Monday, February 9, 2015

Such a time as this

 From the Associated Press this morning:
"The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex weddings to start in Alabama, letting the number of gay-marriage states climb in advance of a constitutional showdown that may mean legalization nationwide.   
In a 7-2 order, the justices rejected Alabama’s bid to stop a federal trial judge’s legalization order from taking effect Monday. The state now will become the 37th where gays can marry."
At first glance, this perhaps doesn't look like much in terms of news. States' marriage laws have been crashing down left and right like felled timber over the past 2 years, and it's hardly shocking that Alabama has joined the ranks of the other 36 places in the U.S. where same sex couples can legally contract a "marriage."

No big deal, right?

Live and let live, and live the life you love, and you love who you love, and all the other platitudes that fill the airwaves and our ears in this modern cultural milieu.

I have some news for us Christians, and maybe it's going to come as a bit of a shock, but it may well be that none of those clever turns of phrase are going to apply to us before too long.

Make no mistake, this has never been about simply leveling the playing field so that all may freely participate in the institution of marriage; what it is about - what it has always been about - is redefining and recreating marriage into something else entirely.

And when something gets redefined, the old definition is, by necessity, destroyed. Retired into the annals of history, if you will. Marked down as a tried-and-failed social experiment, and abandoned in the name of Progress.

If you believe that Christians, Jews, progressive Muslims, people of other faiths who practice monogamous, heterosexual life-long fidelity within the context of a religious sacrament are going to be allowed to continue to teach, preach, and contract said marriages in peace once gay "marriage" is enshrined as the law of the land, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Maybe not immediately, but highly likely in the not-too-distant future

If you think you're going to be able to teach your publicly-schooled fourth grader that sex is sacred and reserved for the intimate communion of marriage between husband and wife, you may have another think coming. (And possibly a visit from CPS, to boot.)

Once gay "marriage" becomes the law of the land, it will no longer be possible to hold a competing worldview and still be viewed, either professionally or legally, as a person of good will.

You will be a bigot, first and foremost. A menace to the pluralistic good of a society unshackled from the burdensome moral code of the past. And your kind - our kind - may not be tolerated.

Oh, it might not be a matter of legal troubles, at least not yet. It will probably be a quieter persecution. Passed over for a promotion. Let go from a job. Denied entry to a committee or school organization. Little things like that, white martyrdoms in varying shades of grey.

Because you see, it's not really possible to live and let live when life trajectories are fundamentally opposed. Something has to give, someone has to yield.

We can't all be right.

Relativism only works on paper. In real life it plays out like this: someone is right, and someone else is a bigot who is breaking the law.

Marriage can't be both a monogamous, permanent, life-long commitment between a man and a woman and an open-ended sexual relationship configured by any two consenting adults. The two definitions are fundamentally contradictory.

And while I may be perfectly capable of ignoring the antics and goings-on behind my neighbor's bedroom doors right now, when I am forced to publicly endorse their lifestyle by the laws of the land, my reality is altered.

Then it's no longer live and let live, but becomes instead applaud what we do and accept what we teach, because you are now legally bound.

It's time for us to wake up. Authentic Christian charity doesn't mean turning a blind eye to social ills and harmful behavior just because they're fashionable, trending heavily on Twitter, and popular in Hollywood.

I can love my gay brother or sister - and indeed, true love is willing the good of the other - without endorsing the institution of gay "marriage."

But I may not have that option forever.

One day in the not-too-distant future, it might not be okay to say that in public. It may be something we whisper in private: "oh, we still believe in the Sacrament of Marriage personally, but we can't talk about it here."

And you know what? That's on us. We have been hand-picked, each one of us, to occupy this unique space in this place and time in history. So what witness are you prepared to give, and what defense for the faith you have?

We ought to be praying, fasting, working like crazy to share the goodness and the truth and the beauty of married love. Not sticking our heads in the sand and pulling our kids, our voices, our potential to be influencers and world changers, out of the public square.

We have to be fearless. St. John Paul II said to us, over and over again, "be not afraid." This is the heart of the Gospel: perfect love that casts out all fear.

