Letters to My Kids


Dear Kids,

Shit happens.

As followers of Christ we have a particular understanding of why this is so; but every story that ‘explains’ humanity must deal with the reality in some way. Well… perhaps that’s not true. It’s hard to believe that anyone really denies that it is so, but I’m afraid our whole society is founded on a life devoted to just such a denial.

It goes like this:

Shit doesn’t happen. Rather blessings in disguise happen.

There’s no tragedy that so stains our lives that its stench can’t be washed off with a little bit of elbow grease.

No pain need be permanent. No failure lasting. No discomfort or imperfection imagined apart from a remedy.

Its not really shit, or it doesn’t really happen- at least not to me; at least not to (fill in the blank) people.

Now of course as followers of Christ we ought to agree that things are not the way they are supposed to be, and that one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes. On that day ‘all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’  That’s very true. This setting things right is the proper Xian understanding of justice; and certainly we ought to manifest a concern for justice in every area of our lives- ‘far as the curse is found,’ but…

… though we long for that great day on which the New Age arrives in its fullness, and though we live our lives so as to manifest the life of that Eternal Age in the midst of this present one, this Present Age is broken and dying.

This is another way of saying that honest-to-god, horrible, tragic ‘shit’…

… really happens.

This is part of the story of the world that you were grafted into at your baptism. It’s the story of the world according to the crucified and risen Christ.

Suffering exists.

Injustice exists.

Pain and loneliness exist.

Disappointment and unfulfilled dreams, longings and desires exist.

Really exist.

Sometimes for a lifetime.

And we don’t have to scan the newspapers for the exotic or sensational. Everyone ages. That means- as I’m learning- all sorts of new pain, difficulties and embarrassments. We all die. We, every one of us, hurt others. That’s the reality. Some of these things are the consequence of personal choices; many are not. For both the innocent and the guilty the world is fallen. Tornadoes don’t discriminate.

This isn’t to say that these things are okay. Rather it’s to affirm that creation is not the way it should be. This brokenness is the way it is. To acknowledge this is to simply affirm that we need a savior- that we are in need of saving… not primarily from God (as some traditions would have it- though God certainly hates those things that harm the ones he loves), but from ourselves, sin and death.

God responded to evil by entering into it. It wasn’t denied. He didn’t ‘make sense’ of it. It wasn’t immediately cured; nor did he run from it. Rather he came to join those whom tragedy had broken. He wept. He found their pain and guilt, and acted as if they were his own- his pain; his fault, and he did all for the glory that was set before him… on the other side of death. By that I don’t mean the life that awaited him after he ‘went to heaven when he died,’ but rather the new creation of this world that was his resurrection- the consequence of his obedience unto death; this means that when the spikes were driven into his wrists, it was a joy visible only by faith in the goodness and faithfulness of his Father.

And so…

  •  ‘I was expecting you,’ ought to be our greeting when the wolf of evil pushes open the door to our cabin.
  • ‘How long will you let this go on!’ ought to be our lamentation to God when the pain begins and….continues.
  • ‘It is appointed unto man once to die’ ought to be our morning meditation. And our afternoon, and evening.
  • ‘Lo, I am with you always’  as we are present at the ‘bedside’ of the dying and sick, the lonely, the weak, broken, old and incurably suffering; and as we allow the presence of others when pain inevitably tries to isolate us from the rest of mankind- for there is nothing that so effectively  turns you inward as real pain.
  • ‘Though he slays me, I will trust him’ our motto as we take up our cross, confident that hell’s reign has been undone, and that our resurrection is as certain as his.

Of course there are other stories being told about tragedy- mostly denial, acquiescence or avoidance. It causes people to  run from age with plastic surgery, to hide away the sick and hurting; to face ‘Tsunamis’ with Pollyannaesque clichés that only our wealth and personal distance make possible.

Sometimes, as we are always tempted to do, we substitute these stories for that of our baptism. ‘God didn’t bring you this far to let you fail.’ ‘God doesn’t want you to be unhappy.’ ‘If you are where God want you to be, then he will give you perfect peace.’ This Christianese often hides the fact that we’ve swapped our gospel story  for another. We know the switch has been made when an immediate cure is expected or becomes our primary mission. We know the switch has been made when we are unfamiliar with the most common of human experiences: death, suffering and doubt- especially that of others.

Against these denials of full humanity remember: St. Paul was imprisoned, stoned and beheaded; righteous Job lost his family in a great whirlwind and Jesus in dreadful fear sweated drops of blood as he perfectly fulfilled God’s will… on a cross.

It is right to expect suffering; it is right to oppose your evil circumstances; it is right to bear in hope a situation that admits no remedy in this life. It is right to trust in God’s goodness.

Our hope is in knowing that Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again!

Love you all,

Dad

Blessed Ascension Day!

It’s been 40 days since Christ overcame death on Easter morning. Scripture tells us that it was on this day that he ascended into the presence of his father and sat down at his right hand. There are all sorts of important things to say about that amazing event, but I hope you remember one in particular. Today is about who you truly are as a Son of Adam and Daughter of Eve.

God created men and women to rule over creation in his stead. That is what the Kingdom of God means: creation ruled by God through people. But we never matured into the sort of creature that could do that faithfully. In fact we went the other way. The baby who was born of the Virgin Mary was God’s way of making sure that we would share in the glorious calling that we rejected.

