Tom Gilson

Strategies For a Tilted World

A man once ordained priest in Rome writes on CNN’s Belief Blog of “knee-jerk” Christianity, too bigoted and irrational to recognize our own Scripture’s approval of homosexuality.

An influential advocate against bullying in schools drives dozens of students from the room, some of them in tears, calling out obscenities on the Bible’s moral backwardness about slavery and sexuality.

And a sitting President of the United States comes out in favor of gay “marriage.”

Do you feel the world tipping sideways on you?

Read my new BreakPoint column, Strategies For a Tilted World, to help make sense of it—and to know what to do now.

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23 thoughts on “Strategies For a Tilted World

  1. I’ll echo the sentiment of the first commenter here.

    Which is the biggest threat to marriage – gay marriage or divorce?

    What will save more marriages – outlawing gay marriage or outlawing divorce?

    Is it hypocritical to say “divorce and same-sex marriage are sins”, but permit one while outlawing the other?

    Experts estimate that approximately 10% of us are homosexual. Does 1 same-sex marriage out of 10 represent a significant threat to the institution of marriage?

  2. ooh experts, i see. but you know you are no expert, of course. otherwise you would know that 10% is a dramatically inflated number. real ‘experts’, as you call them, would estimate closer to 2-3%.

  3. Right. Ten percent was never true; it was based on completely shoddy research methods.

    Speaking of which, how would we know that a certain percentage of gay “marriages” would be harmful or not? Let’s see if you like the idea of treating it as a matter of scientific inquiry.

    Even at 2-3%, you bear the burden, Sault and others, of demonstrating it would not prove a significant threat to marriage and society, which you cannot do without actually imposing that risk in possibly irreversible ways. Therefore your social experiment is completely unethical by social research standards, if that means anything to you. I suggest something like an historical survey of civilizations and their strength as correlated with the strength of marriage in them.

    If you think that’s onerous, to place the burden of proof upon you, then I suggest you re-think it more rationally. Who’s calling for this huge social change? Who’s setting up this experiment? Where’s the literature survey? Where’s the human ethics oversight committee?

    By the way, if you thik Europe’s experience with SSM constitutes the experiment, I suggest you re-think the matter more rationally again. How long does it take to show the effect of a social overhaul?

    Now, I think this question can be answered on other grounds than social research, but I thought I’d at least give you a moment to think it through in those terms.

  4. Tom,

    Vague warnings of ominous contrived-seeming social disasters are not enough (we really need not waste time on such phantoms, except perhaps to marvel at the intricate demons the imagination can conjure up) especially when we’re talking about real lives that are *harmed* now or otherwise marginalized by our current policies.


    Also consider:

    The habitual language and tone I’ve noticed you use in on this issue is always quite loaded. SSM is always associated with words like “attack”, “weakening”, “harming” – have you ever just ruminated on the possibility, seriously with an open mind, that SSM is actually just the opposite?

  5. d,

    You ask some good questions. You undermine your credibility considerably, though, with “we really not waste time” thinking through possible social effects in the long term.

    We know, based on this research you quote, that there are positive mental health effects on gay men where gay “marriage” is allowed. Those positive effects are local and short term, as far as we know now.

    We know nothing about the national, global, and long term effects of global warming, oh excuse me, gay “marriage.” Are you suggesting we not waste time thinking about it?

    I think gay “marriage” is a harmful attack on marriage that will weaken families and societies. I don’t know quite how to communicate that without using words like harm, damage, and weaken. I base that opinion on my knowledge of natural law, the history of civilizations, family structures and child health, moral truths, and of course also God’s revelation in Scripture.

    Have you ever just ruminated on the possibly, seriously with an open mind, that SSM could be just that?


  6. @ asdf, Tom

    I’ve come across differing numbers, for sure. I chose 10% because I figured that it would be easier to show this alleged damage to society or marriage with 1 in 10 marriages rather than 2 or 3 in 100. Was that a reasonable assumption to make?

