The Prom and Wedding Racket

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Prom couple

Prom couple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my minor regrets in life is not attending my high school prom. At the time I was in a Fundamentalist religious group that opposed dancing, I was too shy to ask anyone out, and I did not have the money to go anyhow. Then, in 1980, the prom was a nice event and students dressed up for it, but it was not the ostentatious showy event the prom has become today.

My wedding was on a modest budget. My wife bought a beautiful white dress that served as a wedding dress. I wore my suit and tie. Church members made the wedding cake. It was a nice wedding, and even though it was not fancy, it was just as much of a wedding as one in which a family paid tens of thousands of dollars. Weddings like mine are becoming rarer, with a slew of wedding planners out there to make sure that families spend as much money as possible, and wedding shops willing to take their money.

A prom is a special event, but it is basically a date to a high school dance–a special date, for sure, one that is a great complement to the one who is asked. It is fair to expect those attending the prom to dress formally. In my days a suit and tie was acceptable, although some better off students would rent tuxes. Now proms have become rackets in which attendees demand the best dresses and tuxes in order to keep up with the other students. Shops who rent and/or sell prom outfits are quite happy with the new arrangement. Instead of being a nice date, proms become a way to show off and “keep up with the Jonseses.” The prom then becomes an ostentatious event for middle class parents to show that they can dress their child just as well or better than their neighbors. Poorer students who wish to attend the prom may pressure their parents, already strapped for cash, to rent expensive outfits. Acceptance is so desired by high school students, and this will trump common sense almost every time. The winners are the businesses that make million of dollars exploiting the immature insecurities of parents who are often no more mature than their children. Prom clothing is even marked by the year, like cars–“These are the prom dresses for 2012.” “God forbid that we’re a year out of date.” The parents will make excuses about elegance and how it is so good to see their child dressed up so nicely–I do not know how much of that is sincere and how much is male bovine excrement. I think it is more of the latter.

Weddings have become a racket as well, with families often spending ten thousand dollars or more on them. The money could be better spent in the form of a check to help the new couple get an easier start on their own. Instead, families must scrape, plan, rehearse and rehearse, buy the fanciest wedding dresses, buy or rent the fanciest bridemaids’ dresses, in order to feel superior to their neighbors–“Oh, did you see the Smith’s wedding. Her dress wasn’t half as beautiful as what y daughter is wearing.” The silliness of it all is humorous to watch, and the makers of wedding outfits are laughing all the way to the back. Businesses have a right to solicit business, and if they appeal to man’s baser instincts, it is not their fault that people yield to their baser instincts and buy more than they should need. I do not know how many times I’ve seen a family spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding, only to see that marriage dissolve in divorce less than a year later.

Sometimes it amazes me how much many American people are suckers.

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Charles “Chuck” Colson, 1931-2012

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Krista Tippett and Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson died this afternoon at the age of eighty, and for traditional Christians of all stripes–Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestant–this is a great loss. His conversion to Christianity occurred in prison, and he changed from one of President Nixon’s hatchet men to the founder of Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry that has helped thousands of prisoners find their way out of crime. I always referred to Mr. Colson as a “Catholic Baptist,” for he had a remarkably high view of the church and of church tradition for a Protestant. He was one of the forces behind the document, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” which focused on the common ground, the “Mere Christianity,” to use C. S. Lewis‘s term, shared by all traditional Christians. A staunch defender of the unborn and of traditional moral teachings of the Church, Mr. Colson was the chief driving force behind “The Manhattan Declaration,” a strong affirmation of traditional marriage in the face of continued attacks from both secular and from liberal Christian critics. I have signed the Manhattan Declaration myself, and encourage others to do so.

When I read some of the public comments on the news of Mr. Colson’s death, many were positive, but others questioned the sincerity of his conversion. Given the amount of work Mr. Colson did to improve conditions in prison and to defend traditional Christian teachings, there is no legitimate reason to doubt his conversion. Such attacks are more likely due to hatred of traditional Christian morality and of Mr. Colson’s defense of such rather than a sincere attempt to argue that he was not a true convert.

