Ryan T. Anderson researches and writes about marriage and religious liberty as the William E. Simon Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. He also focuses on justice and moral principles in economic thought, health care and education, and has expertise in bioethics and natural law theory.
Anderson, who joined the leading Washington think tank’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society in 2012, also is the editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, N.J.
Anderson’s recent work at Heritage focuses on the constitutional questions surrounding same-sex “marriage.” He is the co-author with Princeton’s Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis of the acclaimed book “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense” (Encounter Books, December 2012).
The lecture starts at 7:20 in. The lecture ends at 49:35. There are 32 minutes of Q&A.
When talking about marriage in public, we should talk about philosophy, sociology and public policy
Gay marriage proponents need to be pressed to define what marriage is, on their view
Every definition of marriage is going to include some relationships, and exclude others
It’s meaningless to portray one side as nice and the other mean
Typically, marriage redefiners view marriage as a more intense emotional relationship
Marriage redefiners should be challenged in three ways:
1) Does the redefined version of marriage have a public policy reason to prefer only two people?
2) Does the redefined version of marriage have a reason to prefer permanence?
3) Does the redefined version of marriage have a reason to prefer sexual exclusivity?
Also, if marriage is just about romance, then why is the state getting involved in recognizing it?
The talk: 1) What marriage is, 2) Why marriage matters, 3) What are the consequences of redefining marriage?
What marriage is:
Marriage unites spouses – hearts, minds and bodies
Marriage unites spouses to perform a good: creating a human being and raising that human being
Marriage is a commitment: permanent and exclusive
Male and female natures are distinct and complementary
The public purpose of marriage:
to attach men and women to each other
to attach mothers and fathers to their children
there is no such thing as parenting, there is only mothering and fathering
the evidence shows that children benefit from mothering and fathering
boys who grow up without fathers are more likely to commit crimes
girls who grow up without fathers are more likely to have sex earlier
Children benefit from having a mother and a father
can’t say that fathers are essential for children if we support gay marriage, which makes fathers optional
without marriage: child poverty increases, crime increases, social mobility decreases, welfare spending increases
when government encourages marriage, then government has less do to – stays smaller, spends less
if we promote marriage as an idea, we are not excluding gay relationships or even partner benefits
finally, gay marriage has shown itself to be hostile to religious liberty
Consequences redefining marriage:
it undermines the norm in public like that kids deserve a mom and a dad – moms and dads are interchangeable
it changes the institution of marriage away from the needs of children, and towards the needs of adults
it undermines the norm of permanence
we learned what happens when marriage is redefined before: with no-fault divorce
no-fault divorce: after this became law, divorce rates doubled – the law changed society
gay marriage would teach society that mothers and fathers are optional when raising children
if marriage is what people with intense feelings do, then how can you rationally limit marriage to only two people?
if marriage is what people with intense feelings do, then if other people cause intense feelings, there’s no fidelity
if marriage is what people with intense feelings do, then if the feelings go away, there is no permanence
the public policy consequences to undermining the norms of exclusivity and permanence = fatherless children and fragmented families
a final consequences is the decline and elimination of religious liberty – e.g. – adoption agencies closing, businesses being sued
We’re doing very well on abortion, but we need to get better at knowing how to discuss marriage. If you’re looking for something short to read, click here. If you want to read a long paper that his book is based on.
A new academic study based on the Canadian census suggests that a married mom and dad matter for children. Children of same-sex coupled households do not fare as well.
There is a new and significant piece of evidence in the social science debate about gay parenting and the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to their children’s flourishing. A study published last week in the journal Review of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates.
Unlike US-based studies, this one evaluates a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census, where same-sex couples have had access to all taxation and government benefits since 1997 and to marriage since 2005.
