Here's a glimpse of religion in America. All gays all the time. It seems that there is nothing else that can capture the spiritual imagination of this nation. Jesus came to the world to stop the damned gays. He had precious little else to say.
Forget the fact that we Americans are desperate to be liberated from our materialism and narcissism. Or that our youth are clamoring for anything other than American Idol to inspire them. We clerics will get around to it just as soon as we stop them gays.
The latest installment in the American obsession with gay marriage comes from Miss California, Carrie Prejean, who said in the Miss Universe competition that she opposes gay marriage and was immediately championed as a Christian heroin throughout America. But it seems that her Christianity could not find expression in preventing her from posing topless for men or having the Miss Universe pageant pay for her breast implants. Now I ask you honestly, what is a bigger threat to heterosexual marriage today? Gay marriage or porn? When a wife waits alone in bed for her husband who is downloading pictures of naked women on his laptop, do you really believe she consoles herself by thinking, "Well at least those gays can't marry"?
For all my Christian brothers and sisters who scapegoat gays for undermining the institution of marriage, I would remind them that we straight people have done a mighty fine job of destroying it ourselves, thank you very much. The gay population in the United States is at most ten percent while the heterosexual divorce rate is more than fifty percent and has been so well before gay rights ever became a national issue.
The foremost danger to marriage in our time is the wholesale degradation of women in popular culture. In magazines, on TV, and especially on Internet porn, women are portrayed as the libidinous man's plaything, not an equal to be respected but a subordinate to be used. On college campuses male womanizing is an expected right of passage. Why devote yourself to one woman when idiotic shows like The Bachelor reinforce the idea that the rich and good-looking guys get to have a harem. Even well-meaning women like Miss California who participate in porn become complicit in their own degradation and further the male view that a woman's principle purpose is to satiate male erotic needs.
Beauty pageants don't help much either and it's surprising that my Christian clerical brothers haven't spoken out against them as they have gay marriage. Can you believe that sixty years after feminism rightly pointed out that a woman's mind is even more important than her legs we still have televised contests of women parading around in their underwear for Donald Trump to rate their bodies? And what would Jesus say about Miss California's implants? Would he endorse the message that women ought to stuff their chests with silicon to appear as perfect male eye-candy, or would he emphatically declare that beauty is not merely skin deep?
How any of this congruent with Christian values is beyond me, but it seems that we've entered some weird Twilight Zone where opposition to gay marriage alone makes one into a Christian in good standing.
Look. I'm not here to condemn Carrie Prejean and I can of course be just as religiously inconsistent. But my point is that America has real problems and can really use an authentic spiritual voice to lead us out of the shallowness, greed, divorce, and teen sex that are plaguing our country. And so long as we make gay marriage the only issue of importance we abscond our moral responsibility to provide spiritual leadership to a starving generation. Most of all we shift our focus away from combating the misogyny that has become such a central staple of American culture.
Patti Stanger, Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker, and I recently debated in Los Angeles in front of 1100 young people about Patti's belief that women ought to marry rich husbands. I argued that this just fuels the stereotype of women as greedy gold-diggers prepared to sell themselves as a commodity to a guy with cash. When men come to believe these stereotypes it affects their respect for women. Soon they believe that can they can neglect their wives as long as they give them credit cards. But three quarters of all divorces today are initiated by wives who are making their own money and would rather be alone than remain with a distant husband in an empty marriage. The most influential TV show over the past decade was Sex in the City where four female friends have nearly given up on men and turn to each other for intimate companionship instead. As for married women in America, approximately thirty percent are on an anti-depressant and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times scored big by publishing a book suggesting that perhaps women are better off without men.
As for the guys, well, the only ones who still want to get married are gay. While the gay men are out petitioning the Supreme Court for the right to get hitched, the straight guys are inventing brilliant excuses not to wed their girlfriends with whom they have lived for years and even have children. It's curious that Brad Pitt proclaims that he and Angeline Jolie, who admirably have six kids together, will only get married when all people, gays included, can wed. But that has not stopped him from adopting children even though in most states gays can still not adopt. Which just goes to show you that when a man wants to find reasons to stay single he becomes as bright as Einstein.
We can save marriage in America and get men to become gentlemen who treat women like ladies. But that must be accompanied by women not only demanding male respect, but respecting themselves as well.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach this week publishes his new book, "The Blessing of Enough: Becoming Materially Content and Spiritually Hungry." He is the founder of ThisWorld: The Values Network. www.shmuley.com