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Interview with Rob Schwarzwalder – Part 2

Preferences do not equate to rights, and the core of marriage is not simply volition and affection. In Part 2 of our interview with Rob Schwarzwalder, we explore the consequences of our nation’s ruling on same sex marriage.

About Rob Schwarzwalder

Rob Schwarzwalder serves as Senior Vice President for the Family Research Council. He oversees the Policy Department, including the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI).

Rob spent many years on Capitol Hill as Chief of Staff for two Members of Congress and as a press secretary in both the House and Senate. The Senator and Congressmen for whom he worked held seats on the Senate and House Armed Services committees; the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee; and the House Oversight and Government Reform, Natural Resources, Science, Small Business, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.

From 1997 – 2001, Rob was director of communications and senior writer at the National Association of Manufacturers. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Rob to be senior speechwriter at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he crafted language relating to all facets of the President’s health care agenda.


EASLEY: Rob Schwarzwalder serves as Senior Vice President for the Family Research Council based out of Washington D.C. He also oversees communication on policy teams for FRC, specifically with the Marriage and Religion Research Institute. He spent many years on Capitol Hill as Chief of Staff for two different members of Congress. The Senator and Congressman that Rob worked for have held seats on the Senate and House Armed Services committees; the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on and on his resume goes. From 1997 to 2001, he was the Director of Communications at the National Association of Manufacturers. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Rob to be the senior speechwriter at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Rob has contributed to a number of hot beds. You might have seen him online. If you follow me on facebook, you’ve seen me repost and reposition a lot of Rob’s writings. It’s a blast to have you in studio. Thanks for coming by Rob.

SCHWARZWALDER: Thanks for having me. It is great to be here.

E: Welcome to Middle Tennessee, my friend.

S: Good place to be.

E: Well, let’s talk about some complicated things. Let’s talk about same sex marriage and SCOTUS and the decision that happened a few months back now. It’s now the law of the land that a same sex couple can go to a justice of the peace, to a minister, anyone and say, “My partner and I want to get married.” The state now authorizes that marriage.

S: It was interesting within a couple of days after the ruling, a writer in Time Magazine named Mark Oppenheimer, referred to the Obergefell Decision. That decision he described as now that this is settled law; it is anything but settled law. Roe v Wade for the last forty two years has not been settled law. The Dred Scott decision that supposedly settled the issue of slavery provoked a Civil War six years later. It is our sincere hope of course that nothing like that recurs, but to suggest that this issue is somehow done which is the narrative left (unfinished thought).

E: Rob, give our listeners a little civics lesson. We have three branches of government: executive, administrative, and judicial. Judicial made a decision, but they did not make law.

S: What they did was usurped the role of Congress and the role of the States. In thirty three States, where a ballot initiative had been held on same sex marriage or where the legislature had acted, thirty one of those states approved marriage as the union of one man and one woman. All it took was a handful of Federal judges to say, “ You can’t do it.” The result being that the votes of over thirty million Americans who voted for traditional marriage were vitiated. The supreme court by one member, specifically Justice Anthony Kiney, wrote the majority opinion, and said, “I’m going to go ahead and find in the fourteenth amendment under the equal protection clause a so called “right” to same sex marriage.” He even went so far as to say that “Homosexuality is “an immutable characteristic.” If it is immutable, why are there thousands of men and women saying, “They no longer have same sex attraction,” or “no longer identify themselves as gay and lesbian.” Race is a benign characteristic and it is immutable. Homosexuality, whatever its causes has to do with conduct in terms of acting out, at least in terms of so called marriage; it is volitional. If it is volitional, then that’s something that is not an inherent right.

E: Again, for the civics minded lesson, back to seventh grade for me. If I have a preference where does that fall?

S: You can have any kind of preference. Preferences are not rights. I might want to be a professional basketball player. At the age of fifty seven at five feet, it ain’t gonna happen. Things that we want are not necessarily (Unfinished thought).