I have long enjoyed reading Mr. Colson’s books and essays, and I will miss reading new ones. May God be with his family and many friends in this time of loss, and I ask my fellow Christians of their charity to pray for the soul of Charles Colson: Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithfully departed in Christ, in the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Defending Marriage: The North Carolina Marriage Protection Amendment

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Topographic map of North Carolina

Just because the suicide of Western Culture has weakened the institution of marriage does not mean that Americans can do nothing to stop its decline. Advocates of same sex marriage have been aggressive in promoting their goal of the legal acceptance of same sex marriage by all states. Such a view of marriage is a radical break from all previous human cultures–for good reason. Although the ideal is not often reached in real life, a marriage between a man and a woman is the best way to bring children into the world and rear them. Multiple studies by sociologists and psychologists, no friends of traditional institutions, have shown this to be the case. Only a man and a woman can make a baby through the act of sexual intercourse. Attempts by same sex couples to rear children occur either by adoption or by a woman offering an egg as a surrogate for one of the partner’s sperm (in the case of male same-sex couples; in the case of female same sex couples, one of the partners would offer her egg and donated sperm would fertilize it). Such practices go against the fundamental ends of human families and human societies to bring the next generation into the world in a way consistent with human biology. Supporters of same sex marriage ignore biology, as if human beings could be separated from their bodies, or as if maleness and femaleness is somehow not part of one’s personal identity. Even apart from same-sex marriage, homosexuality is unnatural in orientation and morally wrong in practice. To fully embrace homosexual practice in the context of marriage is a violation of natural law so severe that it can only bring irreparable harm to society. The decline of marriage in Western Culture, its separation, in the public mind, from bearing children, and later from permission for sexual intercourse, has produced a society that is promiscuous (why be married when you can enjoy sex before marriage without worrying about having children) and one in which marriage is considered to be only a legal contract instead of a sacred vow. Same sex marriage would put the nail in the coffin’s head of marriage in any meaningful sense–and with activist judges threatening state laws, defining marriage as between a man and a woman via state law alone is inadequate. Moves to pass state constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman are welcome, giving the people as a whole the chance to save what is left of traditional marriage.

As part of the North Carolina Primary on May 8, the voters of North Carolina will decide whether to pass the “Marriage Protection Amendment” to the state constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. I strongly support this amendment and encourage the citizens of North Carolina to vote in its favor. If it passes and opponents go judge shopping to find a liberal federal judge to try to throw out the amendment, this would make it clear that the judge is attempting to thwart the will of the people, . It would also allow appeals up the federal court system so that eventually the sovereign right of the people of a state to define marriage might, hopefully, be affirmed. At the very least, this amendment grants the voters of North Carolina the opportunity to do their small but vital part in defending a sacred institution and in slowing America’s attempt at cultural and moral suicide.

Marriage between Cousins and Same-Sex Marriage: A False Analogy Fallacy

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US Map of Same Sex Marriage Laws

Image via Wikipedia

Consanguineous marriage (marriage between people who are second cousins or closer) is common in some traditional societies. It used to be common in small farming communities in the United States when the number of men and women available for marriage was small. My grandparents on my mother’s side of the family were second cousins. There is a slight increase of risk for recessive gene disorders, but the goods of social cohesion are considered worth the risk in traditional societies. First cousin marriages are legal in twenty states.

Today I saw a poster on a colleague’s door with two maps of the United States. One map colored in the states allowing marriage between cousins. The other map colored in the states allowing homosexual marriage (five states). The import of the poster is that homosexual marriage between people in love is no more problematic, and most likely less problematic, than marriage between cousins–and that this is unfair.

