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Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living museum, and a place visited and loved by many conservatives, traditionalists, homeschoolers, and classical education devotees.
Williamsburg is beloved precisely because, for decades, it has faithfully depicted the founding culture of America in a meticulously recreated, and often re-enacted, Revolutionary-era capital. This depiction included America’s undeniably traditional, Western, largely Judeo-Christian roots.
But now Williamsburg has gone woke. In doing so, its leadership and staff are displaying conspicuous enmity toward the highly reasoned position held by America’s founders—a position at odds with today’s LGBT dogma.
‘May We Become Them’
It’s not merely during Pride month, which Williamsburg now celebrates. Colonial Williamsburg has established an ongoing Gender and Sexual Diversity Research Committee to uncover the contributions of “gender and sexual minorities.”
The committee’s web page contains four blog posts yielding the product of their “research” so far. It is both thin and adversarial. One article, “Pride and Prejudice: Honoring Historic LGBTQIA+ Voices,” is written as though only backward people think there are two sexes grounded in biology. It focuses mainly on one individual, Anne Lister, who did not live in Williamsburg or even during the colonial era.
Another article, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” says the intention of the Williamsburg Gender and Sexual Diversity Research Committee is to undo “suppression” with an “act of rebellion” and “justice” to the end of “celebrating our progress” while “stand[ing] on the shoulders of [LGBT] giants.” It declares, “May we honor them, may we raise them, may we become them.”
The article backs up its claims with a smattering of images of 18th-century homoerotic literature and anecdotes of arguably LGBT figures in history.
A third article is about a play recently written for the Williamsburg stage, drawn from the experience of two Irish women who lived together as lovers in Wales in 1778. What it has to do with the American colonies is anyone’s guess. What it has to do with pushing a modern sexual revolutionary point of view is not a guess.
The content and tone carry the presumption of moral guilt against the traditional, reality-based view of sex. Woke Williamsburg dismisses those who take these views seriously. Rather than respected, believers in historically Western, classical, or Judeo-Christian views are framed as the bad guys—on the wrong side of American history. According to Colonial Williamsburg, this includes none other than America’s founders.
Sexual Revolution Overturns the American Revolution
The founders’ worldview was framed by the belief in a theistic God, buttressed with classical arguments for God’s existence and nature (arguments such as cosmological, moral, teleological, and design). This view was held by the majority of the formative thinkers who walked the intellectual journey that led to America.
Such a reasoned outlook was vital to the social and political thought of the colonists and Revolutionary founders. Our government of separated, decentralized powers came largely from this perspective of truth.
For example, the Declaration of Independence’s doctrine that humans are “endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights” echoed the Judeo-Christian and Western tenet of the sanctity of the individual made in God’s image. Yet the founders also were mindful of the truth of the fallen nature of humanity, and the need for a precise balance within government.
Federalist 51 warned, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Still, as John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Theirs was a worldview that recognized the existence of two sexes anchored to biology — male and female — and the essentiality of the monogamous, heterosexual family to human social well-being. Hence, sexual revolutions that undermine this family structure are an attack on the founders’ worldview itself, and destructive of the pillars of free government.
That is why the culture of the late 1700s pushed back against breaches of this social safeguard. Woke Williamsburg now calls it “suppression” and “prejudice.” But those colonists, believing in the fallenness of humanity, recognized that not all sexual impulses are good. This included adultery, premarital sex, and homosexuality. Disapproval was a way one showed loving concern for fellow humans and provided stability needed for the common good.
Seven decades ago this would not have been controversial. But we are in the midst of a sexual revolution in which our elites accept as holy writ the contentions of the LGBT movement and demand subservience to it.
The Founders Were Right and Williamsburg Is Wrong
Many will defend Colonial Williamsburg’s attack on the founders’ views about family by bringing up the founders’ record on slavery. But there is no moral equivalence. Yes, America has a history that includes slavery and racism. But it also has a rich history of anti-slavery sentiment.
Many of the American founders are on record as anticipating, and hoping for, slavery’s demise. That hope was often generated from the very same religious and philosophical belief system that upheld the traditional nuclear family and vigorously opposed attacks against it.
So a large number of America’s forefathers would have foreseen the end of slavery and the movement toward racial equality in some form. But they would never have foreseen, nor approved of, the radicalism of the modern sexual revolution, including the LGBT movement.
What has this sexual revolution given us? Misery. Family breakdown. Social breakdown. Fatherless children. A porn epidemic. Depression. Teen pregnancy. Abortion. Domestic violence and self-harm going through the roof.
This damage can hardly be termed “compassion” or even “social justice.” America’s authors of political revolution would likely be shocked at the modern sexual revolution, but would not be surprised that it has yielded such sour fruit. Maybe those colonial founders were right, and today’s woke Williamsburg is wrong.
Christopher Corbett has written for numerous conservative policy and religious liberty organizations. From 2013-2018 he was Vice President for Strategic Communications at First Liberty Institute, and holds a political science degree from the University of Chicago.