I won't let my fear of what somebody may think of me prevent me from speaking the truth. And so long as we have the freedom to do so, we ought to be speaking it boldly, humbly, inviting people in to the Faith, not cowering in church doorways, bracing ourselves for disaster.

Be not afraid. Over and over again, I have to remind myself. Be not afraid.

Gay "marriage" isn't going to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart; only the one Who created us can do that. Let's invite as many people as we can to experience the truth of that firsthand. Jesus is what this sad, suffering culture of ours seeks, whether or not they know Him by name. And if we center our lives and our marriages on Him, we cannot lose.

Marriage is a beautiful vocation, and it is worthy of being defended. But it is our lived example that speaks volumes to a visually distracted and chaotic culture starved for beauty.
So that awkward encounter with a fellow commuter holding a matching newspaper early in the morning? Be not afraid.

A hard conversation with a beloved friend or college roommate who champions an alternate view of marriage? Be not afraid.

An unpopular stance with your child's school administration for the sake of your impressionable 5th grader who won't be participating in the sex-ed program? Be not afraid.

"For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14


  1. This is so well written and so true. You have a beautiful way with words, and this post is awesome. Thank you.

  2. First of all, thank you for your boldness. I've really enjoyed reading your blog over the past few months as I've returned to church. Now, I realize I'll likely be in the minority here.... but I'm simply not with you here. (In fairness, this is one of the big issues I'm still struggling with in general, especially after a woman at a recent Respect Life meeting I attended told me she found all the gays/gay pride in our town "just SICKENING!" I stared at the portrait of Pope Francis on the wall and asked myself what love would do... Anyway.). I was raised in a Catholic home that never claimed our faith held The Answers, but rather presented it as a beautiful way to "live the questions." I also recently read an article that described fundamentalism, in part, as reactionary, and fundamentalists as having a "claim to a monopoly on truth." You say we have to be "fearless," but this post seems rooted in fear--of where you think marriage and our country is headed, of what will happen to "the children." I'd sooner leave my children with my (legally married) gay friends than anyone who'd claim to teach them "the without-a-doubt Truth." In any case.... I'm gonna reread what you wrote and keep praying about it ;)

    1. Hi Emy!

      I think you should definitely through the 31 days on love and marriage from October 2014 on this blog for the explanation about why Catholics don't believe in gay marriage. I think it will explain why this post isn't rooted in fear (at least the kind of fear you're discussing - I'm sure she's very fearful of folks not getting to enjoy life in heaven - hence the "willing the good of the other")- she's just not giving a full explanation because she has done that so eloquently in other places on the blog.

    2. Thanks, Tara. I'll definitely do that. I guess my next question, then, is in regards to separation of church and state. The Church will not change her definition of marriage, but she does not govern our country. I, for example, am staunchly pro-life, but for both religious and secular reasons (and in terms of changing laws, the latter is needed). I don't yet see how this issue is on par with that. Not trying to rabble rouse, just legitimately sorting through everything. Going back to read Jennifer Fulwiler's posts in the same vein. These are big conversations not promoted at the dinner tables I tend to be seated around, so I find myself doing something I never thought I would: Turning to the internet on repeat. :)

    3. Thank you both, Emy and Tara, for reading.

      Tara pretty much nailed it. One thing that I was really trying to avoid was sounding as if I were coming from a place of fear, but in all honesty, there is some fear and trembling involved when I survey the cultural landscape and look down in my babies' faces and wonder about what their young adulthood will bring. And no, that's not all to do with gay marriage by any means, but it is for sure a prominent symptom of a culture which is ill and faltering. The family is being broken down in many other ways, of course, but I've noticed a real reticence in the Christian and Catholic world to even speak the truth into this issue in the past year or so, especially. This is one of those hard, bold truths that is both difficult to digest and potentially tricky to communicate, but no less true for all that.

      I would challenge your definition of the faith as not holding the answers, because if not, then...what is there, really? I mean, I would wager that an earnest believer in any religious tradition believes thusly, but even so, only one of us can be right. Is that a hard sell to make to a pluralistic and relativistic culture? Hell yeah. But it's no less true. So yes, of course I believe that Catholicism holds the fullness of truth, and that's where I write from.

