Saturday, May 12, 2012

Shooting Ourselves With Blanks: The Lost Ammunition of Hormonal and Surgical Sterilization

American Catholics long ago lost their rhetorical firepower regarding the sanctity of marriage, an online friend posited recently. It's easy to nod in agreement on this, for both opponents and proponents of gay "marriage". I sense a more superficial assent to pithy, insipid e-posters than a sense of conviction or duty to truth gone wrong. We can all shrug at the mess of this once-esteemed institution, thereby nullifying deeper reflection.

But let's not let ourselves off the hook too easily.

And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold:
and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat.   Genesis 3:6, Douay Rheims

Five decades ago, with the wholesale removal of the life-giving power of straight sex, we neutered our own voices against the clamoring din of voices defining gay sex as equal. How can the collective call for honoring marriage vows as unique among all other agreements be audible or even credible, compared to those who insist on a legal mandate to follow their particular emotional star?

Political games abound in recent domestic events, and they serve as a robust distraction. Our President was compelled to announce his fairly dithering support of same-sex "marriage" hours after North Carolina became the 31st state to confidently come out otherwise. This came on the heels of Vice President Joe Biden's more passioned assertion against the teachings of his professed faith, and in favor of follow-your-star morality. Cynical reasoning offered synchronization with a Hollywood fundraiserflat reports from the labor market, and the Democratic tradition of reliable voter blocs secured according to 'gimmes' from DC as the impetus for his flash of clarity. All are plausible, but the background is more compelling and has little to do with Barack Obama himself. Should he retire today, or perhaps on November 7, the matter of sterility as a sexual freedom remains.

It's an open-ended post, as much for your voice as mine. I'm in full agreement with Catholics who allege that our masses led the way, and that these events are both the culmination and a symptom of our long-wounded culture. I'm eager for practical and evangelical solutions for Christians of all vocations. Not everyone is called to marriage or parenthood, but I know there are endless sources of inspiration for restoring the dignified treatment of life in its inception. Share yours in the comments, if you're so inclined. How can we illustrate the true beauty of marriage in a way that re-shapes the social ideal?


  1. I will say that having shining examples of marriage would be a great start. When so many of my generation experienced high levels of divorce, it is no wonder that they do not even comprehend what a good marriage would look like.

    Also, until more people realize that life is not all about them and their whims, we won't start seeing progress away from the abyss. Focusing on the glamorous wedding day and not the days and years which follow is an indicator of the 'me' mentality.

    And, for what it is worth, I do not have one of those brightly shining marriages for people to strive towards. However, we do our best to seek forgiveness when needed and move forward without holding grudges. Also, we are not focused on what the other person can do for us, but what we can do for them.

    1. Laura, sometimes the strangest things can turn out to be inspiring examples. As a kid, I saw my parents' life, and marriage, go through, and then recover from, all kinds of awful stuff, including drugs and infidelity and screaming fights that kept us kids up at night. They're going on 50 years, and now they're an inspiration in the "usual" way. But I think the whole thing has been more inspiring to me than if they had just been nice for fifty years!

  2. Good thoughts! Like Mother Teresa's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize (did you see E. Foss quoting this today?) and being asked what we can do to work for world peace. 'Go home and love your family,' was her reply. Forgiveness and doing for the other is a shining example, Laura! Well, it's enough to inspire me.

  3. I think something that's often unspoken is the way we have bought the idea that marriage has nothing, essentially, to do with either procreation or fidelity, and then we turn around and say "Gay marriage? That makes no sense--they can't procreate and they're notoriously unfaithful!" I think a lot of people out there are honestly confused, and the only way to unconfuse anybody is to start treating marriage as something that is essentially about faithful union and children. That will be hard, but I think it's providential that the HHS mandate has shoved birth control into the spotlight and kind of forced us to articulate how intentional sterility has not turned out to make us all as happy as it was supposed to.

  4. MsB, I'm eager for practical and evangelical solutions for Christians of all vocations.

    I don't think "solutions", as such, exist. There are no quick fixes here. It took generations of slow, patient Catholic-based culture, family after family, to build a strong culture (think back to the outlawing of cousin marriages, for example). But it's been far easier to destroy than to build; witness what liberals have done to the broader culture in 50 short years. The "why" it is happening is easy John Derbyshire says, Life’s great law is that poverty and hardship build character; prosperity and security destroy it. Or put another way: America never has quite understood Jesus' dire warnings of the danger of wealth.

    But while the culture cannot be simply fixed like a car or a chair can be, people can still save themselves and their families from the mess. And also witness to others by doing so. But this is no easy fix. No simple solution. Only the long, hard slog against the culture at a personal and only then at a family level. With great effort families can still be islands of sanity within the culture at large, setting an example that others can follow. Have not doubt, it's a powerful witness indeed to be seen gulping down water in the middle of a spiritual desert. Reminds me of that classic scene in Jerry McGuire when the player asks, after seeing what a real relationship looks like, "How come we don't have a relationship like that?". See 4:00