If you are a regular reader to this site or my twitter feed, you probably noticed a surge in rhetoric from me regarding my defense of Traditional Marriage, especially right around the recent Supreme Court decision. I am sure there will be more written here about this arguing for renewal and return to the importance of matrimony between one man and one woman.
But that is not the purpose of today’s letter.
Before any of those arguments are laid out, I want to take a moment and have us simply meet eye to eye. I don’t mean that we must start with some mutual agreement. No, this letter is not the place for argument. I will not be defending my position or trying to refute yours.
Instead, I would like to look across the divide that separates us and see each other as we are. One of the easiest logical fallacies to fall into on a topic like this is to win the argument but lose the arguer. We get so caught up in using our words like sharp weapons to defeat a person rather than gentle weapons to heal them. There is a time and a place for harsh words, as Jesus Himself knew. But that is not now. I want us to look across the casym, this deep and emotional divide over the definition of marriage, and I want us to recognize the beautiful humanity in the other. Only in that context should we proceed with this issue that so often boils the blood and grieves the heart.
I should like to begin by saying that I do see you and understand you. I think one of the frustrations for people who are for “gay marriage” is that your arguments and your perspective do not seem to penetrate the worldview of those who are entrenched in old traditions.
That may be the case with some, but not with me.
I used to be in favor of “gay marriage.” I could, at a time, see no logical impediment to it. When you lay out your case and express yourself on this issue, your thoughts are very familiar to me because they used to have residence in my own mind.
Here is your position as best as I understand it. I believe it is accurate:
All human experience, history, and art have shown us that the deepest need of the human heart is to love and be loved. We ache for the affection that only comes from fully knowing and being known by another. We are born with this need etched into our hearts. We are forged in the fires of our human passions.
And romantic love is that wonderfully horrible and horribly wonderful thing that we discover on the road of life. It hits us like a thunderbolt and thrills us down to the soul the way of no other feeling in the world. And who can choose to fall in love? We cannot select our passion. We are afflicted, delighted, and consumed by something beyond our own control. And this passion draws us to another, like gravity. And beyond simple desire, this romance ideally blossoms into real friendship and charity to the other. And in that unity, we experience that knowing and being fully known.
And for some of us that attraction is to someone of the same sex. Traditionally these feelings were suppressed and persecuted in society. But as we just said, passion cannot be chosen. Just because someone is uncomfortable with your romantic attachments, does that mean they have the right to veto your love? Racists in this country had a problem with marriage between blacks and whites and we rightly saw that this was a violation of civil rights.
Objections to marriage equality are rooted in religious opposition. But this is a country where we are free from an imposed religion and can choose to pursue our own happiness. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe donating blood is immoral, but does it follow that they should impose that belief on others? If you do not want to marry someone of the same sex, you do not have to. But how does it harm you if two people, whose love your religion finds immoral, declare their love to each other till death do they part?
The answer is that it doesn’t.
To deny these persons their rights is to deny some of the most basic rights we extend to heterosexual couples in our society. To deny insurance benefits, parental rights, property inheritance, medical dependency, and the like to people in same-sex relationships is the height of injustice. It judges one love as superior to another when the truth is simple and obvious as all of the great truths are: love is love.
Ultimately, those who oppose marriage equality are in the wrong because they are opposed not only to basic civil rights but they are opposed to that highest and most elevating human force: love. Marriage equality increases love in the world and is therefore good for all.
I know that there are other arguments that could be made, but that is the main.
I understand the thought behind your belief. And I see in you a strong sense of fairness. I see in your belief a person whose motives are rooted in justice and kindness.
You desire your own rights or you see the rights of others being denied and reach out to them in solidarity and empathy.
I admire the compassion rooted in your heart.
And I believe that I see you as you are.
So why am I not with you on your side of the divide? If I can see you clearly why cannot I not see my way to where you stand?
I shall now explain why I am making my stand here. I want to be clear that in this letter I am not making an argument. In other words, I am not trying to convince you about the truth of my position. I am merely going to explain my conviction. Whether it is right or wrong is an important topic, but it is for another day. For now, my hope is that you may see why I stand where I stand.
I oppose “gay marriage” because of the conclusions drawn from human nature
Human beings are social beings. We form ourselves into societies. We were never meant to be alone. We are not born independent of our parents like sea turtles. We are also not merely physically dependent on maternal care like kangaroos. We are rational animals. We need someone to physically care for us. But to be fully human in accord with our nature, we need education. The most important part of this education is the part that instructs us how not only to live but to live well. We call this moral education. This is a 24/7 commitment that shapes the life of another. And those who are most naturally (though not exclusively) invested in this education are the parents of that person. And that we call the family. It is the most fundamental and basic unit of society. It is the atom that is used to build all the substances of human civilization.
Imagine all of human civilization being laid upon the billions of these tiny foundations. But suppose something were to come along and alter its essential nature. Should not altering the foundation cause a major shift in society?
Up until a few years ago, no society, secular or religions, had ever said that marriage was anything except a union between the opposite sexes. To alter a thing’s essence is to alter the thing itself. The problem with such a fundamental change is that there is now no reason to keep from altering it further. If same sex couples can marry, why not polygamous and polyandrous groups?
Why not fathers and daughters, brothers and brothers? You may say that no one is asking for this. Or you may even say that as long as it doesn’t harm you, you are okay with it. But to stretch the definition of marriage to these extremes and beyond, as there is now no legal impediment, would make the definition so broad that it would cease to have any meaning.
Marriage would be undone.
Destroy marriage and you destroy the family.
Destroy the family and society will collapse.
This may seem like fear-mongering, but have you noticed how since the introduction of no-fault divorce, our social ills have multiplied like never before?
But my main motivation for defending traditional marriage is the same as yours: love.
We are created with a nature. To live in a way contrary to that nature harms us.
In later essays I shall make detailed arguments. But for now I am only explaining with a metaphor: can your iPhone be used as a hammer? Yes it can, but it will do the job poorly and it will bring harm to the iPhone. Why? Because it was not designed to be a “hammer.” It was designed to be an “iPhone.” A thing working against its nature is harmful to itself.
The end (or purpose) of a human being is happiness. We all desire happiness. We try many ways in life to get it but sadly we learn that a great deal of our most present desires do not lead to that ultimate destination. We may be truly sincere in our belief that pursuing a particular desire will bring us happiness. But if the object of that desire is opposed to our own nature, we cannot be happy.
And above all, I want all people to be happy. I firmly believe that living in a way that is in opposition to our nature will make it more difficult for each person to find true happiness.
As I wrote at the beginning, I do not mean to try and convince you about the truth of my position here. In fact, you may read what I have written and think me foolish. Very well, we shall one day meet in the land of argument. We, of course, cannot both be correct at the same time. Our positions too much contradict the other.
But my goal was not to convince you about the truth of my beliefs. I simply wanted you see me as I am, just as I see you.
I believe we both care about people. I believe we both want people to be happy. I believe that we are both motivated by love and not hate.
I believe you are motivated by a good heart and good intentions.
Do you see that in me?
If we can now see each other, then maybe we can, from this point, use our words not as weapons, but as tools to build a bridge to each other and to the destination of Truth.