Until recently, I was ambivalent about the redefinition of civil marriage. My gut feeling – or perhaps it was a default to my parents’ view – told me I wanted to preserve the definition of marriage, but I had no idea how or why. As a normal college student with plenty of friends and a reputation to protect, I didn’t want to get involved.
Before my senior year, I started to read What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George, but abandoned it when school became busy. As I am not one to sit idle once convinced of a certain truth, I evaded any political or social discomfort by avoiding the question altogether.
The marriage debate – or lackthereof – was happening across the nation. While the media claims that the youth are decided on the issue of marriage, I observed that most students were not making decisions at all. Rather, they seemed to shrug and hop on the bandwagon. I, too, gave my tacit consent through silence. When I finally decided to engage the argument in What Is Marriage?, I found it to be compelling. In fact, I was convinced of its truth. (Regardless of your views, I encourage you to read the book.)
A small group of students formed on campus in the spring to stimulate conversation among the students and to rally support. The goal: to preserve the definition of marriage in the Indiana legislature.
I agreed to join the club. Secretly, I gave myself a different mission than that of the group. My goal: not to be a social liability. This little club was not going to ruin the second semester of my senior year.
The first warning sign that I might fail came on a Tuesday night in February. I was reading for class when a friend knocked on the door. It didn’t take much convincing – after all, it was senior year – before I pulled on my boots and we braved the snow for the bar. We chatted about class and friends and the future – the usual conversation – when suddenly she asked about the controversy on campus. I felt nauseous.
“Please, God. Not here. Not at a bar.”
Despite my attempt to derail it, the “marriage conversation” came hurtling down the tracks and there I sat, playing chicken with a train. In a decisive moment, I wistfully resigned myself to social outcast status and began to explain.
As I talked, I braced myself for the impact but, to my surprise, the train never flattened me. It was surprisingly anti-climactic. She didn’t even storm out of the bar. Instead, she took another sip of her drink and said, “Oh. Well, I guess that makes sense. You don’t hate gay people, you just don’t think the government has any interest in recognizing their relationships as marriages.”
I was shocked. Hating people based on their sexual attractions had been the furthest thing from my mind. Like most young people, that made no sense to me.
Perhaps my friend only remained to finish her drink, but I think she stayed because she saw that I had reasoned views, even if we disagreed. This eased the worries of my one-track mind: perhaps I could still be a normal college student after all.
Despite my best efforts, this conversation continued to hound me, especially as our club became more visible on campus. An angry group of students rose up against us, protesting the club’s existence and calling for its removal. A few friends stopped responding to text messages or gave me a decidedly cold shoulder. At dinner, one challenged me on the issue. The air bristled over our dining hall trays.
“Please, God. Not here. Let me eat my burger in peace.” I braced myself for the impact.
Once again, “Oh. I thought you were crazy but, explained like that, I see your reasons.”
Over and over. In bars, on the quad, in the hallway of my dorm, on long runs. Each time a friend gave me that tell-tale incredulous look, my throat tightened and my stomach dropped. And each time, if given a chance to explain my argument, he or she was amazed at how logical was this seemingly “ignorant” position.
Did the club achieve its goal? Pending. Did I achieve my goal? Debatable. I spent much of my senior spring talking about how to keep fathers around and, believe me, that is unusual bar talk.
I wanted to bury my head in the sand, but I had to be intellectually honest and I will not lie about what I believe to be true. There are things for which it is worth being a social liability.
So know your arguments and don’t change the subject. The truth often looks uncomfortable and dauntingly heavy. Upon picking it up, however, you may find that the yoke is easy and the burden light.