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An open letter to South Africans on same-sex marriage, from Dr. James Dobson
Family News From Dr. James Dobson
I write to you today with a profound sense of concern and apprehension for the welfare of the family. I do not recall a time since the beginnings of Focus on the Family, 28 years ago, when the institution of marriage faced such peril, or when the forces arrayed against it were more formidable or determined. Barring a miracle, the family as it has been known for more than five millennia will crumble, presaging the fall of Western civilization itself. This is a time for concerted prayer, divine wisdom and greater courage than we have ever been called upon to exercise.
When I visited South Africa in 1996, I became aware that the challenges facing the family in that country are very similar to those confronting us here in the United States. As you may know, in recent months homosexual activists in the USA have been relentless in their efforts to change the legal definition of marriage to include partners of the same sex. While there are many forces undermining family stability, the push for same-sex unions is particularly severe because it strikes at the very definition of marriage. Although we need to demonstrate love and compassion toward those who are struggling with homosexual sin, we must never allow such relationships to be legally recognised as marriages.
In talking with the leadership of Focus on the Family Southern Africa, I have learned that the homosexual activist movement in your country is pursuing goals and objectives similar to those of its counterparts here in the USA. On 30 November 2004, Justice Edwin Cameron of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the definition of marriage should be extended to include same-sex marriages.[i] Then, on 17 May 2005, an appeal by the Department of Home Affairs, the Marriage Alliance and others was heard at the Constitutional Court. A ruling on that appeal is still pending. Focus on the Family Southern Africa supported the Marriage Alliance in this case. I am encouraged to know that a number of other South African churches and Christian groups have also become involved in the effort to preserve traditional marriage.[ii]
For more than 40 years, the homosexual activist movement in liberal Western democracies has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centrepiece the utter destruction of the family. And it now appears that, over the past ten years in South Africa, homosexual militants have taken advantage of the fluid political situation to implement the same agenda - in some cases, even more successfully than in the United States. The institution of marriage, along with an often weakened and impotent Church, is all that stands in the way of its achievement of every coveted aspiration. I was recently given a copy of the South African 'Gay Rights Charter,' which shows that the aims of homosexual militants in South Africa include the universal acceptance of the gay lifestyle, the discrediting of Scriptures that condemn homosexuality, the muzzling of the clergy and Christian media, the granting of special legal privileges and rights to homosexuals, the indoctrination of children and future generations through public education, and the securing of all the legal benefits of marriage for any two people who claim to have homosexual tendencies[iii]. It's only a matter of time before the homosexual agenda in South Africa reaches an even more radical level, as it already has in the USA, where certain groups are seeking to legalise paedophilia, polygamy and polyandry ("marriage" among groups of people).
The objectives that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago have largely been achieved or are now within reach. All that remains is for the movement and its friends in the media, the entertainment industry, the professions, the government and the military, to deliver the coup de grace to a beleaguered institution that was given to humanity by the Creator in the Garden of Eden. We are not simply "slouching towards Gomorrah," as Judge Robert Bork warned in his best-selling book[iv]; we are hurtling toward it.
To cite another metaphor, the old earthen dam that has held and protected the reservoir of Judeo-Christian values and beliefs has been leaking for decades. Even the most casual observer has witnessed greater structural damage each passing year. The granting of marriage licences to thousands of homosexual couples in several US states, and the decision by your South African Supreme Court of Appeal to extend the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, are evidence of this. These developments represent the collapse of the rule of law, with no legal or governmental official being willing or able to stop it or provide more than a temporary stay. In theory, a constitutional democracy provides that major changes in the law are to be made only by elected representatives, giving the courts the responsibility of ensuring that each law is implemented fairly. However, in these cases of homosexual "marriage," the legislatures have been bypassed entirely, leaving an unelected and unaccountable judiciary to invent new laws and then impose them on an unsuspecting public.
