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The Moral Crucible of Our Time

The following is my response to a Facebook discussion some of my friends were engaged in.

I chimed in with the following opinion. I have edited areas that had grammatical errors and added passages because my original commentary didn’t fully reflect the breadth of my opinion:

“I have given this issue a lot of thought over the past year. I am still torn. On the one hand, I am a Christian. On the other, I am an American Conservative Constitutionalist. These are not mutually exclusive philosophies, as the founding of our nation was based on Christian-Judeo precepts. However, they do have areas where no clear agreement may exist.  The area of gay marriage is one of these.

It seems to me that marriage is both a sacred (blessed by God) and legal (sanctioned by society) union traditionally-represented by the archetypes of Adam and Eve. As a sacred union that is normally officiated by religious institutions (institutions that do not accept homosexuality on principle or practice), it seems to Christians that homosexual activists have chosen to wage war against “God.” These activists are demanding the redefinition of marriage as opposed to solely seeking to attain equal protection under the law for civil unions. Thus, the issue is one of mainstreaming a segment of the population that has ever always been viewed as fringe and perverse.

97-99% of society, depending on whose stats you review, is heterosexual. To redefine cultural norms that have been in existence for thousands of years isn’t justified to me because the greater society is being rent apart by a minority of that culture’s members.

Better to me, it seems, homosexuals accept equal legal status as lifelong partners under civil unions than to demand and legally force religious heterosexuals to change their beliefs and values so that the institution of marriage be rendered meaningless.

As a Constitutionalist, Americans have freedom of religion, not from religion. There is no such thing as separation of church and state in the Constitution as described by activists in this country. The only thing the Constitution says is: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

So, criminalizing churches that preach homosexuality as a sin or being against their religion is unconstitutional. Period.

However, I am also struck by the following precepts which serve as the foundation for the law of the land: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our government is not allowed to deny us these rights. Thus, how can I believe in and uphold the Constitution if I denied my fellow Americans their God-given rights? Homosexuals have every right to pursue their happiness. They are human beings! They love just like everyone else.

Throughout my life I have worked with, lived with, and befriended many individuals whose sexual orientation happens to differ from mine own. In fact, one of my favorite teachers ever was Mr. Robert Reed (Mr. Brady from the Brady Bunch).

Mr. Read was a wonderful person. I had heard jibes about him prior to attending Shakespeare courses under him at UCLA, but I dismissed the spurious comments because I didn’t care one way or another. Besides, the man knew far more than I did about the subject. And, I went to UCLA to learn about theatre from experienced professionals.

During my time with him as my teacher and unofficial adviser, he never once introduced the subject of his sexuality into our conversations. To the contrary, he was a stern professional who addressed everyone by their last names, and who expected their best. He was generous with his time and money, as evinced by Thursday afternoon video pizza parties for those who chose to attend.

When I had written my first play at UCLA based on my previous relationship with a woman I feared had given me AIDS, Mr. Reed was non-judgmental. I really was in a panic and heartbroken because I had discovered just before transferring to UCLA my fiancee was a drug addict who was secretly sleeping with a dealer, a lesbian housemate, and a butch homosexual with a “queen” boyfriend. Perfect play material, I thought.

In open office door meetings, he genuinely asked my how I felt and why I chose to depict certain characters the way I did. In taking the time to do so, he made me feel more confident as a person and as a student; and for that I will be forever grateful. He was simply a good person. Thankfully, my deep-seated fears of affliction were never realized.

There is one moment, a year later, that I now recognize revealed a great deal about Mr. Reed.  The moment I am recalling is when I walked up to him after reading, “The Engines of Creation” by Eric Drexler. This was the first book I had read on the subject of nanotechnology, circa 1989. I told Mr. Reed that some scientists were working to develop microscopic-sized robots that could course through our veins, cleaning our blood and eliminating plaque and other dangers.

