In our time, we are taught that the idea of tolerance is the highest social value. Toleration is the idea that every lifestyle choice is due protection. Every lifestyle is, in a sense, good because of the individual’s freedom to do as they please. Such an idea is appealing, until the questions, “what is true? what is best?” come into play. These are natural questions that spring from the hearts and minds of believers. We seek an answer. But at the same time, these questions are deemed judgmental and arrogant by secular people. They seek to stifle these questions, in favor of an unquestioned, socially protected, freedom to choose. This argument affects us very significantly, especially in regards to family life.
Has the breakdown of the traditional family, and the introduction of alternative families, been a good thing for our culture? I suppose that depends on one’s point of view. Secular people rejoice in the widening definitions of sex, marriage, and family as proof of a more tolerant culture. Christian believers fear that family neglect and moral laziness are destroying our culture. Christians see many evils, even gravely serious ones, tearing apart families. Christians also see the family as the foundation of community and culture, while secular people do not see it as such (some might argue otherwise, but they should probably examine their values more closely). Undermining of the family leads to the widespread destruction of our culture, Christians say.
Because of this, Christians speak about protecting family, marriage, and unborn life. Christians speak out in favor of family planning that does no harm to an open, loving relationship between spouses. This form of planning is called Natural Family Planning (will the minimal costs for this method be provided free of charge by the law?). While Christians speak of these things in terms we would call reasonable, we fail to win the argument. Christians may be missing the larger point. For these disagreements about the value of family, or anything else of value, are really disagreements about what we can say is true or right.
People feel that by avoiding difficult moral questions, that we can all get along better with each other. Certainly, it would be damaging to force a moral truth on another person by force. We should work out important moral questions in a peaceful way. But to avoid the questions entirely, or to act like the questions are wrong-headed, invites moral decline. On this feast of the Holy Family, we need to address the issues of morality and law Pretending that laws can be written in a value-nuetral, tolerant way is leading to great violence in our culture. We need serious moral conversations to take place amongst our lawmakers, judges, and our whole citezenry, if we are going to renew justice in our world.
Law cannot renew us, but it can get in the way of renewal, and make it very difficult. We can choose a holy family life, but we need to talk to our neighbors about morality as well. The law cannot remain amoral. Our laws need to address morality in a serious way. Aside from talking to our leaders about the need for this discussion, we can make greater progress by reaching out to our neighbor in charity. We cannot continue to pretend that morality doesn’t matter, or that it is in some way prejudiced.