We’re up on another 4 July, and frankly this one looks to be depressing. Many of us find ourselves in a country that doesn’t want us any more; we’ve even gotten to the point where we find a person like Edward Snowden a hero for exposing the NSA, even when he fled to places our government, for all practical purposes, considers enemies.
Thinking about this takes me back to something I’ve considered sharing for a long time. But I guess it’s now or never. It comes from the 1980’s, when Ronald Reagan was President and it was “morning in America”, a morning that has turned into a stormy afternoon and evening since.
I’ve always believed that the Christian sexual ethic is simple: the only licit conjugal relations are between a man and a woman in Holy Matrimony. I’ve also believed that it is unrealistic to expect non-Christian people to live up to this, although many do. I’ve always felt that the best way to state this truth is to live it in whatever state I found myself. That hasn’t always been easy or popular, especially growing up on the “leading edge” of our culture in 1960’s and 1970’s South Florida.
When I came into my family business on a full-time basis in 1978, it was never my desire to turn the business into its employees’ moral police. Concerning cohabitation and the children that resulted therefrom, we had a tradition of an even-handed approach which eschewed the moralistic punishment of the past and the sappy affirmation that was coming into vogue. So when one of my employees had a child out-of-wedlock with marriage following, it never occurred to me to make anything of it. His good performance continued and I never said anything to anyone else about it.
Unfortunately the company’s performance was another matter. The oil crash of the early 1980’s took many a good company in the oil patch into oblivion and our business suffered as well. He saw which way the wind was blowing and took a position with another organisation which required that he hold a security clearance. Security clearances were something I knew something about; I had one with my first employer. When the government examines a person who applies for one, they want to know everything about your whereabouts and everything else in your life.
Our government dispatched an agent to interview me as his supervisor. Armed with the knowledge and wanting to make the full disclosure I felt they were looking for, I mentioned his inauspicious start to married life. I figured that, if it meant anything to the government, they would take it into consideration and, if it did not, they would ignore it and move on.
Silly me: the agent started to push me about my own attitudes on the subject, with the unmistakable implication that I was being “judgemental” in my attitude. He was quite persistent in the matter and wasted a good deal of the time the taxpayers were paying for making an issue out of it. It never occurred to him that, had I been the judgemental ogre he was making me out to be, I would have fired the employee and been done with it. Finally he got the hint that he wasn’t going to change my convictions on the subject, finished the interview and left.
It was bad enough that the government was upset with me on the subject; a few years later, my family got into the same mode when we experienced some cohabitation of our own. Again I was cast as “judgemental” not because I took action against anyone but because of my beliefs. (In spite of this, no one would challenge my mother’s standing refusal to have any one of us stay in her house if they brought a companion they weren’t married to). My family was out of sorts with many of my Christian convictions, but their “Plan B” didn’t work out as advertised, and my poor brother took most of the blowback.
So when same-sex civil marriage floated to the top of the national debate, my first reaction was, “huh?” After all these years of trashing people who objected to cohabitation, how could these people turn around and insist that certain people needed to get married? Do they really expect all same-sex couples to get married? And doesn’t expanding marriage shame cohabiters? Yes, I know that we have a “try before you buy” attitude these days, but, if we remove the Christian sexual ethic from the discussion (which removes the “try” in any case) why the buy after the try?
My experience on a personal level with the cohabitation issue, and the stunning volte-face on same-sex civil marriage, have convinced me that those who lead this society are either insane or duplicitous or both. They remind me of Count Czernin’s description of the Bolsheviks. But to some extent we as Christians have painted ourselves into a corner on this issue. We’ve bawled for the last forty years that the reason for the breakdown of the family stems from lack of long-term commitment, but instead of focusing on Christian marriages we’ve obsessed with upgrading society. So our culture leaders have taken our obsession with long-term commitment and shoved it back into our face with same-sex civil marriage, even though we all know that there are some commitments in life that don’t need to be long-term or any term.
At this point the best we can hope for is that the relationship between state and church be a cat and mouse game, with the cat being hopelessly overweight. That’s not what our Founding Fathers fought our Revolution for, nor is it what the many men and women have fought for to defend our freedoms. But until we have yet another “new birth of freedom” on this continent, the dreams that many of our ancestors had when they came here will become just that.