The Battle Belongs to the Grassroots: This Is Our Moment

This battle hinges on one thing: creating a vibrant—dominant—marriage culture based on the participation of millions of individuals.

President-elect Trump has done what no one else has been able to do: he has slain the dragon of political correctness. Trump has cleared out the minefield and disarmed the booby traps that once allowed the advancement of progressivism to go on unimpeded. The aim of political correctness has always been undermining faith and family—the two things that stand as the greatest barriers between individual citizens and an unchecked statist government. As the Little Sisters of the Poor can attest, religious liberty and traditional morality have been heavily targeted in recent years.

Concerning the deeper meaning of the rise of Donald Trump, Angelo Codevilla quite accurately suggests:

America’s ruling class largely destroyed, along with its own credibility, the respect for truth, and the culture of restraint that had made the American people unique stewards of freedom and prosperity. . . .

In short, the PC “changes in law and public norms” (to quote [William] Galston again) that the ruling class imposed on the rest of America, rather than having “gradually brought about changes in private attitudes across partisan and ideological lines” as the ruling class imagined (and as Gramsci would have approved) have set off a revolution—of which we can be sure only that it won’t be pretty.

Concerning an immediate impact of Donald Trump, former Vice President Dick Cheney summed things up rather nicely during a panel discussion with CNN’s Barbara Starr at the Reagan Library. Speaking about the now diminished role of the press, where tweets have replaced interfacing with the press, Cheney said Trump has taken us to “the point where we don’t need you guys any more.”

Nonetheless, our challenge now is to take advantage of the opening that Donald Trump has created. We must accept the fact that the field has indeed been cleared, and we should no longer be afraid to express unpopular truths, whether in national media, at work, at school, or around the dinner table.

We must not miss this opportunity. We now stand at the brink of what could very well be a cultural springtime—no, not the one that John Podesta and his cohort had in mind—but one that could reignite and regenerate a flourishing Christian culture.

Grassroots Americans: This Is Our Moment

In February, 2015, I found myself in a discussion group with a dozen highly successful Catholic businessmen, all pillars of the community and members of a wealthy parish just outside Washington, DC. These guys had been getting together at 6:30 on Saturday mornings for a few years to discuss how to be better Catholics, husbands, and fathers. Their once-a-week get-togethers always proved to be lively, vulnerable, action-oriented conversations.

One morning, when the topic of same-sex marriage unexpectedly cropped up, the nature of the discussion suddenly changed. The liveliness evaporated.

After a long silence, each man’s contribution to the discussion was prefaced with a litany of halting, sheepish disclaimers: I’m not anti-gay, but . . . Some of my closest colleagues and friends are gay, but . . . I’m not homophobic, but . . . I don’t judge anyone, but . . . . It was painful for me to watch these wonderful, dedicated Catholic men who had forged such strong brotherly relationships appear scared to death to speak honestly and forthrightly—and not to adversaries, but to each other—about this issue. It was almost as if instead of being in a Catholic parish assembly room in 2015 America, we were in East Germany during the deep freeze of the Cold War, fearful that one of our neighbors might be a secret Stasi informant.

I finally had to speak up. When I began by announcing that I am same-sex attracted, their suddenly ashen faces let me know that they thought their worst fears had been confirmed. But I delivered a message to them that was far different from what they expected. I told them:

You guys need to stop being afraid. Don’t cower or shrink back when it comes to speaking the truth about marriage. Both the world and the church desperately need you to be unafraid to speak, because to remain silent is an act of capitulation, and marriage and family will go down in flames. Please speak confidently, because you have Truth with a “Capital T”—the Gospel—on your side. I am same-sex attracted, and I need guys like you to stand tall and proclaim what you know to be true. Otherwise, there is little hope for me and others like me. Please don’t abandon us through silence! Don’t withhold the good news of the Gospel from us out of fear!

And please don’t comfort yourselves by thinking that the Church hierarchy and her academics can handle this on behalf of the rest of us. They are amazingly gifted, but they can only do so much. This battle will only be won based on the personal convictions and actions of ordinary, grassroots Christians, and the way in which we conduct our lives.

It was right around this same time I began work on an amicus brief for the United States Supreme Court that came to be known as “Same-Sex Attracted Men and Their Wives.” The brief was submitted in the Obergefell v. Hodges case in support of allowing states to legally define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It was one of over sixty briefs submitted in defense of marriage, many of which were written by some of the best legal minds in the country working with religious leaders and top academic scholars on marriage and social science. Still, this was not enough to protect marriage from five men and women robed in black.

The Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision was the peak of a long crescendo in a drama that played out over several decades in the media, Congress, statehouses, and lower courts. Despite the wonderful work done by so many heroic individual activists and organizations working, it was not enough.

When this conversation took place, I had recently returned from the November 2014 Humanum Conference at the Vatican. “The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium” was attended by a very impressive array of outstanding leaders and scholars from many of the world’s religious traditions and cultures. Despite the combined riches of wisdom and knowledge displayed there, that too was not enough.

That left me with a question: Why? Why do we seem to be losing on every front? Did we perhaps misunderstand the true nature of the battle?

We have already seen that the Catholic Church hierarchy cannot win this battle for us, nor can leaders of other Christian denominations. Nor can highly intelligent Christian intellectuals, high-powered Christian attorneys and legal scholars, high-voltage social scientists, or even powerful Washington politicians, lobbying groups, and think tanks. Why? Because this battle hinges on one thing: creating a vibrant—dominant—marriage culture based on the participation of millions of individuals who value and commit themselves to the supernatural truth about marriage.

The battle belongs to the grassroots.

Now is the time for men and women to rise up to supplant the career politicians and media types who have dominated the national narrative for so long. The country needs solid citizen legislators, citizen journalists, and citizen activists to continue to step up to the plate and fill positions at every level of government; to fill the blogosphere, the airwaves, and opinion pages with authentic, pro-human, pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-liberty views. Over time we need to wrest away the narrative from the radical, anti-humanist elites and put an end to the dull drumbeat, the one-note regressive progressive samba, which continues to dominate the media and judicial and legislative chambers today.

Proclaiming Truth, and Living It

Don’t underestimate yourself. Don’t allow political correctness to keep you silent, because the world thirsts for the truth.

Though we can often feel like our country, our local communities, and our families are separated by irresolvable divisions, we really have more in common than separating us. We must put this division to an end. This cannot be accomplished through passivity or forced tolerance—especially via government mandate and muscle. It can only come through the kind of love that seeks unity through reason and intellectual honesty.

Consider the example of my family—me, my wife, and our two children. Want to talk about unity despite what the world says are insurmountable differences? In our family of four, three are same-sex attracted—including one or two who are on the gender dysphoria scale—and one, the youngest, is straight as an arrow. (To be honest, I’m not sure how that happened.) Beyond that, we diverge on politics, religion, and morals. My wife and I were once divorced. Oh, and my wife and I are white, while our kids are biracial. And then there’s that whole baby-boomer-versus-millennials thing. Other than all that, we’re as homogeneous as can be.

In many ways, we are far from a typical American family. But in one crucial way, we are blessed beyond many others, possessing what so many lack and most yearn for: we are an intact family. We all—husband and wife, mother and father, children and parents—are permanently, irrevocably united by bonds of love and mutual respect. Nothing is going to drag us apart.

I am a husband and a father. Though my past is littered with mistakes—some, like my divorce, quite grave—my most valuable contribution not only to my family but to the entire world, to the church, and to the protection of the one true definition of marriage is this: upholding my own marriage vows, being a faithful husband and father. That dedication is far more important than anything I can write in a publication or say from a podium.

Love and Truth Prevail

A few days ago, my twenty-two-year-old gay, Wiccan, Harlem-dwelling, Green Party-belonging, Hillary-favoring yet militantly pro-life, musical-theatre-performing son reached out to me from London. Without prompting and not for the first time, he reminded me of the love of God at a moment when I very much needed reminding.

As much as anybody, he realizes that what our country now needs more than anything else is healing. So, he sent me this short music video in which he had recently performed. Watch it—it’s more uplifting and forward-looking than anything you’ll read, see, or hear in the endless cycle of election postmortems. It focuses on living in the freedom that political correctness and other social shackles commonly prevent.

I am proud of our son’s approach to and love for humanity. The older he and his brother grow, the more they both put me to shame. As David Rowen, the driving creative talent behind this video, said: “We wanted to share this with you to spread a little bit of joy and a little bit of hope and to show that no matter our differences, we can enjoy life together and live in peace.”

Now is the time to end divisions, to put a halt to adversarial, tribal thinking. That which unites us is greater than that which divides us, no matter how much political correctness has straitjacketed our country for the last few decades.

The truth is, we are free. Let’s live like it.


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