E: Where are your dreams? Come on. (Laughter)

S: I’m characterized and driven by self doubt. It’s a personal tragedy, but (unfinished thought).

E: Who was it Spud Webb? He was five foot something, wasn’t he?

S: Yes, but he was thirty years younger than me.

E: Oh there is that, okay. We talk about preferences, but our culture has won this war in the populace ear. For example: “We’re made this way; it’s my identity; who are you to tell me, Rob, that I can’t be gay, transgender, lesbian, questioning, bi-sexual?”

S: Absolutely! Nobody is going to anybodies bedroom at three o’clock in the morning, kicking the door down and saying, “That’s not something you can do with a partner of the same gender, or the same sex.” By the way, I’ve been in a debate with a leading gay advocate,who informed me that gender and sex are not the same thing and that I’m ignorant because I don’t grasp the distinction between them. Gender is essentially apparently how someone feels. You look at the medical textbooks and that’s one of the more ludicrous statements that you can make objectively, and yet that’s part of the argument that’s being made. Let me say something that I think is critical, essentially those who advocate for so called “same sex marriage” propose that the basis of marriage is volition and affection. In other words, I want to get married to you; you want to get married to me; we have affection for one another; ergo, we should be “married.” Using that standard, and to Justice Roberts credit in his response said, “Why limit it to two? If your only criteria is “I want to marry you and I have affection for you,” what’s to stop two men and three women from getting “married?” And there are already suits along these lines. Polyamory, polygamy, is a natural outgrowth. There is no objective reason why you stop at two. Justice Kennedy inferred, “Nobody’s saying, marriage should be more than two people.” Nonsense! There are lots of people saying that. If you open up that Pandora’s Box, marriage becomes meaningless. Furthermore, if anyone can be “married,” if the numbers don’t matter, the gender doesn’t matter, then what you have essentially is a legal contract. What you’re looking at potentially is an explosion of so called marriages between multiple partners that could completely upend. There’s a whole series of issues: property rights, custody rights of children, places of residence, the kinds of taxes that are imposed on small businesses or on couples, and testimonies in courts of law. This invites all kinds of problems.  The other Justices, Scalia, in his very ascorbic descent, Roberts,Thomas, Alito, envisioned some of these things. Apparently, it fell on completely deaf ears. Someone wrote a high coup about Justice Kennedy’s decision and it went something like this: Love, love, love, all we need is love. Everyone loves each other. Love. With all due respect, and I do respect his office, Justice Kennedy, wrote one of the most abominable, illogical, unsupportable, unconstitutional decisions in American History. It is now supposedly, and I quote “settled law.” It’s not settled! County Clerks are beginning to resign; States Attorney Generals in places like Texas are saying, “Wait a minute, we’re going to look at exactly what the legal obligations are.”

E: Did both Alabama and Texas put a stay on this?

S: They have sought at least to put a stay, yes! They are working hard to see what the legal implications are. One of the things that I haven’t said is this: This is a poll that came out today by Pat Caddell, who is Jimmy Carter’s pollster. He is a Democrat; he is not a conservative; he is not a republican. Pat Caddell found that eighty two percent of the American people said that, “If a florist, or a baker, or a wedding photographer, or whoever else chooses not to commercially participate in a same sex wedding, that person should not be obligated to do so.” Eighty two percent! This is coming from a liberal source!

E: Let’s get to the believer, and we’re not even talking about the church. What’s the church’s position? I get asked this all the time. I want to hold a mirror up and say, “Well, tell me what it is?” (Laughter) You’re the church. I’m not the church; I’m a pastor; I’m a teacher; I’m an elder, but I’m not the church. I can’t speak for six thousand people. I can state an opinion; I can make statements; I can teach truth; what do we do with that?