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men. He became what God first dreamed of when he first imagined ‘man.’ Jesus  fully and faithfully reflected the god in whose image he was made.

All men and women wish to be godlike. That goes with being human. We seek to rule because that it what we were made to do, but we are idolaters. We don’t understand what God is really like. We fashion him in our own fallen image or in the image of the creatures we were created to shepherd. To be like god is to exert self-interest and violent power over others. And so men and women step on others in an attempt to fulfill our broken visions of humanity. We do this on the battlefield; but we do it at school, at home… even at church, too. Jesus knew the Father as no one else could have, and he knew that mankind had it all wrong. He offered another vision of both ‘humanity’ and ‘god.’

Fallen men- both religious and secular- threw their common vision of human glory up against his, and they killed him; or rather he lay down his life. Of course this was his greatest ‘test’ and victory- the way in which he carried the sins of his people-and their enemies- as if they were his own. To see Jesus on the cross was to see a true reflection of the God who made him. This is what it means to be truly human. This is what it means to be godly.

We know that he got it right- both the ‘God’ and ‘Man’ bit-because God himself raised Jesus from the dead. Rome and Israel gave their performance of the great play ‘humanity.’ Jesus gave his own interpretation in reply. When they were done God stood and applauded: ‘Jesus,’ he said ‘Bravo!’ He announced this by raising Jesus to the life of the Age to Come on Easter morning. Those who made their claim by putting him in the grave… well, they’re still in the grave.

God finally had the human ruler that he had wished for, and that is what today is about. Christ’s reward- his vindication- didn’t stop with the resurrection. God would give to him all that he desired for humanity. A human being would rule over creation.

According to the story of our people, the first man and woman were run out of the garden, and warrior cherubim blocked their return. Men and women cowered and fled from the angel’s flaming swords, but on this day….

…. A human- a man- walked up the stairway that leads to the throne of God. He walked past all of creation and its creatures, and they each bowed. Past buzzing insects, birds and lions- as they acknowledged their new ruler. Past storms and nebula which obeyed his commands, and he walked past the cherubim that had lorded over our first parents; they bowed, too. He walked past the archangels, and they lowered their eyes, and bent their knee. Up to the very top- until there was no one but God before him; and God gave him his seat, and all of creation- seen and unseen- fell at his feet, at the feet of their new King.

At last, a human sat on throne of the universe!

Each of you is united to this king through your baptism. What is his, is yours. That is why he and his Father did this thing: for you.

The whole world tells you that you ought to be ‘this or that’. It tells you that true human flourishing looks like the gangstas on videos, or the business man who neglects his family or the poor in the pursuit of money, or some shallow yahoo who is famous for simply being famous. Your baptism tells you that you are someone else.

Rachael, Bekah, Hannah, Naomi and Essie, you are each a Princess.

Tommy, you are a Prince.

Royalty, of the house of David!

That’s not pretend. That’s not sweet ‘dad stuff. That’s who you are. Be who you are- whom God declared you to be in your baptism. This is what Xian faith is about. You are royalty in training.

So, congratulations. For through your older brother, this is your coronation day, too. Rule your part of creation well! One day, all of Christ’s New Creation will be yours.

Dear kids,

Who are you?

When you go to ‘ciphering’ on that question, I bet you think  of family. To be is to have a mother and a father, grandparents, sibling, cousins, aunts and uncles. To say ‘you’ is to picture ‘the rest of us.’ Personal identity that is based on blood and birth is the foundational way in which society is imagined. This is the very stuff from which life begins. It is this basic familial material that humanity spends its days (and nights) weaving into the various human worlds that enrich our planet. It is what history is made of.

How did such a universal vision arise?

It’s obvious, really; or used to be. Every human being who has ever lived has a mother and father. Every single one. No exceptions. And the same is true for the parents of those parents, back ‘world without end.’ The web spins out in all sorts of directions. We belong to others, and they belong to us by birth-with all of the duties, sorrows, joys and responsibilities that ‘belonging’ implies. That is how we understand the bedrock of our existence, and up until this generation society has built its institutions on that reality.

Unless actively frustrated, every sexual union of the type that is necessary to consummate a marriage is capable of producing a child. Unless, of course, something is broken. Creating children is the very biological end of a sexual union between man and woman. It is a ‘privilege’ granted to them by nature herself- a privilege that is non-transferable to unions of other kinds.

One man and one woman= children.

Every child conceived- every child= one man and one woman.

Now think about this. Every Same Sex relationship that involves a child, necessarily involves a third party. No exceptions. This is true in some heterosexual relationships, too- even marriages, but only and always because something has gone wrong. There is an unwanted child in need of an adoptive home. There is a barren womb, an impotent man. Sterility. Brokenness.

Let me ask you: What is broken in the Same Sex relationship?

Now, if in order to avoid ‘discrimination’ we are to treat those relationships as being in every way identical to that of a heterosexual couple, then fertility, fecundity… the significance that comes from the ability to have children must be stripped from our legal conception of all marriages. The significance of biological relationship must not be acknowledged. It is unallowable, because unavailable/nontransferable to the same sex couple. It discriminates, and so must not be a part of the legal institution. This is why I said in an earlier letter ‘(SSM) is not the extension of some supposed ‘heterosexual rights’ to homosexual people; rather it is the remaking of all marriages according to the standards of something new. ‘Gay’ people don’t get what ‘straight’ people have; rather in the eyes of the law, all men and women will be entitled to only those rights that a same sex couple are capable of enjoying. Anything more would be discriminatory. Marriage- all marriage- is reshaped in the image of Same Sex Marriage.

