The Challenge of Defending the Normal

We continue to reel from the blows dealt by the Culture of Death. The attack on life, and particularly on the family, that institution which is the incubator and nourisher of life, continues relentlessly. Our states and our courts have now given the name of “marriage” to a fundamentally unnatural and barren relationship that was once unmentionable in polite company. Being pummeled like this can be disorienting, and even good people are starting to talk like they’ve been hit in the head too many times.

We have let ourselves get cornered. But we can change the momentum in this fight. It starts by taking control of the conversation, and not being controlled by buzz words that are purely diversionary.

We can begin by shifting the discussion away from the abused word “marriage” and focusing on the word “matrimony,” which implies a bond that creates motherhood. And let us be sure to add the adjective “holy,” which points to the sacredness of the act before God.

But then we must get the discussion back to the principle of what a family is and what is its role in society. Through all of human history, from the ancient world to the modern, the family is the basic brick of civilization. It is what builds not only the four walls of the home but also the walls that protect the city. To destroy the family is to destroy the society, and redefining the family is in essence destroying it.

If we really want to win the fight, well, we should read a lot more G.K. Chesterton, and so should everybody else. He is a defender of the faith, of the family, of life, and, what is especially needed these days, a defender of the normal. It is normal to believe in God. It is normal to believe that a family is composed of a father, mother, and children. It is normal to protect life. But it is surprisingly difficult to defend the normal. It is challenging to state the obvious. And this is where Chesterton provides great help.

We protect the home because it is a place of liberty, even if liberty is sometimes a hard thing to define. Chesterton argues that the world outside the home—the office, the business, the bank, the shop—is more regimented and narrow, and less respectful of human dignity and freedom than the home. Commerce is always pursuing fashion. And “social life” is also always pursuing fashion because it is always pursuing pleasure, and pleasure, which is distinct from happiness, is a matter of taste and taste is driven by fashion. People have become more caught up in the narrow and strange and trendy world outside the home, than in the broad and beautiful and permanent world inside the home.

Chesterton says, “My complaint of the anti-domestic drift is that it is unintelligent. People do not know what they are doing; because they do not know what they are undoing.” Every discussion is “a separate escape or evasion” from facing the fact of what a family is for and how it is being torn apart.

How did we get to this point? Chesterton saw it coming over a century ago. The modern breakdown of the family, he says, is due to “sex emancipation.” This term covers many things that are all connected: the loss of the distinct roles of man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother; the dishonoring of the vow, which has led to divorce and remarriage and children with one parent or three parents; the unwillingness even to make the vow, which has spread into the epidemic of “cohabitation,” which perpetuates infidelity, illegitimacy, and violent abuse; the plague of pornography which tries to make sex something solitary, and now, the latest, the mockery called “same-sex marriage.”  It is all part of “sex emancipation” which is “sexless sex,” the vain attempt to free ourselves not only from the marital bond but from the consequences and responsibilities of the marital embrace. It is also the flat denial of the obvious fact that sex makes babies and the best place for babies is in a family.

But we have destroyed the family, and we have done so without thinking about what will replace it. Chesterton writes, “Nobody has really discussed the alternative to the Family. The only obvious alternative is the State.… The frightful punishment of mere sex emancipation is not anarchy but bureaucracy.”

Yes, that is what we must make people realize. When a society is inflamed with lust, it must find a way to keep order even while it gratifies itself. At first it is subtle, then suddenly it is official. Sex emancipation leads to slavery. While slavery to lust is a personal imprisonment, sex emancipation on a wide scale puts the entire society in state of servitude. The growth of government means the loss of liberty as the state replaces the role of the parent. But it also means further assaults on those who are still functioning as families, as the state forces private businesses to provide contraception and abortion, as state education forces falsehoods into minds of our school children, and now as new laws and layers of bureaucracy enforce the redefinition of marriage and family. The new law will insinuate itself into every aspect of our lives, especially into the most sacred and important part of our life: our relationship with God. Sex emancipation is an enemy of freedom; it is especially the enemy of religious freedom.

This is why the Church defends the family. The family is the basic brick of society, but religion is the cement that holds the bricks together. The Holy Family is the model for the human family, and the Holy Family, too, was attacked by the state almost immediately. The Church is in the thankless position of having to save souls when a godless society is bent on destroying them. “Take away the god,” says Chesterton, “and the government becomes the god.” But this is not the god we will worship.

This is no time to despair. We not only have the one, true God on our side, we have each other. Chesterton reminds us that there are more parents than policemen. In other words, the family is still bigger than the state. It is a time for courage, sacrifice, and the joy of battle.

