When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
'Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She's like "Ben you've loved girls since before pre-k, trippin'
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn't she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
So go the lyrics… If read in their entirety, without imagery or tone, they might well strike most as a bit rambling, full of hyperbole and unrealistic stretches; not worthy of serious consideration. But several colleagues brought to my attention a masterfully-created video by Macklemore, Lewis and Lambert, which uses catchy and engaging melody, accessible rap, and various religious, civil rights, and family-life imagery to transform the lyrics entirely. The commentary I was hearing suggested that there is a great competition underway for the hearts and sympathies of those who find it hard to understand the dangers of the anti-traditional marriage perspective. In order to prevail in this competition, the champions of traditional family values need to find a way to create something that makes the truth not just equally compelling, but even more so.
Most serious scholars will concede that the traditional family is the bedrock of civilization and that deterioration of the "one man, one woman, paired for life, and raising children" structure of the family will be the demise of culture as we know it. Society will suffer not only because of the failure of persons to replace themselves, but more so because of the lack of transmission of the sustainable virtues and values that allow people to live in society respectfully and enduringly through self-sacrifice and support of their neighbor.
Persuasive analyses of how a "gay culture" is going to be beneficial to civilization overall, is lacking. Most of the discussion from this perspective attempts to cast the movement towards "gay marriage" as an advancement of civil rights on par with other civil rights. It ignores the heretofore obvious fact that men and women are different, and such differences have huge implications for relationships.
The heart, however, is another matter. Many have had the experience of making decisions, sometimes major life decisions, which have gone awry. When asked by a close friend or family member "What were you thinking?" the answer is all too often: "I wasn't thinking," - an honest, if somewhat belated, acknowledgment that the decision had been based on emotions or feelings, not on logic.
Psychologically, we know that emotions often have a powerful influence over the choices people make. When properly considered and reflectively understood, a person's emotions are quite valuable. Indeed, they are essential to proper decision making and the ability to live a flourishing and rewarding life - the alternative is living a robotic existence, which, with a few exceptions (Spock?), does not seem to be anyone's concept of an ideal life. Our emotions, and our experience of others' emotions, provide a perspective that is not available to our reason, but which can be of valuable use to our intellect in making decisions. At the same time, however, this input must be integrated with our more analytical gifts in order to truly be of help.
Macklemore, Lewis, and Lambert's engaging and stirring depiction of a young male's journey: from birth to young adulthood, to "marriage" to his same-sex partner, to their hand-holding as elderly men in a hospital room, one on the seeming verge of demise, touches, grips, and pulls the proverbial heartstrings. One finds oneself "feeling the pain and injustice" of this poor young man when his mother apparently is trying to "set him straight," literally. And who but the most callous would deny the dying man on his hospital bed the comforting touch of a life-long companion.
Such images and messages are powerful, especially when they are repeated and pushed relentlessly. However, when, over time, the message is such that it alters our proper way of thinking, when we become so habituated to it that we begin confusing right and wrong - eventually, even unknowingly, acquiescing to the ideology - then the message is not just powerful, but powerfully dangerous.
What all of this emotional messaging misses is the facts: the common, realistic, and typical course of same-sex attractions and relationships that is readily known through the social sciences. From the perspective of researchers who study relationships, and clinicians who work with people who endeavor to overcome their struggle with same-sex attractions or accept them and live chaste lives, several facts are relevant:
When it comes to same-sex relationships, quite simply, the love experienced is not the same, even if some of the feelings are.
While feelings are surely important, people deserve more than mere feelings; they deserve peace, contentment, and joy. These do not come easily for one struggling with same-sex attraction, and sadly, a seven-minute video, however compelling, will not change this. Knowing the facts about the development of identity, the factors which are related to the development of same-sex attractions, the success people can have living chastely, and the love and affirmation they experience in their faith community, should make a difference in the debate. But it seems that research and words are insufficient to capture hearts and minds these days.
Time for a casting call… and … Action