Love and Marriage

I have written quite a bit about sex, but I haven’t written anything about homosexuality.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talked about why he did not address the issue of gambling:

Ever since I served as an infantryman in the First World War I have had a great dislike of people who, themselves in ease and safety, issue exhortations to men in the front line. As a result I have a reluctance to say much about temptations to which I myself am not exposed. No man, I suppose, is tempted to every sin. It so happens that the impulse which makes men gamble has been left out of my make-up; and, no doubt, I pay for this by lacking some good impulse of which it is the excess or perversion. I therefore did not feel myself qualified to give advice about permissable and impermissable gambling: if there is any permissable, for I do not claim to know even that. . . . I did not think it my place to take a firm line about pains, dangers and expenses from which I am protected; having no pastoral office which obliged me to do so.

Likewise, Lewis did not address homosexuality for the exact same reason—the behavior never interested him. As I have no interest, inclination, or temptation to homosexual activity, I am not qualified to write about whether it is right, wrong, or otherwise. Nor am I qualified to give persons struggling with same sex attraction any sort of useful advice on the matter.

The Meaning of Marriage

I am not gay, but I am married, so I do have something to add to the gay marriage conversation.

My belief about marriage is that God intended for marriage to be between one man and one woman. You can read Theology of the Body, or other sources about marriage to get an understanding behind the theological reasons for why the complimentary nature of the male and the female are an essential element to marriage.  “Complementary nature” does not refer to legalistic rigid gender roles, but more in the sense of the French phrase “vive la difference“, which celebrates the qualities that make the sexes unique.

At the most concrete, physical level, the complementary nature of the sexes is necessary to have sexual intercourse and to have children together. Our experience is that there is nothing more intimate than sexual intercourse and nothing that has had a greater impact on our marriage than having children. Our children are, in a very real sense, the product of us and our union: One daughter looks like her and acts like me, the other looks like me and acts like her. I find this incredibly amazing.

A gay couple can do sexual things, but they cannot have intercourse. They can adopt children or use assisted reproduction, but they cannot have children with each other. (As for infertile couples, those struggling with infertility know more about the difficulties this causes than I could ever write.) While marriage is about far more than sex and reproduction, my own experience is that if these things were missing from our marriage, it would be would a bit like a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips.

The Matter of The Law

There is, as I see it, a difference between “what God intended marriage to be” and “what relationships the law should recognize”. God “hates divorce”, but the law allows it. Even the Law of Moses allowed divorce, despite God’s opinion of it. C.S. Lewis addressed the difference between Christian marriage and legal marriage in his native United Kingdom on the issue of divorce:

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The conception of marriage is one: the other is the different question – how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine.

My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

The purpose of legal marriage, as I see it, is to encourage a stable, healthy society. It is about more than reproduction, otherwise, there would be an age cutoff. Likewise, if marriage were about reproduction, the minimum age for marriage would be puberty, not legal adulthood.

The law encourages marriage and discourages divorce. Even with “no fault divorce”, in my state, it takes 24 hours to get married and one year to get divorced, unless evidence of fault is proven. The law encourages relational stability: North Carolina still has Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation laws, where an aggrieved spouse can sue a third party “homewrecker” for breaking up their marriage. Stable families create a stable society. Monogamy and fidelity prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The state has good reason to encourage marriage for reasons beyond reproduction.

So, where do gay couples fit in?

Some have argued that gay people have the same right to marry a member of the opposite sex as anyone else. I know several gay people who have married opposite-sex friends. Nearly all of them eventually divorced. Encouraging gay people to marry friends they aren’t sexually attracted to isn’t exactly a recipe for relational and social stability.

Others have argued that gay relationships are less stable than heterosexual relationships. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is true, the issue in allowing gay couples to marry isn’t preferring same-sex relationships over heterosexual relationships, but preferring stable same-sex relationships over unstable transient ones.

Still others make a quasi-theological argument based on Natural Law. They argue that gay sex is unnatural and harmful, therefore society shouldn’t recognize same-sex relationships. The problem with this line of thinking is that if such activity is indeed harmful, then gay marriage opponents should be able to provide clear evidence of the harms to those who choose to engage in them vs. those who have the inclination to pursue them, but choose not to. Arguments based in the Natural Law must be supported by nature, otherwise, they are merely arguments from authority in disguise. In this case, the evidence that most people with same sex attraction are worse off in a committed gay relationship instead of attempting a heterosexual relationship or remaining celibate is scant. The argument is philosophically sound, but the facts to support it are lacking.

