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The Real Problem with Gay Scouts and Leaders (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the Boy Scouts of America. In this article, we’ll discuss the policy to include gay teens as members. In Part 2, we’ll discuss the recent decision to admit gay adult leaders. 

As a proud Eagle Scout, my husband was especially excited to get our only son involved with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) once he was school-aged. For the past five years, my husband and son have spent countless hours together at camp outs, activities, fundraisers, and meetings. The BSA has provided them with some of their most cherished father-son bonding experiences.

BoyScouts1We breathed a sigh of relief in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled that private organizations like the BSA have a right to exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” Since the BSA oath requires boys and men to promise to be “morally straight,” the ruling gave the organization the legal right to exclude openly gay teens or adults who couldn’t make that promise. 

But those legal protections have been completely gutted over the past five years by none other than the BSA itself. In 2013, the organization decided to allow openly gay teens as members. On Monday, it voted to allow openly gay adults to serve. And THAT decision has left many of us shaking our heads, wondering why an organization that fought like hell just 15 years ago to protect its core values just unnecessarily embraced a policy that’s dangerous for the kids it serves.

WHY NOT GAY SCOUTS?

Even parents who weren’t entirely happy with the 2013 decision to admit gay teens could at least see some value in that policy change; certainly, young men who identify as gay need positive male role models. But even with that laudable goal, it’s still a mistake for the BSA to allow openly gay teens, just as it’s a mistake to allow gay adults. Not because these policies will lead to the moral acceptance of homosexuality, but because there are practical aspects to being a Boy Scout and working with a troop that make the policies problematic. 

scoutsWhen my son graduated from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts two years ago, he began attending camp outs. That meant putting him in a tent with other boys, sometimes while wearing nothing but his underwear. There usually isn’t an adult in the tent with the two, three, or four boys sharing close sleeping quarters. 

So far, no Scout in his troop has confessed to being gay, but if one did, that would be my son’s last camp out. And it’s not because I want my kids to shun their gay peers. Or because I believe every gay teenage boy is a lecherous, immoral sexual predator. It’s because I know from experience how easy it is for a hormonally-charged, emotionally immature young person to confuse intense feelings of friendship with sexual attraction. I know because my foray into homosexuality began when the intense friendship I had with a female friend crossed the line into a sexual relationship. This happens far more often than most people realize. 

I’d never discourage my children from having a friendship with a peer who identifies as gay; in fact, even as preteens, my kids have had peers say they’re gay or bisexual. I’ve supported them continuing the friendships, even after young woman decided she had a crush on our daughter (who learned how to respectfully rebuff such advances at the tender age of 11). That said, I still consider it completely imprudent to put my sexually- and emotionally-immature son into a situation where he’ll be in close, intimate proximity to a youth who doesn’t have the same moral convictions against homosexual behavior. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t put him in a tent with a girl: because in his immaturity, it could easily become an occasion of sin for him. Especially since my son would already have the foundation of friendship with the fellow gay Scout.

Yes, you have that same immaturity in a troop comprised exclusively of straight teens. But in that case, every boy there has a psychological and moral boundary that discourages homosexual acts. You completely change the dynamic, however, when to one of the boys, that’s a morally acceptable action. Teens crave acceptance and love and it’s easy for them to become infatuated with a peer, especially a close friend, as we saw with my daughter’s friend and as I experienced myself. Those intense feelings aren’t a problem as long as both kids have the interior conviction that homosexuality is wrong. 

AMBIGUITY+IMMATURITY+OPPORTUNITY=MORAL DISASTER

But is it wrong? Our culture doesn’t think so. Even children raised in practicing Catholic households are today finding it increasingly difficult to accept the Church’s teaching about the immorality of homosexual acts when they’re bombarded by the message that it’s not just morally neutral, but something to be celebrated. You’re more likely to find ambiguity among teens about this issue, even well-catechized teens, who are afraid of the withering accusation that they’re a bigot or hater if they take a hard line against homosexuality. 

