Ever since I wrote a blog post about gay marriage, one question has been roiling my brain.
What would I do if my child was gay and he or she wanted to get married?
It was comparatively easy to talk about being gay on a societal level, and even to speak about my own experiences with it.
But what about the one thing that really matters: How would I deal with a situation if it was in my face, planted there, unable for me to avoid by writing a blog post and then running for the hills?
And there's always one answer I keep coming back to.
What would I do if my child was gay? If this child wanted to get married?
I wouldn't do a thing.
I wouldn't fight it, argue, get upset. None of that.
Because at this point in their life, the time when he or she would be making such big decisions in their life, I would have already imparted everything I can to him or her. Why on earth would I push that child away?
G-d forbid that anyone, religious or otherwise, would push away their child or family member or friend when they make a decision that goes against their values. G-d forbid that we should even think in such a way.
No, I wouldn't push that child away, nor would I push a family member or a friend away. No, I would hug that person. I would hug and kiss that person, because they are family, because they are a love in my life. And aftertward I would live an example of a life that matters to me so that they can see why I take it so seriously.
And so, as the whole Facebook world is erupting with disagreements over "marriage equality" and "gay rights," I wonder to myself: What really is the hubbub over this issue?
Because as far as I can tell, disowning a child for a life they've taken ownership over is wrong. So why is it so wrong to stop this person, an adult, from making a decision they believe in?
I thank G-d every day that my parents still embrace me despite my choosing to becoming religious, choosing a life that is in direct conflict with their own. I thank G-d every day that I live in a country that allows Jews to live safe, productive lives because it gives them equal rights.
So why should I care if that same government wants to deal with its citizens the same way I deal with my children and my family and my friends?
In fact, the more this whole debate rages, I can't help but wonder if perhaps there is something more deeply wrong happening here.
I keep asking myself: Why are these conservatives, these Orthodox Jews, these religious folks, so caught up in this argument?
I've read arguments all over the place, and most of them seem to imply one thing: This is about where our country is headed. We are turning marriage into a "civil union"! We are destroying the sanctity of a beloved institution! Our nation is going down the crapper!
All of this sounds to me like a reactive -- rather than proactive -- parent dealing with his child.
A parent who is reactive always argues with their child based on their son or daughter's arguments. They put themselves down in the dirt of an argument with their child instead of rising above.
For example, a parent who is worried about their child's rebellion may choose to lock that child away in their room, not realizing that they are really fueling the fire of rebellion rather than addressing the root cause of it.
This is the way the religious are dealing with the issue of gay marriage.
They want to ground their gay kids, whether real or metaphorical. Lock them up in a room, put their fingers in their ears, and scream "LALALALALA! This doesn't exist! If I don't give you a choice, then I won't have to deal with your reality!"
It's a shame, really. Because there's a whole generation of these folks who are wasting their energy, fighting the wrong fights, getting in the wrong debates and, in the end, losing. Because they're not talking on the level they are meant to talk on.
What's that level?
The main strength a religious person possesses in relation to the secular world is that he lives for something. He has a mission.
The outside world is arguing and debating over RIGHTS! and FREEDOM! and LIBERTY FOR ALL!
On the other hand, the life of a religious person, a truly religious person, has absolutely nothing to do with these principles. These principles, according to a religious person, are only important insofar as they give us a chance to then fulfill our mission in life.
A religious person says, "OK, I have rights. Wonderful. Now what?"
And that is what the religious need to be discussing in the secular world. They need to leave the dust-heap of debates and embrace their own worldview. A worldview that goes beyond rights and toward something higher.
And gay marriage is the perfect opportunity for such a discussion to take place.
Because the whole freaking world is finally talking about marriage again! Can you believe it? A society in which a divorce happens once every 13 seconds. Where 41 percent of first marriages, 60 percent of second marriages, and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce. A country where marriage is often an after-thought to a career, and where having children is an increasing rarity.
But all of a sudden, this crazy, messed up, divorce-crazy, marriage-avoiding, career-obsessed, country wants to talk about marriage.
Thank freaking G-d.
And what are we doing? We're debating rights! We're point our fingers down at these people, telling them they're horrible, just plain EVIL SINNERS! We're sickened!
You know what that sounds like to me? Reactive living. A life focused on fighting rather than creating.
Religious folks, let's stop debating rights, and let's start explaining what it means to have a mission. Let's stop arguing about whether people should be allowed to marry, and let's discuss what marriage actually is.
Let's take the national debate beyond breaking down barriers, and focus on the foundation that needs to be created after those barriers are broken down.
Otherwise, we're just parents in denial, desperately trying to lock the door to control our world while our children are sneaking out the window.
Elad Nehorai is a writer living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Five years ago, he became a religious Jew in the Chabad Hasidic community and has since written about his experience extensively, most recently in his blog Pop Chassid. You can find him on Twitter as @PopChassid and Facebook.