Others make the argument that “marriage” means something. I irritate those on both sides of the debate by disagreeing with this assertion. I do not care if legal recognition is called “civil union” or “civil marriage”. Words describe principles and concepts, they do not have “inherent meanings”. I doubt that many gay marriage opponents are fighting for the “one man, one woman, children optional, for as long as we feel like it” that is the reality of civil marriage.

Finally, some argue that gay marriage will have all sorts of negative consequences for adoption law and for religious freedom. Both of these issues are legitimate concerns, but they are best dealt with separately. In the case of adoption law, adoption law is based on the best interest of the child, not the rights of the parents. If children are indeed better off with a heterosexual couple than a same-sex couple, then you are going to have to show that this is so and convince society to make sure that adoption laws reflects such findings.

As for religious freedom, if gay marriage has a negative impact on religious freedom, then the problem is that protections for religious freedom are too weak across the board. The controversy over religious groups providing contraceptive coverage has everything to do with religious freedom and absolutely nothing to do with gay marriage. (What do gay couples need with contraceptives, anyway?) If religious freedom is ignored over gay marriage, it will probably be ignored in many other areas, and the problem should be recognized for what it really is.

Faith and Reason

People on both sides of the debate are very sure of themselves, but this issue isn’t an easy one. Especially for heterosexuals who really can’t understand what it’s like to have same-sex attraction.

There can be no conflict between true faith and sound reasoning. True faith leads to truth; sound reasoning leads to truth; truth cannot contradict truth.

If faith appears to contradict reason, the problem must be either mistaken faith or flawed reasoning. Truth is not hidden—it wants to be found. What is true in faith will be confirmed by reason and the natural world, but if the natural world contradicts what the faith believes (such as the case of the theology of the Ptolemaic solar system) then we must re-examine our faith to see if we have misunderstood something.

To say something is “natural” or “unnatural” requires an understanding of nature and while nature doesn’t change, our understanding of it does.

As for the politics, my own prediction is that in the broader view, gay marriage is much ado about nothing. The most stable gay couples will take advantage of it, heterosexual couples will marry (and unfortunately, divorce) like they always have, and life will go on. It is neither the “Civil Rights Movement of our era”, nor the end of Western Civilization.

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Seven Quick Takes – Volume 11 (Am I Too Late?)

— 1 —

Seven Quick Takes are a bit late this week. I’ve had a busy Friday.

— 2 —

So, what made this Friday so busy? First, we had a holiday of sorts. K and I both work for a college and this week is Spring Break. As employees, we got the day off. It is not, however, Spring Break for our children (that’s the week after Easter). So, after dropping them off at school, we had the day to ourselves.

— 3 —

We decided to go for a hike because we rarely get to do that. We hiked 1.6 miles to a waterfall, then 1.6 miles back.

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— 4 —

And we tracked the entire thing with our iPhones. The Map My Hike App uses GPS to track how far you hike. Your activity is then stored on the mapmyhike.com website. K had found out about the similar Map My Run app, so I figured there was something for hiking.

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I find smartphones fascinating. I can track my hike, take fantastic pictures, and upload them to the internet in the middle of the woods from a device that fits in my pocket. Oh, and I got internet powered radio all the way to the trailhead.

When we first hiked the trail over 10 years ago, we had a brick sized dumbphone that got no reception.

— 5 —

We also had a potluck lenten supper at the children’s school.

Our parish has a Knights of Columbus fish fry, so we don’t do much of this, but potlucks are great for bringing together people. There was no tuna noodle casserole (thank goodness). Instead, it was some salad, some pizza, some vegetarian lasagna, and some fantastic soup, enchiladas, and rice from the owners of a local Mexican restaurant.

— 6 —

One of the nice things about sending your children to Catholic school is that they learn all about Jesus in their classes. Our younger daughter said that one of the things she liked about her new school was learning about Jesus because “Jesus is really amazing”.

The way she said it, I think she thinks he’s a superhero. (Which, in a way, he is…)

— 7 —

As for March Madness, for the first time in several years, I didn’t fill out a bracket. After realizing that my Alma Mater was going to be mediocre as usual, I stopped caring about college basketball season. Now that I no longer live in the “Triangle” Area of North Carolina, I no longer have to.

