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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Against the retreat from the institution of marriage - part two

This post is actually only tangentially related to Lydia's last post, in that I want to touch on the broader phenomenon of Christians in the public square retreating from the robust defense of civil marriage. In my particular case, I had tuned into the Hugh Hewitt radio show the other night and came across Hugh discussing a controversial blog post written by Timothy Dalrymple, the editor of the Patheos evangelical web portal, who asked his readers if perhaps it was time for Christians to retreat from the defense of traditional marriage in the public square.

His post elicited much comment and debate and Professor Owen Strachan, one of his fellow Patheos evangelical bloggers who appeared with Dalrymple on Hewitt's show, wrote this forceful rejoinder in response, from which I will quote a bit:

With all this said, let me speak my mind clearly: this kind of call, however well-intentioned, is a devil’s bargain. To be a Christian is to stand upon God’s truth, God’s wisdom. All else is sinking sand. The Bible is not a private book, and Christianity is not quietism. The book claims the sinner for its own, and the book claims meta-knowledge over all the cosmos. The Scripture does not merely contain wisdom–”5 Super-Easy Principles for Dieting!”–but is wisdom. Everything, every last thing, in the Bible is wise (2 Tim. 3:15).

So let’s start here, then go there. There is nothing in Scripture to apologize for; there is nothing to feel bad about. God doesn’t need new PR. He doesn’t need people to be embarrassed for him. He’s not looking for super-authentic apologizers who can clear up the scandal of his claims of cosmic dominion. He hasn’t overestimated; his calculations of rightness have not been proven wrong. He isn’t red-faced in heaven in the face of modernity, or postmodernity, or whatever else will come down the pike. He’s not scared by current events. His angels are not hastily recalibrating the kingdom program to retrofit it for an age that has caught them sleeping in the control room.

[...]

Attention evangelicalism: please be spider-sense wary about the “Christian teaching is a stumbling block to the gospel” argument. This is, as I said earlier, a devil’s bargain. I’m seeing this idea spread throughout evangelical circles, and it’s a disastrous idea. It will eat away the substance of our faith, I assure you. Let’s play this out briefly.

■The doctrine of God’s creation is an embarrassment–so let’s cast it aside.
■The doctrine of substitutionary atonement is bloody and messy–so let’s leave it.
■The doctrine of God’s wrath is scary–so let’s abandon it.
■The call to an exclusive Savior is unkind and unmodern–so let’s discard it.
■The virgin birth seems weird and not really that important–so let’s jettison it.
■The image of a warrior-king returning to earth to judge the living and the dead is, well, a bit medieval–so let’s forget it.
■The work of calling “sinners” to “repent” feels very African jungle tour–so let’s break with it.

You get the point? Do you want to keep going? Cause seriously, we could be here all day, bullet-pointing our way out of the embarrassing stuff of Christianity. And, by the way, the life-giving stuff as well.

Evangelicals are free to execute this maneuver. Just know as you do that this has all been done before. You’re not breaking free in a revolutionary way; you’re not pulling off a breathtaking display of sensibility and wisdom that no mind has ever conceived. You are walking in thoroughly trodden paths. The ruts are deep. German theologians traveled here in the Enlightenment period on their way to a new Protestantism that ended up being no Protestantism at all. Liberal American Christians came this way as well in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Many of them were never seen again. They left the embarrassing stuff behind at first; many of their descendants eventually left the faith altogether. The project they undertook was basically what some evangelicals want to pull off today...

So let me urge in the strongest possible terms: don’t tweak your faith to make it palatable to the cultured despisers of religion. Guard the good deposit. (2 Tim. 1:13-14). Hold fast. Come what may, love and preach and believe the truth. Be the most winsome person you possibly can be. Learn from the mistakes of past evangelicals, sinners all just like you and me, who didn’t always practice what they proclaimed. Don’t lose your soul and win the battle. But don’t give up the battle. Keep standing for marriage, religious liberty, the unborn, victims of sex-trafficking, the poor.

The horses in the evangelical camp are spooked. I get that. I genuinely feel compassion for those who see our culture shifting and are alarmed. In a human sense, I can be alarmed, too. Things can seem to be crashing down all around us. In reality, Christians in most every era of human history have felt this way. Was it a picnic to be a Roman Christian in the second century? No. Was it fun to be at the circulation desk of the Alexandrian library when the Muslims swept like a wave into the city and killed every Christian they could find? No. Was it a picnic to live under Bloody Mary? No. Was it encouraging to see theologians make the aforementioned suicidal bargain in Enlightenment Germany in order to keep the faith alive? No.

Good stuff and his whole post is worth a read. However, I do think it is interesting when reading the back and forth between these two evangelicals, that the debate between them tends to focus on the Bible and a Biblically inspired message about marriage (not that there is anything wrong with that -- we can never stop reminding liberals that religion has a place in the public square) rather than arguments about the natural law and using right reason to determine from first principles what marriage should be and how a society should use its laws to defend the traditional definition of marriage.

I would say this is a classic Protestant/Catholic divide, but it seems like Dalrymple is actually open to using natural law arguments when he says in his original piece:

We understand there are difficulties in perceiving the facts of the world, but we believe there are facts in the world, and most evangelical Christians, and most Christians worldwide, still believe it’s a fact — as objectively true as any other fact — that marriage is the union of male and female. In the same sense that a hydrogen atom simply is constituted by the creative complementarity of a proton and an electron, a marriage simply is constituted by the creative complementarity of male and female. And just as you can put other particles together in other relations, but those will not be simple hydrogen atoms, so you can devise other human relationships and call them whatever you like — and yet they will not be marriages. Marriage simply is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman.

And yet…the question at hand is not whether we should abandon the historical Christian teaching on marriage. The question is whether we should contend for laws and regulations that give this vision of marriage the sanction of government. And to make one more distinction: the question is not whether Christians have the right to promote their views, just like everyone else does, and to support or oppose laws on any grounds they wish, including religious grounds. There’s nothing categorically wrong with supporting laws and politicians who recognize and affirm what marriage actually is, even if your view of marriage is religiously informed. The question, rather, is whether it is still wise to press for American law to recognize only heterosexual unions.

It is, in other words, a question of prudence. Granted, we should continue to profess the truth as best we understand it. But are we so losing the culture on this issue that continuing to fight against same-sex marriage legally will so harm our witness, and thus harm our broader mission and our most important purposes, that the time has arrived to abandon the fight over American law?

The problem seems to be that Dalrymple doesn't trust his own powers of persuasion -- he knows marriage is a fact, just like the periodic table of the elements lists facts, but he is worried he can't convince his fellow Americans of this truth! I'm not sure why he doubts his abilities other than he worries about the latest election results or has read the latest poll unfavorable to traditional marriage. However, if as Christians and philosophers we know something to be true but unpopular than we are simply in a difficult position vis a vis the broader society and as Professor Strachan reminds us, this is not the first time Christians have found themselves in such a position. We must believe that the truth will win out (in the long run) and do our best to continue to use all the intellectual tools available to us (like the wonderful Girgis, George and Anderson paper) to win over our friends and neighbors on the truth about marriage.

Comments (69)

It is probably not a good idea to encourage Christians to go against civil marriage now because many Christians are already struggling with Ephesians 5 because it directly contradicts their upbringing on gender roles in society. Cutting off one leg of institutional marriage while the other leg is wobbly is guaranteed to bring the institution crashing down onto its face irrespective of the hypothetical merits of abandoning civil marriage. If many Christians cannot even firmly know and confidently practice in private what is not publicly endorsed they're simply going to fail in that pursuit no matter how earnest they are.

I am skeptical, though, that the culture is ready for a return to an authentic civil marriage system instead of what we currently have. That necessarily entails ending no fault divorce, prosecuting adultery and eventually limiting female autonomy (assuming there is a real desire among Christians to restore the true legal meaning of head of household).

We must believe that the truth will win out (in the long run) and do our best to continue to use all the intellectual tools available to us (like the wonderful Girgis, George and Anderson paper) to win over our friends and neighbors on the truth about marriage.

I had to have this argument with a conservative who argued for retreating on abortion to not lose the female vote. He could barely grasp the idea that if conservatives actually retreat on the slaughter of the unborn, God might actually turn us over to Obama and his successors for an entire generation as punishment on the conservatives who do that. What was more disappointing is that many conservatives are becoming like that now. They talk about a "profound belief in God" and stuff like that, but miss the point that God is sovereign over humanity and can soften and harden hearts.

