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March 19, 2004

One Way, Turn Back, or Go Around

Boyd Garrett comments on pessimism about the fate of marriage and (if I may extrapolate) our culture:

Marriage has been severely damaged over the past several decades, but the optimist in me refuses to believe that this is a one-way trip. The current state of marriage cries out for us to rescue it, not abandon it.

There is certainly reason to be optimistic no matter the outcome, inasmuch as the best can be made of any circumstance and positive progress can always be pursued. To be sure, my faith is such that I believe the "rescue" to be the purpose, no matter the immediate success of the attempt. But still...

We have to adjust for our historical point of perspective. The United States, for example, will cease to exist as currently constituted. The social forces pushing from inside and out will necessitate such a change, no matter how unforeseeable the specifics may be.

Moreover, those social forces never reverse along the same path. The question, then, becomes whether the circuitous necessity will loop outside of our culture as we know it. It's too early to tell, at this time, but we can nonetheless suggest — optimistically — that such principles as those crystallized in traditional marriage seem to have a way of coming around again.

Posted by Justin Katz at March 19, 2004 2:25 PM

In the next few years, perhaps a high-profile, committed gay or lesbian couple will inspire heterosexuals to give the marriage covenant a second look. Maybe it will take the example of gays and lesbians working to create stable relationships to spark straights out of their complacency.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at March 19, 2004 3:11 PM

Actually, Joel, I think the arguments against same-sex marriage are probably already firming up marriages. What happens if the conclusions of that thinking are thwarted, I don't know. It's a risk without evidence, to say the least.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 19, 2004 3:16 PM

As I think some homosexual orientations are probably God-given, I'm obviously going to have a different perspective on same-sex relationships to the extent that I don't think they are per se sinful. I also support and encourage anyone who wishes either to try to change their sexual orientation or to live a life of celibacy.

Nevertheless, heterosexuality is the norm and I favor limiting the institution of marriage to heterosexuals. The joining of male and female has a particularly sacred purpose in the bringing forth of new life.

Society, though, has brought many of the problems on itself by treating homosexuals as lepers, while winking at fornication.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at March 19, 2004 3:40 PM

This is a tough nut to crack, no doubt.

But there's not a shred of doubt in my mind that a marriage between a man and a woman is quite distinct from any same-sex relationship.

Posted by: Boyd at March 19, 2004 8:20 PM

"Moreover, those social forces never reverse along the same path."

This is an idea, that I think many fail to fully grasp in all it's complexity. This failure is revealed in assertions that, for example, conservatives, in wanting to thwart or at least slow down some form of "social progress," simply want to "turn back the clock on...." This metaphor is so old, it really ought to be retired (or maybe even taken behind the barn and shot).

In the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, there is a huge pendulum suspended from the ceiling with a giant brass ball at the bottom. Inlaid in the marble floor is a large image of a compass. When you ascend the staircase and look down, the pendulum swings (depending on the time of year) from north to south. But if you go 3 months later, because of the rotation of the earth, the pendulum now appears to swing from east to west.

So while the pendulum does what a pendulum can only do (swing back and forth) the condition the pendulum exists in changes ever so slightly every day, that it never goes back & forth to the exact same place.

I realize the imperfection of the analogy. And please forgive me for reviving one tired metaphor at the expense of another.

Posted by: Bob Pokoj at March 20, 2004 10:00 AM


Yes, the warning about conservatives who wish to "turn back the clock" contributes to my sense that, for many, it's more a matter of defending decisions made than understanding what those decisions entailed and wrought.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 20, 2004 11:43 PM