A revolution of striking proportions now looms before us. This is distressing for many reasons, including the historical perspective of Focus on the Family. We have fought for "the preservation of the home" since I left academia in 1977. That phrase appeared at the bottom of the first printed stationery, which summarized what we were attempting to do. We've been frantically waving a red flag ever since, warning our listeners and readers that the family was in mortal danger.
If your Constitutional Court rules in favour of homosexual marriage, and if South Africans accept that decision passively, the issue will never be in question again. Your society's traditional understanding of the institution of the family will have been destroyed.
Well, so what? Many in the secular news media are asking how sanctioning marriage between homosexuals would be harmful to society. Why shouldn't the family, which they see as outmoded and irrelevant, be broadened and modernized? What harm could possibly be done by yielding to the demands of gays and lesbians? As a Christian, you may be asked to explain why it is important to defend the true definition of marriage. In response, I'd like to offer eight powerful arguments that you can use against this untested and unprecedented social experiment. They are as follows:
(1) The implications for children in a world of decaying families are profound. The institution of marriage has already been severely undermined by easily available divorce, an immoral media culture, and especially in South Africa, by the history of migrant labour. Legal recognition of so-called same-sex "marriage" would only make matters worse. The advent of legally sanctioned gay unions in Scandinavian countries has already destroyed the institution of marriage, where half of today's children are born out of wedlock.[v] It is predicted now, based on demographic trends in this country, that more than half of the babies born in the 1990s will spend at least part of their childhood in single-parent homes.[vi] Social scientists have been surprisingly consistent in warning against this fractured family. If this pattern continues, almost every child will have several "moms" and "dads," perhaps six or eight "grandparents," and dozens of half-siblings. It will be a world where increasing numbers of little boys and girls are shuffled from pillar to post in an ever-changing pattern of living arrangements - where many more of them will be raised in foster-care homes or living on the street. Imagine an environment where nothing is stable and where "parents" think primarily about themselves and their own pleasure.
The apostle Paul described a similar society in Romans 1, which addressed the epidemic of homosexuality that was rampant in the ancient world and
especially in Rome at that time. It appears likely now that the demise of
families will accelerate this type of decline dramatically, resulting in a chaotic culture that will be devastating to children.
(2) The introduction of legalized gay marriages will lead inexorably to acceptance of polygamy, group marriage and other alternatives to one-man, one-woman unions. Polygamy is already recognised in South Africa for those married under tribal customary law[vii]. But if same-sex "marriage" is recognised as part of the common law, what is to stop polygamy from being extended to every member of South African society under the common law? And if polygamy is recognised, then why not also group marriage? Similarly, in the state of Utah here in the United States, polygamists are already trying to get recognition for their relationships based on the precedent of 'homosexual rights'[viii]. Why will gay marriage set the stage for polygamy? Because there is no place to stop once that Rubicon has been crossed. Historically, the definition of marriage has rested on a bedrock of tradition, legal precedent, theology and the overwhelming support of the people. After the introduction of marriage between homosexuals, however, it will be supported by nothing more substantial than the opinion of a single judge or by a black-robed panel of justices. After they have done their wretched work, the family will consist of little more than someone's interpretation of "rights." Given that unstable legal climate, it is likely that some self-possessed judge, somewhere, will soon rule that three men and one woman can marry. Or five and two, or four and four. Who will be able to deny them that right? The guarantee is implied, we will be told, by the Constitution.
Those who disagree will continue to be seen as hate-mongers and bigots. (Indeed, those charges are already being levelled against those of us who espouse biblical values!) How about group marriage, or marriage between relatives, or marriage between adults and children? How about marriage between a man and his donkey? Anything allegedly linked to "civil rights" will be doable. The legal underpinnings for marriage will have been destroyed.
(3) An even greater objective of the homosexual movement is to end the state 's compelling interest in marital relationships altogether. After marriages have been legally redefined, divorces will be obtained instantly, will not involve a court, and will take on the status of a driver's license or a hunting permit. With the family out of the way, all rights and privileges of marriage will accrue to gay and lesbian partners without the legal entanglements and commitments heretofore associated with it.
