Culture and Religion

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Right to Life

The news in 2004 is filled with talk of gay marriage, partial birth abortion, and even revisiting Roe v Wade (with a change in Supreme Court justices). After Bush's re election in 2004 the talk of moral values among voters is also predominant. These are all related to the intrusion of religion into politics.

The act of love between two people is something very human. The act of love is both a physical and emotional intimate act, a physical expression of an emotional commitment. Because this is so important to our being marriage is the legal commitment for that loving bond. Marriage is the legal and political affirmation of that personal commitment. Marriage enables one partner to share other legal responsibilities with their partner.

Marriage is the foundation of our human society. Man is a social creature and the social bonding with others is very important. Marriage is the legal bond of the most intimate commitment one can make. Other social bonds, like the family, neighborhood or the work group, can be as permanent and important but not as intimate.

This concept of love between two people, legally expressed as a marriage, is being evaluated now in the context of other social issues and problems. 

Gay marriage

Gay marriage is not the most important issue here but it has become so important to some that a constitutional amendment to address the perceived problem(s) of gay marriage has been proposed as a reaction to some political districts allowing gay unions.

Most people are heterosexual, seeking a partner of the opposite sex. However not all people are. Some seek a partner of the same sex. I see no problems with accepting gay unions on an equal legal footing as non-gay unions. These unions are all the legal expression of the commitment between two people.

The push to prevent the acceptance of gay unions must be based on something other than the understanding of human love described above. I can only speak from my experience growing up as Catholic in this perspective. Perhaps other religions in America are significantly different so I leave it to the reader to recognize their own perspective.

Growing up, sex was stressed to me as a major 'impure thought.' The feelings of such attraction (lust in Jimmy Carter's era) were not to be tolerated. Why are such feelings of such an inherently human emotion such an abomination?

So often I was told to follow God's will in the pursuit of eternal salvation. We are on this world for only a short time and we must behave correctly to get to heaven. To feel such deep emotions for another human being is to place that love of another above the love of God. So many times in many different ways we are told that marriage will allow the act of love only for the creation of a baby. Sex between consenting adults without that purpose is perceived as immoral. Emphasizing that sex is only for babies and nothing else can tear the heart out of a close marriage, preventing the emotional bond between two people that must be nurtured for it to remain strong. Sex is perceived as interfering with the required love of God, an implied view that is often pushed on those seeking to participate in the Church activities.

A gay marriage presents several problems to the Evangelical Christians. First, the making of a baby is not possible in such a relationship. Second, the love between two people of the same sex is not statistically normal, with less than half of the people so inclined.

Even though one of the golden rules of Christianity is 'love another as thy self' that is such an easy rule to break. It can be difficult for a person, being the inherent social creature that we all are, to be comfortable with someone that is not the same as us. Different skin color, different nationality, different religion or different sexual orientation can all be stressful to someone that is not so confident of one's self. Since at the heart of most religions is an expression of how one's beliefs are different than that of another, an 'us vs them' attitude is a common result. The fight against gay marriage is the logical result of this intolerance.

Gay marriage is not damaging conventional marriage. I have never read a convincing connection between the two. Certainly our American culture has changed a great deal in the past few decades. One of the more likely causes of high divorce rates is the economic conditions of the last half century. As the lower and middle economic classes have seen their standard of living degrade (while the upper class thrives), both partners in a relationship are forced to work in an attempt to maintain the economic viability of their relationship. Our culture is changing with the evolving economic conditions and one of the casualties has been the traditional family unit. Blaming such problems on gay marriage is a denial of the real causes of this cultural problem.

Right to Life

Birth control is very important in any marriage because the act of sexual love will result in the creation of a baby if the timing in the woman's natural reproductive cycle is right, as well as an efficient meeting of sperm and egg. A baby is not an act of God but the result of an act (of love usually) between two human beings.

Unfortunately not every sexual act between two people is also an act of love. Sex is also used as a social weapon, an act of domination that seeks an act of submission. Acts of rape or incest can also result in the creation of a baby.

