Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Marriage, Gay Couples & Cheese

First, please check out my preamble before reading this.. This little disclaimer explains why I won't be using the Catholic Church in my defense of marriage here. It also explains the concept of a true argument. Rarely do I find that people disprove the arguments.. Instead we jump around to new points and we never actually hash out the main one. Check out my previous post so that we're all on the same page as we begin to discuss!

First up?
Why don't gay couples have the right to marriage? 

The first sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads as follows: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Clearly not a religious text. Instead its one of the most foundational documents in our democratic history! Yet the "Laws of Nature" are cited as an ethical barometer. And I love that phrase.. "to which the Laws of Nature.. entitle them.." Its not unreasonable to say, therefore, that we are not entitled to our country promoting or protecting a lifestyle that is not in accordance with the Laws of Nature. Freedom, therefore, is not about doing whatever you want.. It's about doing what is right. A perfect lead into my summarized point here:

Marriage, at it's most basic form, is the unity of man and wife with the potential for children; distinct from all other relationships. As the building block of our society, redefining the concept of marriage to include other relationships is not only unnecessary, but destructive. 

What do you see here?

Did you say cheese? Well, you're wrong. Take a look at the label a little closer.. It is actually a "pasteurized prepared cheese product"! Its "cheese food", my friend.

Now you might say, "C'mon, Caitie! Who cares! It looks like cheese. It smells (kinda) like cheese. It tastes like cheese!" Well, you're right. And when it comes to making a grilled cheese, this is the way to go, no doubt. But no matter how cheesey and delicious these little plastic wrapped squares are, they're just not cheese. Why not? Well, there's a standard. A definition. According to the FDA, a food is considered cheese when it is 100% cheese. When it's less than 51% cheese, like our wonderful Kraft Singles are, it must be called "cheese food". Real cheese is not an apple, it's not bread or even milk. It's a distinct food that has its own characteristics.

And so does marriage. Marriage is a distinct relationship. Marriage is not just any coupling of the romantically inclined! Duh, right!? Well, let's hold up here a minute because some people have come into this conversation already having redefined it. Let's take a look at the dictionary, shall we?

This is from Oxford Dictionary Online. Again, not a religious institution. And it doesn't include anything about love (the concept of arranged marriages is alive and well in this country and others!), living together, the amount of commitment between them, the ceremony, etc. Why? Because this is a basic definition. And the basis of the definition is not romance, it's not commitment, it's not compatibility. The BASIS of the definition of marriage is man and wife.

Why is this relationship so distinct? A VERY IMPORTANT question! Let's look at Biology. There are two relationships in the history of mankind that are reflected in our human bodies; mother and child and husband and wife.  Think about it! The bodies of a man and a woman fit together so perfectly that a new life is created! Whoa! We can't dismiss that. There is something intrinsically important about that relationship.

And I don't care how much love there is between two women or two men.. ^ THAT doesn't happen! No matter how committed, how compatible, how long they are together, that love that is between them cannot create new life. Two woman or two men cannot join as one like a man and woman can! Biology tells us there is something different about marriage; about the relationship between a man and a woman.

So, if a gay couple's union can never meet the same requirements for marriage (two men or two women will never equal one woman and one man), then they are not married. And no piece of paper disputes this. I could hand out college diplomas all day long! But if the person didn't meet the requirements of graduation does it matter?

And an even bigger question: Would it be discrimination to withhold diplomas from non-graduates? See, that's really what the argument turns into. I've never heard an argument that refutes why the relationship between a man and a woman is not actually distinct. No one argues that homosexuality is right, they argue that we shouldn't care. And they argue that this is an issue of equality.

Well, let me be clear. I am 100% for marriage equality! What I am against is the concept of "gay marriage". Remember the definition above? "The formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife". I am all for equal rights when it comes to marriage; the right for a man to marry any woman he chooses and visa versa!