When D. says that it's a "question of prudence," I want to say, like school tests used to say, "Be specific. Use examples." In other words, precisely how is it "imprudent" for Christians to argue that the public square should recognize the reality of marriage? Is it literally just that people might not like us, might get angry with us? Because if that's the reason, that sounds like sheer wussiness, not prudence. I suppose I can see that there might be prudential grounds for, say, using a pseudonym in the blogosphere if you believed that homosexual activists were going to target your family with violence. But that's hardly the same as abandoning the whole kit and kaboodle.

What he actually seems to be saying when he blathers (if you'll pardon the expression) about "harming our witness" and our "most important purposes" is something like this: People won't want to become Christians if they think Christianity teaches that homosexual sex is wrong. So we should downplay that teaching so more people will respond to evangelism.

This is *extremely bad* reasoning because it amounts to counseling either a) a bait and switch or b) hiding the truth about grave sin indefinitely from converts. If the former, we would be inviting people to become Christians while pretending that accepting Christ would have *nothing* to do with abandoning homosexual behavior, and then springing it on them later. Not a good idea. If the latter, we would be planning literally to pretend indefinitely, including to homosexually-inclined Christian converts, that homosexual acts are not sin. This is an extremely serious matter that could call for a mass handout of millstones. The Bible says that teachers will receive the greater judgement. How much the more if they are teaching their converts that sin is not sin?

But really, let's face it: Dalrymple is just engaging in muddle-headed talk. He doesn't want to put what he means in _any_ of these stark terms: "Let's not speak the truth, because we're afraid they might hurt us" or "Let's pretend that homosexual acts aren't sin indefinitely, even to Christians engaging unrepentantly in that sin." To put what he means in stark terms would make him uncomfortable. And heaven forbid that anyone should be uncomfortable.

Woolly thinking, deliberately embraced and cultivated, will be the death of Christianity in America, I fear.

He doesn't answer the simple, but profound question of how can someone who won't stand against gay marriage be considered a Christian no matter how much they profess the sinner's prayer. They reject part of the written word, therefore they reject the Living Word implicitly.

* Won't stand against gay marriage out of a belief it is not sinful, not as a prudential consideration WRT civil marriage.

The truth is God wins, but in fallen human culture the truth most certainly does not "win out". America, either by federal fiat or state by state attrtion will recognize two or more homosexuals as a marriage eventually. That does not make it one of course and whatever legal absurdities are created Christians can ignore. There will be persecution of course, there always is but God wins.

There's a difference between dropping some unpopular teaching, and adjusting your rhetoric when arguing or witnessing. I mean 1 Corinthians 9: "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." I'm sure that Paul didn't mean he was throwing away any of the truth.

I definitely don't think traditional Christians should hide their opposition to same-sex marriage. The people who hate you for that will hate you for lots of other things besides. I do think you should be sensitive to your particular audience's views on the subject, as on every other religious subject, if you want to bring them in. That means to speak differently about it on MSNBC than on Fox News. I think that would apply to any rhetorician speaking on practically any subject at all.

Public square??
There isn't one public square but two.
A nation can not stand without a consensus in the fundamental questions. It was absurd to define marriage in laws as between a man and a woman since the very fact that it needed to be written means that marriage in practice is no longer restricted to a man and a woman.

So Christians would have to separate, like it or not, and let the judgment work itself out.

Ontological question: If marriage is defined metaphysically as "a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman," then what is a polygamous "marriage"? Is it in the same category as same-sex "marriage" - for one thing, not even marriage at all? Or is it like some people used to think interracial marriage was, a violation of natural law but nevertheless real marriage? The latter possibility seems to be ruled out by defining marriage the way it's defined here. If polygamy and same-sex "marriage" differ in how they are or are not marriage, then how do they differ?

maybe this is a little of a tangent but i think part of the problem is that people aren't attacking several of the premises taken for granted on this issue.

first, the idea that all homosexuality is inborn. there's been anecdotal stories in "LGBT"-friendly publications that show this isn't always the case, particularly for women. maybe it's a small minority, but it's an argument against the total normalization the Left is going for.

second, the idea that gender isn't really consequential in raising kids. common sense tells us otherwise, although of course liberals think a lot of common sense is just prejudice. actually i'm sure this's been addressed several times but more politicians need to talk about it. not talking about a flat ban on adoption, just stuff like not forcing Catholic Charities, having some preferences put into place, etc.

finally just the fundamental absurdity -- the idea that people should see public displays of affection, images in the media, and how dare you object to it, as if you have to have a personal animus against the individuals involved to sense something's "off" about the degree to which it's being presented. the Parent A Parent B + same-sex birth certificate nonsense that will logically follow. etc. i think even a certain chunk of people who currently count themselves in favor of same-sex marriage would probably have issues with stuff like this, although maybe they're self-conscious about people playing the bigot card.

This is *extremely bad* reasoning because it amounts to counseling either a) a bait and switch or b) hiding the truth about grave sin indefinitely from converts.

Indeed. We must be exoteric, not esoteric. We are not gnostics or Mormons.

Aaron, if all you mean is that in one context one might not use the word "sodomites" or something, I'm quite sure that _isn't_ the general type of advice Dalrymple is giving.

On polygamy, I believe the Catholic position (though I'm not Catholic) has always been that the man cannot be ontologically married to more than one wife. St. Paul's explanation of marriage as modeling the relationship between Christ and the church supports this. It is entirely possible (and I'm inclined to think myself) that a polygamous man is not ontologically married to _any_ of his wives, since he did not intend nor commit himself to faithfulness to any of them. The difference, obviously, between that and a homosexual union is the unnaturalness of the sexuality involved. A polygamous set-up, then, would be akin to a kind of organized and relatively orderly heterosexual fornication, which is wrong but wrong in a different way from the way in which homosexuality is wrong. It would be possible for the man to be married to one of those wives in the future, for example, as it would be possible for a promiscuous man to settle down later and marry one of his girlfriends.

Polygyny was also permitted under the Mosaic Law which gives us a basis to conclude that polygyny is acceptable to God even if it is something He doesn't want. That's why it's disingenuous for Christians to claim that homogamy will naturally lead to polygamy becoming legal except insofar as a society so radically changed to accept monogamous homosexual unions as having legal standing would be able to tolerate heterosexual polygamy. Polygyny has precedent among God's people. We are called to not practice it by worshiping the Father in spirit (seeking to do His will, not slide by on what He merely tolerates).

(I am not offering a justification for expanding civil marriage to include polygamy, in case that needs to be spelled out).

Anyone who believes that it is natural, let alone more so, for two men to enter into a romantic relationship rather than a certain class of man to have two or more women at the same is a deluded fool. Saying that is implicitly saying that homosexual monogamy is equivalent to heterosexual polygamy (or as you said, orderly heterosexual fornication) which should be self-evidently false to anyone who considers human nature.

Aaron, if all you mean is that in one context one might not use the word "sodomites" or something, I'm quite sure that _isn't_ the general type of advice Dalrymple is giving.

Clearly, it's not, and I'd also add that if it was what he meant, then he must be living in a different America from me. If there are a lot of prominent Christians using that kind of language to make their case, I'm sure I haven't seen it.

The idea that Christians in public life are being too straightforward and impolitic in their advocacy of the truth is, not to put too fine a point on it, goofy-talk.

I think the problem with some of these Quisling evangelicals is partly theological; and I say this as someone who once sojourned through the barren labyrinths of liberal evangelicalism before coming home to Rome.

If you have a theology which endorses the mentality of "once saved, always saved" and that denies the possibility of mortal sin, then having people believe the truth about God and the moral law really becomes secondary. You will think that the most important thing is to open people up to the "gospel", where their acceptance of the gospel is equated with having a "saving encounter with Christ" which will ensure them entry into heaven independently of what they do in this life or what they happen to believe. After all, anything else is "doctrine of works" which denies the "sufficiency" of Christ's atonement.

So you come to believe that "sin is sin is sin" and that nobody can distinguish between sins that distract you from God and those that have the potential to permanently alienate you from God. And on this thinking, in a liberal society in which most people are sexual libertarians, it seems cruel and counterproductive to alienate people from the "gospel" (read: "saving encounter with Jesus that ensure eternal security irrespective of subsequent behavior") by focusing so much on "pelvic issues." The important thing is to get them into a "born again" state where their future sins don't matter; God will sort it all out in the end and grant them entry into heaven.