My wife and I have two children (now both are adults). I am a man not a woman but even from my perspective the nine or so months of pregnancy must be a very traumatic time for a woman. I would expect that any reader can appreciate that the time a baby grows within his/her mother's womb is a stressful time for the mother. After the delivery of the little human wonder, a baby, the mother needs much attention to recover from the ordeal just endured (the delivery after a long pregnancy) and to adapt to the new role of mother, to take care of the little, helpless human being. The next few years are critical for the proper physical and emotional development of that baby into a well adapted adult.

In this context of the long process of pregnancy and then the necessary commitment of both parents to the raising of the child, what happens if the mother-to-be decides that she does not wish to carry this baby to the full term of pregnancy, deliver it and then lovingly raise it?

To a great extent, it has become socially acceptable for a mother to stop a pregnancy early in the cycle but it is not late in the cycle. The early vs late rule is roughly the first half of the nine months or not. This recognizes that the mother must decide shortly after confirming the pregnancy whether she will carry to term or not. A prompt decision to abort recognizes the fetus is not well developed. A decision to abort nearer the delivery is not acceptable because the fetus is nearing its full development, to the point it could be removed from the mother's womb and have a chance to survive on its own (though initially with much help).

The right to life argument shifts the emphasis from the mother to the fetus. The role of the mother in this human reproductive process is ignored but rather the status of the fetus as a person-to-be becomes the most important. The mother is not a baby making machine but is the most that must deal with the pregnancy, including:

o that she is pregnant, whether willingly or not.
o that there is a fetus growing within.
o that she will begin the physical and emotional stress for the duration of the pregnancy.
o that she will give birth to another human being at its conclusion.
o that she will care for this infant after it is born, probably for 18 or so years, with whatever support group exists, including her partner, their extended families and even friends.

A woman must have the final decision on her own body. At the heart of our humanity is the rule that each person owns his or her own body. Slavery, where the person is considered owned by another, has no role in the decisions involving his/her own person and is not properly compensated for his/her labor, has long been rejected as inhumane.

Sometimes it sounds as though this right to life movement feels that the woman made only one relevant decision, to participate in the sexual act. If a pregnancy results, then the woman must accept the consequences of that act, the baby, and no abortion will be allowed. If this interpretation is any part of the justification for the denial of a woman's right to choose then how inhumane is that! The woman might be forced to bear and deliver an unwanted child so how much love will be given that child. While one can be told 'you must love', it is not possible to force a true human emotion when the foundation is not there. Certainly the pro-lifer's restriction on the woman's right to choose does not also provide the necessary love and support required for the child.

To suggest an adoption is the best option for an unwanted child is to suggest that the mother is emotionally ready to part with the baby that she and her partner created. The adoption occurs after she will have endured the pregnancy and delivery, with all the accompanying physical and emotional stresses. To deliver or abort is an extremely important decision, with many consequences for either result but the final decision must be made by the mother-to-be, not someone else. This is not to deny the importance of the father in the decision, just the relative priority.

I am not condoning wanton sex with no regard for birth control, with the expectation that an abortion is a convenient solution to that problem. Sex without birth control offers many dangers with pregnancy being just one. There is no intent here to diminish the importance of the recognition of possible consequences of the sexual act.

Moral values

Premarital sex and venereal disease are both major concerns for parents of teenagers. Education is the most important tool for teenagers to cope with the temptations of youth. Unfortunately, the cultural taboo on frankly discussing sex with teenagers, which might lead to the impression that it is acceptable for them to frequently engage in such behavior, makes it difficult to teenagers to get an adequate sexual education. Maturity and trust are also important in their lives. The first is developed by the parents and family while the child is growing up while the second depends on the parent-child relationship that developed during those formative years. Raising a child and being successful (with success measured by the maturity of that adolescent) is not an easy job.  

Moral values were important to many voters in the 2004 Presidential election according to some exit polls. This phrase is certainly open to interpretation by the person being polled as well as by the person analyzing the poll results.

created - Nov. 2004
last change - 11/18/2004
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