I’m a person who cares deeply about love. Love is not a saccharine Hallmark card. Anyone who’s done the hard work of loving someone knows that love is gritty. Love is difficult. Love is willing the good of the other for the sake of the other. In other words, it’s wanting what’s best for someone else’s well being above one’s own interest. And it’s tough stuff to really love somebody. It takes incredible patience and humility day in and day out to care for the needs of others first, and it brings the greatest joy if we endure. And it’s not always easy to even see how best to love someone. Sometimes folks want to do things that hurt themselves and others, and love doesn’t mean being a doormat and letting them do the things that make them feel good, but love is the hard work of sincerely and respectfully intervening. Love is a willingness to be unpopular for the sake of speaking up for those who are being hurt who cannot speak for themselves. Love is sacrifice for the life and liberty of others. And to really truly love is what brings us real joy.
My heart is set ablaze when I’m able to participate in the great chorus of love and when I see it in action among other people. People like Martin Luther King Jr. who put his own life in immediate danger to speak for those marginalized in society and led a movement towards righting a wrong through mutual respect and goodwill. Like Jesus Christ, whom King worshiped as Lord and saw as the greatest definer and source of love. Jesus Christ who hung battered and bloodied on a cross and was left to die a slow and brutally painful death for the sake of the world. He willingly did this so humanity would not have to suffer for our wrongs but could simply ask and be forgiven. That rugged cross is the truest of true love. To die so that others may live. Love is death on a torture device. Love is uncomfortable and never selfish or cowardly. Love is speaking up for the voiceless and powerless especially when it is a very unpopular and most difficult thing to do. But I must do it. As a follower of Christ, I’m called to do it. Trembling, I sit here and tell you the thing I’m most scared to. The thing that will lose me friends and esteem. The thing that if I do not say it, I do not love, because I then would be unwilling to put myself at risk for the sake of others…
Marriage is something that exists between one man and one woman, primarily for the protection and raising of children. It cannot be anything else and it is all about the children. Children don’t have control, or the ability to speak up for their rights. So much of the marriage debate is focused squarely on the rights and privileges of adults, but the people whose rights have not be considered nearly enough in all of this are the children. Children are not a commodity to be procured. Every single child has a natural mother and a natural father. And every child has the natural right to know and be raised by their mother and father. I realize that many natural mothers and fathers are either unfit or unable to raise their kids and also that many children do grow up in happy adoptive or step family homes, but largely this is the exception to the norm of children being raised by their natural parents.
To redefine marriage is to redefine parenthood and the norms for raising children. It is to create a place where it would no longer be the norm for a child to know the love of their natural mother or father, or to know where or from whom they came. It would be telling children that there is something deeply and intrinsically wrong with them when they long for an absent mother (or father, as the case may be). Creating this new norm would be telling a child that there is something disordered about the deep desire of their hearts to know the love of both their own mother and father. This of course happens already when children are born into all sorts of difficult situations where, for one reason or another, they may miss out on knowing a parent, or both, but this heartache is hardly a reason to purposely and from the very beginning of their life decide they should be born into this painful situation. Making it the rule and no longer the exception.
It would put children’s stability and sense of belonging at risk, when, although never perfect, biology and traditional marriage provide children with these things. Thanks to the advent of no fault divorce, broken homes happens frequently and already bring with them all these problems and more. It is sad and wrong, but this heartache is no convincing reason to make it even easier and more common to separate children from their natural mother and/or father. There are many more ways in which this proposed new norm world further jeopardize the stability of the family. We are not talking about creating a new “live and let live” society where anyone can pretty much live their lives how they please. We already have that. It already exists. We are talking about something much different.
Finally, I should say that I am sympathetic to the hardships of being unable to have one’s relationship subsidized by the state. It is not always fair and there are policy changes that can be made to address some of these financial issues. We can solve these types of problems without attempting to redefine marriage.
I realize I have not even come close to thoroughly addressing this topic in its entirety, and that really is not the aim of this post.* My goal is not really to convince anyone who adamantly disagrees with me to change their mind but only to express my position on the topic and to tell you that I am not a bigot filled with hate, or ignorant, or any more of a monster than any other decent human. It’s quite the opposite. I am motivated to speak out of love for the weak and most vulnerable among us. It is this small thing that I can offer. A little sacrifice this Holy Week in the name of love and the one who is Love Himself. Maybe this means you can’t stand me and don’t want to be my friend, Facebook or otherwise, but that is the risk I must be willing to take to do the most loving thing I can for the weakest among us. And I am thankful for the opportunity to do it.
*If you would like to have a conversation about particular arguments against the redefinition of marriage, let me know and I will happily take you out for a pint sometime.