But I write in the past tense because Berry’s recent remarks make a definitional move that this older essay didn’t foresee, and doesn’t even seem to permit. They put a question mark after many of his earlier statements. He has retroactively obfuscated his point about limits and definitions. Here’s what I mean:
In his recent remarks, Berry mocks the idea that “homosexual marriage is opposed to and a threat to heterosexual marriage, as if the marriage market is about to be cornered and monopolized by homosexuals.” He goes on to make the excellent point, which is exactly in line with his decades-long argument, that infidelity, divorce, and promiscuity without any regard for marriage are the real problem. Marriage as an institution is breaking down around us because it’s being done so badly. ”Heterosexual marriage does not need defending… It only needs to be practiced, which is pretty hard to do just now.” He has a good point, perhaps even the main point, and we’ll hardly catch Wendell Berry cheerleading for the culture of sexual self-expression and self-fulfillment.
But he does apparently move to include homosexual relationships in the category of marriage (I assume he is thinking of that status of permanent, lifelong commitments between homosexual partners). That is hard to square with the language and the direction of his “Use of Old Forms” essay.