While in the US Census same-sex households have to be guessed at based on the gender and number of self-reported heads-of-household, young adults in the Canadian census were asked, “Are you the child of a male or female same-sex married or common law couple?” While study author and economist Douglas Allen noted that very many children in Canada who live with a gay or lesbian parent are actually living with a single mother—a finding consonant with that detected in the 2012 New Family Structures Study—he was able to isolate and analyze hundreds of children living with a gay or lesbian couple (either married or in a “common law” relationship akin to cohabitation).
So the study is able to compare—side by side—the young-adult children of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, as well as children growing up in single-parent homes and other types of households. Three key findings stood out to Allen:
children of married opposite-sex families have a high graduation rate compared to the others; children of lesbian families have a very low graduation rate compared to the others; and the other four types [common law, gay, single mother, single father] are similar to each other and lie in between the married/lesbian extremes.
Employing regression models and series of control variables, Allen concludes that the substandard performance cannot be attributed to lower school attendance or the more modest education of gay or lesbian parents. Indeed, same-sex parents were characterized by higher levels of education, and their children were more likely to be enrolled in school than even those of married, opposite-sex couples. And yet their children are notably more likely to lag in finishing their own schooling.
[…]The truly unique aspect of Allen’s study, however, may be its ability to distinguish gender-specific effects of same-sex households on children. He writes:
the particular gender mix of a same-sex household has a dramatic difference in the association with child graduation. Consider the case of girls. . . . Regardless of the controls and whether or not girls are currently living in a gay or lesbian household, the odds of graduating from high school are considerably lower than any other household type. Indeed, girls living in gay households are only 15 percent as likely to graduate compared to girls from opposite sex married homes.
Thus although the children of same-sex couples fare worse overall, the disparity is unequally shared, but is instead based on the combination of the gender of child and gender of parents. Boys fare better—that is, they’re more likely to have finished high school—in gay households than in lesbian households. For girls, the opposite is true. Thus the study undermines not only claims about “no differences” but also assertions that moms and dads are interchangeable. They’re not.
With a little digging, I found the abstract of the study:
Almost all studies of same-sex parenting have concluded there is “no difference” in a range of outcome measures for children who live in a household with same-sex parents compared to children living with married opposite-sex parents. Recently, some work based on the US census has suggested otherwise, but those studies have considerable drawbacks. Here, a 20% sample of the 2006 Canada census is used to identify self-reported children living with same-sex parents, and to examine the association of household type with children’s high school graduation rates. This large random sample allows for control of parental marital status, distinguishes between gay and lesbian families, and is large enough to evaluate differences in gender between parents and children. Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 % as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. Daughters of same-sex parents do considerably worse than sons.
The author of the study is a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. His PhD in economics is from the University of Washington. A previous study had shown that gay relationships typically have far more instability (they last for more shorter times). That’s not good for children either. Another study featured in the Atlantic talked about how gay relationships have much higher rates of domestic violence. That’s not good for children either. So we have three reasons to think that normalizing gay relationships as “marriage” would not be good for children.
The reason I am posting this is because I want people to understand why social conservatives like me propose these laws defining and promoting marriage. We do favor natural marriage for the same reason that we oppose no-fault divorce, and for the same reason why we oppose welfare for single mothers (it encourages single motherhood). We don’t want to encourage people to deprive children of their mother or their father. We look at the research, and we decide that children need their mother and father. Given the choice between the needs of the child and restraining the freedom of the adults, we prefer the child’s need for her mother and father. It’s not just arbitrary rules, there is a reason behind the rules.
But children are not commodities. They have certain needs right out of the box. Adults should NOT be thinking about how to duct-tape a child onto any old relationship that doesn’t offer the same safety and stability that opposite sex marriage offers. We should be passing laws to strengthen marriage in order to protect children, not to weaken it. Libertarians don’t want to do that, because they want adults to be free to do as they please, at the expense of children. Libertarians think that the adults should be able to negotiate private contracts and have no obligations to any children who are present, or who may be present later.