S: There’s so much we can do. The first thing we need to do is to make very clear that in standing for truth, we are not being ungracious. Any gay or lesbian, or transgender person, that is listening to this needs to know and be assured that there is a living God who loves them, who created them, who chose to make them as image bearers of Himself. In the book of Leviticus, there are four types of sexual sin that are condemned: incest, beastiality, adultery between a man and a woman. Several types of it in fact are described as homosexuality. They are all described in Hebrew as disgusting to God. Homosexuality is not a unique sin; it’s not something that we should elevate as people who are identified as gay or lesbian, or who struggle with same sex attraction. They are to be loved and affirmed as image bearers of God and as people like the rest of us who are sinners, who can be saved by grace. I have a friend named Rosaria Butterfield. You might have even had her on your program.

E: Yes, we’ve had her on the broadcast.

S: She said words to this effect, “I do not regard myself as ex gay. I regard myself as a sinner saved by grace.”

E: Matt Moore was very clear about this as well. He said, “We’re not gay, or celibate or whatever. We’re sinners and to love us is not to tolerate us; to love us is to call us to repentance.”

S: Well, I think that, that’s a key point. You’ve asked how the church should approach this. Well, many gay, in fact the majority of gay and lesbian men and women, say, “Being homosexual is not something I do, it is who I am.” We need to find a way to say, “No, it is not. It is not who you are. It might be a desire that you have; it might be a practice that you have engaged in; it is not who you are.”

E: When I was teaching on Sodom and Gomorrah, I made the observation after the end of the message that by that definition, I am a womanizer and it’s my right to tell Cindy, “I’m sorry, God made me a womanizer. These aren’t lustful, immoral thoughts. This is who I am. I need to act out on my identity and my goal is to conquest as many women as possible.”

S: That’s exactly right. If you take a look at the natural bent or desire that any of us have toward different types of sin, sins that we gravitate to for whatever reason, God gives us no excuse. We have to make sure that we don’t accept the argument: that being gay is an identity.

E: When you look at the twenty, thirty demographics in the so called evangelical, fundamental, Bible believing slice, those men and women are completely fine with their peers saying, “I’m gay; I’m transgendered; I’m a lesbian; I’m bi.” They sort of brandish this love and say we’re loving and kind. Even one of my children said at one point, “Dad, that’s the way they’re made. They were made that way.” How can you say that?

S: Well, I have two responses to the last point first. In terms of why do people gravitate toward same sex attraction? There’s several reasons. One is the classic Freudian analysis which says, there was a passive or hostile father, who did not engage or conversely passive, hostile mother.  That child was vulnerable to the affection of someone who was homosexual and as a result became homosexual. It could involve issues of abuse and there’s a corollary to that; many people who are gay, or identify as gay, will acknowledge that they were sexually molested as children. I just talked to a young man last week about this issue. He said, “I have never in my life been drawn to the female form. I’ve always been attracted to men.” He had an interesting theory about why that was; it had to do with a benign brain tumor. I don’t know if that’s an accurate reason or not. Bottom line is, whatever the reasons, people are drawn to different types of sin for different reasons. Just like you, when I was in college, I fell in love about ten times a day. If I had acted on those impulses, I would have a thousand children right now. In his grace, God kept me from that. I’ve been married to the same woman for thirty four years faithfully. We were pure before we were married and I honor the Lord for that and we have been faithful to each other since then. As a young man it wasn’t always easy. God in His grace gave me the strength to do that. Now, here’s one thing we need to say in all honesty, what you and I have experienced as heterosexual males in marriage is the fulfillment of our sexual desires. We are telling young men and women who are at the peak of their sexual desire, “You cannot participate in any kind of sexual activity until you’re married. You don’t want to get married to another person of the opposite gender.” We are demanding of them a measure of restraint and of holiness that is very difficult for a young person.

E: And I would add it’s more difficult for them, than it was for you and me.

S: They are saturated by..(unfinished thought).

E: Yes, we live in a oversexualized culture, whether you go back to sitcoms they grew up with, or pornography on the internet. I mean, I remember the first time I saw pornography. I was a boy walking in my neighborhood and there was a magazine on the side of the street. I can still see that image.

S: I had exactly the same (unfinished thought).

E: I can still see that picture.

S: Yup.