If you don't acknowledge the possibility of mortal sin after coming to an initial faith in Christ, all of this makes absolutely perfect sense.

I really do think, on the basis of my past experiences and on the basis of conversations and encounters with other liberal evangelicals, that this kind of vulgarized "sola fide" reasoning underpins a lot of their propensities to conform to the liberal culture. If you cannot lose your salvation, then get people into a state of grace by any means necessary. This might mean lying to them about how God detests certain behaviors, but let it go. Just tell them that we are "all sinners" and "nobody can judge". And then let the chips fall where they will with the hope that sola fide will suffice.

On the theological front, though, Untenured, there are Protestant groups who don't believe that once saved is always saved. For example, the Methodists don't, the Lutherans don't, and various Pentecostals and Seventh Day Adventists don't. Not to mention Anglicans of various stripes. And I'm sure I'm forgetting some other denominations in the list. It's true that the once saved always saved doctrine is a majority view among evangelicals but it isn't by any means a straight-up Catholic-Protestant distinction nor even liturgical-non-liturgical distinction.

Lydia,

Don't get me wrong. I am not accusing protestants in general of adopting the "once saved always saved" formula of the sort proffered by liberal evangelicals; which is why I referred to it as a "vulgarized" version of sola fide. I did not even mean to impugn the doctrine of sola fide as such, because it has more sophisticated variants which would not underwrite the Dalyrymple strategy. I am just reporting upon one *particular* strand of sola fide evangelicalism that can easily lend itself to the liberal evangelical Quisling strategy. I did not intend to roll an apple of discord amongst the protestants and Catholics.

Actually, I for my part have to say that there are fairly _conservative_ evangelicals that have a pretty "vulgarized" version of "once saved always saved."

Lydia, you're not suggesting that anyone in those denominations actually believes that anybody is going to hell, are you? I don't know, I'm asking. Heck, maybe they do. I don't follow the ins and outs of every screwball sect out there. But to tell you the truth, I'd be pleasantly surprised if they did.

As for modern (so-called) Catholics, I can as tell you as a certainty that they've gone way beyond sola fide. It's more like "sola whatever" these days.

Oh, absolutely, George R. I know plenty of hellfire Protestants. :-) We "screwball sects" are into hell. Hence the urgency of witnessing.

And, to keep us in the ballpark of the main post, hence the urgency of not telling people engaging in grave sin, "Hey, it's fine, Jesus doesn't want you to change anything."

Good grief, hellfire and brimstone preaching all started with the Protestants!

Lydia, thanks for the answer to my question. It was clear, concise, and exactly the information I was looking for.

My take on this is that Christians, true Christians anyway (defined as "those that still hold to the fundamental truths of Christianity"), are fast becoming a minority in this country. As such, we need to learn how best to live in a post-Christian society.

Let's take stock: We've already lost the battle on some fronts (adultery, fornication, divorce, abortion, pornography and public education) and we are losing the battle on others (public prayer, public religious displays, marriage, church rights, "hate" speech, diversity, gambling, and drugs).

So, as our society inevitably turns away from Christianity, what avenues should the Church take to bring it back? Should we continue to push for legislation favoring our minority view? Or should we seek to preach the unadulterated gospel unhindered from government restriction? I don't believe we can do both.

I think that seeking to impose a Christian lifestyle on a non-Christian society through legislation is a losing battle. We may be "right" in our justification for pursuing each law, but the majority will ultimately prevail and we will be defeated.

Seeking an end to government restrictions on the Christian lifestyle is also a two-edged sword in that it would entail seeking to keep the government out of all person's lifestyles - even those that are repugnant to us.

The reason we can't do both is because they are diametrically opposed. Pushing for legislation necessarily concedes to the government control over that area. Once government control is obtained, it is almost never relinquished. This is fine (for us) if government is based on Christian principles. But, when the government (based on majority rule) moves away from Christianity as a founding principle (as it is now), then government's control intrudes upon the freedoms of Christians to live as they see fit. Seeking laws that prohibit certain behaviors 'based on sexual orientation', for instance, irrevocably yields the area of 'sexual orientation' to government control. This, as we are seeing already, empowers the government to move against those who "discriminate" based on sexual orientation. Thus the area of sexual orientation is forever ceded to non-Christian government control. Is that what we want? Because that is the end result! Are we going to keep seeking government control of each and every area of society until all of Christianity is outlawed?

Or, do we push for freedom for all - that we can be free to be Christians? And if we do this how will that work out? Well, as I see it, the Church's main weapon is the preaching of the gospel - IOW the swaying of public opinion through information. The Church should not only seek to sway public opinion through theological preaching, but we should also seek to expose the realities of sin. This can only be accomplished, however, if there is an unfettered freedom of speech. The gay movement has successfully suppressed the airing of embarrassing spectacles such as "Gay Pride" parades - which showcase what an unrestricted homosexuality would look like. The Christian church needs to publicly air "Gay Pride" parades in order to showcase what an unrestricted homosexuality would look like! This can only be accomplished if there is an unfettered freedom of speech. Similarly, the abortion industry has hidden the realities of abortion from public view - they don't even like the word "abortion" but rather use "reproductive rights" etc. The Christian church needs to publicly air the dirty realities of abortion: the blood, the body parts, the emotional trauma, so that the public sees what a sin abortion really is. This too can only be accomplished if there is an unfettered freedom of speech.

After the Allied victory in WWII, and the discovery of the death camps and gas chambers, the Allied forces forced the German citizens to dispose of the bodies of the Holocaust victims. The reasoning was that those citizens needed to see with their own eyes what the government they supported had done. That is our job as Christians. We must expose sin in all its ugliness and preach God in all His glory. If we keep petitioning for more government control however, we'll effectively only muzzle ourselves.

It is, in other words, a question of prudence. Granted, we should continue to profess the truth as best we understand it. But are we so losing the culture on this issue that continuing to fight against same-sex marriage legally will so harm our witness, and thus harm our broader mission and our most important purposes, that the time has arrived to abandon the fight over American law? Is it now the case, or could it ever be the case, that Christian opposition to same-sex marriage laws would become such a massive obstacle to our mission that it’s no longer worth it?

I have to confess: I’m not confident that this fight is worth the cost. Amongst the overlapping circles of the young, the religiously unaffiliated, and cultural elites, much of the animus against Christians today derives (or at least claims to derive) from Christian “bigotry” against gays.

In order to frame "the question" this way, one has to somehow divorce "the mission" from "teaching the Gospel truth." Or even from "loving your fellow human".

It is one thing to stop badgering a person about overeating junk food, after he has specifically ignored your advice and chosen to go on doing so. It is another thing entirely to sit idly by and "no longer object" when the store down the street sells good-tasting rat poison as food, and puts up posters and run ad campaigns that make it glamorous (for the 10 minutes before you start heaving your guts out), and your TV station runs shows that play it up as cool. Your kid has to grow up in this environment. He has a right to not be mal-formed into thinking and feeling that eating rat poison is normal human behavior. And you have a duty to try to make sure that mal-formation doesn't happen. The only way you can shoot for achieving that is to fight the degradation of the culture (to the extent possible to you) EVEN IF you don't anticipate success in that fight. See, one of the ways you will be teaching your kid not to imagine eating rat poison as cool is that you continue to fight it, you continue to try to reduce and minimize the evils that your fellow humans are doing to themselves, out of love for them, even when they don't want to hear it.

Which is kind of like Jonah's predicament. God told him to testify to the truth (to the Ninevites) about moral right by promising destruction for their evil ways, and he didn't want to because he figured that (a) people would be irritated with him and wouldn't want to "listen to the message" about morality because it was attached to "that negative image of destruction"; and (b) since he wouldn't do any good, all his ridiculous warning will achieve is harm to the good people who are true to God. A lot like Dalrymple.

It is impossible for laws to be neutral about the meaning of marriage, the meaning of parent-child relationships, and the basic unit of society. Therefore, laws that positively enshrine unnatural, evil, distorted meanings of marriage and parenthood are gravely damaging to society, and to the common good which the state is obliged to protect and promote. Therefore saying maybe the time could come when we should stop pushing for laws that protect heterosexual marriage is saying that there is a time when society might be better off just accepting unnatural, evil, distorted things that damage the common good in grave ways. Even apart from the theological issue, this abandons the political order and the common good to the destruction of those who want nature to be turned inside out. Well, you aren't going to achieve the common good that way.

Amongst the overlapping circles of the young, the religiously unaffiliated, and cultural elites, much of the animus against Christians today derives (or at least claims to derive) from Christian “bigotry” against gays.

