Saturday, September 26, 2015
Burning down the house
This past week my oldest son received a Lego Junior fire station set as an unexpected gift from his cousins. It is his first Lego set and he is totally captivated by it. He has played with it constantly and shows no sign of tiring of it like he does other toys. It was a wonderful gift totally in accord with his desires and longing to be immersed in the world of firefighters.
Not surprisingly, my youngest son is also completely mesmerized by the set. He relishes the few opportunities he gets to play with the truck and station on his own without his brother around. The thing about it though is that he breaks pieces off every single time he touches it! So in the span of 5 minutes the truck no longer has its ladder, windshield, doors, or rear seating compartment and the station no longer has its slide, door handle, chair, windows, antenna, garage, ramps to the garage, upper wall, external hydrant . . . you get the picture. The gift intended for his brother is totally in accord with his desires too and he longs to be immersed in the world of firefighters via this portal. Currently though at his young age, with imprecise fine motor skills, he cannot help but steadily and predictably destroy the very thing with which he is enthralled.
I bring it up here because it has struck me as an analogy for helping to process the SCOTUS ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
So what specifically are the contours of the analogy I am referencing?
|"Lego Fire Station" by ShadowMan39 is licensed under C.C. 2.0|
An unexpected gift arrives from thoughtful relatives. It is spot on in terms of fulfilling a longing we have. This is what God our father has done in giving humanity natural and sacramental marriage. We all long to love and be loved for, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.” (Redemptor hominis #10)
The possibility of remaining exclusively, permanently and fruitfully bound to a spouse is a longing proper to all human hearts. St. John Paul II calls it the primordial sacrament, or the sign that actually makes God present in the world from the very dawn of creation.
Some of humanity is capable of receiving the surprise gift in an appropriate way that keeps the gift intact. Some of humanity is not. Here’s a kicker though, we all start out not being able to keep the gift intact, but with time, patience and training (by God) we develop the necessary skills and finesse to interact appropriately within the confines of the gift. After the Fall, all of humanity experiences a wound in our most vulnerable interiority. We desire things that do not correspond to our longing for love. We are attracted by lies, counterfeits and knockoffs. Because of this gaping wound everyone needs to learn how to grow beyond the ultimate poison to marriage which is “hardness of heart” (Mt 19:8). So the remedy for any of us being able to live out the intricate gift of marriage well is time, virtue and God’s grace.
This is why, in part, I’m so displeased with the SCOTUS ruling. It ignores the crescendo of time, virtue and grace that humanity has been learning to implement when it comes to the tremendous gift of marriage down from Adam and Eve, through Abraham, David, Hosea, Moses, Jesus, my ancestors to me. But actually, I can’t be too harsh on the 5 Justices that ruled so wrongly late in June because marriage in America has been consistently ruled against for generations (if we wanted to try, we might pinpoint the first major turn with the ruling on contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut).
I am disturbed that so many in our culture remain where my younger son is, constantly destructing and unable to leave an intact structure for others.
Spelling it out even more in the terms of the analogy, everyone’s proclivities to all sorts of sexual sins have been breaking pieces off of sacramental marriage (when two baptized Christians profess vows) and natural marriage (when a baptized Christian marries a non-Christian, or two non-Christians marry) for so long that we no longer have a fire station standing in Western culture. We just have a pile of recognizable pieces, deconstructed and seemingly read for our own designs. But this will not work for man who must participate intimately in love in order to fully receive himself.
I’m not angry at the “Gay lobby”, they’re just applying the same logic that our culture has been applying since even before Margaret Sanger was up to no good at the turn of the century. The widespread acceptance of no fault divorce means that marriage is not truly expected to be permanent for many in our culture and the ubiquitous use of contraception and sterilization have made intimacy between men and women unfruitful and closed to the possibility of lovingly accepting children from the first moment of their conception. So if men and women are not permanently and fruitfully bound together in marriage, what would be the rational basis in our courts for distinguishing between marriage and same sex civil unions now erroneously referred to as “marriage” in our nation?
I’m disheartened when my sons get overwhelmed by the intricate details of their Lego fire station. One of them can play well with the gift, the other can only slowly destroy it. This realization has enabled me to process my thoughts and emotions in the wake of June 26, 2015. I long for the time when more of us learn our lessons and grow to be like my older son, playing in accord with our limits—and therefore are free to love authentically and be loved fully.
What’s helping you process the SCOTUS ruling?