The Rise of True Marriage: A New Missionary Moment Has Come
By Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
On May 17, 2004, in my home State of Massachusetts, the power of an unbridled Judiciary and the thorough lack of authentic Christian influence on the culture of contemporary America have converged in the first volley of the cultural revolution. Seven "couples" of the same sex will be "married" in an act of "legal alchemy". The alchemists of old maintained they could change one metal into another. Their claim was a lie. So too, those who under the authority of the State purport to make these relationships of people of the same gender a "marriage" are engaged in a delusion.
True marriage is the preeminent and the most fundamental of all human social institutions. It is a relationship defined by nature itself and protected by the natural law that binds all men and women. It finds its foundation in the order of creation. Civil institutions do not create marriage nor give anyone a "right" to marry. The institutions of government should, when acting properly, defend marriage against those who would redefine it. In Massachusetts, the black robed arbiters of a new social order have done just the opposite.
Government has long regulated marriage for the common good. For example, the ban on polygamy and age requirements were enforced in order to ensure that there was a mature decision at the basis of the Marriage contract. Heterosexual marriage, procreation, and the nurturing of children form the foundation for the family, and the family forms the foundation of civil society. In now "redefining" marriage, these renegade Justices and their complicit public officials have imperiled the stability of our society and struck a blow against the common good.
The "Supreme Judicial Court" of Massachusetts has now "redefined" marriage in order to grant some feigned legal equivalency to co-habiting paramours (homosexual or heterosexual) and to confer governmental benefits upon them. This act of arrogance of power does not serve the common good. It also is not a true marriage.
To "limit" marriage to heterosexual couples is not discriminatory now, nor has it ever been. Homosexual couples cannot bring into existence what marriage intends by its very definition. To now "confer" the benefits that have been conferred in the past only to stable married couples and families to homosexual paramours is bad public policy. In this new "alchemy", the "officials" of the Imperial State of Massachusetts have taken upon themselves the "power" to change the truth.
Theologians and Philosophers speak of ontology as the science or philosophy of being. For example, a rock is a rock and not a cabbage; a man is a man and a woman is a woman. Marriage is ontologically between a man and a woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to procreation and forms the foundation of family.
These alchemists are as fraudulent in their claims as their ancestors. History will one day record that their claims were destructive and false. The enforcers of this new order, ruling from the bench, unchecked by any balance of power, have simply followed what the legal positivists have long proclaimed, "The law is what the courts say it is." They have also joined a cultural revolutionary force more potentially lethal to the common good than Chairman Mao's reign of terror.
Make no mistake; those who claim that this is simply a matter of "tolerance" are actually the most intolerant. They will now unveil their long planned strategy of forcing their brave new world on the rest of us. Watch how intolerant they are of those who, though respecting the dignity of every person, including homosexuals, also insist that marriage is what it is and not what some renegade Court redefines it to be.
The current cultural situation we face as Christians in America is not an unfamiliar one. We need to see it now in terms of Christian history. I do not care how "scientifically advanced" we think we have become, or how "modern" the issues purport to be, we humans do not really change all that much, at least without grace. The struggle we are engaged in as Christians in contemporary western culture still concerns a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of freedom.
Remember, in the circles of cultural and social revolutionaries, Christians (at least orthodox, faithful ones) are often presented as unenlightened, forcing "our view" on others. When, in fact, our positions on marriage, family, authentic freedom, the dignity of every human person, and the nature of truth as objective.... are what actually frees people from the bondage of disordered appetites. These truths are objectively true for all men and women. We were made for relationship. We were structured for authentic love and human flourishing within family and a society founded upon family.
The early Church was also sent into cultures filled with people who thought they were extremely "advanced" in light of the arts and sciences of their day. Yet, these cultures practiced primitive forms of abortion and even "exposure", a practice of leaving unwanted children on rocks to be eaten by birds of prey or picked up by slave traders. To them, freedom was rooted in a notion of power over others and the right to do as they chose.
One has only to read the ancient Christian manuscripts such as the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve) or the accounts of Justin Martyr or other early sources to read of cultures not unlike the one in which we live today, cultures of "use" where people were treated as property - cultures of excess where "freedom" was perceived as a power over others and unrestrained license masqueraded as liberty, where homosexual sexual practices were prevalent.
The word "pagan" was not used as a disparaging term, but actually represented a pseudo-"religious" worldview. I use it the same way in referring to our contemporary age as increasingly pagan. Many of the "gods" and goddesses" of this worldview promoted these lives of selfish excess, homosexual practices, and hedonism masquerading as freedom. In fact the myths concerning them had them acting in much the same way. They have been reintroduced today, only the myths and statues are different.
These early Christians did not point the finger and rail against the "pagans" of their age. They did not present a "negative" message. They proclaimed the freedom found in Jesus Christ to all who would listen and demonstrated it in their compelling witness of life. They lived in monogamous marriages, raised their children to be faithful Christians and good citizens, and went into the world of their age, offering a new way to live. This "way" (which is what they first called the early Church) presented a very different worldview than the one that the pagans embraced.
These early Christians, with joy and integrity, spoke and lived a different way in the midst of that pagan culture. As a result, they sometimes stirred up hostility. Some of them were martyred in the red martyrdom of shed blood. Countless more joined the train of what use to be called "white martyrdom", by living lives of sacrificial witness and service in the culture, working hard and staying faithful to the end of along life spent in missionary toil.
