If there’s any topic that gives the average conservative sweaty palms, it’s the same-sex marriage (SSM) debacle. While strongly intuiting that there is something profoundly wrong with SSM, many would-be defenders of marriage are silenced by the fear of appearing homophobic, hopelessly passé, or simply cruel. Slogans like “Love is love” and “I support marriage equality” seem invulnerable to objection. After all, who wants to be the one to deny people love and equal rights?
Even those who do dare to speak their beliefs concerning marriage are often left uneasy that their arguments are ineffective or harsh, and would appreciate guidance on how to best approach the issue of SSM. Some time ago, I came across a brilliant tutorial on this very subject by Catholic apologist Trent Horn, entitled “How to Talk About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions”. In this talk, Horn manages to distil and address the most common problems faced by those seeking to defend what he terms “natural” or “conjugal” marriage, all with his trademark graciousness and clarity. I highly recommend that readers take the time to watch the entire presentation, which I have summarized briefly below. I hope that the synopsis I provide will inspire you to soak in the timely wisdom of Mr. Horn’s advice in its entirety.
One of the most useful and defining aspects of Horn’s presentation is his focus on arriving at a good definition of marriage. Throughout his talk, Horn contrasts two competing views of marriage that are at issue in the discussion of SSM. One he calls the “relational” view of marriage. According to this view, marriage is simply about affirming loving adult relationships. The other he terms the “conjugal”. According to this view, marriage is the comprehensive union, mind and body, of a man and a woman. It is not difficult to recognize the former view as the one which is in ascendancy today and used to legitimize SSM, but it is still very helpful to have a clear ideological framework before attempting to go deeper into the issue. I found Horn’s thorough groundwork to be an indispensable prelude to the rest of his talk.
After outlining the two contending views of marriage up for consideration, but before addressing how to go about defending conjugal marriage, Horn identifies five ineffectual methods that are commonly deployed. Some listeners will no doubt recognize among these methods many of their own failed tactics. Other listeners may be downright surprised that these methods are not recommended, and will want to take careful note of the Horn’s reasoning behind identifying each of them. To pique your interest in the talk, I have included Horn’s list below. I think that you’ll definitely want to know what he has to say about them.
Common Ineffective Approaches
- “The Church/Bible says that same-sex ‘marriage’ is wrong.”
- “I support traditional ”
- “Children need a mother and a father.”
- “Homosexuality is wrong, and that’s why we shouldn’t allow same-sex ‘marriage’.”
- “I’m against same-sex ‘marriage’ because the state should get out of the marriage business entirely.”
If any of these phrases sound like something that you’ve said or would likely bring out of your arsenal while debating the SSM issue, I urge you to watch Horn’s entire presentation. Even if you rarely find yourself in the position of talking to others about SSM, his framing of the entire question of defining marriage will help to clarify your own beliefs about marriage and recognize why redefinition to include same-sex unions is not the only threat to marriage today. Our objections to same-sex “marriage” are only as strong as our model of what marriage should be. Has our personal model of marriage been influenced by the “relational” view to the extent that we no longer see monogamy, permanence, and total self-gift as hallmarks of the heterosexual unions we properly call marriage? Do we see marriage as being an integral part of a healthy society with ends beyond that of the couple’s personal sexual fulfilment, extending to the good of children? These are important questions that Horn’s presentation will help you to explore at a crucial crossroads in our world’s relationship with the meaning of marriage. Be sure to check out the video link!