Sunday, November 23, 2003

Why Does the Definition of "Marriage" Matter?

I know you are expecting an answer to the Bambino and Billy Goat curses...But recent events demand a thoughtful response to an issue more important than politics or sports.

Recent court decisions seem to be opening the door for an unprecedented redefining of marriage and family.

Gay activists and civil libertarians hail these decisions as further progress in the struggle for equal justice for all.

Religious conservatives are outraged at what they see as the demolition of moral and social stability.

Is there any way forward that is more than a muddled middle that pleases no one? Once again, history may help us consider the future.

Sexual practices vary widely across cultures and time periods. Heterosexual and homosexual activity has often been a part of religious rituals as well as an outlet for human passions. The Judeo-Christian tradition is the most "radical" in history with its bold assertion that sexual intimacy is only for heterosexual couples in a lifelong covenant relationship.

Other cultures honor the bond of heterosexual marriage as the key to social stability, even while allowing "indulgences" outside the social contract of clan and community.

There has never been a significant world civilization that has promoted homosexual unions as equal in social status as the bond of a man and woman.

"Wait a minute!" the activists say. "Just because something is unprecedented does not mean it is wrong!"

I will concede this point, with one qualification. If all cultures at all times have seen the heterosexual bond as the most significant, isn't this at least a cause to pause and reflect before we elevate an exceptional situation to a normal and approved one?

We are treading on thin ice here. Slavery has existed in most cultures...It is now almost universally condemned (at least in theory, unless you go the Bangladesh or the Sudan). Oppressive oligarchies have ruled the world until the past two centuries (and still may, if the global corporations are involved)...and their control balanced by democracies.

Well, let's add psychological research to historical precedent. For three generations, therapists have been treating patients who suffer from the failure of one or more parents to love them and create a safe place for them. Recent books like "Fatherless America" and the popularity of various voices calling for parental responsibility all serve to remind us that "Johnny needs a Mommy and a Daddy". This does not mean that single-parent households are doomed to failure or that one can not recover from poor parenting.

Boys and girls need male and female role models in order to establish a secure sense of self and face a world awash in rejection and image-projection.

What do these thoughts mean for the future of "gay marriage" in the USA?

We should not rush to approve a change that ignores historical fact, multiple religious sensibilities and solid psychological insight.

This does not mean that any domestic partner arrangements are impossible or that the private acts of consenting adults should be persecuted. To redefine marriage is to take a step over a precipice for political purposes rather than morally sound reasons.

Those who oppose gay marriage are branded as fearful and intolerant, lacking in compassion and love. In fact, the opposite may be the case. Upholding enduring values for sound reasons is one of the most loving things we can do! Refusing to give in to political fads that ignore the faiths (yes, notice the plural here!) of millions of freedom-loving people is more courageous than promoting an agenda of the exception.

The real issue remains the same - what will we permit, prohibit or promote as a society?

Next week: Sexual Politics - Revisited

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