I am tempted to say that this is the best podcast I have ever heard on the Unbelievable show. Do anything you have to do in order to listen to this podcast.
Prof Robert Gagnon has become a well-known voice advocating the traditional biblical view on sexuality. In a highly charged show he debates the scriptural issues on sexuality with Jayne Ozanne, the director of Accepting Evangelicals who came out as gay earlier this year.
Can you be gay and Christian? Matthew Vines says you can and he’s created a viral video and best-selling book defending his view. This Saturday on Up for Debate, Vines joins host Julie Roys to debate author and leading evangelical apologist, Dr. Michael Brown. Is gay monogamy an option for Christians? Is it unloving to reject gay marriage? Listen and join the discussion this Saturday at 8 a.m. Central Time on Up for Debate!
Summary key: Julie Roys (JR), Matthew Vines (MV), Michael Brown (MB)
JR: Why should Christians be open to reinterpreting the Bible on homosexuality?
MV: Consider the lives and testimonies of gay Christians. Here is my personal story.
MV: According to the Bible, a person with same-sex attractions would have to embrace lifelong celibacy. I refuse to do that.
MV: There are 6 passages in the Bible that are relevant to the goodness of homosexuality. All are negative.
MV: None of these passages address gay relationships that are “long-term” and “faithful” that are based on “commitment” and “love”.
JR: You say that it is “damaging” for Christians to disagree with you views, is that true?
MV: Yes. One of my friends declared his homosexuality and he did not feel safe to come home. He felt pain because Christians disagreed with him.
MV: You cannot ask a person with same-sex attractions to be celibate, it causes too much harm to ask gays to abstain from sexual relationships.
JR: Respond to Matthew.
MB: The Bible only permits heterosexual sexuality and in every case condemns homosexual acts.
MB: Matthew is taking his sexual preferences and activities as given, and reinterpreting the Bible to fit it.
MB: Genesis talks about women being made to help men, and to fulfill God’s commandment to procreate and fill the Earth.
MB: The Bible speaks about the complementarity of the sexes when talking about how two become one in marriage.
MB: I am very sensitive to the stories of people who are gay who experience discrimination as “gay Christians”.
MB: You can feel sad for people who have two conflicting commitments, but that doesn’t mean we should redefine what the Bible says.
JR: Stop talking, we have a break.
JR takes a caller for the next topic:
Caller 1: I had same-sex attractions and I was able to change my sexuality.
JR: Matthew, respond to that.
MV: Alan Chambers of Exodus International says that 99.9% of people he worked with had not changed their gay orientation.
MV: Lifelong celibacy is not acceptable to gays, so the Bible must be reinterpreted to suit gays.
MB: Matthew thinks that God himself did not understand the concept of sexual orientation and inadvertently hurt gays because of his lack of knowledge.
MB: There is a solution in the Bible for people who cannot be celibate, and that solution is heterosexual marriage
MB: If a person is only attracted to pre-teen girls, do we then have to re-write the Bible to affirm that so they won’t be “harmed”?
MB: Alan Chambers was speaking for his own group, and his statement does not account for the fact that thousands of people DO change.
JR: What about the Jones/Yarhouse study that found that 38% of reparative therapy subjects were successful in changing or chastity?
MV: (no response to the question)
MV: (to Brown) do you accept that the Bible forces gays to live out lifelong celibacy
Another break, then Brown replies:
MB: Yes. But change is possible.
MV: Do you know of any Christian who acknowledged that this was the consequence of the Bible’s teaching for gays?
MB: Paul’s explanation that the options for ALL Christians are 1) celibacy or 2) heterosexual marriage. For 2000 years.
MV: Paul (in Romans 1) is talking about people who are not “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships.
MV: Paul was not aware of “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships at the time he wrote his prohibitions in Romans 1.
JR: How do you know that fixed sexual orientation is true? And that the Biblical authors would written different things if they knew?
JR: Are there any references in the first century to “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships?
