Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Who Killed Marriage and Sexual Morality? We Did...

In our current cultural climate, the latest battle about marriage has been a high-profile one:  You'd have to be living under a rock, if you're a citizen of most nations in the modern west, to not know that there is an agenda afoot to say that marriage must be redefined so as to include two people of the same gender.  Conservative Christians everywhere are rightly alarmed by this turn of events, as both Scripture and the Church teach that sexual relationships outside of marriage, between one man and one woman, are sinful. Yet the problem started long ago, perhaps even more long ago than many of my brothers and sisters in faith may realize.

Civil marriage has long been a joke, compared to what it once was.  Now, I must say immediately that as a Catholic, I concede to the wisdom of the Church's tradition (small "t," meaning it's time tested wisdom but not something that's an infallible Dogma) that civil marriage is important to society.  I therefore reject the libertarian notion than society would be just fine if marriage were left solely to private ceremonies and to churches, without any state involvement.  However, at the same time I recognize that civil marriage, as it exists in my society today, is a pale shadow of the institution that the Church extols as being desirable for society.

We must consider what the purpose of civil marriage is.  It's absurd, beyond all reason, to suggest that civil marriage is about romance or feelings of love.  The governments of the world did not originally conceive of giving married couples special status or tax benefits for the sake of honoring their proclamations of love.  If that's all marriage was about, the libertarians would be perfectly right:  It would be ridiculous for the government to get involved.

Like a state-sanctioned valentines day card.
Only a lot more expensive!
Besides protecting people from violence, robbery, etc., and maintaining a system of justice and order, governments also serve a function of supporting an atmosphere most conducive to a thriving society.  So if the government has any role in marriage, it would only be toward those ends.  It's clear, with even passing thought, that family is the basic building block of society.  Family is a natural example of order and community:  A father, a mother, and children, with children being under the authority of the parents if they are to thrive and grow.  From there, we have extended family, who have always thrived best--historically--if they worked together with the other "nuclear" families, in mutually beneficial relationships.  In this way, family is a society, and it's the only one that would occur in nature, without needing an artificial structure.  So it makes sense that, if the government has any stock in sanctioning marriage, it's for the preservation and promotion of family.

How, though, might civil marriage do that?  Well, for one thing civil marriage would have to promote family somehow, namely by promoting procreation.  But in order to do this, there must be more than just the sanctioning of sex.  Men and women have never, throughout history, needed any incentive to have sex with each other, and until recently, that meant that procreation was pretty well assured.  But procreation by itself does not a family unit make.  In order for there to be a family, at least in the sense of being the basic building block of society, then those who come together to make children must stay together and be with those children.  So in order for a government to have any real reason to be involved in marriage, civil marriage must in some sense enforce that togetherness, but if it's going to do that, it must also be an attractive enough prospect that people would want to engage in it, when they could just "shack up" and have the freedom to leave whenever they want.  So we find that the purpose of civil marriage is first to offer some sort of reward--or ease--to make people want to enter into it, and then to enforce the longevity of that relationship somehow, to hold the man and woman to the agreement they've made.

The obvious way that modern civil marriage has managed to make itself meaningless is no-fault divorce.  Sure, the government still makes civil marriage attractive by offering benefits and tax breaks, along with special rights that spouses have to one another.  These things attract people to marriage.  However, there's no longer any enforcement to hold the marriage together once it's entered.  If the going gets tough, either spouse is free to file for a divorce, which will be granted, for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  There need be no serious problem.  It could be as simple as "I just don't love my spouse" or "I've fallen in love with someone else."  The irony here is that now, the government is indeed giving people incentive to come together in a relationship that will possibly create children (more on that, very soon in this post), but then these people are free to go their separate ways at any time, for any reason, destroying the stable and basic "society"--the family--into which those children were born.  As long as divorce can be so easily and certainly obtained, civil marriage isn't doing its job of safeguarding the basic building block of society, and those who suggest that there's no point to civil marriage have good reason to think so, and it's also understandable why some think civil marriage is such a joke that accepting state-sanctioned gay "marriage" couldn't really do it anymore harm.

Not really much more you can do to it...

