If modern day politics and the increasingly large polarization that is dominating rhetoric has anything to teach, it is this: there are no solutions to be found when we are asking the wrong questions. Demanding answers to the wrong questions is a practice that often get trained into us in our personal lives. The wrong questions are easily identified as a product of our fears and judgments. At best, these questions help you identify the guilty; at worst you end up in a polarized argument, which is the foundation of seeing people who are more like you than not as the other. The wrong questions are a reflection of personal values more than an honest inquiry that could lead to a solution. Of these questions, one that is particularly divisive in our culture is the question of the right to marriage by same sex couples.
Questioning people’s right to commit their lives to someone they love is a story that is as old as we are. In ancient times, this refusal to accept love stories of other people were focused around tribal differences, then class distinctions, then race and age. For millennia we, the families and tribes have believed that we hold the wisdom of knowing who should mate, who is worthy of whom or perhaps more deeply, what this marriage would create in our culture. What does it mean about all of us. The most classic tale of Romeo and Juliet demonstrates the ripples of tragedy that encircle everyone involved as they prohibit the love at the heart of the tragedy. This story of forbidden love has played out a million times over, mostly with the same tragic results of people losing themselves, families losing each other all for the purpose of maintaining the status quo.
Other cultures treat marriage with less focus on love and more on duty and contract between families. In many instances, the arranged couple does learn to love each other, when the intent of the family is focused more on the happiness of their offspring than on the deal itself. Yet just as frequently we read stories of girls who are imprisoned or worse from trying to flee an arranged marriage that is a form of abuse and torture to young girls. Even in these cultures, where arranged marriages have existed forever, stories of love always trump whatever financial gains that the arranged marriage might offer.
Still, our success rate with love-based marriages is not all that promising. So maybe instead of questioning who gets the right to marry whom they love, we should start questioning how we prepare people, (anyone who wants to throw their hat in the ring that is) to love each other over time. Asking this question of course leads to other important issues that would begin to mend the fabric of family life that has become so badly decimated with the huge proportion of couples that divorce, leaving children caught between two worlds, learning more about the injuries of love gone bad than the work of how to remain loving and open to life’s challenges.
If we could agree to ask meaningful questions about the state of marriage and family in our culture, these issues of who has the right to marry have got to be put aside. Homosexuality is not a pathology; it is a different biological wiring that allows people to love just as normally as those who are wired to love heterosexually. They succeed and fail at the same rates as everyone else. Their successful families are just as sound a place to grow up as a heterosexual home and their fractured families are just as challenging as those of heterosexual parents.
What if we were all arguing about how to help people learn to love longer? I am sure we might get into some polarizing arguments about this too, but at least we would be discussing tips and techniques of how to grow through the many challenging phases of loving that we all face. Imagine if we started polling people about how they remain content in their long term relationships, here we would be mining gold to heal our troubled culture.