Now think;  if the very stuff of human identity depends on biological relationship, then what does this mean for human identity as we know it?

If society can no longer be based on ‘extended biological kinship,’ then what is left? Children are left belonging to the State or the Market- either cogs in the Collective or commodities for acquisition. Without biological families, what else is there?

Perhaps this sounds like extreme alarmism, but the imaginations of most young people seem to have embraced this change already. I see this in the ready way in which the technological necessities behind every Same Sex family is accepted as normative. To every mention of Same Sex sterility is offered the promise of technology. Of course.

But kids,  to normalize these technological measures so as to make them identical to natural birth is by definition to disconnect birth from the sexual act. Birth and the human relationship that naturally gives rise to it – even if only that of a one night hookup- must be seen as at best, artificial. That might be how some families come into the world, but certainly not all. Without exception, its not how any Same Sex family originates. And so children, birth and family are re-envisioned. So called ‘Heterosexual Marriages’ must not have that which is not available to ‘Same Sex Marriages’. ‘Same Sex Marriages’ can not have full biological ties with offspring. So rights arising from biological parentage must be downplayed. QED.

Same Sex Marriage must become the standard for all marriages.

‘Heterosexual Marriages’ will continue to result in children. ‘Same Sex Marriages’ must likewise be granted children, but where will these children come from?  Sperm donors and surrogate mothers demand both payment and privacy; but the children of such  efforts at meeting the demand for ‘offspring’ still wish to know who their biological parents are. The two desires are incompatible. Donors wish to remain anonymous; children wish to know ‘who their biological parents are.’ Which seems the more natural longing to you? Which desire must be treated as insignificant, if Same Sex Marriages are to be legally affirmed as  identical in every way to what was once simply referred to as marriage; and what does this mean if not that the legal recognition of the significance of biological kinship must become intolerable.

From whose ecstatic human embrace did you come to be? Who are you? Who is responsible for you? Who are you responsible for? Who do you belong to? As I’ve said many, many times: the institution of marriage as we’ve inherited it answers those questions by privileging biological kinship, but it is the privileging of biological kinship that Same Sex Marriage must deny. In such a world, children- all children- can only be viewed as an acquisition- not the natural result of human biological bonding.

What will such a world look like? We have no idea. It’s never been tried, and yet like the naive members of the Children’s Crusade, we dance and celebrate on our way to that dreadful place ‘we know not of.’ To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum- ‘the complete lack of humility for nature and the combined wisdom of human experience that’s being displayed here is staggering’

It has always been this way- this human way, and for me it’s difficult to imagine it being otherwise, but there have been those who’ve undertaken the thought experiment of revising family, sex, birth and child. In 1984 Orwell imagined one horrible route to hell on earth- the State. In Brave New World Huxley imagined another- Amusement and the Market. Which is the more likely? My money is on Huxley, but with purposefully deciding to declare the bonds of biological kinship, insignificant, both paths are wide open.

How far will we go down either of those paths? No one knows, but why would we go down either when we know where they lead? Those who think a people can’t or won’t choose a nightmare for themselves are simply ignorant of history, and wherever we land will be normalized in our imaginations, too.

O brave new world,
That hath such people in ‘t!

It is nothing short of a Brave New World that is being proposed.

Brave because untried.

New because of how we must now answer the question of the nature of the people in it?’

Brave New World because of its seductiveness and inevitable despair.

 

Dear Kids,

I have a confession. I’m not heterosexual, and I hope you’re not either.

One of my concerns with the debate about Same Sex Marriage- especially as argued on the basis of civil rights- is that the revision will legally redefine our most basic institution by affirming a really significant fiction. It’s not simply a fiction, but a newfangled fiction and a dehumanizing fiction. It identifies persons by something called sexuality (another newfangled creation). It says this one is heterosexual; that one is not; and that that is the most important thing you can know about them,

I don’t believe in heterosexuals; or homosexuals for that matter. They simply didn’t exist until slightly over a hundred years ago. That might be hard to believe, but it is true. Of course there have always been people, who were attracted to the same gender, and there were those who acted on that attraction; but they weren’t treated as a specific kind of human being because of that. They weren’t identified as a human being by that.

My beef isn’t with labels. They’re necessary and helpful. It’s good to know that this woman’s a plumber. Its proper to speak of the local Radio Control community, but we know that these labels only tell us a little bit about the people to whom they are applied. They tell us how someone makes a living, where their expertise lies or that they enjoy model cars or airplanes. With sexual identity we’re talking about something different. We are claiming that these people are a particular and distinct type of human being because of the distinction.

When the medical community first dreamed them up, both heterosexual and homosexual were labels for sexual deviations. Did you know that? A heterosexual had non-procreative sex with the opposite gender. A homosexual did the same with the same gender, and then in addition there were normal people. Before psychology (I think it was a German) first spoke hetero and homosexuals into existence ex nihilo, there were just people.

People are sexual beings, and people have all sorts of odd sexual things going on. All people. Some are frigid; some like toes; others are into flannel or… stranger things, but there’s only one sort of ‘people:’ those who are particularly peculiar in some sexual way or other.