We wouldn't mix this group of teens in a tent, so why is it OK to mix gay and straight Boy Scouts?
We wouldn’t mix this group of teens in a tent, so why is it OK to mix gay and straight Boy Scouts?

As a parent, it’s my job to ensure my son isn’t put into a situation that could result in more temptation than he’s equipped to handle at a young age. I wouldn’t allow him to play video games or on the computer with a friend of his that I know has a problem with porn; I wouldn’t allow him to share a tent with a teenage girl. Nor will he be allowed to share a tent with a gay peer. These things can seriously damage my son’s sexuality if he’s asked to grapple with them before he possesses sufficient maturity to make a good decision.

Spiritually speaking, a homosexual experience for youth is far more damaging than an unchaste but heterosexual one. For many people, having a homosexual experience at a young age is a bell that can never be unrung, that can lead to a lifetime of sexual identity confusion, as it has for me and for many others. Again, it’s not about gay teens being sex-crazed, but about the fact that ALL teen boys are forming their sexual identity and that their emotional and sexual immaturity makes them especially vulnerable to sin during that time. The BSA policy is dangerous because it denies the vulnerability of the teenage years and puts sexually-immature kids together without the natural boundary of everyone being attracted to the opposite sex. 

Despite the veneer of being good for self-identified gay teens, the BSA policy actually puts these teens at even greater risk than just feeling ostracized for being gay. You’re taking these young men, who are attracted to other young men, and putting them in close, intimate proximity to the very sex they’re most sexually attracted to. At best, this is a near occasion of sin for these young men. If it’s obviously imprudent to put teen boys and girls in the same tent while camping, so why are we effectively putting gay scouts in that same situation? 

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The Travesty of Two Daddies

familyEvery once in a while, I come across a story that stops me in my tracks. Like the Italian high court’s decision to overturn a pedophile’s conviction because his 11-year-old victim says she’s “in love.” Or the Australian judge who pointed out that easy access to abortion and contraception may lead to the legal sanction of incest, as it has to once-taboo homosexual relationships. Today’s story stayed with me all day, as I pondered the implications of a gay actor describing his joy at being able to create children with his partner–while he’s HIV-positive.

As a faithful Catholic, I have dozens of theological reasons for believing it’s wrong for two men or two women to use in vitro fertilization or surrogacy to obtain a child. But I actually don’t need a theological reason, because I’ve had six children with my husband over the past 20 years. And what I’ve learned is that the relationship between a woman and her child is primal, sacred, and written in my very flesh.

We used to know this intuitively. But as we’ve fixated more and more on fulfilling our personal desires to the detriment of everything (and everyone) else, inconvenient truths about the irreplaceable relationship between a child and his mother, between a child and her father, were sacrificed at the alter of Me, Myself, and I. Facts, though, are stubborn things, to quote John Adams. And the facts are clear: a child needs a mother and father for the best chance to be emotionally, psychologically, and even physically healthy.

The psychological and biological inter-dependency of a mother and her child, from conception through infancy, is well established. A baby is born with eyes that can focus just about the distance from his mother’s breast to her face; his cry will cause her body to involuntarily release milk to nourish him. A newborn allowed skin contact with his mother has a more stable temperature, higher blood sugar levels (a good thing), and more normal heart and breathing rates. A mother and child who sleep together even synchronize their breathing. There are dozens of studies showing the many ways in which a child depends on his mother’s actual presence to gain the best footing upon entering the world.

Despite all this, I find myself a growing minority in refusing to celebrate the scenario of two men creating twin boys with an egg donor to raise as their own, as happened in Texas last year. I’ve carried a child and then held him to my chest, feeling the spiritual connection between us reflected in my very body, which responds reflexively and unconsciously to his needs. I saw the picture of the two Texas dads holding their baby boys to their naked chests right after birth to mimic the skin-to-skin contact recommended for moms and babies. I cried about it for days. Because instead of celebrating the victory for gay rights, as everyone else seemed to be, all I could think about was the confusion and incalculable loss to those two little boys, who instinctively sought the warm haven of their mother’s arms–and were denied them by adults whose priority was their wants over the children’s needs. Because that’s what good parents do, right?

