Rules of Engagement

“I was sensitive to the fact that, for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs, and so forth”

– President Obama

After I had heard that the president stated his support for gay marriage I was listening to and reading various reactions in the media. Of course there were the standard “this group hates it / this group praises it” sort of reports. But when I listened to the commentary by many pundits I heard some of the same patterns that echo what the president stated above. Today on WLS Roe Conn and Richard Roeper were both in agreement with a sentiment along the lines (and I’m paraphrasing here) of marriage is a religious institution, and if churches don’t want to recognize it, that’s fine, but whatever you want to do is up to you, it doesn’t affect me.

And that got me to wondering.. is that true? Is marriage just a “religious institution?” Is it simply something that Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other people of faith just one day came up with and now has stuck around for generation after generation? Is it, as the president states, something rooted in tradition and in religion?

To me marriage goes beyond the blessings in a church, and goes beyond a couple as well. To me a strong marriage is the foundation of a strong family. And strong families are the foundation of a strong and just society and THAT is why what two other people do DOES affect me. Not only me, but it affects our entire society and way of life.

So the question that I think this entire debate begs but that no one often asks is, does gay marriage (and eventually families raised by gay couples) help contribute to a strong and just society?

This to me is a foundational question, and when the commentary by people like the president and other talking heads misses this point it makes me wonder how strong their position is.

The issue here is not then the secularization of marriage, because at the end of the day marriage should not just be relegated to the religious realm. It shouldn’t just be seen as a “powerful tradition” , marriage should be seen as the bedrock of a just society. And when our lawmakers, policy makers, and opinion shapers miss this point it makes me very concerned that they want to make any changes to it.

Now obviously my position is that I do not support gay marriage, nor a gay lifestyle. But I do wish that anyone who wants to engage in this debate, who wants to be a man or woman of good will, who wants to discuss this issue openly and honestly, that they do at least have the rule of engagement that sees marriage in the bigger scheme of human affairs and its absolute importance for a just society. Because that, to me, is where the true debate it. That, to me, is where we really should be questioning whether or not two people of the same gender should be making a life long commitment, and then bring children who could never be naturally conceived by them into their commitment. Whether those two people and their eventual attempt at a family can contribute to a just and well formed society, that is the question, and really should be our national rule of engagement on this issue.

Sadly I am afraid that this argument is often made on the grounds of romantic notions of love. Or to put it another (relatively snarky) way, the same country that “loves” Jersey Shore and Two and a Half Men is the same country that is making emotional appeals based on “love” and is looking to radically alter the course of a human institution that is as old as history.

So in the end I am interested in hearing more from both sides on this issue, but I hope the rules of engagement are clear: civil discourse without hatred or bigotry, and a view of marriage outside of just simple “love” and as the foundation of a just society. Who knows? With those rules we might just be able to find a way to true civility in discourse.

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