Lisa Miller should receive some sort of journalism award for her recent article, "Our Mutual Joy," which appeared in the December 6th issue of The Advocate, Out, Curve, Newsweak. The problem is that the article bears no resemblance at all to journalism, which is supposedly based on facts, objectivity, logic, and a decent grasp of the English language (unless, of course, you're a French journalist or you write for Rolling Stone.) In fact, the piece is such an unabashed, polemical apologia for "gay marriage," you'd be forgiven for thinking it was written for a blog, since bloggers, as we all know, are largely incapable of dealing with facts, objectivity, logic, and so forth.
Anyhow, I suggest Miller be awarded for her courageous willingness to publicly reveal, and revel in, her ignorance of a breathtaking range of topics and issues. The award could be simply named "The Dan Brown Award," and would consist of a plastic replica of a pink hot air balloon mounted on a copy of The Da Vinci Code.
I've not the time or energy to address all of the laughable errors in the article, but will hit a handful of the highlowlights:
• "Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does." First sentence, first, "Huh?" Or, in the words of Mollie Hemingway, "How many things are wrong with that opening line?" This is shockingly simplistic, both in its broad and nearly meaningless use of "religious conservatives" and its inability to comprehend or appreciate the rich and varied sources upon which a traditional concept of marriage is based. Then there is the whole matter of the differences between natural marriage, civil marriage, and sacramental marriage, which is mentioned in passing later, but really needs to be addressed near the start.
• "Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists." Wow, this makes run-of-the-mill condescension look downright friendly. Right away Miller goes for the old stand-by (with an Old Testament twist): Many marriages are imperfect and messed-up, so heterosexual marriage has no moral leg to stand on (I'm surprised she didn't mention Britney Spears). Which raises the question, "If marriage is so rotten and messed-up, why do some homosexuals want to be married?" Seriously.
The Catholic, unlike the progressive secularist, understands man is fallen, flawed, and seriously wounded. He recognizes that salvation history doesn't shy away from this fact, but is meant to address it directly, even bluntly. He also understands that there is a pedagogy at work throughout salvation history, which means, to put it simply, God meets man where he is and works with what he (man, not God) has. Yes, polygyny was common among some of the patriarchs and kings. But if we simply leave it at that (as Miller does), we miss at least two critical facts: all of the marriages described here were between men and women, and that, over time, polygyny gave way to monogamy. Polygyny was probably only practiced among wealthier households, and was considered necessary in order to have several children, as women usually died at an earlier age and many children did not survive childbirth.
In fact, it can be fairly argued, as the Israelites began to more deeply understand the nature (monotheistic) of God and his covenantal love for them, they began to see the problems with polygyny. (See paragraphs 609-611 in the Catechism for more on this.) By the time of the later prophets, there was an explicit understanding of the goodness of monogamous marriage as shown in the language describing God's love for the people (see Hos 1-3; Mal 2:10-16), as beautifully expressed in Isaiah 62:
And what about the Canticle of Canticles, which is one of the most beautiful love poems ever written (likely during the fourth or fifth century B.C.), describing the passionate love of a newly married couple? The New Jerusalem Bible says the Canticle "is a collection of songs celebrating the loyal and mutual love that leads to marriage. [It] proclaims the lawfulness and exalts the value of human love; and the subject is not only profane, since God has blessed marriage." For more on that, go here.
• "The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. 'It is better to marry than to burn with passion,' says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?"
This is arguably the most idiotic remark in the entire article, despite having serious competition from several other sections. Miller is apparently unaware that in the Gospel of John the start of Jesus' public ministry takes place at a wedding (Jn 2:1-11)—and the famous turning of water into wine was hardly an act of indifference, but reflected Jesus' respect for his mother, for the bride and groom (who would have been greatly embarrassed if the wine had run out), and for the fact and act of marriage itself. The Evangelist writes, "This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory..." It is also John who describes the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, which includes an implicit denunciation by Jesus of the woman's serial monogamy (Jn 4:16-19).
Then there are (as Hemingway notes) passages such as Matthew 19, in which Jesus states, in arguing with some Pharisees, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." Followed by: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." If that doesn't speak to the importance and dignity of marriage, I don't know what does.
