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I felt the situation unfortunate until the twist at the end. I have no pity for him. He has given up all of the love and happiness that would have come from being true and from serving and staying at his wife's side. He said that the disease took away the love they shared. No. He dropped it, only to be recalled as a memory.
An article on Patheos explored the story, and the reaction to it. This was my response:
Being a member of the LDS faith, I believe that marriage and family are ordained by God. You can no more restructure or redefine marriage than you can change the eternal truths that have been since before the world was.
What I see so often is people looking at the changed times we live in and trying to make up values that fit to what they want all in the name of the old stuff not applying anymore. If that were true, then there would be no reason to read the bible or history books. But it is not true. Facts and circumstances may change, but truths and values don’t. (That’s why we have a Supreme Court to INTERPRET the Constitution for our day. Not change it.)
I also appreciated the explanations in R.C.'s thoughtful response:
I wish he hadn’t done it.
And, I think it is objectively against the moral law.
Indeed, I think the fact that I (and so many others) “wish he hadn’t done it” is instructive. As the video proceeds, one is shocked to find that he has taken up with another woman. I think that shock comes from a moral intuition which is both provided by the Holy Spirit and yet natural to man.
Likewise, a Catholic blogger — I think it was the Anchoress, but I don’t recall for certain — once spoke of the reaction of her son when she had, finally, to explain what abortion was. The boy burst into tears of disbelief and outrage and grief and said something like, “What IDIOT thought THAT up?”
A correct moral intuition, that. I takes a lot of societal propaganda, to erase those natural reactions from a healthy human heart.
So too with the current parade of publicized homosexuality (plus alternative perversions). The healthy human person has a natural aversion to such things. So the world, the flesh, and the devil conspire to propagandize against this moral intuition, to wipe it out, to anesthetize it, to kill it. Yet Chesterton says: “Let any lad who has had the luck to grow up sane and simple in his day-dreams of love hear for the first time of the cult of the Ganymede; he will not be merely shocked, but sickened. And that first impression, as has been said here so often about first impressions, will be
So, moral intuitions can help us identify the objective truths of the moral law. But this is difficult when our society propagandizes against the moral law, and thus confuses and clouds and drowns out these intuitions.
It is for this reason that Barry Petersen was largely morally guiltless in doing it. Although it is objectively against the moral law, our society has done an excellent job propagandizing the populace against the contents of the moral law with regards to sexuality and marriage and duty and fidelity and the notion that life is not, after all, solely about our personal temporal gratification. And that kind of pervasive propaganda is difficult to disregard when one never or rarely hears alternative voices.
Thus, while Petersen probably had distant stirrings of unease in his soul about the choice, they were quite likely drowned out in a confident understanding, shared by all balanced and sensible persons, that his actions were acceptable. Lacking, then, any clear mandate to do otherwise, he began a romantic relationship with someone other than his wife. He was doing something entirely morally permissible, according to the light he was given — once that light had filtered its way through the smog of Western Civilization’s decay into moral relativism.
One of the benefits of churchgoing is that when we “lift up our hearts,” we lift them above the general level of that smog. (Mostly. Sometimes, sadly, a lot of fog emanates from pulpits and ambos and lecterns.) C.S.Lewis said that Christians in this fallen world are living in occupied territory, but that we go to church to “listen to secret wireless messages from our friends outside” …as we wait in joyful hope for the True King to come in, armies in tow and banners aflying, to destroy the usurper and rid the place up.
Anyway, whether it is by increased altitude or encoded radio messages, we get beyond the propaganda through contact with the truth. Has Petersen had any such contact? Maybe, maybe not. But if he hasn’t, then I can’t hold him very much at fault. He doesn’t know; he can’t know. It’s like being raised in Orwell’s 1984 under Big Brother. If you never meet anyone who doesn’t think 2+2=5, then over time, it’s hard to maintain the stubborn belief that it’s 4. If Petersen has never heard of sacramental marriage, explained by people who can articulate it well and take it seriously, what then?
“If I had not spoken to them, they would have no guilt; I have spoken to them: Their guilt remains” said Jesus. The principle seems pretty clear.
I really like when I can see that there are still so many people that are faithful and moral, despite what the media and entertainment would have you believe is the majority.