Loss

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“What do you think of that guy Bono?”

. . . we have adults who are happy to sacrifice on the altar of political popularity the right of a child to grow up with the love of both their mother and their father.

The question might not be all that surprising from a friend. But it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to be asked by the President of the United States on arriving in the Oval Office.

I didn’t get a chance to provide the President with my opinion of Bono, the lead singer of U2. If I had, my assessment of the Irish musician would have been glowing. You see, I love U2’s music, I love their message and I love the way Bono uses both.

Bono’s work on behalf of the poor isn’t just a celebrity photo op. He has worked seriously and doggedly over decades—and he has literally changed the world for the better. And he’s married to the same woman he went out with in high school: he’s a rock star who understands the beauty of commitment. Who thought it possible? I also admire that all four band members get equal writing credit for the music, thereby avoiding battles over royalties that have split groups from the Police to Destiny’s Child. By sharing, they’ve built a pie so large their pieces dwarf anything they could have created alone. If only every business was as enlightened.

U2’s latest album includes “Iris”, a song that paints a poignant picture of profound loss—“The ache in my heart is so much a part of who I am . . .”

This isn’t indulgent self-pity. The song is based on the loss of Bono’s mum, Iris, when he was 14 years old. She died of a cerebral aneurism that burst at her own father’s funeral. “Iris” was released exactly four decades after her death. Four long decades, and Bono still aches for his mum.

I understand. My father was killed in a car accident seven years ago. I had a dream that I bumped into him recently. Just out walking in the city. Came around the corner and there he was. I blurted out in joy, “so that’s where you’ve been all these years!” The dream was so vivid that waking up was like losing him all over again.

Losing a parent is, I suppose, among the most devastating experiences a human being must go through. As Bono so elegantly puts it, it leaves an ache in our heart that can never be entirely filled. Not in seven years. Not in 40.

Which makes Bono’s recent support of same-sex marriage all the more tragic. We all want to be kind, generous, inclusive, open people. And none of us wants to say no to another adult. But when it comes to marriage, saying yes to what some adults desire, inevitably means saying no to what all children need.

Children have a natural right to a mother and a father. While we cannot always guarantee that right in a world where tragedy and heartache occur, we should craft public policy around the imperative to protect and advance that right as best we can.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples does precisely the opposite. It uses the law to create a new social norm that inevitably results in more children living in homes without a father or without a mother. Bono is still writing songs to work through the pain of his mother’s loss four decades ago. But what about the children who will never know a mother to miss?

Who among us would casually give up having our dad around? Who of us would voluntarily sacrifice our mother? And yet we have adults who are happy to sacrifice on the altar of political popularity the right of a child to grow up with the love of both their mother and their father. Yes, there are abusive and neglectful biological parents—that is why we support a robust social service safety net. The answer to this tragedy is not to encourage more heartache by deliberately robbing children of their natural rights.

If children could vote, how many would vote to lose their mother or their father? None. So what moral right do powerful adults have to strip powerless children of their natural rights to both parents?

We’ve done social experiments on children in the past, with catastrophic results. This will be no different. In four decades time there will be a new generation of Irish kids writing songs of immense loss and the heartache that goes with it. A heartache deliberately inflicted by adults who chose the popularity of the moment over the responsibility of a lifetime.


James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.