(4) With the legalization of homosexual marriage, every public school will be required to teach that this perversion is the moral equivalent of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Textbooks will have to depict man/man and woman/woman relationships, and stories written for children as young as elementary school, or even kindergarten, will have to give equal space to homosexuals. Many parents are not aware that the promotion of homosexual behaviour in schools is already being implemented as part of the South African Education Department's curriculum.[ix]
(5) Foster-care parents will be required to undergo "sensitivity training" to rid themselves of bias in favour of traditional marriage, and will have to affirm homosexuality in children and teens.
(6) Marriage among homosexuals will spread to other parts of the world. Supreme and Constitutional Courts in different countries are increasingly relying on one another's verdicts, rather than on their established national laws, to interpret their constitutions. As with pornography and abortion, this is an international battle. Sadly, South Africa was the first country in the world to include homosexual rights in its constitution. International homosexual activists and courts are watching what is happening in South Africa. [x] The outcome of this battle in your country will affect other countries as well.
(7) Perhaps most importantly, the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed. The family has always been God's primary vehicle for evangelism. Its most important assignment has been the propagation of the human race and the handing down of the faith to our children. Malachi 2:15 reads, referring to husbands and wives, "Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth" (NIV). That responsibility to teach the next generation will never recover from the loss of committed, God-fearing families. The younger generation and those yet to come will be deprived of the Good News, as has already occurred in France, Germany and other European countries. Instead of providing for a father and mother, the advent of homosexual marriage will create millions of motherless children and fatherless kids. This is morally wrong, and is condemned in Scripture. Will South Africa and the United States join the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada[xi] to "normalize" and legalize behaviour that has been prohibited by God Himself?
The family has been God's primary vehicle for evangelism since the beginning.
(8) The culture war will be over, and I fear, the world may soon become "as it was in the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:37, NIV). This is the climactic moment in the battle to preserve the family, and future generations hang in the balance.
This apocalyptic and pessimistic view of the institution of the family and its future will sound alarmist to many, but I think it will prove accurate unless - unless - God's people awaken and begin an even greater vigil of prayer. That's why Shirley and I are urgently seeking the Lord's favour and asking Him to hear the petitions of His people and heal our land. As of this time, however, large segments of the church appear to be unaware of the danger; its leaders are surprisingly silent about our peril (although we are tremendously thankful for the efforts of those who have spoken out on this issue).
Marriage is a sacrament designed by God that serves as a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and His Church. Tampering with His plan for the family is immoral and wrong. To violate the Lord's expressed will for humankind, especially in regard to behaviour that He has prohibited, is to court disaster. Here's the question of the hour: How can we stop unaccountable judges from overriding the will of the people, who continue to oppose homosexual marriage by a wide margin? More than three quarters of South Africans believe that sexual relations between two people of the same sex, let alone equating such relations to marriage, are always wrong.
How can we stop unaccountable judges from overriding the will of the people, who continue to oppose homosexual marriage by a wide margin?
In the USA, we have come to realise that the only way to truly preserve marriage is to pass a Constitutional Amendment defining it exclusively as the union between one man and one woman. Focus on the Family and a number of other pro-family groups are supporting this initiative, although opposition is strong. The passage of similar legislation may also prove necessary in South Africa.
Despite the danger that confronts us, I am hopeful that the death of the family can be averted. Most South Africans still believe in the Judeo-Christian system of values, and millions of them are people of faith who are calling on the Lord for a miracle. That is the source of our confidence at such a perilous time. We need to pray for God's intervention to stop this evil.
I will leave you with this familiar story told in 2 Chronicles 32. There we read about King Hezekiah who had served God "wholeheartedly" during his reign. However, he eventually faced a terrible crisis when Sennacherib, King of Assyria, invaded Judah with 185,000 well-armed and trained warriors. They wiped out the defenders of every city that lay in their path. Then they laid siege to Jerusalem and demanded that Hezekiah surrender or be totally destroyed. These are the irreverent words shouted by Sennacherib to Hezekiah and his defenders who were standing on the wall:
"Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand? Who of all the gods of these nations that my fathers destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand? Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!" (2 Chronicles 32:13-15, NIV).
