In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

All Marriages are NOT Equal

As I write this, the New York legislature is considering a bill--introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo this past Tuesday--that would make New York the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage. Thirty-one of 62 state senators have publicly indicated support, which means that the bill--already assured of passage in the Democrat-dominated Assembly--needs support from just one more senator to pass.

I'm sure my views on this subject won't matter to anyone in Albany, but I feel compelled to express them. I hate to see yet another chink in the social armor that is the family, and having it gouged out by my "own" state representatives. There is (and has been, since at least the 1960s) a war going on for the soul of America and the future of Western civilization, and homosexuality (or "same-sex," to use the more polite, politically-correct term) is one of its hottest battlegrounds. I recently "fought" a skirmish in that war on Facebook, pitting my younger, college-age son and his friends against me and my sister, over an article Colin posted favoring same-sex marriage and criticizing someone else's suggestion that its legalization would devalue traditional marriage. Fortunately, the discussion stayed pretty civil and we thanked each other for conducting it that way. I doubt any minds were changed at that time, but no one knows what may happen with a seed once planted.

I'll leave to the Lord any judgments about the immorality of homosexual conduct (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27). Many Christian believers oppose same-sex "marriage" on this ground, contending that it dignifies and elevates a profoundly sinful practice to the same status as the God-ordained institution of marriage between a man and a woman, and so denigrates that institution as well as its Author. I rather agree, but question how persuasive such an argument can be for non-believers, who now make up an increasingly large if not a majority portion of the population. Perhaps a more broadly acceptable ground of objection is the adverse effect on individual, family, and social health, over time, of "equalizing" in people's minds and in the law heterosexual with homosexual and other abnormal types of relationships.

Marriage between one man and one woman is an institution, established over millennia among the vast majority of the world's peoples, designed to create and nurture children in a stable family structure where they can learn from both genders how to be healthy, confident, well-balanced, and giving adults with a normal heterosexual identity, able to provide the same guidance to their own children, and so on down through the generations. Civilized society needs individuals and families like this not only to thrive, but to survive. This is why traditional heterosexual marriage has long been favored in culture, protected under the law, and consecrated by religious institutions. No other type of relationship or "family" structure, particularly homosexual, can effectively perform these functions.

But if we accord the same dignity and grant the same legal rights and benefits to people in homosexual and other "alternative family" relationships, including polygamy and incest, traditional marriage and family will come to be regarded as no better than they are--as just another "lifestyle choice"--and will thus lose their place in society as the standard on which future generations and a healthy, stable civilization depend. In the prevailing climate of political correctness, the equality of all relationships and "family" structures will be celebrated and endorsed in popular culture, and enforced by governments. Over time, without effective support by law, schools, religious institutions, and culture, the unique and indispensable value of traditional heterosexual marriage and family will become widely denied, obscured and forgotten. Such arrangements will be seen as a quaint relic at best, or as personally stifling and socially irresponsible at worst. Heterosexual relationships, loosed from the values and obligations that traditional marriage imposes, will become increasingly transitory and unstable, and ineffective to nurture or teach children what they need to know about themselves and others to become well-adjusted members of a strong, productive society. Steeped in a culture of moral boundlessness and self-gratification, and without clear guidance and modeling by a man and a woman working together to build a lasting family unit, young people will remain confused about their sexual identities and impulses, and spend their lives drifting in and out of relationships of all kinds--with catastrophic personal and social consequences.

It must be acknowledged that the contemporary decline of traditional marriage and family cannot be laid solely, or even primarily, at the feet of homosexuals. To this point, heterosexual immorality and infidelity to values and commitments--encouraged, to be sure, by a depraved popular culture--have probably done much more damage to the family than have relationships between gay people. But the answer to this crisis is a restoration of moral values and a culture of monogamous heterosexual marriage and family, not promoting relationships that are simply incapable of doing for society and for future generations what the traditional family can do.

Today, homosexuality and homosexual relationships are generally tolerated in society, and even celebrated in the arts, entertainment, and academia. Current laws favoring traditional marriage and family do not prevent gay people from loving each other, from making homes together, from bequeathing their property to each other, or from expressing their sexual identities. New York and many other states already have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in most commercial and life activities. Even many conservatives don't object to the enactment of some form of civil union that secures to gay couples most of the same personal rights and legal benefits as are currently enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. So, is the relentless pursuit of absolute "equality" between straight and gay marriage just about being able to claim the title of "married"? Is it just about being able to "feel equal"? Or is the real, long-range agenda--at least among homosexual/bisexual/transgender activists--to legally redefine and repurpose the family, to bring more children into gay homes through adoption (which is already skyrocketing and being aggressively promoted by the Obama administration), or in other ways to help indoctrinate young people to embrace homosexuality?

My views were recently given voice by Richard Waghorne, a commentator for the Irish Daily Mail who is himself a homosexual. Mr. Waghorne warned that “selfish” attempts to introduce same-sex marriage are in reality “a demand for marriage to be redefined.”
Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman. Not all marriages, of course, involve child-raising. And there are also, for that matter, same-sex couples already raising children. But the reality is that marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not.