After infancy, mothers are just as indispensable to their children. I have four daughters and it’s primarily my job to help them navigate the emotional, social and physical challenges of growing into a woman. Even the most compassionate gay dad will never be an adequate substitute for a loving mother who shares your unique feminine biology and struggles. A girl doesn’t want her dad or even her gay dad’s best female friend to help her when she gets her first period; she wants–she deserves–a mother there with her.

And what about fathers? Despite the secular portrayal of fathers as incidental to children’s development, the facts are stubborn here, too: fathers have a profound effect on their children’s development. Girls who grow up apart from their biological father are more likely to experience early puberty and a teen pregnancy than girls who spend their childhood with both parents. Research suggests that a father’s pheromones may influence his daughter’s biological development and that his presence provides the security and confidence she needs to avoid “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

It should go without saying that a boy needs a father to guide him into manhood, but conventional wisdom now says that two women can do the same job for a boy that a father would. Yet I’m certain my preteen son would disagree. Even the most caring mother can’t speak to a boy’s struggle to embrace his masculinity–both biologically and psychologically–like a father can. A boy wants a father to show him how to shave, not a mother. A boy with a father can look at his dad and know that he, too, will survive all the bodily and emotional changes that have turned his world upside down.

Yes, life is messy and sometimes we can’t provide our children with a mother and a father. Their father left us; our spouse died. Her addiction or his abuse forced us to divorce to keep everyone safe. But here’s the difference: single parents always intended to give their child the two parents they need. These men and woman are making the best of a bad situation and I know God blesses these families with abundant graces. Most single-parent families also still have the opposite-sex parent as part of the child’s life; though separated, the mother and father are still available to the child and can provide the guidance and model he needs while growing up. Even when regrettable circumstances separate a child from his biological parents, adoption can still provide him with a loving mother and father so that he can thrive despite that loss.

But that’s not what happens when gay couples start a family–these folks deliberately create a child that will never have a father or mother, for which there is no hope of ever having both of the vital relationships so important to our development as persons. It is fundamentally wrong–not from a religious perspective, but from a human rights one–to purposefully deprive a child of so basic a need as a mother and father, so that gay men and women may have what they WANT.

A girl needs a mother to learn how to be a woman. A boy needs a father to learn how to be a man. Children need the opposite sex parent, too; a girl needs a father and a boy needs a mother, for both provide example and guidance unique to their sex. A mother and father provide the fullest education in what it means to be human–and this is simple wisdom that no amount of social engineering will change.

 

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Books Ink Slingers Misty Respect Life Reviews Same Sex Attraction Spiritual Growth

The Best Little Charity You Never Knew

streetwalkingbookTwo weeks ago, I picked up a magazine off our parish’s literature rack and thumbed through it. Halfway through, I saw an article about Emmaus Ministries (www.streets.org), a Chicago-based outreach that ministers to male prostitutes who work the streets. I was intrigued, so I went online and read up on the ministry and even purchased the book, Streetwalking with Jesus: Reaching Out in Justice and Mercy by the group’s founder, John Green, a Catholic deacon who now lives in Ohio with his wife and children.

The 200-page book arrived about four days ago and I’m already done. This is no small feat for a homeschooling mother of five kids, including a toddler! What makes Green’s book so compelling is that in sharing the heartrending and inspiring stories of the men prostituting themselves on the streets (who sometimes recover), he ends each chapter with a series of questions that will challenge you to go deeper in your love of God and neighbor.

And boy do those questions rake across your soul. In the very first chapter, Green tells the story of Jim, a prostitute who was charged (and acquitted) of murdering his “sugar daddy”–the older man who offered him shelter, safety, and financial resources in return for sexual favors. Green asks if it’s difficult for us to see someone like Jim “clothed with glory and honor.” Fair enough. But then he asks, “What about the sugar daddy?”