Dale Ahlquist


Dale Ahlquist is the president and co-founder of the American Chesterton Society. He is the creator and host of the Eternal Word Television Network series, "G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense." Dale is the author of G.K. Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense and the recently published The Complete Thinker. He is also the publisher of Gilbert Magazine, and associate editor of the Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius). He lives near Minneapolis with his wife and six children.

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  • publiusnj

    One of the first things we need to do is stop talking about politicians as though they were the judges in this matter. The people are; the politicians are just panderers to a sufficient segment of the people needed to get themselves elected.

    The Catholic Church offers an indissoluble union for life between man and woman so they become one flesh and reproduce themselves through that union of love and support. The State, by contrast, offers a marriage of convenience between people of indiscriminate sex that ends when the marriage is no longer convenient to one of the parties. IOW, the State is the problem not the decider of the solution. The Church needs to put forth the inferiority of civil marriages and the superiority of Christ’s view of marriage boldly and pointedly. There is no better statement of Christian Marriage than Christ’s oewn very direct words:

    “At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” …Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:7-12.

    The US went away from the Christian View of Marriage back in the 1960s (previously even the Protestants had paid lip service to Christ’s view of marriage with the fillip of the Matthaean Porneia exception misintepretation). The people of the US need a clear statement that real marriage is about a lot more than temporary love; it is about commitment and perspicacity and a regard for the other and for their progeny as great as the regard for one’s self.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      The Council of Trent was more concerned with Greek sensibilities than Protestant ones. Instead of the canon proposed by the Cardinal of Lorraine, “If anyone says that that the bond is dissolved by adultery and that either of the parties is free to marry during the life of the other, let him be anathema,” the Council adopted the more circumspect formula, “If any one shall say that the Church errs in teaching according to the doctrines of the apostles and evangelists that the bond of marriage cannot be dissolved on account of the adultery of either party &c, let him be anathema.” In this way, they avoided anathematizing those Greek Fathers (and St Ambrose) who had taught that the bond could be dissolved for adultery, but who had never accused the Church of error in the matter. The contumacy of the Reformers was condemned, but the honest error of the Greeks was not censured. This exquisitely tactful solution appears to have been recommended by the Venetian ambassador, out of concern for the Greek subjects of the Most Serene Republic in Corfu, Cyprus and the islands.

  • Steven Jonathan

    Excellent article Mr. Alqhuist!
    You can see it in the schools especially, but also in every movie, tv show, commercial and in about every statement out of a secular humanists mouth. The repetitious din is about neutering boys and masculating girls. And now a most disorienting blow, the orc of same sex “marriage.” Sex “emancipation” is a pretense from the bent smith, the artificer of bondage and he has sold it to a feckless world as liberation and it sells like hotcakes.

    Indeed, war is upon us.

    • Tony

      You’re right about that. The only time a feminist will say anything good about football is when a girl is pretending to play it. The only girls they like are boys, and the only boys they will put up with are girls. What they hate most of all is the sweet and normal girlishness of girls and boyishness of boys.
      Much of this has been made possible by our wealth and our distance from hard physical labor. There was a corrective, not long ago, and even now in many places in the world, against experimentation upon the ordinary family, headed by the father, with the mother at its heart. It was called starvation.

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  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    #1 What we call things DOES matter. I agree with referring to the permanent joining of a man and woman for their mutual benefit and the procreation of children as “Holy Matrimony.” While we’re at it, let’s dispense with calling what we do every Sunday “liturgy”, “worship”, “Mass”, “community gathering” and instead return to calling it “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” Then, maybe, we can better understand the action of what is taking place.

    #2 My rejoinder to PC comments: “Natural law is not something we have public opinion polls about.”

    #3 Our bishops and parishes need to find creative ways of supporting homeschooling parents if we want to preserve the true meaning of marriage and family.

    #4 We need to return to operating “Catholic schools” not just “schools operated by the Catholic church” which have become in far too many cases secular schools with crosses affixed to the building . All Catholic schools ought to be re-named “Schools of Catholic Evangelization” since that is their only true and legitimate reason to exist. Catholic schools are there only to promote the mission of the Church and therefore exist in order to form Catholic evangelists. It goes without saying that Catholic schools ought to indoctrinate children with the truths as taught by the Catholic Church pertaining to many things but most especially to marriage and the family. Yes, I said indoctrinate.

