The Right Side of History

28 Feb

This past weekend, I traveled to Minnesota to visit friends and take in a college football game. I saw no shortage of roadside election banners there, as the state is voting on a couple of deeply polarizing issues. On the ballot this week in Minnesota (and in several other states) is a proposal to amend the state constitution with a definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. In all likelihood, by the time you are reading this essay, the votes will have been counted a decision announced. And unsurprisingly, the announcement of a winning side of the proposal will do almost nothing to keep the debate from continuing.

It is not my point in this short column to offer a full defense of the traditional family, although I believe that Scripture undergirds such a position unequivocally. Instead, I want to discuss the merits (in this case, the demerits) of one common argument for expanding the legal right of marriage to homosexual couples.

Not infrequently, I’ve seen those in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage appeal to being “on the right side of history.” One version of this argument juxtaposes pictures of segregationist demonstrators from the 1950s alongside pictures of opponents of same-sex marriage from today, with the caption, “Imagine how ridiculous you will look in fifty years.” The message is obvious: there is a certain sort of inevitability to the eventual legality of same-sex marriage, so it would be best to advocate it now.

What should we make of this appeal? Even on a simple logical level, it is an abject failure as an argument. It has no more validity than any other appeal to the crowd; “everybody else is doing it” might be emotionally compelling, but it hardly proves that the thing that everybody is doing is good.

Suppose, just for sake of argument, that global warming is an actual threat and that it is caused by human activity (industrialization and so forth). And further suppose that the doomsayers are accurate, and that our pollution results in the utter decimation of our planet and the extinction of the human race. If this is going to happen, who in their right mind would encourage us all to start polluting, so that we’ll be on the right side of history? But is this not the same kind of argument being offered by the proponents of same-sex marriage?

My hunch is that, in the near future, same-sex marriage will indeed become a commonly accepted practice in our nation. So is support for same-sex marriage a move to the right side of history? Maybe so, in the short term. But the Bible has much to say about the future, and because God ultimately wins, siding with His opinion is to be ultimately on the right side of history.


5 responses to “The Right Side of History

  1. Paul

    February 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I agree with your entire post about same sex marriage, but a football game in February, in Minnesota? I could understand hockey, or basketball….

    • Michael Riley

      February 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm


      Fair point.

      The posts I’ve been putting up here for the last week or so are columns that I’ve written for our local paper. I’ve written a number of these now, and thought I’d use them here. Unfortunately, many posts are now not quite as timely as when they were written. This one was originally published in early November, just after my Wolverines defeated the Gophers again.

  2. Paul

    February 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    While we can agree on our theological viewpoints, we will have to agree to disagree on university affiliation. I’m a Spartans fan and always have been. Many years ago, I was accepted at both MSU and UM, but after gettting out of the Marines and visiting both campuses, I chose MSU!

    Thanks for the explanation, as I’d forgotten you were writing for your newspaper.

  3. Tim Emslie

    March 2, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I read somewhere that the technology advances since the Industrial Revolution predisposes our society to progressivism- every idea is assumed to be better than the last. Tony Esolen has an effective counterargument somewhere that points out the absurdity of moral judgements based on the clock- wrong at 11:52 AM, but right at 1:24 PM. Also, if I lived in Michigan I would have to give first consideration to MSU for Kirk’s sake…

  4. Tim Emslie

    March 2, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Grammar cop says: advances…predispose

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