I realized that while Jim’s life story only engendered compassion in me–he was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and beaten by his mother’s boyfriend until he was brain damaged–I found it far harder to feel anything but loathing toward the older, wealthy man who had preyed upon him. Yet as Green points out, relationships between young prostitutes and their sugar daddies “often entail real needs that the two men are trying to meet. The sugar daddy has a nurturing, parental need to give; the hustler craves to be loved.” I wanted to relegate to the older man to the role of “disgusting predator” and dismiss him, but in truth he is just as broken and spiritually impoverished as the prostitute he manipulates.

It reminded me of Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom. While in a concentration camp during World War II, the sisters witnessed a guard savagely beating a young woman. Corrie said, “How terrible!” Betsy said, “I know! We have to show her that love is the better way.” Unlike Corrie, Betsy considered the person exhibiting the lack of love as an even greater victim than the person being abused.

What an incredible thing, to be able to see both the victim and his abuser as a wounded, yet still loved child of God, as Green and the Emmaus staff does. I know I am rarely capable of this. What about you?

To educate people about the suffering and struggles of male prostitutes, Emmaus has a one-hour dramatic presentation that brings the stories of the men to life. The production can be performed at parishes, for groups, or for charitable organizations…anyone who needs help seeing the inherent dignity of these “lost sons” of God.

emmausOn both the Emmaus website and in the book, these Christians challenge the rest of us to let go of our “learned blindness.” That’s the comfortable life that enables us to remain separated–physically and spiritually–from the poor and poor in spirit. Green says, “The degree to which I am blessed staggers me. The degree to which I take that for granted shames me.” He describes spending a weekend camping with three male prostitutes outside the city, then returning home and dropping them off at “the spot”–a smattering of cardboard boxes sitting over a steam grate where the men lived, if you can call that living. Green went home, got into his comfortable bed in his warm apartment, and wept for the suffering of his brothers.

How often do we remember to thank God humbly for our many blessings? And as importantly, are we willing to sacrifice some of those blessings to alleviate the suffering of those in need?

If we have anything, Green says–material comfort or intellectual talents or spiritual clarity–every bit of it is a gift from God. A gift given for one purpose–to serve others in love. It’s clear that this is a ministry that doesn’t reach out to those on the streets through self-righteousness or Pharisaic condescension, but through a sincere and humble love of their brothers. This is the kind of love we’re called to offer every person we meet–gay or straight, rich or poor, law-abiding or criminal, young or old.

May God help us to love Him better by loving others better. “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.”

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Ink Slingers Respect Life Same Sex Attraction

An Open Letter to My Gay Sister

As someone who struggles with same-sex attraction yet remains a practicing Catholic, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the “gay Catholic world.” It’s a small world (after all), consisting of a handful of us who have tasted the worldly wisdom on homosexuality, found Christ, and decided He’s worth the suffering, struggle, and sacrifices necessary to be chaste.

A few weeks ago, my browsing took me to a blog by a woman who had been a practicing Catholic just a few years ago, but who calls herself an atheist (after a brief stop in one of the more liberal, enlightened branches of Christianity). On her blog, she detailed coming out to friends. While most offered a nonchalant, “Cool!” it seems that she got a more tempered response from  two faithful Christian friends, who said: “I love you anyway.” This response prompted a thoughtful post about why the “anyway” troubled the woman, who believed that one word negated the previous three.

So much of what she wrote represents the prevailing attitude today and it needs to be addressed. Especially since so many Christians have been cowed into accepting that you can’t believe homosexual acts are wrong AND authentically love a gay person. To that end, here’s my open letter to my (formerly Catholic) gay sister. 

Dear Sister:

Fifty, 30, or even just 10 years ago, if you or I had shared with faithful Christians that we are attracted to women, and they responded with, “I love you anyway,” we would have considered ourselves blessed. But today, such a statement troubles you because it “suggests there’s something wrong with being gay.”

And you’re right: there isn’t anything objectively wrong with being gay. Neither of us do anything wrong in our attraction to women. But we both know that’s not what you mean. What you really mean is, “They think there’s something wrong with me having a sexual relationship with another woman.”

Well, DUH. What exactly did you expect? These were, according to you, avowed Christians. Are you really surprised you didn’t get their full stamp of approval of you living as a lesbian?