      I love the feedback, and I just hopped over to your blog and read back a few posts' worth, and I can tell you're going to be a new spot for me to stop by regularly :)

    4. Thanks for responding, and for clicking over to my oft-neglected blog :) I'm certainly concerned when people define themselves solely or mainly by their sexuality.... I'm just still very much in the muck of figuring out what I think about the whole shebang, and what the Church says and why, and how it's all connected, and... Oy vey! Where is the off switch?! ;)

      As for "the answers".... I'm not sure I have a good answer :) I guess I'd say I believe in leaving room for doubt. (As Christian Wiman said in an interview, "I believe God calls some of us to unbelief, in order that faith might take new forms." As a God-in-all-things kind of girl, I love this.) I think as soon as you say you have THE TRUTH, you alienate and eliminate people and their stories and experiences, and you put parameters on the limitless. I've been very fortunate to live and work in a lot of different places and meet so many kinds of people, and I tend to think in faces and relationships instead of issues alone. I believe in the idea of "many paths, one mountain." Or, as my mom recently put it, "many facets, same diamond"--all are capable of reflecting the light, but none ARE the light. I also believe in paradox, and I am generally better at seeking than finding. I tend to feel lost and found all at once these days.

      OK, wowza.... Time to catch up on Downton :) It is terrifying for me to talk about this stuff "in public" (in general), so thanks for your time and kindness, especially on this somewhat abstract, tangential thread. x

    5. Too add to this already wonderfully articulated conversation, I struggle the same way. I pray about it, but I am not 100 percent on board with the Church, but I try. The thing that I can never argue with though is The Eucharist. How can one argue with that? It is what keeps things real for me. If I were to separate myself from that aspect, I would probably end up down the rabbit hole...u know? That has happened to me before.

    6. Yes, many paths, one truth. But there must "be" a truth, a final destination, a collision with reality, if you will, that the seeker arrives at. Not to seek for seeking's sake, but to discover and then celebrate (and cling to) the Truth.

      To say otherwise is to empty the Cross of its power, and to strip away the meaning from His sacrifice. Either He suffered, died and rose from the dead to save us and set us free, or none of that matters: Calvary, the Eucharist, the Resurrection.

      Seeking is worthy and necessary, and doubt is a powerful tool to move one's heart to wonder and question...but the entire point is to arrive at Truth: to meet Him, face to face.

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    8. I struggled with this somewhat too until it was pointed out to me that there *is* a secular reason to oppose gay marriage. I think legal conclusions should ideally be based on secular grounds. Why does the state care about marriage? It's because of the children; the state has an obligation to protect them and take care of them if their family is not able. If two people are going to be doing something that can spontaneously bring forth children, it's in the state's interest that they stay together in a stable family. That's why marriage comes with so many benefits.
      This does not apply to having children by adoption/surrogacy/etc, since there are other checkpoints in place for that. Hence, the state has no interest in recognizing marriage between two people of the same sex. You could argue that this means the state also shouldn't recognize a marriage that will be infertile, but that's not the case. First, few cases of infertility are completely final and sure (basically nothing short of a hysterectomy) and there are also issues with the state having access to people's medical records. Also, this is something people could just lie about and it would be unproductive to track them down (of course we as Catholics know that there is a lot more fundamental difference between infertile couples and homosexual couples, but this is my attempt at an argument from a purely secular point of view)

      I'd be fine with the state setting up another legal framework to make it easier to grant hospital visitation/inheritance/etc rights, but then it should be available to anyone (e.g. siblings)

    9. Gina, you are pretty much exactly where I am with this. Hospital visitations, inheritance, fine. But the cultural issue (besides condoning something - respectfully- unnatural and therefore harmful to our souls) is about the kids and their RIGHT to have a mother and a father. Of course not all children have this, but when that happens (single mother household for example), it's implied that this situation isn't ideal. But gay "marriage" allows a household without a father, or without a mother, to be the intention, and among the options of "ideal" and that directly, intentionally goes against the right of the child, who was created from both a man and a woman. This was a super interesting article about adult children raised by gay parents...

