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The (Dis)Respect for Marriage Act advances

Two bride figurines are displayed at a rally in Hollywood, California, May 26, 2009
Two bride figurines are displayed at a rally in Hollywood, California, May 26, 2009 | REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

What does civilizational decay look like? How do we know when we are living under the light of a dying star, or navigating the collapse of a regime?

On Wednesday afternoon, Americans received a major warning sign that our Republic is teetering on the brink. It came in the unlikely form of a Senate cloture vote — a rather obscure parliamentary procedure that sets up the final passage of a bill in the Senate. But it wasn’t just any cloture vote, and it’s not just any bill under consideration.

I’m talking about the so-called Respect for Marriage Act, which just moved one step closer to President Biden’s desk, where it will certainly be signed into law. It passed cloture by a vote of 62-37, as 12 Republican senators joined Senate Democrats to throw “people of faith under the bus” — and possibly into prison.

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Whether you realize it or not, marriage is one the best indicators of the health and stability of a nation. Just like buildings societies demand a stable foundation. Without one, they will crumble and crash, leaving a wreckage of human suffering and misery in the ruins.

No matter how hard progressives try to deny it, marriage is the irreplaceable foundation for stable societies. Not just any “marriage” but marriage marriage: One man joining with one woman in a permanent, monogamous, committed union and dedicated to caring for any offspring such a union may produce.

Patrick Brown, at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, put it clearly. He explains that:

“But the institution of marriage itself — in law, custom, and tradition — is intimately bound up with the act of creating and raising children. Marriage, at its core, is the social institution most fundamentally oriented towards procreation. It is society’s way of harnessing, binding, and supporting the relationship that creates a new life, and it gives the child produced from that union (and his or her parents) the best chance at a stable life.”

Why is marriage the bedrock of society? Because it is how humanity endures throughout the ages, just as God intended for it to be. Jesus Himself reminds us of the inescapable gravity of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Now, Jesus is addressing divorce here, but the principle, which is that God-defined marriage is between one man and one woman for life, applies to the proposed redefinition of marriage that is now sailing through the United States Congress with the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act.” They are trying to separate “what God has joined together.”

If we start unraveling this thread, there is no telling where the stopping point may be. Well, we actually do have a stark and dark preview: “sex change” operations on teenagers at top hospitals around the country, “kid-friendly” drag shows in your small town, and the rise of the acceptance of pedophilia. When you cut the brakes on God’s design for human sexuality and flourishing you can soon expect to fly off the cliff and crash into hell.

Because no matter what anyone else says, only God gets to define marriage, not the government.

What does this bill do? It codifies into federal law the Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell, which legalized homosexual marriage in the United States in 2015. In a recent piece encouraging conservatives to keep fighting for marriage, I provided a refresher on the history of Obergefell and just how fast we have slid down the slippery slope:

“Many forget that just seven years before Obergefell, one of the most liberal states in our union, California, affirmatively passed a state constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage. Despite this, Kennedy, and the rest of the judicial activist philosopher kings of the liberal wing of the Court, managed to pull a magical right to fake marriage out of the ever-present hat that is the Fourteenth Amendment. The sexual revolution comes at you fast.”

An initial version of the bill passed the House of Representatives in July of this year. Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote, “The version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives represents a direct threat to religious liberty and the freedom of Christian ministries and institutions. It also opened the door for the legalization of polygamy, though that may not have been intentional.”

After being sent to the Senate, the bill got put on hold until after the elections. Now, a rogue’s gallery of liberal and lame-duck Republicans has joined with Democrats to offer a slightly amended version that they claim addresses the significant threats to the freedom of conscience and religious liberty that the House version posed. But these assurances ring more than hollow. Mohler, again, explains that:

“The new amended Senate bill — the ‘common sense’ bill that ‘protects Americans’ religious liberties’ — actually does no such thing. The amended language includes vague assurances that the legislation will not violate religious freedom, but it mostly assures us that the bill will not do what no one claimed it would do, such as require congregations and churches to solemnize same-sex marriages. What is left wide open is the threat to ministries such as Christian orphanages and children’s care as well as adoption ministries and foster care. This amended language resolves nothing, but is offered as an assurance that religious freedom is protected. By the way, the language of the bill does not offer any absolute protection against polygamy if a state legalizes it in some form.”

And even if, somehow, the new version did manage to truly protect religious liberty, the bill still enshrines into federal statute the rulings of Obergefell — and on that point alone, it poses a grave threat to our nation.

This bill doesn’t respect marriage. As with the modern-day transgender movement, the effort to redefine marriage is mankind trying to play God. It is sinful idolatry. It’s an effort to replace the firm foundation of God’s creation-order design with the shifting sands of man’s sexual immorality.

When the storms come, and the winds blow, this new foundation will not hold. Societies built on meaningless definitions of marriage or endless redefinitions of marriage will not last. Homes will be broken, children hurt, and generations left confused about more than just marriage, but also about what it means to be human.

It turns out that the slippery slope that conservatives have been warning about — shouting about — for years now isn’t a fallacy. It’s a prophecy. So far, it’s undefeated.

Lest I conclude on such a dark note, join me in remembering that just as human history began with a marriage so too it ends with a marriage. The arc of redemption stretches from Genesis 2:21-25, the marriage of Adam and Eve, to Revelation 19:6-9, the “marriage supper of the Lamb,” that is, of Christ and the Church. The Senate, the Democrats, and worthless Republicans may prevail against the definition of marriage and our religious liberty here in America, but God has guaranteed that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18).

In light of this eternal hope, we must keep fighting for marriage. Joe Rigney, president of Bethlehem College and Seminary, recently exhorted Christians and conservatives to this glorious fight, reminding us that:

“The battle for marriage and family is far from over. The situation is dire, and the devastation is real. But therein lies an opportunity. And so let us resist the temptation of fatalism. Who knows what the future holds? In the meantime, let’s be ready, with sturdy arguments, with compassion for the refugees from the Sexual Revolution, and with courage and fortitude to act when the opportunity comes. Marriage has always been worth conserving. How much more is it worth recovering?”

Rigney is right. Even if the (Dis)Respect for Marriage Act becomes the law of the land, we cannot stop fighting. Even if our society destroys the only stable foundation for human flourishing, as Christians and conservatives we know that we can, with God’s help, rebuild from the rubble. We will do it one family, one marriage, at a time.

Originally published at the Standing for Freedom Center. 

William Wolfe served as a senior official in the Trump administration, both as a deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon and a director of legislative affairs at the State Department. Prior to his service in the administration, Wolfe worked for Heritage Action for America, and as a congressional staffer for three different members of Congress, including the former Rep. Dave Brat. He has a B.A. in history from Covenant College, and is finishing his Masters of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Follow William on Twitter at @William_E_Wolfe

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