Love… And Its Impersonators

True love in a conjugal, holy context draws partners closer to God.  Gay marriage is incapable of doing this, for reasons embedded in basic human nature.

Ceileann an searg ainimh is locht

“Love conceals fault and flaw.” 

Irish Proverb

The objection was made to me about last week’s post that I had allowed no room for genuine love in the framework of any marriage—that the only real contrast I offered to gay marriage in heterosexual terns was a craving for children (a craving which itself may be thoroughly egotistical).  The criticism is valid.  One can say only so much in about a thousand words, and it’s true that I left a lot unsaid.  Allow me to even the balance this week.

I stand by my assertions that conjugal love is more than friendship, that all healthy marriages have an element of physical attraction, that the “element” must not be 90% of the package, and that warm friendship and electricity in any proportion together are still not enough to sanctify a marriage bond.  The best I can do to explain the missing ingredient is to say that liabilities become assets in holy love.  To paraphrase the Irish proverb, loving spouses hold each other dear because of their flaws, not in spite of them.

Jill, for instance, may have a tendency to leave lights on and closet doors open which would annoy Jack in any other person—but in Jill he finds these negligent acts only another reason to love her.  The “flaw” of inattention, in all its many particular forms, illustrates what a high-energy person she is, always fluttering off to the next task on her mind before she has quite finished the last one.  How wonderfully full of life Jill is!  Jack, on the other hand, might be called a tad obsessive-compulsive—a “neat freak”.  Only he would give a second thought to the state of closet doors.  Some people would grow very irritated after extended exposure to his battening down all the hatches… but Jill sees the proclivity as an expression of his moral character.  Jack wants to make an impact upon things—to be proactive, to fight the good fight.  He is entropy’s greatest living adversary.  He arranges things not in a tyrant’s arrogance, but because he fears encroachments of chaos.

Jill loves that about Jack.  She also knows that he needs a buffer between himself and the world lest his orderly obsessions leave him feeling defeated and depressed in this very disorderly universe.  She is that buffer: she is the mediator who allows him to be more of a good person and less of an absurd one.  She enjoys the sacrifice involved in her mediation.  It ennobles her—it imposes a high mission upon her.

Likewise, Jack recognizes that Jill’s restless ebullience could easily bury her under bits and pieces of fragmented undertakings if he didn’t mop up after her.  And, for her, he loves mopping up: no servant ever slaved with half so good a will.  He realizes that she has a joie de vivre desperately lacking in his nature, and he draws upon that energy source in a benign, eternally grateful parasitism; but he also realizes that she would be much less happy if he didn’t balance the family budget.  So what appears parasitism is really symbiosis.  His plodding precision protects her inspired delight, which in turn protects him from his own dark shadows.

Both members of the couple make the other a better human being.  Each allows the other to draw closer to God.  That’s why their union is blessed.

I understand—oh, how I understand!—that the illustration I have provided may be read as insipid sexist pabulum.  It was only intended as one of innumerably many possible instances of complementary matches.  No matter: my Doll’s House example (for the pair might as well be Ibsen’s Nora and Torvald as Jill and Jack) is sure to nauseate any convicted feminist, even if I move the boundary lines around.  In my own marriage, in fact, my wife does all the bookkeeping (though I turn most of the lights off); since I usually have my head stuck in the text of some long-dead language, I make a very bad quartermaster.  Yet the offense abides.  I am still casting myself as the brainy half of the couple: my collection of Greek treatises is less decipherable than our household accounts, and I am therefore belittling my wife.

The initial feminist alternative to such arrangements was the union of perfect equality.  Neither side really needed the other: both were autonomous and independent.  They paired up for sex by mutual consent; but when stronger motive drew them apart—a career move, a need for greater privacy, perhaps the mere discovery of a sexier mate—they split up instantly without recriminations or long adieux. 

This alternative, despite a superficial resemblance to an adolescent’s vision of sexual paradise, turned out to be living hell. Its founding assumptions were deeply cynical, its operation invincibly carnal and self-centered, and its destination one of devastating loneliness unalleviated by any sense of personal progress.  The flaws born into all of us were never addressed by such relationships of convenience; indeed, one party’s calling to the other’s attention the existence of any little recurrent failure was almost always the immediate cause of splitting up.  Everyone had an inalienable right to remain just as she was (or he—but now “she” had become the default third-person singular pronoun).  People who were incurably enlightened and progressive in their politics would not tolerate a hint of inadequacy, of need to learn and change, in their personal lives.  We elite Westerners became self-centered dynamos whose marriages, if they occurred at all, ended up in divorce court more than half the time.

Human nature being non-negotiable, however, the typical couple inevitably rediscovered the utility—or more than that, the spiritual pleasure—of having a “supplementary complement”: a partner, that is, whose beaming days transformed one’s own fearful nights into languid sunsets.  The snag, of course, was that “gender stereotypes” must absolutely be evaded in reaching these compromises.  The cheerful, birdlike Nora must be the male partner, if there was to be one such at all.  The melancholic, cerebral artist—or the rocket scientist, or the career police officer—must be female.  Jimmy Stewart’s absent-minded engineering genius in No Highway in the Sky must be played by some brooding beauty like Ruth Roman, and the stewardess who “adopts” Stewart and squares his checkbook must be played by a bubbling Robert Young or Bob Cummings rather than the delightful Glynis Johns.

