Yet another shoe has dropped in the debate over same-sex marriage.
Kirk Cameron, the teenage heartthrob turned Christian Right entrepreneur, the man who once called homosexuality “detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization,” has recently changed his tune. He said in an interview earlier this month that Christians should look within, rather than blaming others for the “decay” in traditional values.
“I think the greatest threat to marriage is not other people’s definition of marriage,” Cameron said in a telephone interview with the Alabama-based website AL.com. “The church isn’t taking God’s definition of marriage seriously. It’s not other people sabotaging marriage that’s the problem.”
Tellingly, Cameron, who has previously taken an explicit position against same-sex marriage, declined to do so in the May 2 interview. Rather, he placed the blame for society’s ills on Christians themselves. “When people get too focused on redefining marriage, you’re distracted from the bigger problem—fornicators and adulterers… If the people sitting in the pews are fornicators and adulterers, the church will destroy marriages much more quickly than those outside the church. When God’s people mock marriage, God doesn’t take that lightly.”
Obviously, Cameron’s “evolution” is hardly an about-face. It’s also somewhat self-serving, since he is now crisscrossing the country offering seminars on marriage and relationships. But it does represent a significant departure from his past views, and yet another sign that same-sex marriage has become a fixed social reality. Rather than blaming gay people for the decline in civilization, Cameron is demanding Christians hold themselves to a higher standard.
Perhaps Cameron has been rereading John 8:7—“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” a lesson lost on the likes of the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who recently called the television show Modern Family “poison” that is “harmful to the culture.” Or the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Alan Sears, who has argued in his book The Homosexual Agenda that gays are seeking to destroy the American family and take over American corporations. (Ironically, the ADF’s own remarkable financial growth was recently exposed by the liberal website Think Progress.) For them, gays are absolutely to blame.
Not so for Cameron—anymore. For him, the fault lies within. “The church determines the moral temperature of the culture,” Cameron said. “On our watch, we’ve let morality decay, the commitment to love and marriage fall apart. we’ve given in to an anti-biblical Christian worldview. We’re simply failing to do our job as the church.”
Cameron’s new line is similar to that of ex-NOM poster boy David Blankenhorn, who outraged the traditional-marriage movement when he publicly changed his mind in June 2012. At the time, Blankenhorn wrote, “I had… hoped that debating gay marriage might help to lead heterosexual America to a broader and more positive recommitment to marriage as an institution. But it hasn’t happened.”
Instead, Blankenhorn challenged marriage-minded gays to join straight traditionalists in promoting marriage, discouraging childbearing out of wedlock, and so on—a position I recently reviewed in these pages.
As a longtime advocate—and practitioner—of same-sex marriage, I am on board with Cameron’s new message. I agree with him: If Christians show that traditional marriage is such a great institution, then more people will naturally gravitate to it, with no need for state coercion. Of course, I’m betting on a different horse, since the data don’t support Cameron’s view. From the looks of it, “fornication” has a stronger future.
But I completely agree with his approach. Let’s welcome different iterations of intimacy, relationship, and family flourish equally into the public square—and let people make up their own minds.
Most importantly, Cameron’s new quasi-“live and let live” philosophy substitutes responsibility for scapegoating. It’s always convenient to blame the out-group—immigrants, the poor, the gays, the blacks, the Jews —for whatever problem we as a society can’t seem to solve. But that’s both fuzzy thinking and immoral reasoning. It leads to prejudice, demonization, and violence.
For the last twenty years, the LGBT equality movement has focused on depicting LGBT lives as they are. Not all of us are Ward and June Cleaver, but we’re not all Hugh Hefner either. And by now, a majority of Americans know it.
So now it’s the right’s turn. Conservatives, show us that your way of life leads to more fulfillment, more joy, and more justice, and more people will be tempted to follow it. Yes, doing so is a lot harder than demonizing others. But those are just cultural growing pains.