However, this commits the fallacy of false analogy. Marriage, even in ancient Paganism that accepted homosexuality in general, was only between a man and a woman. Marriage between cousins is only thought to be problematic because of the slight risk for recessive gene disorders, and these can be serious. However, traditional societies prefer stronger social bonds in tight communities. There is nothing “unnatural” about cousins marrying–the number of “degrees of affinity” is great enough that even Catholic and Anglican canon law do not forbid first cousin marriages. It does forbid marriage between siblings, between a parent and his or her child, and between uncles and aunts and their nephews and nieces. Opposition to marriage between first cousins is primarily an American phenomenon resulting from the greater mobility of American society. Such marriages fulfill the proper ends of marriage for conjugal love and the procreation of children. Homosexual marriage is by nature barren, and one cannot change that by adoption or by cloning (that is, manufacturing) a child for a homosexual couple. It is not that love itself is bad–not even the love between homosexuals. What makes that love inordinate is that it is directed toward the wrong goal and does not fulfill the proper ends of a sexual relationship between man and woman. The fact that some couples are past childbearing age or some cannot produce children due to physical problems beyond their control does not change the usual order of nature.

The poster is more like a slogan, something to move people emotionally in a certain direction. It has no logical force, for the analogy it purports to find is false, making any “argument” implied by the poster a weak inductive argument. This is consistent with debate in the United States on both sides of controversial issues such as abortion or euthanasia–or homosexual marriage. There is an abundance of emotion but precious little reasoning about these issues. I realize that many people do not agree with the natural law perspective I espouse (in agreement with the Roman Catholic Church and with my own church, the Anglican Catholic Church). Opponents of natural law should put forth their best arguments from reason and experience rather than resorting to emotional screeds like the implied screed in that poster.

On Being “Divisive” on Marriage

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ancient roman marriage

Image via Wikipedia

A local newspaper described the proposed state constitutional amendment in North Carolina banning homosexual marriage as being “divisive.” Not only does this reveal the lack of integrity among journalists, who claim to be unbiased but reveal their bias in their terminology, the word “divisive” can cut both ways. It is divisive to push a lifestyle on people (sometimes openly and in public) that offends the moral sensibilities of the majority of North Carolinians. It is divisive to oppose natural law and to support a practice that violates the fundamental ends of marriage, which not only include companionship, but also include bringing children into the world. Yet those who want a state constitutional amendment to recognize what has been recognized as law in all cultures for thousands of years are called “divisive.”

This attitude reflects a trend in mainstream media coverage of social issues. Those who support the right of an unborn child are called “divisive,” while those who support the act (abortion) that kills an unborn child are not. Those who oppose a physician helping someone to kill himself are divisive, while those who desire the medical profession to be involved in the business of killing are not. The press’s double standard is appalling. ANY social issue is going to be divisive, no matter what side a person takes on it. There are deep divisions in American culture, and to label one side or the other as being the only “divisive” side is inaccurate and dishonest.

“Stop all that Negativity”

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I have read a number of online posts on controversial topics such as abortion or the nature of marriage. Almost invariably, when a traditionalist posts against abortion or in favor of marriage being only between a man and a woman, a liberal will protest, “Stop all that negativity!” This is another tactic that social liberals use to cut off rational debate. Instead of taking the time to think through the issue of when human personhood begins or the nature of marriage, these “liberals” attempt to stop debate with a rhetorical ploy. “Negativity” is an emotive word; it has the connotation of opposing everything, even good things. Americans like positive people, and thus the screed, “Stop all that negativity” appeals to emotions and poisons the well against the person allegedly presenting the “negative” message.

Of course any rational person realizes that issues such as abortion and the nature of marriage should be discussed based on the best scientific, philosophical (and in the case of people sharing a religious tradition), theological reasons both sides can present. Such issues are far too important for one side to try to intimidate the other with the “negativity” label. If the social liberal is confident in his position, he would argue based on empirical and rational arguments, and he would avoid using such an emotive and below-the-belt rhetorical tactic to halt debate before it can begin.

This is not to say that conservatives cannot be guilty of the same crime. They also have a duty to rationally and empirically debate issues rather than using only appeals to emotion or attempting to cut off debate. But lately it has been the social liberals who have been most guilty of this particular appeal to emotion by labeling social conservatives “negative” people. And in that respect, they should change their tactics or admit that their positions are irrational, based only on their emotional wants.