy society’s ‘support, kindness and respect’.
- Fintan O’Toole said the Yes victory was about making gays feel ‘fully acknowledged’.
- ‘My country has acknowledged that we exist’, said a gay Irish businessman.
Feel Good Vote
O’Neill says that “in short, the Yes result made people feel good,” and that what was sought was “not really the right to marry but rather social and cultural validation of one’s lifestyle — ‘societal empathy’ — particularly from the state.” He highlights older literature on gay marriage which also demonstrated that “early agitators for gay marriage seemed to be primarily concerned with ‘relieving adult anxiety.’”
Why is this state-sanctioned validation, empathy, acceptance, acknowledgment and approval so important to gay marriage campaigners? Why is it far more important than actually being allowed to marry?
The answer lies in Romans 1:18-32, where the Apostle Paul explains what desperate measures that homosexuals (and other unrepentant sinners) take to silence the voice of their conscience. They hear God’s prohibition and condemnation in their consciences, hate it, and do everything they can to shut it up – including, in our own day, getting gay marriage legalized everywhere, even if relatively few ever make use of it. Because, in most cases, it’s not about the right to marry; it’s mainly a vain attempt to muffle the inner voice of conscience by multiplying and amplifying external voices of approval.
If I’m wrong, then why don’t they leave alone the alleged minority who still disapprove of gay marriage. Why will they not tolerate any dissenters? Gay activists have got the media on their side, they’ve got the entertainment industry on their side, they’ve got the education establishment on their side, they’ve got corporate America on their side, they’ve got most politicians on their side, and most courts and judges too. Is that not enough? If they are so sure of the rightness of their cause, why can’t they tolerate even a few voices here and there that still insist, “This is wrong”?
There’s hardly any group in the world that has the level of public acceptance, validation, approval, and empathy now enjoyed by homosexuals. They’ve certainly got far more recognition, protection, and promotion than evangelical Christians anywhere. So why can’t they leave such Christians alone? What more do they want or need?
Only Romans 1:18-32 can explain this. In effect it says that even if gay marriage is legalized everywhere, and even if every dissenting voice is extinguished, gay consciences will still scream “Wrong!” and “Guilty!” Deep inside they will still know “the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death” (Rom. 1:32). That’s the “nagging shadow” that forever stalks gay consciousness.
Peace Through the Cross
The Christian message to the gay community is to give up this futile attempt to secure peace of conscience through the courts, the media, and millions of crosses on ballot papers. Far better to bring such pained consciences to the cross of Christ for full healing and permanent silencing by God Himself, through faith and repentance. That will do a far better job of removing anxiety, shadows, and fears than any amount of referenda or baker and florist bankruptcies. It will also open the way to experience the immeasurable length, depth, and height of the love of God.
And for Christians who are suffering or who will yet suffer the consequences of societal or state disapproval over this issue, take confidence from the power of a good conscience. We are mocked, disapproved, belittled, sidelined, caricatured, and rejected more than any other group in society. We are called bigots, homophobes, and haters. But having a good conscience through which God speaks His approval and acceptance of us means we can continue to stand for what is right and true no matter how many voices of intolerance and hate yell at us.