MB: Yes, in my book I quote prominent historian N. T. Wright who documents that those relationships were known.
MB: Matthew’s view requires that God did not know about sexual orientation when ordaining the Bible’s content.
MB: Leviticus 18 is for all people, for all time. This was not just for the Jews, this was for everyone.
MV: I am not saying that Paul was wrong because he was ignorant.
MV: Paul was writing in a context where “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships were unknown.
MV: NT Wright does not cite first century texts, he cites a problematic 4th century text.
MV: Absence of 1st-century references to “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships means that God did not intend to prohibit them.
MB: Whenever the Bible speaks about homosexuality, it is opposed to it – Old Testament and New Testament.
Another break, then the conclusion:
JR: Respond to the Leviticus prohibition, which prohibits homosexuality for everyone, for all time.
MV: It is a universal prohibition on male same-sex intercourse, but it does not apply to Christians.
MV: For example, Leviticus prohibits sex during a woman’s menstrual period. And Christians are not bound by that.
MV: What is the reason for this prohibition of male-male sex in Leviticus? It’s not affirm the complementarity of the sexual act.
MV: The Bible prohibits male-male sex because it is written for a patriarchal culture.
MV: In a patriarchal culture, women are viewed as inferior. That’s why the Bible prohibits a man from taking the woman’s role in sex.
MB: The prohibition in Leviticus is a universal prohibition against male-male sex, applicable in all times and places.
MB: Homosexual sex is a violation of the divine order.
MB: We can see already the consequences of normalizing this: gay marriage, and supports for polygamy and polyamory.
MV: So the earliest reference there is to a “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationship is a 4th century text.
MV: But that gay relationship is not like modern gay relationships.
I have a few comments about Vines’ points below.
Even heterosexuals who have not married are called upon to embrace lifelong celibacy. I am in my early 40s and am a virgin because I have not married. I wouldn’t seek to reinrepret the Bible to allow premarital sex just because what I am doing is difficult. I would rather just do what the Bible says than reinterpret it to suit me. And it’s just as hard for me to be chaste as it would be for him to be. In short, it’s a character issue. He takes his right to recreational sex as non-negotiable, and reinterprets the Bible to suit. I take the Bible as non-negotiable, and comply with it regardless of whether it seems to make me less happy. With respect to the purposes of God for me in this world, my happiness is expendable. If I don’t find someone to marry, I’m going to be “afflicted” with the lifelong celibacy that Vines seems to think is torture, but let me tell you – God is happy with the contributions I am making for him, and if I have to be chaste through my whole life, I am 100% fine with that. I serve the King. And not the reverse.
Notice that he talks about “long-term” but not permanent relationships, and “faithful” but not exclusive. This is important because the statistics show that gay relationships (depending on whether it is female-female or male-male) are prone to instability and/or infidelity. I just blogged on that recently, with reference to the published research on the subject. Vines is talking about a situation that does not obtain in the real world – according to the data. Gay relationships do not normally value permanence and exclusivity in the way that opposite-sex marriage relationships do, especially where the couple regularly attends church. The divorce rate and infidelity rate for religious couples is far below the rates for gay couples, depending on the sexes involved. Vines is committed to the idea that marriage is about feelings, e.g. – “love”, but that’s not the public purpose of marriage. Marriage is not about love, it’s about complementarity of the sexes and providing for the needs of children. We have published studies like this one showing that there are negative impacts to children who are raised by gay couples, which dovetails with studies showing that children need a mother and that children need a father. We should not normalize any relationship that exposes children to harm. We should prefer to inconvenience adults than to harm children.
Matthew Vines made an argument that Christians have to stop saying that homosexuality is wrong, because it makes gay people feel excluded. I wrote previously about the argument that gay activists use where they say “if you don’t agree with me and celebrate me and affirm me, then I’ll commit suicide”. In that post, I quoted a prominent gay activist who made exactly that argument. I don’t find the threats to self-destruction to be a convincing argument for the truth of the view that gay marriage being the same as heterosexual marriage. In fact, this is confirmed by a recent study which showed that features of gay relationships themselves, and not social disapproval, is to blame for high rates of suicide in the gay community.
