Thursday, May 30 2024

The statement on marriage issued by Evangelicals and Catholics Together, ECT, last March in the US did not attract the extensive media
coverage that it deserved, especially when compared to the media hype
prompted by the Supreme Court decision on June 25.

A decision which grants homosexual marriage the status of an “individual
right”. ECT’s 5,000 word document entitled “The Two Became One Flesh:
Reclaiming Marriage,” published by


First Things


, defends marriage based on human nature and Christian teaching. It further
reflects on current society in which, based on statistics, marriage is in
crisis at the risk of all.

Statement’s Content: A Defense of Marriage

ECT
, an ecumenical coalition founded in 94’, began marriage-related
discussions after the Supreme Court’s decision (June 2013) permitting
federal government to recognize same-sex marriage. Their statement contains
the fruits of those discussions.

The document opens with a defense of marriage which, according to ECT, is based on reason as much as Revelation. While the two
faiths groups admit to disagree on points of divorce and contraceptives,
they unanimously affirm “marriage is a stable union based on the
complementarity of man and woman” knowable through “Holy
Scripture and the truths inscribed on the human heart.” Tracing Scriptural
passages, marriage is described as a new reality in which the two become
‘one body’, “ennobling the sexual union of man and woman
by ordering it toward a common life that promotes the good of the couple,
the family, and the community as a whole.” In reference to the sexual
union, ECT accentuate its spiritual-moral dimension, today
generally approached as merely physical-biological, failing to recognize
its intrinsic potential for new life. Biblically, the spousal union
represents Christ’s love for his Church, and God’s for creation. Citing
various Christian teachers, such as St. Augustine, Martin Luther and
others, marriage and family is stressed to have existed not only prior to the state, but also is the very foundation of a
‘just society and stable society.’ Thus, a flourishing marriage culture is
intrinsically bound to the good of society. This conclusion, however, is
not simply hypothetical, but a reality in fact taken up later in the
statement: declining marriage culture threatens society.

Recent statistics show marriage and the family are in crisis. The statement
highlights grave consequences this crisis has had on society, and will have
if the situation persists. 50 years ago, for instance, over 70% of young
adults married and 90% of children lived with natural parents. Today,
barely 50% of adults marry and less than 2/3 of children live with natural
parents; not to mention a rapidly declining birth rate and increasing live
birth abortions. No one goes unscathed: “Everyone suffers from the current
crisis in marriage, but some more than others.” Most startling is a growing
class divide, backed by statistics on divorce, illegitimacy and criminal
records. Instead of facing this reality, however, there is a push to step
further away. Such is implied as regards same-sex marriage: “Today we are
urged to embrace an abstract conception of human nature that ignores the
reality of our bodies . . . our culture tells us to exalt our personal
desires and choices over the created order.” Beyond exalted, those desires
are handed to the State to be given ‘legal status.’ Those desires, even
further, have brought us to a place in which, “the family – the institution
on which our social order rests – is being redefined as a socially
constructed unit, constituted by our sovereign will, not by nature itself.”
In this new state dynamic, children then become a legal aspect, property of
the state. Statistics aside, media hype was sparked by the following: “An
easy acceptance of divorce damages marriage, widespread cohabitation
devalues marriage. But so-called same-sex marriage is a graver threat because what is now given the name of marriage in
law is a parody of marriage.” While divorce and cohabitation still
acknowledge a basic reality – physical-biological qualities indicate ‘man’
or ‘woman’– same-sex marriage denies it. Moreover, while the former
recognize a dissolution or rejection of marriage, the latter is trying to
supplant it, redefine it, and claim it, even pushing for status in law. Understanding marriage “as a covenant between man
and woman . . . fully consummated in consensual sexual intercourse
open to procreation,” it seems apparent same-sex ‘marriage’ poses the
graver threat.

Media Coverage: “The Graver Threat”

The statement received both Catholic and secular media attention. Thus, as
imaginable, the coverage diversified greatly. Not intending to be
exhaustive, and always with exceptions, below highlights general media
tendencies regarding the statement.

First, many articles – headed by titles – concentrated on the ‘graver
threat’ statement, or the call of Christians to reject this ‘parody’ of
marriage. For example, titles ran: “Top Catholics And Evangelicals: Gay
Marriage Worse Than Divorce Or Cohabitation” (Religion News Service, also in Huffington Post and Crux); “Top Catholics, evangelicals say gay marriage is worse than
divorce or cohabitation” (Christian Post); “Catholics,
evangelicals urge rejection of gay marriage” (Washington Post). As
the main focal point, articles largely glossed over the majority of the
statement’s content. Current societal crises which, based on statistics,
are pressing and permeate all society, were largely dismissed. Two articles
that addressed more directly the defense of marriage appeared in the National Catholic Register and Newman Society.

In addition, media coverage generally distinguish ‘high-profile’/ ‘top’
Christians – those signing the article – and the Christian majority.
Polarizing the two gave a sense of conflict and lack of consensus among
Christians. For instance, Religion News Service explained: “A high-profile alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelical
Protestants is set to issue a sweeping manifesto against gay marriage . . .
It reads like a declaration of war, but in a battle that even many
conservatives see as a lost cause. Increasing numbers of
Christians, like the rest of society, are more tolerant and accepting of
gays and lesbians.” Washington Times, on the other hand, after
noting the 50 Christian leaders who signed, stated: “ Numerous religious organizations, churches and coalitions support
gay marriage, and there is even a group called Not All Like That that
offers Christians a place to say that they, unlike other Christians,
believe in gay marriage”.

Finally, worth note, the interreligious statement did not pass unnoticed by
the LGBTQNation (a gay oriented newspaper). Naturally, they found it
discriminatory, as well as a last attempt to save a sinking ship.

By way of summary, while media coverage appeared ‘accurate’ in all it cited
from the statement, its ‘adequacy’ may have been wanting: a lot unsaid, and
that said, out of context. The news was not the unity of Catholics and
Evangelicals in this crucial moral issue, but the assumed divisions among
their congregations.

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