    I think gay “marriage” is a harmful attack on marriage that will weaken families and societies.

    And that’s the part that I just don’t get. I don’t understand how two women or two men getting married threatens or damages other peoples’ relationships. My relationship with my significant other is mine, and no one else’s – if I want them to stay out of my relationship, my love life, my bedroom, then I should stay out of theirs (assuming that no one’s being hurt, that it’s adult, consensual, etc of course).

    Okay, well, I still don’t “get it”, so it’s important that I ask questions.

    In your opinion, how long should it take to show damage to society from allowing same-sex couples to marry? (e.g. the Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage approximately a decade ago – is that long enough?)

    What method(s) of delivery would this damage come from? (e.g. Hetero marriage has the benefit of biological reproduction and tradition, while same-sex marriage has neither)

    What is the metric that we should use to measure how damaged a society is from allowing same-sex couples to marry?

    Have we used these metrics to document the damage that same-sex marriage has caused to other countries, other cultures, other societies?

    If we can’t cite Europe for examples in favor of same-sex marriage, why should we accept other countries/cultures as examples against? How do we obtain our sample set?

    While these questions may come across as provocative, I am trying to put aside my emotional reaction and ask them as objectively as I can. I am sure that you’ve responded to at least one of them before – I am open to being directed to a previous post if that is the case.

    Just to give a head’s up, if I cannot respond without an excess of emotion I will need to back out of the discussion for now. I have only known one gay couple, but their experiences touched me very deeply, and it is difficult to separate my emotional reaction to seeing how others treated them (especially “loving” Christians) and have a purely rational, objective discussion about the issue.

  7. Your world may be tilted by these developments, Tom, but mine gets a liitle more rightly oriented with each one.

  8. More comfortably oriented, you mean? These developments defy any meaning for a right orientation. They’re relativistic to the core. You can’t be rightly oriented in the world you imagine you live in.

  9. Of course, there is a big difference between 1 in 10 and 1 in 33 or 50. But OK. They’re not doing too well in Europe, I heard. Can’t remember which Scandinavian country, but after legalization of SSM, divorce rates and illegitimacy soared. Might have been…Norway? Anyway, most children are born out of wedlock there now, wherever it is. (sorry, unprofessional, I know)

  10. Ah, yes, it is Norway. 80% of first time births, and 70% overall are illegitimate. So as Tom has suggested, the whole idea of marriage has been reduced to a joke.

  11. Whoops. Sorry, that should be, in the most liberal county of Norway, the illegitimacy rate is as above. It’s still above 50% overall. And your point is taken. While maybe not reduced to a joke, it is clear that even prior to the legalization of SSM, marriage was not taken seriously in many of the countries listed in that article. However, in a country such as your own, the US, where marriage is still respected to some extent, might well cause attitudes to change to look more like those on display in Scandinavia.

    But I guess I was wrong about my initial point, that divorce and illegitimacy soared after legalizing SSM. They were already sky-high to begin with.

  12. I’ve had trouble finding any analyses using data beyond 2005, could people give a shout if they find one?

    The most recent paper I can find on the effects of the introduction of SSM on marriage in the Netherlands (Feb 2012), and so hopefully with the most up to date methods of analysis, concludes that:

    I fi nd that neither
    the introduction of registered partnership nor the legalization of same-sex marriage had a (statistically signi cant) negative impact on the different-sex marriage rate.

    To amateurly consider available evidence since 2005 personally:
    The marriage rate in the Netherlands seemed to slightly increase after the introduction of civil partnership in 1998, but then decrease after the introduction of SSM between 2001 and 2005. Since 2005 it seems to have approximately stabilised. See here. This isn’t expressed as rates but I’ve seen elsewhere this seems to be a marriage rate (per 1,000) of about 4.4/4.5, again for every year between 2005-2011. The crude divorce rate in 2009 was 1.9 (as can be seen in further sources).

