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Martin Henry: Gay marriage and a titanic clash of cultures

Published:Friday | July 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMMartin Henry
Jim Obergefell, the man behind the landmark Supreme Court gay-marriage ruling, hugs Carrie Jacobs before a ceremonial wreath-laying at the Gay Pioneers historical marker across from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia last Thursday. Some 40 activists picketed for gay rights on July Fourth in 1965 at the site.

Yesterday, the Great American Republic commemorated another anniversary of its Declaration of Independence, the first since it has by judicial ruling declared itself a full-fledged homosexual state.
This Fourth of July is, therefore, an extremely significant one in the history of the republic. Several lesser states have preceded the United States in the legitimation of homosexual marriage in law. America is different. It is a great imperial state, the greatest in power and reach in the history of the world and the only extant superpower. And America is, by choice, a covenant state, even before the federating of colonies that were largely founded on grounds of religion and religious freedom.
The leader of the free world has, by ‘judicial putsch’ and executive affirmation, switched its ground of being. Many of the states of the US federation had already legitimated same-sex marriage in their laws, but this now is the national government providing sanction through the highest law of the land and the highest court of the land.
The five affirming justices of the US Supreme Court have grounded their judgment in the view that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry”, and “no longer may this liberty be denied”.
The four dissenting justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, are of the view that the majority judgment “has nothing to do with” the Constitution and “is a threat to American democracy”, short-circuiting as it does a legislative decision on the matter.
Rights have limits, both in number and scope. It is absolutely certain that the founding fathers had no intention of extending rights to homosexual rights. The handful of “unalienable” rights they envisaged men created equal as having were grounded in the endowment of “their Creator”.
In the setting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, there is no question that the referenced Creator was the Judaeo-Christian God as revealed in the Bible, although not all founders were practising Christians. James Madison, fourth president and a signatory of the Constitution, would later remark that the constitution of the United States was designed to govern a Christian people and was wholly inadequate to govern any other.
There is hardly anything the Christian scriptures rail against more than homosexual relations, except, perhaps, idolatry, both hallmarks of the modern age. Despite the intellectual contortions of apologists inside and outside the Christian faith community, including the contortions of the Christian president of the United States, there can be no honest reconciliation of homosexual ‘rights’ and the hard position of the Christian Scriptures against same-sex relations. Ultimately, one has to be routed by the other. It’s that stark.
Chai Feldblum, an American Equal Opportunity commissioner, puts it bluntly. “There [is] a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner. I’m having a hard time,” he confessed, “coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” That’s it. That’s an honest man.
Another specious argument repeated ad nauseam by otherwise intelligent people is that homosexuality is a private and personal matter between consenting adults with which the State ought not to interfere. There is nothing more public, and of greater public consequence in society, and no aspect of human behaviour more regulated in public law, from the most ancient times, than human sexual conduct. Including marriage and cross-species sex. A congressional vote a few years back intending to remove prohibition against sodomy in the US military ended up also removing the prohibition against bestiality.
When it comes to homosexuality, Christianity, the founding religion of the covenanted United States – ‘One Nation under God’ – is an aberration. Sharing company in explicitly prohibiting same-sex relations only with the other two Abrahamic monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam. All the other religions of the world embrace and regulate homosexuality, or at the least ignore it.
The ruling of the judicial branch of the Government of the United States last week committing the federal government to acknowledging homosexual marriage as a fundamental right is nothing short of a repudiation of one religious foundation for another for the nation. There is no non-religious state, not even the few atheistic ones, which have risen only in modern times and have quickly perished.
After Judaeo-Christianity, Greek and Roman civilisations have had the deepest impact on Western civilisation, which is now global civilisation. Deeply embedded in Greek culture was the practice of pederasty, or ‘boy love’, in which an older man shared homosexual relations with a pubescent or adolescent boy while serving as the boy’s mentor.
Roman law permitted free male Roman citizens to engage in homosexual relations in the penetrative role with male slaves and male prostitutes but were forbidden to be penetrated on pain of death.
President Obama, despite himself, described in unmistakable pagan mythological imagery the Supreme Court judgement as “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt”. Hurled by Zeus for the Greeks; by Jupiter for the Romans. There can be little doubt about the shifting of religious bases.
The homosexuality and bestiality practices of the Canaanites were roundly condemned in the Hebrew religion in the Old Testament. To the contrary, many ancient legal codes regulated, not condemned, bestiality.
With the United States now assuming the lead, the world is heading back to ancient pre-Christian times in the regulation of human sexuality. No, exceeding the ancients. No matter how deeply one digs, there is no ancient culture that can be identified, no people group, ancient or modern, however  primitive and ‘uncivilised’, however advanced,  however liberal towards homosexuality, that has ever given the practice the legal standing of heterosexual  marriage.
Post-Christian civilisation is breaking entirely new ground in the marital normalisation of homosexuality. It is an unprecedented turning point in human affairs, a colossal clash of cultures, of world views, and of religions.
There are some immediate consequences to conscientious objectors to the Supreme Court judgment in favour of same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, consequences that were beginning to unfold even before the ruling. To refuse service to same-sex couples on the grounds of violation of conscience and religious belief and viewed as aiding and abetting something to which one objects in exercise of their own freedom of religion rights is bound to attract legal penalties. To speak against the practice according to one’s religious convictions will be regarded as hate speech, punishable in law.
One of the tenets of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures is that covenant nations which turn away from their covenant with Jehovah and embrace the forbidden practices of the ‘heathen’ are doomed to trouble, to divine judgement and, ultimately, to destruction. To the contrary, the main tenet of humanism, in all its varied forms, is that humankind is in itself the final measure of all things, the Grand Determiner of its own rules and of its own progressive destiny, unanswerable to any Higher Authority. Clearly, the US Supreme Court, in the majority, and a large part of the US population believe this.
But both propositions cannot be true. And in this massive clash of faith and culture and world view, we will soon enough see whether the court ruling is really for an expansion of liberty or is a threat to American (and global) democracy, which has been anchored in a religious, and specifically a Christian, world view that has now been pushed into full retreat.
- Martin Henry is a university administrator. Email feedback to and