That seems the right way to account for things- to me anyway, and not just because I distrust real innovation.  It levels the playing field. Xians and conservatives especially need to realize this. The new categories of humanity blind them to their own issues, and privilege them from the get go. ‘Hetero’ starts out normal, okay, straight… ‘Homo’ indicates aberration, bentness, kink. I have too many memories from High School with ‘hetero’ friends. I know myself too well. That way of viewing people is either silly or dishonest. No, there are just people- sexually odd people. Sexually sinful people.

Identifying people as ‘Homosexual’ or ‘Heterosexual’ is problematic because it tells us nothing about them- other than things that really aren’t much of our business, but it treats those things as the most important thing about them. It identifies them as a human being by those things that are none of our business! Jenell Paris asks us to imagine two filled paper grocery bags. You can take one home. Which do you choose? Hard to decide because you have no idea what’s inside them. What if one is labeled ‘Homosexual’ and the other ‘Heterosexual’? No help at all; sure, when you start unpacking them, you’ll take out a box of ‘same sex desire’ or ‘other sex desire,’ but that’s only one package. The bag is full. What about all the rest of the bag’s contents- honesty, love, hardworking, loyalty, compassion, bravery, intelligence, humor or…. their opposites. Which bag contains which of those?

Identifying people as Homosexual or Heterosexual is problematic because it really doesn’t tell us much about those things which aren’t our business, either. What does ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ really mean? The labels treat sexual desire as simply binary. You’re gay or straight- whatever that might be meant to indicate, but human experience touches every point along that continuum. There are very flamboyant and effeminate men who have never been attracted to a female. There are very masculine men who have the same experience. There are very flamboyant and effeminate men who are married with children. There are men who married, but were awakened later in life to a same sex relationship. There are those who’ve made a life of pimping themselves out to other men simply for survival. There are happily married men who just occasionally recall an experience from summer camp as a teen… The experience of women is as diverse. There are an infinite number of people, which the term ‘homosexual’ is supposed to describe, and yet they are as different as can be. Which of these is really ‘gay?’

Identifying people as ‘Homosexual’ or ‘Heterosexual’ is problematic because it forces people- especially young people- to struggle with placing themselves in an identity which is artificial, imprecise and arbitrary. Are you gay? Are you straight? Are you sure? Ever been curious to peek at the urinal or in the locker room? What does that mean? Can you ever be true to who you are without knowing? Can you marry, if you’ve wondered or peeked; or would that be a sham? What about all those girls who were once Lesbians, but now have a boyfriend or vice versa? Did they change? Are they bi-sexual? What is bi-sexual? Is being curious bi-sexual? Is knowing that someone of the same gender is attractive mean that you are bi-sexual? Does acting on a dare and then surprisingly enjoying it mean that you are bi-sexual? What about seeing something in a movie or at a party that awakens curiosity that you’ve never felt before? Did that make you bi-sexual? Did you change? What does it mean? How can you be true to who you are without answering these questions with certainty?

Kids, those are questions you oughtn’t have to struggle with. It’s an artificial identity. All of humanity has known what we seek to deny with our innovations. People are attractive; sex feels good; everyone wishes to be cared for. To this universal knowledge we can add that of our own Xian confession: people are broken. There are simply and only human beings in particular places in life to which they bring all sorts of sexual peculiarities. That’s true of you and your friends. That’s true of me and your mother.

Redefining marriage so as to extend it to Same Sex couples on the basis of civil equality depends on labeling, identifying and classifying human beings on the basis of an arbitrary and inaccurate binary characterization of sexual desire. It requires that we legally redefine our most basic institution by affirming that these labels are accurate and radically significant descriptions of human beings as human beings.

I believe that this labeling is dehumanizing in that it causes us to live according to artificiality, it privileges one group over another by making one think that their struggles are somehow different from that of the others and it causes us to judge on the basis of something other than a man or woman’s character by treating something other than a man or woman’s character as apparently the most important thing we can say about them. We ought to know better than that.

You are each a wonderful human being, and the most important thing you can know about yourself is that God claimed you by name in your baptism. That is who you are. You have a lifetime of struggling to be faithful to that identity, and you have assurance of forgiveness when you inevitably fall short. That’s what I know about you. You’re people, and you’re people redeemed by Christ.

Hope to write more latter. Love each of you.

Dad

Letter I– The Discussion

Letter II– Equality

Letter III– Institutions

Letter IV– Human Stuff

Letter V– Children, Love and Sexual Restraint

Letter VI– What I Meant to Say

Letter VII– A Commercial For the Opposition; Sorta

You are here

Letter IX– O Brave New World

Dear Kids,

Ok; I’m not an idiot. I do realize that marriage envisioned as I’ve outlined it, is becoming something of an endangered species.  Recently,  CBS marked Valentine’s Day by pleading against conceiving of marriage as wed’lock’; and just last week I saw Sara Gilbert express the prevalent view when she asked why anyone should throw away a life of happiness over a promise?

In the minds of most, marriage is (despite the vows that are actually made) a contingent arrangement, which is entered into for the purpose of individual personal fulfillment and sexual expression and whose very legitimacy depends on the presence of romantic affection. ‘Marriage’ means pretty much the opposite of what it has always meant. This is to say that in the minds of most, the institution of marriage is already dead as an institution.

The result can be seen in the broken families of our community, and the effects of that sort of experimentation with human formation are just as apparent in our society. Marriage as an institution was created to answer a real need. When the institution goes away, the need is left unanswered.