Has this man no perspective? A mere 15 years ago, no even just 10 years ago, this would have been called arrant nonsense by all but the 5% then committed to destroying normative society. The "circles" and the PC attitude are things of emotion, things of the moment, based on drivel and madvertising. That people FEEL that way (do not ever countenance that emotional agit-prop with the word "think" because none of this goes on in reference to actual rational thought) is completely beside the point. 40 years ago they thought Cher was cool, and that guys wearing hair down to their belts was great. It's all fads, puffs of smoke. The elites will use ANY opportunity to poke the eye of religious people, and they don't restrict themselves to fair play and honest presentation of ideas. Get OVER the fact that lots of people won't agree with you, they are being damaged in their brains by this propaganda, and fight the propaganda like a Christian soldier for crying out loud.

Daniel said
Or, do we push for freedom for all - that we can be free to be Christians? And if we do this how will that work out? Well, as I see it, the Church's main weapon is the preaching of the gospel - IOW the swaying of public opinion through information. The Church should not only seek to sway public opinion through theological preaching, but we should also seek to expose the realities of sin. This can only be accomplished, however, if there is an unfettered freedom of speech. The gay movement has successfully suppressed the airing of embarrassing spectacles such as "Gay Pride" parades - which showcase what an unrestricted homosexuality would look like. The Christian church needs to publicly air "Gay Pride" parades in order to showcase what an unrestricted homosexuality would look like! This can only be accomplished if there is an unfettered freedom of speech. Similarly, the abortion industry has hidden the realities of abortion from public view - they don't even like the word "abortion" but rather use "reproductive rights" etc. The Christian church needs to publicly air the dirty realities of abortion: the blood, the body parts, the emotional trauma, so that the public sees what a sin abortion really is. This too can only be accomplished if there is an unfettered freedom of speech.

I agree with this. And the history of the settlement of this country should be a testament to it.

When Henry VIII left the Catholic church and created the protestant Church of England, it was seen as a green flag by many power holders to push protestantism on Catholics. Little by litte, catholic freedom was limited, oppressed, even going so far as beheading anyone who spoke up against the current regime on religious grounds (Thomas More). This was all well and good for Protestants, who were allowed unfettered access to privelege, freedom, and a benevolent government - until Mary ascended the throne.

Once the sympathies of the ruling elite changed, so did the tolerance on the ground. Protestants were persecuted while catholics were reprieved and apologized to.

Does this sound familiar at all? It didn't bring about peace until there was a freedom of speech allowed.

Where I do believe in voting on principles, values, and beliefs, I'm not suggesting stopping that. But I would also rather push for government being out of it completely while we try to change the hearts and minds of those doing the voting.

And for the life of me, I can't understand why homosexuals would want a government blessing when government has such a history of abusive power to push their own wills in favor of whoever they sympathize with at any given moment.

Christina:

When Henry VIII left the Catholic church and created the protestant Church of England, it was seen as a green flag by many power holders to push protestantism on Catholics. Little by litte, catholic freedom was limited, oppressed, even going so far as beheading anyone who spoke up against the current regime on religious grounds (Thomas More). This was all well and good for Protestants, who were allowed unfettered access to privelege, freedom, and a benevolent government - until Mary ascended the throne.
Once the sympathies of the ruling elite changed, so did the tolerance on the ground. Protestants were persecuted while catholics were reprieved and apologized to.

Excellent points Christina! It should be noted that the separation of Church and State was originally championed by people of faith - specifically those in the minority faiths who had witnessed these kinds of abuses firsthand. Simple democracy is not enough to protect minority opinions and beliefs from the tyranny of the majority. There has to be principles of freedom that are set in stone. We as Christians are fast becoming the minority in this country. Now is the time to push hard for principles of freedom - before it's too late!

We need to get past the "ick factor" though (the realization that pushing for unfettered Christian speech also entails pushing for unfettered homosexual speech). We should welcome that debate - the pure, unhindered, uncensored debate about God, sin, righteousness, judgment, natural law, etc. We should relish the chance to say everything we want to say, in any venue, about any subjects we want to talk about.

Jennifer Roback Morse has done yeomanly work explaining why it is not possible to "get the government out of marriage." If marriage did not exist, something like it would have to be invented. Here is just one of her articles. She has several, but I'm not looking all of them up right now.

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/04/5073/

It is impossible--literally impossible--for the government to be neutral about who should have custody of children. This, combined with the fact that groups of (at least) two people often want joint custody of children, or each want custody of the same child, is just one reason why government has to make judgements, judgements which irreducibly involve norms and morals, that will create marriage-like statuses even if civil marriage were formally abolished tomorrow.

Maintaining that marriage simply _is_ between one man and one woman is not imposing Christianity on anyone. It is not, in fact, a narrowly Christian concept of marriage but a natural concept of marriage. Maintaining that this age-old concept of marriage should continue to be the only one recognized in law isn't "imposing" something. On the contrary, there will be enormously more governmental imposition if and to the extent that homosexuals also get the status of "marriage" attached to their unions--a point that should concern libertarians and those with libertarian sympathies. Nor does defending marriage even, in itself, prohibit homosexuals from engaging in sexual relations. It merely says that the government will not grant those sexual relationships the same special status granted to marriages. Moreover, attempting to abolish ll civil marriage or marriage-like civil unions altogether (which no one in the anti-marriage camp is seriously proposing) would create a form of chaos which would be objectively unjust to many people, including children and many others who did not consent to the situation, and would ultimately result not in greater freedom but in less freedom.

The cliches that say that being pro-marriage is being pro-government are just that: They are shallow thinking embodied in shallow language. We ought to be able to do better than that. Some people (like Jennifer Morse) do do better than that. Others don't. I can only suggest trying to do better than cliches.

On the contrary, there will be enormously more governmental imposition if and to the extent that homosexuals also get the status of "marriage" attached to their unions--a point that should concern libertarians and those with libertarian sympathies.

Well said. It is precisely because homosexual acts cannot engender children, and that gays can get children only through unnatural procedures, and because a child thus brought into their control cannot be considered the child of these gays except by a legal judgment that imposes results on society about moral and biological and social status, results that could be rendered differently. Which is all to say that this is emblematic of the state intruding its fingers more and more into a sphere in which it should not be necessary. All created by a first set of rulings and judgments that upsets the pre-existing norm of society based on the normative form of the family and marriage.

If marriage were truly the result of man acting on his own authority to establish a social custom, legislatures might have the authority to change that custom. But the custom isn't merely a human-originated custom, it is a custom that effectuates a part of human nature and fulfills a God-given plan. Man cannot set aside his nature by legislative fiat, and trying to re-craft society to remold marriage into something that defies human nature cannot be something that people of good will can "accept" or stop speaking out against.

Dr. Morse makes the interesting distinction between "up-front" governmental involvement and government meddling on the "other end." She gives as an example no-fault divorce. The idea of no-fault divorce was that the government would allegedly allow more freedom-from-government by allowing divorce for any reason. But she points out that by not "front-loading" a clear set of grounds for divorce, the government has actually had to get much _more_ involved by micromanaging all these divorces with the division of property and child custody. Similarly, she says, if government attempts to avoid "front-loading" a clear and traditional definition of marriage, it will have to be much _more_ involved in deciding which arrangements to honor on a case-by-case basis.

That's not to mention all the government involvement in forcing other people to act in various ways like two men or two women are married, which is of course beginning already, with many, many discrimination lawsuits.

The very existence of natural children threatens the sodomite edifice. Hence, in due time the idea that one has special duties to one's children because they are yours by nature will be challenged. It will be depicted as another irrational prejudice, akin to racism, since, as it will be argued, its purpose is to deny gays "children" and to diminish their "sterile" unions. (I say "sterile" rather than sterile, since sterility implies a proper function that has gone awry. Gay unions are in that case no more "sterile" as is a rock "blind").

Then natural children will be removed from their "abusive" homes and given to "loving" gay "families." Such natural homes will be deemed "abusive" because the parents are indoctrinating their children in "homophobia" and other hateful thoughts. If such lessons can be banned from schools, then they can be banned from homes as well.

The premises are in place. It's only a matter of time. Little Timmy at Patheos, by that time, will be nodding his head in agreement, claiming we have to give our children to the sodomites, as the Father gave his Son to us. Evangelical acquiescence practically writes itself.

What Little Timmy does not understand is that the sodomites will not rest until everything he holds dear is either owned by them or destroyed.

