When it comes to politics, a wide swath of society is disinterested in getting involved until the decisions of the legislatures, the courts, and the executive hit close to home. Few things hit closer to home than laws and mandates that deal with marriage, family, and sexual practices and these topics are hotly debated at every level of society. The Wheatley Institution, a Brigham Young University organization that collaborates with like-minded scholars and institutions and disseminates scholarly research to the community, is involved in developing the most rigorous academic analysis to support traditional viewpoints in these areas.
On June 8-12, the Wheatley Institution sent two BYU students—Alexis Arnold and Travis Spencer—to attend the Integrity in Action Seminar put on by the Love and Fidelity Network at Princeton, NJ. The goal of the seminar was to help students learn of ways to defend their beliefs in traditional marriage, families, and sexual integrity. Over the week they were there, they examined these issues from theological, biological, economic, philosophic, and sociological perspectives. Following are four suggestions that Alexis and Travis had for defending our core values.
First, do not feel threatened by other faith groups and academics. Instead, turn them into allies in this endeavor. One of the first comments made by both Alexis and Travis was the surprise that they experienced when they realized how many people shared the same belief in conjugal marriage. Secularist thought has become so pervasive that it almost seems taboo for academics to express traditional values in the twenty-first century. There are, however, many scholars who are strongly in favor of conjugal marriage. Even more important, these scholars have different perspectives, research, and evidence that can complement each other.
Second, don’t be fooled by the media. Pro-choice and same-sex marriage advocates are so noisy in the news and social media, that it almost seems as if they constitute the majority. However, when asked what she wished every BYU student could have heard from the conference, Alexis replied that people who support traditional marriage are a fearful majority while those who oppose traditional families are the louder minority. Staying in touch with that reality is important.
Third, traditional values require a dignified response. One of the biggest mistakes that conservative-minded individuals can make is to fight fire with fire. Criticizing people who profess same-sex attraction as sinners and condemning them will only intensify accusations of bigotry. Making a case for traditional values requires cool-headed people who are passionate about traditional values, who have an arsenal of evidence to support their belief, and who engage the important issues with respectful dialogue.
Fourth, recognize that one of the strongest arguments that the LGBT movement has is the disintegration of traditional marriage and the natural family structure. Travis pointed out that heterosexual marriage rates are down, single-parenthood rates are increasing, and sexual promiscuity is ever more apparent in American culture. These seeming failures of the conventional perspective have, in some cases, undermined the public perception of the strength of traditional principles. The single most important measure that can be taken by those who support traditional families is to strengthen those families.
For more information on the Love and Fidelity Network, please visit http://www.loveandfidelity.org/.