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What follows is my side of a conversation I’ve been having with a friend, concerning the recently passed North Carolina marriage amendment. You’ll see some of his questions and points, and my answers to them. I’m hoping that putting it here will save me a lot of typing in further discussions with others. I’d love to hear your responses here, whether you agree with me or not.
J***, I wish we were having this conversation face-to-face. There’s always too much to respond to in a discussion like this, and the forum is so limiting. I’ll take things one at a time.
1) “Are you going to stand in the way of change or go with the flow?” What a sad, sad standard to use when choosing one’s principles. That question was repeatedly asked of the church during the rise and steadily increasing empowerment of the Nazi party in the 1930’s. Sadly, much of the church in Germany went “with the flow”, and helped make the road for Hitler’s rise to be much easier. If the church had stood strongly for what they believed then, history would have been very different. It seems a bit ironic that, again, the church is being told to “go with the flow”, and abandon their principles for principles that are “more popular” with the general public.
2) How many homosexuals do you personally know? First, what does that have to do with the position I take?
Second, way more than I guess you would guess, since you’re asking the question. My life has taken me to a lot of places, into a lot of situations, through a lot of relationships of different kinds and various levels. I don’t decide who my friends will be based on their sexual orientation any more than I do because of their political stands, their religion, their sense of style, their age, their baseball team of choice, or anything else like that. I’ll be friends with just about anyone who will be my friend. I don’t have litmus tests that say, “You have to be this or believe that to be my friend.” Space wouldn’t allow and memory wouldn’t retain all the strong differences I have with the overwhelming percentage of my friends through the years.
Third, as I wrote to B*** (and will expand upon if he accepts my invite to a conversation elsewhere), this isn’t just about gay marriage. I have had relatives in unmarried living-with-someone situations who have been affected by a similar amendment in their state. There are thousands of unmarried couples in North Carolina, of all kinds, who are theoretically effected by the amendment. It’s a far bigger issue than just gay marriage. It involves (as I said in earlier posts) marriage between adult brothers and sisters, between parents and adult children, between one man with multiple women and one woman with multiple men. It involves those same living arrangements when marriage ISN’T desired as much as convenience and access to similar benefits as marriage offers. It involves heterosexual couples who live together without being married, who want those benefits. To reduce it to a gay marriage issue is to obscure the wide-ranging effects of the ideas involved.
3) “…are you just basing your opinion off of religious beliefs?” Certainly my religious beliefs have an impact on my position. But they aren’t the only reason I think what I do. But I’ll go into my reasons at more length in just a bit.
4) “How does this differ from prejudice against skin color?” Skin color has nothing to do with behavior. A person has no input into their skin color. A person has (at least nearly) exclusive control over their behavior. A natural tendency or inborn physical preference (orientation) for a thing doesn’t give a person an automatic pass on their behavior. I reckon I was born with, or learned early on, a strong heterosexual tendency. Does that mean I get to act that out any way I want to? I reckon I can use that defense the next time a guy comes at me with a gun for messing with his wife. “Hey, I was born this way. How can you deny me what comes natural to me?”
Some people seem to be born with a physical predisposition to addictive behaviors. It seems to often show itself in substance abuse. Some people, I am convinced, because of chemical issues connected to their DNA, are born to be addicts. They have to fight hard to not let that happen. But we don’t excuse substance abuse because of DNA. We expect the person to be sober and disciplined, to get the help they need to avoid or defeat the addictions. (Just between you and me, and everyone else who happens to read this, I believe I am one of those people. That’s why I don’t drink alcohol at all. I believe that if I ever started, I might not be able to stop.)
That’s why I can’t equate skin color and sexual orientation. We don’t choose our skin color. We can’t change it or control it and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Our behaviors, however they are “oriented”, are not in the same category. We are expected to control just about every other orientation we have to meet certain standards (whatever those standards are in the culture). Civil rights aren’t assumed because of behavioral preferences. They’re assumed because of things we can’t control.
5) “Being controlled by fear, denying people their right to freedom because of what?…… that’s right, Fear.” Fear? J***, how do you make such a sweeping statement impugning people’s motives? How do you know what’s in their hearts? What am I afraid of? We must be terrifically careful when we start deciding what other’s motives are. When we settle on the wrong one, we can no longer even discuss the issues. Same thing with the “emotional pain” bit. Why would you assume I take my positions because of emotional pain?
Having said that, I will admit that seeing other folks’ life choices DOES cause me varying degrees of emotional pain – – the variable being how close that person is to me. It hurts my heart when a close friend dies because of his drug addiction. That’s why I hate drug abuse. It hurts my heart when a relative or close friend ruins his or her life and the lives of their children because they want to go off and “be happy” with someone else. That’s why I hate the break-up of marriages. It hurts my heart when a friend struggles constantly with alcohol abuse, because it keeps him or her from being strongly established in life, career, health and relationships. That’s why I hate alcohol abuse. It hurts my heart when a close friend struggles with pornography to the point that it ruins his marriage, his wife’s self-esteem, and his career. That’s why I hate pornography.
Emotional pain is a part of life. But you don’t see me trying to pass laws about beliefs or orientations – – only about actions, and only when those laws affect things that go far beyond individual hurt. And that brings me to why I supported the marriage amendment.
I have moral and religious reasons for seeing homosexuality as a problem, but they serve more as a background or worldview than as practical application in making law. I don’t carry the illusion that I have any business turning religious belief into legislation. Our country, thankfully, isn’t designed to work that way. The reasons I supported the amendment are socio-political and historical. Historical, in that I believe that just about every time the culturally acceptable limits of what makes a marriage have been stretched to the point where we’re currently trying to stretch it (the question of gay marriage is involved but, again, is far from the only kind of relationship involved), the culture doing the stretching has soon met its downfall. The opening wide of public standards of acceptable values led to the breaking apart of any significant order in those cultures, and led to either the fall of the culture and/or nation, or to a total dictatorship in an attempt to fix the problems (for the loss of a culture, think the ancient Greeks; for the dictatorship, go with the ancient Roman Empire.) I don’t care to go either of those ways.
On the socio-political side, I trust the studies and reports that show that when the idea of nuclear family breaks down, the social and economic costs are tremendously damaging. Look to the records that show the economic status of people where the lack of a strong father/mother combo is the defining factor of the family. While there are certainly individual bright spots and exceptions, the overwhelming result is a serious lowering of economic viability for the family, the neighborhood, the community, the town, the city. The correlations between the two consistently show it to be true, and have done so for decades. It can’t successfully be denied that the break-up of the mother/father/children family has been a major catalyst for much of the socio-economic ills we have brought on ourselves. I don’t care to go that way, either.
Also, how we think about marriage and other relationships strongly affects how we think about cultural standards. And how we think about cultural standards affects quality of life for everyone in the culture – – even those who disagree with the standards established, whatever those standards may be.
Life has to be seen and approached in the whole, not in the isolated. And the whole picture shows, conclusively for me, that the move away from traditional marriage structures has been a major factor in a large percentage of the national socio-economic troubles we’ve been experiencing over the last four decades or so. THAT is why I supported and voted for the amendment. Not fear of anyone; not hate for anyone; not out of some religiously-based desire to be in control of other people’s lives, but because I deeply believe, based on what I seen and learned and studied, that it is the way of thinking about marriage that most reliably positively affects the culture, the state, and the nation where I live.
Agree? Disagree? Think I’m a total idiot? Let me know, below. Preferably in the comments here, rather than on Facebook. But either will do.