In the 1990s, my then-12-year-old and I were praying a nightly rosary during his father’s lengthy unemployment. This was in the years running up to the new millennium, when the Y2K scare and related apocalyptic concerns were in the air. Weeks turned into months with no job materializing, and one evening my son told me, “I think I know why God hasn’t gotten Dad a job. Maybe the end of the world is about to come and he won’t need one.” I smiled and said, “Attaboy! Let’s look on the bright side!”
Since I am not in fact an optimist, I have doubts that we can count on the imminent end of the world to resolve the increasingly dark times we are now entering into following the Supreme Court’s legalization of same sex marriage throughout the United States. Emotionally, this feels pretty much like the end of the world – at least as we know it. America and its “enlightened” allies are embarking on a long slog deeper and deeper into a world of sexually confused and parent-deprived children.
Those opposing the new order are likely to experience the painful process of being painted by the reigning ideology into ever more cramped corners of legally permissible action and expression. Honestly, part of me would really prefer a quick exit via guillotine – or the eruption into our affairs of angels blowing a fanfare for the Second Coming. If I were God, I would pick this as the moment to reenter Creation.
But of course I am not God, and my own reaction has more to do with human fear and moral and emotional weakness than prophetic knowledge. In reality (again, being a pessimist), it’s unlikely that we will be seeing a final showdown on the plains of Armageddon anytime soon – although we know not the day or the hour.
Throughout history, many people experiencing dire events or natural evils such as the Black Death have concluded that they were living in the end-times. In the moral sphere, widespread and extraordinary corruption has fairly frequently reached levels that seem sufficient to call down fire from heaven, if not a halt to human history. Consider the flamboyant and suicidal behaviors of the late Roman Empire, the Nazi holocaust, our own mountainous piling-up of the corpses of unborn human life, the totalitarian crimes of the Soviet Union, Communist China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, today’s North Korea, to name just a very few.
Although the history of human evil should caution us against apocalyptic scenarios, it doesn’t mean the reaction of faithful American Catholics to the Obergefell decision is mere First World self-absorption. After all, the winners in the legal battle to debase the idea and definition of marriage now are free to turn their animus on the daily-bread goodness and soundness and sustaining fruitfulness of true marriage as the nursery and sanctuary of the family.
There is something diabolically novel in the successful burrowing into such a fundamental, creative, and organic institution for such sterile, egoistic, and perverse purposes. There have been isolated instances of this sort of thing throughout history, particularly in the upper echelons of deeply corrupt societies. To co-opt by law the institution that has undergirded all human society, however, not in the name of a tyrant’s willfulness or a noble’s boredom with the sunlit normality of marriage and family life, but in the hijacked names of Love, Fairness, and Equality is, as such things go, something new under the sun.
I feel the need to stress the outlandishness of what has occurred, because, like all “done deals,” same sex marriage is already morphing in the minds of many into something, well, normal. What we need is repeated contemplation of the wellsprings of true marriage and family – not just as encountered in theology but also artistically, in the novels, movies, and writing of the past. Comparing such societies to what we are contending with now can help fuel continued, probably lengthy, and increasingly costly opposition to the new order.
Among the characters of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, I feel a special attraction toward Puddleglum, the morose but faithful ally of Prince Rilian in The Silver Chair. Although he is forever forecasting death and doom, at each stage he goes out to meet it in defense of what is right.
At this point in our history we could take a page from Puddleglum’s reaction to the Witch’s attempt to persuade him and his companions, captive in the Witch’s gloomy realms underground, that their memories of normal life under the sun are mere fantasy. Puddleglum resists the undertow of disbelief in the good, the normal, and the wholesome. He rejects the diabolical temptation to settle for the great delusion: “Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.” Similarly, the earthly paradise of same-sex marriage seems capable of producing only the rankest of flowers and the sickliest of societies.
So the great temptation going forward – one that many have already succumbed to, both inside and outside the Christian churches – will be to blur the angular edges of this alternate understanding of marriage so that it eventually becomes bearable, tolerable, acceptable as a social compromise. This would be an enormous error. Better to offend the self-made standards of our sadly wayward society than to offend God, the author of life, redeemer of mankind, institutor of the sacrament of marriage. Whether or not he is scheduled to come again now, in the midst of our current misery, we know he will one day “come to judge the living and the dead.”