Waiting for the New Jerusalem

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A few years ago, in Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity, I wrote that the recognition of same-sex pseudogamous relations—the acceptance of a lie, that a man can in fact mate with another man, or a woman with a woman—would make it even harder than it already is for us to see that man is made for woman and woman for man, and that the sexes make sense as they are, only in relation to one another. Of course, I did not mean that the marriage rate, already appallingly low, would sink to nothing. Nor did I mean that the divorce rate, which has leveled off at an appallingly high rate, would rise. It is hard to imagine those two rates taken together being much worse than they are now. In that one regard, the danger I saw was not that we would fall off a cliff, but that having fallen most of the way down, we would hobble ourselves besides, and not be able to rise and climb. And perhaps, even at that, I am underestimating the distance between the crumbly ledge where we are huddled and the absolute bottom of the abyss.

In any case, I meant that the ordinary sense of being-for-the-other in a general way would be lost. Men and women would simply not know what to make of each other. We need to throw a bridge, I wrote, over “a dangerous divide, that which separates two groups of human beings who seldom understand one another, whose bodies and psyches are so markedly different, who try to love one another, and so often fail, yet who try again for all that.” Looking on events since then, I might say that the divide has cracked open wide and now appears as a chasm no one can cross. Women speak of “toxic masculinity” in a breezy and utterly unselfconscious way, as if it were what everybody simply knows about, just as everybody used to know contemptuous things about other groups of human beings; and the “good” male is to the ordinary item rather as Uncle Tom was to Nat Turner. Men retreat into resentment, a celibacy without chastity, and into the hatred and impersonality and loneliness that sex-robots and pornography imply.

Ninety percent of what is called prescience is simply to notice what is right before your eyes. The other ten percent is to know something about history and nature. How long we can continue as we are, I can’t tell. We are sitting like dragons upon a hoard of unprecedented wealth. We have spent down much of our cultural and religious capital, but not all of it. Who knows whether the misery has another hundred years in it? I do not think so, but wealth soothes a multitude of diseases.

Meanwhile, my hope is in the Lord, and in the natural world He has created. That has come home to me these days, as we sit in our homes while the birds and the bees go about their ordinary springtime business. They have already paired off. I see Mr. Cardinal with Mrs. Cardinal in the forsythia bush, at our bird feeder, and poking about the ground. I see Mr. Flicker with Mrs. Flicker on the sumac trees, eating the tufted berries that have lasted through the winter. I see a pair of chickadees, a pair of titmice. I see Mr. Downy Woodpecker and Mrs. Downy Woodpecker. Some of these birds, they say, mate for life. Does that not warm your heart to hear it? Wolves mate for life. Why should wolves mate for life, but not man?

“This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh,” cries Man, when he sees Woman for the first time. “She shall be called woman [Hebrew ’ishah] because she was taken out of Man” [‘ish]. And that is why, says the sacred author, a man shall “leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:23-24). The key word is one, in Hebrew echad. After God created the light, and separated the light from the darkness, “there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Gen. 1:5; translation and emphasis mine). The divided nations of Israel and Judah, says the prophet, will be brought together again: “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd” (Ez. 37:24). “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord” (Dt. 6:4). In Hebrew, every one of these sentences ends with the key word one, echad. The oneness of the people, the oneness of man and woman in marriage, and the singularity of the light all derive their being from the one God. The story of the Tower of Babel shows what happens when man attempts to found His unity upon any other principle.

We know the invisible things of God, says Saint Paul, in part from the visible things of nature (Rom. 1:20), not, I might say, from our feelings about them or about ourselves, for, says God to Noah, as it were in exasperated mercy, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). But Noah at least was a righteous man, and so God had commanded him to preserve the birds and the beasts and their seed, not in gross, but in pairs, literally and delightfully “the husband and his wife” or “the man and his woman” (Gen. 7:2; Hebrew ’ish w’ishto). There are other Hebrew words for male and female, which the author has used to speak of the beasts generally that are to enter the ark (6:19). But when it comes to the specifics, the animals are Mister and Missus.

Someday, I hope again to dwell in a land where what I have just said about the animals will be a source of joy for mankind, too. Let it be that city, the “new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 23:2).

Image: The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark by Jan Brueghel the Elder

Anthony Esolen

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Anthony Esolen, a contributing editor at Crisis, is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts. He is the author, most recently, of Sex and the Unreal City (Ignatius Press, 2020).

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