  3. Again, probably in the minority, but I find this to be a beautiful and important reflection:

  4. "Relativism only works on paper."
    That line alone is work a Sheenazing Award!
    Great piece!

  5. In Canada they just overturned a ban on assisted suicide. I was having similar thoughts about that. It just blows my mind, like what is that going to look like in 10 years?

  6. What. Just, WHAT. Im pretty new to your blog but I can not for the life of me understand why anyone can separate gay "marriage" as you say, with any other kind of marriage. Its 2 people loving each other. How can that be anything bad? ITS LOVE. Love. Love that I personally think is the strongest force in the world. How can love be something bad? Its 2 adult human beings loving each other.

    1. Of course two adults of any gender configuration can love each other, but only the life long love pledge of fidelity, fruitfulness, and faithfulness between two persons of the opposite sex can be identified as marriage.

      Marriage is, by its very nature, life giving and images the Trinity in its potential for bringing forth from that love entirely new persons. Whatever else homosexual relationships can claim to fulfill, they can never, by their intrinsic nature, be life giving.

      The "love is love" slogan is super popular right now, but it's not logical. Of course love between friends, love between siblings, love between parents and children is real love, but it isn't married love. There's a very exacting formula that makes up that definition: one man and one woman.

    2. Ok, I really get (and actually love) that people see this differently, as its just a proof that freedom of speech is working as it should. But explain this to me - if I (a straight woman) marry my (straight) boyfriend, is it only a real marriage if we have children? Wouldn't that mean your marriage is not "real" until you have kids? What if you don't want children, or can't have them? Is that not a real marriage?

    3. In the same way that straight marriages are not only about sex, neither are gay marriages. Instead of making blanket statements about a segment of the population with which you clearly have limited contact, where's your blog post calling out Newt Gingrinch and all the other Christian men who make a mockery of marriage by cheating on their wives? The gay couples I know, including my own mother and her wife, have been together for decades. Marriage is, and always has been, a legal arrangement. There's a reason why you have to get a civil marriage certificate before being married by your clergy. Get off your high horse. It's the most Christian thing you can do--do not judge, lest you be judged. Spend more time worrying about your own soul and leave the rest of us out of it.

    4. And you're right about the bigot part. You're no better than the people who used the bible to justify denying marriage licenses to interracial couples.

    5. If I'm following your reasoning through, you are equating gay "marriage" with interracial marriages (utterly false) and then justifying the existence of the sin of homosexuality with the existence of the sin of adultery .... um, rock solid.

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  8. "And you know what? That's on us. We have been hand-picked, each one of us, to occupy this unique space in this place and time in history. "

    ughhhhhhh it hurts. like labor. darn you Jenny Uebbing!

    praying my old self dies a cold hard death and quickly - that the Spirit in me may enbolden me to proclaim these convictions that are so. hard. for me to voice.

  9. Your fears about what ten years from now will look like for you and yours ("Passed over for a promotion. Let go from a job. Denied entry to a committee or school organization.") are REALITY for many gay, lesbian, and transgender people.

    1. We all suffer when discrimination and persecution are enshrined by evil policies and unjust laws. But I think we're talking about two separate issues here. I am arguing FOR the defense of the sacrament and institution of marriage, not (of course not!) FOR the persecution of individuals who struggle with same sex attraction.

      That is only and always wrong, no matter who it is directed towards. We are all worthy of dignity and respect.

  10. I really doubt that in the future you will be passed up for promotions, fired, or prevented from joining school boards because of your personal convictions.
    Also statistically, gay men and women are somewhere between 1 and 3 percent of the population -- there are far fewer gay couples who want to marry than straight couples who are "child-free by choice," unmarried but having kids, or who married in old age . There are not enough gay couples to change secular marriage.Marriage changed all on its own, with no help from gay people, in the last 100 years.

    If you want it to change back, it seems much more productive to focus on reviving the traditional notion of marriage and selling its benefits amongst the population at large, rather than keeping a tiny portion of the population (who, by the way, may already have biological or adoptive children who need stable homes and family structures too) from accessing its legal, financial and social benefits.

