By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
"Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about
And they opened their beaks and they let out a shout,
'We know who is who! Now there isn't a doubt.
The best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without.'"
— Dr. Seuss
A cultural war is developing in the United States over gay marriage. It would be comical if the issue didn't have such far reaching, negative implications for every member of the American family. It's comparable to a Faustian version of "The Sneetches" by Dr. Seuss.
In the Sneetches there are two classes of pot-bellied citizens. Initially, they looked alike except that only one group had stars on their portly stomachs. In a modern sense, think of it as having a marriage license. Those with stars thought themselves superior to the others.
Sylvester McMonkey McBean came to town to sell a solution. He offered Sneetches without stars an opportunity to get one. Soon everyone looked the same. The original star wearing Sneetches were upset. They had their stars removed. In their mind, that made them special again. This prompted those with stars to have them taken off too. Cultural chaos broke out. Some raced to have a star put on and others taken off. Before long no one could distinguish the original star wearing group from the Sneetches once considered inferior.
The Sneetches "got really quite smart on that day, the day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches and no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches."
Gay or straight - I'm not sure who's who or what's what. And that's that. What's the national debate all about? Stars on bellies? Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a happy ending in sight.
Even traditional, conservative branches of Christianity that don't bless same-sex marriages, like mine, should be unsettled by the evolving national discussion. Independent of the implications of the changing church-state relationship there should be great concern that Americans are being classified into groups where one is considered better than another.
How is it possible to have a "civil" debate if a decision has already been made that there must be an amendment? The discussion won't be about whether one is needed, but why it is necessary. A call for civility rings hollow. Early in World War II Jews were urged to leave their homes under the guise of "relocation." Civility in the gay marriage debate is a pretext.
Religious leaders uncomfortable with gay marriage have a responsibility to understand the long-term impact of a constitutional amendment. It will divide, distinguish, and separate a group of people from the rest of the population. In so doing, Americans make the unintended decision of placing a lesser value on other members of the nation's family. Human dignity is compromised. It encourages discussion as to whether that which is different is an aberration needing correction. This must never be allowed.
Many examples exist of the negative, extreme consequences when persons in positions of power or authority engage in the game of division. Playing sides against one another never serves the greater good or enables individuals to nurture the best within themselves.
Allowing the issue of gay marriage to be resolved within the context of Barry Goldwater-federalism would have been a far more reasoned short-term approach. It would have diffused the emotionally charged atmosphere and fostered a more measured, conservative response.
Late night comedians are poised to make a mockery of this debate. Marriage won't seem sacred and special after they're done. Should government regulate, as it already does so many aspects of our lives, the marriage ceremony? After all, it is a sacred institution. Should the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel which allows couples to retain a Liberace, Tom Jones, or, Elvis Presley impersonator to perform at their service be closed because of an arbitrary definition of tackiness. Are such chapels a defilement of the sacred?
Prominent amendment supporters contend that states would still be allowed to pass some version of a civil union law. Hence, tampering with the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and woman is, by their admission, symbolic. Let's be practical. No amendment can prevent two people of the same gender from publicly calling themselves married. The First Amendment would prohibit it. Nor could the government stop a priest, rabbi, minister, or other religious cleric from performing a marriage ceremony for persons of the same sex. So why amend the constitution?
Denominations troubled by gay marriage should think twice about an alliance with Washington. There will be unintended consequences manifested in hate toward members of the family which runs contrary to the most noble of human values. Such behavior opposes God's law of loving our neighbor. Those elected to high office have not addressed this issue in a manner that calls to our better selves.
Heterosexual marriage has been described as "ideal." If this is true then intellectual honesty demands amendment supporters to look at the root causes that threaten heterosexual marriage. Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce and infidelity impacts 25of married couples. Logically, protecting the institution of marriage starts with penalizing infidelity, repealing no fault divorce, and mandating marital counseling before a divorce decree is granted. To do otherwise is hypocrisy.
Washington's interference is blurring the line between civil and religious marriage. It is federalizing God, secularizing religion, and empowering government on matters of faith. "Sacred" and "sanctity" are among the words used by politicians to describe marriage. These are religious words. Every denomination should be leery when government has the hubris to give God a helping hand. God needs neither a hand up nor a hand out from pure, angelic, virtuous Washington. Religious leaders who ask for its involvement become partners in a devilish scheme that furthers a cultural war where the children of God are pitted against one another.