Mark Steyn is right, that the recent Supreme Court ruling in the United States, officially legalizing ‘same sex’ marriage in all fifty states, with a sop thrown in, for now, for religious exemption, says far more about our culture than about our laws. As I wrote a few posts ago, law is a fruit of culture, or more specifically the customs that arise from one’s culture. To a lesser degree, laws also shape culture, but we generally get the laws we want, or deserve. That is why the main battle is on the cultural front, of forming hearts and minds.
Justice Anthony Kennedy (the usual ‘swing’ vote on the nine-man, er, person, Supreme Court) waxed eloquently as part of the majority opinion about the pleasures and joys of homosexual love, and how dare we as a society bar such couples from marriage.
Ah, yes, love…It is sad that we in English have only one word for love. Greek has at least four, as C.S. Lewis discusses in his influential book The Four Loves. Even within the many notions of love, there are good loves and bad loves, true loves and false loves. The most perfect kind of love discussed by Lewis, the same term adopted by Christ in the New Testament, is agape, to will the good of the other for his own sake, even though one may receive nothing in return.
The specific kind of love proper to marriage is a type of agape; this love need not even be romantic or erotic, nor even affectionate (although these do help!). Marriage, in its essence, is founded on the complementary kind of love requisite for family life: Husband, wife and children must will the good of each other in what is required for the maintenance and prospering of family life.
This kind of love is necessary for the very survival of society, for marriage is a public and legal institution necessary for maintaining society. Without marriage and family, there is no society.
Of course, society is not just about the family. There are many other types of loves and friendships outside of marriage, and other kinds of subsidiary societies, but Society as the universal grouping of us all (as a country or a State) has a right and a duty to protect the natural and legal institution of marriage, and the kind of ‘love’ that underpins it.
The question revolves around whether other types of love can form the basis for family life. Can two men? Two women? A group, threesome, foursome and then-some?
The opinion of Anthony Kennedy and the other four majority-opinion justices, implies as much. For now, they will try to hold the line at ‘two men’, ‘two women’, or a ‘man and a woman’, but the philosophical-marriage horses are already bolting from the opened floodgate (not to mix metaphors). Nathan Collier of Montana is already claiming the right to marry his two brides; I suppose he thinks there is more than enough of him to go around, and one woman ain’t enough for this good ol’ boy.
As Mr. Collier put it:
Everyday, we have to break the law to exist as a family. We’re tired of it. Ours is a happy, functional, loving family. I’m not trying to redefine marriage. I’m not forcing anyone to believe in polygamy. We’re only defining marriage for us. We just want legitimacy
But are they not ‘forcing’ people to believe in polygamy when they ask for legitimacy? After all, that term means ‘recognition by law’, which in turn means putting his polygamous relationship on the same status as someone else’s monogamy. Why stop at a threesome and not go for the Islamic allowance of four wives (or more for those like Mohammed given a ‘special dispensation’).
The whole problem is cultural, which is to say, religious: What is one’s view of human nature? Are we bodily creatures, made by God, and does our very incarnation as ‘man’ and ‘woman’ limit what we can do, especially in the realm of marriage and family? The Church and, until recently, every society in the history of the world has said so. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans, although dallying in and tacitly permitting homosexuality, would never have thought to make this kind of ‘love’, as one might term it a (disordered) erotic affection, the basis for marriage and family: Two men, nor two women, could never in their minds be ‘spouses’.
To grant the legal and societal rights of marriage to anything but an eligible man and a woman (with all of the duties, obligations, benefits, tax-breaks and so on) is to introduce a counterfeit marriage, which, like counterfeit money does to real money, devalues true marriage, and leads to the breakdown of society.
In the post alluded to above, Steyn admits that he respects the Irish referendum on ‘gay marriage’; let the people decide! But he is wrong. Some things cannot be decided even by majority vote. We are not, for example, permitted to sentence innocent members of society to death, as we have done with the unborn, and are soon to do with the elderly and sick, even if the majority wants it. We are also not able to redefine marriage, try as we might.
There are things that precede democracy, or any form of government, without which no democracy, indeed no society, can function. As John Paul II puts it in Centesimus Annus:
a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.
One of the principal ‘values’ that we must hold as a society is what it means to be ‘married’, and what a ‘family’ is. In fact, one may truly say that government, and all of its laws, are simply a means to protect, foster and perpetuate marriage and the family. When they cease to do so, when they in fact undermine marriage, they become worse than useless; they in fact become evil and, as Justice Scalia in his dissenting minority opinion implied, the seeds of revolution are sown.
In the face of God, the Church, civilization, and thousands of years of human history, it is only now, in 2015, that the Supreme Court has had the hubris to redefine what marriage, and what family, is. We were ahead of the curve here in Canada, legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’ by parliamentary decision, under Paul Martin in 2005. The criteria of ‘affection’ and ‘self-affirmation’ are vague indeed. Is any convenient relationship based on one’s private notion of ‘love’ the basis for family life? Should we not stop and ponder where some relationships are objectively more suited to complementarity, mutual perfection, and the raising of children than others?
Douglas Farrow in a recent forthright essay, claims that by legalizing ‘gay marriage’, we have put the family, ourselves and our children, officially into the hands of the State and its functionaries. They now decide who is, and who is not, a ‘family’, a husband, a wife, a child. If they can decide that by judicial or parliamentary fiat, what is there left?
We are all now children of the State. In Farrow’s provocative, but true, words the United States has now joined our happy company here in Canada by becoming a nation of bastards.
Welcome to the brave new world. Time to set up the ramparts.
July 6, 2015
Saint Maria Goretti