Check out this video of beautiful Maggie Gallagher.. Brave lady!

But there is no discrimination when you deny that right to those who don't meet the requirements. That's not discrimination, that's reality! If someone cut in line at graduation and, despite attending the classes and wearing the robe, never actually passed a class, would it be discrimination to deny them a diploma? Nope, that's reality, my friend.

I'm not saying there is no love in a homosexual relationship. And I'm not saying there is perfect love in a hetero one. I'm saying that not every loving relationship is a marital one and then two women cannot truly be married because they are two women; not because there is no love between them! And two men cannot truly be married -- be as one -- because they are two men; not because there is no commitment between them.

Let's return to the quote from the Declaration of Independance.. "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Our government does not have a duty to redefine marriage. It is clear that the definition is reasonable: that the relationship between man and woman, with that distinct biological ability to fit together and the potential to create life, is indeed sacred and set apart from all other relationships, no matter how loving and committed they are.

But alas.. We fight so hard for "cheese food".

So, quick answer: Why don't gay couples have the right to marriage? Is it because their love isn't enough? Or their commitment isn't set in stone? No. It's because they don't meet the requirements for marriage (man and woman). If they did and still were not allowed, THAT would be discrimination. This is just the truth. And sometime we have to Jack Nicholson this thing and admit that some people can't handle the truth. Sometimes they can't see it. But never should we back down from sharing it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Gay Debate Preamble

For the past week or two I've been discussing gay marriage on Facebook with friends. Thankfully it's been generally respectful. I know others, on both "sides" of the fence have not been so lucky. I'm glad to have friends who, although we might disagree, show love and respect as we forge this daunting discussion.

In the next few weeks I'll be starting a little series on the topic here. I find that good citations, complete thoughts and focused discussions are hard to have on FaceBook with its quick pace and limited space. Providing (attempted) complete arguments here may provide remedy for that jumping around from point to point thing on the FB. I'll be addressing some of the most frequent questions on gay marriage, such as:

Why don't gay couples have the right to marriage? 
Isn't homosexuality is just as natural as heterosexuality?
Straight people abuse the "sanctity" of marriage everyday! Why all the fuss over gay marriage?
What's wrong with gay parents?
What are you so afraid of?

As I post each response to the questions, I will link them above.

And I will not be referring to the Bible or the Church and here's why: rest assured I love and honor our Holy Mother Church greatly! But because most of the arguments people use FOR gay marriage have a separation-of-Church-and-State kind of foundation, most people would disregard her teachings, saying that they're irrelevant when speaking about a "State" issue. Here's how I see it:

Truth is, you don't have to recognize the left side of the above system to work out the right side. Are they connected? Uh, yeah. But I'm going to focus on the right side to defend marriage and you'll see that it will naturally balance out with the left side.

Now, you might say, "But clearly! Your views are religiously rooted!" Well, yes ma'am, they are. But so are my views on murder. And yet, somehow, in Courthouses around this Church-vs-State country, we are able to determine that killing another person is morally wrong. We can make moral deductions without religion. Therefore, if I'm not bringing the Church into it and you're not bringing the Church into it, the argument of separation of Church and State is irrelevant. And if you want a quick understanding of how the Church feels about gay people, check out this video:

Seriously.. Just watch that video. I love him.

And one last thing.. Philosophy is not about religion, or even spirituality. Philosophy is the exploration of reason and logic and arguments. Not a fight or quarrel . I'm talking arguments in the sense that one can give solid premises to a conclusion. Check out this site for a clearer understanding. So, for example, if I were to say that tulips are discriminated against by not being on the endangered species list, I would need to prove that (1.) they are in fact animals; (2.) they meet the qualifications of being on the endangered list; (3.) they are purposefully not included. If, however, it was proven that tulips aren't animals and that they're not in fact endangered, it doesn't matter how many sob stories these tulips provide, it's not a sound argument.

