If you’re a fan of the old “Star Trek: The Next Generation” series, you’ll recall an episode when Captain Picard was stranded on a desolate planet with the captain of an alien ship, in order to fight a savage beast. The plot twist was that the two men were unable to effectively communicate with each other, because the alien spoke a language made up of metaphors which made no sense to someone unfamiliar with the stories on which they are based. One common phrase, “Shaka, when the walls fell,” we eventually came to learn was their way of expressing failure.
With today’s Supreme Court rulings, we have now reached a point in American history where the Judeo-Christian story has been rejected as being unintelligible, both to a significant portion of our citizenry and also, apparently, to our judiciary. Some would argue that this is the inevitable “progress” of history, while others would argue that the decline of commonly-held moral standards is the result of the creep of inexorable decadence and imperial decline. Yet it seems to me that what has happened is something not unlike that old Star Trek episode. We are now unable to communicate with one another, because we do not know the same stories.
For example, it has often been pointed out to Christians by proponents of same-sex marriage that Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, who was engaged in a sexual activity which at the time was treated as a capital offense. However the conclusion of that story is not Christ patting the woman on the head and saying, “Go back to doing whatever you were doing.” Rather, He commands her, “Go, and sin no more,” both granting forgiveness but calling a spade a spade, rather than pretending that what she was doing was morally acceptable. That, and not the rabid crowd slowly shuffling away, is the real message of the encounter. Yet its meaning has been lost in our age of Carrie Bradshaw-based morality.
In choosing to treat a relationship between consenting adults – which is often really just a euphemism for sexual incontinence – as the ground in which marriage must be based, we have also forgotten that mankind was created in God’s image. “Male and female He created them,” we are told of our first parents, their complementarity being a reflection of the love God has for His Creation. We are now entering a period in which, through science and technology, we will soon be able to create in OUR own image, without having a male and female at all, yet we do not seem to have thought much about how exactly we are going to manage to play god with any degree of success, given that at present our civilization can barely keep itself fed, housed, and free from disease. As we race into the future, tearing down the narratives which kept human beings from descending back into the chaos from which our ancestors emerged, we seem set on silencing those who warn of the implications of abandoning fundamental principles regarding life, family, and society.
Of course the paradox of today’s Supreme Court decisions is that in granting rights to one group, another will now become the object of persecution. For if you believe the honeyed assurances of those who insist that orthodox Christians will be left to believe and practice as we choose, I would suggest that you are very easily deceived. No doubt far too many people will go along to get along, even though the Church Herself will not. Somehow, Catholics who remain true to the Faith have always managed to survive, and will survive this as well. One takes the long view that the Catholic Church has outlasted the Romans, the Huns, the Moors, Henry VIII, the Ottomans, the Shogun, Napoleon, and the Soviets, so this is simply another bumpy period in our long history.
It is often said that the story of history is written by the victors, and perhaps today, the forces which have persuaded a majority of the Justices that the marriage covenant and sexual intercourse are morally and legally equivalent may seem to have prevailed in writing our future narrative. Yet in the end the fallout from this decision will prove as inscrutable to future generations, when the Catholic Church will still be here, but America as we know it may well not be. After all, the vainglorious French revolutionaries renamed all the months of the year, which in the end proved only to be a temporary measure. Today the word for one of those months, “Thermidor”, is in fact considered a synonym for failure, much like “Shaka, when the walls fell.” Or as I prefer to use it, Thermidor is a great way of preparing lobster.
“American Lobster – Sixth Stage” by Francis Hobart Herrick (1895)
New England Aquarium, Boston