Over the past couple of years, I've noticed something that seems to occur only when I write about certain topics: namely, issues arising from same-sex attraction and so-called "same-sex marriage."
What I've noticed I'll call bullying: among those who comment, who don't agree with my views--which are simply my attempt to present what the Church teaches (but in humility, I may not always get it right)--are folks who don't simply disagree, and post counter arguments; frequently they attempt to shut down the discussion.
That's what I see in the recent thread, "Questions..."; and if you go back and look for threads on related subjects, you can see the comments and discussions that form the basis for my conclusion.
Now, while I'm on this subject, I'll say this here. I had a conversation with a regular reader, who kindly said I wasn't as charitable as I might have been in the comments on the "Questions" post. My reply was, it's possible, and I told him I appreciated him telling me. I don't bring that up here to debate that point--I mean, unless that's really necessary. But I mention it to acknowledge, yes, we do bring strong feelings to a subject like this, and maybe that's all that's going on.
But is it only "strong feelings" that explains the increasingly frequent claim that those of us who oppose redefining marriage, and relatedly, believe that same-sex behavior is wrong, are "bigots"?
I'm going to push back on explaining the "bigot" label as merely "strong feelings." It's a deliberate strategy. And to the extent it's based on a real conviction, on the part of those who hurl that charge, it's wrong, based on false premises. To the extent it's not just a passionate outburst, it's pretty important that we push back on that.
Why is it wrong?
Well, others have addressed this point better, but let's spell out some distinctions and some facts.
First, racism and the sorts of prejudice we think of in connection with racism, are based on invalid distinctions. The term "discrimination" is wrongly used without a modifier. "To discriminate," strictly speaking, is to make distinctions: I "discriminate" in favor of food I like, and against food I don't.
Of course, when we use the term "discriminate" in most usage, our implicit meaning is, "unfair" or unjustifiable "discrimination." To make a distinction between, say, the innocent and guilty is valid, and we don't usually call that "discrimination"; to treat two people differently, because of race, almost always does involve invalid distinctions--that's what we mean when condemn that as "discriminatory." Rightly so.
Does this framework necessarily apply to "same sex marriage" or even to persons with same-sex orientation?
Yes and no.
Yes, insofar as society has, in the past, discriminated against gay people in unjust ways. Same-sex attraction doesn't mean you can't be a good employee, or neighbor, or citizen.
But as to marriage, no: because laws that barred couples from marriage, based on race, made invalid distinctions. Your skin color does not in any reasonable way prevent you from entering into a valid marriage. You are as capable of all the things that make a marriage, if you're white, as if you're black or Asian or what have you. And, if my historical recollection is correct, we knew that even when we had those laws!
The reason I say that is--and here is where my recollection could be incorrect (but I don't think so)--those laws did not treat marriages between blacks or Asians as invalid, did they? They were deemed valid. A black or Asian was deemed as capable of entering into marriage as a white person. That wasn't the reason anti-misegenation laws were passed. As the term I just used, indicates, the purpose of those laws was to prevent race-mixing. Those laws had nothing to do with safeguarding the right understanding of what constitutes a valid marriage.
But that is the issue with the current battle over "same sex marriage." Those of us who oppose the proposed changes do so because we contend "same sex marriage" is a redefinition of the term, and we don't consent to redefining it.
The advocates like to term it a "justice" issue, and they are free to make that argument, but we are free to push back. "Justice," Saint Thomas Aquinas said, is giving to each his due. All persons are "due" equal protection under the laws, and access to the goods of life. Some argue that includes access to marriage. Except that begs the question. Can people of the same sex "marry"? Is it possible? If it's impossible, then saying so is no more "bigotry" and "injustice" than it is to say that it's impossible to go faster than the speed of light. It would seem to be be wonderful if Einstein were proven wrong on this point--because then we might someday build starships and launch on great adventures. But so far, such speed seems impossible.
Of course, that is an impossibility that--if it bears out--can't be fixed by legislative or social change. Is marriage between people of the same sex impossible in the same way?
