Yesterday, Rod Dreher at The American Conservative highlighted a piece written by Damon Linker at The Week. Dreher described Linker as "a progressive on matters of gay marriage and contemporary sexual mores" and quotes from his column:
[Religious traditionalists'] objections aren’t trivial. Western civilization upheld the old sexual standards for the better part of two millennia. We broke from them in the blink of an eye, figuratively speaking. The gains are pretty clear — It’s fun! It feels good! — but the losses are murkier and probably won’t be tallied for a very long time.
Is the ethic of individual consent sufficient to keep people (mostly men) from acting violently on their sexual desires?
What will become of childhood if our culture continues down the road of pervasive sexualization?
Do children do best with two parents of opposite genders? Or are two parents of the same gender just as good? Or better? How about one parent of either gender? What about three, four, five, or more people in a constantly evolving polyamorous arrangement?
Can the institution of marriage survive without the ideals of fidelity and monogamy? What kind of sexual temptations and experiences will technology present us with a year — or a decade, or a century — from now? Will people be able to think of reasons or conjure up the will to resist those temptations? Will they even try? Does it even matter?
I have no idea how to answer these questions.
What I do know is that the questions are important, and that I respect those who are troubled by them.
And maybe you should, too.
Linker's longer piece contains some straw-man versions of what he calls "traditionalism" - for example, when he says that "when traditionalists try to defend their views on pre-marital sex or homosexuality" it ends up sounding something like merely, "I disapprove because it's icky."
Or when Linker says that he "vastly prefer[s] a world in which people have been liberated from sexually inspired suffering, shame, humiliation, and self-loathing," we wonder what other world he prefers this to, because this would be an unhistorical caricature of previous centuries' sexual mores and ethics.
Nevertheless, Linker has the wisdom to see that "the questions are important." The only sad thing is that he acknowledges it so late.
Linker's cry of "hold your horses" to the marriage redefinition lobby is a cry that comes after the horses have been let out and the barn door closed in many places. But perhaps we can hope that Linker will one day become an aid in wrangling the now-wild horses and ushering them back into the corral built for them by millenia of wisdom and tradition, whence they should never have been sprung in the first place.