Then natural children will be removed from their "abusive" homes and given to "loving" gay "families."

On a thread some time ago I used this example as a reductio to a reader who insisted that a parent is bound to comply with court orders regarding his children's custody. I asked whether, if his own natural children were thus assigned (say, by lottery) to a homosexual couple, he would be in duty bound to hand them over in the name of the "rule of law" rather than, say, fleeing the country. After ignoring the question for a number of comments, he answered (in a very slightly roundabout way that involved making reference to the Fugitive Slave Act) that he would consider that he should comply with the court order.

The next time somebody calls me a legal positivist, I think I'll link that thread and say, "If you think I'm a legal positivist, you ain't seen nothin'."

Lydia:

On the contrary, there will be enormously more governmental imposition if and to the extent that homosexuals also get the status of "marriage" attached to their unions--a point that should concern libertarians and those with libertarian sympathies.

As a libertarian, this concerns me immensely. I see the "gay marriage" movement as another cry, in a long list of cries, for more government control over society. Libertarians (like myself at least) are for less government all around. Any libertarian who is for gay marriage legislation is no libertarian IMO.

Nor does defending marriage even, in itself, prohibit homosexuals from engaging in sexual relations. It merely says that the government will not grant those sexual relationships the same special status granted to marriages.

Therein lies the rub. Why should married people enjoy special status? The libertarian argument is that the government should not proffer special status to anyone. Ours is an argument against all government subsidies and penalties based on membership within a certain group (other than the 'group': 'law abiding citizens'). Such 'group privileges' only divide people.

The cliches that say that being pro-marriage is being pro-government are just that: They are shallow thinking embodied in shallow language.

Being pro-marriage is one thing, asking that the government grant special status for married couples is another. I argued earlier in this thread that Christians should be vocal in their opposition to homosexuality (and all sin) and preach the gospel unhindered (and the gospel is definitely pro-marriage) - so nobody can accuse me of not being pro-marriage. Yet, I do not argue that married people should receive any special favors from the government (and I've been married for nearly 33 years). I don't want to 'owe' the government any more than I already do. More correctly: I don't want the government to OWN ME any more than it already does.

Honestly, Daniel, I don't think your wife would "owe" the government anything if you died and left all your estate to her, if it were over what would otherwise be the amount for the estate tax, and if she didn't have to pay a penny in estate tax because of the marriage exemption. To give just one example. That would simply be the government's recognition of a reality: Namely, that a man and his wife are more like a single unit than like two atomic individuals.

You don't "owe" the government anything for the fact that you don't need to adopt your own children in order to have a definite father's custody over them. That's just the government's recognition of the external reality--a reality prior to the government and indeed fundamental to society. The reality of the true family unit.

The truth is that there are realities that the government _should_ recognize. Just as, say, murder is a reality that the government should recognize, so marriage is a reality that government should recognize.

And, as I have pointed out ad infinitum, and not only I, but many other people have pointed out, it is not possible for the government to make no value judgements about who should have custody of children, who should inherit property, what contracts to honor, and the like. There is a reason why a man and his wife should have custody presumption rather than, say, the grandparents or some random stranger who thinks he could do a better job. There is a reason why a wife should inherit before an unrelated friend. These and many others are value judgements the government is going to have to make. Which is why that would all have to be reinvented by the courts on a case-by-case basis if civil marriage were abolished tomorrow. And there would be winners and losers. But I tell you one thing: If civil marriage between a man and a woman were abolished tomorrow, a lot of innocents would be the losers in the chaos that would follow. And there wouldn't be less government involvement, recognition, and granting of "stuff" (custody, property, etc.) when all was said and done.

The very existence of natural children threatens the sodomite edifice. Hence, in due time the idea that one has special duties to one's children because they are yours by nature will be challenged.

Thomas, I know what you're trying to say, but the mode of expression worries me. We transcend our biology. We have a human nature that transcends our biology.

Many of the "sodomite ediface" would endorse the the idea that "one has special duties to one's children because they are yours by nature". Many of them won't recognize any other standard. Just ask Bill Clinton. In the mind of many nature trumps all, and they aren't on our side. It all depends on what you think human nature is. Is it our nature as determined by biology or our human nature?

We have to be careful how we express ourselves on this. "Nature" means different things to different people. Christians are supposed to educate the world on what human nature means, and there are two extremes to be avoided, not merely one. Both extremes are ugly.

Oh, baloney, Mark. The homosexuals are _very_ hung up on adoption and adoption-like arrangements and even just the arrangement of having happened to be the lesbian partner of a woman who had a child. Just ask Lisa Miller. They _definitely_ want to be able to create parental rights in all sorts of unnatural ways. Most lesbians are artificially inseminated in order to conceive in the first place, though I have read of a case where a lesbian was impregnated in the "ordinary" way by a male friend. He was then supposed _not_ to be the child's parent (even though he was, in fact, the child's father), and the lesbian partner was supposed to be the "other mommy" just because she was in a long-term romantic/sexual relationship with the child's biological mother!

There was a recent case in the news in which a woman and a man she did not know to be homosexual (a friend) commissioned the conception of children by IVF using his sperm and yet a third person's eggs (a woman donor). The female friend, who assumed she was going to have custody and raise the children with the help of the "friend," their biological father, then gestated a pair of twins. While she was still in the hospital after birth a social worker showed up to tell her that there was now a custody battle because she, the gestational mother, was not the children's true biological mother (since the eggs were not hers) and because the homosexual "friend" had really been considering her as a surrogate for himself and his male partner!

So I don't know who these "many" are that you are talking about, but just ask them what they think of whether homosexuals shd. have a right to adopt or whether partners in lesbian relationships should automatically have parental rights or whether IVF and surrogacy should continue to be legal, and I think you'll find that they don't have much of an adherence to *any* narrowly natural origin for parental rights. They aren't going to get children by natural sexual relations with the "person they love," so if they are to form these "gay families" they want to talk about, they have to form them in some other way.

All of which just illustrates the importance of defending marriage, by the way. What a mess it is for these children who are tossed from pillar to post in people's search for children somehow, someway.

Lydia,

I tend to agree with your analysis. My point is a general one against asking for more government favors for "special" classes of people.

In the case of marriage, some of the protections you listed make sense. I think inheritance could be regulated by common sense though. Do we actually have to have the government rule on every little thing? Couldn't we limit government involvement to cases of force and fraud? If I make a will, that should be binding. Unless someone comes in and tries to take something which common sense dictates isn't their rightful inheritance, why should the government be involved? I'd rather the government intrude as little as is necessary to keep order in society. If that means rudimentary rules about marriage, then so be it.

Our present society is so hung up on wanting the government to do more about each and every particular cause though. I'd like to see that reversed. That won't happen though until we get rid of "the government needs to do something about this" mentality that so permeates every discussion.

Yes, of course you can will your estate to your wife or to someone other than your wife. However, there are common rules favoring the spouse in cases of intestacy, which do happen, even to otherwise careful and responsible people. (E.g. You might unexpectedly be killed in a car accident on your way to make your will, or on your honeymoon.) Moreover, the marriage exemption from estate tax is an exemption from tax. It has nothing to do with whether you make a will or not. It's whether your wife can inherit your estate without paying estate tax on it, when your estate is big enough that she would otherwise have to pay estate tax.

But actually, I regard this most recent comment of yours, Daniel, as among the more moderate you have made on this subject, and that's a good thing. I think that anyone who read your comments previously would have definitely gotten the idea that you favor the (attempted) total abolition of all civil marriage recognition, and that you believe this to be possible, whereas this comment does not sound like that anymore.

Oh, baloney, Mark.

Lydia, I was puzzled by your response until I finally realized that I didn't type what I meant to say. Sorry about that. I meant to saw that there are many NOT of the "sodomite ediface" who would endorse that "one has special duties to one's children because they are yours by nature". I wasn't saying that Bill Clinton is a homosexual.

My point was that in opposing homosexual adoption, it is a good idea to avoid rhetoric that implies that natural ties trump all because they don't and never did. We have family judges who take kids out of foster homes and return them to dangerous homes where they have been viciously harmed multiple times in preference to dangerous though natural parents. Maybe it is few in number, I don't know.

Opposing homosexual adoption is a target rich environment if we have the courage to say the real reasons. Promoting a healthy understanding of adoption, which precludes homosexual adoption, is a critical part of this task.

