Monday, July 7, 2008

Should We Be Surprised? (Updated)

Art suggested that we submit "Should We Be Surprised?" as a letter to the editor in our local paper. After much deliberation, I have decided to do so. My good friend AJ Fredette looked it over and offered some suggestions, which I will gladly take. I would also like any readers of our blog to offer comments and/or suggestions before I send it off to the paper. So...the semi final draft is as follows:

As we all know, the California Supreme Court recently decided to make same sex marriage a fundamental right. Needless to say, this has created quite a stir. Chief Justice, Ronald M. George wrote the majority opinion and was quoted as saying, "I think there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe." I completely agree. Doing the right thing does mean not playing it safe; especially when one is defending the rights of others, which is what the Court believes it has done. Others, however, disagree that this is what was accomplished.The central problem in the debate over same sex marriage revolves around the definition of marriage. There are those who argue, as the California Supreme Court does, that marriage is simply an agreement between parties to share certain assets as a result of the experience of a certain degree of affection. Dissenters, however, recognize that marriage has a deeper meaning, basis, and function.

Marriage, in this view, has two components: contractual and covenantal. The Court has the legal right to do what they please with the contractual part of marriage, as contracts are strictly legal instruments. However, they have no say over the covenantal, or sacramental, aspect of marriage, as this part is subsumed in spiritual considerations. While a contract is an exchange of goods and services, a covenant is a union of persons.

The sacrament of matrimony is more than just two people who love each other agreeing on terms and conditions under which they will share a life. It is more than being able to file a joint tax return or reap legal benefits granted by the government. These are the contractual aspects of marriage that should be the Court’s purview. But the covenantal, spiritual dimension of matrimony transcends and supersedes the contractual and is beyond the scope of the Court’s authority.
Matrimony, in its fullest sense, is about the communion of persons as God intended from the beginning. Look no further than Matthew 19 to see Jesus' teaching on marriage:
"And the Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
Notice that Jesus refers to the "beginning,” harkening to the Creation. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Together, male and female make up "man." And "man" is created in the image of God. The way we reflect the image of God is in the one flesh union of the marital act. This is not possible in a same sex union as the marital act requires a male and a female. Why?If God is a communion of persons, then we, as images of God, are to be a communion of persons. But God is the communion of Three Persons in the Blessed Trinity and a married couple is just a communion of two persons. Where is the third person of the human trinity? Well, my wife and I have four of them. The love between a husband and wife is so real that in nine months you give it a name. That is how we image God. This is what makes marriage a covenant rather than merely a contract. Covenants create families.

Covenants, then, result in procreative, self-perpetuating unions. Contracts specify terms, conditions, limits, and duration of agreement. In contracts, the parties remain separate. In covenants, the parties become one. Further, now that the courts have officially taken marriage out of the context of a covenant and made it purely a contract between consenting adults, what is to keep them from allowing multiple marriage partners? After all, contracts often involve more than two parties. This and a variety of other marital contractual arrangements become permissible by denying or ignoring the covenantal aspect of matrimony.

A difficulty, perhaps by now insuperable, is that many of the folks who are so upset about this decision, claiming that it isn’t the way God intended or it isn’t “natural,” have become part of the problem without realizing it. Marriage was actually taken out of its covenantal context long ago. The 1970’s saw the legalization of “no fault” divorce as well as abortion. And the door to all of this was opened in the first part of the 20th century with the legalization of artificial contraceptives. With the extensive use of contraceptives, most married couples have negated the third person of the family and reduced the marital act to a pleasurable, strictly physical experience. Husbands and wives are simply using each other for pleasure. How is that different from that which a same sex couple can accomplish? The thing that sets the covenant of marriage apart is life-giving love. If the possibility of life is taken out of the marriage by way of contraception, then it is no different than any other act between two people who "love" each other, thereby reducing the marriage to a contract. The irony is striking. While proponents of contraception, “no fault” divorce, and abortion claim to work for happy, healthy families, what they have accomplished is a diminution of the importance of the covenantal, procreative, life-giving aspect of the institution, thus degrading it. Many of these people are the loudest voices protesting the statutory recognition of same-sex marriages.

If we truly want to protect the sanctity of marriage, then we need to reclaim the covenant of marriage. If we want to reclaim the covenant of marriage, we had better take a hard look at how we can protect the sanctity of life. When it comes to life and marriage, God has brought them together, let no man put them asunder. So really, we shouldn’t be surprised by the court’s decision-- our society has been working to destroy the underpinnings of marriage for years.

I would appreciate any feedback I can get...thanks.

1 comment:

Arthur Guillen Jr said...

David, great read. your points are solid. The Scriptures you've provided ties in really well with the subject of discussion. As it is the year of St. Paul, he would would be proud. For this is similiar to what he opened up what with in his letter to the Romans. again, great read.