Respect for the truth about marriage has steadily waned in Western countries where contraception, cohabitation, and no-fault divorce have become commonplace. Many battles over the purpose of human sexuality have been lost because the faithful have been poorly equipped or unwilling to stand for the truth.
In the aftermath of Obergefell v. Hodges, the marriage movement has begun anew. If just a small number of young, committed Catholics weather the current cultural hurricane and refuse to be silent about what marriage is and why it matters, we can heal our damaged civilization and forge new paths that will rebuild what radicals have nearly annihilated over the past half-century.
Post-Obergefell, we are fighting on different terrain and under different circumstances. We must anticipate the crucial battles for religious liberty, parental rights, and children’s rights that are in store over the next few years. We must also prepare ourselves mentally and spiritually to articulate the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality to an increasingly hostile world.
The radical redefinition of marriage and its emergence into every day life and popular culture creates new challenges for faithful parents. Like-minded friends and I are pre-occupied with the question, “How will we raise our future children?” Our culture is now at a point where children too young to consent to sex can apparently consent to hormone blockers, castration, and other forms of bodily mutilation; where school districts face the loss of federal funding if they do not adopt transgender policies; where sex education means instructing seventh-graders about homosexuality and transgenderism; where fantasy trumps physical reality; and where anyone questioning this mad new orthodoxy is treated like a social pariah at best or a dangerous criminal at worst.
If this moral degeneration is ever to meet its end, warriors for truth must work toward that goal. The young Catholics of the millennial generation to which I belong may be our best hope. We have watched parents divorce and held friends mourning their aborted children. We know how empty the world’s promises are because many of us at one point were deceived by them. Despite claims to the contrary, many young people are drawn to the Catholic Church because her teachings are true.
Now is the time for young people to seize the opportunity to build a culture that promotes human flourishing. We must be countercultural by resisting the trends that encourage people to go to war with their own bodies and act as if two people of the same sex can conceive a child together. If we are to have an opportunity to win this battle, we must not shy away from these controversial topics for fear of being judged and hated.
There are good reasons to hope the marriage battle is not lost on young people. First, in the early days of legalized abortion on demand, abortion enjoyed the support of those ages 18-29 in much higher numbers than it does now. Many claimed that the issue was settled because the younger generation supported abortion and it looked like those against it would simply die off. Yet my generation is the most pro-life generation since Roe v. Wade.
Second, in each generation there is usually a countercultural faction. Regarding marriage and human sexuality, what used to be edgy and countercultural is now mainstream. Supporting traditional Biblical teachings on human sexuality is the new counterculture.
Third, social movements have historically been led by the young, who don’t have as many responsibilities or obligations as our older peers. As more children raised by same-sex parents share their stories and more people have their eyes opened to the injustice of deliberately denying someone a relationship with his or her mother or father, we can hope that young people will see the need to rebuild the institution of marriage.
As the Vatican document Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons states, “clear and emphatic opposition [to the redefinition of marriage] is a duty.” Navigating this responsibility is going to require creativity and tenacity, not to mention some backbone from clerics who have spent the better part of several decades preaching about flowery, nebulous topics like dialogue and acceptance.
For those whose vocation is religious life, the Obergefell ruling is an opportunity to articulate with clarity and charity the truth about what marriage is and why our God-given bodies are designed the way that they are.
For those who are called to the vocation of marriage, the Obergefell ruling is an opportunity to give ourselves completely and totally to our spouses, to raise our children according to our faith, and to show the world the beauty of marriage that comes from sacrificing one’s own desires for the sake of the family.
And for those who are called to the single life, the Obergefell ruling is an opportunity to demonstrate the power and peace that come from living the Catholic faith to a world obsessed with instant gratification and the fulfillment of any desire, no matter how unrealistic or self-destructive.
The stalwart warriors of the Sexual Revolution, many of whom are now in their sixties or older, worked systematically to shipwreck humanity. By firmly divorcing sex from procreation, the complete redefinition of marriage became possible, and gender is well on its way to being abolished. These hippies can now celebrate these pseudo-achievements as the rest of us contemplate the human cost of a shattered society.
Many in my generation have grown to distrust anyone over 30. Now, as the nearly-extinguished torch is passed to us, it is our responsibility to undo the damage of past generations by resolutely committing ourselves to rekindle the flame of truth for a culture that is—after nearly half a century of embracing darkness—desperately ready for light once again.
Editor’s note: In the image above, young people hold pro-life signs at the January 22, 2015 March for Life in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Addie Mena / CNA)