“A Declaration of Dependence Upon MARRIAGE and FAMiLY”

Bob Vander Plaats is a frequent Iowa gubernatorial candidate who leads the conservative Iowa organization THE FAMiLY LEADER. (Are you wondering about the “i”? Yeah, they made that lowercase to symbolize the smallness of the individual ego which must be subordinated to the long-term interests of American children. I’m serious.) Described by the New York Times Magazine as “Iowa’s most prominent social conservative,” Vander Plaats helped get three state Supreme Court justices off the bench in 2010, after they ruled in support of marriage equality. He helped Mike Huckabee win Iowa. And now he, and the FAMiLY LEADER, have a pledge they want all presidential candidates to take.

This is the point where, if it were me receiving a demand from one of my kids, I would say something like “Yes, it’s nice to want things.” But more is at stake here than an immature person’s insistence that the world must obligingly present them with everything they personally happen to prefer.

I mean, right? After all, the pledge (entitled “A Declaration of Dependence Upon MARRIAGE and FAMiLY”) is talking about something as fundamental as “[f]aithful monogamy,” which it says is “at the very heart of a designed and purposeful order—as conveyed by Jewish and Christian Scripture [sic], by Classical Philosophers [sic], by Natural Law [sic], and by the American Founders [sic].” It argues protections for women and children have diminished “as we have ‘debased the currency’ of marriage,” and therefore asks candidates to vow (or solemnly attest):

  • Personal fidelity to their spouses;         
  • Respect for the marital bonds of others;         
  • Fidelity to the US Constitution as evidenced by the elevation of only “faithful constitutionalists” as judges;         
  • “Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage [sic],” defined as “faithful monogamy between one man and one woman”;       
  • Espousal of the view that being married makes people generally healthier and more financially secure, improves their sex lives, and makes things all-around better for their kids;         
  • Support for legislative efforts that would make it take longer to finalize a divorce;        
  • Legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act and “[s]teadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment [sic]”;         
  • “Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy—our next generation of American children—from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion, and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.” (No, seriously, all those things are on one bullet point. DOMA and a federal marriage amendment got bulleted out separately, but abortion, promiscuity, sexual slavery, trafficking, pornography, and infanticide all share a bullet point. Because… they all pertain to “women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy,” one supposes?);         
  • “[S]afeguards” for military men and women that will protect them against “intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds…” (May I just note that how striking it is, literarily, that this document uses the phrase “steadfast embrace” to refer to a federal amendment, and “intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds” to refer to a workplace romance? I mean, that’s a fascinating authorial choice, right there.);         
  • Rejection of sharia law “and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control”;          
  • Commitment to downsizing government;         
  • Defense of people who exercise their right to free speech by defending “faithful heterosexual monogamy”;        
  • Recognition that “robust childrearing and reproduction is beneficial to US demographic, economic, strategic, and actuarial health and security”;
  • Strict constructionist interpretation of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, particularly the rules governing capitalization. (Heh. Nah, sorry, I made that one up.)

What’s not to like? Very little. I particularly look forward to the rejection of all anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control. Whee! That will be so awesome. I’m just thrilled that Vander Plaats’ organization thought to include it.

As a parent, I am also very glad to learn of the pledge’s emphasis on “robust child-rearing and reproduction.” For too long, child-rearing and reproduction has been allowed to be an exhausting, sleep-depriving business—not without its blessings, to be sure, but one could hardly call it “robust.” In my own experience, the addition of newborns to our household resulted in a marked decrease of robustness, from which none of the adults have recovered. The children, meanwhile, keep getting robuster and robuster—and that is, quite frankly, bad planning. Granted, the pledge does not spell out how child-rearing will become a robust enterprise, but I can only imagine that it will involve things like long morning constitutionals for all parents; deep breaths of good country air; meals of dark bread from the old country and pints of Guinness; slow knee bends; trips to the seashore, and mineral tonic. This is all to the good, surely.

As far as criticisms go… It’s a small thing, but I do have to wonder at the wanton disregard for capitalization conventions. Why, none other than Mr. Vander Plaats himself cited the Bible’s warning against times when everyone would just ignore the official rules and instead go around making stuff up to suit the realities of their own situations. Here he is, in the New York Times Magazine article, quoted at an appearance in Iowa:

 “And we had a few people who didn’t see the world like we do. We had a professor who said: ‘Bob Vander Plaats should explore truth for Bob Vander Plaats. And Mary for Mary and Susan for Susan. And whatever truth is, that’s your truth.’ And I said, ‘Do you understand how dangerous those words are?’ And I said, ‘We’ve been down this road before. And everyone did what was right…'” 

Vander Plaats paused and waited for the biblical refrain from the Book of Judges.

“…in their own eyes,” the crowd said. 

“In their own eyes. It was a train wreck! It was nuts! Absolute tolerance!”

Absolute tolerance, in its modern variety! Yes! This is what the Book of Judges is about! As opposed to, say, the brutality of sexual violence and ensuing wars of vengeance that do nothing to address it! Or even the folly of making vows to appease your God that end up hurting innocent people. No. We are engaged in a struggle which quite simply boils down to order vs. chaos; the cherished institutions and folkways of yore versus strange modern innovations that are untested. And in the interests of order: here.

And as a parting thought, it is a crying shame that Barry White is no longer with us. This pledge begs to be read aloud by him, over some thump-thump music. “Innapropriate commingling of attracteds.” Mercy. [fans self]

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