In Battle for Civilization, Don't Follow Hillary Clinton
I love to get all Mark Steyn-y and lament the inexorable decline of Western Civilization. I do. But sometimes I think it can be overdone.
What specifically brings this to mind is something I read over at Rod Dreher's excellent blog at The American Conservative. He's talking about how some people who gave up on the marriage redefinition debate have joined forces with people who support same-sex marriage in order to have a conversation about how to strengthen marriage.
It’s something, but I don’t think it’s going to amount to much. There are writers and thinkers on that list of signatories whom I respect, and in some cases who are personal friends. I wish them well. Anybody who is trying to strengthen marriage in this culture is doing good work.
But I think it’s not going to amount to much for much the same reason various government attempts to raise the birth rate — as Singapore, Russia, and various European countries have done — never succeed. If marriage and family are considered institutions that we can manipulate to suit our own wants, as opposed to institutions to which we must be conformed, then they lose their power to bind and to direct. Nobody gets married, or has more than two children, because it is good for them, or good for society. They do so because they believe marriage and/or children are a positive good. If you have to make a “case” for marriage, or for having children, the battle is largely lost.
Emphasis mine since it's that last part that I want to focus on. Is this true? Further, is it a helpful way to respond to such efforts?
I guess, on this point, I'm more optimistic. One of my favorite passages from Luther is where he says that fathers (yes, fathers) changing diapers is a holy blessing. I'll go ahead and quote from it here (though some of the language might form a bit of a distraction to my larger point):
Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful. carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.”
What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, “O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers. or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labour, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”
OK. So Luther is doing quite a bit in this passage. It's mostly about vocation and what a blessing it is to be able to serve others. But he's also making the case for getting married and having kids.
And he was doing this 491 years ago.
Luther might have even believed, to some extent, that "if you have to make a 'case' for marriage, or for having children, the battle is largely lost." But he still made it and did good work (at the very least for helping me understand how to serve my husband and view childcare as a holy blessing).
So when we get all discouraged about the decline of civilization as it relates to whatever our issue of greatest concern is, I think we should also try to keep some perspective.
These battles for things that matter -- be they religious liberty or property rights or the right to defend our families or to defend our weakest neighbors in the womb -- have seen better days and they have seen worse days. But the worst thing is to just descend into the land of "What, at this point, does it really matter?" Right?