There is a collision coming—a collision of ideas—that I fear will be damaging to freedom of thought. It is yet another clash between freedom of belief and political correctness. I fear that in the zeal of political correctness many people would be willing to give away some of our freedom of belief.
I’m thinking of the conflict between those who believe in same-sex marriage and those who believe that marriage is ordained of God to be between a man and a woman.
I am in the latter camp. I firmly believe that marriage between a man and a woman was ordained of God from the beginning of this world. When God gave Adam and Eve to each other and declared that they should be one, it was a pattern for the ages. Men and women are to marry, form a divine unit called a family, and, if they are able, bring daughters and sons into this world. In doing so, they participate with God in providing mortal life for others of His spirit children.
To make marriage into something else is to go against His plan for His sons and daughters.
Some people will say here, “Then you don’t believe in equality for all of His sons and daughters.” That is not true. And the issue of marriage is not an issue of equality.
I believe that every individual on earth should enjoy the same basic civil rights. This would include the right to designate someone to make life decisions if the individual is incapacitated, someone to receive the benefits accorded to a partner under law, someone to receive or inherit the benefits of a pension or retirement fund if the individual dies, and any other rights one might wish to confer on a partner in life. Each individual should have the opportunity to choose with regard to these things, guaranteed by law.
People may choose to share their lives with whom they will, whether that person is of the same sex or not. But to call such a relationship between two people of the same sex “marriage” is to defy the will of God, I believe, and beyond the power of man to decree.
Still, there are social and political leaders in our world, up to and including the president of the United States, who seem inclined to make same-sex marriage an institution with the force of law which everyone must accept, no matter their moral beliefs. That is wrong. It is a violation of freedom of belief.
Many seem quite willing to place political correctness ahead of personal liberty—a liberty they like to claim for themselves but would not mind restricting for others. They would be willing to marginalize those who disagree with them socially and legally, to penalize them for believing what might be unpopular, to restrict their ability to worship or act according to their conscience. After all, what the true believers feel really ought to be moral, so why not try to coerce everyone into practicing it? Thus people who believe abortion is morally wrong can be required by law to support it with their tax dollars. Thus those who believe marriage between people of the same sex is not according to the plan of God nevertheless should be forced by law to recognize and accommodate same-sex marriage.
The doctrine of my church does not accept same-sex marriage, but if such marriages become generally recognized by law throughout the United States, I fully expect that there will be legal challenges to my church’s right to refuse to perform same-sex marriage or to refuse full fellowship to those who enter into such marriages.
People who are convinced that they are morally right and that anyone who disagrees is simply unenlightened have a propensity for creating laws to force their will upon others. Many seem convinced that they know the will of God better than He does—if indeed there is a God—because how could an intelligent God not see things their way?
People inclined to compel others to go along with their thinking do not understand the meaning of freedom of religion and freedom of speech—indeed, of freedom at all.
One of the most influential books I read in college was called Freedom for the Thought that We Hate. It argued that if we truly believe in freedom of speech, we will allow people to voice thoughts that are abhorrent to us without trying to suppress them or trying to force the people to change their thinking.
This is particularly challenging in a world where there are so many vile and repugnant ideas floating around. There are dedicated pedophiles out there who believe sex with little children ought to be acceptable. There are those who twist peaceful, moral doctrines of Islam to support mass slaughter, to validate their actions in depriving women of their rights, or to justify punishing women for actions inflicted on them by wicked men.
While there is no way I could countenance the actions espoused by some of these people, I cannot think of a morally or practically effective way to control what they believe. Freedom of thought, no matter how malignantly they may misuse it, is a gift given to them by God at their long-ago beginning—a characteristic of their eternal spirits that no one else can control.
Many rational, intelligent, morally respectable people believe differently than I do. I would do nothing to take that right away from them. I simply hope that in the clash of ideas in our society, they will not be inclined to take away my right to believe and practice my religion according to my own conscience, so long as what I do does not bring physical or emotional harm to anyone else.
It may be argued that my way of thinking could do emotional or intellectual harm to other people. If that were true, it would be equally true that trying to force me to believe and act as others do could cause emotional and intellectual harm to me. It seems that we are all going to have to live with the increasing probability that we will be associating with others whose beliefs clash with ours. When clashes come up, we will have to practice something that people who believe in political correctness like to preach: tolerance.
We will have to relearn that singsong bit of wisdom from childhood: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
As we face the inevitable clashes, let us learn not to pick up sticks and stones—especially not the sticks and stones of prejudice, name-calling, categorization, and dehumanization. We might not like the way another person thinks, but he or she is still a child of God and a fellow pilgrim in this mortal world.
The surge to redefine marriage, in an effort to adopt a more “politically correct” enlightened view, when a perfectly fine definition of marriage has served society for thousands of years, brings to mind an interchange that allegedly occurred during the discussion regarding emancipation of the slaves. President Lincoln is reported to have liken the case to that of the boy who, when asked how many legs his calf would have if he called its tail a leg, replied, ” Five,” to which the prompt response was made that calling the tail a leg would not make it a leg. Perhaps the same will prove true in this debate, though I also fear the inevitable restrictions on our personal belief systems as so many rush to call the tail a leg.
Thanks for your thoughtful discussion. ~ Rich