Believers in traditional marriage have had a challenging few weeks down in Alabama. Not only have we witnessed the demise of our right to define marriage within the boundaries of our state, we’ve been called hateful bigots, told we’re on the wrong side of history and that the good among us will eventually evolve and abandon our prejudiced beliefs altogether.
,” was a popular slogan seen outside courthouses and on Twitter feeds, implying that hate was on the other side. Some described Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore as “standing in the courthouse door
,” linking our defense of traditional marriage to former Gov. George Wallace’s defense of segregation at the University of Alabama. Others predicted that in a decade we’ll all come around and call our current efforts “ancient history
,” complaining when they’re mentioned, like we do about our state’s history of racism.
All of those notions are wrong.
First, our support of traditional marriage isn’t rooted in hatred. Quite the opposite. It’s rooted in our love of Christ and a desire for his will rather than our own.
The resulting internal conflict isn’t easy. Personally, my own will would have me support gay marriage. On one hand, my conservative philosophy dictates that I should support most individual liberties as long as they’re not hurting anyone (it’s arguable that the infrequency of traditional marriage hurts everyone, but let’s set that aside for the moment). On the other hand, my heart tends to say “live and let live.” It’s also hurtful to be called a bigot when I wish no ill towards anyone, especially those who find love and comfort in this sometimes harsh world.
Yet my faith teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstance can they be approved,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Even though it would be easier to voice support for gay marriage, or simply keep quiet, I cannot. Doing so would represent a hatred of my Lord and his commandments. Even though I fall short of them daily, I still believe them all to be true and therefore must remain steadfast even as the world changes.
Secondly, we will never change our beliefs about traditional marriage. Unlike racial segregation, which is rooted in evil, support for the exclusivity of traditional marriage is rooted in the unchangeable and perfect word of God. While it’d be impractical to discuss every Christian denomination’s belief on the issue, the Catholic Church’s position is clear. “The Church has taught through the ages that marriage is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman,” reads a 2009 pastoral letter
from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Unlike our constitution, in which one amendment may repeal another, once something has been declared in Catholic doctrine — as marriage has — it cannot be erased. Teaching eternal truths that may eventually be changed is a paradox, and the church has resisted such pressures before, particularly in its doctrine concerning marriage. As noted by Ross Douthat
, the “Catholic Church was willing to lose the kingdom of England, and by extension the entire English-speaking world,” over its teaching about divorce and remarriage. Regardless of political or popular pressure, the Catholic Church will always teach what is quoted above, and while other denominations aren’t constrained by similar doctrinal structures, I’m sure many of their members feel the same.
Thirdly, defenders of traditional marriage aren’t on the wrong side of history. If there’s one way of life that takes the long view of things, it’s Christianity. While some may concern themselves principally with the next economic quarter or the next election cycle, Christ calls us to think about our place in eternity. Meanwhile, scripture gives us the benefit of knowing how all of this ends anyway. Knowing that, there’s only one “side of history” that we should want to remain on.
Still, it’s been a hard few weeks. Christians have been here before, though: in the minority and facing condemnation and retribution for professing unpopular beliefs. But if we act through love, speak truth in love, keep faith in Christ’s teachings and remember our ultimate destination, we’ll endure.