Your reaction illustrates what I’ve known for a long time: that most self-identified gay people today don’t want tolerance, but moral approval. It’s not enough for Christians to say, “To each his own” and let others live in freedom. It’s not enough to go on as before, with Christians treating their out-of-the-closet friend the same as always. No, today Christians are expected to actively celebrate homosexuality or we’re branded a “hater” or “bigot.” We must support the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples or we’re against “equality.” (Never mind that gay marriage opens the door to every other kind of union based on “feelings,” including some very unpalatable “marriage partners” who WILL demand their place at the table.)

Not only that, but you’ve bought into the lie that you’re only able to truly love someone if you laud their every action, no matter how much you believe it’s wrong or believe it’s harmful to them. Your Christian friends are supposed to think it’s just fantastic that you’re now living as a lesbian and if we don’t, then we hate you and most likely primitively fear all gay people. There’s no middle ground anymore for people of wildly divergent belief systems to live in respect and peace…now, we must all AGREE about what’s morally good and bad, too.

Oh, I get it. It’s okay to disagree with your behavior, but being gay is who you are. And since being gay is intrinsic, then anyone who doesn’t believe it’s an awesome, beautiful thing to live out must be rejecting you as a person. “I was born this way,” you say. “It’s a natural part of who I am. So who are you to say you love me ‘despite’ this part of myself?”

Maybe your attraction to women is actually innate. Maybe you were never attracted to men and always attracted to women. So what? My husband was born with a fierce, intense personality…a close friend was born with different brain chemistry…my teen daughter was born anxious, as evidenced by pictures of her as newborn with her face clenched tightly in sleep. These innate “orientations” are no less intrinsic to who they are than homosexuality is to you; like your homosexuality, they’re natural and not morally wrong per se. These folks just are who they are.

But here’s the rub: my husband and friend and daughter all accept that these intrinsic parts of themselves can be destructive and they work to master these parts of themselves. They certainly don’t celebrate them or expect others to; my husband isn’t a “proud rager!” and you won’t see my friend in a parade shouting, “We’re here, we’re bipolar, get used to it!” As mature people, they understand that just because something is a natural part of their makeup doesn’t automatically mean that giving free reign to it is in their best interest. Being “born that way” doesn’t ALWAYS translate to “something to be celebrated.”

But maybe you didn’t really expect your Christian friends to celebrate your homosexuality; maybe you just wanted them not to condemn you. “I love you anyway,” they said. Which as far as I can tell, is exactly what Christ says to us. He sees us in all our brokenness and says what your friends said to you. We need to give up this false idea that authentic intimacy—real love, if you will—is based on understanding, because it’s not. Authentic love is based on acceptance. And that means warts and all—the real warts and yes, even those flaws that other people just think I have. (Like being too pushy, which I most definitely am NOT.)

loveanywayIn saying they love you “anyway,” your Christian friends offered you that acceptance, just as God does. Your friends didn’t proselytize you or demand that you convert back to being heterosexual to remain in friendship with them. It’s wrong to ask others to go beyond forbearance of our idiosyncrasies and (dare I say it?) faults and accept as good everything that we think, do, and even are. What an impossible, unreasonable standard to have of our friends, to demand that they think everything about us is just grand—or they can’t possibly love us with the authentic, self-sacrificing love of Christ.

What you really wanted was for your Christian friends to be so moved by the fact that you, you!…someone they know and care about is gay, that they would embrace all of you—including your life as a lesbian—as morally good. But did you ever consider how disrespectful it is to your friends to expect that kind of response to your news? You basically expected them to abandon their moral convictions so you could feel better about your decision to live a certain way. As my husband tells our daughters, anyone who expects you to sacrifice your moral values in the name of “love” doesn’t have a clue what love really is.

Such as view of friendship is self-serving and immature. I eat meat…lots and lots of meat. And I’m pretty sure I can say that my the desire to eat meat—and the act of eating it—are simply part of my makeup. I’ll never be one of those people who go bananas over salad; eating flesh is just who I am. Yet I can’t imagine demanding that my vegetarian-for-moral-reasons friends laud me eating meat as a condition of friendship. Or worse, complaining that they don’t “really love me” if they won’t declare my carnivorous habits morally good.