Excitedly, Mr. Reed asked, “Really? When will this be?” “Not for twenty years, or so,” I replied. In my mind’s eye I now see how crestfallen and disappointed he felt at the response. He brushed the subject off and called the class to order. To my deep regret, I only now remember seeing the tears that had barely formed in his then sad eyes.

Three years later, Mr. Reed passed away. According to his death certificate, he had HIV, but unrelated cancer is what did him in. According to reports publicized by such journalistic empaths as Geraldo Rivera, Mr. Reed was a “conflicted” person. Though he had been married in the 1950s and had a daughter, he was also allegedly homosexual. I say homosexual instead of bisexual because publicly he had always kept the subject of his sexual preference to himself; like a shameful secret. I did not know that when I knew him.

When I happened to learn of his passing while surfing the Internet one day, I was very saddened. We lost a caring human being. But, it seems, any time he comes up in conversation, he now serves as the brunt of gay jokes and lambasting memoirs.  I sometimes wonder how hard it must’ve been to be “in the closet” as he was; how his life was diminished because of his self-loathing. I read in several articles about him after his death that he genuinely refused to accept he was a homosexual. Yet, he must’ve engaged in sexual behavior that resulted in his acquisition of the HIV virus. Such conflict shaped him as he went through life, and as a result, he was not considered a nice person by some. My experience was different, and I choose to remember him as a genuine person.

Therein is the crux of my moral dilemma on the matter of same sex marriage. It is not as simple as concluding it is normal or abnormal. As a Christian, I appreciated Mr. Robert Reed for who, not what, he was.

As yet, I have not committed myself to a definitive opinion because my intellect and spirituality are not sufficiently developed at this time for me to be able to do so. I do pray I have the courage and wisdom to come to the correct conclusion. Doing so, though, would require me to subsume one set of beliefs to the other. And, that may not be such a terrible thing. I think I owe it to Mr. Reed to give this my utmost consideration before making any further proclamations on the subject.

What I would like to understand is why it is so crucial to homosexuals to redefine “marriage.” If they seek tolerance of their differing views and lifestyles, that is one thing. If they demand outright acceptance from others whose beliefs are anathema to such acceptance, then that is another thing. After all, in order for homosexuals to have “marriage,” religion has to be compromised, or even destroyed. That is unacceptable; not only because it would be wrong, but, because we have the Constitution saying it is illegal to do so.

Congress simply cannot compel Christians to stop being Christians. It is against the law of the land. By the same token, Christians cannot compel homosexuals to stop being homosexuals. Despite that not being possible *, the primary “law” Jesus told us Christians to practice was to love our brother as we ourselves would want to be loved.

And, as a Christian, who am I to break one of God’s laws?

Who are you?

* To clarify, I do not subscribe to the idea that homosexuals spontaneously explode into existence somewhere around their pre-teen years. I believe they, like me, were born they way they are.

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13 thoughts on “The Moral Crucible of Our Time

  1. Mr. Cotton,

    My blog, TPD, is having a roundtable discussion on SSM in the US. Can I cite this post, and your blog, in the conversation? I need conservative opinions to round out both sides of the issue.

    Thanks for your time.

    -Adam

  2. Pingback: The Moral Crucible of Our Time

  3. After all, in order for homosexuals to have “marriage,” religion has to be compromised, or even destroyed.

    No, all we have to do is accept that marriage under the law and marriage under the view of the church can be two different things — and that’s not something new, it’s already the case. Take for example the Catholic man who divorces wife A and marries wife B. At this point, there is one marriage that exists in the eye of the church but not in the eyes of the law (the marriage to A, since the Church doesn’t recognize the divorce) and one marriage that exists in the law but not in the eyes of the Church (the marriage to B, as the church does not allow bigamy.) This conflict has existed longer than you or I have been alive, but has not destroyed religion.

  4. But in order for “marriage” to first be, it must be a union under God and the State. SMS is not currently consecrated by the majority of churches (unless they are liberal churches that recognize homosexuals as clergy).

    So, I may be mistaken, but it seems to be the basic definition of marriage is man-woman union blessed by God and recognized by the state for legal purposes.

