George Hood’s outline of the secular parallel to the conflict in the Episcopal Church–and specifically the secession of the Diocese of San Joaquin–is a theme that bears more coverage than it gets in the Anglican/Episcopal world. The whole row is a microcosm of the culture wars that now have a global dimension. That is due in large measure to the decision of the Episcopal Church to conform itself to the culture around it, a decision that is nearly four decades old now.
But, to be truthful, marriage has been under attack for a long time. Gay marriage is just one more step in a long term campaign to weaken civil marriage. Up until now we have the following attacks:
- Allowing conjugal relations outside of marriage. According to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, conjugal relations are one reason for marrying. By allowing these relations outside of marriage, two things are accomplished. The first is that it enables people to skip marriage if they want to have sex. The second is that we have to backtrack and define some sexual relations as unlawful and some as not, which is why we have the mess with relations between young people and adults that we do. Once you breach the boundary of marriage, any boundary you set–and that includes sodomy–is strictly artificial and a function of the taste of the moment. We discussed this earlier in the context of the Mark Foley fiasco.
- "No-fault" divorce. This was hailed as a great legal step forward when it was legalised, but easy exit marriage debased the institution in an enormous way. It was supposed to be liberating for everyone, but women have taken the hardest blow from it; it’s just too easy for a guy to skip out on his obligations. At this point the only meaningful impediments to divorce are the financial obligations imposed at dissolution such as alimony (which doesn’t exist everywhere,) child custody/support and the division of property.
- Requiring equal status for illegitimate children. This is one of those things that looks great on paper but has some unintended consequences. It may not be fair to those who came into this world under a cloud not of their own making, but doing this simply opens the door for people to have children without a spouse (and more often than not without the means to raise them properly.) We have added injury to insult in this matter by wasting precious courtroom time on parental rights for those who didn’t bother to get married but suddenly want all of the rights of fatherhood or motherhood of a child they had little interest in before.
It’s not a very happy reflection on the reasserters that a) they waited so many years to act on problems that have been going on for a such a long time in the Episcopal Church and b) they allowed the consecration of Vickie Gene Robinson to detonate the movement we have now. But there’s a lesson for the rest of us: "God and country" Evangelicals are vulnerable too, as they are too eager to be pleasing to the culture and too confident that the culture will turn their way. But, as anyone watching this election will attest to, that’s not a given.