I’ve stepped into a new role as the graphics department (no seriously… the whole department) for the Orthodox Christian Network (OCN), and so it fell to me to come up with the graphic for these interviews concerning the Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8. This is a complex ruling, involving states’ rights and federal funds, but it has been largely seen as a major victory for those advocating gay marriage.
I’m glad I only had to provide a small image, because I have reflected that the imagery used in this issue is problematic. We’ve seen the clips — couple after couple, looking happy and nuptial and so darn normal. And here I am, the awful person saying that it’s not the same if they’re both men or both women. Who do I think I am to be so narrow-minded and mean? Surely happiness trumps all else and marriage can be whatever we want it to be, right? Surely the whole “ordained by God” thing is really more of a guideline?
I’m obviously being ironic here. I’m not nearly so likely to be caught up by footage of grooms embracing grooms and brides kissing brides. But imagery is a powerful thing, and I have heard young Orthodox friends start to be unclear on the issue.
It has made me gel what the problems are — the ones that never get mentioned, not even by Christians. Here are the hard questions that we never get to ask.
#1. Who are Mr. & Mr. Smith?
Who are the people want same-sex unions to be considered marriages? Is it even fair to ask? Are they really just folks? Do they really not see any problem with this? And are they going to be satisfied with just having the state call them married, or is this just the first step toward breaking down the Church’s objections? Is this really all about love, or is it also about a human need to call something normal that is, by several substantive standards, quite abnormal?
It is harsh to have to ask such pointed questions. But if we’re about to overthrow teaching, traditional, history and common sense, I wish to heaven someone could overcome their squeamishness and make the proponents explain themselves. If they had asked for civil unions that were accorded the same state funds as those for married people, no one including me would’ve blinked an eye. Demanding a sea change ought to come with an ability to defend your motives. None has ever really been asked for.
#2. Why is homosexuality sinful?
I hope we can all stipulate that God is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful, and also that He blessed opposite-sex marriage. There is no evidence in the Bible or in orthodox Church teaching that God blesses homosexual intercourse in the same way; if anything, the body of evidence suggests that it is an abomination. The Bible is unequivocal in its language in both the Old and New Testament, and (as far as I know) the Church has never waffled or considered shades of gray here. So might it not be possible, after all, that God discouraged the behavior not because He was hardhearted or uncaring, but because He knew more than we did about its consequences?
It is the simplest of all Christian queries — almost absurdly so — but things have come to such a pass that we rarely think in this way. When God set these rules in place that have stood the test of time, did He do it as a capricious lawmaker, or as a tenderhearted father who didn’t want us to come to harm?
All of which leads to the third question, also simple but also rarely uttered where these big societal questions are concerned …
#3. What is God’s will for us?
Not what is my will or the gay minority or the non-gay majority. Not what seems like the least trouble and not what hypothetically offers solace to unhappy people. Not what allows us to feel good about ourselves and gain a little peace from a segment that has grown increasingly screechy. None of that. What is God’s will for us?
He must’ve known we would come to this. He must’ve known that the Church, which is committed to integrity and holding fast to the precious Revealed Truth that we’ve been given, would be more and more at odds with a world that wants only to eat, drink and be merry. What is the best that we can offer, truly, to those who suffer with same-sex attraction? Is giving in on this issue, and the next and the next, really the most loving thing? Or is it the coward’s way out? The laxity of opposite-sex couples has led to heartbreaking statistics regarding divorce, adultery, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, spousal abuse, abortion and broken families — would we really rather standardize aberrant sexuality than begin finally to address the problem of how we get back on track?
I’m asking questions that I don’t know the answers to. None of us know. But I wish very, very much that more of us would ask, all the same. The answers seem too important to keep avoiding the obvious questions.