What Does It Mean To “Conserve” ~ Conservatism and Gay Marriage

This is a really good article from The American Spectator, with thanks to Paul Kengor. He starts with a quote from Gutfeld:

  • “Gay marriage, in my opinion, is a conservative idea.” ~ Greg Gutfeld

….With all respect to Greg Gutfeld, who I usually agree with, gay marriage is absolutely not a conservative idea. Not unless, as liberals do with marriage, one redefines conservatism.

How is that? What is conservatism? That itself can be problematic. If you ask 10 self-identified conservatives for a definition, you might get 10 different answers. This much, however, can be said:

Conservatism aims to conserve the time-tested values, ideas, and principles that have been sustained over time by previous generations and traditions. (Here, a crucial correction to Greg Gutfeld: gay marriage is not a tradition.) These are values, ideas, and principles—usually with a Judeo-Christian basis—that have endured for good reason and for the best of society, citizens, country, culture, and order. That’s a brief summation that the late Russell Kirk, probably conservatism’s preeminent philosophical spokesman, would endorse—as would Ronald Reagan, the face of modern conservatism.

In an important speech at CPAC in February 1977, Reagan stated this: “Conservative wisdom and principles are derived from willingness to learn, not just from what is going on now, but from what has happened before. The principles of conservatism are sound because they are based on what men and women have discovered through experience in not just one generation or a dozen, but in all the combined experience of mankind. When we conservatives say that we know something about political affairs, and that we know can be stated as principles, we are saying that the principles we hold dear are those that have been found, through experience, to be ultimately beneficial for individuals, for families, for communities and for nations—found through the often bitter testing of pain or sacrifice and sorrow.”

That’s a solid definition of conservatism. Gay marriage, merely by its total newness alone, fails that rudimentary definition. Gay marriage has never been done before. One would never expect a conservative to rush into something as utterly unprecedented—and that directly repudiates the laws of nature and nature’s God—as this completely novel concept called “gay marriage.” Same-sex marriage not only revolutionizes marriage but also human nature generally and family specifically, the latter of which conservatives have always understood as the fundamental building block of civilization.

One would expect a progressive to support redefining marriage, because for progressives, everything is always in a state of never-ending, always-evolving flux…. Redefine family, parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood, womanhood, manhood, gender? Sure, says the progressive.

For conservatives, however, this is unthinkable. Indeed, a conservative cannot even “conserve” when it comes to gay marriage, because gay marriage is an untried idea unimaginable by any people until only very recent days.

To be sure, conservatives, especially those whose conservatism springs from religious underpinnings, should recognize and respect the inherent human dignity of all gay people—being fellow human beings made in the image of God—and should not mistreat them. But those conservatives cannot, in turn, blatantly violate (if not blaspheme) the teachings of their faith and their God on the sanctity of male-female matrimony.

[….]

The point: a radical leftist is eagerly willing to remake marriage and family in his own image, but a conservative is not. To the contrary, the task of the conservative is to fight that rebellion, to affirm and defend and preserve and conserve the natural-traditional-biblical family—i.e., that time-tested institution that Reagan called “the most important unit in society,” “the most durable of all institutions,” “the nucleus of civilization,” “the cornerstone of American society.” And children, said Reagan, “belong in a family” with a mom and dad. In fact, Reagan maintained that it is in a family that children are not only cared for but “taught the moral values and traditions that give order and stability to our lives and to society as a whole.” America’s families must “preserve and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish.” Above all, Reagan stated that our “concept of the family” “must withstand the trends of lifestyle and legislation.”

And yet, gay marriage is no mere trend of lifestyle and legislation. By breaking the ancient Western standard of marriage between one man and one woman, it will forever alter our concept of family that has formed the nucleus of civilization….

…read it all…

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