E: I get unwanted e-mail and we have filters in our offices and home to prevent this stuff from spawning on our computers; the ease with which a click or two takes us there. They’ve also demonstrated the overstimulation of young men who watch porn for hours, and how it affects them. By their twenties they have dysfunctional sexuality in their marriages because they’ve been so overstimulated. The culture has said it’s all fine; there’s no shame; no guilt . We’re these crazy old white guys that have had good marriages saying, “You can’t do that until you’re married.” They’re saying, “Why should I get married? There’s no reason to get married. Sexual revolution makes it all available. Oh, and by the way, we can hook up if we want to.”

S: Right, it makes it so much more difficult. I would add to all of that or qualify that you and I are aging white guys. I’m not going to say we’re old; we’re in the prime, but we’re aging. (Easley laughing.) We’re aging white guys.

E: It’s all relativism.

S: Yes, I had to poke fun at that. In His grace, God’s standard for sexual behavior is for all time and is the same for all people.

E: And it is good.

S: It is for our good.

E: To hold out and say, “This is more satisfying and more fulfilling and holy. God can look down metaphorically and smile upon the marriage bed, between one man and one woman. There’s nothing more beautiful, fabulous, intoxicating in a good way, wonderful, holy, and all those adjectives. And yet, there’s this lack of satisfaction, the dissatisfaction, the egregious nature of more and more perverse forms of sexuality, to try to find something that can never be fulfilled.”

S: FRC will soon be posting online a fascinating inhouse lecture we had. It was basically a briefing, but we’ll post it publicly. A neurosurgeon was speaking about pornography addiction. This man was trained by the man, who himself was trained by the father of neurosurgery. He is highly respected in his field and he gave a presentation on the addictive character of pornography. What you’ve described is exactly right. This is fascinating insight; there’s a professor at Yale University who’s written about the nature of pornographic attraction and addiction. He said, “Pornography not only objectifies women, it animalizes them.” Pornography portrays women as these sexually, voracious creatures who want to be treated in a vile and perverse, and even violent way. It lies about the nature of sexual interest in women and animalizes them sexually. Young men who get married and who have been active in pornography and actively looking at pornography; they expect things from their wives and their wives cannot possibly fulfill this. I know of one young woman who has been in a counseling situation, who reported that she had to get physical therapy because her husband demanded sexual acts that resulted in severe injury. He didn’t get that out of his mind; he got that out of pornography. This is recurrent and this is a couple within an evangelical church that you and I are both familiar with. This is replete throughout the country in every church. Right now I’m counseling several men who have pornography addictions. I know you know this, but it is a pandemic and one of the things we have to recognize is that it is addictive as any drug, perhaps more so. This is an addiction and needs to be treated like an addiction. To those listening, who are wrestling with this, estimates say that forty percent of men in churches are dealing with this and you can’t go it alone. You’ve got to find an accountability group and you have to find a way of recognizing that this is not just something that is some innocent little pastime. It’s evil! The women who participate in pornography, and this is particularly overwhelming, but it is up to eighty to ninety percent that are victimized. They don’t want to be doing this. They have been lured into it; it’s become a pattern and a habit; many times they’re drunk or on drugs in order to get them to do these things. Often times there’s massive transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. This is not a victimless crime. They are actively abetting the abuse, the trafficking, and the prostitution of women.

E: Let’s move back to what we began talking about: the SCOTUS decision. We took an important trail, but let’s go back to what else we can do. As a religious minister of the gospel,  they will knock on my door at some point and say, “Michael, we go to your church. We’re part of Fellowship.” Or they might go to a church you attend in Virginia, Rob. “We love God. We believe all the things you believe and we love you so much that we want you to give us a religious ceremony.” And we say, “No.”

