Tuesday, February 24, 2004


Progressive Catholic Matt Zemek lauds Gavin Newsom as a modern-day prophet.

Mr. Newsom, you may recall, is the mayor of San Franciso, and you can guess what exactly it is that Matt is lauding the mayor for.

Meanwhile, today President Bush expressed his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Many people will see -- and do see -- this proposal as an injustice. Unfortunately, the reason for that is a lack of understanding as to the nature and purpose of marriage, which has been increasingly obscured by our culture for decades now.

If you're interested in what the nature and purpose of marriage is, I'd invite you to read the works of scholars like Robert P. George of Princeton. George uses reason alone to illustrate what marriage is. Go to your public library and do an interlibrary loan for one of his books (I'd recommend The Clash of Orthodoxies as a good place to start).

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Others' "pre-take" on The Movie

Some of the readers at The Right Christians -- most of them liberal Christians -- aren't all that excited about seeing Mel Gibson's movie (see the comments to this post). One such commenter said,
    If there's anything to be gained from hyper-realism it's this: NOT "Look how Jesus suffered!" but "Look what was considered 'acceptable'---crucifixions, by the *thousands and thousands*---by the (self-appointed) 'highest' and/or most powerful cultures of the time. What are we Americans---living in the culture (self-appointed) 'highest' and most powerful of *our* time---overlooking and deeming acceptable NOW??"
I'm not really surprised. I don't know if I could explain why, but if you would've asked me if many liberal Christians are interested in a uber-realistic depiction of Jesus' passion, I would have said probably not. And that appears to be the case.

Don't get me wrong: I know some people who aren't liberal Christians and have no desire to see the film -- it's too violent... it's not up their "spiritual alley"... things like that. And I can understand that.

But there seems to be something else underneath the perspective of liberal Christians... if I can put my finger on it, I'll let you know.

Friday, February 20, 2004

The Vatican gets medieval

Headline: Pope John Paul II eliminates Verot

Verot, of course, is a well-known cheese-eating surrender heretic. It appears that the Swiss Guard has dispatched him.

Unfortunately, a secret cabal staged a dramatic attack, and "stymied, bewildered and ultimately destroyed Pope John Paul II".

An investigation is underway.
Is the Court Supreme?

The complaint about judicial activism and overreach is common within conservative circles, and accurate. Over the past few decades, a number of Supreme Court decisions have been handed down which seem to require not obedience to the Constitution of the United States of America but obedience to the worldview of the majority of the Court. The basis for all of this, of course, is the Supreme Court's supreme authority when it comes to constitutional interpretation: if there's a question about what the Constitution means viz. a particular law, the Court has the last word.

Or does it?

This week Chuck Colson raised the issue in one of his daily Breakpoints. The context of the piece is a discussion of President Lincoln and his response to the Dred Scot Supreme Court case, in which the Court ruled that slaves were private property, i.e. not persons with rights.

In the course of his discussion, Colson refers to an article written by Robert George in First Things entitled, "Lincoln on Judicial Despotism". In the article, George uses the Dred Scott case to set the stage for an argument that the Court today has far exceeded its power as set forth by the Constitution.

Another article from First Things--this one from '99--makes a similar case. In "How the Court Became Supreme", Robert Clinton argues that the famous case Marbury vs. Madison--in which the judicial review was established--has been reinterpreted by today's Court, resulting in (an unconstitutional) judicial supremacy.

Finally, on Wednesday this week Stuart Buck linked a law review article entitled "The Irrepressible Myth of Marbury", in which Michael Stokes Paulsen (U. Minnesota) argues that--as Stuart summarizes--"the reasoning used by Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison logically and inexorably leads not to judicial supremacy, as is so often thought, but to the right of both the executive and legislative branches to interpret the Constitution for themselves, even to the point of refusing to enforce a judicial decision that departs from the Constitution." Stuart explains the importance of such an argument: "Marshall supported judicial review by saying that if a judge is presented with a law that appears to him to violate the Constitution, his oath to the Constitution must come first. According to Paulsen, the exact same logic applies to the other branches: If a President is presented with a judicial decision that appears to him to violate the Constitution, his oath to the Constitution must come first.

Maybe the Court isn't as supreme as it -- and most of us -- think.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Vatican II: no revolution

Bill Cork refers to a recent news item concerning Cardinal Dulles' thoughts on Vatican II. As Bill quotes the story, "The Second Vatican Council was no revolution in Catholic thought or doctrine, and theologians who do not read the council documents in light of earlier church teaching badly misinterpret them, Cardinal Avery Dulles said."

Bill's take is that Vatican II "was truly revolutionary in its approach to ecumenism and relations with the Jews."