Besides, my school’s baseball team just soundly beat the baseball team of a big basketball school. It’s definitely best of me to skip March Madness and change sports.

And football season is just around the corner…

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes – Volume 10 (Mr. Roboto)

— 1 —

We finally made the switch. It was long past time to upgrade our phones, so we got new ones. We went from the Android phones to twin iPhone 5s.

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We’ve given the last bit of our digital souls to the Cult of Mac.

So far, we love it. We use Macs, so the iPhone integrates well. (Android + Mac is some sort of heresy.) Plus, the iPhone is a real iPod as opposed to the crappy iPod knockoff which is the best that even the nicest Android phones can do. Everything just works, which is more than i could ever say about the Android based phones.

— 2 —

One of the downsides of switching to the iPhone is that I had to give up the wonderful OvuView app for her charting. OvuView is loaded with features, including custom symptoms, chart interpretation, and cycle prediction, but it’s only for Android.

As a replacement, I have downloaded Kindara fertility. It’s a great looking basic charting app, although it lacks some of the features of OvuView. But it is free and easy to use and we don’t need much.

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Yeah, there’s an app for that.

The couple behind it, Kati Bicknell and Will Sacks, are fantastic. They are both putting a lot of effort into not just promoting their company, but promoting FAM/NFP as good for women’s health. Kati has a great blog on charting and Will has put a lot of effort into building the company and building the app.

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The two are interviewed in Dame Magazine and share how Kati found learning about her fertility to be “super cool” and how using the method brought them both closer together as a couple. It’s good to hear stories of couples who are happy with FAM/NFP and aren’t doing it for religious reasons.

I think CCL Family Foundations could use few stories about couples who met on the way to Burning Man. What do you think?

— 3 —

Another iPhone feature we have enjoyed is Siri. Letting the children talk to Siri is endless entertainment for them… and you.

Siri’s voice recognition isn’t quite as good as Apple would have you believe, so there’s been some misunderstandings, some funny, some annoying. For example, Siri has never heard of The Avett Brothers, but is more than willing to send me recommendations for veterinarians (“a vet”) when I asked about tickets to an upcoming show.

— 4 —

This week was the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. It’s been brutal.

With “standard” time down to only four months, I say pick a time and stick with it, already. It’s easier than getting sprung forward every year.

— 5 —

 

After posting about my issues with feminism, I found this in my twitter feed:

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Literal minded people who know how grammar works? Hmmm, what is this “non-movement feminist” business?

Basically, anyone who supports women’s equality is a “feminist”, whether or not one supports the “feminist movement”. I’m all for that. I have two daughters. I kind of have to be.

Still, I never would have used “feminist” to describe the belief that men and women are of equal worth and dignity. Instead, I would have used terms like “common sense” or “blindingly obvious“. But apparently, common sense isn’t.

But if that’s all it means to be a feminist, then I guess that makes me one, even though I am extremely critical of many aspects of the feminist movement. That’s another column for another time.

— 6 —

I feel the same way about the pro-life movement. I am pro-life, but very critical of many aspects of the pro-life movement.

Basically, if you see any contradiction between advocating for the unborn and supporting women, then you’re doing it wrong.

Yet another column for another time.

— 7 —

There is nothing worse than a conversation where one person is taking a figure of speech literally and the other person doesn’t understand the meaning of the word literally.

Person 1: “Put the lights out?” Do you mean literally? That doesn’t make sense.

Person 2: “Yes! Of course, I mean literally put the lights out!”

Person 1: “Ok, then…”

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Thus the hazards of being literal minded and understanding what grammar means. No wonder Siri and I are such good friends. 🙂

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Habemus Papam

We have a new Pope!

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio is now Pope Francis.

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He is not only the first pope named Francis, but he is the first Jesuit to hold the post.

He is the first Pope from Latin America, the region of the world that has the most Catholics, including the two countries with the most Catholics: Brazil and México. He’s also the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, and having Italian blood never hurt anyone’s chances of becoming Pope.

But the big question is whether he chose the name after St. Francis of Assisi.

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Or his fellow Jesuit, St. Francis Xavier;

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or even St. Francis de Sales.

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Whichever Francis he chose, all three are excellent.

