Secular Individualism versus Marriage

Secular Individualism versus Marriage

There is a great struggle going on in our American culture, a struggle over many moral issues, most of them sexual in nature and found right in the heart of marriage and what it means to be married. Abortion, promiscuity, adultery, premarital sex, the gay lifestyle, contraception, divorce and remarriage, and now cloning — all have some connection with the central meaning, value and purpose of marriage. Their allied target for elimination is marriage.

On one side of the Great Debate, the side taken by the Catholic Church, the position taken is that certain human actions are, by their inner nature, wrong. They violate, as the Church sees it, the nature and purpose of human activity, and therefore they violate the will of God, the God who created us to act for the common good. The Church teaches that certain human acts are always right, and that certain human acts are always wrong, and this is based on the good of the community as well as on the good of the individuals involved. The degree of good or evil can vary depending on the motives of the persons acting, as well as on special circumstances. But the nature of goodness or the nature of evil remain in the human acts in question.

On the other hand there are those who war against us because they believe that what the individual wants and chooses is more important than the good of the community. The good of the individual outweighs the common good. The community, they argue, cannot and should not impose its values on individuals. Individual freedom of choice, and individual rights are superior to the rights of any group or society. You may want to call one group conservative and the other group liberal. However, those labels are often too simple and just plain don’t fit in some instances. But, for convenience here, let’s use liberal and conservative.

Liberals say abortion, marriage and sexual activity are all strictly a matter of private, individual freedom and personal choice, that there are no absolute moral standards that can tell us anything is always right or anything is always wrong, that each situation is relative, not absolute, and that only the individual can decide what is real and what is unreal. This is the centerpiece of those who are called secularists, secularists seeing the world and reality as things that exist separate and apart from God or God’s purposes.

This is troublesome to Catholics because we believe that God created the world and gave us life for a purpose, a purpose that has real meaning and real value. Not only that, but God became one of us and entered into our world in order to join us into His purposes and His plans. For Catholics, the world is definitely NOT separate and apart from God. God’s only begotten Son became incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary, thus bonding God and Man together. The world for us is anything BUT secular.

Secularists are radical individualists. They decide and choose for themselves. No outside agencies can impose values on the secularist. His or her “anthem” is Frank Sinatra’s famous song: “I Did It My Way.” Catholics, on the other hand, find themselves by belonging to the People of God, finding their identity along with the meaning and purpose of their lives in belonging to the family of Jesus Christ. Catholics find salvation by belonging; secularists believe in taking care of themselves all by themselves.

In the Second Chapter of John’s Gospel, we find Jesus at a wedding. His presence blesses the meaning and purpose of marriage. Furthermore, we need to pay particular attention to Christ’s response to his mother when he says: “My hour has not yet come.” Well . . . what is that “hour”? It is none other than that “hour” or that time at the end of his life when we find him at the Last Supper, find him in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane followed by his death on the cross. This is the “hour” in which he says: “This is my body, take it; this is my blood, drink it.” This is where I marry you in an unbreakable union that nothing, not even sin or death, can overcome. I will love you, no matter what. I am marrying you, and even if you crucify and put me to death, I will come back from the grave to love you, because nothing can make me not love you.

Marriage, you see, is central to what God is all about in Christ’s incarnation. Marriage is all about commitment and belonging. Secular individualism is not. Marriage is all about the generation and fostering of human life. Secular individualism is not. Marriage is all about understanding God. Secularism seeks to dismiss God. Marriage is all about living together in a community, a community of committed love and bonded caring forever. Secular individualism is only about caring for the feelings of individuals. Secular individualism tells us: “If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, dump it or kill it.”

In the culture wars going on in the world around us, the secularist argument is dominant in the movie, television and newspaper media, while the arguments of believers are to be found more in the radio talk shows. Oh, there are some exceptions to be sure – I am just speaking here of what is usually to be found.

So when you hear talk about abortion, promiscuity, adultery, premarital sex, the gay lifestyle, contraception, divorce and remarriage, and now cloning, realize that they each have some connection with the central meaning, value and purpose of marriage. Is Christ to be invited to the celebration of your life, or do you want him to stay away? For if he comes to the party, then all that we have watered down and dumbed down in terms of human values and purposes in life, all those gallons of water in six stone water jars will be changed. Are you unsatisfied with watered down faith in others? Watered down trust? A watered down marriage, watered down love, or a watered down life? If so, invite Christ into your celebration of life and all those gallons of watered down human living will be changed.

The Wedding Feast of Cana, you see, isn’t something that’s just “pretty” or “nice” in the scheme of Christ’s mission and purpose. It was the location for his first miracle and it, along with the Last Supper (otherwise called “The Wedding Feast of the Lamb”) bracket all that Jesus Christ gives us in his life among us as reported to us in the Gospels. Bethlehem, Cana and The Wedding Feast of the Lamb are at the core of God’s marrying us in Jesus Christ, something that secular individualists want to keep in the closet or confined to the shopping malls at Christmas and Easter.

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Written by
Fr Charles Irvin