Thursday, January 17, 2013

How stick figures can help save marriage

I have an idea for how someone really creative can help the cause of Christ. Hear me out, please.

First, who I'm looking for:

Someone with a creative mind, who fully embraces the Catholic vision for humanity, who has a certain wit and facility with expression, and who also has a certain maturity and delicacy--in other words, good judgment.

The project:

Create a stick-figure cartoon, with six or eight panels, that explains the Church's teaching on the complementarity of the sexes, and marriage.

Now, you may not think this matters much. But let me explain why I think this would be very useful.

First, one of the things that can be very effective in advancing a cause is the ability to boil down your cause to an expressive symbol. Those who are pushing for the redefinition of marriage have done so. Some years ago, the Human Rights Campaign, which has advocated for "gay rights" for decades, came up with a very effective symbol: the equal sign. It is an argument easily grasped, and it claims the moral high ground--that is to say, it puts those who disagree on the defensive.

Notice that is the argument being made for redefining marriage. A "marriage" between two males or two females equals a marriage between a man and a woman.

By extension, being able to boil down an argument into a relatively compact argument is likewise very effective. And simply the exercise of being forced to do so focuses the mind tremendously.

One thing I've learned as a priest is that when I am able to explain effectively a subject in a five-minute homily, then I've come to a place where I really "get" the subject. In the fall of 2011, I prepared a series of homilies on the Mass translation we were preparing to implement; and one of them was on "consubstantial." Forcing myself to explain that--in a homily--was a very effective exercise for me to penetrate this doctrine. Not just "what it means" abstractly, but "for us men and for our salvation."

A third reason this would be useful is to counter the wave of propaganda now underway, aimed at the young.

Already, in schools and in all forms of entertainment, the idea that relationships all equal each other is being sown. I've even seen visual representations of it--using stick figures: two men = two women = a man and a woman = two men and a woman = two women and a man, etc.

You might ask, why stick figures? Precisely because it can be reproduced by people who aren't artistic. They could actually draw it themselves.

One of the mistakes we Catholics often make is to allow ourselves to be on the defensive. We have, for decades, been defensive about what our Faith says about contraception and openness to life. And many of us are defensive about what we believe about men and women and marriage.

Yet as I write this, the facts on contraception are turning strongly toward us. Not only is the claim of "overpopulation" bogus, so are all the claims about empowering women and strengthening relationships. It's all one giant load of...well, fertilizer.

Already we can see where the campaign for redefining marriage will lead us. Sadly, in a few decades, we will have plenty of casualties from this "harmless" change. We have no reason to feel defensive. Yet we do. Why?

Because the culture around us has defined the terms of the debate. When you let your opponent do that, you are likely to lose.

So what is needed is some help redefining the terms of the debate. And a key to doing that is expressing our terms in the simplest ways possible: through images.

That's what we need creative people to do. Let's spread this around. Let's pray for this. Let's see what bubbles up.

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