Stay tuned for answers to the above questions! I'll add posts if other questions don't fit into these. And feel safe to discuss here. I will not allow disrespectful words or attitudes here and will monitor the comments so that they remain appropriate and considerate to all involved. 

God bless!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Chastity is fun!

This is a talk I gave at the 2012 Art of Living retreat at Central Catholic in Lafayette! I gave it six times in one school day, but I loved it! :)

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do..

Every year my parish asks a few people to do a reflection on Good Friday on one of the seven last phrases, or words, of Christ on the cross. This was mine from this year, 2013 on "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched..”     Luke 33-35

We typically read this powerful line in a certain way.. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But there’s a change of inflection that can open this verse up to a different meditation. “Father, forgive them, for they know… Not what they do…” and it can be completed, “but how they feel.” “They know; not what they do.. but what they want.” “Father, forgive them. For they know; not what they do.. but how others expect them to act.”

When we sin, we know something! We know a little piece of the puzzle.. what we want, how we feel, how we think things should be. But rarely, do we see the big picture. In Isaiah 55 we read, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” We cannot imagine how different our view is from God’s; how beautiful, how perfect His view is and how pitiful ours is. Yet, we act on the pitiful one and expect the picture to stay the same. God does not hide His will, His view, from us; He’s very clear on how we should live. But we rely on our own vision, glimpse a few obstacles and claim the journey’s too hard to do it any other way but our own.

We might complain about how someone parents without realizing that their child overheard and has never forgotten our words about their Mom and Dad. We might have been right in our observations! But oh, the wisdom that we would have found in James, ”If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue.. his religion is worthless.”

Or maybe we correct someone’s work and never know that when we laughed and rolled our eyes at their attempts, it affected their confidence to improve. Was God not trying to protect their hearts, and ours, when He said, ”Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

Or how about what we read in Luke; “One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Yet we wonder why we cheat on a test in adolescence and our taxes in adulthood.

We fooled around with a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school never having imagined it would affect our future marriage. Why did we not trust Him when we read in Matthew, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery.. in his heart.”?

We read the stories of Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, even the little spat between Martha and Mary. Yet we don’t think twice when we get in meaningless fights with family members and let it ruin years of great memories.

For some reason, we have a lot of trouble believing what He tells us through Scripture and the Church. We’re not God. We don’t know the full impact of our sins, we don’t know what He has planned for us, we don’t know how He has protected us with the very crosses that we so begrudgingly bear. It's His job to know. 

It's our job to trust. We can’t enter Heaven without an understanding of God, His will and our purpose in serving it. Where and how do we come to this understanding if we haven't fully trusted Him in our lives? Many saints have described their visions of purgatory as “purification by fire”. Like dipping an old shoe into hot, melted silver, allowing each hole, each nook and cranny to be filled and a perfect figure emerging, so will our imperfections be refined so that we can shine.

St. John Vianney said, "How dearly we shall pay for all those [little amusing] faults that we look[ed] upon as nothing at all..!" We cannot imagine the anguish of realizing all the ways we offended and turned away from Him, despite His gift of guidance in our Holy Mother Church. Like those who stood at the foot of the Cross and realized their grave mistake, how much we will wish that we had taken His Life, His Word and His teachings to heart.

Our lives do not revolve around our life stories. It revolves around His sacrifice. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. It’s always about Him! Being Catholic doesn’t mean we’ve earned salvation, it means we’ve accepted His gift of it, teachings and all, each day of our lives, knowing that it is the artist who makes a painting beautiful; not the paintbrush. We must stop focusing on our little piece of the puzzle and live by His big picture most perfectly painted in Christ our Lord.

He’s not calling us to be all-knowing. He’s calling us to be all-trusting. All-faithful. He’s calling us to love, he’s calling us to forgive and He’s calling us to pray. Love, forgive, pray. He did all three when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do..”

