Tradition is Useless in the Marriage Debate

A local group was accused of “indoctrinating” children with a political bias. They were supposedly visiting schools to tell students about the election process, but parents started to notice that their kids were coming home quoting partisan rhetoric.

When reporters brought this accusation to the groups leaders, they responded with, “We’ve been doing this outreach program for more than twenty years.”

And that was it.

What was that supposed to mean? Am I supposed to trust people just because they’ve been doing their job for a long time? Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for people to reach for tradition when they don’t know how to prove their point.

I hear this sort of thing often when people talk about homosexual marriage. One side insists that marriage has traditionally been between a man and a woman, while the other side points out that civilizations in the past have accepted and encouraged gay relationships. Both groups want to have tradition on their side.

For myself, I can’t figure out why we’re dragging tradition into this. My homeland was set up by rebels who defied cultural and religious traditions to start a new country. As a protestant, my worldview is largely shaped by thinkers who risked their lives to break sacred traditions – some of them involving marriage laws. Since when have I been expected to follow tradition?

Tradition is not sacred, to me, and I think most people feel the same way. Most of the conservatives I know pride themselves on breaking old religious traditions, and the liberals I know usually can’t wait to take a “progressive” stance toward society by upsetting cultural norms. However, both of these groups think it’s important to be “on the right side of history.”

For the record, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an older culture that allowed homosexual marriage because, until recent times, the main purpose of marriage was to make children. It used to be a matter of urgency for people to procreate, a town could cease to exist of one generation wasn’t fertile enough, but in our modern age of medical science we are able to live longer and populate the globe without even trying. As a result, marriage is something we normally do for our own desires and not because we’re running out of employees to work the mill. Marriage has changed since the Roman times of the New Testament. (There’s certainly nothing traditional about my childless marriage.)

More on this is an upcoming blog entry, but, for now, I have to ask why both sides of the debate think that they need to be “traditional” when we need to be focused on doing what’s right. Am I expected to be a Christian, or a Traditionalist? (They are not the same thing.) Since all of us are so proud of breaking traditions, let’s take that out of our arguments and discuss the issue better.

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