I can list off at least 5 critically-essential relationships in my life, relationships that are soul-feeding, deeply connected, and will hopefully stand the test of time. I am blessed beyond all measure to call these four women and one man my friends: dear, beloved friends with whom I share hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations…but there is one thing that I cannot share with them, even if I wanted to.
I cannot share my very self with them, body and soul, because I have already given that essential gift of my “otherness” to my husband, irrevocably, and for the remainder of his natural life or mine (whoever goes first gets out first, I guess).
And I cannot, no matter how much I might desire to do so, create new life with them.
In the case of the male friend, because it would be a violation of my wedding vows and of the exclusivity of my sexual union with my husband. In the case of my female friends, because it is fundamentally incompatible with human nature. Because it doesn’t work. Egg + egg do not = zygote.
(This has nothing to do with adoption or fostering. That’s a separate conversation that I’m consciously choosing to set aside while we hash out the fundamentals of human nature and our sexual complementarity, so stand by.)
As much as I love these women, reality still stands between our bodies and souls – our similar sexual makeup and fundamental nature render our relationships fundamentally fruitless, from a reproductive perspective.
This isn’t bigotry or bias, it’s basic biology.
And my love for them isn’t cheapened by our inability to contract and consummate a sexual union, it’s simply differentiated.
“Love is love,” according to Twitter and every celebrity on the planet this past weekend…but not all love is marriage. Not all love is fundamentally, at it’s core, ordered to the creation of new human life.
And not all love is sexual.
But, but, they sputter on social media, God made us all and God made gays and lesbians and trans and everyone else, so that means He approves of gay “marriage” because love. And tolerance, you bigot, you.
Super coherent argument, right?
But let’s pick at it a little and see if it stands.
First off, does God have anything to say about marriage? Namely, is He invested in marriage functioning a certain way because He created it?
If you’re operating from a biblical perspective, then yes, from Genesis through Jesus, God has offered repeated input on the man and woman He created, ordering them to be fruitful and to multiply and to let no man divide what He had joined, to point out a few instances of His interest in the institution.
But let’s put aside creed or belief system and come at it from a biological and sociological perspective, since we are now assuredly living in a post-Christian epoch in human history. (By this I mean the law – human law – no longer has recourse to God’s law. We are operating entirely outside of the framework of natural law and divine influence as a society.)
So let’s be secularly frank in this discussion.
Marriage is essentially ordered to the good of … wait for it … the children who may result from it.
Not just the spouses.
Sure, there are myriad benefits and bonuses that married people enjoy including better health, longer life, greater social support. But the primary purpose of marriage as a secular institution is to protect and guarantee the rights of the weakest and most helpless members of society: children.
And wouldn’t you know it? When we unhitched babies from bonding years ago with widespread acceptance and use of contraceptives, that was the first blow against marriage as a social institution. Married couples could now enjoy sterile, momentary physical pleasure and label it “sex.”
And guess what?
So could non-married people. And people who were married to other people but maybe wanting to experiment a bit with each other just the same.
Pretty soon people who experienced sexual attraction to members of the same sex looked around and realized, huh, marriage doesn’t seem to mean anything about babies anymore, but rather, about adult sexual satisfaction and companionship. And we want that too!
And who can blame them?
When you trace the beginnings of the decline of the institution of marriage back throughout the past century of human history, you can see clearly the advent of contraceptive use, the rise in extramarital, premarital, anything-other-than-marital sex, and society’s gradual and then (recently) breakneck acceptance of “anything goes, so long as it’s between consenting (for now) adults.”
Because sex, unhinged from the fundamental purpose of bringing forth new life and bonding husband and wife in the sacred and irrevocable role of parenthood, has little consequence beyond the moment. It can still feel good, but then, so can masturbation. So can a one-night stand. So can an affair.
So why not?
Why not, indeed.
That’s why we’re here, today, brave new world in the summer of 2015, shattering the last (and admittedly, in this cultural climate, laughably ridiculous, to hear the reports on most major networks) sexual norm regarding marriage.
Because if divorce is possible, if contraception is a given, if abortion is permitted, if permanent fidelity and the begetting of new human life have nothing to do with marriage, then why the hell not call all bets off?
I think that’s the part we’re going to see a lot of in the next several years. The hell part. We’ll find out, as a culture, whether marriage was a dead and antiquated vestige of the past open to innovative interpretation, or if it really meant something, both to individual lives and to society as a whole.
But the real victims of our little social experiment are going to be the same as always: the weak, the helpless, and the vulnerable: the children.
SCOTUS may have violated jurisprudence, nature, and the Constitution in the laughable logic underpinning Friday’s decision, but we did this to ourselves, as a society, when we rendered sex sterile, profane, and mundane.
Is it any wonder that anyone would question the existence of a sacred institution of marriage when they’re not seeing holy, lasting marriages lived out as an example in real life?
It is particularly telling that the most supportive demographic in the movement for gay “marriage” has been the generation or two of children who’ve come of age in the era of no-fault divorce.
“The sanctity of marriage?” they rightly scoff, “I don’t know anything about that. But I know happiness when I see it, and those guys look happy, so power to them. I sure as hell didn’t see that in my house growing up.”
So that’s our job now, fellow Christians. Parents. People of good will. We must show them what love looks like, in action.
Not saccharine, 140-character professions of devotion or popular opinion. Real, soul-sharing, life-begetting sacrificial love. The cross-shaped kind.
Now the culture war shifts, from broad campaigns to hand-to-hand combat. One marriage, one family, one encounter with Christ at a time.
That’s how we change the world. And that’s how we win eternity.
I begrudge no one the right nor the reality to love who they love. And I will defend to the death your right to believe that.
The Cross is wide enough and the Church is big enough to accommodate all of us sinners, on whatever stage of the journey we find ourselves.
But I will defend to the death the reality of marriage as a different love, a fruitful love, a love bigger than my body or my sexual appetite alone. And I will labor until my last breath to show you that love, His love, made visible through the reality of the invisible grace which sustains our Sacrament.
I hope you’ll defend me too, even in our differing opinions. I hope your tolerance is wide enough for that.