Hezekiah, along with the prophet Isaiah, did what you and I would have done under those distressing circumstances. They cried out to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for deliverance. Hezekiah also encouraged his countrymen with these inspired words: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the King of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles" (2 Chronicles 32:7-8a, NIV).
And indeed, the Lord did intervene as a result of the prayers of His people, delivering them from the hands of their enemies. The account of God saving Jerusalem at the time of Hezekiah should be a source of great encouragement to every believer who faces overwhelming odds at a time of great distress.
The account of God saving Jerusalem at the time of Hezekiah should be a source of great encouragement to every believer who faces overwhelming odds at a time of great distress.
To summarize, let me say that Focus on the Family will not waver during this time of international urgency. By working with other pro-family organizations and thousands of committed churches throughout the world, we will strive to defend the principles that matter most. In so doing, we will likely be attacked, misquoted and maligned by the liberal media and by those whose views on marriage and sexuality are radically different from our own. We would covet your prayers during this time of intense debate. No matter what the odds, we are determined to stay the course. And may our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, bless us as we do. Will you join me in this closing prayer?
"Heavenly Father, our great and magnificent King, we ask You to intercede on behalf of the institution of marriage and plead with You to save the family from those who would destroy it. With them is only 'an arm of flesh,' but our appeal is to the God of the universe who has never lost a battle. We do not deserve Your mercy, but we kneel humbly before You today and repent of our sin and disobedience. When the history of this era is written, let it be remembered as a time when righteousness was rediscovered and when the wickedness of this day would be transformed by a worldwide spiritual renewal that would sweep through the land. For this, we and future generations will be forever grateful."
James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and Chairman
[i] Fourie and Another v Minister of Home Affairs and Others (2005) 1 All SA 273 (SCA), paragraph 19 at 282H-283A
[ii] The Marriage Alliance of South Africa was supported by over 70 Christian denominations and organisations at the Constitutional Court hearing on 17 May 05.
[iii] Draft Lesbian and Gay Rights Charter (Published in 'Lesbian and Gay Rights, Derek Fine, Developing Justice Series Volume 8, Published by the Social Justice Resource Project and Legal Education Action Project at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cape Town, September 1992) [iv] Robert H. Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline (Regan Books, 1997).
[v] Stanley Kurtz, "The End of Marriage in Scandinavia," The Weekly Standard, 2 February 2004, p. 27. (While not technically considered marriages, registered homosexual partnerships have been treated as the equivalent of marriage relationships in Scandinavia for more than a decade.)
[vi] Robert E. Rector, Melissa G. Pardue, Lauren R. Noyes, "Marriage Plus: Sabotaging the President's Efforts to Promote Healthy Marriage," The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder #1677, 22 August 2003. See: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/BG1677.cfm
[vii] The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998 (Act No. 120 of 1998)
[viii] Pamela Manson, "Appeals Seek Polygamy Right; Green, Holm Challenge Convictions Based on Sodomy Ruling; Polygamists Challenge Convictions," Salt Lake City Tribune, 15 December 2003, p. C1. and Alexandria Sage, "Utah Polygamy Ban is Challenged; U.S. Supreme Court's Sodomy Ruling is Cited," Associated Press, 26 January 2004.
[ix] National Curriculum Statement, Life Orientation, Grades 10-12 (Schools), 28 October 2002. Department of Education. Also National Policy on Religion and Education, September 2003. http://education.pwv.gov.za.
[x] Julie Dorf, Finding inspiration for gay rights: South Africa's unprecedented constitutional protections serve as an object lesson for LGBT advocates here in the United States, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, www.Advocate.com [xi] Rule, Stephen. 'Rights or wrongs? Public attitudes towards moral values '; www.hsrc.ac.za; Human Sciences Research Council Review, September 2004.