    1. People already are being passed up for promotions based on their personal convictions on this issue.

    2. Laura. you're right, I think it's pretty bad that this guy was pushed out because of one donation he made six years ago. On the other hand, it's misleading to say this guy was forced to resign because of "personal convictions." He was pushed out because he gave a ton of money to a political cause. Also, he's a CEO -- a public figure and one whose actions are rightfully subject to more scrutiny. you can be pushed out of your CEO job for any number of things, including the occasional asinine remark or just because somebody wanted a little higher dividend, etc. CEOS are in a privileged position.

      I do think it's bad that private businesses are being pressed to provide services (like cakes) for gay marriage. People should be able to have some say over those types of decisions.

      But on the whole, I still the fear of being seriously victimized for these particular beliefs is unjustified. People have all sorts of unpopular, wacky and downright pernicious beliefs in this country and most are allowed to go on with life without being hassled.

    3. Tia,
      How would you respond to the latest legislature in California that bans state judges from being state judges while affiliating with the Boy Scouts of America because of their refusal to allow homosexual leaders? I can't add links from my phone but you can google "California judges Boy Scouts" and read several news articles.

    4. Ashlea, i think what you're describing is a bad law, though not specifically because it has to do with the Boy Scouts, but because judges should have a right to free speech and association just like other citizens. It's also weird because the law seems to exempt membership in religious organizations that discriminate, which actually have a much larger impact than the Boy Scouts. Also, the law was put in place in 1996, but the Boy Scouts were exempted then. What's happened now is that the supreme court of California has repealed the (somewhat arbitrary) exemption.
      But sorry, I don't see this as a sign of some impending wave of persecution of gay marriage opponents. Public officials (and even others, such as journalists) often have to face many restrictions on their behavior that ordinary citizens don't.

  11. This is so hard for me. I agree with the Church, even before I returned to the Church. But my only sister is a practicing lesbian. What can I publicly do that isn't insulting to her? Detrimental to our relationship? Maybe standing up for the truth is the only right option, come what may, but I don't want to debate with strangers anyhow, and I just can't open that can of worms. I never thought I was a coward until writing this, but I think I am. Lord have mercy.

  12. This was super brave of you to write...thank you for your courage and example!!

  13. Amanda, I empathize with your predicament, as I, too, have a close relation who is openly gay; as a Catholic, I obviously do not condone the lifestyle. Cardinal Dolan once gave an interview in which he was asked to address the problem of gays who feel that the Catholic Church, in fighting to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, is marginalizing them. Cardinal Dolan explained the distinction between crusades which are anti-something or anti-someone, versus the crusades that are pro/FOR something. He sees the Catholic Church's mission as being FOR traditional marriage, because of the benefit to society-- most especially the children who might be the fruit of the union. You can be pro-marriage without being against your sister. Being pro-marriage doesn't mean you have to go shouting on street corners, wearing a sandwich board that reads, "Homosexuality is an Abomination." I mean, MANY things are gravely wrong and abominable, but we don't hold protests over them. It's crucial to remember that promoting traditional marriage can be more about standing up for your beliefs when the topic comes up in social situations, providing fiscal support to certain organizations, writing letters to share your concerns and views with policymakers, etc. etc....and, of course, never ceasing to PRAY!
    I think it's actually more harmful to our cause when traditional marriage advocates point a finger at the gay community as the big or sole threat, and overlook some of the others (and, just to clarify, I don't believe that ALL trad marriage advocates do this). Statistically, no-fault divorce has been just as pernicious a force against the good of the family and society as "gay marriage" has (check out William B. May's study), yet it often seems as though there isn't enough effort to address the social/cultural problems which contribute to the prevalence of divorce. Unfortunately, it might seem to gay people that the Catholic Church is holding ONLY them responsible for the ills of society, when a good many heterosexuals are spitting upon the institution.
    So, certainly, you can't be "for" your sister in the way she might want you to be, but one must remember that sexual orientation isn't the whole of our identity. All of us-- gay or straight, tall or short, smart or stupid-- are made in God's image and likeness, and share a common humanity. You can have an otherwise positive relationship with your sister, taking interest in things going on in her life and spending time with her, without either of you assigning as a condition that the other must sacrifice her own views or moral convictions. In the meantime, pray for her and your relationship with her, keep the lines of communication open, etc. She'll be more likely to see that your stance on traditional marriage has nothing to do with bigotry or hating her, if you show her in other ways that you DO love her and care about her welfare-- which you obviously do, since you admitted that you are reluctant to do/say anything which might hurt her. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself.
    Also, I think Gina made some very insightful remarks above, in which she pointed out that there are a good many secular reasons for promoting traditional marriage and discouraging the institutionalization of alternative family models. Caesar Augustus was a pagan who promoted the institution of marriage, giving significant tax advantages for marrying and for childbearing, while imposing fiscal penalties for the crime of adultery. What was the fruit of this? The Pax Romana! Social stability and economic prosperity. It's a proven model. I'm not saying that the theological arguments don't have their own value in many situations, but when it comes to reaching out to others with very different ideologies, it's probably more helpful to focus on the practical/social implications of the marriage question. Phew. OK, I'm done.

