Thursday, July 29, 2004

More Thoughts about Marriage

Some of these have been rattling around inside my head (plenty of room there to do that, what with my lack of brains and all) since the debate over the approval of same-sex marriages began; while others have just popped up with recent developments. In the best blogging tradition, I’ll share these with you now. Let me state, up front and for the record, that I do not approve of same-sex marriages; and will not perform them, regardless of what the state may allow, or perhaps, even one day, require.

First of all, I have yet to comprehend the argument often advanced by the “religious right” (whoever they are…) that the state’s approval of same-sex marriages somehow “threatens” the institution of marriage, and the family. What? I mean, if tomorrow Adam and Steve were allowed by the State of Arizona to enter into marriage (as defined by the state), suddenly the union between my wife (32 years this December; and, by the grace of God, counting) and myself is less than it was before; or is in danger of dissolving? I don’t think so. Or is someone trying to suggest that, if same-sex marriages are permitted, men and women will stop getting married; or that those who are now married will start getting divorced? Again, I don’t think so. (As for marriage and divorce in general; with the ratio now being essentially 1:1, and Christians being pretty much on track with the rest of society, it’s pretty obvious we have some house-cleaning of our own to do… but that’s a topic for another rant…er, blog.)

As for the perceived “threat” to the family, well, it might be easier there to make a case for those who are concerned. But we need to be aware of developments that are taking place, such as this report by the American Psychological Association's Council of Representatives Working Group on Same-Sex Families and Relationships; which finds there are no barriers to same-sex marriages based on the psychological impacts on children. The news article states that the APA “…found same-sex and heterosexual couples remarkably similar, and parenting effectiveness and children's psychological well-being unrelated to parental sexual orientation.” Again, I don’t agree with this study; I haven’t read anything other than a report mentioning it. My point is, we must be ready to give answers to those who ask about our position, given the existence of documents of this kind.

Once upon a time, when I was still in the Episcopal Church, I read extensively on the debate over women’s ordination. In the course of this study, I came upon a scientific evaluation written by a Roman Catholic theologian of German background. (Women in the Priesthood: A Systematic Analysis in the Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption; by Manfred Hauke; Ignatius Press, 1988.) It’s been years now since I gave away my copy; but I still recall one part of his argument that applies here. Hauke makes the point that the differences between men and women are more than mere “accidents of plumbing”; that, in fact, the differences are found at the cellular level (with the exception of the gametes). There arises from this a morphological that is distinguishable between males and females. (Granted, there are exceptions to this, at the level of individuals.) One observation, remarkably, has a testimony on its behalf in almost every public place. Males, observed Hauke, tend to be angular; and especially in the geometric shape that can be derived from the shoulders to the hips, which tends to be triangular. Women, on the other hand, tend to be rounded instead of angular. (And, if you note the symbols on public restrooms, you find a triangle for the men, and a circle for the women.) Hauke also observed that men tend to be “outwardly directed”; while women are “inwardly directed.” Men, following the outward direction, were the hunters and protectors from outside threats; while women gathered and maintained the “family circle.”

Without commenting on Hauke’s science, I must say that I certainly agree with his observations. My own observation is that, “Dads are for danger, while moms are for comfort.” It’s usually the dads who are “flying” their kids when they are small; pushing them higher on the swings; and later on, teaching them to drive. When a child skins a knee or cuts a finger, or is teased by others, it’s usually the mom who tends to the wounds, both physical and emotional. That’s how the family works. Each parent is also a role model for their children of either gender; giving rise as well to the “axiom” that “men tend to marry their mothers, while girls tend to marry their fathers.” (And, obviously, this doesn’t mean the parent; but, rather, someone who displays the qualities and attributes of that parent.) And here’s where the rub comes for children in same-sex “families.” When the couple consists of Adam and Steve, who is the mom? When Jill and Jane are “husband and wife,” who is the dad? What will happen over time with this change in role models? Here’s one point where I’m quite sure the APA report falls several bricks short of a load…

The Point of It All

Even if we concede that the state has the power to redefine “marriage” so as to allow same-sex unions (or, for that matter, polygamy, or polyandry, or some other arrangement); and even if we concede (a step I’m not ready to take) that such “alternative lifestyles” have no negative psychological impact on the children of such unions, it ultimately must be said that the state’s power is purely temporal; and, apart from faith groups (of which the APA is not – unless it is the “humanist” faith, which may be the case), the same is true for their line of reasoning. Ours, on the other hand, goes beyond the temporal, beyond this world.

I have never been satisfied with the line of reasoning that goes, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it”; but I don’t think I can make a better summary of the situation than that. Marriage is part of the revelation of God; and it’s hard to argue with it, if only on the basis that the system works for the perpetuation of the species; man and woman joining together – hopefully on the basis of faith in God and love for each other – and forming families, bringing children into the world as God bestows them. Adam and Steve may love each other; and so may Jill and Jane; but they can’t procreate on their own, and that should tell us something about what our Creator intends, as well as the institutions of marriage and the family, which are also a part of His creation. We may not, when we think only in terms of the world, like what God has done; but that doesn’t change what God has done. We either accept or reject His action, and His revelation; and, if the state changes from a position in agreement with the revealed will of God to one of opposition, so much for the state. We, as Christians, are called to hold fast to the things of God, even when the state does otherwise.

Well, I could say more; but this is probably more than enough for now…