Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"My" values are better than "your" values

Is that what our country wants to project as our image? Really?

Think about your answer as you examine the battle right now for the hearts and minds of Americans.

One issue that divides us is whether gays ought to have a Constitutional right to marry.

The other is whether a house of worship can be built near (not on) what over the past 10 years has become defined as sacred ground.

If you accept that gays ought to have a right to marry, then your argument essentially is defined as completeness. You don't believe that the long-time legal definition of marriage between a man and woman is a complete one. You are not attempting to destroy that traditional definition, you will argue, but instead you are attempting to expand it so that it finally encompasses all people.

You are sure to argue at least one historical precedent -- that voting was not complete in this country until everyone had the chance to do it. Or perhaps you will claim that gay marriage is one of the final pieces of the 1960s' civil rights movement.

But if you oppose legalized gay marriage, you also are going to use history as your guide. You will note that cultures and nations the world over have believed that marriage is indeed validated only when a man marries a woman. You have a legitimate religious argument -- does not Scripture suggest that man leaves his parents and unites with his wife? You will assert that the best family is the nuclear family.

You will recognize the comparison to voting rights as persuasive, but your response is seeing as specious any attempt to equate overt racism or sexism with the fundamentals of religion. In other words, men can change laws made by other men, but no man should change laws proscribed by God.

Faith should be one of the hallmarks of that aforementioned nuclear family, your argument will continue. In fact, a marriage ceremony in a house of worship is more -- and here comes that word again -- complete, real and legitimate, in your eyes. God, in whatever form He exists, is supposed to bless that union of one man and one woman.

I am struck by a few things as this hypothetical conversation takes place. One is the underlying attitude on both side that "my" values are better, more important, more sacred, more open-minded or otherwise superior than and to "your" values. I'm not sure how close to arrogance that comes, but it would seem to come pretty close.

Allow me to speak personally. The man who is half responsible for the creation of the person writing this blog post was not the nicest guy in the world. His vices triumphed over his virtues and any chance he had of enjoying a relationship with his son was ruined by his tipping back of alcohol, a fiery temper and acts of utter stupidity that need not be repeated here. Father has not laid eyes on son in more than 30 years, and as a result the son was raised -- quite well, thank you very much -- by his mother and one of his aunts.

In no way did that child enjoy a nuclear upbringing, but for anyone to argue -- and I would dare them to do it -- that somehow my childhood was wrong would be unwise. It was certainly different from the one I am giving my sons, but who am I to say that it was necessarily worse?

My boys have the love, support and presence of their father. I lacked all of those when I was a child. But does that mean that what my mother and aunt (and to be fair my other aunts and uncles) gave me was inferior?

One of the virtues my family taught me was to be proud of my faith. But never was I supposed to believe that being Catholic somehow made me better than someone else. I continue to be a Catholic, and my wife and I (who were married in a Catholic Church even though she was not Catholic at the time) are raising our boys in that faith.

Our next door neighbor was born Catholic but then converted to Judaism when he married the woman he loves. Does that decision make him, dare I say, less important than my wife in God's eyes? She, after all, was Methodist before converting to Catholicism.

If we accept (and I hope we do) that no faith has the right to claim superiority, then how can our society seek to deny any one faith the chance to establish appropriate houses of worship? I will never accept, no matter how many Republicans or others attempt to shout it from the rooftops, that Islam equates to terrorism. Please explain to me how the actions of a small group of idiots who destroy and kill in the name of Allah represent Islam.

And as you attempt to explain that, then also identify how the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero will violate that sacred ground. If a Catholic Church were being built there, that would be acceptable. Right? If a synagogue were being built there, that would be acceptable. Right? If a high-end shopping mall were being built there, that would be acceptable. Right? If a palatial athletic arena for a professional sports team were being built there, that would be acceptable. Right?

Islam is therefore akin to gay marriage and my upbringing -- inferior. Not because I say so, but because the values you hold say so. Are those values ones you should be proud of?

Please don't misunderstand what I am saying -- I'm not arguing that people should not have values. But what I am suggesting is that all of us should be very careful when we attempt to convince people that "my" values are better than "your" values. Or that "my" faith ranks higher than "your" faith. Or that "my" definition of marriage is superior to "your" definition of marriage.

1 comment:

Belle said...

Well said.