I know what he's saying, but I disagree, although the disagreement may be in semantics alone. I don't think there can be a real revolution in the Church, even at an ecumenical council... there had to be some impetus for the program of Vatican II from within the Church. If there wasn't, where did it come from?

I think that even in the significant developments in the areas of ecumenism and relations with the Jews, the foundation had been prepared prior to the Council. There was, after all, some softening at least during Pius XII's pontificate in these areas, if not before.

Development? Yes. Significant development? Again, yes. Revolution? Based on my understanding of twentieth century theology and church history, no.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

First Things on The Passion of the Christ: two thumbs up

The March issue of First Things arrived today, and in it, Russell Hittinger (Catholic Studies prof at the U. of Tulsa) and Elizabeth Lev (Christian art and architecture prof at Duquesne's Rome campus) write approvingly of Gibson's movie. A couple of items:

Hittinger and Lev argue that although there are elements of the film which do not come from the Gospel narratives, none of the additions violate the narratives. Addressing the question of the influence of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich, they write, "the question of how much of this imagery was inspired by Emmerich's visions is inessential, for such imagery and ideas about in traditional Christian liturgy, hymnody, and iconography."

They also argue that the film is something in the vein of the medieval passion plays. The movie, they claim, is "nearly the opposite of the arcane and politically fraught tradition of the passion play. [...] Gibson denies the audience any shred of political or religious triumph, or, for that matter, defeat. [...] It is hard to imagine anyone coming out of Gibson's movie with an appetite for a religiously politicized passion. If anything, this is the definitive post-passion-play passion."

Their conclusion: this is "the best movie ever made about Jesus Christ."

Between this article and Gibson's interview Monday night, I'm very excited to see the film.
Is the gay marriage push a demand that I accept homosexuality as legitimate?

Gay marriage advocates argue that this is an equal rights issue. But what is it that a married hetero couple can "do" that an unmarried gay couple cannot "do"? Under current law, gays can commit themselves to one another... they can live together... what can't they do that married people can do? Nothing, as far as I can tell.

So why is it so important for these gay (and lesbian) couples flocking to San Francisco to be able to hold up an "official" marriage certificate after their one-minute wedding? I surmise that it's about validation: gay and lesbian marriage is about their relationship being recognized precisely as a marriage.

But my question is this: why am I being forced to acknowledge gay relationship as marriage? That is, after all, what marriage is: a political (i.e. public, on behalf of the people) stamp of recognition.

Hence, my conclusion: in many ways (albeit not for all those involved), gay marriage is about forcing the body-politic to recognize homosexual unions as legitimate.

Update: Occasional commentor Madeline comments that civil marriage is a civil right, and as such, cannot be denied to some but not to others.

My question for her and others: what exactly does the right to marry mean? How do you prove that a man has a right to marry another man? It's clearly not self-evident, and hence it must be rationally demonstrable; so... can anyone use a rational argument to prove that a man has the right to marry another man? NB: don't beg the question -- don't assert that anyone has the right to marry anyone, because that's precisely the point I'd like to see demonstrated. All of our rights are rationally verifiable... I'd like to see the rational verification of the right to marry someone of the same sex.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Humanity of the Human Embryo

Is the human embryo a human being, with all the rights and duties attendant to such beings? Any reader who even occasionally reads this blog knows that my answer is an affirmative one, and that I believe so based not on religious dogma but scientific fact.

The position I hold is articulated by a number of scholars. My friend and philosophy prof Patrick Lee, for instance, has a terrific book called Abortion and Unborn Human Life which uses embryology and other biological sciences to document this position; he also addresses the various philosophical arguments in favor of abortion.

Closely following Lee's biological argument is that of Robert George (the two have worked together on this issue). George lays out the position in his personal statement appended to the President's Council on Bioethics' report on cloning. George's statement, which can be found here, is worth quoting:
    The subject matter of the present report is human cloning, the production of a human embryo by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) or similar technologies. Just as fertilization, if successful, generates a human embryo, cloning produces the same result by combining what is normally combined and activated in fertilization, that is, the full genetic code plus the ovular cytoplasm. Fertilization produces a new and complete, though immature, human organism. The same is true of successful cloning. Cloned embryos therefore ought to be treated as having the same moral status as other human embryos.

