Editor’s note: The following is part one of a series of Q&As with Professor Paul Kengor about his new book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage. If you would like to interview Dr. Kengor on his book, please respond to this email or contact him directly at [email protected].
V&V: Dr. Kengor, you’re an established bestselling author who has written over a dozen books on the Cold War, communism, socialism, conservatism, progressivism, as well as biographies of figures as diverse as Ronald Reagan and Hillary Clinton, why this topic in this book? Why wade into this Culture War issue?
Kengor: The answer is precisely because of my background in those areas. I know from decades of research, study, writing, and lecturing that the political left—first with communists, socialist utopians, and then on to secular “progressives”—have sought to reshape, redefine, and effectively take down natural-traditional-biblical family and marriage for two centuries. They’ve long looked to alter the so-called “nuclear family,” which they saw as an outright menace. I know that ideological past. I know how it fits into the present. Most people don’t, including those today who are willing to redefine the historic Western/Judeo-Christian conception of male-female marriage. The vast majority of those who are willing to do that have no idea of the deeper, darker ideological-historical forces long at work in this wider movement. They are signing on to something that, whether they know it or not—most do not—have important links to much older and more sinister attempts by the far left to redefine family and marriage.
V&V: Could you expand upon your point on the lack of understanding by the “vast majority” advocating same-sex marriage today?
Kengor: Yes. The typical American who supports same-sex marriage has friendly motives, looking to extend what the current culture deems a new “right” or new “freedom” to a new group. I get that. I don’t agree, but I understand. Unfortunately, these Americans don’t realize that, for the far left, gay marriage is a vehicle, a kind of Trojan horse, to achieve what the earliest radicals on the far left, and specifically Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, called the “abolition of the family.” Marx and Engels noted then, way back in 1848, that the abolition of the family—this bold ambition to redesign the original Designer’s conception of marriage—was already “an infamous proposal of the communists.” To many Americans, gay marriage is about “marriage equality,” but to the far left, it’s about the final takedown of the family that it has long desired.
By the way, I must underscore up front that gay people are absolutely correct in noting that heterosexuals—Christians included—have done an excellent job themselves in hurting marriage, which, for Christians, is supposed to be sacred. Through divorce, infidelity, abortion, men and women have pounded marriage and family mercilessly. But even with these self-inflicted wounds, which are recent on the historical-social radar, marriage as an institution survived, and was never redefined. Same-sex “marriage” will forever redefine marriage’s once-established boundaries. It’s the breach that changes everything. That’s the difference.
V&V: You state clearly and repeatedly at the start of your book that you’re not alleging that today’s gay-marriage advocates are part of a grand communist conspiracy. Why are you so sensitive about making that clear?
Kengor: Because I know how easily these things get caricatured by opponents. Yes, I very carefully state that this isn’t a conspiracy. I want to be clear on this. I implore people not to caricature me and this important reality that needs to be understood. We do a disservice to the truth when we boil down complex things to simple caricature.
However, just as we can easily overstate things, we can also easily understate them, and to do the latter likewise would be a mistake here.
What the left has steadfastly said and written and done to marriage and the family over the last two centuries cannot be ignored. Those actions have been undeniable contributing factors—along with many other factors—that in part help explain where we are today.
Same-sex marriage is not a Marxist plot. It is, however, a crucial blow to marriage—the only blow that will enable a formal, legal redefinition that will open the floodgates to all sorts of new configurations beyond our multi-millennia Western standard based on natural law and the laws of God. It has distinct origins traceable in part to the far left’s initial thrusts at this once unassailable monogamous, faithful male-female institution.
V&V: At the opening of the book, you further caution: “I am not laying the entirety of the culture’s collapse at the feet of communists. I am not asserting that Marxists have given us gay marriage.”
Kengor: That’s correct. And yet, as I note after that quotation, what the left has steadfastly done to marriage and the family over the last two centuries—from Marx and Engels and early utopian socialists like Robert Owen and Charles Fourier to modern cultural Marxists and secular progressives—cannot be ignored. The current rapid redefinition of the male-female marital and parental bond that has undergirded civilization for multiple millennia is the end-road of a steady evolution that should not be viewed entirely separate from some very successful attacks by the radical left. The journey had many prior destinations. A people do not just one morning wake up and ditch the sacred and natural character of the male-female marital union that served their parents, grandparents, and great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents. Ground had been plowed to ready this soil.
