A successful, long-term defense of traditional marriage will require a renewal of our moral and social imaginations. We must continue to fight to preserve marriage in the courtrooms, legislatures, and polling booths. But these are largely holding actions. Until sexual discipline comes to seem humanizing rather than alienating, most Americans will find traditional sexual mores off-putting, and even those who endorse traditional norms will continue to downplay them in the public square””and in the pulpit. In a far more complicated way, the same holds for gender roles, childbearing, and child rearing. Until our common culture reaffirms the essential and inevitably social significance of the difference between men and women, as well as the role of fertility in sex and marriage, Americans will fail to grasp the skull-thumping obviousness of male”“female union as the essential feature of marriage.
Proponents of same-sex marriage like to pronounce it “inevitable.” Their confidence is based on the progressive conceit that modernity always and everywhere weakens and dissolves the power of traditional norms and practices. But this is not true. During the nineteenth century the social influence of Christianity in America grew dramatically. Victorian England saw a profound remoralization of society. And the diffusion of modern economic systems, science, and technology throughout the globe in recent decades has not led to the diminishment of religious passions, as so many predicted, but instead their increase. History is not a ratchet that turns in only one direction.