    A human embryo is a whole living member of the species homo sapiens in the earliest stage of his or her natural development. Unless denied a suitable environment, an embryonic human being will by directing its own integral organic functioning develop himself or herself to the next more mature developmental stage, i.e., the fetal stage. The embryonic, fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages are stages in the development of a determinate and enduring entity – a human being – who comes into existence as a single cell organism and develops, if all goes well, into adulthood many years later.i

    Human embryos possess the epigenetic primordia for self-directed growth into adulthood, with their determinateness and identity fully intact. The adult human being that is now you or me is the same human being who, at an earlier stage of his or her life, was an adolescent, and before that a child, an infant, a fetus, and an embryo. Even in the embryonic stage, you and I were undeniably whole, living members of the species homo sapiens. We were then, as we are now, distinct and complete (though in the beginning we were, of course, immature) human organisms; we were not mere parts of other organisms.

    Consider the case of ordinary sexual reproduction. Plainly, the gametes whose union brings into existence the embryo are not whole or distinct organisms. They are functionally (and not merely genetically) identifiable as parts of the male or female (potential) parents. Each has only half the genetic material needed to guide the development of an immature human being toward full maturity. They are destined either to combine with an oocyte or spermatozoon to generate a new and distinct organism, or simply die. Even when fertilization occurs, they do not survive; rather, their genetic material enters into the composition of a new organism.

    But none of this is true of the human embryo, from the zygote and blastula stages onward. The combining of the chromosomes of the spermatozoon and of the oocyte generates what every authority in human embryology identifies as a new and distinct organism. Whether produced by fertilization or by SCNT or some other cloning technique, the human embryo possesses all of the genetic material needed to inform and organize its growth. Unless deprived of a suitable environment or prevented by accident or disease, the embryo is actively developing itself to full maturity. The direction of its growth is not extrinsically determined, but is in accord with the genetic information within it.ii The human embryo is, then, a whole (though immature) and distinct human organism – a human being.

    If the embryo were not a complete organism, then what could it be? Unlike the spermatozoa and the oocytes, it is not a part of the mother or of the father. Nor is it a disordered growth such as a hydatidiform mole or teratoma. (Such entities lack the internal resources to actively develop themselves to the next more mature stage of the life of a human being.) Perhaps someone will say that the early embryo is an intermediate form, something that regularly emerges into a whole (though immature) human organism but is not one yet. But what could cause the emergence of the whole human organism, and cause it with regularity? It is clear that from the zygote stage forward, the major development of this organism is controlled and directed from within, that is, by the organism itself. So, after the embryo comes into being, no event or series of events occur that could be construed as the production of a new organism; that is, nothing extrinsic to the developing organism itself acts on it to produce a new character or new direction in development.

    But does this mean that the human embryo is a human being deserving of full moral respect such that it may not legitimately be used as a mere means to benefit others?

    To deny that embryonic human beings deserve full respect, one must suppose that not every whole living human being is deserving of full respect. To do that, one must hold that those human beings who deserve full respect deserve it not in virtue of the kind of entity they are, but, rather, in virtue of some acquired characteristic that some human beings (or human beings at some stages) have and others do not, and which some human beings have in greater degree than others.iii

    We submit that this position is untenable. It is clear that one need not be actually conscious, reasoning, deliberating, making choices, etc., in order to be a human being who deserves full moral respect, for it is clear that people who are asleep or in reversible comas deserve such respect. So, if one denied that human beings are intrinsically valuable in virtue of what they are, but required an additional attribute, the additional attribute would have to be a capacity of some sort, and, obviously a capacity for certain mental functions. Of course, human beings in the embryonic, fetal, and early infant stages lack immediately exercisable capacities for mental functions characteristically carried out (though intermittently) by most (not all – consider cases of severely retarded children and adults and comatose persons) human beings at later stages of maturity. Still, they possess in radical (= root) form these very capacities. Precisely by virtue of the kind of entity they are, they are from the beginning actively developing themselves to the stages at which these capacities will (if all goes well) be immediately exercisable. In this critical respect, they are quite unlike cats and dogs – even adult members of those species. As humans, they are members of a natural kind – the human species – whose embryonic, fetal, and infant members, if not prevented by some extrinsic cause, develop in due course and by intrinsic self-direction the immediately exercisable capacity for characteristically human mental functions. Each new human being comes into existence possessing the internal resources to develop immediately exercisable characteristically human mental capacities – and only the adverse effects on them of other causes will prevent their full development. In this sense, even human beings in the embryonic, fetal, and infant stages have the basic natural capacity for characteristically human mental functions.

    We can, therefore, distinguish two senses of the "capacity" (or what is sometimes referred to as the "potentiality") for mental functions: an immediately exercisable one, and a basic natural capacity, which develops over time. On what basis can one require for the recognition of full moral respect the first sort of capacity, which is an attribute that human beings acquire (if at all) only in the course of development (and may lose before dying), and that some will have in greater degree than others, and not the second, which is possessed by human beings as such? We can think of no good reason or nonarbitrary justification.

