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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Love, Gay Marriage and Losing Arguments...

It says, "Equal Justice Under Law"...
It's been a tough several days for Roman Catholics and conservative minded Christians across America.

The Supreme Court decision to strike down parts of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) and punt on California's Proposition 8, while not legalizing same sex marriage nationally, has at the least given the movement new life and, by most accounts, the pendulum is swinging in their favor.  

Those of us who profess the protection of traditional marriage as the foundation of society, since it is the only institution to legally bind children with their parents and give them the right to grow up with a father and mother, whose roles and contributions are very different and cannot be quantitatively measured in the raising a child, have felt a sense of frustration and doubt in the growing tide against us.

Many have thrown in the towel and accepted gay marriage as an unavoidable consequence in a country, where the least and most marginalized are given full protection of the law (with the exception of the unborn, who are still sacrificed at will).  

Moreover, the aggressive campaign to promote same sex marriage is impressive and, frankly, overwhelming.  

In fact, a good friend pointed out that from a legal standpoint, there may not be much argument in this debate, noting that despite having five judges in the Supreme Court, who are Roman Catholics, DOMA was still struck down because, legally speaking, the case is very clear.

However, others like myself, are circling the wagons, like Aragorn and his army at the Black Gate of Mordor in the last Lord of the Rings.  The odds were stacked against them and it was easy for them to give up and succumb to despair but then the unexpected happened.       

It reminds of that old John Belushi line in Animal House, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?  No!"

In any event, the emotions boiled over at a recent discussion I had with a group of friends, the day after the historic ruling, where my zealousness and passion to defend the Church got the best of me and I may not have come across as charitable to some of my dearest friends as I should have.

Against all odds...
At times, it got a little sticky, as we tried to reconcile the Church's teachings on marriage and human sexuality, which even among devout Catholics is a touchy subject, with what we see and live in society.  And, while, I don't think we ever crossed the line of disrespect (well, maybe once, or twice, or three times when I interrupted others who were trying to speak), it was possibly one of the most animated discussions that we have had in several years. 

In any event, one friend put it best when he said that in our fidelity to our faith, we are automatically pigeonholed by the culture as intolerant, unloving and judgmental; salt to the wound of any  Christian, who wants to portray the total opposite.  Where that line is crossed; from practicing what we believe to being called "judgmental" or "unloving" and what we can do to change it, are the million dollar questions.  But, the gist of his argument is that we can't fall into thinking about our decisions and actions, as Catholics, from the same perspective as society when approaching these very difficult issues.  

I think the resounding take away from the debate is that it all comes down to love and that we have to treat others with love, despite opposing viewpoints because, a
t the end of the day, each person is going to face God and be judged according to their faith, their heart and what they did for others, regardless of what we may or may not think.

At any rate, the exchange left an uncomfortable feeling within me and I continued to ponder what was said and wasn't said for several days.  Knowledge can be a dangerous thing, as my wife often points out to me.  There is a fine line between lovingly speaking the truth, as the Church teaches, and our own pride and contempt in explaining it.

Still reeling from the discussion on Saturday, I came across an article by National Catholic Register's Matthew Archbold, where he reflects on another blog, that made him pause along the same lines.  

After admitting to having fallen into the trap of arguing and debating, to the point of working himself into a frenzy trying to defend traditional marriages over the social media, the blog made him realize that he was not being a Christian, at a time when the Christian witness is most needed.

He wrote a great anecdote that sums it up well:

But here's the thing - we are not called to deliver the United States of America to heaven.  We are responsible for what we do.  We must love our opponents and assume that their anger comes from a place of real frustration and pain.  It's possible that we may not, despite every effort, be able to define marriage in our society but we can work on our own marriage and be examples of God's love.
Quick story that moved me to no end.  A couple recently told me that they had been debating having another kid.  She wanted another one and he thought they couldn't handle another.  They already had two.  She said she saw me and my five kids at Mass every Sunday and then she said one day the kids and I were on the sidelines of one of my kids' games right in front of them and we were laughing and talking and running around a bit.  She said they watched us and they agreed to have another.  I tend to think they thought that if an idiot like me could handle five children they could certainly handle three.  I'm bowled over at the thought but I can't help but think that every time that child does something bad they're going to secretly blame me.
But anyway, the thing is that it wasn't through me explaining to them about what the Catechism says about being open to children.  It wasn't through scolding them.  It was just living my life as a Catholic openly and letting God do the rest.  In the end I think we have to be careful not to win the argument and lose our souls.  We must be examples of love and strong marriages.  We should explain and preach but it must always be done with love.  We are not called to necessarily win arguments but we are absolutely called to love.
It's true; sometimes, as we look at our children, we get so wrapped in fear about what they will be exposed to in the future that, in trying to change the direction of our culture, we forget the most important part; to do it with love, which was the same conclusion most of my friends were trying to express in different ways, despite my unruliness and self-righteousness.

Anyway, although, I don't think it's time to wave the white flag, since even though there is no Ring of Power to melt in the lava and pulverize the overwhelming opposition, as in the movie (not that I am suggesting this as a Christian!), and, despite DOMA being struck down with five sitting Catholic Supreme Court judges, which, if you think about it, four did not agree with the majority (a silver lining from a legal standpoint!), it all comes down to how we debate these issues in the public square.  

Do we get in their faces and try to back them into submission? (which is a tactic I may have had a tendency to use in the past, and, by all accounts, still do)  Or, do we show them love and respect, despite our differences, and demonstrate the importance of traditional marriage and family by the way we live our lives?...


Robert Molleda said...

Good stuff, Carlos. I gotta tell you, if you feel strongly about something as important as traditional marriage, you're bound to get into situations where your emotions will get the best of you. Perhaps you don't think you were acting charitably in your discussions with friends, but unless you insulted someone or demeaned them for the sake of making you look better (which I seriously doubt), the you indeed acted out of love, even if it came across as aggressive and impassioned.

Sometimes I think we as Catholics forget that debates get sticky and emotions run high, and we recoil when faced with this situation. This is a classic tactic the devil uses to tempt us to back away when we should be fighting back with the truth (I use "fighting" figuratively, of course). Kind of reminds me of parts of The Screwtape Letters. Not just "fighting back" with the truth, but mostly with love as you so well mentioned. That love, however, as our Lord shows us over and over again in the Gospels, isn't necessarily the kumbaya, "it's OK to feel that way or do that type of thing" love. It's more of a tough love and that means getting our hands dirty, raising our voices and hands a little, and not being afraid to correct someone's errant beliefs.

It's a fine line to walk, but walk it we must. Keep the faith!

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thanks, Robert.

Despite my emotions, I think I was controled throughout and didn't insult anyone; at least intentionally or through name calling.

Several of the guys have since expressed their appreciation for my passion and defense of the Church.

But, there is a point where ego and pride can take over in a heated discussion and we run the risk that any good we do is stained by our own sinfulness in doing it.

As you stated, it's a fine line to walk..

Anonymous said...

Several of the guys have since expressed their appreciation for my passion and defense of the Church.

That's a sign of love right there! Your willingness to take an unpopular stand in defense of the Church's teachings shows others that our faith and its teachings are worth defending. Your friends may very well be saying to themselves: "after all, if a good, stand-up guy like Carlos Espinosa is so passionate about this, what are we missing?" That's how we live our faith: by example and by representing.

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you, Anonymous for the encouraging words. They are greatly appreciated...