V&V: And it was the far left that helped ready the soil?
Kengor: Absolutely. No question.
V&V: As you note, however, the likes of Marx and Engels and the many socialist utopians that you detail were not advocating homosexuality or certainly gay marriage.
Kengor: Of course, not. Sure, some of them, especially the cultural Marxists, were pushing sexual intercourse within the same gender, but anyone advocating something as culturally unthinkable as male-male or female-female “marriage,” in any time other than ours, would have been hauled off by authorities as dangerous public menaces. Marx and Engels were under surveillance by the governments in their countries simply for arguing for non-monogamous marriage. Even gay people weren’t thinking they’d soon live in a culture where not only was the mainstream population supportive of gay marriage but where liberals—in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity”—would be suing, picketing, boycotting, demonizing, and dehumanizing a Baptist grandma who begs them not to force her to make a cake for a gay wedding. Marx and Engels and even wild cultural Marxists like Herbert Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich—who broke down sexual barriers in areas like homosexuality and bisexuality—would be rolling over in their graves. Nonetheless, they would be thrilled to see that every-day (non-communist) Americans have finally found a vehicle to assist the long-time communist dream of “the abolition of the family.”
V&V: But you do emphasize one important source of clear commonality, from the early 19th to early 21st centuries, that unites these old left-wing extremists with modern liberals in their general willingness to redefine marriage and family. What is it?
Kengor: Yes, it is this: As modern liberalism/progressivism and the Democratic Party have become increasingly secular, often anti-religious, or certainly dismissive of traditional notions of morality, this striking willingness of individuals to redefine marriage has become possible. For communists, two centuries ago and still today, that requisite anti-religious secularism has been there all along. That disregard if not outright rejection of Christian ethics has brought all of these forces full circle in a joint willingness to permanently alter the historic Western/Christian understanding of male-female matrimony.
They share the fatal conceit first expressed in the Garden of Eden: Ye shall be as gods.
V&V: What do you mean by that?
Kengor: They are their own determinants of truth, of morality, of what is right and wrong. They render unto themselves the right to determine everything from what is marriage to what is life. These things used to be the province of nature and nature’s God. Now, each and every individual renders that right unto himself or herself. And when someone disagrees with them, they are often attacked with fire and brimstone.
V&V: Clearly, you’re coming at this from a religious perspective.
Kengor: My position is 100 percent consistent with my faith. But I come at this issue not only spiritually but with numerous other influences that have shaped society’s positon on marriage and family for, oh, several thousand years. It has long been common sense and experience that the best thing for a society and for children is a home with a mother and father. Pope Francis says that every child has a “right” to a mother and father. To be sure, not all children will get that. But when they don’t, it hasn’t been because the culture and state are creating a new form of “marriage” that is motherless or fatherless. A fatherless or motherless home has never been what society has strived for as a matter of deliberate policy. That is now changing with this fanatical, no-second-thoughts push for gay marriage.
V&V: We’re going to pick up this conversation in our second interview, but tell readers what you describe as the “ultimate kicker” in this rapid willingness to redefine what you call “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” because it really sums up what you’ve said here today.
Kengor: It’s really a rather stunning development: The radical left could never have achieved this ultimate takedown of marriage without the larger American public’s increasingly broad acceptance of gay marriage. The public has been the indispensable handmaiden to the radical left’s ability to at long last redefine marriage and the family. That is a realization that ought to give the public pause.
V&V: One additional stunning development, a crucial point we’ll pick up in the next interview. You note that today’s communist movement is “gung ho” for gay marriage.
Kengor: That’s correct. People’s World, the flagship publication of Communist Party USA (CPUSA), is constantly pushing gay marriage. As I write, it has posts celebrating “LGBT” Pride Month. You can see this at the CPUSA website, in speeches of CPUSA leaders, and even in places like the once militantly anti-gay Cuba. This is a big deal. CPUSA once expelled gays like Harry Hay. Not anymore. Why such a shift? A major reason is that communists are anti-tradition, anti-God, anti-family, anti-marriage, and all about fundamentally transforming society. They see same-sex marriage as a major opportunity.