Protecting marriage

I usually try to keep this site focused on its stated purpose of celebrating marriage in a hostile world. I write about things that I hope will encourage, and maybe enlighten, anyone who reads these pages. I write about topics that hopefully inspire a response from readers who can then encourage me as well as each other. My goal is to foster mutual encouragement among people who love marriage and feel little encouragement elsewhere. Because of that, I usually stay away from controversial issues. One time I wrote about same-sex marriage in what I thought was a sensitive manner, focusing on healing a sacred institution rather than on attacking those who wanted to expand its legal definition. That post inspired debate rather than encouragement. I almost regretted writing it. While I enjoy a good, healthy debate and exchange of differing opinions (and I must admit that that debate was both civil and thoughtful), that is not the goal of this blog.

Sometimes, though, controversies just can’t be avoided.

Yesterday, President Bush called on Congress to draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman. He said that passing a law would not be enough, since “activist courts” would undoubtedly strike down any such law as unconstitutional. For the record, I agree with him. I hate that the issue has even come up. I hate that marriage and the morals of society have fallen so far as to make this necessary. I wish society respected marriage enough to make the debate irrelevant. Sadly, such is not the case.

I believe society still respects the idea of marriage if not the practice. That same-sex couples want to marry shows that the noble ideal of an emotional, legal, spiritual, and lifelong commitment between two individuals still has enough appeal to inspire even non-traditional participation. That divorce rates continue to rise, that increasing numbers of children are born to non-committed parents, that marriage is ridiculed more than it is revered shows that society cares less every day about the practice of marriage.

Government exists in large part to protect the things that are important to us. The practice of marriage obviously is not important to many, many people. I believe, however, that much of society still values the idea of marriage, an idea that would lose its meaning, and therefore its value, with the first step onto the slippery slope of redefining it. So the federal government is now in the position of needing to protect an idea while neglecting that idea’s practice. That puts Congress and the president between a contradictory rock and a hypocritical hard place, making the debate all the more difficult.

I don’t foresee marriage or divorce laws improving any time soon, but I’ll never give up on marriage. If the government can’t make marriage work, then society must. I’m going to continue doing my small part to make that happen. And while the government can’t make people love each other, honor their commitments, and treat each other well, it can do something to protect the idea of marriage. That’s what I believe this amendment will do, and that’s why I’ll support it.

I think it will probably be a long time before I comment on political events again. Until then, I’ll leave you with these words that closed the president’s address yesterday:

America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens. This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions. Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities. We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger.

In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency.

 

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