Vines seems to want to argue that the context in which the Bible authors were writing did not allow them to address the problem of gays in “long-term”, “faithful” relationships. Well, we have already seen that statistically speaking, those relationships are in the minority. One British study mentioned in the post I linked to above found that only 25% of gay couples were intact after 8 years. The number is 82% for heterosexual marriages, and that doesn’t filter by couples who abstain from premarital sex and who attend church regularly. If you add those two criteria, the number is going to be well above 82% in my opinion. Studies show that premarital chastity and church attendancevastly improve the stability and quality of marriages.
In addition, Vines is trying to argue that 1) the Bible authors were not aware of “long-term”, “faithful” gay relationships and 2) their failure to explicitly disqualify these “long-term”, “stable” gay sexual relationships means that the Bible actually condones them. A friend of mine pointed out that this is a textbook case of the argument from silence, where someone asserts that because something is not explicitly condemned, then it must be OK. Carried through to its logical end, that would mean that things like identity theft are OK, because they are not mentioned explicitly. Brown asserted that there was a blanket prohibition on homosexual acts. He is arguing from what we know. Vines says that “long-term”, “faithful” homosexual relationships are not mentioned, and are therefore OK. He is arguing from what we don’t know. And he is trying to reverse the burden of proof so that he doesn’t have to show evidence for his view. Brown wouldn’t take the bait. The fact of the matter is that no one for the last 2000 years of church history have taken Vines’ view. Every single Christian before Vines, who were closer to Jesus’ teachings than Vines, understood the verses that Brown cited to be providing a blanket prohibition on homosexual sex acts. If Vines wants to claim that the Bible condones what he wants it to condone, he has to produce some positive evidence from the text or from church history or church fathers. He has nothing to support his case that could convince anyone that this is what Christians have believed, and ought to believe.
This story was the topic of the most recent episode of the Reasonable Faith podcast. Basically, a conservative, apologetics-friendly church had a homosexual person who wanted to be openly gay and still be accepted as a member. After he was told by the church that he could attend the church, but not be a member, he decided to write the mainstream media to shame the church.
I want to first focus on the letter written by the gay man:
Dear Watermark Community Church,
Today I celebrate a very interesting anniversary with you. It was exactly one year ago when you told me that I was no longer worthy to serve, be in a community group, and be a member of your church.
I spent years in your church battling against my homosexuality. I believed with all my heart that God would change me; I prayed for change almost daily. But when I wasn’t able to change, you turned your back on me.
You say our “sin” is not unique, but you treat us in a unique manner; this is unacceptable behavior. We are actual people that have actual feelings.
Here we are a year later and you are still doing to others what you did to me. You are tarnishing the name of God to Christians and non-Christians alike; you should be ashamed of yourselves! Do not forget, Jesus was a angry with people just like you who said certain groups of people were not worthy to be followers of Him.
Thank you for removing yourself from my life! I am who God made me to be. I cannot change my sexual orientation and nor would I want to. I now have internal peace and happiness unlike ever before.
As Reasonable Faith notes, this is what he said and this is what the far-left Dallas Morning News reported. It sounds like the church was very mean to him, but is that what really happened?
Here is what the church actually wrote to him:
This is a difficult letter to write, as I am sure that it will be a difficult one to hear and receive. We genuinely care for you, love you, and want nothing more for you than to live an abundant life that is found in Jesus Christ alone.
However, in our attempt to shepherd you, we have recognised a destructive pattern that prohibits us in caring for you and playing the role you desire for us to have in your life (1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28). Specifically, your desire to actively participate in a same-sex relationship with another man, and your unwillingness to heed biblical counsel from your church to turn from that relationship, has made it exceedingly difficult to shepherd you during this time.
