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More Than Traditional, It's True: A Call to Change the Way We Speak of Marriage

By Jennifer Hartline
April 30th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We do not call abortion "choice" because it is never a moral choice. It is murder. Two persons of the same gender cannot enter into marriage.  It is ontologically impossible.  So it's quite silly for us to begin describing marriage as "traditional" vs. "same-sex" because it's drawing a distinction between marriage and something that can never even exist in the first place.  There is a better way to draw a distinction and that's the way Deacon Keith Fournier has been doing all along: using the word true.  True marriage only happens between a man and a woman.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - Don't shoot me, but I think maybe the choir is singing the wrong tune.  At least I think they're getting the lyrics mixed up a bit.  So I'm sticking my neck out (I may regret it) and piping up.  Here goes...

Honestly, more and more these days I find myself feeling like Eliza Doolittle.  "Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words..."  (Campaign season does nothing to help.  Ugh.)  Especially since words are being twisted into such wildly contorted things; words are being drained of their real meaning and stuffed with something cunning and artificial; words are being hijacked and deformed.  And sadly, words have always made pretty powerful weapons.

So it's all the more incumbent on us as Christians in a culture descending into an immoral abyss to choose our words wisely and use them well.  Let's make sure what we say accurately reflects what is true about the human person; about God; about marriage and the family.  Above all, we must make sure our words aren't crafted to cause harm but to shed light. 

I want to scream when I read articles containing the ever-popular term "fertilized egg."  It's a favorite of the abortion industry because it's a handy dehumanizing term in their rhetoric war against the fact that life begins at conception.  But I've also seen the phrase used by pro-lifers and people of faith.

The term drives me nuts because it's wholly inadequate at best, and just plain inaccurate at worst.  Fertilization is a singular event in time when a sperm joins with an ovum and once it happens, what you have is no longer an egg (fertilized or otherwise) but a newly-conceived human -- an entirely new and distinct being. 

Think of it this way:  it takes yellow and blue to make green.  Once you mix yellow and blue, what you have is not "yellowized-blue" or "blueized-yellow" but green.  You could no longer separate the yellow from the blue if you wanted to.  They have combined to create something entirely new and different and it has its own name.

We're now caught up in a similar word-game with marriage. 

I have a little bone to pick with well-meaning people who are using the phrase "traditional marriage" to refer to marriage, in an attempt to distinguish it from same-sex "marriage."  This idea is everywhere these days in secular as well as religious media.  It posits that there is "traditional" marriage (between a man and a woman), and now other, more modern, progressive forms of marriage as well (same-sex couples).  Christians and other people of faith have begun adopting this language right along with the rest of society.

I politely suggest it needs to stop.  Language matters.  We are not doing marriage any favors by using such terminology, no matter how good our intentions, or even if we're just seeking clarity in dialogue.  The world has decided that marriage will now be classified into types and that same-sex "marriage" is now one of those types.  We cannot go along with that classification.

Marriage means something.  It has an intrinsic and unchangeable nature.  If we reduce marriage to simply an agreement between any two people who love each other then we have utterly destroyed the meaning of marriage.  It will become a trivial, throw-away concept because its core will be only self-seeking.

In the same way that we do not call abortion "choice" because it isn't in any way a legitimate moral choice but is in fact murder, so we cannot succumb to the easy temptation to call marriage "traditional" in order to set it apart from same-sex "marriage."  Two persons of the same gender cannot enter into marriage.  It is ontologically impossible.  So it's quite silly for us to begin describing marriage as "traditional" vs. "same-sex" because it's drawing a distinction between marriage and something that can never even exist in the first place.

Using the green analogy again, no matter how forcefully I insist that I want to make green with two yellows or two blues, it will never happen.  It's just not possible.  The nature of green cannot be changed.

There is a better way to draw a distinction and that's the way Deacon Keith Fournier has been doing all along:  using the word true.  True marriage only happens between a man and a woman.  Some may feel that's a more provocative term, but it is accurate and faithful to the integrity of marriage.

There is only marriage, and it only happens between a man and woman.  That's not my plan or your plan; it's God's plan.  We have to understand this, and be unflinching in stating it and defending it.  Whatever relationship of sexual intimacy, fidelity, and love exists between two men or two women, it can never be marriage.  That's not bigotry or discrimination or hatred no matter what the world says.  Leave the hyper-charged feelings aside for a moment:  refusing to call a thing what it isn't is nothing but logical, reasonable, and factual. 

For thousands of years human civilization has known that marriage is only between a man and a woman, as the foundation of society, ordered toward the raising of children, but now suddenly in our so-called enlightened age those of us who refuse to part with reason and morality are on the wrong side of history?  Absurd.

So there's my two cents'.  Fellow defenders of true marriage, choose your words wisely and well.  Don't join the rest of the world in declaring what is true to be merely "traditional."

Our challenge is to be unafraid and resolute without ever abandoning love.  That's not an easy task, and I admit I have failed often.  We're not wielding weapons, and we don't seek destruction or discrimination. 

For myself, I don't write with animosity or any desire to wound.  But like so many others in America today, I won't be bullied into capitulation either.  I won't forsake what I know is true.  I won't call something that is not marriage, marriage.  It's that simple.

For the sake of true marriage and the family, even though I'm getting quite sick of words, words, words... silence is not an option.

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Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, a proud Army wife and homeschooling mother of three children.  She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.  Visit her online at Wake Up, Deborah!

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