Not exactly. We can, as a society, "redefine" what we mean by marriage. Heck, it may even be true, before long, to redefine what being human means. I'm going to get all Buck Rogers here, and some folks roll their eyes at this--but you don't have to look that far in your reading to see the things I'm going to talk about now, however weird they may sound, are potentially very close on the horizon.
We have efforts to develop "artificial wombs" so that the changes begun by "in vitro fertilization"--moving conception out of a human act of love--can result in a total divorce of begetting from the family. Heck, we've already mimicked this with wombs-for-rent and mothers being surrogates for their children's children, bearing their own grandchildren. We have a movement--google it--called "transhumanism," which covers a broad swath if ideas, some of which has to do with maximizing what we can do with our present capabilities, including dramatic lengthening of life through medical advances, to "designing" some sort of new sort of human being, with "augmented" capacities, different enough to qualify as a new species--hence, "transhumanism." And, we even have moves on various fronts to mix genetic materials, and produce "hybrid" species. Yes, even mingling human and non-human genes. All for the sake of "science," so don't worry!
In short, the effort to redefine what it means to be human is not hypothetical. It's underway. It is a problem that will unfold for us in coming decades--and given the escalating pace of change that has marked modernity, it stands to reason the problems will arrive on our doorstep far faster than we can imagine, and take shapes vastly different from what we can predict.
So why not just go along with it?
Well, of course, if something really is "inevitable," then in 500 or 1,000 years, we'll have "gone along with it" and that'll be that. But what's the rush to reach that conclusion? Who is it who insists we should just relax and enjoy it?
There are folks, of course, who aren't merely observing--they're seeking to bring about this brave new world. They want to re-invent what it means to be human.
And that includes those who strain against the realities imposed on human beings by biology and sexual complementarity. In other words, those who insist on validating same-sex attraction as "normal" and just another variation, and along with that, redefining marriage. Along these lines, you'll find folks who use "sex" and "gender" interchangeably, in pursuit of the idea that sexual identity is, itself, a fluid and non-intrinsic quality to being human. These are the folks who, when they encounter someone who says, I may seem to be a man, but I'm really a woman, "solve" this problem through surgery, hormones and "therapy." Problem solved, right?
Well, let's see how that works out. Without seeming to be up on all the literature, I think I'm correct in saying that such "therapy" hasn't solved the problem; it's created new problems. As I recall, many of those who once pioneered this approach are now moving away from it for that reason.
Plus, the whole area of sexual attraction is not neatly organized into a discrete number of categories. Even the advocates of the brave new sexual world concede this. They don't just talk of "gay," but "lesbian and gay"--no, "lesbian, gay and bisexual"--scratch that, it's "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender!" Whoops, it's now, "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning."
I'm not saying these experiences of sexual attraction, and the conflicts that arise where they conflict with either social or physical constraints aren't real, or shouldn't be treated as serious issues. They are real; and there is real pain involved, sometimes reaching despair.
My point is that we're kidding ourselves if we think we can "liberate" ourselves from these difficulties through reinvention.
But my larger point is to say that what's going on here isn't just a tussle over this or that law. At issue is a struggle over something very fundamental--so fundamental that many don't even realize it's at issue: What does it mean to be human? Because one side says, marriage arises out of the human experience, out of sexual complementarity, and is essentially related to attraction and sex, and sex and procreation.
Oh no it's not! cries the opposition. But they aren't basing their opposition on reality, but wishes for a different reality, which for many of those in this fight, consider profoundly liberating.
It's no accident that many of the same folks seeking this revolution likewise are adamant about contracepting and sterilizing the human race, and divorcing procreation from sex. It's the same broad purpose: "liberating" humanity from being human, at least as the entirety of the race has known itself to this point.
So a battle is underway, and realize that it is increasingly going to be ugly. Don't be surprised by it.
Don't give into it. I get strong feelings too, so I don't want to fail in charity. If I do, let me know.
But let's not kid ourselves about what's coming. It's not a garden party, it's war. Even a soldier has to be charitable, but he still has to wade into battle. So must we.