I want to thank readers for their outpouring of kind words and encouragement after my post of Friday night. I know this is a very controversial issue and that a number of readers disagree with my view, so I am immensely grateful for the hundreds of readers who chimed in and said, “Good going, Mike.” I think I’ve responded to everyone who wrote in personally on e-mail; thanks also to all the hundreds on Facebook, whoever you are. (I don’t know if there’s a way I can find out who all those folks are individually; anyway, thanks to all of you.)
I’m even thankful, to some extent, to those who wrote in disagreement, most of whom avoided cheap vilification. Many gave me food for thought, and some, I admit, for tongue-in-cheek mockery. One of my favorites deplored gay marriage as sending us down the road to “the full ‘gay’ morally relativistic agenda” which will result, if we permit it, in “materialism at high-tide.” Now, this is an objection I take very seriously indeed, because I think materialism is a great danger to the soul, especially in a wealthy country such as ours. So I hope we never reach those vilest depths of moral decay, the ones my reader is so worried about; and never become a country so overtaken by materialist excess that a respected conservative presidential candidate will have a million-dollar account at Tiffany’s to buy gifts for his wife. The gays will sure have a lot to answer for, if that ever happens. (Note: Yes, I recognize that it’s not for me to judge what people spend their money on. They have a right to spend their own money on whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned. I’m just saying that blaming the triumph of materialism in America on the — what? 2 percent? 5 percent? — of Americans who are gay, or on the 2 percent within that 2 percent who want to be married, is completely ludicrous.)
Also: Thank you, Jason, for that spirited defense! I am generally a fan of Archbishop Dolan — I have written about my appreciation for him here — but I thought his North Korea comparison was unfortunate. I know that he was trying to make a very specific point, about the relation between government power and the use of language; but I also know that if some liberal ever compared America to North Korea, even in the most “nuanced” possible way, conservatives would be jumping up and down accusing him of “anti-Americanism.” I’m fond of Dolan, indeed that’s why I didn’t put his name in my post; I wanted to attack the rhetoric, which I disagree with, not the man, whom I admire. (This led to the unfortunate consequence that some comboxers thought I had invented the “North Korea” thing myself and was thus guilty of creating a straw man! Oh well; sometimes decency must be its own reward.) But more important to me now is to rebuke Archbishop Dolan’s critics, in the comboxes and elsewhere — those who are faulting his efforts and blaming the gay-marriage passage on his ineffectiveness. Hogwash! In the fantasy world of these critics, there is some Ideal Archbishop — a Forceful, Manly Man — who will tell the state legislature “Do this!” and the state senate will meekly obey; and the fact that Dolan’s efforts weren’t successful proves that he’s simply not up to the job. When the fact is, Archbishop Dolan is a good man, politically skilled (despite my cavils at some particulars of his language), and deeply committed to religious truth as he sees it; he deserves better than this sort of sniping from people who should instead be immensely grateful to have somebody of his stature taking their part in this argument.
Let me close with a moment of serendipity from tonight’s Choral Evensong at St. John the Divine Episcopal Cathedral. The closing hymn was written by none other than the Blessed John Henry Newman:
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
It is indeed dark, and we are all of us far from home. We all walk by faith, and not by sight; we are all often wrong, and sometimes right; let’s try to look on one another’s follies with God’s merciful light.
Thanks again, to everyone.