Another Round Over Marriage Equality at the Cornerstone Forum

ImageOkay, okay. Gil Bailie and I will never see eye-to-eye about same-sex marriage. He’ll never convince me because he doesn’t offer empirical evidence for his claims—you know, trend lines, data sets, surveys, even anecdotes. And I’ll never convince him because, well, I can only offer those things (interlaced with generous dollops of opinion, of course).

Nevertheless, these discussions have value—both historical and topical—for those interested in the momentous cultural transformations happening all around us. When looked at longitudinally, they reveal subtle but significant shifts, fissures, and patterns in belief and practice.

I decided to copy many of the discussions from Gil’s Cornerstone Forum Facebook page to this site because I saw that Gil does not value them—or rather, he values only his own part in them. His recent purges on The Cornerstone Forum left gaping holes in vibrant conversations, recalling those Stalinist-era photos where ousted Politburo members were airbrushed out.

Additionally, Facebook is a less-than-ideal host for those discussions. Its archiving and search tools are minimal, and its comments feature hampers both expression and reading.

So, here is the latest round on marriage equality brought over from the Cornerstone Forum’s Facebook page:

Gil Bailie:

The first miracle in John’s Gospel is the miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, where water was turned into wine. The primacy of this miracle in the Johannine tradition should not be lost on us. Marriage is as natural as water itself. It is a natural institution, defined by sexual complementarity and reproductive potential. And yet the Church, faithful to the miracle of Cana, elevates this natural institution to sacramental status. The water of nature is turned into the wine of “one flesh” nuptiality. It begins, however, with the water of nature.

Today we know better. Why start with something as passé as water or nature? Why not wave the wand of political correctness over the spiked Kool-Aid of the sexual revolution just to see if it works? The result is neither fresh spring water nor a nuptial wine capable of aging well. It would be bad enough if our reckless experimentation amounted to nothing more than a reversal of the historical transition from the pagan to the Judeo-Christian understanding of sexuality. It certainly is that, but it’s even more reckless. For, even in the reasonably rare cases where homosexuality was formally tolerated in the pagan world, it was never regarded as indistinguishable from – or in any remote way comparable to – the marriage of a man and a woman.

Our homosexual friends and relatives deserve our love as much as anyone else. We should acknowledge the love they legitimately feel for one another, and sympathize with their struggle and their desire for happiness. But it is not an act of unkindness or insensitivity to recognize that there is grave cultural, moral and spiritual damage in pretending that something is what it is not. Those who think this issue is simply one of equality are not foreseeing its certain consequences: the suppression and eventual criminalization of any public demonstration of one’s fidelity to the moral traditions long held and universally espoused by Jews and Christians. Signs of this intolerance abound, and those who think it will recede once same-sex marriage becomes law are deluding themselves.

One of the key elements in that delusion is a common category mistake: namely, the mistake of regarding the push for same-sex marriage as analogous to the civil rights movement. The real comparison is with another of the sexual revolution’s monumental moral and anthropological blunders: the invention – out of thin air – of the “right” to abortion on demand. This latest insult to commonsense, to moral and legal tradition, and to any reasonable understanding of nature, will fail to achieve long term normativity just as has the Roe v Wade abortion regime. The longer it takes us to realize this, the greater the cultural wreckage, and the more we will run the risk of falling into a new intolerance or back into an old one. Let’s be sensible and settle for tolerance.

Leo M. Walker:

Exactly. If marriage were nothing more than a big, sentimental sugar plum to plop down on a fervid romance to add the perfectly calculated touch of poignancy and gravitas, then sure, allow anybody to marry in any way they like. But marriage is no such thing, and no amount of contrivance , posturing or petulant demand will make is so.

