Turning again to the New York Daily News and a story, dated November 3, 2015, about a couple seeking to get married but blocked from doing so by the fact that one is the adopted son of the other. Everything is not as it may seem at first glance however, the couple were a couple long before they were father and son. The adoption reportedly came some 40 years into their relationship in 2012 as the “father” Nino Esposito, now 78, was considering the end of his life and how to ensure that his partner could inherit his estate and avoid the double digit inheritance tax that would be in effect if the “son” Drew Bosee received the estate as an unrelated third party.
According to the Daily News story Mr. Bosee and his partner entered into the arrangement because they thought legal same-sex marriage wouldn’t have a chance of coming to Pennsylvania in their lifetimes. In May 2014 that all changed. Now a judge has blocked the annulment of the adoption instituted just three years ago on the grounds that adoptions are generally only annulled in cases of fraud. Here is where we encounter our first issue as thinking people and thinking Christians. This adoption was entered into for two reasons according to the reports, to reduce the inheritance tax that would have to be paid upon Mr. Esposito’s death from 15% to just 4% and to “[give] us the most legitimate thing available to us”. In other words it was done for monetary gain and to accomplish something that was not legal otherwise. One definition of fraud is “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.” Therefore I would argue that the adoption was entered into fraudulently, despite whether the fraud was openly discussed and endorsed by the state.
This stance leaves me in the awkward position of arguing for the same-sex couple to get exactly what they want, and in the mixed up world of legality we live in today that is exactly what I’m advocating for. Same-sex marriage will never be marriage in the eyes of God, regardless of what governments, churches, or men codify into our laws or policies. That is, however, a position that no longer holds authority within the American culture. We have to make peace with that in the knowledge that changing the laws is not what changes the culture. To change the culture we have to make the case and change hearts. This is the vital task of the Christian thinker.
The second issue we encounter in this story has to do with the justifications for the fraud and the wider discussion about marriage in general. On the one hand we have a group of people, oppressed by we religious zealots and prevented from participating in a vital institution, prevented from gaining the legitimacy of their familial identity within the culture at large. And on the other hand we have these same people unconcerned with twisting those familial identifiers (father, son) into insignificance in terms of meaning in order to mimic the legitimacy they so desired. Now they want to erase the damage they’ve done and retain the legitimacy they sought all along. This just goes to show you that too often when culture wars are fought the invading force will destroy the walls around the city, metaphorically speaking, just to build them back up around themselves once they’ve won.
If this story has taught us nothing else as thinking Christians it should at least show us that how we think about our world and our faith is at least as important, if not vastly more so, than what we think with in our world and faith. The days of praying in our pews and waiting for God to change the hearts of our leaders and our friends on the important issues of the day is long past. In fact it never was, we just hoped we could get away with such laziness. We can look to the Bible and read on every single page that there is little that our Lord does that does not involve people reaching out to other people. So, if this culture is to change, if His name is to be glorified in it we must learn to stand for what we believe. But standing requires confidence. Confidence requires knowledge and compassion. Knowledge and compassion require work, to know the content of our beliefs and not just the slogans and to put ourselves into the lives of others and experience their joy and pain. All of these requirements are displayed neatly and unerringly in the person of Christ.
Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Proverbs 4:5-9 “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”