My post about divorce yesterday caused the comments section of my blog to explode. People are really passionate about marriage in America. I imagine things will be interesting in our country when the Supreme Court makes its ruling on gay marriage.
The discussion reminds me of an article that Fr. Robert Barron wrote about gay marriage in April. I'm going to summarize the article here. Fr. Barron writes that it is hard for people today to have conversations about morality. Why? People have very different viewpoints on things. "In regard to questions of what is right and wrong, we simply talk past one another, or more often, scream at each other."
One example of the inability to have coherent moral discussions comes from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. During the hearing on gay marriage, she became wary when someone mentioned morality. She said, “Whenever someone expresses moral disapproval...the red flag of discrimination goes up for me.” This is a curious statement. She did not say she is opposed to bad moral arguments; she said she is opposed to moral arguments in general.
So Americans have difficulty, discussing morality. What is a result of this fact? People have become obsessed with poll numbers. It is true that poll numbers are interesting, but they do not determine morality. If a majority of Americans believe X, it does not logically follow that X is good or bad. "If a poll had been taken in, say, 1825, concerning the legitimacy of slavery, I would bet that only a small minority of Americans would have come out for eliminating the practice." Poll numbers cannot be a substitute for moral arguments.
Another indication of the breakdown of moral arguments is the tendency to replace "morality" with "sentiment". This happens a lot with the topic of gay marriage; people sentamentalize the issue. For example, you will hear a politician say something like, "I support gay marriage because my son is gay, and I want him to be happy." That is a fine sentiment; all parents should want to see their children happy. However, "I want my son to be happy" is not a moral argument. It is a well-intentioned desire.
[Note from Michael: The closest it comes to a moral argument is "my son should be allowed to do what makes him happy". Any parent who has toddlers can tell you this is untrue. You can tweak this sentiment in various ways, to make different moral arguments of varying strength.]
Fr. Barron concludes his article, with the hope that some of the fog surrounding morality in our country may be cleared up. He specifically avoids making any moral arguments about gay marriage himself, one way or the other.