When I logged into Facebook, I expected a few new comments. But I was surprised when the little red icon showed several on a recent picture I had uploaded. As I read through them, one stopped me cold: “This is the portrait of a hateful America.”
I scrolled back up to the original picture just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. There weren’t any inadvertent swastikas or vicious scowls. In fact it was just as I remembered it: my wife, our three young children and I eating at Chick-fil-A. We all had beaming smiles, platefuls of chicken and pools of dipping sauce. It epitomized joy, family and fun. So how could this innocent picture represent a hateful America?
Then it hit me. We had snapped the picture on Aug. 1, 2012. About a month earlier, Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, was asked whether his company supported traditional marriage. His answer was hardly surprising. After all, Chick-fil-A had been donating to pro-family groups for years, and Cathy was an outspoken Christian. But his innocuous reply — “well, guilty as charged” — produced unprecedented outrage.
Gay-rights groups angrily chastised the restaurant. Their attacks spread to talk shows, social media comment boxes, and even to the mayors of two large cities, who threatened to ban Chick-fil-A.
In response to such fury, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee proposed a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on the first day of August. We decided to join in, thus the picture, thus the comment.
This whole episode confirmed a startling trend: If you simply accept marriage today as between one man and one woman, or disagree with the idea of same-sex marriage, even for legitimate reasons, you’re unequivocally branded a hateful bigot. This emotionally charged atmosphere makes rational discussion nearly impossible. Political slogans, sound-bites, tribal divisions and name-calling drown out real arguments and leave little room for charity and clear-thinking.
In addition, many well-intentioned people who reject same-sex marriage cannot articulate good reasons why. They often respond to same-sex marriage advocates by saying, “It’s simply against God’s plan” or “the Church rejects it.” These arguments, although true and substantial, strike non-religious people as irrelevant.
More than ever Catholics need simple, rational, non-religious reasons to reinforce their arguments against same-sex marriage.
To help, this week’s In Focus (Pages 9-12) is dedicated to these reasons.
As Americans and as Catholics, we value marriage as extremely important. We must move past the Facebook insults, heated rhetoric and catchy slogans to gauge the merits of same-sex marriage by its own arguments.
Brandon Vogt is a Catholic writer and speaker who blogs at BrandonVogt.com. He is also the author of “The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet” (OSV, $13.95), which you can find at www.churchandnewmedia.com. He writes from Casselberry, Fla.