My God, My God.. Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Every year my parish asks a few people to do a reflection on Good Friday on one of the seven last phrases, or words, of Christ on the cross. This was mine from 2012 on "My God, My God.. Why have You forsaken Me?"

From noon onward,u darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” 
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 
Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”
Matthew 27: 45-47

In Matthew 27 we read, “About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When we talk about this passage, we usually just concentrate on Jesus speaking to His Father in that moment.

But if we go back to the Psalms.. To Psalm 22, which was written almost 1000 years before Jesus became man. A beloved Psalm that everyone would have known and recognized.. Psalm 22 begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” At that moment, Jesus wasn’t just creating Scripture.. He was quoting it. He quoted the beginning of a Psalm that goes on to detail and prophesize His own Passion through the plight of the Isrealites. He wasn’t just speaking to God in that moment. He was also speaking to those who were crucifying Him. And he was speaking to us.

In that moment, people would have recognized what He was quoting. We can imagine that reciting the beginning of such a well-known Psalm to those people who had been screaming at Our Lord, jeering at him on His walk to be crucified, and laughing at Him on the cross would have stopped them in their tracks and taken their breath away. We can imagine their minds racing back to that Psalm and coming to a horrible realization that the man being crucified before them was truly the Messiah that had been prophesized to them.
In that Psalm, in verse 5, we read a lament to God the Father. He says, “In You our ancestors trusted, they trusted and you rescued them. To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But [to them] I am a worn, hardly human scorned by everyone, despised by the people.”
Perhaps those who had followed Jesus to his death would have realized that they had become the exact people they were sure they’d never be. And don’t we find ourselves in the same situation? We read about the Good Samaritan and think that we’d surely stop to help, but we avoid that person who really just needs someone to talk to. Or we say that we despise gossiping, but we end up talking about the person who gossips. We gasp over stories about dishonest people in the newspaper, but we live many lies in our lives. We always hear that line about things being so much easier if there were no sinners in the Catholic Church. Most especially ourselves.

The Psalm continues, “All who see me mock me, they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me; ‘You relied on the Lord – let Him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you’.”

Here the people at the foot of the cross would have come to see that they had persecuted a man for the exact thing they were trying to protect. And don’t we do this every day? We look for flaws in people who give good and holy examples; saying that they’re self-righteous. We try to tear down people who live simply and who love humbly; claiming that they’re too uptight. We roll our eyes at the people who try to get us more involved, we scoff at those who try to get us to do the right thing, we dismiss those who don’t have flashy things to offer. We jeer at people who are doing exactly what God asks.

The Psalm, remember written nearly 1000 years before Jesus walked the earth, continues, “They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots. But you my Lord, do not stay far off; my strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword.”

Perhaps a few of those soldiers would have been familiar with the Psalms. Maybe they would have gotten sick to their stomachs and felt so much regret, knowing that their arrogance had been their demise. And yet, we do the same. We reject Church teachings that don’t seem to serve us well. Like the soldiers who cast lots for Our Lord’s garments, we pick and choose the parts of the faith that we want, instead of falling to our knees and embracing her fully as our Mother Church. It can be as big as the controversial topics so often argued over on the news or as small as taking something that belongs to a brother or sister.. But many times, we find excuses to get us out of living according to God’s will.

See, we all will have many moments in our lives like these – when we stop and realize how we have crucified Our Lord. What matters is what we do with that realization.. Do we swat it away and turn from the truth? Do we make excuses? Do we become bitter? Or, like Psalm 22, do we go on to praise God and find hope in Him. God is asking us to look at our lives with humble, honest, and faithful eyes. Many times the cross He asks us to bear is gnarly and in ruins.. But only when we pick it up and bring it to Him can it be restored. Only when we come to Him with our hurts and our weaknesses can we be restored.

There is hope. Even Jesus, nailed to a cross, reciting the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” had hope. He said these words, not to persecute us but to help us to fully realize what he had said the day before at the Last Supper.. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”