Today, people are celebrating breaking free of repression and finally enjoying the liberty denied because of unfair prejudice against a specific group of people. Some of my friends are trying to wrap their heads around the fact that 'm not celebrating this. The fact is, if unjust prejudice on the part of the government were ending, I'd be thrilled. If civil liberties were being restored to a heretofore repressed population, I'd be overjoyed. But despite the fact that folks are proclaiming a great victory for equal rights, this SCOTUS case (Obergefell vs. Hodges) is about something very different.

In the Opinion of the Court, Justice Kennedy cites several cases as precedent. The most well-known, of course, is Loving vs. Virginia which struck down bans on interracial marriage. In Loving, a marriage license was refused because of the unjust idea that blacks are intrinsically inferior. In Zablocki vs. Redhail, the court stated that denying marriage to fathers behind on child support was "deliberate discrimination against the poor." Turner vs. Safley ruled that prisoners could not be denied marriage simply because of their status as prisoners. In each of these cases, the issue at stake was equality and civil rights. These people had marriage licenses unjustly withheld because of the fact that they were black, poor, or incarcerated.
the message of the Court's opinion is that Wisconsin may not use its control over marriage to achieve the objectives of the state statute - See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/434/374.html#sthash.NsmaWhc9.dpuf
the message of the Court's opinion is that Wisconsin may not use its control over marriage to achieve the objectives of the state statute - See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/434/374.html#sthash.NsmaWhc9.dpuf

However, in Obergefell vs. Hodges the plaintiffs had been denied because they weren't even applying for something considered "marriage." They were NOT denied licenses because of the unjust belief that their sexual orientation makes them lesser humans, or undeserving of marriage at all. 
"Respondent declined to issue the license on the sole ground that the petitioners were of the same sex, it being undisputed that there were otherwise no statutory impediments to heterosexual marriage by either petitioner." - Baker vs. Nelson
This is what makes this case different than any of the cases cited as precedent. The plaintiffs had the same liberty to marry as any other person. No screening of their sexual tastes preceded their application, no box checked "gay" disqualified them from receiving a marriage license. They were petitioning the state for something not in legal existence. The question of whether or not homosexual marriage should be in legal existence is another matter (and whether it should be defined and implemented by the judiciary is another). My point is that this case is about a legal redefinition of marriage, not about civil rights or equality of persons.

The instances where wedding services were refused gay couples are also not about equality. The business owners who refused to bake a cake or rent out a venue did so because they disagreed with the definition of marriage, not because they considered gay people to have less dignity. Many have publicly said that they would gladly bake a birthday cake for a lesbian woman, or rent out a venue for the family reunion of a gay man. Indeed, if they refused those services because they somehow thought that homosexuals were inferior, I would protest against them too.

Discrimination of ideas, not of people, is the heart of this case, and we would be better served if SCOTUS could discriminate between the two.

As to Cana you draw nigh,
two souls joined till one shall die,
may you gracious vessels be,
poor in all but He gives thee.

All thy lacking may He fill,
as at that first miracle--
water meager turned to wine,
human frailty to divine.

When the store of patience fails
and from a grievance each one ails,
let His virtue manifest
and every grievance lay to rest.

When you feel that naught remains
and love is changed to dying flames,
see Him work a marvel rare
and quicken fire from empty air.

 At every moment of thy need,
a mother's intercession plead.
May each of those needs be among
the prayers she takes before her Son.

Days when weariness and care
upon thy mind and body wear,
I pray a faithful servant stands
to hear and follow Christ's commands.

Through that attentive, willing soul,
the power of God I pray to flow,
and with His strength thy life revive--
the choicest drink to last imbibe.


There's always something chilling about a futuristic novel, even when its motif is heat and fire. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 takes readers to a progressed society where houses are fireproof, and firemen protect the city by burning the threats to its happiness and security. What are those threats? Ideas. Books. Each one has something in it that offends someone else - makes them unhappy. The authors disagree amongst themselves and therefore hazard peace.
Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.
The people live leisurely with giant TV walls and constant surround sound. Worries hardly exist. Each house is well-stocked with sleeping pills. If children are born, they're placed in school as infants. No one argues about politics because running the country is someone else's job to worry about. No one has to undergo the unpleasant act of thinking.

We must all be alike...Every man the image of every other. Then, all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So, a book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man. Me? I won’t stomach them for a minute. And so when houses were finally fireproofed completely all over the world…there was no longer need of firemen for the old purposes. They were given the new job as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior.
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is an even eerier utopia. The government has no need to burn books; it conditions the citizen's subconscious to hate them. A human reproduction factory spits out clone groups, and with scientifically precise methods, designs their bodies and brains to do certain tasks. And not just to do those tasks, but activate the most possible pleasure sensors by doing it. So no military force is required to keep vast populations in slavery; they willingly submit. As Huxley wrote:

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

These clones also have every sensual pleasure available to them. The "Feelies" are movie theaters that bring all 5 senses into an alternate reality. "Soma" is their perfect drug, whisking them into a chemical alternate reality rather than a technological one. And with all these diversions, the citizens are "happy."

In both of these novels, freedom is exchanged for comfort. Individual thought for security. Life for "happiness." In the first part of the 20th century, both Bradbury and Huxley saw these exchanges begin to occur. In 2015, they are frighteningly evident in the new moral code of society where what "feels good" is considered morally good. In fact, I know several friends who would probably not find these futuristic societies offensive at all, but see them as hopeful ideals where people can finally do what they please without experiencing pain.