The trouble now was that few men could be found who embraced traditionally feminine stereotypes.  The male gender had been ravaged by too many centuries of cultural conditioning.  And when a girl finally chanced upon a sensitive guy who could match drapes to wallpaper and made terrific lasagna, she usually discovered—horrors!—that her own conditioning ran too deep to allow her to prize him.  In spite of herself, she preferred the hairy biker who could give her sex five or six times a night… but not as a live-in complement, naturally.  The animal wouldn’t even change the toilet paper, let alone fix the roll to face the right way.

The delicate, sensitive male, for his part, didn’t appreciate being passed over for a refugee from the ape house.  These new women—they talked up a storm about desiring feminized men, but when they got one, they insultingly made him watch from the sidelines as they pursued their flings with transient Neanderthals.

It was in this toxic atmosphere that homosexuality morphed from an exotic underground phenomenon of which only a tiny fragment of our population was even aware to a boisterous juggernaut harrowing American society.  Significantly, its exponents and practitioners belonged overwhelmingly to the educated, cultivated class—the group that had made an open, counter-conformist war on stereotypes.  The proletarian masses so eagerly patronized by the enlightened vanguard—groups such as Mexican campesinos who strayed north looking for fruit to pick and roofs to shingle—were annoyingly retrograde in their views about “gayness”.  Somehow, DNA had not implanted a statistically convincing quota of gays in their midst.

The critical point to be made at this juncture, however, is far more provocative than any embarrassing gaffe I might point out in the “gay by nature” argument.  It is this.  Stereotypes exist for a reason: they often express broadly accurate truths.  The kind of supplementation which one member of a couple provides for the other tends to depend upon that member’s gender.  Men more often contribute a sense of security and decisiveness (and I say that as a man whose wife has sometimes had to be very patient with his insecurity and indecisiveness).  Women more often bring tenderness and compromise.  The man insists that a rude child be punished: the woman insists that the punishment not be brutal.  The man refuses to attend parties where misbehavior is rumored to go on: the woman counsels that they may carry an olive branch to this particular party and, to be on the safe side, leave a little early.  Contemporary living often complicates these roles, to be sure.  The man may be determined to quit a job where his boss daily treats him with contempt, while the woman may grow furious with her husband for not seeing that the family needs his paycheck; or by the same token, a woman may become disgusted with a husband who allows himself to be made an unprincipled invertebrate just for the sake of a promotion.  Such strains can place fatal pressures on marriages.  They didn’t exist when our ancestors were still down on the farm.  

Again, the central point here is that men tend to draw the relationship in one direction and women in the opposing direction.  Many of the inclinations at issue appear to be hard-wired, immune to counter-conditioning.  There’s a reason why men succeed in committing suicide so much more often than women, why more men major in Engineering while more women major in English, and so forth.  Rigid stereotyping is admittedly the operation of a dull mind: individual combinations of tendencies can be wonderfully diverse.  (I, for instance, am an English/Classics major who throws a mean submarine pitch and loves to shoot black-powder weapons.)  Yet the tendencies cannot be ignored.  Men and women, in general, bring different things to a relationship.

If, then, the essence of “marriageable love” is that either partner draws the other closer to his or her fulfillment as God’s creature, one cannot look to homosexual unions as an accomplishment of this end.  I do not believe that there can be even specific exceptions to this general rule.  A man so mired in self-doubt that he cannot bring himself to perform sexually as his body was made to do is in nowise helped along by a mate who accustoms him to this unnatural, abusive role.  A man who takes such pleasure in dominating another man sexually that he chooses to make it his lifelong routine is not learning to dominate his own demons in such a relationship.  The two of them, far from advancing as moral individuals, are assisting themselves to become terminally stuck in their particular and tragic failures.

A very, very tiny portion of humanity, I realize, is born with bizarrely formed genitalia.  These are not the cases of which I speak or about which I am qualified to speak.  That the vast majority of self-styled homosexuals do not belong to this group, however, is proved by the fact that most will say (or all that I have ever heard speak on the subject have said) that they find heterosexual relationships unsatisfying.  Their physical ability to have any such relationship, satisfying or otherwise, demonstrates that they are not malformed.

I have used the masculine pronoun above because, in my opinion, the male identity is crucially and uniquely jeopardized by homosexuality.  The female “commitment” to homosexual practice is really no deeper or other than that offered to some “sex toy”.  I hold feminists, in fact, seriously to blame for advancing this crisis in our society.  The ideology of self-centeredness—of refusing to yield and to grow, refusing to sacrifice, refusing to live for as well as with others—lies at the very heart (and a cold heart, it is) of the feminist war on heterosexual marriage.  Some of these people have much to answer for if, as I believe, we shall all one day—one eternal day—have to render an accounting for our time here on earth.

Holy unions bring their two participants closer to God by helping them to compensate for potentially crippling flaws.  We must naturally love that person who, more than anyone else one earth, draws us near to Him who is the author of love.  Gay unions do not and cannot do this.  On the contrary, they trap their participants in weaknesses that will oppress them ever more by exploiting their vulnerability or indulging their excess ever further.  It’s the difference between learning to walk on a bad leg with a crutch and being carried about so that the leg may at last atrophy.

For this reason, gay marriage is an unholy notion that should not be countenanced by any church claiming to honor the God of love and goodness.  

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