    • Isaac

      1. How will re-branding help? If few people attend “Mass” , why will making it seem more exclusive attract more people.

      2. Polls are useful, in that they tell us why people reject “The Natural Law”.

      3. Fair enough… but aren’t you removing the chance that Catholic children explain, to other kids why they believe, whilst also just delaying the fact that they will encounter other beliefs at a later time in life.

      4. You have that model, and it’s dying. If you want to start a independently funded school I’ll support your right to do so. I will respect that you want to indoctrinate children…. I’ll not only object… I just won’t send my kids to your school. I also will fight against you getting tax dollars!

      • Nick_Palmer3

        Yet you have a right to take my money to fund your condom-on-a-cucumber and Heather-Has-Two-Mommies schools?

        • MM O’Hair

          Yes, we do. Because we are the State; we have might which makes for right. And for good measure, we will outlaw your schools and your “religion.” Bigotry is bigotry, whether it is racial or sexual.

          The catholic church fought desegregation side by side with Bull Conner and is fighting LGBTQ civil rights today. You lost then, you will lose today. Evolution rewards those who can adapt to new circumstances and eliminates those who try to keep the status quo.

          “But this is not the god we will worship.” Oh yes it is. Worship the state, or the state will kill you.

          Finally, there is no god, never has been. The bible is nothing more than a bunch of tripe written down by various doofus goat herders looking to start a political movement.

          Watching the various retrograde religions try to defend themselves is like watch Native Americans try to defend themselves against the onslaught of the Europeans; DOOMED!

          • Adam__Baum

            “Because we are the State; we have might which makes for right. ”

            All hail god state.

            “Worship the state, or the state will kill you.”

            There are hundreds millions of dead that attest to the atrocities of the falsest god.

          • Richard Aleman

            Thank you for your honesty. It’s refreshing given that for years your side have been telling religious opponents to same-sex “marriage” that your “right” to marry doesn’t affect others.

            You claim bigotry. Problem is, bigotry doesn’t exist with regard to marriage. The public purpose of marriage has always been to unite one man and one woman and tie them to any children they create. This unique relationship is different by nature and it isn’t bigotry or discrimination to treat different things differently. We are all equal in the eyes of the State but our conditions are not equal. Claiming discrimination because same-sex couples cannot marry is akin to claiming discrimination because a person with disabilities receives benefits those without cannot receive.

            Marriage is not – and never has been – the public affirmation of love. This is an invention of the “marriage equality” movement. Government has no compelling interest in issuing love licenses for the sake of the common good. Binding heterosexual couples legally, however, unites the family and – mostly – ensures the permanence and legal boundaries of a presumptively procreative relationship. And the family’s flourishing, or lack thereof, the real aim of social justice, bears tremendous consequences on the common good. While a small fraction of heterosexual couples cannot procreate, same-sex couples can never do so by their nature. So we are not speaking of “equality.” These relationships are evidently different.

            Finally, you talk about civil rights and like every partisan of the “marriage equality” discussion, you ignore the civil rights of a child to grow up with his mother and father. You care more about the desires of adults, rather than the needs of children. In order to prove your case that gender has little to no impact on the development of children – contrary to hundreds of studies – you rely on pet theories from selected academics to re-envision a humanity that doesn’t exist.

          • Bono95

            “We have might which makes right”

            So if it was US who had the might here, it would therefore be right for Us to wield it over you and yours to outlaw condoms on cucumbers, contraceptives without parental knowledge or consent, and homosexual propaganda in schools?

            “The Catholic Church fought desegregation”

            Never mind that St. Peter Claver, a Spanish missionary, was the “slave of slaves”, who converted, baptized, nursed, fed, washed, comforted and defended hundreds of slaves; never mind that St. Frances Cabrini set out to and began an education program for Native American children; never mind that St. Ambrose, an early bishop of Roman/Italian heritage, saw 2 blond-haired, blue-eyed, white slave boys who he was informed were Angles and declared, “Not Angles, but Angels shall they be,” and shortly afterwards launched a mission to convert the peoples of the British Isles?

            “Worship the state or the state will kill you”

            Well, that’s rather undeniable. St. Thomas More, my favorite saint, as well as St. John Fisher, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Lawrence, St. Lucy, and countless others were all martyred by various evil states for refusing to give into their illegitimate demands. All evil states kill those who object to them or refuse to worship them. Good states never demand worship and will discipline, but not kill (except in extreme cases) those who disobey it.

            “There is no God and never has been”

            Then What or Who made the Big Bang bang (By the way, the Big Bang theory was first formulated by a Roman Catholic priest)? And What or Who, if evolution be true, created the first simple life form, and the environment for it to grow and thrive in, and What or Who saw that evolution would lead to the many different creatures that inhabit the world today?

