Words Mean Things Series: Marriage

The Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage has incited dramatic reaction; from celebration – rainbow flood lights on the White House – to despair and outrage, mainly from traditional Christians. There are strongly held reasons for both emotional responses.

As with most things political, what you hear discussed is rarely the full story or even an earnest exploration of the deeper reality. No, to get that, you must dig. You must dig past the Tweets and social media posts and broadcast media soundbites, past opinion pages and position statements. Hopefully, this article serves you as a pickaxe.

The LGBT community and its supporters won an historic victory. It did so against the wishes of the people of the 13 states who refused to officially recognize same sex marriage as the legal equivalent to traditional marriage. The people of the other 37 states had already weighed in on their side. According to the law of the entire land, there is now no legally significant difference between two men, two women, or a man and a woman marrying.

This ruling is correct in the following ways:

  1. all are public declarations of a committed primary relationship,
  2. two people, no matter who they are, can love each other unconditionally and permanently,
  3. it is nobody else’s business with whom we choose to spend our lives,
  4. there are important legal reasons for an officially sanctioned union between two people.

All of the above facts were not just put into place by the Supreme Court’s ruling. They were already acknowledged in every state through civil unions. But some additional and vital considerations have been underappreciated through this debate and ruling.

What is really meant by the word “marriage?” It has a larger connotation than the term civil union, does it not? Its origins are religious. In the understanding of our culture, its origins are Biblical. So this is unavoidably a church matter.

And churches have been wrestling with the issue for many years. In my church, Presbyterian USA, the controversy continues to have massively disruptive effects, actually splitting a congregation in two recently in the case of Faith Presbyterian in Harrisburg. In other congregations, many members have left as the Presbytery continues to make room for marrying same sex couples.

Like the Presbyterian USA, some churches are split. Others fully embrace same sex marriages. Yet others staunchly and clearly do not. That’s the way it has been for many years. The Supreme Court ruling, though the decision written by Justice Kennedy claims otherwise, places its heavy hand on the scale – against the traditional marriage stance. Religious freedom has been undeniably struck a blow.

But no matter what laws are passed or what Justices claim, there are some important facts about the specific case of marriage between one man and one woman:

  1. It is the natural order of things, as it takes a male and a female to bring forth life,
  2. it is the highest and best form to raise healthy, well-adjusted children, as both male and female parental psychic energies are needed in the maturation process,
  3. it is specifically called for and sanctioned in Scripture,
  4. any other familial arrangement robs a child of either his or her natural mother or father.

The Supreme Court ruled that these considerations are subordinate to others. It thereby claims that the term marriage is not needed to refer specifically to the one man/one woman family arrangement. It is now officially viewed as unnecessarily exclusionary and hurtful to make such a distinction.

As illustrated in the famous (and perhaps dubious) “50 Eskimo words for snow” example, a culture’s language evolves to reflect its predominant world view. Our world view in the case of marriage is both expanding and contracting. Marriage is now a more general term. We are not left with a word to replace its traditional meaning.

Those who claim the distinction is not significant either do not see or do not tell the whole truth. The real reason for this legal battle is not inclusion, though many who support same sex marriage view it this way. The underpinning force behind this political push does not intend so much to build homosexuals up as to tear the traditional family structure and institutional Christianity down. Some in the movement admit as much. To them, this is just another step forward down a much longer path.

What is that path? It is a path toward collectivism and statism. It leads to larger, ever increasingly powerful central government. The people pushing us down this path believe that this is a better way. History does not bear them out. Throughout all societies in all times, as power becomes more centralized, individual liberties contract. As freedom contracts, so does prosperity and quality of life. The only real winners are the relatively few people who hold the reins of power – the ones behind the push.

Those who help them, who in solidarity ‘rainbow’ their Facebook cover photos, may not be mindful of the larger forces they support. They may or may not see themselves as One World Government believers or Communists. They may not actively view traditional family and Christianity as impediments to and ultimately harmful for social progress.

No matter. Their help is crucially important anyway. If they continue to do so unwittingly, they may wake up one morning and wonder what happened to their freedoms, their choices, their opportunities. By the manner of recent SCOTUS rulings and Executive and Legislative actions and non-actions, many argue that day has come.

This is why words matter. Our words shape our thought processes. Our thought processes empower or enslave us. Political forces seek to control words for this precise reason. It is why you are Pro Choice, not Pro Abortion. It’s why they call it the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, not Socialized Medicine. It’s why we worry about Climate Change, not Global Warming (more useful – the climate will always change, but annoyingly to the Thought Police, it doesn’t always get warmer.)

But there is a force that works against the Thought Police – truth. Truth is stubborn. It is persistent. Truth doesn’t bend to the will of the Power People, those who would control others.

They can change words.

They can’t change timeless truth.

Categories: Communication Skills

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