  14. This is a HUGE struggle for me. I work in the fine arts, and am literally surrounded by gay people. I love them, and they are very gifted. Only in recent years have I come to practice my faith fully (not be a "cafeteria Catholic"), and finally realized the truth about love, marriage, theology of the body, sex, etc. I'm not sure how to handle my "change of heart" when it comes to dealing with my gay friends, as I have gone from blatant/open support (politically) to this new position of believing Church teaching. You are right, Jenny. But, we have to figure out how to do this with love, and I think the witnesses of our faithful, fruitful marriages are also a big part of it. There is a former gay porn star who is a Catholic revert who writes extensively about this. His name is Joseph Sciambra.

  15. "If you believe that Christians, Jews, Muslims, people of other faiths who practice monogamous, heterosexual life-long fidelity...." Really? Did you just say that Muslims are monogamous?

    1. Most Muslims are monogamous! It's the minority who aren't. My parents are Muslim and would no more practice polygamy than the average person on the street.

  16. Jenny, this article was spot on.

    I have a lot of friends/relatives in academia, and its already happening there. My twin, in a PhD program in medieval history, was already being profiled where all the students were asked to donate $5 to a "marriage equality" pro-gay-marriage group, and I think the results were even public. Because the donation was so small, it was really a statement of belief.
    A friend, in a PhD program in nursing, was emotionally bullied for not believing in gay marriage---and she was terrified of being kicked out of the program if she let them know what she believed---it wasn't even like she was outspoken. Professors, fellow students, etc, made it very clear how awful and terrible it would be if she didn't believe in it, and did probing assignments, etc, to see where she stood.
    It's coming. People might think you're being a doomsayer, but only because they do not recognize the signs of the times....because truthfully, its already happening.
    And as for "gays only making up 3 percent of the population" that is changing too. There's been a push in psychology and counselling fields to tell people they gay. My psych proff in undergrad gave us a bogus "test" where he tried to convince us that the majority of us were "bisexual---gay" spectrum, where even my very heterosexual friend who has never struggled with same sex attraction tested "bisexual."
    There's a push to recruit impressionable teenagers and confused young people...and now with the crumbling of marriage, the prevalence of divorce, hook-up culture, and children raised by 2 moms or 2 dads, we see ever-increasing amounts of gender confusion and identity confusion...

    So let's "kneel before the Father(pater) from whom every family (patria) in heaven and on earth derives its name....for only by returning to Him can we rebuild the ruined foundations again, of what families are supposed to be.

  17. Yes, we must not be afraid! It is very tempting to seek the shelter of like minded Catholic families and to protect our children from the evils of society, but we are called to show our light, not hide it under the bushel. Our children will be the ones to lead the Truth out into society, so we must not only equip them with the skills to share the Truth, but we must lead by example. We must live out authentic marriages, share the beauty of sacrificial love, be bold!


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