            “The Bible is nothing more than goat-herders’ tripe”

            If that’s so, than those goat-herds (and shepherds, and fishermen, and tentmakers, and carpenter’s Sons), were the most cunning and successful con artists ever seen in history. The people who believe their “tripe”, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, make up almost half of the world’s population, and as noted above, countless numbers of these people chose to lose their lives rather than deny their belief in the Scriptures.

            “Various retrograde religions trying to defend themselves are doomed”

            The Jewish high priests and scribes, the Roman emperors and politicians, the various powerful pagans and heretics, the multitude of Protestants, the atheists of the “Enlightenment”, and the Socialists, Fascists, Nazis, and liberals of the past all said the same thing, but the Catholic Church is still alive and kicking. Christ promised that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church, and He has kept that promise. No one who opposes or oppresses the Church ever succeeds for long.

          • Facile1

            What State are you talking about? The Roman Catholic Church has survived countless iterations of the State in its 2000 plus years. And she survives in spite of the fact that she does not own an army, maintain a prison, or levy a tax. Tithing is entirely voluntary.

            Much as I oppose turning sin into crimes, I also do not believe the State should lend its legitimacy to sin. Regardless, the LAW cannot change the TRUTH.

            Sexual gratification is not love and does not merit blessings.

            The State can legislate all it wants. But it cannot bless.

            Sin consumes itself.

            Much as I prefer to spare all of a broken heart, as Oscar Wilde (a convicted sodomite and one of my favorite poets) said in his Ballad of the Reading Gaol:

            Ah! happy they whose hearts can break
            And peace of pardon win!
            How else may man make straight his plan
            And cleanse his soul from Sin?
            How else but through a broken heart
            May Lord Christ enter in?

            So much as I am grieved by the decisions on the part of the US Supreme Court, I am not afraid of the future. And neither should anyone be (including same-sex partners).

            GOD is LOVE. And ONLY GOD is LOVE.

            The law (ie a human invention) cannot change the TRUTH (ie GOD).

            LOVE GOD FIRST and go in peace.

          • What the hell? This has got to be a joke, people.

          • Bob

            Hmmmmm…….states over the last 2000 years that have tried to “kill” Catholicism:

            The Roman Empire (twice)

            The Ottoman Empire and Islam (twice)

            The French Revolution and Napoleon

            Stalin and Communism

            Hitler and Naziism

            And where are all of these “Catholic killing” states today? Gone….

            But the Catholic Church remains….1.3 billion strong!

            And what of this secular, atheistic Obama state you worship that is trying to destroy the Catholic Church?

            As they say……good luck with that!

  • Annemarie

    A useful article I will be sure to share. Thank you.

  • theorist

    “It is normal to believe in God. It is normal to believe that a family
    is composed of a father, mother, and children. It is normal to protect

    I disagree because as St. Thomas himself wrote, knowledge of God is something which is restricted only to the few who can scientifically prove it. On the contrary faith and belief and even vicious credulity is more normal. That is why God expects us merely to believe, on the authority of greater men (saints) that he exists and the difficulty in actually proving the same is what inspired God to reveal himself to men.

    Therefore, the Catholic renaissance can occur only if the most Catholic (in mind and act) men are put at the front to directly oppose normalcy; for otherwise religion would never flourish. Belief in God has always been radical, anti-populist, and always against what was currently defined as normal and the failure to realize this is why Catholicism has hitched its tent to the useless defensiveness of conservatism when it should be on the offensive as its own movement.

    • Facile1

      I had to read your commentary at least half a dozen times before I got it.

      You are correct.

      “Defending the Normal” is NOT the challenge. Nor is it the mission.

      LOVE GOD FIRST and go in peace.

      Thank you.

    • Belief in God has always been radical, anti-populist, and always against what was currently defined as normal

      C’mon, seriously? Because what you seem to be claiming is that any moral or metaphysical judgment made by normal people must, ipso facto, be false. That’s just silly.

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  • mominvermont

    I live in Vermont which legalized SSM. Some people here automatically assume that if you defend holy matrimony, that means you hate people with same sex attraction. But I keep thinking of Chesterton’s words: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him but, because he loves what is behind him.” I love both husbands and wives; I love both mothers and fathers.

    Thanks for this article. Chesterton is a genius: “The frightful punishment of mere sex emancipation is not anarchy but bureaucracy.” It’s amazing that he saw the assault on the family a hundred years ago. Our bureaucracy is attacking families on all fronts, and yet some still don’t realize it.

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