    By contrast, there are good reasons to hold that the second type of capacity is the ground for full moral respect.

    First, someone entertaining the view that one deserves full moral respect only if one has immediately exercisable capacities for mental functions should realize that the developing human being does not reach a level of maturity at which he or she performs a type of mental act that other animals do not perform – even animals such as dogs and cats – until at least several months after birth. A six-week-old baby lacks the immediately exercisable capacity to perform characteristically human mental functions. So, if full moral respect were due only to those who possess immediately exercisable capacities for characteristically human mental functions, it would follow that six-week-old infants do not deserve full moral respect. If one further takes the position that beings (including human beings) deserving less than full moral respect may legitimately be dismembered for the sake of research to benefit those who are thought to deserve full moral respect, then one is logically committed to the view that, subject to parental approval, the body parts of human infants, as well as those of human embryos and fetuses, should be fair game for scientific experimentation.

    Second, the difference between these two types of capacity is merely a difference between stages along a continuum. The proximate, or immediately exercisable, capacity for mental functions is only the development of an underlying potentiality that the human being possesses simply by virtue of the kind of entity it is. The capacities for reasoning, deliberating, and making choices are gradually developed, or brought toward maturation, through gestation, childhood, adolescence, and so on. But the difference between a being that deserves full moral respect and a being that does not (and can therefore legitimately be dismembered as a means of benefiting others) cannot consist only in the fact that, while both have some feature, one has more of it than the other. A mere quantitative difference (having more or less of the same feature, such as the development of a basic natural capacity) cannot by itself be a justificatory basis for treating different entities in radically different ways. Between the ovum and the approaching thousands of sperm, on the one hand, and the embryonic human being, on the other hand, there is a clear difference in kind. But between the embryonic human being and that same human being at any later stage of its maturation, there is only a difference in degree.

    Third, being a whole human organism (whether immature or not) is an either/or matter – a thing either is or is not a whole human being. But the acquired qualities that could be proposed as criteria for personhood come in varying and continuous degrees: there is an infinite number of degrees of the relevant developed abilities or dispositions, such as for self-consciousness, intelligence, or rationality. So, if human beings were worthy of full moral respect only because of such qualities, and not in virtue of the kind of being they are, then, since such qualities come in varying degrees, no account could be given of why basic rights are not possessed by human beings in varying degrees. The proposition that all human beings are created equal would be relegated to the status of a superstition. For example, if developed self-consciousness bestowed rights, then, since some people are more self-conscious than others (that is, have developed that capacity to a greater extent than others), some people would be greater in dignity than others, and the rights of the superiors would trump those of the inferiors where the interests of the superiors could be advanced at the cost of the inferiors. This conclusion would follow no matter which of the acquired qualities generally proposed as qualifying some human beings (or human beings at some stages) for full respect were selected. Clearly, developed self-consciousness, or desires, or so on, are arbitrarily selected degrees of development of capacities that all human beings possess in (at least) radical form from the coming into being of the organism until his or her death. So, it cannot be the case that some human beings and not others are intrinsically valuable, by virtue of a certain degree of development. Rather, human beings are intrinsically valuable in virtue of what (i.e., the kind of being) they are; and all human beings – not just some, and certainly not just those who have advanced sufficiently along the developmental path as to be able to exercise their capacities for characteristically human mental functions – are intrinsically valuable.

    Since human beings are intrinsically valuable and deserving of full moral respect in virtue of what they are, it follows that they are intrinsically valuable from the point at which they come into being. Even in the embryonic stage of our lives, each of us was a human being and, as such, worthy of concern and protection. Embryonic human beings, whether brought into existence by union of gametes, SCNT, or other cloning technologies, should be accorded the status of inviolability recognized for human beings in other developmental stages.
(Although this excerpt is lengthy, it is still only an excerpt, and I would recommend that the rest of George's statement be read.)

This argument clearly demonstrates that the human embryo is a human being, and it does so without reference to religious dogma or authority.

In numerous dialogues (my own and others') with abortion rights supporters, I've yet to see this argument refuted.
Questions for Kerry

George Will has some questions for John Kerry.

I'm sure that George isn't expecting answers anytime soon.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Rod Dreher asks a good question:
    What I don't get is this: why was it wrong for Judge Roy Moore of Alabama to unilaterally declare federal law wrong, and defy it by installing a Ten Commandments monument in a courthouse rotunda ... but it's okay for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to unilaterally declare state law wrong in prohibiting same-sex marriage, and defy it by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples? I mean, I know why the media was outraged by the former episode of grandstanding and not the latter, but as a legal matter, what's the difference?
A friend asked the same thing in a phone conversation just last night.

