Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Yes" to Persons, "No" to Ideologies--Part II

Don't we all want to say a more sincere "Yes" to every person we meet?  The desire to welcome, to respect and to value is rooted deep within the human heart.  Part I of this reflection on the question of redefining marriage attempted to speak to this urgent issue--particularly to the Christian message that every person's deepest identity comes, first and foremost, from being a beloved son or daughter of our heavenly Father. 

Some people feel that questioning the movement to redefine marriage is disrespectful toward those homosexual couples who are in committed relationships raising children.  If you feel this way, please consider the deeper "Yes" articulated in the following column, "Dear Justice Kennedy: A Open Letter from the Child of a Loving Gay Parent."  For those who dare to forge ahead on this topic, however, the comments below argue that our acceptance of persons must proceed hand-in-hand with our resistance to ideologies.

"No" to Sex and Gender Ideologies

Even as we meet individual people where they are, Christians need to see today's prevailing "gender theory" for what it is--namely, an ideology which must be resisted.

If it were a theory, the prevailing views on sex and gender would be open to exploration, rational discussion, and assessment in light of all available data.  We would be able to admit that contraception has failed on a social level--that is, failed to deliver what it once promised (fewer children born out of wedlock, fewer abortions, lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases, stronger marriages, etc.).  We would be able to have honest discussions about whether or not children need a mother and a father.

However, given the way that "gender theory" continues to manifest itself, Christians must engage in a clarification of thought about these emotionally-charged topics.  After all, an ideology seeks to impose its will on others.  It takes partial insights and makes them absolute.  It seeks to silence any objections, and it smothers all inconvenient facts.

So, if today's so-called "gender theory" wants to show that it is not an ideology, it will have to reconsider its answers to questions such as the following:

  • Will those who defend "traditional marriage" be allowed the freedom to do so, or will they be sequestered and silenced in various ways?  The U.S. Solicitor General's comments on this point in the recent oral arguments at the Supreme Court sound like gender theory may insist on a total victory.  If "equality" is really a matter of justice and not merely a matter of sameness, then shouldn't an authentic diversity of opinion on this topic be respected?

  • Will gender theory continue trying to impose its "no differences" thesis as if it were fact?  Charles Taylor's Coming Apart provides a meta-analysis of sociological research regarding marriage and cohabitation; it does not directly address the issue of homosexual marriages, but the data overwhelmingly demonstrates that children flourish when they are raised by their biological mother and father.  Basic human experience reinforces this insight, since no number of fathers can equal a mother, and no number of mothers can effectively replace a father.  Pope Francis' recent general audience on the complementarity between man and woman reinforces this as well. Surely, some children do not have the benefit of being raised by both their mother and their father, but to promote this as our new societal ideal would constitute conducting an experiment on actual children?

  • Will marriage be further redefined to include multiple spouses?  Once what something becomes "un-defined," then new limits must be drawn somewhere.  In the name of marriage equality as it is currently being promoted, what grounds would gender ideology have for rejecting multi-partner marriages?  The more disturbing questions of allowing marriage of adults to minors or marriage among immediate family members also seem inevitable, given that the emotional needs of adults remain the prevailing criterion for defining marriage.  And how will children fare in these settings?

  • Will gender theory continue to insist that male and female are artificial constructs and thus should be malleable, whereas sexual desires are always permanent and therefore never changeable?  Science itself confirms that the human person exists as either male and female; this is a chromosomal fact of life, even if surgeries and hormones can change genitalia.  Social science and gender theory itself acknowledge that there is a spectrum of sexual attraction and behavior (see the "Q" in GLBTQ, for "questioning" or "queer").  People who have lived heterosexual lives are celebrated if they come out as homosexual, but the reverse is deemed as neither possible nor permissible.  In addition, age-old discussions regarding "nature vis-à-vis nurture" clearly point to an interplay between genetic dispositions and environmental factors--except in this area.  So, do we really want a world in which those who pursue counseling to better understand themselves are demonized--or even criminalized--all due to an unverifiable insistence that these attractions are always fixed from birth, for life, and thus absolutely permanent?

  • Finally, will Catholic schools and institutions be allowed to hire faculty and staff who are faithful to the teachings of Jesus, or will gender theory be imposed here as well?  If the ongoing uproar about Archbishop Cordileone's contractual clause for the Catholic school teachers in San Francisco is any indication, then it seems that the current worldly standard will insist on imposing itself even within and among religious communities.  Will Christian churches be stripped of their tax-exempt status, or worse, for resisting gender ideology?

If "marriage equality" wants to live up to its name, it should respect the fact that every child has an equal right to a mother and a father.  Whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, boys should not be predetermined to grow up in a home without a father--or without a mother; likewise, be they homosexual or heterosexual, girls should not be predetermined to grow up in a home without a mother--or without a father.  Sometimes life events make it so, but only an ideology would force it to be so.

In saying both a deeper "Yes" to persons and a consistent "No" to ideologies, Christians will help build the civilization of love which alone can respect the inherent dignity of all people.  As the mystery of the Blessed Trinity reveals, love is a matter of embracing the Other as other; love requires pouring oneself out for the good of the Other, particularly those who are most vulnerable. 

May the Christian resistance to sex and gender ideologies be motivated by concern for those least among us, those who seem to be forgotten or overlooked in the rush to redefine marriage:  May we put children first, so that they might grow to help future generations put first things first!