Ah, sorry about the misunderstanding, Mark. Well, I certainly don't think natural parenthood should "trump all," as you say, but I'm sure that neither "Thomas Aquinas" nor any conservatives are going to say that it should. That is, we usually acknowledge that there are cases where a child shouldn't be returned to his biological parents or parent. But if the child was previously in the definite and undisputed custody of the biological parent (which by the way E.G. *was not*--he was born to divorced parents and was in only fairly chaotic custodial situations for the whole of his young life before being brought to the U.S.), then there ought to be a prima facie case that that parent has custody, which can of course be overturned for cause.

Defending marriage is going to involve, ineliminably, defending the importance of natural parental ties, especially within the context of an intact family with married parents into which the child is born.

"natural ties trump all because they don't and never did"

And why not, if family is primary as the conservatives endless repeat ever and ever again.

Because, in reality, it is the City or the State or the Nation that is primary (and the progressives are not wrong to stress so).

From Aristotle's Politics:

Without the City, the rules in the household and the village actually become destructive to the human beings, for just like the relationship between the growth of the whole and that of the parts, where the latter is beneficial only in relation to the former (without respect to which it can be cancerous and harm the body). So too is the relationship between the rules in the household/village and that in the City. If the unequal rules in the household do not aim at the rule among equals in the City, the inferior work produced by them will turn humans into Cyclops with a natural bent toward war.

Gian, you obviously don't grok the importance of "prima facie case." It's actually a huge deal for a married family to be left alone until and unless there is probable cause of something major and seriously bad going on. To the extent that that has been weakened in our Western countries (e.g., a vengeful neighbor can give an anonymous tip to CPS and get you put through hell for a vague allegation), _that_ is making the City, Nation, or State primary, and conservatives do _not_ support that.

Gian, you are so far from understanding Aristotle in that passage!

There is more than one sense of "primary", and if you don't distinguish which one you mean, it is unavoidable to cause confusion, if not outright error.

There are 4 kinds of causality: material, formal, agent, and final cause. A thing can be "primary" with respect to one of these kinds of causality but secondary with respect to another.

For example, if an engineer decides he needs a piece A of plastic shaped just so and having X degree of heat resistance and Y degree of pliability, as a piece of a large machine he is constructing, he may commission a plastics fabricator to develop that kind of plastic and produce part A. When the part comes from the plastics fabricator, the engineer starts building his machine with part A and all the other parts he similarly commissioned.

Is the plastic part A "prior to" the machine? Of course, the machine can never exist ACTUALLY except when all of its parts exist and are assembled into one working object, so the parts have to pre-exist the machine. Materially, the physical components pre-exist (are "prior to") the completed actual whole. But equally obviously, the parts only came into existence because the engineer had the final goal of a working machine, so in terms of final cause the working machine comes first. And when designing the parts of the working machine, he determined that a piece of plastic just like A would be the necessary component, so the formal nature of A in the engineer's mind came before he commissioned the fabrication of it. So in terms of formal cause, the concept of A came before A actually existed, and is determined by the nature of the whole machine. And of course all these things took place before the fabricator actually acted to fabricate A, so in a sense final, formal, and agent causes are prior to A as an actual material component of the machine.

Similarities are present when you compare the state and the family (and the individual). The state is composed of families, so it is impossible for the state to come into ACTUAL existence without the existence of families to make it up. In the material order of causality, families are prior to the state. But for any natural being (as opposed to an artifact), the completed, fully-operational entity is prior in terms of final causality: the end goal is what determines the means to it. The state is defined as the fully operational, complete, wholly sufficient temporal community of men, whereas families cannot be self-sufficient, they are too small and limited. Since the organic whole, the perfectly complete is prior to the component part thereof in final causality, the state is "prior" to the family in that sense.

But unlike most natural things in this life, the state even as a "complete" social entity is not itself the absolutely final object of the component beings that make it up: the state will pass away, but the human beings have immortal souls and will participate in a later community, the communion of saints. Therefore, although man is ordered to the state naturally, he is not ordered to the state as his supreme good - which is totally different from how ants are related to the colony. Man having THAT FURTHER GOAL makes the state itself, as such, only a means, an intermediate goal for man. Thus, man's eternal salvation is a goal that orders man's relation to the state as an ordering upon several intermediate elements. It is man in his intellectual, rational nature, in his being "in the image of God", that determines his ultimate end in a union with God that supercedes the state and the purposes of the state. Thus man in his rational nature, in his ordering to eternal union with God - even in terms of final cause - is "prior to" the state, and his ultimate end is primary, whereas his social end in this temporal life is a secondary goal.

Just as there is no marrying or giving of marriage in heaven, and thus no operational family naturally speaking, so also there is no "state" in heaven, no temporal society. And there could not be, since without families, without the material building blocks of temporal society, there cannot be a temporal society. Instead we will have an eternal society, which will fulfill all the normative goods which the state fulfills but will do so within the context of our union with God.

Families are prior to the state in certain ways, not in all ways. In addition to man being formed as a social animal, God formed man with an intellectual nature and free will, to "leave him in his own counsel" for the ordering of his day. Because of this, subsidiarity is an integral and fundamental limiting aspect of man's social nature. We are not ants. Man's ordering to the LARGER community is through his ordering to his local community (the family) and THAT is through (in the formal sense) his ordering under intelligence and free will which regulates his relation to God and thus to all lesser creatures, including the state and the family. (This is why, for example, although man is ordered toward family, no man is obliged to take a spouse and have a family as a definitive, absolute natural obligation.) Therefore, although man is obliged to respect and obey the state even to the point (sometimes) of setting aside the good of himself and his family, that obligation is limited within certain constraints. Those constraints are defined by the limits of temporal society itself for man's good, and by the subsidiarity which God designed to reflect that total ordering. So, for example, the state cannot mandate the man to marry, or to marry a certain person, that lies outside the ordering given under subsidiarity. Thus, in certain respects even setting aside material causality

, the family is prior to the state, or is at least on a parallel coordinate level not subservient to the state.

Most people recognize these truths instinctively, even when they cannot articulate them well. It is generally the silly-clevers, the sorts like Immanuel Kant, and Georg Hegel, and Karl Marx, who manage to philosophize their way out of accepting these basic truths of common sense.

Because, in reality, it is the City or the State or the Nation that is primary (and the progressives are not wrong to stress so).

A thousand times no, because IN REALITY the progressives ARE WRONG in stressing that the state is prior even when that defies subsidiarity, as they generally do. The fact that you put it this way shows that you are, yourself, a progressive, and are wrong in just the way progressives (and totalitarians) are because you don't distinguish properly between the senses of "primary" and "prior" and "secondary" that come into play in understanding human nature.

Aaron wrote:

That means to speak differently about it on MSNBC than on Fox News.

I agree. For example, it has occurred to me that when we are talking with liberals we should specify that we are against heterosexual sodomy (i.e. heterosexual mimicking of sodomitic practices) even when it is in the marriage bed. Then they can understand that we are not just singling them out.

then there ought to be a prima facie case that that parent has custody, which can of course be overturned for cause.

Defending marriage is going to involve, ineliminably, defending the importance of natural parental ties, especially within the context of an intact family with married parents into which the child is born.

I was commenting about the statement "special duties to one's children because they are yours by nature" in the context of homosexual adoption. Maybe I muddied it by pointing out the judge example of an improper preference for natural parents. I'm just saying that it isn't that wise to appeal to supposed relational differences between natural children and adopted children by an appeal to biology. All of us here probably believe in a "prima facie case that that parent has custody", the comment in question gets to the core of what a parent is.

Biology matters of course, but the question is how. There is a reason men leave their children and women don't. I'm fine with natural law arguments against homosexuality, but I get queasy when peoplee propagate starting points of a natural law basis through to human social norms in a free society. There is no associate property of natural things.

The fact is that for most of human history children who reached maturity with both natural parents still living were the lucky ones. Adoption by humans is quite natural as history and common experience attests. Homosexuals desire to adopt is understandable, it just happens that they aren't fit to raise children. If we can't make that argument and instead appeal to the shiny knob of biology as a shortcut we're guaranteeing a very bad outcome.

Thomas may agree with all of this, and maybe everyone else here too, but I still object to the statement I was commenting on in the context in which it was made. If Thomas doesn't want to elaborate on it, it really doesn't matter.

Homosexuals certainly aren't fit to adopt children, and I don't hesitate to make that statement or to make that argument. I'm one of the few people I know who is still willing to say that homosexual orientation shouldn't have been removed from the DSM in the first place.