. . . So the question that matters is this: Why should a gay relationship be treated the same way as a marriage, despite this fundamental difference? A wealth of research demonstrates the marriage of a man and a woman provides children with the best life outcomes, that children raised in marriages that stay together do best across a whole range of measures. This is certainly not to cast aspersions on other families, but it does underscore the importance of marriage as an institution.

. . . If gay couples are considered equally eligible for marriage, even though gay relationships do not tend towards child-raising and cannot by definition give a child a mother and a father, the crucial understanding of what marriage is actually mainly for has been discarded. What that amounts to is the kind of marriage that puts adults before children. That, in my opinion, is ultimately selfish, and far too high a price to pay simply for the token gesture of treating opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships identically.
Another worrisome aspect of the "marriage equality" crusade is the platform its success would give activists to muzzle the defenders of traditional marriage and family. Although the bill currently before the New York legislature purportedly protects clergy and churches from being required to perform or host same-sex marriage ceremonies, I question whether politicians will be able to resist future demands by gay partisans that churches and other organizations resisting the tide of same-sex equality lose their tax-exempt status for "discrimination;" that Catholic Charities and other religious social service agencies be forced to participate in "gay adoptions" or risk being barred from their work; and that anyone who publicly expresses disapproval of homosexuality, gay marriage, or the like on religious grounds will face prosecution for hate speech. These things are already happening in Canada, Australia, and Great Britain.

One's stance on the issue of same-sex marriage should not be all about open- or close-mindedness as, or toward, individuals. Nor should it turn only on abstract notions of "equality" or "justice," "privacy" or "freedom" of individuals or groups. At some point, the long-range needs of society and its members as a whole need to be weighed in the balance at least as heavily. As a society, we have no duty to embrace, endorse, encourage, honor, celebrate, or sanctify every lifestyle or relationship that individuals or groups want or feel a need for, no matter how sincere they may be.

I'm not worried that the mere existence of gay marriage will lead increasing numbers of people to "become" gay. Rather, the deleterious effect of same-sex marriage would be its gaining equal dignity with traditional marriage, and the eventual confusion this would engender in the minds of children--who become adults--about what a real (i.e., nuclear, two-parent, two-gender) "family" is and needs to be.

All individuals may be created equal in the eyes of God, but that is not true of all domestic arrangements and lifestyles. In terms of society's most fundamental needs, some really are "better" than others.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When Every Day is Memorial Day

NOTE: I had planned to post this on Sunday May 29, but a sudden and near-disastrous virus infection of my home computer over the weekend put me out of action for a few days. Thankfully, the problem is now mostly resolved. But I didn't want Memorial Day to pass too far without an acknowledgment of those left behind, who have to pick up the pieces and march on every day, after a hero falls.

On Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who have given their lives while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. Solemn ceremonies, military salutes, and the playing of Taps in quiet cemeteries are the order of the day (at least among those who still care what this day is supposed to be about). We think about the fallen heroes and the ultimate sacrifice they made to keep us safe and our country strong and free.

But how much thought and care do we give their survivors--a spouse, children, siblings, parents, even friends? After the funerals and the remembrance ceremonies are over, the rest of us go back to our daily lives and cares. But for those close to one who has died in service to his or her country, every day is Memorial Day--and most of those days aren't enlivened with parades and picnics. They're just like any other day, except that the gaping hole in the survivor's life never goes away--the heartache and loneliness, especially for family members, abides forever. The survivor must go on living life, but somehow manage without the emotional and practical support, the comfort and the guidance, of the one suddenly snatched away.

It's now two days past Memorial Day 2011. Before it fades completely from our memories, let's commit to helping the survivors of fallen service members in some concrete way, as by joining or donating generously to military support organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), United Service Organization (USO), or Freedom Is Not Free, just to name a few (see a list of additional such organizations here). If you're personally acquainted with or related to a survivor, of course the very best way to help is to let him or her know that you're there for whatever and whenever their need may be. If you don't know a survivor, getting involved in an effort or organization aiding military families will almost certainly lead you to some.

Something that always reminds me poignantly of the military survivor's plight is the great Statler Brothers' song (1977) Silver Medals and Sweet Memories. It tells the story of a young American bride and mother-to-be who lost her husband in World War II, and--together with her child--carried on in loving remembrance without him, the rest of her life. My eyes brim every time I hear it (lyrics below video):

Just a picture on a table
Just some letters Mama saved
And a costume broach from England
On the back it has engraved:
To Eileen, I love you
London, nineteen forty-three.
And she never heard from him again
And he never heard of me

And the war still ain't over for Mama
Every night in her dreams she still sees
The young face of someone who left her
Silver medals and sweet memories

In Mama's bedroom closet
To this day on her top shelf
There's a flag folded three-cornered
Layin' all by itself
And the sergeant would surely be honored
To know how pretty she still is
And that after all these lonely years
His Eileen's still his

And the war still ain't over for Mama
Every night in her dreams she still sees
The young face of someone who left her
Silver medals and sweet memories