Then why were they intended as horror stories? I think it's because we understand that pleasure is not an end in itself, but a means to a greater end. That a life of merely endless entertainment, sex and drugs is somehow beneath us. At the end of Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is aptly dubbed "The Book of Ecclesiastes," which opens with the refrain "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!" John Savage, at the end of Brave New World, tries to convince the crowd of the vapidness of their indulgence. But then what is the end of pleasure if not to fulfill us?

For the Christian, pleasure is a glimpse of Heaven, something to remind us of the coming joy that truly will fulfill. A Christian enjoys pleasure more than anyone else, knowing its meaning, and he can go without it with more joy, knowing that it's not a necessity or end. Lent is a great example of this. From the outside, fasting seems like bondage, but in reality the fasting keeps us free of the bondage Bradbury and Huxley describe. We don't need the constant outside stimulation because we have a more lasting food. So how will our society avoid Bradbury and Huxley's dire forecast?
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst."

Why do I relate so much to an elderly mother who lived in a time and culture entirely removed from my own? I barely know any details about her, but after hours spent meditating on a single event from her life, there are so many ways St. Elizabeth inspires me. 


First, because she was "advanced in years," Elizabeth was unfit for the task of carrying a baby. Her body was weak. Not only was it impossible for her to conceive without supernatural help, but she required human assistance (from Mary) to carry the pregnancy to term. I may not be literally carrying a child, but there are 52 children under my care every day in the classroom, and I am unfit to teach them. My weaknesses make it impossible for me to give them what they need. The visitation gives me peace by reminding me that God calls and works through the weak, no matter how unfit for the task.
"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leapt in her womb, and Elizabeth [was] filled with the Holy Spirit..." 
Second, my greatest desire for my students is that they recognize Christ as their Lord and follow him. Sometimes I despair of their ever coming to know Christ in their tragic circumstances and disordered family lives. But if the infant John could recognize God even in the darkness of the womb, I can have confidence that the Holy Spirit reveals his presence to the simplest of minds in the darkest of places. 

Third, the joy of the visitation is all the more clear when we realize how long Elizabeth desired and waited for a son. At my stage in life, many hopes and longings are deferred. Meditating on this mystery broadens my view so that, rather than regretting the wait, I can trust God's plan to fulfill every desire in ways beyond my imagination, just as he did St. Elizabeth's. And may my daily prayer echo hers:
"Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

Trifles

   I recently read the George Eliot novel The Mill on the Floss which tells the story of young Maggie Tulliver, a spirited, impulsive girl who idolizes her older brother Tom more than anyone in the world. As she gets into her many scrapes, the grown-ups complain of her unruliness and, try as they might, fail to keep her under control. Tom grows older, becoming more proud and serious, and joins the adults in their scolding and rebukes.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Tom_and_Maggie.jpg
   Little do they know the inner tumult Maggie experiences each time she falls out of grace with her brother.  They don't see how desperately she wants to be good so she can please him, or how a single harsh word from Tom can make her feel like the the sun has gone out in her world.

   The book describes the intensity with which she feels all these things, but Mrs. Tulliver and the disapproving aunts write off Maggie's despairs as trifles. And on the surface, they are trifling: a cold glance from Tom, a forgotten token, a spoiled afternoon plan. They're almost nothing compared to the troubles of the grown-ups. 

   But just because her troubles are smaller doesn't mean they're any less painful. Maggie is smaller, and all her woes are proportionate to herself. It only takes a little water to fill a short glass, but nonetheless it is still full. 

   In self-reflection, I was a bit rattled when I recognized Mrs. Tulliver in my own life. When children come to me with their troubles, I'm guilty of belittling their experiences: "That's not so bad compared to ______," I do want to help them get a right perspective of the world, but I also realize that I need to acknowledge those "trifles" as seriously as they do.  
Tom & Maggie from The Mill on the Floss




Educators often talk about that 'magical moment' when a student finally grasps something - when the 'lightbulb comes on.' They'll say it's the main thing that inspires them, the motivation to get through all the planning & grading, paperwork & legal labyrinths & tests. Like any teacher, I love the moments when I can see things 'click,' but there are moments that I cherish far more than that.

I teach on an 'intervention team,' which means that many of my students are 2-3 years below grade level. They all face unique challenges to learning, from troubled homes to learning disabilities. They go through erasers like candy because almost nothing comes to them on the first try. To them, giving up is a tempting relief, a safe place where they can get away from difficulty & failure. So in my day to day work with them, the moments that touch me most aren't when they earn a good grade or a sticker for mastery. It's the ones where they receive the familiar F, but then pick up their pencil to fix the mistakes. The ones where I ask, "Does that make sense?" and they answer, "No, not really," expectantly waiting for me to try another explanation. The disappointment when they miss a problem, but sigh resolutely and start again. I'm touched by those moments because I know how much they want to give up and how impossible it feels to them, yet they keep trying. 

In my own spiritual life, I have many moments of giving up - times when I mess up so badly that it doesn't seem worth it to drag myself back to God and ask forgiveness. I feel the impossibility of living the Christian life because of the sheer number of times I commit the same stupid sins. I avoid prayer or confession because I don't want to go through the process of starting over again. I imagine the disgust God must have for me, how tired he must be of putting Fs on all my life's tests. But then I realize that no matter how many failing grades I give to my students, the last thing that I want them to do is give up. I think of how much I want them to ask for help when they've messed up, and how proud I am when they ask for my big eraser so they can try again.

The love I have for my students is nothing compared to the love God has for his children. It gives him joy when we come back to him no matter what we've done or how many times we've done it.
But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’

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