Earlier this month, President Barack Obama weighed in on the national debate over the redefinition of marriage: “I have to tell you that … at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” Why? ABC News reports:
The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept. “It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president continued. … You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.
President Barack Obama, meet Gilbert Keith Chesterton: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”
It is quite true that our young people are being taught to be “open-minded” in our school system, both at the elementary and collegiate levels. Anything that in the least bit way smacks of intolerance or disapproval for a lifestyle that is non-traditional is tantamount to bigotry and racism.
To a certain extent, of course, there is some merit in this sort of perspective. There is the undeniable polar opposite: senseless and unjust persecution and mockery, which all violate personal dignity. But I would submit that the two extremes actually have the same root: the lack of contact with the truth.
In a country where same-sex couples already are afforded the same treatment as married couples, where virtually every organization states openly that it does not discriminate on the basis of one’s sexual orientation and where gays and lesbians are openly integrated members of society, why is there such a need for such same-sex couples to be specifically recognized as “married?” And why the insistence that failure to cede such recognition is tantamount to bigotry?
It would seem that the real agenda is not equality, not a legitimate fight for “rights,” but an unreasonable demand that society and the state both declare that the homosexual sexual act is fully equivalent to the heterosexual one. Quite simply, however, it is not.
A man and a woman can naturally produce a child, a new person. Neither two men nor two women can do this. There is something wholly unique to the relationship between a man and a woman that begets new life, and faithfully nurtures this new life, that is found in no other relationship between two persons. This is one reason why two gays or two lesbians can never be said to be “married,” if the word is to mean anything at all. There is simply something essential lacking to their sexual union that precludes that union from qualifying as a marriage.
This is basic biology. Were I to demand that Congress pass a law stating that a square is also a circle, or that the color red is equally blue or that plastic is the same substance as aluminum, would I be able to, in justice, accuse anyone of bigotry or intolerance if they did not give in to my demands?
Nature and biology are independent of, and larger than, our personal choices and fancies; we are neither bigots nor racists for simply affirming their truth. In fact, barring any traumas or abusive experiences, which can severely distort one’s natural development, living according to the truth of nature is extraordinarily fulfilling. And this is not an accident; God is provident and wishes our happiness. There is divine wisdom and love inscribed in the laws of nature.
And this reality dovetails with the next point, that of the opposite extreme: rejecting others whose choices do not reflect my own. Those who will go to any length to eradicate anyone who is different also fail to abide by the truth, one that is certainly natural but harder to access because of original sin: the truth of the dignity of the person, made in God’s image and likeness. The Golden Rule, as well as the commandment to love one another as Christ has loved us, prohibits us from judging others and, worse, imposing our subjective standards on others as a norm of life. Rather, these two norms make clear that we are to live within the bounds set by love and truth: to respect the other and always do that which will help them flourish. Sometimes this will be uncontroversial – all the countless experiences we have of harmony and friendship with others. At other times it will be arduous – as when we need to firmly yet lovingly call one another to live in the truth, which, ultimately, will make us fulfilled. Charity and truth can never be separated. As Pope Benedict XVI tells us in Caritas in veritate, “Truth without charity is empty, and charity without truth is blind.”
To condone every choice as sacred just for the fact that it is a choice, without any thought to the objective norms which provide the substance, occasion and direction for our choices, is to implode as a human person. It is to attempt to live a blind, indiscriminate acceptance of every choice, irrespective of its tie or lack thereof to nature and reality. This blindness can hardly be called freedom. Freedom requires a platform from which to launch, and this platform is none other than the truth of our nature. A chef is not “free” to cook well without the different seasonings and foods found in nature; a mechanic is not “free” to truly fix anything without learning the parts and functions of the machine in question; a musician is not “free” to be a virtuoso without mastering the technique required to handle his instrument.
Just so, one cannot be free as a person without first acknowledging the truth of his nature. And this truth must be lived in its totality: it must include an acknowledgement of the other as an image of God, deserving of respect and love. Otherwise, this truth will be empty and be perceived as confining.
Our children, youth and young adults deserve to be given the truth in charity. Anything less, far from being “open-minded,” is a deterrent to their true flourishing as persons.