    This compares to a European average of a marriage rate of 4.5, and a divorce rate of 2.0 [in 2008/2009 – see here], so superficially nothing particularly peculiar.

    When considering changes in the last decade, the decrease in marriage rate is greater than average, but there are a number of European states (without SSM) which have exhibited greater decreases in marriage rate – see here. As can be seen nicely in some graphs in the 2012 report, the degree to which the marriage rate is below the average rate in countries most similar to the Netherlands is comparable to the ‘random’ fluctuations (both above and below average) over the last few decades.

    The divorce rate in the Netherlands has actually decreased from 2.2 in 2000 to 1.9 in 2009, whereas the general trend has been an increase in divorce rate across Europe in that time. Source

    Perhaps its also worth noting that of the European OECD-17, in 2006/2007, the Netherlands had joint-fourth highest percentage of adults married (56%) [See “Table” on the right of the page here. Relative to Europe at least (I appreciate it still falls far from ideals) the institution of marriage in the Netherlands seems to be reasonably healthy.

    So again, amateurly, tentatively, superficially, there appears to be perhaps some marginally negative signs (of consequences of SSM on marriage), perhaps some marginally positive signs, and I would be tempted to conclude similarly to the 2012 paper that nothing warrants judgement of an evident statistically significant causal effect either way thus far.

  13. I would think that the most obvious metric for damage to marriage would be divorce.

    The problem that I see is that a) divorce rates are already high in countries that don’t recognize SSM, and b) there are other factors that have had a marked effect on the rise in divorces, far more than anything that I’ve heard in the countries that have introduced SSM.

    Let’s look at the UK (since they were the first stats that I came across). 48% of marriages end in divorce as of 4/2011. Facebook/social media play a role in 1/3rd of these divorces.

    So, by rough estimates, about 16% of divorces happen because of Facebook and social media. 16%. That’s almost 1 out of 6 marriages! I mean, holy crap, right?

    Using divorce rates as a metric, shouldn’t we be outlawing Facebook and social media before even thinking about tackling SSM?

    Hell, why not outlaw divorce? The immediate problem with that, of course, is that actual social benefits have been shown when requirements to divorce are loosened. Divorce rates rise… but less domestic violence and lower suicide rates.

    In cases like that, what do we do when the institution of marriage causes harm instead of good? Can divorce rates then really (or at least always) be an indicator of damage to marriage itself?

  14. I’m nowhere near an expert on any of this, but I have some questions.

    There is no doubt that heterosexual marriage in the US is in trouble. Aside from initially boosting statistics, I don’t see how allowing same sex marriage helps heterosexual marriage. But that seems to be an implied argument. The troubles of hetero marriage seem to be a red herring, unless someone can provide the connection for me. Is the solution simply to mask failed heterosexual marriage statistics with SSM statistics?

    I’m missing something.

  15. Justin:

    Aside from initially boosting statistics, I don’t see how allowing same sex marriage helps heterosexual marriage. But that seems to be an implied argument.

    Is the solution simply to mask failed heterosexual marriage statistics with SSM statistics?

    Boosting/Masking Statistics
    I’m not sure if I’ve missed your point about boosting statistics, but its certainly not the case that same-sex marriages ‘top up’ opposite-sex marriage rates to any significant extent. There were 1358 same-sex marriages in the Netherlands in 2008, less than 2% of the total. Source.

    Implication that same-sex marriage helps opposite-sex marriage
    While some people may argue along those lines in terms of consequential social goods which enhance the institution of marriage, I don’t advocate that position myself, and I don’t personally think such arguments stand up to scrutiny (in my mind, similarly to arguments claiming the social goods of keeping opposite-sex marriage).

    To me, it certainly seems that there (as of yet) isn’t any real-world evidence to support either the view that SSM impacts positively or negatively on opposite-sex marriage, and I cited the Netherlands as an example to back up my position.

