What America’s REALLY Fighting Over

The fight over marriage equality/gay marriage that is currently taking place in both the U.S. Supreme Court and in America in general sometimes seems like a tempest in a teapot. I’m not trying to minimize the pain and struggle. It just seems like it should be a fait accompli rather than a dynastic struggle.

One side wants the equal right to marry, complete with the attendant cultural recognition and legal protections. The other side says “no.” Yes, it’s a big step in equal rights for all people. It’s a big shift in gender and gender roles.

Plato and Aristotle relief carvingA brief analysis of the underlying assumptions of the two sides is illuminating.

One the one side, homosexuality is considered natural, as it is a naturally occurring phenomena that doesn’t harm anyone.

On the other side, homosexuality is considered deviant, dangerous behavior that threatens the world by its very existence.

Those two camps are pretty far from one another.

It turns out that we’re not just fighting over marriage rights, or even the definitions of core cultural pillars (gender, marriage, family). We are fighting over the nature of truth itself.

We’re addressing an age-old question: How do we know what we know?

Difficult-to-resolve issues usually have less to do with the explicit arguments, and more to do with underlying assumptions about the way the world works. In this case, the two great waves that are crashing together are:

  • On the one side, tradition, allied (sometimes tenuously) with traditional Judeo-Christian interpretations of the world
  • On the other side, a more secular, global approach to the world, aligned with modern interpretations of theology

Or, to take it back to Aristotle and the basics of rhetoric, we have an ethos argument (argument from authority or character) ramming up against a logos argument (argument by logic). And, just so it doesn’t feel left out, we have lots of pathos (argument by emotional appeal) on both sides of the issue.

  • Do we know something is “true” because that is the way our forefathers understood the world?
  • Or do we know it’s “true” because educated people said so?

The huge struggles that we’re facing, that divide the country and never seem to be adequately resolved, are part of larger cultural shifts and the necessary clashes that accompany change. Marriage equality is only one of these fights.

The current battle’s all over but the screaming, but the war’s going to be going on for a while.


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