Doughlas Remy:

ImageOnce again, Gil, your dire auguries about the effects of same-sex marriage are contradicted by demonstrable reality. Even Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), in a recent interview with Michelangelo Signorile, admitted that her claims—by strange coincidence identical to yours—were unsupported by evidence. How to explain, for example, that the state of Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage five years ago and its divorce rate is still the lowest in the country? How to explain that states where support for same-sex marriage (SSM) is highest have lower rates of divorce and teen pregnancies than those where that support is lowest?

If the Cornerstone Forum and the National Organization “for” Marriage are really committed to strengthening the institution of marriage, then let them study the successes of the blue states.

If there were any evidence supporting Maggie Gallagher’s claims and your own, you can be sure that her organization (NOM) would by now have uncovered it. But they haven’t. All they can uncover in their searches is evidence undermining those claims. This leaves Gallagher in the uncomfortable position of saying, “Well, we may not know for another thirty years…” And that’s a very weak argument for resisting change when change is warranted by so many compelling realities.

These “compelling realities” may be witnessed in the lives of hundreds of thousands of married or partnered gay couples, including those with children. To cite only one example: A 20-year longitudinal study conducted by the American Society of Pediatrics showed that children raised by lesbian couples do as well or better than children raised by heterosexual couples.

You describe the “certain consequences” of SSM legalization as “the suppression and eventual criminalization of any public demonstration of one’s fidelity to the moral traditions long held and universally espoused by Jews and Christians.”

First of all, opposition to SSM is far from “universal” among Christians and Jews, and it is becoming less so by the day. So, speak for yourself. Or just make it “orthodox Catholics and Jews and fundamentalist Christians and Muslims.” Nice crowd.

Second, if by “fidelity to moral traditions” you mean “fidelity to traditions of discrimination,” then I would call those traditions immoral, not moral.

Let’s be careful about how we name things. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear by giving it a pretty name. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is no better than discrimination based on race or gender. Calling it a “moral tradition” doesn’t change that.

You’ve claimed once again that the push for SSM is not analogous to the civil rights movement. I could tell you why I think it is, but since you made the claim, why don’t you defend it? Convince me. In my case, all it takes is a sound argument supported by reason and evidence.

I appreciate the “love” and “sympathy” you express for homosexuals in your third paragraph, but I’m afraid it is useless to us in the form it is offered. Your “love” is tainted with judgment and your “sympathy” is tainted with misplaced pity. I hear only sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.

ImageWhere is your “sympathy” for Edith Windsor, the 81-year-old widow of Thea Spyer, who was forced to pay $350,000 in estate taxes on Thea’s estate upon her death because the federal government did not recognize that the two were married? Edith and Thea met in the early sixties and became engaged in 1967. They were unable to marry for another forty years! By that time, Thea had already been suffering from multiple sclerosis for many years, during which Edith cared for her.

How would you have treated Edith and Thea? Please tell, and then tell us that it is evidence of your “love” and “sympathy.”

Doughlas Remy:

@ Leo Walker: As you must be aware, your characterization of same-sex marriage as “a big, sentimental sugar plum to plop down on a fervid romance to add the perfectly calculated touch of poignancy and gravitas” is grossly insulting to hundreds of thousands of gay couples who have married or would like to do so, including myself and my partner. What entitles you to use such offensive language to describe the love, caring, and commitment that gay couples experience?  Such trivializing and demeaning language betrays a frightening callousness and failure of empathy. And you are a Catholic?

Your words are, I think, one of the most compelling examples of the harm that a misguided church doctrine can do. You have no doubt taken license from the Church’s characterization of homosexual acts as “acts of grave depravity.” Catholic children who learn from their parents and family to regard homosexuals as “depraved” feel little compunction about ostracizing and bullying them. Shall I tell you about the suicide rate among gay teens?

