February 17, 2013
Bad laws do not bind in conscience. And there may be times when even the avoidance of scandal or disorder do not justify public obedience. Any ruling class that has absolutist ambitions and is not willing to make an accommodation with the religious authorities will eventually go too far. It will command things that cannot be given and then find itself staring into a wall of resistance. The French Revolutionaries were taken by surprise. The Bolsheviks knew exactly what they were doing when they hanged all those priests and dynamited those churches. Our own ruling class also knows what it is doing. The politically correct love feast it has been preparing for us throughout my life requires the absolute obedience of the governed to commands that no devout Christian can regard as lawful. Therefore, the gathering attack on Christianity.
This does not yet apply to the other religions. The Jews are untouchable. Besides, religious Jews are a minority within a minority and involve themselves in our national life only so far as is needed to separate themselves from it. The Muslims and others are not really considered part of the nation, or they are considered objective allies of the new order under construction. Or no one wants to provoke them to rioting and blowing themselves up in coffee bars. But other believers must eventually be persecuted should the Christians first be humbled.
Whatever its merits in the abstract, gay marriage must be seen in this light. I can see a time when two men will present themselves before a Catholic priest and demand to be married. When they are refused, they will take the priest to court, and he will be made to pay damages, or be fined, or be otherwise punished. Or, if he conducts the ceremony, he will be suspended by his bishop, and the whole Catholic Church will then be punished. It might be funny to imagine what would happen if these men were to convert to Islam and present themselves before an imam in Tower Hamlets. But this will not happen. It might be the Church of England first”but the Catholic Church will be the main target, because that is the default winner of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” religious disputes, and it is now the main barrier against secular tyranny.
It may be that gay marriage will itself be the line beyond which the devout will not be pushed. If so, this would be regrettable. It would be the wrong issue. But I do not think this will be the line. The proposals are too reasonable in themselves, and there is an evident lack of passion within the country at large. Most likely, some churches would give in. Others would face years of internal strife. The rest could be smeared as nests of bigotry and be weakened by loss of tax advantages and by public discrimination against their members. The purpose here of gay marriage is not to bring on a fundamental conflict, but to prevent one by dividing and weakening opposition in advance.
I suspect that the present Bill is less about liberation than about greater enslavement. In a libertarian society, there would be no bar to marriage of any kind between consenting adults. For all I know, some people might, once the proper means were available, want to change sex every couple of years and contract temporary marriages to suit. But we do not live in a libertarian society. We must not lose sight of what ought to be. At the same time, we must take into account what is.
Does this mean I am against the Bill currently before Parliament? I am afraid it does. On the one hand, I strongly agree with the principle of gay marriage. On the other hand, I suspect the intended consequences of its implementation.
In 1685, James II became King of England. His reasonably plain objectives were to undo the Protestant Reformation in England and to make himself as absolute and unaccountable as Louis XIV was in France. At first, he tried to secure these objectives by relying on the support of his Catholic subjects and of useful idiots in the Church of England. After two years, he realized that this was not sufficient support. He therefore reached out to the Protestant dissenters, offering them a full toleration if they would give him their support. Some did take his offer. They had been long and vexatiously persecuted after 1660 and saw the deal’s immediate benefits. Most did not take his offer. They saw it as a first step to general despotism. After the Glorious Revolution, the dissenters did not receive the full equality that James had promised. But they did get an effective toleration in a country still free in its civil institutions.
This should be how all libertarians, of whatever degree, should regard the present Bill. The law to enable civil partnerships was one of the few decent things Labour did. Civil partnerships provide every unit in the package of agreements and declarations that legally define marriage. There is already no law to prevent civil partnerships from being blessed by consenting ministers of religion.
Let this be enough until we have made better times in England”when allowing full marriage to all consenting adults will not be an enabling step toward the tyranny that our masters plainly have in mind for us.