Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
The battles over gay marriage are intense. And bitter. One must only look at the comboxes of Catholic blogs and websites to understand that. I have taken part in bitter debates as well. I probably shouldn't even call them debates so much as exchanged accusations. Sometimes
I'll admit I sometimes opt for the witty verbal coup de grace rather than exhibiting grace.
A blogger, Lauren at The Loveliest Hour, wrote something about the Court's decision which gave me pause:
I believe that marriage is the fruit of natural love, a gift from God, of that familial bond between husband and wife with the ideal purpose of having children. Sounds archaic to you maybe, but that’s what I believe to be true. But I do see these people, and I realize that they want to be happy. They’re just like everyone else, trying to live their lives quietly. Often extraordinarily talented, generous and caring about the world they live in. They want to love, and for some reason I cannot define, that is the way that they are pulled.
And many may interpret our words and our votes as a denial of happiness. A denial of life, in the only way they can see. We become the enemy. My heart breaks. You might say, “but they have an agenda. they want to change our nation. they want to change the Church.” Some might, but I don’t think all do. I think most of these folks are just living their lives as best they can, just like you and I.
I also think of their loved ones. They are a son or daughter, a parent, a coworker, a childhood friend, a neighbor, a confidant. To them, they are not a statistic. They are not a news story. They are a person. To be valued and loved. And all these people, they listen to our answers and comments and thoughts and hear: “you cannot love. you cannot be happy.”
That’s not what we’re saying, but that’s what they hear from rants on sidewalks, from stupidly worded signs, social media graphics and hashtags. My friends, that is not how we have this conversation. I don’t know how we have it, but that’s not it.
I think in the end what we must do is both love our opponents in this struggle and assume that love motivates our opponents.
We must assume that our opponents aren't out to attack the Catholic Church but they see the Church as an impediment to love. I disagree. I disagree vehemently. But that's how they see it. And as long as the Church stands in the way of what they see as people's right to have their love codified by society, they will attack it.
Mind you, exhibiting love may very well be a handicap in a cultural struggle. Dehumanizing opponents is a pretty good tactic that obviously works well while assuming love and treating opponents like they are children of God limits your options a bit. But the desire to win the "battle" sometimes overwhelms us and we do and say things we might regret later.
But here's the thing - we are not called to deliver the United States of America to heaven. We are responsible for what we do. We must love our opponents and assume that their anger comes from a place of real frustration and pain. It's possible that we may not, despite every effort, be able to define marriage in our society but we can work on our own marriage and be examples of God's love.
Quick story that moved me to no end. A couple recently told me that they had been debating having another kid. She wanted another one and he thought they couldn't handle another. They already had two. She said she saw me and my five kids at Mass every Sunday and then she said one day the kids and I were on the sidelines of one of my kids' games right in front of them and we were laughing and talking and running around a bit. She said they watched us and they agreed to have another. I tend to think they thought that if an idiot like me could handle five children they could certainly handle three. I'm bowled over at the thought but I can't help but think that every time that child does something bad they're going to secretly blame me.
But anyway, the thing is that it wasn't through me explaining to them about what the Catechism says about being open to children. It wasn't through scolding them. It was just living my life as a Catholic openly and letting God do the rest. In the end I think we have to be careful not to win the argument and lose our souls. We must be examples of love and strong marriages. We should explain and preach but it must always be done with love. We are not called to necessarily win arguments but we are absolutely called to love.