7 Quick Takes – Volume 9 (Laughing)

— 1 —

Tom Hooper wrote a humorous post about The Husband’s Monthly Cycle, pointing out the “cycle issues” of the (stereo)typical NFP husband.

Fortunately, NaBroTechnology can help guys better deal with “that time of the month”. Since I spent last evening writing about NaBroTechnology, this is going to be 7 Very Quick Takes.

— 2 —

One of the best things I ever did was take an improv class. In improv, you learn to think on your feet and be funny.

While improv appears to be completely improvisational, it’s really the result of a very structured process. There are various improv “games” and “rules” that provide a structure to what is happening on stage to ensure an entertaining result.

One of the most famous rules of improv is the “Yes, and…” rule. This means that you say “Yes” to whatever reality your stage partner creates AND you add something to it. This rule builds energy, allowing mundane phrases to quickly turn into absurd and funny realities.

— 3 —

I have found the best response to bad or inappropriate humor to be good humor. Nobody likes the easily outraged and humorless. Everybody likes a joke.

So if someone says something offensive or just plain wrong while trying to be funny, don’t get mad, turn the joke around. I find the most effective way of dealing with bad ideas or boorish people is to laugh at them.

— 4 —

The “Yes, and…” rule is part of NaBroTechnology. Need I say more? 😀

— 5 —

“Bad Catholic” Marc Barnes argues that Christian music should die. Priest’s Wife (Yes, she’s Catholic—Byzantine Rite) countered “I’d rather have Bible verses and cheesy chord progressions going through my and my kids’ headsthan the English lyrics to Gangnam Style. 

Bonnie Engstrom was concerned about kids picking up Mumford and Son’s f-bombs.

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As for myself, this is a music themed blog, so I’ve got to side with Marc on this one. If my kids started belting out Little Lion Man, we’d have a little talk about appropriate language. (“I’m very proud of you for having good taste in music. Now don’t ever sing this around your grandmother.”)

If, however, my kids started belting out bad Protestant theology in the style of early 1990s junk pop or wannabe grunge, I would be very worried as a parent.

Besides, the best known openly Christian musician in the world famously dropped a big fat f-bomb on live television. Which I see as the best of both worlds. (And it’s not a big f—ing deal in the UK and Ireland.)

— 6 —

Many people complain that the Catholic Church is out of touch and badly run. It is.

First, there was the Vatican’s moving tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI…

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…elegantly laid out in Comic Sans.

Responsible for designing the Tribute. (Hat tip to Ironic Catholic.)

Responsible for designing the Tribute. (From Ironic Catholic.)

Today the all-male College of Cardinals voting to starting the all-male conclave to elect another man as Pope on International Women’s Day. The role of women in the Church is another discussion, but sheesh, guys, impeccable timing.

But this is nothing new. The Catholic Church has been badly run since Jesus left Peter in charge. That an organization so completely incompetent that they can’t hire a decent web designer to produce a photo tribute has managed to survive for nearly 2000 years shows that God must be behind it.

— 7 —

Many conservative Catholics have posted/retweeted outspoken Athiest Penn Gillette’s “defense” of the Papacy against liberal Catholic Piers Morgan.

Only problem is that Penn is an atheist. He’s not defending anything. He’s actually harshly criticizing the Papacy and the Catholic Church and mocking Piers Morgan for trying to have it both ways.

Some of the funniest moments happen when someone is the butt of a joke and doesn’t realize it.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Sharp Dressed Man (What I Wore Sunday)

My favorite response to the What I Wore Sunday linkup was from a Priest:

He said he wore Purple over White over Black: Same as last Sunday.

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What I Wore Sunday: Clergy Edition

Although my Sunday wardrobe is not quite as predictable as that of the clergy, it’s not much more interesting.

What I Wore Sunday doesn’t make a lot of sense for guys. Guys usually wear very similar things each week: Coat and tie, polo shirt and khakis, Or at the more casual parishes, jeans and a t-shirt.

What I Wore Sunday is all about celebrating the feminine genius by posting pictures of all the many different ways that women attire themselves for attending mass.

So why am I posting?

The reason why I am posting is that there have been a couple of things that have made me rethink what I wear to Church on Sunday.

The first was in adult Sunday School, when our instructor mentioned that she felt it was important to dress well. It was a part of worship to bring her best before God. At mass, we take part in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and should dress accordingly.

