Thursday, July 18, 2013

CHANGING FOUNDATIONS - CULTURES CULTIVATE


Continuing yesterday’s thoughts . . .

 
Let us just take one example from a current lively topic:  Marriage.  On the one hand we have a people with a certain set of foundational beliefs that go along with what has been the definition of marriage for the centuries and another with foundational beliefs that say marriage should be changed.  The first group claims that if changed, it will harm society.  The second group asks (rightly) the question, “So, same sex marriage was legalized in any number of places – did we see riots?  Did people start ransacking businesses?  Did schools go down the drain?  Did families disintegrate?  Did a nuclear bomb go off?
 
Well, of course not.  If same sex marriage were legalized in Ohio today, tomorrow Ohio would look much the same.  My cable would still work, Swenson’s would still sell hamburgers, and there would still be water in the tap when I turned it on.  But, like though the surface may look the same, underneath the foundations would be different and eventually those differences will start manifesting themselves.

 

Here is the subtle difference:  There is a reason (at least in the Catholic Church) there is no such thing as a “private” wedding.  There is a reason we publish bands, ring bells before and after the ceremony, and have it in the Church: because a marriage does not belong to the man and woman who are being married, it belongs to the whole community.  We all have a stake.  (Hence the worry that many priests have when a bride is too focused on having her perfect day.)  The ministry of love is to all these two who have become one flesh come in contact.  The purpose of marriage is to bring children into the world and raise them well within the community.  Beyond that, it is for the joy of the couple so that they may reach out. 
 
The new laws of marriage do not focus on community or for the interest of the next generation necesarily but the rights and joy of the couple.  It is not a marriage that the community necessarily has a stake in.  It can benefit in the way it benefits from any friendship or (chaste) love between any two (or more) people, but it is not the same as the fruitful, marital union of man and woman. Over time this foundational assumption will start to have an effect on every aspect of our lives.  Marriage and family, after all, are the building blocks of society and to change them is to change all of society.
 
True, there are horrible examples of marriage that at least have the fa├žade of a true, traditional marriage, and there are shining examples of a more modern definition of marriage that seem to be life giving.  But the first is not a good marriage and the second would have the same effect on the community if the marriage were not recognized in this particular way.
 
There will be side issues thrown into the discussion also – infertile couples, legal protection for people, Christians proper relationships to their brothers and sisters with SSA, . . .  and these should be addressed.  But neither these nor the host of other issues that crop up have anything to do with the foundational belief system that undergirds them all.  What is marriage for?  It is an important issue too glibly decided and set aside without understanding the foundations that one is laying for society which will have an effect on every aspect of our lives.


3 comments:

MaryofSharon said...

Excellent, Fr. V! Thanks for offering your assessment of this highly charged issue. God knows how much we need our priests to lead us in thinking clearly about this.

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully said, Father...now if only we could get popular culture to agree.

Anonymous said...

Rewind the clock a few years and I would have rolled my eyes at a priest expressing concerns over the marriage issue in society. These days, though, I'm genuinely scared of these trends.

I feel secure in my faith, but I often come up dreadfully short when I'm surrounded by peers who take offense at what they characterize as "antiquated, Medievalist, chauvinistic, mysticism" - in other words, our Catholic faith. Worse- most of these peers attended Catholic school with me.