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The Trashing of a Sacred Institution

Les Misérables  - CosetteIf you pay any attention to our local community-theater productions, you know that the play Les Misérables opened last weekend at the Eastlight Theater in East Peoria. My daughter, Mary Rose, plays Cosette (after she grows up) in the play.

The story line for Les Misérables centers around Jean Valjean, a French peasant, who turns his life around after spending 19 years in prison. In order to get a fresh start, Valjean violates his parole by changing his name and moving to another area of the country. He is subsequently pursued by the police inspector, Javert, who does everything his power to locate Valjean, so he can be arrested and returned to prison.

Valjean eventually becomes the owner of a local factory where he employs several hundred people. He is also elected as mayor of the city where his factory is located. He later adopts Cosette, the daughter of a former employee who, while on her deathbed, pleads with him to take care of her daughter.

After living with Valjean for ten years, Cosette meets and falls in love with a young college student who has teamed up with several other students to start a revolution against the oppressive French government. The idealistic students build a street barricade to protect them from the government soldiers, and are counting on the people of France to rise up and join them in their fight against the government.

During one scene in the play, while the students are under assault, they finally come to the realization that the people of France are not going to rise up and join them. At that point, they have two choices: surrender or fight. They defiantly decide to fight against the well-armed government soldiers and all of them are killed except for the student who is in love with Cosette.

Les Misérables was adapted from a novel that was written by Victor Hugo in 1862. Hugo lived through the 1848 French Revolution and witnessed the oppression that took place by government forces against lower-class citizens who were unable to fend for themselves. He was well aware of the fact that people who are repressed by their government generally do not rise up and fight against the government because they fear what may happen to them and their families if they resist the government.

Although more than 150 years have elapsed since Hugo wrote Les Misérables, human nature has not changed. I often wonder why people do not rise up against the oppressive laws that are forced upon them by their governments and I have to remind myself that it is not in their nature to rise up and risk their security and comfort, even though the security and comfort they are clinging to is slowly being taken from them by their governments.

The day before I sat down to write this article, five U.S. Supreme Court judges declared that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (adopted in 1868) requires that every state in America must grant marriage licenses to men who want to marry men and to women who want to marry women. After reading about the Supreme Court decision, my initial reaction was that all Christians need to rise up and demand that the constitution be amended to reverse the decision of the five judges.

But then it occurred to me that several so-called Christian denominations have already approved gay marriage among their members. Then I thought about the millions of Catholics and other Christians in our country who do not support gay marriage. Why don’t they rise up and demand that the law be changed?

But then I remembered the lesson that was taught by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables. Most people fear their government and don’t want to do anything to jeopardize their own comfort and security (and the comfort and security of their families), so they continue to allow the people who rule over them to systematically deprive them of their rights.

When the new national healthcare law was passed in 2010, our politicians promised, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” That turned out to be a lie. Now we’re being promised, “If you like your religion, you can keep your religion.” Here’s what Anthony Kennedy, the judge who wrote the Supreme Court decision, said to those of us who are opposed to gay marriage for religious reasons:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.

Very clever. Very diabolical.

In his written opinion, Kennedy defined same-sex marriage as a “fundamental right” which elevates same-sex marriage to a constitution right. This recognition of a new fundamental right gave Kennedy and the four other judges the power to overturn every state law that prohibits same-sex marriage.

And now that same-sex marriage has been declared to be a fundamental right, the courts in this country will be allowed to (1) force religious schools to employ members of same-sex couples, (2) force religious schools to teach students of all ages (preschool on up) that same-sex marriage is “normal” and that it is a constitutional right, (3) require religious institutions to perform same-sex marriages, (4) require all businesses to provide services to same-sex couples, regardless of the business owners’ religious beliefs, and (5) require all businesses to provide same-sex married couples with the same benefits that are provided to heterosexual married couples.

I can only think of one viable option that is available to reverse what our Supreme Court did to us. We must each commit to saying at least one prayer every day for the specific intention that the next president we elect will commit to and push through a constitutional amendment that restores marriage to its rightful place in our society.

It’s up to you and me to commit to praying every day for this result.



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