A lot of people are shaken up about the supreme courts decision about marriage so I thought I’d come out on behalf of Thirsting for Truth and share my thoughts on the matter.
I know that this issue has, and will, cause a great divide between friends, family members and co-workers. A lot of well meaning Catholic, and Protestant Christians are calling this a terrible day in history and a lot of other well meaning people (including some Catholic, and Protestant, Christians) are calling it an epic win for love. I want to offer a few thoughts that I think both sides will appreciate.
First, we understand that those who are for so-called same-sex marriages claim that people should be able to marry whoever they want; that no one should be able to dictate who someone can, or cannot, marry; that we can’t help who we love or that we don’t choose who we love or who we are attracted to. They believe that this decision is a step forward in the direction of accepting those with same-sex attractions and treating them with dignity. Those are valid concerns and arguments and I don’t think we should just toss them aside. I’ll do my best to address all those things from a Catholic perspective.
But before I do, I’d like to address the other side: those who are concerned that this ruling is a devastating moment in our history. I speak from a Catholic Christian position and I will say that that there is always a temptation to make a philosophical argument personal and direct it at an individual, or even a group of individuals. Especially when something is very important we tend to get emotional – and any argument that goes against our core beliefs – feels like a personal attack. This is true of all people but I’m speaking to devout Christian people right now. We have to be careful to not take those arguments personal. I think our fear sometimes is if someone makes a good enough argument for, or against, something we believe – and we can’t adequately defend it – our belief is wrong. That’s not necessarily true but we should always approach any discussion with an open mind, anyway. If you’re wrong. You should want to know that you’re wrong so that you don’t continue in your ignorance. However, just because you can’t answer a question or just because someone says something that sounds right – doesn’t mean they are right. Take it to prayer and then do some research and contemplation. The Truth of the Catholic faith is not contingent on how well you understand it or on how well you defend it.
Here is what I would like to say to people of faith in regards to this ruling: nothing has changed. We have always been called to lovingly speak the truth to others. We have always been called to demonstrate the glory and the joy of God’s design for marriage. We should continue to do that. If anything this is an opportunity for us to enter into dialogue with people on the opposite side of the table and show them WHY we believe what we believe. Try to resist getting caught in firefights where each side is just taking shots at the other side with no intention of listening to the other.
It is with that attitude that I enter into the next part of my video which is aimed at those who believe that supporting so-called “same-sex marriage” is an act of love and that failing to support it is an act of bigotry.
Let’s first talk about why this is an issue for people of the Catholic faith. I can understand that from the outside looking in it seems like a no-brainer. Two people love each other and want to get married. Why would someone believe it’s a good thing to not support that? Well, I think part of the reason we such a hard time with the idea of not supporting gay marriage is because we look at people who are hurting and our natural response is to want to help. Many people honestly believe that supporting a same-sex relationship of a sexual nature is the solution to the problem of the pain felt by people who experience same-sex attraction. To help you understand – from our point of view – our belief is that this is not only not a solution but it will cause more problems for the person. If you knew that something wasn’t good for someone – how hard would it be for you to tell them that it’s actually good for them? This is our dilemma. We can’t honestly say “this is good for you” when we believe the exact opposite.
Let’s look at an analogy. If you had a best friend who struggled with weight and health issues, would you tell them “You should be able to eat whatever you want. No one can tell you what kind of food you should like”? Probably not because you know that’s not good advice. You know that eating unhealthy is going to cause further issues and if you encourage them then you’re essentially helping to add to their problems. But what if your friend was pained by her situation and after trying to go on diets, trying unsuccessfully to eat healthier foods, and after failing to keep a consistent habit of exercise decided to quit and began sobbing in your presence. You might be tempted to say, “You know what, who cares. Why should anyone else tell you that you can’t eat whatever you want. Let’s go out for ice cream”. You might feel like you did the right thing when you are out eating ice cream and your friend wipes her tears, takes a bite, and smiles at you and says “thank you”. That story sounds like a victorious one – and though there is some good there – that’s a temporary fix, a bandaid, over a wound that will continue to grow. This is the dilemma that we all have. I want to help this person. I want to love this person but when they look at me with sad eyes and say “this is what I really want” – we throw logic out the window and we fold. This happens often with my kids. If it were up to them they would eat junk food all day, stay up all night, watch movies till they went blind and run freely into a street full of traffic. I very often have to help them order their desires toward the good that they are looking for.
I am not a fan of just talking about the negative aspects of some belief but I think to some degree it’s necessary to understand where we are coming from. We don’t believe a sexual relationship between two people of the same gender is good for their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
But that’s really a shallow understanding of the problem. As Christians we aren’t just against gay marriage because we think it’s bad for you. It’s because we believe we know the solution to the problem. We know the solution to that ache, that urge, that desire for union – even for those whose desires may be oriented toward the same-sex. Now, that might sound arrogant but just think about it logically. If we take another look at the analogy of our friend with the weight, and health, issue: If you knew the solution to your friends problem what would you do? Would you hold it back for fear of offending them or would you hold it back because you didn’t want to sound arrogant? I think the loving thing to do would be to speak the truth to them – in a loving way. I wouldn’t tell that friend “hey forget the world, let’s go get some ice cream”. That’s the easy way out as a friend. I’d tell them, “I know it’s hard but don’t stop trying. You can do it. I believe in you. Don’t forget what you are reaching toward – don’t forget your goal”. We don’t have to encourage someone to indulge in something that may be harmful to them in order to love them. We can challenge them to be better.