    I’m primarily doing so to counter the claim made in this thread (and often elsewhere) that introducing SSM will “reduce marriage to a joke”/”cause attitudes to change” etc.

  16. ooh experts, i see. but you know you are no expert, of course. otherwise you would know that 10% is a dramatically inflated number. real ‘experts’, as you call them, would estimate closer to 2-3%.

    Or 20-30%, in certain cities… :P.

    I’m primarily doing so to counter the claim made in this thread (and often elsewhere) that introducing SSM will “reduce marriage to a joke”/”cause attitudes to change” etc.

    Well, it *does* set a precedent for redefining the institution of marriage, making one hard-pressed to then continue denying (or simply not recognizing) things like plural and intrafamilial marriages as well. In fact, some Mormon groups have already been consulting gay marriage lobby groups about legal avenues/issues in further modifying marriage to their ends (polygamy). An ironic coalition, perhaps.

  17. From the perspective of raising a child in a healthy environment, in theory at least I don’t care how many people are involved… as long as they are consenting adults and distanced enough biologically that it doesn’t place the child at a high risk of danger, genetically.

    A black eye on Mormon polygamy is that it hasn’t always been the case, both historically and in current Mormon fundamentalist groups…. Apparently it is too easy for an alpha male to abuse the power to amass a group of wives. Even Joseph Smith ended up marrying at least one 14-year old.

    It’s part of Mormon theology… can’t escape it. If anyone has a vested interest in redefining marriage, it is them.

    And it’s not like you can’t make a legitimate case that there’s a Biblical precedent for it anyways…

  18. David,

    One is not really hard-pressed at all to defend same-sex marriage while rejecting polygamy.

    Once you cross the road to polygamous marriages, you’re talking about a road that leads to a vastly different set of consequences for society. There are a whole host of social ills that polygamy (specifically) is likely to bring about, that don’t apply to two person unions between adults.

    And here are some examples, right from a source that’s oft quoted around these parts (

    … They found that polygamous societies differ from monogamous societies in terms of violent crimes, female educational attainment, domestic violence, parental investment in children, and economic productivity.

    … A wealth of sociological information points to the fact that single men commit the vast majority of violent crimes… So, since there are many more single men in polygamous societies, polygamous societies have higher rates of violent crime.

    … Polygamous families are also more likely than monogamous families to be in poverty, since typically only one breadwinner supports numerous children.

    … Polygamous societies also dilute the investment of fathers in their children in at least two ways. First, because marriage to other young women is still an option, a husband’s resources of time, attention, and money are diverted away from his own children and toward finding new mates. Secondly, in virtue of the greater number of children in the polygamous family, it becomes increasingly difficult to give each child sufficient time and attention.

    … With a relative scarcity of possible mates of their own age, men seek wives among women of younger ages. Early marriage in turn leads to much higher rates of reproduction. Rather than delaying marriage and childbearing until their twenties or thirties, women marry and have children as teenagers. In modern social conditions, teen motherhood is detrimental for both these young women and their families.

    … Research indicates that levels of domestic strife and violence are higher in polygamous homes than in monogamous homes as wives seek to preserve their place with their shared husband as well as struggle to secure resources for their own biological children

    And of course, there are many more. So not only is one not hard-pressed – its pretty darn easy to oppose polygamy and support gay marriage.

  19. d is a narrow-minded bigot who wants to force his views of marriage on polygamists. America is supposed to be the land of the free!

  20. over time I see the people as getting more divided. There seems to be so many evil people yet at the same time there is so much good. I believe this is how it will be until christ comes again. Recently I have read in 1 Cor. 4. I think of how the apostles are example to us. And for us to be be example to others we must be faithful. I know the world is falling away into sin. But at the same time it think we should have hope. I know that if i’m faithful and can be an example to those around me. Maybe i will be able to make a difference in bringing one person to christ.

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