Yet there's a more fundamental error, and a more popular one.  You see, at least many Christians can recognize that divorce is wrong.  Perhaps they don't believe this strongly enough to clamor for the abolition of no-fault divorce--though they should--but at least they often enough believe it on some level, at least among those who take the Bible seriously at all.  But the more fundamental mockery of marriage is one that only a very select group of Christians, aside from Catholics or Orthodox (and sadly, even many so-called Catholics miss this fact) oppose.  This mockery is the belief that marriage and procreation do not go hand in hand.  That is, that it's acceptable to get married with little or no intention of having children.  It's a belief that followed, naturally enough, on the heels of our modern world's acceptance of birth control, whether by pill, barrier, or finishing the sex act in some unnatural way.  The fact is, I have met few people, if any, who support birth control as morally acceptable yet who believe that it is the moral duty of any fertile married couple to have at least some children.  It seems to me that, without fail, those who accept contraception as morally permissible also believe that it can be acceptable for someone to get married while having no intention or openness to having children at all.  If Christian, these types admit that children should only be had within marriage, but they do not tend to concede that marriage should only be entered if there is an intention--if naturally possible and without significant health risks--to have children.

The problem with this, and the way that it relates to gay "marriage" today, is that it squarely undermines one of the basic purposes of civil marriage at all, not to mention the point of sex (and therefore of marriage, period, civil or otherwise).  Even if no-fault divorce were banished tomorrow, marriage is still a nonsensical institution if it does not require some intention to have children.  Consider, the evil of no-fault divorce is that it allows couples to break up the families they may create.  If, however, procreation is not considered a normative duty of marriage, then it's hypothetically acceptable for every married couple to deliberately refrain from creating a family in the first place.  After all, the government has no interest in safeguarding a private two-person relationship, in and of itself.

The gay "marriage" activists really won their battle the moment that people--sadly most Christians among them--began to accept that having children isn't a mandatory duty of marriage.  Because if being open to procreation isn't inherent to marriage, then here is no reason to restrict it to men and women, who are made special only by virtue of the fact that, in nature, they can make children.  In fact, the gay agenda won the moral debate, as well, against most of their conservatively religious opponents, when those same opponents--decades ago--accepted contraceptives in any circumstance at all.  After all, unless God is incredibly arbitrary, then it's nonsense to suggest that He frowns on two men (let's even suppose they're "married) having sex together, yet accepts it when a husband and wife have sex together despite that this husband and wife--through use of contraception--are essentially doing the exact same thing that the gay couple is doing:  Having sex that is strictly for pleasure and emotional closeness, with no possibility (at least, that's the hope of the contracepting couple) of leading to children.  If God opposes sex between two men or two women, then logic dictates that it has nothing to do with the shapes of their bodies being "wrong", and everything to do with the fact that their sex act is a deviation from the natural law, in which sex is ordered toward making children.  But sex with a condom, or sex "on the pill", or other forms of sex that unnaturally thwart procreation, are just as much a deviation from that law as sex between two people of the same gender.

So when gay people demand that the state sanction their marriages, or insist that gay sex is not a sin, they have a point in the face of the hypocrisy that would suggest that unnaturally sterilized sex between a man and a woman is okay, but sex between two men--due to its own inherent sterility--is not.  God sees no difference between the two.  God does not forbid "gay" sex and allow "straight" sex because of the shape of the body parts involved, or because one set of parts "fits" together better; that would be incredibly circumstantial and shallow, especially since it involves what is and isn't sin, which is deadly to the soul.  If it were just a matter of which parts fit together better, it would be like telling someone he was endangering his immortal soul for daring to wear stripes with plaid.  No, if God forbids "gay" sex, it stands to reason that it's because it is inherently sterile by its very nature.  Christians always believed this, until the last century or so.  But if that's the reason, then it makes no sense to say that God condemns homosexual sex due to being so unnatural, but to then accept the similarly unnatural act of sex with contraceptives.

Repent of your abominably mismatched fashion sense,
or be cast into the Lake of Fire!
So ultimately, if we want to defend not only traditional Christian ideas of marriage, but also traditional Christian ideas of sexuality, we're going to have to look farther back than the fight over homosexuality.  The erosion of marriage and sexuality began long ago, and many Christians have gladly followed the philosophy where it all started (acceptance of contraception), and a great number have even accepted the evil that farther eroded them (no-fault divorce).  As long as these things are accepted in Christian circles, we will never have real credibility when opposing this newest affront to sexual holiness and the true meaning of marriage.

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