What about Paul? Why, he had such a low view of marriage that he (drawing in part upon Old Testament prophets) described Christ's love for the Church in explicitly marital/covenantal terms:
Of course, if Miller had known about or acknowledged these passages of the New Testament, she wouldn't have been able to write the following:
As for "gender equality" and "romantic love", I can only assume Miller is unaware it was Christianity that provided the theological reasons and cultural conditions necessary for a respect for women not known prior to Christianity, and that the very notion of "romantic love" came from the medieval era.
• "Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he roundly condemns divorce (leaving a loophole in some cases for the husbands of unfaithful women)." There is a very simple reason Jesus didn't address homosexuality: it wasn't necessary to do so within the Jewish culture he lived in. Whatever significant disagreements he had with the various religious leaders of his day, none of them had to do with the moral character of homosexual acts; Jews believed such acts were depraved and immoral. They were widely considered to be uniquely Gentile and deserving of severe punishment, since they were unnatural and shameful (as Paul states in Romans 1:26-29).
Jesus never mentions child molestation, identity theft, or terrorism either—so what does that mean? The point is that historical context is, obviously, vital in correctly reading the New Testament. Paul did have to address the issue because he spent most of his time, as a Christian, in the Gentile world, traveling to many of the major cities of the Roman Empire. Of course, Miller takes up the altogether modern liberal reading of the passage mentioned above, Romans 1:
• "Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who 'were inflamed with lust for one another' (which he calls "a perversion") is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery."
Well, such progressives can argue all they want, but it doesn't hold up. Fr. Brendan Byrne, S.J., in his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Sacra Pagina , pp 76-77) writes of Romans 1:26 and the term "unnatural": "The preposition in the Greek phrase para physin here has the strong of 'contrary to...'; see BAGD 6111 (s.v. III.6). Josephus, Ag. Ap. 2. 273, 275, uses precisely the phrase para physin in criticism of homosexual union; cf. also Philo Abr. 137; Spec. 2.50; T. Napth. :4-5; Ps.-Phoclyides 190-91. Used in this strong sense, the phrase was a commonplace in popular Stoic ethical discussion and features prominently in literature debating the propriety of same-sex love..." And so forth. For more on the debate on this issue, see this short essay by Richard B. Hays.
• Finally: "In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ's all-encompassing love."
Augh. This is a perfect example of rotten thinking about the true nature of love. For Miller, apparently, love is simply acceptance and tolerance. Yes, Jesus reaches out to both Jews and Gentiles. But did he say or indicate that their actions and moral choices meant nothing? Of course not. Otherwise Jesus wouldn't have made, for example, this sort of politically-incorrect statement:
Much, much more could be said, especially about how marriage between a man and woman is almost universally recognized as 1) the basic foundation of society, 2) a logical and proper means for the propagation and protection of life, 3) and is imbued with some sort of sacred, transcendent quality. "Gay marriage" marks a radical break from all of these facts. Whereas marriage (especially sacramental marriage, but also civil marriage to some degree) has been understood traditionally to be based in an order established by God, "gay marriage" would be and has been established on a completely secular foundation, an artificially created and maintained product of the State. And while there are some homosexuals who say, "Hey, we just want our relationships recognized as marriages by the State," it's clear that Miller (along with many others) wants to go much further:
No, it isn't "exactly the same thing." But, then, who is surprised that Miller finishes her article as she started it: illogically, polemically, hysterically?
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles and Book Excerpts:
• The Meaning and Purpose of Marriage | Alice von Hildebrand
• Marital and Family Commitment: A Personalist View | Monsignor Cormac Burke
• The Challenge of Marriage Preparation | Dr. Janet E. Smith
• Focus Groups and Marriage: A Match Made for Heartache | Mary Beth Bonacci
• Entering Marriage with Eyes Wide Open | Edward Peters
• Human Sexuality and the Catholic Church | Donald P. Asci | Introduction to The Conjugal Act as a Personal Act
• Who Is Married? | Edward Peters
• Marriage and the Family in Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae | Reverend Michael Hull, S.T.D.
• Male and Female He Created Them | Cardinal Estevez
• The Meaning and Necessity of Spiritual Fatherhood | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, MTS
• Practicing Chastity in an Unchaste Age | Bishop Joseph F. Martino
• The Truth About Conscience | John F. Kippley | An excerpt from Sex and the Marriage Covenant