But the point of this letter is to acknowledge that if this is what we as a society mean by ‘marriage,’ then I see no reason not to extend it to whomever feels a romantic attraction for another and wishes to express their current conviction about the route that their personal fulfillment must take.

That seems clear, and fair.

It also seems clear to me that conservatives who wish to denigrate same sex couples, while subscribing to the revisionary conception of marriage which the same sex couple wishes to enter into have little ground to stand on.

Apart from simple bigotry, the principled embrace of casual sex and the growing Divorce Culture necessarily involves the legitimacy of Same Sex Marriage. This is because all three share the same vision regarding the purpose and definition of ‘marriage.’

And so this is why we find ourselves where we do: in a discussion about equality and rights. We are dealing with the concept of marriage in most people’s heads- not the institution of marriage enshrined in our law.

It’s a problem that the two diverge. The current struggle is an attempt to reunite them…the disagreement is over how this is to be accomplished.

I have a concluding point, but before I make it I want to say that behind all of these innovations (premarital sex and divorce are hardly innovations, but in the past they were lamented because society understood that people get hurt. The reality of divorce is a necessary grace in our fallen world, but it was also seen as a failure with significant consequences) is the elevation of Romantic Love. This is a good thing in so far (according to my Xian interpretation) Romantic Love enables us to see specific persons with all the value, which their humanity affords. In reality, all of Adam’s sons and Eve’s daughters are worthy of adoration. Eros makes that clear to us about a particular human being. Even Hitler was loved by Eva Braun. But Eros is not worthy of worship. He is fickle. He is incapable of providing neither personal fulfillment; nor a continuing foundation for society; and so those who spend their lives in pursuit of him find themselves without a home… or a family. As wonderful as the god’s visitations are, chasing ‘true love’ isn’t the way to happiness or human flourishing. You don’t have to take my word for it. Look around.

In the end this is a failure of imagination. We are unable to see the beauty of fidelity and domesticity- of dishes, and diapers, companionship and warm familiar softness. We’ve traded that for the pursuit of continual roses, horse drawn carriages and breathless passion. Kids, there’s a lot more dishes than carriages in life. If your happiness depends on candlelight, then you’re screwed. I have the electric bills to prove it. The truth is that you can still have the breathless stuff occasionally with a committed relationship, but it doesn’t work the other way around. ‘Always breathless’ is just another way of saying ‘dead.’ And… there are always others along for the ride. Always.

Its possible to say ‘no’- even to Eros, even while appreciating his caress. Can we imagine that doing so can truly be the more beautiful thing?

To say that the imagination of most is immature and shriveled isn’t to endorse the situation; and to say that we have a problem with imagination isn’t to say that we ought to bring our legal code down to meet it.

Marriage as an institution still exists, and there are those who still see the beauty of a committed, loving faithfulness… for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. It is beautiful. It’s as beautiful as your mother, and the gift she is to each of us. You don’t have that gift because your Daddy is a virtual Don Juan. Nor do you have it because there aren’t admirers crossing your hot mother’s path. We have that gift because your mother loves you and your Dad… just as she promised to.

Love you all.

Dad

Letter I– The Discussion

Letter II– Equality

Letter III– Institutions

Letter IV– Human Stuff

Letter V– Children, Love and Sexual Restraint

Letter VI– What I Meant to Say

Letter VIII– Why I’m Not Straight and Hope You Aren’t Either

Dear Kids,

I’ve been rambling a bit; so thought I’d summarize with a ‘What I Meant to Say’ letter.

Ok; There’s sex and all the trouble that comes with it (not counting children), and there’s also the babies that result from sex. Humanity depends on children for its continuation. Society depends on well-formed children for its flourishing. Nature says deal with it. Marriage is the way in which mankind has dealt with it.

It does so by recognizing that children (as well as parents) have a proper, natural and significant interest in biological parentage, the loving formation offered by both father and mother and the clear cut legal responsibilities that come with parentage.  The stability and security of that home is worthy of protection and encouragement. Anything that destroys that permanence- whether death, divorce or the initial absence of a committed relationship between the biological parents-  is a loss for the child, and ought to be lamented.

For these reasons (among others) a marriage culture encourages the limitation of potentially reproductive sex to those who have made a permanent vow of sexual fidelity and companionship. Marriage thus places expectations on all the members of society- including the unmarried:  for example, an attractive married man is ‘off limits’ and a couple ought to refrain from creating a child out of wedlock.

Complications dealt with… potentially in a very beautiful way.

But if we redefine marriage so as to be able to meaningful extend it to same sex couples, then it must be viewed by our legal system as nothing more than a statement of individual erotic expression-an emotional condition that might change at any time and will change at some time. The result is not the extension of marriage, but rather the loss of the institution of marriage- and the marriage culture- to everyone. Such an act abandons the issues of humanity, which the institution of marriage was created to both celebrate and navigate, despite the fact that they must be addressed. This new state of affairs would not be a simple pragmatic reality. It would be a legal reality.

My concern is not that I will rub shoulders with ‘married’ same sex couples. Not at all. My concern is that you all- my children- will not be able to find spouses who even understand what the commitment of marriage involves, and that if you find someone with such an imagination, then your attempts to live according to that ancient institution will find an enemy in the state. We have not even considered issues of conscience and the persecution (if not outright prosecution) that might result.