Dean Hansen (submitted separately):

pareidolia

Gil is guilty here of using the Gospel as a lens for gaining imaginary feedback for his own already established prejudices. This is the Biblical version of pareidolia in which you see what you want to see based on the mind’s habit of re-ordering everything into an expression or image that suits our own internalized perceptions of truth and need for meaning. “I was looking at the clouds the other day, and it reminded me of the face of Jesus!  This of course is a sign which means that God watches over all of my enterprises and vouchsafes what I already believe!  Praise God!”  Now the miracle of Cana is no longer a straightforward witnessing of Jesus’ first public miracle (turning water into wine, which encouraged everyone in the house to get pleasantly drunk on Christ’s generosity, turning the celebration of one couple’s union into a celebration with benefits for everyone).  Instead, the event becomes a straightforward evocation of the “deeper” truth of marriage, which turns the “water” of mere biological sexual lust and potential promiscuity into the “wine” of heterosexual matrimonial exclusivity and the “deeply gravitic nuptial sacramental sacrality.”  (One cock + One vagina = Bliss)

Then Gil goes into the “deep cotton” of theological misdirection.  He writes, “Why not wave the wand of political correctness over the spiked Kool-Aid of the sexual revolution just to see if it works?”  Huh??!  Talk about a collision of mixed, totally unrelated metaphors!  That single sentence would take hours to unpack just to do it justice. What political constituency of suit-wearing, Vance-Packard-style Democrats and Republicans of the 1960s were instrumental in encouraging the sexual revolution? Most of them were content to keep their adulteries and transgressions in the closet wrapped up in a knot of perpetual hypocrisy and fear rather than see their lives as expressions of botched chances and denied opportunities exposed to the light of day.

The sexual revolution happened in part as a reaction against the political realities of the day (Vietnam, civil rights divisions, Nixonian drug enforcement, sexual repression, etc.).  It was also a reaction against the blissful mediocrity of endless Levittowns, McCarthyism, concrete as far as the eye can see, and Eisenhower-style conformity transformed into a consumptive culture of strip malls and shopping centers. People were opting out of whatever was being floated as “correct” behavior. The Beatniks were the 50s response; the hippies the 60s response.  The “Spiked Kool-Aid” came later when a religious leader named Jim Jones fled to another country with a congregation of 1000 people who trusted his paranoid, drug-induced religious fantasies more than their own common sense. Strange indeed that they were persuaded to drink the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid by someone who spouted death-of-the-West rhetoric eerily similar to Gil’s own.

Whatever havoc Timothy Leary, Jerry Rubin, John Lennon and Abbie Hoffmann may have caused by turning hippies onto drugs as a means of experimentally lifting their consciousness was trivial compared to the insanity that resulted when religion was added to the equation by someone who had no legitimate allegiances to or connections with a cultural reformation based on the exalted premises of peace and love. The “nuptial wine” that Gil transforms into a symbol of marriage hardly “ages well” if you consider the divorce rate. What is more, it is still denied to those who hold a less hetero-normative conception of marriage and prefer one that is more suited to the realities of their natures.

What Gil would desperately like us to believe is that the first-century Judeo-Christian understanding of sexuality has never been improved upon. But it was, and it must be—if we’re to be the full human beings that he claims he wants us to be.

The last little bit of throw-away condescension is really perverse. “Our homosexual friends and relatives deserve our love as much as anyone else.” (after assuring them over and over again ad infinitum that they are depraved, intrinsically disordered, and vile).” We should acknowledge the love they legitimately feel for one another, and sympathize with their struggle and their desire for happiness.”

I would challenge Mr. Bailie to present us with one homosexual friend or relative with any self-respect who would still feel comfortable around him after reading that self-serving, disingenuous tripe. The damage that Bailie imagines to be the result of granting gays equal protection and dignity under the law is nothing compared to the damage that he causes by turning his anachronistic thinking into a public nuisance.

Gil winds down his cornucopia of wisdom with the following gem:  “But it is not an act of unkindness or insensitivity to recognize that there is grave cultural, moral and spiritual damage in pretending that something is what it is not.”  You mean, like pretending you’re a Christian when, in the name of tradition, you betray everything Christ stood for? Well, that at least makes some sense.

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