The second was Jennifer Fulwiler’s post about chapel veils. Basically, Jennifer feels called to veil, but doesn’t want to stick out as THE WOMAN IN THE CHAPEL VEIL. To her relief, she didn’t feel like she stuck out when she veiled, so she is going to keep on doing it.

So, what does this have to do with me?

I go to Sunday morning mass at a “polo shirt and khaki” parish. A couple of women veil, but they are very much the exception. A few men wear coats and ties, but they are more unusual. A few men wear jeans.

I usually dress up when I lector. I have the clothes and they don’t get much use now that I have gone from a job requiring business clothes to a more casual office. But this week, I wasn’t lectoring, but I did wear a coat and tie.

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What I wore this Sunday

I have to admit that I liked dressing up. I did take mass more seriously. But I can’t say I did it out of humility. In fact, the spirit is somewhat contrary to humility: I am dressing my best out of respect for the Body and Blood of Christ. Which, for me, makes it difficult not to reason that others are not.

Should I keep wearing a coat and tie as a sign of respect, or go back to the polo shirt and khaki’s to be less noticeable and more humble?

To complicate matters, the Sunday night student mass is come-as-you-are-casual. The Saturday night vigil mass is almost as casual. Should I ever attend these masses dressed in coat and tie I would stick out. So, I may not do the same for these masses.

This isn’t a fashion question as much as it is a spiritual one. How do you determine what is and is not appropriate attire for mass. Or am I overthinking the whole thing?

Note: This is strictly about my spiritual attitudes about what I wear to Church on Sunday. If you feel called to wear a coat and tie or shorts and flip-flops or anything in-between, that is between you and God.

7 Quick Takes – Volume 8 (Films About Ghosts)

— 1 —

The big news is that K started her job. It is technically a part-time position, but it’s over 30 hours per week. Seeing that at least one commenter knows where we live, I will not comment as to the details of the job, except that it is in her field and doesn’t pay too badly. Now that we are paying Catholic school tuition, it helps to have a second income.

— 2 —

The children have their second four day weekend in two weeks. The first one was a weather day we didn’t use followed by Presidents Day. This is for a diocesan teacher conference. So we’ve had to stay busy.

We are fortunate that both of our jobs are flexible. I can work from home if I need to and K’s job is very flexible about when she puts in her hours. Some things are more important than money, and flexibility is HUGE.

— 3 —

Yesterday was a good day. A former client informed me that the woman who had falsely accused him of a crime and falsely accused me of misconduct had been arrested on charges of embezzlement and obtaining property by false pretenses.

If you live a life of dishonesty, eventually it will catch up with you.

— 4 —

The Pope resigned yesterday.

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It’s gonna be OK.

— 5 —

So, who will be the next Pope? The guys at Busted Halo have created a tournament bracket for the Vatican’s March Madness.

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Much like the real NCAA men’s basketball tournament, my top choice did a one-and-done.

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How could you go wrong with Catholicism Wow! and the Buddy Christ?

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The Church doesn’t know what it is missing!

— 6 —

The Paulists (who would totally be into Catholicism Wow!) were largely responsible for my “formation”. As were Kevin Smith movies.

But now the Paulists have left and the theater where I watched so many of those movies (and worked for a summer) is closed.

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The Astro III in “better days”. Now it’s closed and boarded up.

The Astro III was a horrible, dated movie theater. It smelled like 35 years worth of stale popcorn, spilled soda, and who knows what else. Sometimes the projector would break, leading to impromptu “intermissions” while they fixed it. The seats were wobbly and the floors were sticky.

But it was the best damn movie theater ever. They got movies that wouldn’t come to anywhere else in the area, including Kevin Smith movies, although it was usually a couple weeks after release. I remember seeing Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back there. Admission was only $1.00 growing up, although it had increased to $2.00 by the time the picture was taken. The Astro III was a night of cheap entertainment. The theaters were always packed and they more than made up for the low admission price at the concession stand.

The theater was always very profitable, but the lease expired a few years ago. The owners wanted to develop the property into condos, but then the market crashed. It’s still standing, but is now borded up and vacant.

And the price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings.

— 7 —

And then there is that strange moment when you are searching for pictures to put in your blog post when find that girl that you used to sit next to in homeroom and haven’t seen in over 15 years has a hobby taking pictures of movie theaters. Lots of pictures of movie theaters.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!