    Redefining marriage would essentially destroy it as it has been accepted for thousands of years. Unlike homosexuality which still not reach majority acceptance by society.

  5. So, I may be mistaken, but it seems to be the basic definition of marriage is man-woman union blessed by God and recognized by the state for legal purposes.

    Except that the concept of marriage predates the spread of the Abrahamic religions, and existed in places where the Abrahamic religions did not reach. While we might be able to argue that God blessed those unions, we certainly cannot expect that it was the definition that the people who entered into them were working with.

    And despite our current practices, marriages for a long time involved neither religious ceremony (and thus recognition) nor state recognition. They were business arrangements, pure and simple, involving the exchanging of people and property.

    (Besides, defining a legal status based on whether something is “blessed by God” would lead to an unending argument about which marriages are; while one might find some consensus about whether only inter-sex marriages could be blessed by God, we can’t exactly reach out to God to get a definitive answer on whether George and Brenda’s marriage is so blessed.)

    Redefining marriage would essentially destroy it as it has been accepted for thousands of years.

    You’re assuming a continuity of definition that isn’t there. As I noted, the definition that you describe does not go back thousands of years. Marriage has changed greatly – our notion of marriage built around the voluntary romantic interest of two parties would be quite unrecognizable in past millenia. And changes in marriage have not destroyed it in the past.

  6. I don’t know, Nat. I think your assumptions about pre-Abrahamic marriage not having a spiritual component is incorrect in most cultures. Fertility rites, etc by primitive tribes were intended to bless the union and subsequent procreation by a couple (man and woman). But, let’s say we are talking about the past two thousand years only.

    That’s still TWO THOUSAND YEARS of history where marriage has been between a man and a woman and the union was officiated by clergy of one sort or another. During the ceremony, sanctification by God/All Mighty/Allah/Gaia was always requested. I wasn’t there every time, so I could be incorrect. But, it isn’t ridiculous of me to say 99% of the time. Procreation has been the main purpose of marriage since forever. Obviously, that discounts any prevalence of SSM in history.

    It’s only been in the past twenty-five years that SSM has been even remotely acceptable as a social institution. Even today, the majority of Americans seem to still be against it. Otherwise, it would be permissible in the majority of states (and not just in a handful).

  7. I’d differentiate “blessed by God” from having a spiritual component.

    But no, it’s not TWO THOUSAND YEARS where the union was officiated by clergy of one sort or another. Clergy wasn’t expected to be involved in most of Europe until the 16th century.

    “Even today, the majority of Americans seem to still be against it. ”

    That’s not what the latest polls are showing, Things are changing fast in those regards.

  8. How about blessed by “a god.” Still would make the ceremonies religious in nature. If you could point me to specific cultures in the past two thousand years that do not have such a component to their marriage rituals, I’d be interested in reading about them.

    Regardless, we know that God has been a part of the Jewish and Arabic cultures for two thousand years. The pantheons of gods in Greek and Roman cultures spanned even longer than that.

    Even if we remove any religious component to marriage, it has historically been between a man and a woman.

    As to polls that reflect acceptance of SSM, polls may or may not be accurate, depending on who executes them, and if an agenda is being pushed.

    In five years, after continual bombardment by the mainstream media, and further SSM activist actions, SSM may well be accepted. However, I would see it as people being resigned to it than accepting it.

    Either way, I give it five years.

  9. The history of marriage on Wikipedia — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage#History — is actually a pretty good 101-type entry, at least in terms of European history. You’ll find that religious rite was often not an inherent part of becoming wedded. (One thing that it doesn’t bring out is that ceremony was through most of history more a thing for the moneyed class – not just because they could afford to but because there were more vital concerns of property and power involved.)

    I also think a lot (not all, certainly, but a significant portion) of the change in public response we’re seeing to gay marriage is not a change in individual response, but simply the cycling in of the new generation. For various reasons, the youth just aren’t getting why the older folks see this as a problem.

  10. Pingback: SSM Roundtable Discussion « The Pragmatic Denial

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