Very well, Father, I’ll go to the March for Marriage. I must admit, I was somewhat chagrined when my priest sent all of us parishioners the email which began, “Christ is Risen!”, our traditional Paschal greeting at the Orthodox parish where I am a member. Really? A political rally? But my priest and my bishop were both insistent. Reluctantly, I headed for the National Mall.
It was in this spirit that I attended the March for Marriage, just another face in a crowd of over ten thousand. Unfortunately, my initial fears about the event were in part confirmed: There were plenty of tasteless and offensive picket signs. A Democratic State Senator from New York waved a cowboy hat and ranted about how much more Biblical he was than other Democrats. For some unfathomable reason, an evangelical group had hoisted a massive banner proclaiming “Halt Islam!” A Moses lookalike dressed in burlap held a massive bible and blew a four-foot ram’s horn. My friends looked at me uncomfortably. I was about ready to let my people go.
But just as I was eyeing my exits, I was approached by a woman carrying a notepad who asked if she could interview me. She introduced herself as Lila from the Huffington Post, and we walked toward the Supreme Court chatting for about twenty minutes. It felt good to leave behind the raucous rally stage with its over-amplified demagogues bookended by loud rock-n-roll interludes. It was cathartic to be able to explain to Lila that people were here for many different reasons and a wide diversity of motivations, and that traditional marriage could not be reduced to platitudes.
After all, I explained, there were serious issues at stake, not only for Christians or even religious people, but issues of human rights and social justice. First of all, I noted, we were marching because every child has the basic, inalienable human right to a mother and a father. She made the point that there are plenty of children who already exist outside the boundaries of this right: children in broken families, with deceased or absent parents, and those with same-sex families. I agreed. Many people are tragically deprived of many inalienable human rights: life and liberty being among them. But should the Supreme Court vote that the freedom to deprive a child of basic human rights is protected under the Constitution?
I also noted that the judiciary’s forced redefinition of marriage would have far-reaching consequences on religious freedom and social cohesion. Businesspeople in the public market are required to affirm the newspeak on marriage or face immense fines and other punishments. Parents and teachers may be unable to opt out of mandatory same-sex education programs in school. Will priests and ministers be vulnerable to lawsuits when they uphold the traditional guidelines of their faith? The broadening of marriage’s definition, I explained, reduces marriage to a least common denominator and exposes it to a reductio ad absurdum. Far from harmless, the “business contract between two consenting adults” model for marriage blithely ignores the socio-cultural value of the family, and the moral obligations that exist between husband and wife, parents and children.
Perhaps I overshared. I delved into the question of universals proper to human nature and the differentiation of gender. Her eyes began to glaze over when I started quoting medieval philosophers. I sensed our interview was coming to a close, and wished her a happy Saturday. Awesome, I thought in my hubris, she looked super convinced.
Then I read her article a few days ago. I discovered that my interviewer was Lila Shapiro, a two-time award-winning journalist for the “Gay Voices” section of Huffington Post. I prepared myself to read her “spin” on what I said. I was surprised, though, when I saw that she disliked the interview so much that she just made up another one to replace it.
According to her, I said the following: “I’m a married human being, so what does this mean for me? It’s against the way I see marriage. It’s against the way I see myself.” Shapiro scoffed, “Same-sex marriage is wrong because, well . . . because it’s wrong.”
An imaginative fabrication. Apparently I’m married? (I’m not). It was frustrating that after a twenty-minute interview in which I listed numerous reasons why government redefinition of marriage is bad for everyone, Shapiro published a (completely fictional) quote that boiled down to “it’s my personal opinion.” What do you win the “LGBT Journalist of the Year” award for? Yarn-spinning? Creative hijinks?
Yet this broach of journalistic ethics is more interesting than irritating to me. Shapiro said it herself numerous times: This issue is already decided. Public opinion has ruled: There are no good arguments for traditional marriage.
So why should Lila lie? If my arguments were stupid, why not publish them?
The answer is simple enough. It must be that the complexity of the marriage debate does not only affect traditional marriage supporters, it affects everybody. As I made my arguments to Shapiro during our interview, she seemed perplexed and unable to reply with more than stock responses: “You’re not gay. Why protest something that doesn’t affect you?” “Aren’t you worried you’ll end up on the wrong side of history?” Her article ridicules the “closed-mindedness” of traditional marriage supporters, but when faced with actual arguments on the subject, Shapiro opted to pretend I’d said something else. Even on the “cusp of victory,” same-sex marriage supporters are taking no chances by engaging these dangerous, volatile truths. How strange to discover such fear among those who have routed their enemies so completely.
Overall, my experience at the March for Marriage reminded me that traditional marriage supporters, especially Christians, have a long way to go in their dialogue with current cultural trends on gender, sexuality, marriage, and family issues. We too often rely on circular or unconvincing arguments, and so rarely approach this dialogue in a spirit of love (or even civility). However, in spite of our own failures to communicate, we can still have hope knowing that the truth itself, when fully articulated, is a fearsome and powerful witness that may yet have an impact on our society. Are we willing to think honestly and communicate virtuously about these serious questions?
At the end of the march, the Orthodox group I was marching with, Crown them With Glory, gathered to sing hymns and pray. It struck me that our prayer, “Thy will be done” was worth more than any public debate or million-person rally. The spirit of peace engendered by prayer is, in the end, the only thing that has ever preserved the fullness of the Church when the society’s freedom of religion is infringed. In the end, the Supreme Court will decide what it decides about marriage in the United States. Whether their decision is just or unjust, I see no reason any of us should be silent about it. But as the First Epistle of Peter exhorts, we should respond with “gentleness and respect.”
Andrew Jacob Cuff is a Ph.D. student in Church history at the Catholic University of America.