Slowly, not only were small numbers of "pagans" converted and baptized, but eventually their leaders and entire Nations followed suit. Resultantly, the Christian worldview began to influence the social order. The "clash of freedoms" continued, but the climate changed significantly. It was the Christian faith and the practices of these Christians that began to win the hearts of men and women. The cultures once enshrined to pagan practices, such as plural marriage, homosexuality, exposure and abortion began to change dramatically and this dynamic continued for centuries.
It was Christianity that taught such novel concepts as the dignity of every person and their equality before the One God. The Christians proclaimed the dignity of women, the dignity of chaste marriage and the sanctity of the family. It was Christianity that introduced the understanding of freedom not simply as a freedom from, but as a freedom for living responsibly and with integrity.
The Christians insisted that freedom must be exercised with reference to a moral code, a law higher than the emperor, or the sifting sands of public opinion. It was the Christians who understood that choice, rightly exercised, meant always choosing what was right and that the freedom to exercise that choice brought with it an obligation and concern for the other.
Their faith presented a coherent and compelling answer to the existential questions that plagued the ancients, such as why we existed and how we got here. What was the purpose of life? Questions like how evil came into the world and why we could not always make right choices? What force seemed to move us toward evil and how we could be set free from its power? Christian philosophy began to flourish and the arts also flourished under the Christian worldview. Philosophies of government and economic theory began to be influenced by these principles derived from a Christian worldview
Now we are called to transform our own American and western culture from within. We must be faithful citizens, run for office, and never give up our struggles in the courtroom, the classroom, or the marketplace of commerce, all for the common good. Our social and cultural mission is not an option. It lies at the heart of what it means to be "leaven", "light", "salt" and the "soul of the world" as the early Christians taught.
However, we need to realize that the task we face is first, at root, a spiritual struggle that will first be won in prayer, stepped into a new Christian missionary movement by the compelling witness of a vibrant, orthodox, faithful Christianity that is culturally engaging, relevant and compelling to the new pagans of our age.
True marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of the universe. It is God's idea and not our own. It is the first vital cell of society and creates the first society wherein children are to be raised so that they can fully develop and flourish. Children have a right to a mother and a father. Yes, there are broken homes and single parent homes and we must always provide a compassionate social framework for those families. True marriage and family are the social foundation and glue of any truly just society. They are now under an assault.
Tomorrow the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will elevate its public officials to the place reserved only for the One who fashioned the universe and created marriage. These Justices have decided that His plan has no real legal authority, because they have spoken! Now, our real challenge begins. A missionary moment begins.
We need to rededicate ourselves to living like Christians in our families, at our workplaces and in our neighborhoods. We need, as the early Church understood so well, to be a visible, palpable reflection of the truth about marriage and family. True marriage and family is the way of the future not the past. The contemporary re-emergence of ancient paganism is not the path to authentic human freedom and flourishing but to misery.
The Christian understanding of marriage and family is not some outdated notion of a past era but the framework for a future of true freedom. We are now living in a new missionary age. The mission field is our own Nation.
In 1996, a professor of Sociology and comparative religion named Rodney Stark wrote a compelling book entitled "The Rise of Christianity." Rich in sociological and empirical data it details the growth of Christianity at the beginning of the first millennium. The book chronicles the rise of the Christian faith from a small Jewish sect in the first century to extraordinary cultural dominance 300 years later. Using historical documents, the author demonstrates how the early Christians lived in faithful, heterosexual, monogamous marriages in the midst of a pagan culture, claiming to be "enlightened" while they decayed from within. The lifestyle of the Christians had an extraordinary affect over time.
During the first millennium, in the pagan culture of ancient Rome, fidelity between a husband and wife was uncommon. Sexual promiscuity, "hetero" and "homo" sexual aberrant behaviors were very common. Women (and some men) were considered to be property and used as sexual objects. Abortion, infanticide, and exposure (placing children on rocks to die by the elements or be picked up by slave traders) were not only commonplace practices but "lawful". Epidemics began to multiply, apparently related to the lifestyle of sexual excess, causing civic and (Pagan) religious leaders to flee the cities, leaving the sick to die.
In contrast to this old pagan culture, the Christian way of life stood out as an alternative. The emphasis of the Christians was upon marrying once. Husbands and wives remained faithful to one another. Children were welcomed, cherished and seen as both gifts from- and the means of serving - the God whom they proclaimed in both word and lifestyle. Christians did not abandon the sick, but cared for them, even the sick pagans, to the point of sacrificing their own health.
According to Stark, Christianity helped to explain, "why bad things happen to good people," through the proclamation of the suffering and Cross of Christ. The Christian faith answered the existential questions that were unanswered in classical paganism. The Christians lived the love they proclaimed and had a strong family system that was increasingly attractive to the pagans.
This lifestyle also allowed the Christians to live longer. The author writes: "Christian values of love and charity, from the beginning, had been translated into norms of social service and community solidarity. When disasters struck, the Christians were better able to cope, and this resulted in substantially higher rates of survival. This meant that in the aftermath of each epidemic, Christians made up a larger and larger percentage of the population even without new converts."
Stark notes that Christianity in the first millennium brought a new culture: "To cities filled with homeless and the impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services."
In short, the Christian Way of Life transformed Christianity from a sect into the major dominating faith. It also transformed the world of the First Millennium...and the Second. It can and it will do the same in the Third Millennium, even in this modern Rome. The Rise of Marriage awaits the Church of the Third Millennium. A new missionary moment has come. Let us put our hands to the plow, the fields are ready.
Deacon Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, who also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. He is a human rights lawyer and a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He the founder and Thomas More Fellow of the Common Good Movement and was a co-founder of Your Catholic Voice..
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Marriage and Mission
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