But that’s not all this is about. To the occasions of death, divorce and initial fatherlessness, we will add the legal affirmation that biological parentage and the involvement of both a father and mother are insignificant.

There are terrible and unfortunate occasions that deprive children of a home with both Father and Mother. We ought to recognize that many of these homes are incredibly loving, but this ought not include pretending that the situation doesn’t matter; and it seems to me that for those children who are deprived of the opportunity to know their biological parents or be loved and formed by both a mother and father, our society ought not taunt their desire with a legal position that declares their deep, deep longing to be misplaced, silly, ungratefully spoiled or oppressive of others.

You have friends without one or the other parent. No doubt they are thankful for what they have, and it may be that through the sacrifice of a parent who has to do the work of two, they have more than many others; but… do they wish for things to be different? Are they wrong, bigoted or confused to do so?

If we are to imagine a society which legally affirms that two fathers or two mothers are every bit as normative in every conceivable way as that of a mother and father who conceive and raise their biological children, then we must also reject the significance of gender. Besides the loss of the institution of marriage and the denial that children benefit from both a father and mother, I’m concerned about the rejection of a very unavoidable, important and beautiful part of our humanity. Why do we despise such a significant part of who we are; and does such discontent speak well of the health of our society?

More importantly, do we really believe that the reality can be changed by passing a law? Abraham Lincoln is said to have asked: ‘If you call a dog’s tail a leg, then how many legs would it have?  I would answer four. Those who wish to ‘extend’ marriage would say five. Who has the better understanding of dogs?

I hope you notice that I’ve not argued against the value of Same Sex Relationships.  I’ve argued against affirming them as equally significant to society as is marriage; and I’ve done this not because of ill will towards those who wish to commit to a long term relationship to a person of the same sex, but because of the realities of human nature which Marriage has successfully united throughout the history of mankind.

Just another way of saying what has already been said: It’s not about homosexuality. It is about marriage; and if this is a debate about whether an institution that Same Sex Couples are by nature and definition excluded from ought to be redefined so as to include them, then this is not about oppression, rights or equality.

By way of analogy: if we talk about extending the right of Pregnancy to men, then it’s a sure thing that we’ve changed the meaning of both ‘right’ and ‘pregnancy.’  Perhaps there are compelling reasons to make such a change, but it is dishonest to make it a civil rights issue, and unwise to leave the reality of what used to be called ‘pregnancy’ unaddressed.

Much more to talk about. Love you all more than you can know.

Dad

Letter I– The Discussion

Letter II– Equality

Letter III– Institutions

Letter IV– Human Stuff

Letter V– Children, Love and Sexual Restraint

Letter VII– A Commercial for the Opposition; Sorta

Dear kids,

Thank you for slogging through that last letter. I know it wasn’t… the most thrilling thing, but I believe the ideas in it are important to understand.

So, as an institution, what is the societal goal of marriage? What’s it about? What problem does it remedy or prevent?

I think I’ll start at that end.

  • We’ll begin with the fact that men and women are different. I didn’t make it so; nor did any law; nor did any religious teaching. We simply come out of our mother’s that way.
  • Which leads us to another fact for humanity: each of us has a mother. Again, this isn’t culturally dependent or created by legislation or religious affirmation. It’s simply part of what it means to be a human being.
  • And mothers don’t become mothers on their own. Rather some pretty remarkable stuff is done with the differences we’ve already mentioned, and because of this an entirely new and distinct human being comes into existence. This stuff is too crazy to have been made up; and of course no one did make it up.
  • Humanity perpetuates itself as a species in this way- like just about every other species. Life results when you bring together the sexual differences of male and female. Without the union of male and female, there is no new life. Please notice that this isn’t the case because the Bible tells me so. Condom companies have customers among both believers and unbelievers, secular and religious folks.
  • A baby forms over a lengthy and difficult period of time inside a mother’s body. She delivers it painfully and dangerously; and once the child is born her body continues to be the source of intimate sustenance for a long, long time. In contrast men can father child after child and never be aware of it. More than a possibility; it happens all the time. “Who’s the mother?” is an easy question to answer. The same isn’t true of the Father. There is an inequity in nature, here. A vulnerable and important one- as any father of daughters knows. Women get pregnant; men do not.
  • Both men and women continually find others sexually attractive and desire to do that remarkable stuff with new partners.
  • Jealousy is real, powerful and destructive.
  • Children are vulnerable and totally dependent for many, many years. In order for humanity to continue, children must be raised, protected and nurtured. Someone must do this. Someone must be responsible for children.
  • Children are best nurtured in secure (long lasting), responsible families in which the differences of both mother and father are committed to the welfare of the child they created. This isn’t opinion. It is reality as the data exposes it. For example do you know what the number one predictor of whether a child will grow up to a life of crime, poverty and government assistance is? Race? No. Education? No. Growing up in Poverty? No. It’s the presence of a Father in the home. Is it a stretch to say that society has an interest in lowering those who are criminals, poor and dependent on government assistance? This is why the state has an interest in the institution of marriage.
  • The perpetuation of the inheritance of families and societies depend on heirs.
  • Human beings need a personal identity. The formation of this identity begins at birth.

While it doesn’t exhaust it, that’s reality as I see it- unbidden and unchosen. It is part of our humanity, and one can either lament these aspects of our humanity or celebrate them.