As we noted during our time together last Tuesday (9/29/15), and through the years, we have gently & repeatedly brought these patterns to your attention and, at times, you have heeded this counsel and repented. But now, this is no longer the case. So, in obedience to Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 5:11, we are left with no other option but to remove you from our body and treat you as we would anyone who is living out of fellowship with God…and we lovingly, but firmly, call you back to repentance. This means that you are no longer a member of our body at Watermark. We are praying that repentance comes quickly and that you do not continue choosing a path of destruction and one that leads you away from the authority and care of the church.
We recognise that these patterns are only symptoms of a heart that is either unwilling or unable to fully trust God in every area of your life, including your sexuality. We plead with you to run to the Lord and allow the Spirit of God to begin to transform your heart in a mighty way (Titus 3:3-7).
In order to help you through this time, we would like to make some tangible recommendations that we hope will serve as a catalyst for true repentance and heart-change in your life. They are:
1. Faithful attendance of Re:Generation targeting the above issue, while following counsel to not be in a dating relationship during that time.
2. Meet with a Watermark staff member who shares in the same struggle (same sex attraction) who has found freedom, healing, and victory through our Savior Jesus Christ (just let Brandon know when you’re ready to meet with him).
We affirm your many gifts, your heart of kindness, and we value the way God has uniquely formed you (Psalm 139:13-14). We all pray for your repentance and full restoration so that your gifts and passions can be fully unleashed for the Kingdom of God. We love you, Jason, and stand at the gate for you and eagerly await God’s restoration in your life (Luke 15:20).
The Elders of Watermark Community Church
Here is what one of my friends at Watermark who was aware of the situation told me:
I think it’s clear that Watermark was very kind and loving in their discipline and can’t be called hypocritical or homophobic, and they were not trying to change the man’s sexual orientation but rather simply asking him to abstain from sexual relationships. They give lots of chances before administering discipline and the process is the same each time they go through this with members. Some repent and some turn away.
As we have seen, publicizing those who disagree with homosexuality and gay marriage is a favorite tactic of the fascist left. Sometimes, it just involves smearing (e.g. – the Southern Povery Law Center). Sometimes, it involves lawfare, (e.g. – the attorney general of Washington state). Sometimes, it involves leaking the names of pro-marriage donors (e.g. – the Human Rights Campaign). Sometimes, it involves vandalism, violence and even domestic terrorism (e.g. – Floyd Lee Corkins’ attack on the Family Research Council). When it comes to homosexuality and gay marriage, fascism is the normal response to dissent.
I just find it astonishing that gay activists and other radicals on the left think that they can try to bring in the mainstream media and the law to punish the church for holding to orthodox Christian moral values. But this is why we call sin “sin”. We don’t call chastity a sin, because chaste people don’t behave like fascists when they hear disagreement. We don’t call having lots of children a sin, because people who have lots of children don’t behave like fascists if anyone disagrees with them. There is something really wrong with these behaviors that the Bible forbids. You can see why the Bible condemns certain things as sins when you look at the fascist responses to disagreement with the sin.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—
10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?
13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
Everyone sins. Fine. Keep it to yourself. Don’t use the law to force Bible-believing Christians to celebrate your sins. The church’s job is to help you to be more like Christ. You’re in a community where everyone is supposed to be serious about growing as a Christian and part of that involves improving your character morally. Another part means getting along with other Christians instead of being disruptive.
Regarding complaints about not being able to act on your sexual orientation, I have no sympathy. I am attracted to women, and I am a virgin, because I am not married. I am not going to church to rebel against this requirement. My job is to structure my life in such a way that it is easier to obey it, whether that involves studying the issue in the research or drawing the line long before I have to make a decision in the heat of the moment. God must be #1 in a person’s life, setting goals and policies, and our job is to make and execute effective plans that deliver results for the Boss.