Cultural tsunamis, like those that begin under oceans, are caused by something deep within. When high water hits the shore, it is the result of a subterranean earthquake. When the state of Massachusetts last Monday began offering marriage to people of the same sex, this "wave" was preceded by a seismic shift in the moral tectonic plates.
The Old Testament Book of Judges -- part of a wisdom and truth long discarded by the "In Dow Jones we trust" crowd -- said it best: "In those days there were no kings, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Once that shift has taken place in sufficient numbers, once we become indifferent to immutable truths, the floodtide is not a matter of if but when.
Legally, the shift began in 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that barring same-sex couples from "marrying" might violate the state constitution's prohibition on sexual discrimination and must be justified by a compelling reason. Morally, the earthquake occurred much earlier.
The shift from personal responsibility, accountability, putting the greater good before personal pleasure, affluence and "feelings" and what once was known as "the fear of God" began following World War II. Consumption and pleasure replaced self-control and acting on behalf of the general welfare.
Trying to remind us of the benefits of restraint in 1979 (when it was already too late), the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, speaking in Washington, asked how a football field is defined. "By its boundaries," he said. There are now no boundaries in America. Any rule is potentially viewed as oppressive and any law -- whether legal or moral -- is up for debate, negotiation and overturning if it impedes a single individual from fulfilling his or her desire.
Who is to say the polygamist Tom Green is wrong when the boundaries have been removed? On what legal or moral basis will people who wish to marry more than one person, or a close relative, be denied their wish?
Former governor of Oregon Neil Goldschmidt admits to having had sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was mayor of Portland. In most places that's called statutory rape, but the Oregonian newspaper at first chose to categorize it as adultery. Even adultery and statutory rape might soon be up for elimination as "stigmas" because the concepts will be found to be biblically based and, thus, deemed unconstitutional by activist judges who see themselves a demigods.
Does that idea outrage you? Perhaps you think that will never happen. It goes too far. That was once said of same-sex marriage. The International Olympic Committee last Monday cleared transsexuals to compete in the Olympics for the first time providing their new gender has been legally recognized and they have gone through a minimum two-year period of postoperative hormone therapy. Thank goodness some standard remains.
"Pro family" groups have given it their best shot, but this debate is over. They would do better to spend their energy and resources building up their side of the cultural divide and demonstrating how their own precepts are supposed to work. Divorce remains a great threat to family stability, and there are far more heterosexuals divorcing and cohabiting than homosexuals wishing to "marry." If conservative religious people wish to exert maximum influence on culture, they will redirect their attention to repairing their own cracked foundation. An improved heterosexual family structure will do more for those families and the greater good than attempts to halt the inevitable. A topical solution does not cure a skin disease whose source is far deeper.
Paul the Apostle long ago saw what happens when people remove boundaries: "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Timothy 4:3).
That day has arrived like a tsunami in Massachusetts and soon in the other 49 states. It's because of the earthquake that cracked our foundation.
Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.