This leaves questions- questions of celebration or lamentation; questions of a very practical nature.

Are the differences between Men and Women important and precious? Ought the inequalities of begetting and birthing allow men to do as they please? Who is responsible for the raising of children? Which children? Does a child profit from having both a mother and father in his life?  How are secure and responsible families established, maintained and encouraged? Who will continue in our place after we are gone? Who is this child?

Reality raises all of these questions. Every society has answered them with the institution of marriage, which ties the biological, societal and legal aspects of parentage together. Perhaps some of the questions seem very obvious to you. That’s because you have been formed in a society that still maintains marriage as an institution.

But each of the questions raised can be answered differently or dismissed as unimportant. Ought we to answer them differently? It seems that our society has the distinction of being the first among mankind to ask that question. That is what the debate on Same Sex Marriage is really about.

There’s a common thread that runs through all of these questions- through all of the reality that gives rise to them. Do you see it? It’s the sexual relationships that have the potential to result in children. The state is involved in marriage only because of the very public consequence of these very particular relationships. The institution of marriage is society’s way of ensuring its own continuation through the creation of children (both planned and unplanned) within secure families.

The institution is about kids. It always has been.

I’m sure this brings all sorts of questions to mind. Don’t worry (or worry 🙂 I’m not done.

Love ya,

Dad

Letter I– The Discussion

Letter II– Equality

Letter III– Institutions

Dear Kid’s

Gonna try to keep this as short as possible because… well, it’s sorta boring, but it’s absolutely necessary to understand, if you’re going to think about this issue.

Oh, oh. It does eventually have to do with sex, but….not in this letter.

Just read it. Please.

I want you to understand the nature and place of Institutions in human society. Tommy! Wake up! Esther, will you wake your brother up.

Let me quote from the venerable Wiki:

An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human community. Institutions are identified with a social purpose and permanence, transcending individual human lives and intention by enforcing rules that govern cooperative human behavior.

The thing to notice is that 1) an institution governs the behavior of individuals towards a social goal, and in working for that goal 2) it goes beyond individual lives and individual intentions.

So you have the institution and its goals (which are directed to society as a whole), and you have the goals of the individuals who enter into it.

That might seem complicated, but it’s really not. Just fancy talk for things you already know. Think of a University. As an institution its purpose is to provide higher education to persons who will benefit from such an education, and by doing so better the society in which we live by preserving and building on our shared cultural inheritance.

Now that has to sound familiar because it’s precisely why all your friends want to go to college, right? You’ve talked about that very thing at lunch.

Cultural Inheritance. Higher Education. Makes ya want to holler!

I’m just guessing, but I bet there was at least the occasional excitement over potential salaries, winning football seasons; … maybe beer pong. While some people want an education, others want to play ball, march in a band or simply party with college babes; There’s the ‘whole college experience.’ I know people who have gone to specific schools in hopes of finding a specific sort of mate.

Nothing to be ashamed of. That’s just how Institutions work. If you think about the Military, you’ll see the same thing going on. Our Military exists to fight wars, but people enlist all the time with absolutely no intention or interest in fighting a war. Some do, but others need a job, or an education funded; they covet an early retirement or they admire the tradition and perceived pomp and circumstance, etc.

The point is that Institutions exists for a specific social end, but people might legitimately enter into an institution for reasons that have little to do with the Institution’s ends.

Just a couple ‘o three obvious remarks, and I’ll stop.

First, Tommy! Wake up!

Second, because the Institution exists for a specific social goal, those who enter into it are expected to meet the basic requirements of that goal.

And lastly, an institution cannot change those requirements so that they match the individual reasons for which people enter into the institution without jeopardizing the very social mission of the institution- the reason society established it in the first place.

Wild parties happen at UGA, but UGA oughtn’t write wild parties into its mission statement or recruit potential students on the basis of their ability to contribute to the memorability of UGA parties. If it did so, UGA’s Education would suffer, and the same is true for all the other (even laudable) reasons for which people apply to UGA. That’s how an institution dies as an Institution. It is de-institutionalized, which means it ceases to transcend the individual lives and intentions of those who enter into it for a societal good. It becomes simply an opportunity for individual experience.

If the social purpose for which the institution was created is important, then that’s a really big deal. Does higher education matter? Better keep academic entrance requirements up. Does the ability to defend ourselves as a nation matter, then we better keep entrance requirements focused on that end.

Why bring this up? Marriage is an institution. Though people enter into it for many different reasons, it has a social end; and like every institution it can be destroyed by replacing or confusing that end with the myriad of reasons that motivate people to get married. That’s a big deal because its purpose is the most radically foundational of any Institution.

We’ll talk more about that later.

Love you all,

Dad

Letter I– The Discussion

Letter II– Equality

Letter IV– Human Stuff

Dear Kids,

Do you give a damn about equality?

That is the question you are being asked. Simple answer, please. No need for further discussion because surely everyone agrees that there is only one acceptable answer. Well, I guess there is an  alternative- either contempt for or indifference to equality; but seeing how either of these likely implies a white sheet and pointy hat hidden under the bed, I understand the impulse to answer with a hearty ‘heck, yes!’ There is only one answer…. for good people.

Equality is a word that carries all sorts of positive vibes. It’s a good word. A noble word… a powerful word.

For many it summarizes what we as a people are all about. Who could have a problem with equality? How can you have too much equality? What could be more American (or more relevant to our discussion) un-American than ones position on equality?

