Following the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA and Proposition 8, many are despairing that marriage has died.
Others have mourned its death for some time.
After reading the court’s decision in the DOMA case and two of the dissenting opinions, there is absolutely no doubt about it: This was not just a decision on law, but a commentary on morality.
I’m not being dramatic or misspeaking. The majority opinion states that “DOMA’s purpose and practical effect are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma on all who enter into same-sex marriages”.
This was not just a decision about what our constitution says. It was also a proclamation that the politicians and litigators responsible for the law were purposefully acting maliciously, as are those who continue to support it.
I am no lawyer or constitutional buff, so I’m not going to say a word about the lawfulness or validity of the decision. But I would like to speak to the second claim, that all who oppose same-sex marriage, and, ostensibly, homosexual sex in general, are being immoral or prejudicial.
When we covered the Catholic Church’s teaching on sex and, in particular, homosexual sex, in my Theology classes this past year, there were many kids who disagreed with the Magisterium’s stance. After hearing them and many others and reading blog after blog and article after article on the topic, there is one point that arises most often in opposition to the Catholic claims about homosexuality.
Many object to the claim that a homosexual orientation is disordered.
This, I think, is the key word. Disordered. I’ve heard many other points, many of which are legitimate and intelligently articulated, mixed with some insults and irrationalities, but I think they ultimately boil down to two, all-important questions, centered on this idea of people being disordered: Are gay people messed up? And if so, why did God make them that way?
The answer to the first question is, unequivocally, yes. And the answer to the second is, He didn’t.
As a Catholic, I firmly believe that every person who is attracted to someone of the same sex is disordered and broken. I also firmly believe that every person who is attracted to someone of the opposite sex is disordered and broken. And those attracted to no one are disordered and broken. As are those no one is attracted to.
Actually, sexual attraction has nothing to do with it. Every one is disordered and broken.
The entirety of the Christian faith hinges on this fact.
If we are not broken, if we are not lost, then we are not in need of saving. And if we are not in need of saving, then Jesus of Nazareth was not a savior, but a fool, and we should not worship him, but rather pity or mock him.
If we humans do just fine on our own, then the cross was folly.
You can argue whether same-sex attraction is a manifestation of human brokenness or not, and that’s a separate topic altogether, but you cannot take umbrage with the idea of humankind’s utter despair and innate disorder and still be a Christian. You just can’t. The whole belief system, the whole story, is predicated on the idea that God made man good, but man messed himself up through his own free will, and now in the midst of the mess man made for himself the Almighty seeks to save him from the damnation he chose and deserved.
That’s it, in a nutshell. If you don’t believe that, you aren’t Christian.
People are messed up. They are disordered. And so we are led to the answer to the second question. Why does God make us that way? Why would people be born with same-sex attraction if it wasn’t “natural” or “right”?
And, again, we remember that He didn’t. We chose for it to be this way.
Every man and woman (other than Mary and Christ) from the beginning of time to now has chosen for sin and death to be a part of this world. And when man first chose that, he broke off a perfect relationship with God, and so things changed. We changed.
Our intellect, will, and passions, those three parts of our rational soul which mirror the nature of God, became damaged, unhinged, disconnected. So man is now born with disorders of all kinds, and we each exacerbate our inborn deficiencies with our own sins and failures.
There are disorders of the intellect, where people struggle to see truth. There are disorders of the passions, where people desire that which is not good. And there are disorders of the will, which prompt people to choose something other than the good they truly desire.
Why are some people born with same-sex attraction? The same reason some people are born with ADD or depression or Down’s Syndrome or an inclination towards alcoholism. Because man chose sin, and sin has consequences.
The same reason we’re all born with messed up sexual attractions. All of us are disordered, and all of our sexualities are disordered, too. Ultimately, my lust is not much different than anyone else’s. The person who wants homosexual sex is in the same boat as those who desire adultery or pornography or pedophilia or bestiality or even imaginative objectification. They are different in degree, I guess, but they all come from the same place. They are all effects and instances of personal desire gone wrong. They are all defects of the passions.
This is the cross. To deny it is to deny Christ.
I look at myself and my family, and I see people who are born broken, born with biological deficiencies and disorders outside of their control that lead to depression and anxiety and innate tendencies towards addictions of all kinds. This is part of their cross. It’s part of mine.
I don’t know how these compare to the cross of same-sex attraction. I don’t pretend to understand how hard it would be. I don’t dare say that I have the slightest comprehension of the daily struggle it would be to face, on one side, unadulterated discrimination, and on the other, a demand to completely embrace your brokenness and identify yourself by it.
So I don’t judge or blame the many who celebrated the court’s decision. Perhaps I would have done the same. Perhaps they haven’t had the experiences I’ve had that have shown me the depth of the love of Christ and His Church. Perhaps they’ve never been told to carry their cross.
And if they have, perhaps they are scared to. I don’t blame them for that, either. I think of all the ways, big and small, that I’ve refused my cross. I think of all the times I’ve bought into the lies of the culture I’m engulfed in because, damn it, things are easier their way.
I am no different than any other one of my fellow humans, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our crosses might look different, but at the root, at the core of who we are, we are all just people who know we need saving. And while I can’t understand all of what it means to have a same-sex attraction, I know what it’s like to try to carry a cross. It sucks.
But why I won’t change what I tell my students or any others who ask me what I think, why I won’t just say “forget it” and move on to something else, is because I’ve caught glimpses of what awaits at the end of the journey of the cross. I’ve felt hints of the love of Christ, been enraptured, if just for moments, by the mists of His glory, and had far too many encounters with the brilliance of His plan of sheer goodness to ever doubt that the cross is what I want, because it is the only way to the Life that Awaits.
Whether or not you disagree with what the Court said, it really doesn’t matter all that much. Your job today is the same as it was yesterday, as is mine: To carry our crosses joyfully through the winter of this life into the budding spring of eternity, and sing the song of Christ’s redemption on the way.
Perhaps others will hear and join in the chorus.