Thursday, August 5, 2010

Propping Up Proposition 8

In the November 2008 a majority of California voters, approximately seven million, opted in favor of Proposition 8 (or the California Marriage Protection Act), a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment which provides that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." And as most people know by now, Federal Judge Vaughan Walker, who currently serves as Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, recently over turned Proposition 8.

The purpose of this blog is not to address the spiritual and cultural ramifications of Judge Walkers ruling or the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, which is massive, but rather the conventional methods by which many Christians and conservatives are responding to it.

Advocates for traditional marriage are commendably doing their utmost to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage, and the USCCB, to name a few, are trying to hold back the political and judicial tide which favors the redefinition of marriage. In media venues such as Fox News, CNN, and talk radio, the defense of marriage appears to focus on political solutions, which is undoubtedly necessary. However, from all the talk that I hear about the defense of traditional marriage, it would seem that most of the eggs are going into this one basket: the "basket" of political policy.

For the defense of marriage, this is not a good place to be. Politics is the last line of defense. And the reason why politics is the last line of defense is because it deals with effects and not causes. For instance, those ideas which shape legislation or court rulings are first developed in relationships, families, schools or in churches long before they reach Capitol Hill or the U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, before politics enters into the fray, it is in these institutions where ideas and worldviews find their origin. Government, good or bad, is the effect of culture. In 1948 Bishop Fulton Sheen said that, "A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves. When our moral standards are different, our legislation will be different."

Personal morality precedes politics. And this is point at issue: Whether it be saving the integrity of marriage, religious liberty or free enterprise, we have to deal with those causes which undermines this way of life. Again, these institutions are the first and foremost influences on the individual citizen before he or she is even eligible to vote or old enough to take on civic responsibilities.

Take, for instance, President Barak Obama: Here is a man who was abandoned by his father, and then by his mother, only to be taken in by his grandma. This unstable and uncertain family structure contributed in no small measure to his views on the dignity of life, marriage and sexuality. It should furthermore be added that he was not raised in a religious household. In any case, second to the influence of the family was his education at Columbia University and Harvard Law School. Having a weak family and religious background, it can be argued that he was more vulnerable to the radical ideas his progressive education would inspire i.e., the belief that "the U.S. Constitution is a charter of negative liberties." Before Barak the politician, there was Barak the son of divorced parents, the heir of a nonreligious household and the eventual student of a progressive education, which no doubt prepared the way for his Socialistic views.

What is said of an individual can also be said of a nation. When marriages break down, when religious values fade from family life, and when public education ceases to be Christian, then you have a nation whose values are not unlike President Obama's. As a matter of fact, when we take a look at the demographics according to age, the younger the generation we consider, the more liberal and less religious you will find its beliefs. When Proposition 8 was passed in November 2008, those age 30 and younger were polled in California. The poll found that 66% of this demographic were in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage; only 33% opposed it. Most studies I have read, reveal that people in their thirties, twenties, and teenage years nationwide are less Conservative, more Liberal and are less favorable to organized religion.

As anecdotal evidence, I had the experience of taking a survey of my own religion class in 2010 (freshman and sophomore's in high school). Mind you, this is a Catholic parish which prides itself on fidelity to Christ. In any case, I found that most of my students were in favor of same-sex marriage (as well as cohabitation). They had no concept of what impact same-sex marriage would have on souls, individual citizens and the culture at large.

With this generational trend, I cannot imagine that the legal definition of marriage- as being between a man and a woman -will be long sustained. Optimism is cheap if it is not rooted in reality. What the future portends is an uphill battle, no matter what political victories Conservatives or Christians envision for 2010. Again, I turn to Bishop Fulton Sheen's prophetic warning to America from his 1948 book, Communism and the Western Conscience: "If a time ever comes when the religious Jews, Protestants, and Catholics have to suffer under a totalitarian state denying them the right to worship God according to the light of their conscience, it will be because for years they thought it no difference what kind of people represented them in Congress, and because they never opposed the materialistic lie with spiritual truth."

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