So it’s ‘Marriage Equality’ now – that’s all the rage. ‘Marriage Equality’ – who could oppose something so virtuous, so noble, so, so, American? ‘Marriage Equality’ is the perfect product of brand marketing. Without breaking a sweat, a person who supports ‘Marriage Equality’ puts his opponent on the defensive. You mean you don’t believe we’re all created equal? That is the question inherent in ‘Marriage Equality’.
It’s revolutionary inasmuch as it makes marriage the creation of the State. Now, it may surprise supporters of ‘Marriage Equality’ to learn that according to the classical Christian conception (to say nothing of anyone else’s because I’m simply too ignorant to do so), marriage precedes the State. In fact, marriage is an estate founded ‘in the time of man’s innocence’, as one of my favorite books has it. In this way it is unlike government – whatever form that may take – which is a means of restraining evil. Schematize it thus: no fall, no government; no fall, still with the marrying and giving in marriage. Until the eschaton, that’s how it goes. Only then, whatever ‘then’ signifies in such as matter, only then note, will marriage as such come to an end. What this implies for those who are married now, well, that’s a good question. I have no answer.
The point is this – marriage, as such, is what it is. We can’t change it. We can, of course, pair up any way we please and call it ‘marriage’, but the result will be a nominalist fiction. And that is what the proponents of ‘Marriage Equality’ offer people – a nominalist fiction with the substance of an airy nothing, but without the virtue.
But wait – it gets better. By supporting this fiction, they are asserting that the State has really quite startling powers. These powers are not just the obvious coercive and persuasive powers we see every day through the instrumentality of the police, the courts, the legislatures at varying scales. No, the powers in question are numinous, mysterious, of the sort usually ascribed to God or the gods. Their State, you see, has the power to determine what is good and what is evil; not to assert that this or that act is good or evil, mind, but to really make it so this or that act is good or evil by fiat. Their State, that is, can alter the ontological reality of human personhood. Indeed, their State has the power to call into being that which never was before. There is nothing in human nature, nothing in any given social order, no moral truth that is prior to the ontological determination of the State.
One obvious implication of this is that there is no standard by which we might judge the moral quality of any act by the State. Should the State require it, we might have to torture prisoners; drop cluster bombs on civilians; kill children for convenience and profit; eliminate the sick and the brain damaged and the elderly; round up the poor and put them into prisons; allow ourselves to be subjected to invasive searches and other security measures during routine daily life; there is no end to this, of course, because there is no limit to the numinous power of the State.
Surely folks realize that they can’t have what they are pleased to call ‘Marriage Equality’ without the numinous State. If they don’t, that would make them stupid, and I refuse to think all of them are stupid. After all, some of my best friends support ‘Marriage Equality’, and I don’t think they’re stupid. Confused, maybe, but not stupid.
Of course, if they’re not stupid, then they desire the totalizing, numinous State. Perhaps it’s their god. We all have a god, after all, some of us more than one. Even atheists have their gods to whom they bow down, for whom they offer sacrifices great and small.