I said before that love is based on acceptance, not understanding. Let’s go one further: we don’t love people because they engage in morally good behaviors (as we define “good”), but because they possess an intrinsic dignity, a dignity that no behavior (good or bad) can increase or diminish. We may never understand one another—does anyone really, this side of the veil?—but we can recognize and honor that dignity in one another. We can accept each other, even the parts who may not like, which is the basis for all true intimacy.

You said that your Christian friends’ statement that they love you “anyway” troubled you. I submit that says more about you than it does about them and their love for you. I’ve been blessed with friendship from atheists, agnostics, Mormons, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Swedenborgians(!). Every one of these friends held that I was living immorally (by their code) in one way or another: I drink coffee, worship what appears to be bread and wine, and eat animals. I knew they disagreed with me; they knew I knew they disagreed. But because we accepted one another, we didn’t nitpick the friendship. We afforded each other the freedom to be wrong, but supported and helped and suffered with each other “anyway.” That’s love and it’s the real deal, even with an “anyway” tacked onto the end of it.

Yet even if one of these friends had rudely chastised me for doing something they fervently believed was not only wrong but harmful to me, I wouldn’t have been troubled by it. Their rudeness would have bothered me, but not the essence of their criticism. Why not? Because I’m secure that I’m doing nothing morally wrong by drinking coffee, eating animals, and worshiping Jesus under the guise of bread and wine.

The only time another person’s disapproval bothers you is when you suspect they may be right…we’re most defensive when we know we’re doing, but want to convince ourselves we’re right. If you really are a “proud lesbian” who’s absolutely sure she’s on solid moral footing, then your Christian friends’ responses would never have troubled you. In fact, they could have offered a far darker and uglier response and at best, you would have felt pity for their misguided  rudeness.

The fact that so many of my fellow gay sisters and brothers can’t be satisfied with “I love you anyway”…that they can’t abide anyone even thinking homosexual acts are wrong…that they are willing to shout down and crucify anyone who subscribes to the traditional Christian beliefs about sexuality and marriage (Mozilla CEO, anyone?)…these things confirm for me that “God’s laws are written on the hearts of men.” The United States today is decidedly gay-friendly; every significant area of influences from the media to academia to corporations will applaud your decision to live as a proud lesbian. In the end, though, it’s that voice we can’t escape—the still, small one in our soul—that convicts us “anyway.”

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Why Christians Opened the Door to Gay Marriage

As a Catholic, I oppose gay marriage with my whole being. But I also believe we lost the battle against it long before Massachusetts began issuing same-sex marriage licenses in 2004. Why? Because the real architects of gay marriage aren’t gay and lesbian activists, but Christians themselves.

Gay marriage actually began, ironically enough, with a call to sexual abstinence: in 1798, British (Anglican) clergyman Thomas Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population, the first work to advocate abstinence for population control. Forty years later, Charles Goodyear accidentally discovered how to vulcanize rubber and our old friend the condom was born. By the 1860s, Malthusians had officially dropped abstinence and promoted condoms for birth control.

Across the pond, Protestant Anthony Comstock saw the writing on the bedroom wall and successfully lobbied Congress to ban the sale and distribution of “obscene” material, including contraceptives. The Anglican bishops had their say, too—in 1908 and again in 1920, they emphatically reaffirmed the traditional Christian teaching against contraception.

Enter American birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, who worked with like-minded progressives in England to pressure public health officials and church leaders to accept contraception. Their lobbying worked and at the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Anglican bishops caved and decided contraception was licit. The Episcopal Church of the United States joined them just a year later.

The response from the rest of the Protestant denominations, however, was fast and furious. Lutheran theologian Dr. Walter A. Maier called contraception “one of the most repugnant of modern aberrations,” and Methodist bishop Warren Chandler insisted that the “disgusting” contraception movement assumed the worst about man’s ability to control his sexual urges. The Presbyterian Church joined the chorus, openly calling for withdrawal of all interdenominational support for the Episcopal Church in the United States. But like all firestorms, this one burned out quickly. By the 1960s, every Protestant denomination—Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, even the Baptists—had abandoned its opposition to contraception.

