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Defending the Faith: A case for the traditional view of marriage

Published: Thursday, May 23 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Revised versions simply aren’t properly marriage at all, they argue, but dangerous redefinitions. (“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?” Abraham Lincoln once asked in quite a different context. He then answered his own question: “Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.”)

Robert George has been defending this understanding of marriage — and opposing what he sees as marriage-weakening measures such as “no fault” divorce — for many years now, since long before same-sex marriage even became a prominent issue.

For those wondering how to defend their instinctive discomfort with same-sex marriage in the public sphere, “What is Marriage?” will, I think, be very useful. It’s not light reading, but it’s clear, and it merits slow, reflective and careful study. Those troubled by conflict between their natural commitment to charity, equality and justice, on the one hand, and, on the other, the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage will find it helpful in clarifying their thinking, and perhaps in resolving their unease.

And, finally, supporters of same-sex marriage will plainly see that dissent from their position can be based on something other than irrational bigotry. Perhaps they’ll even change their minds.

Daniel Peterson, professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, edits BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, directs MormonScholarsTestify.org, chairs "Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture," blogs daily at Patheos, and speaks (at most) for himself.

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