Well, kids (and hold on to something here) equality is just not a very helpful word- at least not for settling arguments… at least not for settling arguments honestly; and the reason probably isn’t what you think. The concept of equality isn’t helpful because no one really disagrees about it. That isn’t to say that it isn’t an effective tool. It’s incredibly useful for shutting down debate, but only by being very good at muddying the waters.

I’ve been told that Aristotle was the first to summarize the belief that ‘like cases ought to be treated alike’; but I’m sure human beings acted on that common sense principle long before him. There’s also a flip side: unlike cases oughtn’t to be treated alike. Think about it. We don’t have a problem with treating different things ‘unequally.’ When we’re not being all political or wordy, we simply think of this as wisdom of the ‘duh’ sort.

Iron skillet or basketball?

It makes a difference when it comes to the oven or the hoop. Appeals to fairness and equality are really wrong headed; and of course no one would make them. No amount of examining the concept of equality will enable us to determine whether we ought to attempt the baking of cornbread with a rubber sphere.

We come to that conclusion not by examining equality, but by examining iron skillets and bouncy balls.

The same is true in our societal and moral lives. We don’t encourage blind adults to practice dentistry or drive cars. Equality isn’t the issue. The nature of blindness, dentistry and cars are.

Thing to remember: when people argue about Equality, they aren’t really arguing about the principle of Equality at all. Rather they are arguing over the nature of things- whether A is really of like nature to B in terms of the purposes being discussed, and in any instance that may very well be a conversation that needs to happen.

But it is that conversation (and not the one that everyone seems to be having) that ought to take place: what is marriage and do same sex relationships qualify, and if not, ought we to honestly and in the light of day redefine marriage so as to include Same Sex Relationships?

Anyway; don’t be bullied. Don’t be shamed into not thinking. Demand the discussion. Perhaps Same Sex Marriage advocates can carry the argument; our society has been reprehensibly wrong in denying the ‘likeness of same’ before,  but they ought to be required to make an argument. Their position and our society will be the stronger for the honesty and effort.

Just so you won’t forget, here’s the question that I want to discuss further- one more time: There are all sorts of honorable and laudable relationships between human beings, which ought to be classified as marriage?

Love ya,

Dad

Letter I– The Discussion

Letter III– Institutions

Letter IV– Human Stuff

Dear Kids,

Big things are stirring in our world, and I want you to know how my mind works when I think on them. I don’t mean the approaching season premiere of Game of Thrones or Mad Men. (Hurray for both, though) I’m thinking of the current Same Sex Marriage debate. If Facebook is any indication, then your generation ‘Gives a Damn’ as Ms Goldberg says you ought, and she’s right to say so, though wrong to say that only those who agree with her do so.

As long as the discussion is an honest and clear one, then we all know what we’re up to, and can make decisions thoughtfully and out in the open; but if we allow bumper sticker mottoes (from either side) to keep us from actually thinking through the issues, then our actions will be neither thoughtful nor brave; but more importantly they are not likely to be truly helpful or loving, despite our best intentions.

So I’m sincerely grateful for the debate, but I’m very concerned that people are confused over what is being debated. That’s a big deal- both for you and your friends- because each of you is incredibly compassionate and empathetic. I’m very proud of that. I’m sure it’s your mother’s doing. Anyway, I know that you’ve chosen the same sorts of people to be your friends. So when the discussion is couched in terms of equality, hatred or fairness I know where your conscience desires to go; and I’m sure this creates a crisis for you because you know I’m ‘again the Same Sex Marriage business. Of course you know me pretty well, and you know that both you and I want to be found on the side of justice, love and fairness. So I hope it’s obvious that I don’t believe these things are what are being debated.

No one ought to be mistreated.

No one.

So over the next little bit I hope to give you my two cents on what I see to be the central issues. I’ll tackle them one at a time. Try to keep it short. I’m thoughtful like that :-), but before I do, I want you to know that I won’t be discussing (in these posts, anyway) whether I think homosexual behavior is a right or wrong, good or bad for ya. I’m going to leave that alone for two reasons.

First, the current debate is not about whether homosexual relationships are a good or bad thing. People claim otherwise, but it’s not. The debate is whether marriage ought to be redefined so that we can honestly speak of extending it to same sex couples. I would think that one could be all in favor of homosexual relationships and yet be opposed to redefining marriage. Think of a brother and sister who might pool their resources and move in together so as to care for an aging parent (or each other) in a committed way. That would be a good thing, but you could still argue that we shouldn’t extend marriage to include their committed relationship. Maybe you see what I mean.

Second, I want to argue as much as possible in terms that we all have in common. Not everyone shares our Xian vision of reality; and I’m pretty convinced that arguments against homosexual relationships depend on sex having a particular meaning. While I believe everyone in their hearts knows that sex is never just about sex, I recognize that not everyone agrees on what that meaning is.

So …. hope I don’t embarrass you. Would love to hear your thoughts, and am open to the possibility that I am wrong in some way- unlikely as we all know that to be 🙂 My thoughts have been shaped by others, and much of what I’ll share is available in a much more lucid and thorough form elsewhere. If you ask, I’ll point the way.

Next up, let’s talk about that Equality Sign.

All my love,

Dad

Letter II– Equality

Letter III– Institutions

Letter IV– Human Stuff

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