S: Right now, you have the legal right to say, “No.” You also have the moral obligation from Scripture to continue to say, “No.” If that means ten, fifteen, twenty years, however long, until the Federal government says, “You no longer can perform federally recognized marriages,” or “You can no longer license marriages,” so be it. It’s actually a relatively new phenomenon in the history of the church and I’ve written something about this, where the government has authorized Christian pastors, be they Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, whatever, to license marriages legally. If they take that away from us, so be it! No one thought, at least I didn’t think, twenty years ago that same sex marriage would advance this quickly. In 2004, when President Bush was reelected, one of his campaign plans was that there would be a constitutional amendment to institutionalize marriage. Sadly, he immediately abandoned that, but that same year, I don’t remember if it was four or six states in 2004, but they voted for the traditional, natural, definition of marriage. Now, eleven years later the Supreme Court has jettisoned all of that. We don’t know how rapidly this is coming, but what the Federal government demands, or demands that we do, we cannot buckle to that. We cannot in any way conform to it.

E: I feel good about even our church and our leadership saying, “You know, worse case scenario we lose our tax exemption, worse case scenario (unfinished thought), but then I have to bake the cake. Right?

S: I think it will drive Christians out of certain industries. Also, I think that the reality is, that there are a lot of Christians who have kind of lived on the fat of the land as it were, in a culture that has friendly values. This is a Post Modern Christian Society. Of course there are many Christians in public office, but nobody is coming with bayonets into your church on Sunday morning, but in terms of being able to live out your faith there is an obvious hostility out there. If you’re a Christian baker and there comes a choice between shutting down or baking a cake for a gay wedding and on the cake reads:  “Mark and Steve, Congratulations,” then you need to shut down. Easy for me to say, but I know people who’ve had to do it.

E: Yet, there could be an argument where people might say, “Look, as Christians we make cakes for people that aren’t believers. We might be baking a cake for a Hindu couple, a Islamic couple.” Is there a way to say, “Bake the cake?” You’re providing a service.

S: You’re providing a service, but you’re also in a sense actively participating. Let’s take the example of the Hindu couple that gets married. Are we Hindus? Do we believe in the multiple polytheistic gods of Hinduism? No, we don’t. We believe in the God of the Bible; the Triune Godhead. That being said, you are not endorsing that ceremony or endorsing the religious ceremony behind that;you’re endorsing the union of a man and a woman in marriage. Now let’s look at homosexuality in that light: It’s an intrinsic legal recognition of a union that is disobedient to God. There’s a distinction there. I hope I’m making this clear. You can honor the institution of marriage between a man and a woman, even if it’s inducted in a ceremony with which you have profound theological disagreement. You cannot do that in a same sex ceremony because it in itself is a union that is being recognized and celebrated and that is an affront to God.

E: What would be the down side for the church differentiating between civil and “religious” ceremonies?

S: Well honestly, I think there is a case to be made with respect to religious ceremonies. If you perform a wedding and you don’t have the ability legally to recognize that marriage or to solemnize that marriage legally, let them go to the County Clerk across the street. Have the County Clerk do it. Get a marriage certificate. Okay you’re married. But before the Lord, just as we have the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper, and of Baptism; these are not legal ceremonies. They are things we do within the church. If that’s what it comes to, it would be unfair. I think it would be discriminatory towards Christians, but so be it. Then we would do it that way.We would honor marriage civilly so that there is a legal recognition of the union, but then we would conduct our marriage ceremony as if nothing happened. Before God and this company, you are making a pledge to each other. That wouldn’t change. In this country, which was founded on the rule of law, founded on the idea of objective truth, founded on a written constitution, precisely so that those in power could not abuse the law for their own whims. For us to abuse these freedoms is troubling. Right now we have the tools with which to fight; we have things that we can do, using the citizenship and the liberties that we still enjoy, to try not only to thwart the erosions of those things, but rather we should instead buttress them and strengthen them and make them happen again in our country. As Christians, out of love and out of patriotism, we should do that.

E: You can find out more about Rob Schwarzwalder on the site right below where you’re listening. If you’ll search the name Schwarzwalder. That’s a mouthful. Schwarzwalder. Thanks for being on inContext.

S: Thanks Michael.

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