However, that point can be argued only by reference to biology, so there really is not a disconnect there among biology, nature, and fitness for parenting. Rather, those areas complement one another in the understanding of homosexuality as objectively disordered.

I would go farther: Ideally, a child should not be adopted by a single person. There are exceptions, of course, where it is legitimate, or where it "just happens." One can make up all manner of scenarios in which children are abandoned or left with no one except some single person who is willing and able to take on the child and act in loco parentis to that child, and the child bonds with that single person. These can even work out very well. But it shouldn't be the ideal model. Ideally, children would be placed for adoption with two-parent families. The idea there is to mimic as closely as possible the situation of a natural, heterosexual family. Yes, it's in a sense "not real," because the child isn't in fact the natural child of that couple, but what this attempt to make a family in adoption shows is that we as a society recognize the normative nature of the biological, married family and are trying to give this child something as similar to that as possible, something that, as much as possible, "looks like" a biological family with married parents and their natural children. Hence, our understanding of nature should also inform our highest ideal for adoptive situations.

Widespread, unnecessary adoption by a single person without preference for married, two-parent families was a lead-in to homosexual adoption. Where a homosexual _couple_ couldn't adopt, they would come as close to it as they could by having one member of that couple adopt. That should have been a warning right there that we weren't giving enough preference to situations that appeared biologically normal.

Lydia:

But actually, I regard this most recent comment of yours, Daniel, as among the more moderate you have made on this subject, and that's a good thing. I think that anyone who read your comments previously would have definitely gotten the idea that you favor the (attempted) total abolition of all civil marriage recognition, and that you believe this to be possible, whereas this comment does not sound like that anymore.

My positions (on many matters) are constantly evolving. This website, in large part, is my testing ground. I'm not educated in philosophy like most of you are and - though I've been extremely interested in modern politics - I'm not very knowledgeable of the historical basis for many political ideologies. I'm learning though. I've embraced libertarianism purely out of frustration with the so-called "small government conservatives" who keep on spending money just like "big government liberals". Some of the ramifications of libertarianism are a bit much for me, but I think that it is a sound basis for building a good conservative ideology. Specifically, I think it is in the best interest of the Church to push the government out of as many issues as we possibly can before it turns on us and shuts us down.

Okay, that's good. Let me recommend that you look around and read things by Jennifer Roback Morse on marriage. While she is sometimes disagreeing with what one might call "hard-line" libertarians (as I've sketched a bit in recent threads), she is very sympathetic to libertarian concerns. For that reason I think she can (as far as I've read her) present both a libertarian-leaning and sensible set of viewpoints on some of these issues. Ed Feser is also a philosopher with sympathies with libertarianism but who has parted company from the hard-line, more Randian or anarchistic, libertarian philosophy. I'm extremely sympathetic to various libertarian concerns in the economic realm but also believe that strong statements like "only laws against force and fraud" or "the government must be morally neutral" cannot work in practice. And so forth. Don't look at anyone who disagrees with the strongest and most sweeping statements of libertarian doctrine/dogma as being a statist in disguise, because it just ain't true.

Tony,
I thank you again for an illuminating exposition of "prior". But nothing I said goes against subsidiarity. As WKC Guthrie writes in his book on Greek philosophers, the Greek work for Justice means no more than "minding one's own business" or Tao (as Chinese might put it) or Dharma (as Hindus put it).
Thus to say that the State pursues justice is just to say that the State respects subsidiarity

All I meant was that the conservative over-emphasis on Family over State is incorrect. One can not have good families in a bad state. That is, if the laws of the state are unjust, the families too suffer distortions. Thus quiet-ism is not viable and the right-minded people must fight for the state.

And as for State not existing in Heaven, so even with Families.
Also, one may submit that The City of Men passes on to the City of God.

Homosexuals certainly aren't fit to adopt children, and I don't hesitate to make that statement or to make that argument. I'm one of the few people I know who is still willing to say that homosexual orientation shouldn't have been removed from the DSM in the first place.

However, that point can be argued only by reference to biology, so there really is not a disconnect there among biology, nature, and fitness for parenting. Rather, those areas complement one another in the understanding of homosexuality as objectively disordered.

I disagree that it can be argued only by reference to biology, unless you think it can only be done by a natural law standpoint which I assume involves procreation. But I think arguments that do use it can be misguided if they don't stay within the limits of what natural law can properly do and try to invoke biology just anywhere. If one drives it too hard it casts doubt on the legitimacy of adoption is just one example of the problems that this can spawn. Our biology is complementary with our nature in many ways, but I'm dubious about grounding the classic view of marriage biologically. Seems to me our biology could ground polygamy and perhaps a few others just as well as monogamy. Biology is useful in useful as a negative tool to rule certain things out, but you can't build much upon it. That's why explaining attraction in terms of hip-to-waist ratios and such don't work.

The reason we can presume a person to have custody of their natural children is because of the classic view of legitimate marriage and family as a man and a woman committed to one another, not because our biology implies that the classic view is correct. Our fundamental nature lies in our being fitted for social relations. Monogamy is grounded in the properly (not absolutely) exclusive nature of love.

Well I'm leaving town in half an hour for the holidays so that'll have to be my last word. Merry Christmas!

I would go farther: Ideally, a child should not be adopted by a single person.

I agree. It may be necessary in some circumstances but it isn't ideal.

Mark,
You are correct in opposing the biological determinism as preached by the Right. The humans are cultural all the way in and the culture does not supervene on underlying biology. In particular, you are correct that monogamy is not properly grounded in bare biology.

The Left ignores biology and (a small marginalized portion of) the Right tries to correct this error and over does it in the other direction. For an example, see John Derbyshire and his criticisms of the Left’s invocation of “culture” as the explanation of everything. On one hand, he has a point. On the other hand, he goes too far in the other direction. Didn’t Lewis say something about the devil sending errors into the world in polar-opposite pairs? I’m not suggesting the middle-ground is always the truth (sometimes the extreme positions are correct) but yes the Right can go too far in this case.

not because our biology implies that the classic view is correct.

It depends on what you mean by "implies." Certainly, you are going to need moral and natural law insight to get from biology to a normative concept of "natural." But the biological facts about where babies come from play an important role in that reasoning and insight. After all, if we were aliens who always reproduced by mitosis, marriage as we know it wouldn't exist. The biological facts of life are necessary but not sufficient for understanding what is wrong with homosexuality.

Lydia:

Let me recommend that you look around and read things by Jennifer Roback Morse on marriage.

I'll look into that. Thanks.

Ed Feser is also a philosopher with sympathies with libertarianism but who has parted company from the hard-line, more Randian or anarchistic, libertarian philosophy.

I spend a lot of time at Feser's blog and I've been trying to get him to open up as to why he rejected libertarianism - without much success.

Don't look at anyone who disagrees with the strongest and most sweeping statements of libertarian doctrine/dogma as being a statist in disguise, because it just ain't true.

That's good advice.

I would also caution that not everyone that calls themselves "libertarian" fully embraces the strongest and most sweeping statements of libertarian doctrine/dogma. Personally I think that "only laws against force and fraud" is a worthwhile goal, though ultimately not fully attainable in practice. Considering that the current US Code is over 200,000 pages*, I think an eye towards repealing laws that do not fall under the force and fraud category would be a good place to start!

(*That's just federal laws and doesn't even include regulations!)

Daniel, I suggest you e-mail Dr. Feser if you want to learn more about why he decided to leave libertarianism behind. I e-mailed him twice and got a response both times.

As he said himself there's no guarantee you'll get a response but it's definitely worth a shot.

i think Russell Kirk's old article that criticizes libertarianism for placing generic freedom as the highest principle in life pretty much sums up my fundamental issue with it.

if conservatism is merely defined as anti-state then a coalition works. otherwise libertarianism's central premises seem to have more in common with liberalism -- the idea that all personal desires that don't explicitly harm anyone are OK, minus the liberal emphasis on the state as the agent of liberation.

RDE is correct. Liberalism and libertarianism are siblings. The anarcho-capitalist writer David Friedman describes himself as a classical liberal in the tradition of Adam Smith. Mises calls himself an heir to the French Revolution.

Both liberalism and libertarianism deny a particular community the moral right to rule itself and indeed define itself.
So either there should be a World Govt or no govt.

MarcAnthony:

Daniel, I suggest you e-mail Dr. Feser

I emailed him once and the next day he posted something about how many emails and requests he gets and how it was basically pointless to email him because he didn't have time to answer - etc.