So, if the Catholic Church claims to have the solution, what is it? Well, let’s first make sure we properly define problem. You see, the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that our desires are the problem. How we choose to act upon those desires is what can be problematic. Those urges, those desires, that we all experience for love, for touch, for union, are good. They are very good and we shouldn’t try to stifle or deny them – they are trying to point us toward something. The Catholic Church teaches that the purpose of sex and marriage is to be a sign, an image, of the nature of God. Those who enter into a marriage are supposed to be witnesses to the nature of the love of God. Let me explain what I mean: we understand God as a Trinity of three persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are three, different, and unique persons but they are one God and they share the same nature. That’s a difficult concept. How can three be one? Well, we understand their relationship like this: God the Father loves the Son. He offers the Son the gift of his self. The Son opens himself to receive the gift of the Father and he offers his self back to the Father as a gift of love. The two share a love that is so powerful, and so real, that their love is another person: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the two that binds them into a special union of three Persons that are One God.
If this is confusing and you’re wondering where I’m going with this let me break it down to you in this way: A man offers his self as a gift of love to a woman. A woman opens to the gift and receives the love of the man. She then offers herself back to the man and the two become one in a profound way. Their love is so powerful, so real, that in 9 months their love can literally be another person. The three are different and unique persons but together they are one family and they share one name. In this way they profoundly image the Triune God who is family. We, are family, like God is family. When we rightly image the love of a family we witness to the world the nature of the God who is familial love. When we fail to image this sort of love we witness something different to the world. It’s not hard to see why – in a world where divorce is rampant and families have become torn – atheism is so popular.
The issue with same-sex relationships are not that they are different – or that they aren’t traditional. It’s not just that we aren’t used to them or that we haven’t learned to accept a different lifestyle. The issue is that sex is such a powerful and volatile vehicle – it must be handled properly. If marriage was pointing us in the direction of learning to live and love like God. Think of sex as the horsepower that is projecting us in that direction at 200 miles per hour. Just like if we were in a real car – any slight deviation from the path could have massive consequences. Moving the wheel slightly could slam us right into a wall or cause us to spin out of control. We can’t just say “drive how you want” because people who drive fast and wreckless can be a danger to others on the road. Sex and marriage are a crucial part of any culture. It makes or breaks the society. How we understand the purpose, and meaning, of our bodies and sexuality – of marriage – is the basis for our understanding in every other area of life – including our understanding of God.
Sexual desire is the horsepower of love. It pushes us, moves us, to do amazing things. However, if those powerful sexual desires become disordered we can often do very terrible, and inhumane things. What’s at stake here is not the question “who are we to tell others who not to marry?”. The question is: “What exactly is marriage and what is it’s purpose.” There are many differing opinions on the purpose and meaning of sex. Our culture right now is exploring a lot of ways to define the proper meaning and usage of our desires. It’s like experimenting with volatile chemicals and just mixing and matching to see what happens. This sort of experimentation is likely to end up in explosions. In my own personal experience – before I left a life of lust behind – I experienced a lot of those explosions. We should approach this situation as a scientist and treat sex and marriage as a powerful chemical that must first be understood before we start to experiment.
Try to understand that I am contending with the philosophy of so-called same-sex marriage and I’m not taking aim at individuals. We would both agree that’s wrong. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not aiming my arrows at individuals. When it comes to an individual – I have no judgement. Each person is unique with a unique set of circumstances and I don’t have any authority (or desire) to judge any individual person.
We don’t always choose how we feel or, sometimes, who we are attracted to. There is a great mystery in the same-sex attraction and it does no good to deny that some people are not attracted to members of the opposite sex and are attracted to members of the same sex. However, we do have a choice in how we choose to act upon our feelings and desires. It’s not a good idea to buy into the logic that “if we feel it – then it must be good”. We do not always desire things that are good for us but our desires are always in search of the good that we are made for. Every one of your desires – has at it’s root – some good. I often experience sexual attraction to women who are not my wife. I have the opportunity to order those desires in a right way. I can love them with great dignity and use those desires to enter into a powerful contemplation about the beauty of women. Ultimately, I can move toward gazing upon their beauty and allowing it to move me into a prayerful contemplation of the mystery of God’s plan for sex and marriage. Beauty and desire are created by God for a reason – for our benefit – and I am not telling you to be afraid of your desires or to strike them down. I am not telling you that there is something wrong with you. We can and should love everyone – regardless of their gender. Those who are of the same gender have the ability to authentically love one another and there is nothing disordered about authentic love that is aimed at a member of the same sex. We all have a great opportunity to do great things with our desires.
That ache, that urge and yearning for union with another is given to you by God. If you feel sexually attracted to a member of the same sex enter into prayer about it. Talk to God about it. Ask questions, contemplate, read about the Church’s teaching. God may be calling you to great sacrifice. In fact, God calls everyone to great sacrifice – each in their own unique ways. Some are called to literally die for another. Others are called to spiritually die to self for others. The paradox is that those who seek to simply relieve themselves of their desires feel the ache even more. Those who eat only junk food are never satisfied. Those who sacrifice and forgo the immediate pleasures – the junk food – in search of the table of God find banquet of the love that satisfies and they drink freely from the wine.
As Catholics we should not be wagging our fingers at the culture who is looking for the solution – looking for the banquet. Instead we must learn how to lovingly invite them to the banquet – to the feast. I have lived the life of junk food and was always hungry. The more I ate from the dumpster the sicker I became. I was starved for the food that would satisfy and I only found that satisfaction in God’s plan for sex and marriage – in what is called the Theology of the Body.
You are meant for more and I invite you all to keep searching. Don’t give up. I know it’s hard but don’t stop trying. You can do it. Don’t settle. It will all be worth it in the end.
Great love stories are never without great sacrifice but great sacrifice is always followed by great joy.