Most view the moral prohibition against contraception as one of those “Catholic things” that isn’t relevant to Protestant Christians, much less to non-Christians. For Protestants, at least, this not only ignores Christian tradition, but basic biblical morality. In the first two chapters of Genesis, God’s plan for marriage is laid out plainly, with God bringing man and woman together in marriage for two purposes: companionship (unity) and to grow the human family (procreation). This is why Protestants who oppose gay marriage because “God created them male and female” only have it half right. For God did not stop there; he joined the two together for specific purposes. In short, for bonding and for babies.

From the beginning of Christianity, what constituted a valid marriage was clear: a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life. But by 1960, contraception is okay and babies are optional. So now marriage is a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life.

Officially, the Catholic Church  is the only Christian faith to have retained the traditional teaching against contraception. Unofficially, however, dissent–both institutional and among the laity–has been rampant. (Even today, the best litmus test I have for gauging the orthodoxy of a priest is his reaction to finding out I’m a natural family planning instructor.) While the official teaching of the Church remains unchanged, it was discarded by the majority of Catholics, who decided that the Church was wrong about contraception (but right about social justice and the rest of the teachings they agreed with). Even today, Catholics contracept and sterilize at the same rate as the rest of society. 

Then came the push for no-fault divorce laws in the 1970s. And within a short time, couples that would have previously had to prove fault and undergo an arduous and agonizing court procedure to dissolve their marriage could now separate relatively easily, legally speaking. What had once been a last resort–divorce–was now considered a legitimate solution to the “problems” of marriage. And not surprisingly, the once-serious problems that had justified divorce in the past, such as abuse and infidelity, gave way to immature and self-centered reasons such as “I fell out of love with him” and “She no longer makes me happy.” Today, no one blinks an eye if someone wants to get married “for life” three, four, or more times.

Marriage, then, changed again: a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life.

Gay couples then, seeing that heterosexual marriage has become nothing more than a temporary legal contract between consenting adults, rightly asked why they couldn’t have their unions recognized, too. I sometimes cringe when I hear Christians talk about defending “traditional marriage.” Traditional marriage was open to children and until death. I can just hear the gay marriage advocates now: “So in the past 60 years, you’ve lopped off 2/3 of ‘traditional’ marriage, and now you want to claim it’s a sacred, unchangeable institution?”

They have a point, folks.

Logically, if heterosexuals–Christians, at that–have led the charge to so radically alter what makes a marriage a marriage, then what basis do we have for saying marriage must be reserved for just a man and a woman? We were the ones, after all, who fought to take procreation and permanence out of the equation. What’s left of traditional marriage is barely worth legally defending, which is why gay marriage has made so many inroads.

Polyamorist gay marriage: coming soon to a state near you. (June 14, 2006 issue of The Advocate, featuring an article about gay polygamists who expressed a desire to be legally married.)

After we’ve lost the battle for gay marriage, we’ll lose the battle for polygamy, too. Because if marriage is no longer a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life, but a temporary legal union of two adults, then why shouldn’t polygamists get their shot at the brass ring, too? Why should marriage be limited to just two people? What if three–or six–people want to get “married”? What reason could Christians–contracepting, divorcing, and remarrying Christians–possibly have to deny “polyamorists” the right to redefine marriage once again? We did, after all. Plenty of times.

My own faith is solid; I know what God intends marriage to be and I live that out with my husband. We’re open to life and prepared to stick it out until the bitter end. We teach these truths to our children, both through catechesis and example. But legally and socially, I believe we’ve already lost the battle against gay marriage, polygamy, and every other kind of “union” our crazy world comes up with for the government to ratify (“bestial marriage,” anyone?). With even most heterosexual marriages in this country being a mere shadow of what God intends this glorious institution to be, all we can do is hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and pray without ceasing that our own children will find the narrow gate to life.