Now I'm a little gun shy!

RDE:

the idea that all personal desires that don't explicitly harm anyone are OK,

There's a difference between believing something is 'OK' and believing that there should not be a law against it.

I don't like drug use - in fact I hate it for what I've seen it do to my loved ones - but I don't think it helped them at all to have a criminal record. All that did was hinder their efforts at recovery. Drug use, IMO, is a mental health issue - not a criminal issue. So, even though I'm not 'OK' with drug use, I'm fine with decriminalizing it.

Daniel, Ed Feser provided a whole column on his philosophical transformation, passing through libertarianism. Try this:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-road-from-libertarianism.html

He has also written an extremely helpful long essay on natural law and private property, which sort of poses the answer to at least some of libertarianism's intractable problems. I think you can see it here:

http://libertylawsite.org/liberty-forum/natural-law-natural-rights-and-private-property/


There's a difference between believing something is 'OK' and believing that there should not be a law against it.

Quite true.

And, at the other end of the spectrum, there is a difference between saying that the city, county, or state are well advised to (normally, under typical conditions) keep their nose out of something, like drugs, and saying that because such laws are ill-advised they are unconstitutional. Activist judges like to claim the latter, without legal basis.

The crucial distinction to keep in mind is this: it is possible at ONE AND THE SAME TIME that I, as an individual, have no moral right to use heroin given its known effects, AND that the state has no a-priori moral right to criminalize its usage, absent consideration of actual practical effects on society as a whole. That is to say: the mere fact that I might (especially in an ancient state like old Egypt) have no laws forbidding my use of heroin, doesn't mean I have a moral right to use it. That the body of laws does not speak to (or forbid) an action doesn't constitute a moral right to do it.

It is impossible to have a moral right to do something that you know is on the whole, taking all things into account, a bad thing to do. There can be, at most, a legal right, where what we mean is that the law does not prohibit the action. You can't have a RIGHT (simply, unqualified) to do something that is wrong for you to do.

SO there is an inherent danger in speaking of "right", in the phrase "I have a right to use heroin" because you can't help glossing over the truth and hiding it behind an equivocation: you have a legal "right" which does not make the action right to do in your concrete circumstances, does not give you a moral right to do it. Much better, then, to speak more clearly, even if it requires more words, to say the full meaning of what you have in mind: "Whether using heroin is RIGHT for me to do at this time, there is no appropriate space for the state to prohibit my using it."

Of course, the latter expression is MUCH more difficult to defend than merely saying "the state should keep it's nose out of personal business." Because, as we all know, heroin usage doesn't lead solely to private consequences, it also leads to public consequences, and the state - having care of the common good - cannot ensure the common good without at least considering the public ramifications of citizens using heroin. Whether the "best" way to handle it is to require all users to post a bond with the state, which will (on a statistical basis) cover their financial impact on society, or make using and selling it illegal, or adding to the drug a poison that will kill you after the 10th use, or any of 30 other options, (including leaving it alone), is a matter for political prudence. But then by definition the state in addressing the public consequences IS putting its nose where it belongs.

This is illustrative only, it applies to 10,000 other issues. The state has no automatic place, no necessary role in regulating drugs and thus prohibiting actions of mine that might otherwise be legally non-punished, the state must have a reasonable cause to enter into the fray and thus limit my personal scope of judgment. Once the state finds, however, that the actions of the citizens are actually having an impact on the common good, that very finding provides the ground for a true and legitimate entry of the state into what was otherwise a private sphere of action.

Tony,

You and I are pretty much in agreement on "moral right" vs "legal right".

Once the state finds, however, that the actions of the citizens are actually having an impact on the common good, that very finding provides the ground for a true and legitimate entry of the state into what was otherwise a private sphere of action.

I agree with this too. Once a person's actions harm somebody, destroy property (public or private), or cost something to rectify (publicly or privately), there is basis for legal action against that person (hopefully including some form of restitution to the victim). I am a strong believer in personal accountability and in only punishing the wrongdoer. Too often the actions of one evil individual prompt a knee-jerk public policy reaction that punishes the whole of society in an effort to curb a few bad apples.

We're both for limiting the power and scope of government here Tony. The question seems to center upon where to draw the boundaries.

Tony,

I have read both of those pieces by Ed Feser but I didn't find the answers I was looking for. Perhaps it's because I don't know enough about libertarianism to recognize a principle that stands in opposition to it.

Well, this is just a quick thought, not all deeply considered, but it seems to me that libertarians are stuck between either defining "harm" in your above phrase "a person's actions harm somebody" as physical or financial harm; or defining it more broadly and end up indistinguishable from either liberals or conservatives. So, for my money, what distinguishes mainstream libertarinism is holding the former approach, defining harm incredibly narrowly.

What that does is deny (or tends to) that man is an intellectual creature with other types of goods than goods that could be measured as good for animals: knowledge, freedom, love, friendship, art, etc. Take an example: if Bill takes a shine to Jim's wife and seduces her (though she was previously a happily married wife), has he done Jim a harm? If Jim gets even by spreading lies that Bill is a pervert who only likes little girls, has he done Bill harm? The obvious answer is yes, but in neither case is the harm physical, nor can the degree of harm be located by anything objective, or financial.

I agree Tony that there are harms other than physical and financial. Emotional abuse is a good example. The question is: what role can the government play in defining and enforcing protections against such harm? Take your example: what would the government's role be in protecting Bill and Jim from each other?

what would the government's role be in protecting Bill and Jim from each other?

Well, traditionally adultery was against the law and punishable by fairly stiff penalties. Back in Moses' day (and Jesus's day), the penalty was death. I suspect it was similar in other cultures, but I don't have the data.

And not only traditionally, but now as well, libel and slander are punishable crimes. Most libertarians think they SHOULDN'T be, unless they financially harm a business by lying about the business or its people.

But I am OK with other types of government responses than criminalizing such acts with prison terms or the like. Take slander - if the main damage is defamation of character, then how about the government printing a "shame" page that takes down the offender's reputation and damages his character (truthfully, of course). Or require the slanderer to provide personal (instead of community) service to the injured: mow the guy's lawn and shovel his driveway for a year, say. I don't know, it doesn't have to be our usual stuff to be publicly effective.

I think you may be forgetting civil tort law, Tony. It seems to have done a pretty good job of dealing with slander and defamation. The category of a civil tort is one that I doubt some libertarians (esp. those new to it) have given much thought to. *In one sense* it involves "government" but in another sense not. It's a different branch of the law from criminal law, yet it has its own rules (such as mens rea, recklessness, "reasonable man" standards, and the like), and the penalties are monetary, are decided by a jury, and go to the wronged party rather than consisting of imprisonment or of fines that go to the government. It's my impression that even adultery fell into that category in some fairly modern setups, but I haven't looked it up.

Tony,
Libertarianism is the logical end of the classical liberalism. If you start with the individual, you end with the individual. To get to the non-libertarian conclusions, you need to start with the Nation.

"Libertarianism is the logical end of the classical liberalism. If you start with the individual, you end with the individual."

I think you are correct here, Gian, with the caveat that the individual you are talking about is the Enlightenment-version autonomous individual, not the classical/Christian person understood as a valued creation placed in a hierarchy. There is a big difference between the Christian and the Enlightenment versions of the "individual." In truth, the latter is not a version of, but a perversion of the former.

Lydia:

The category of a civil tort is one that I doubt some libertarians (esp. those new to it) have given much thought to. *In one sense* it involves "government" but in another sense not. It's a different branch of the law from criminal law, yet it has its own rules (such as mens rea, recklessness, "reasonable man" standards, and the like), and the penalties are monetary, are decided by a jury, and go to the wronged party rather than consisting of imprisonment or of fines that go to the government. It's my impression that even adultery fell into that category in some fairly modern setups, but I haven't looked it up.

I have argued in other threads for revamping our criminal court system to make it more like civil tort law. Specifically, paying restitution to the victim - which I think is crucial if personal accountability is going to be an emphasis of law. Our current criminal system too often leaves the victim out in the cold.

Another problem with our current civil tort system is the expense involved. I think that's a direct consequence of allowing lawyers to draft legislation. They make the laws so convoluted, only a lawyer can understand them. (Isn't that a conflict of interest - that those who make their living from the law are allowed to write the law?)

In simpler times, a wronged party could bring their complaint before a judge who would hear both sides and make a decision on the spot. Nowadays, whoever has the best (i.e. most expensive) lawyer wins.

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