I suppose the answer has something to do with the fact that the SF mayor is just obviously doing the right thing, while Moore was just obviously doing the wrong thing. (BTW, I disagreed with Moore, as I blogged at the time; but Dreher's point remains a valid one.)

Friday, February 13, 2004

Reason alone

It has been claimed that in my discussions with progressives (whether secular or religious), I appeal entirely to the authority of religous doctrine.

For anyone who thinks this, I'd urge you to read the discussions I have with those with whom I disagree; if you do so, you'll find that I never appeal to Scripture or religious dogma to make my point, but to reason alone. It makes absolutely no sense to quote the Bible to someone who doesn't believe it is inspired, and I know that... that's why I don't appeal to it! Same with those who do not believe that the Catholic Church's claims about itself are true.

For example, look at the post from last week on the need for intellectual discussion, and the comments thread I referenced therein: in my discussion of abortion with J. Collins Fisher, I never appeal to Scripture or dogma to make my point... I only use reason.

To charge that I use arguments from religious authority may be easier--it allows me to be lumped in with people who do make such arguments--but it doesn't reflect reality.

The key point is this: it is precisely because I appeal only to reason that dialogue is possible; if my arguments were based on references to the bible and dogma, there would be no way to discuss with those who do not accept either. But since my appeals are to reason, dialogue is possible.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Cafeteria Catholicism

One of my frustrations in discussions with progressive Catholics is their tendency to discard truths (especially of a sexual nature) which they disagree with. Other Catholics certainly may tend to do the same thing with other teachings, but this particular Catholic (me) accepts every teaching of the Church, because of Jesus' promise that the Church would not fail.

For instance, one progressive Catholic blogger recently wrote the following:
    I mentioned a couple of days ago that most of the arguments made by the Christian Right against equal rights for our GLBT citizens are scripturally based (the Catholic Church's objections are based in the "natural law" tradition, and have to do with a religious anthropology of sexuality as being licit only when it is open to procreation--I'll deal with the weaknesses of that argument at another time) and, as such, are open to opposition on scriptural basis.
This blogger obviously disagrees with the Church's teaching on homosexuality and marriage.

Another progressive Catholic blogger said the following in a comments box:
    Apply all this to discussions of the Nicene Creed. Is it, or should it be, a gold standard of belief? No--I take the liberal view there. But should it be dismissed for any and all limitations it has and/or is perceived to have? No--I take a stance defending the Catholic Church on that score.
I know the good heart of this blogger, but such a statement saddens me: the Nicene Creed was the standard by which one was judged to be a right-thinking Christian in the fourth century; if you couldn't recite the Nicene Creed, you didn't believe as Christians believe, it's that simple. To deny it as a "gold standard" is to deny a defining statement for Christians.

There are all sorts of motivations for such actions... some good, some not. But whatever the reason, there is no rational basis for a Catholic to deny church teaching, whether it be a moral teaching or a credal statement. To be Catholic means many things, but one thing it means it to recognize the authority of the Magisterium in matters of faith and morals, and it disappoints me to see charitable and intelligent people disregard the gift which is the Magisterium in such a manner.
Being pastoral

I've encountered too many people who think that being pastoral in effect means emptying a hard truth to make it more palatable.

It does not.

Being pastoral means communicating what is a hard truth in a language which offers the best chance of the truth being accepted by an interlocutor. God certainly knows that I personally too often fail to do this, and I seek His wisdom to prevent such occurrences in the future.

But my failings aside, the reality is that watering down hard truths is in fact detrimental to the well-being of our interlocutor. Why? See the post below for my explanation.
Doctrine, principles, and ideas "versus" People?

As I've sought to engage progressives (secular and Christian) in dialogue over the past several months, I've realized that many (certainly not all) progressives have the idea that conservatives elevate doctrine and/or ideas over people. That is, conservatives are more concerned with right ideas than with loving people.

I find this to be a very vexing proposal, almost to the point of incredulity. There simply is no conflict between right and true doctrine and (love for) people. Why? For a very simple reason: to say that something is true (whether it be religious, philosophical, or otherwise) means that it tells us something about reality. Thus, truths which refer to questions of human morality indicate what is true about being and living as a human. Truths which are theological indicate what is true about God and His plan of salvation for humanity. And so on.

As such, there can simply be no conflict between true doctrine/ideas and love of people, and to suggest otherwise is mistaken.

Now, it's possible that a doctrine or idea might be wrong, and in that case, there is most definitely a conflict between that proposition and loving people. But to arrive at such a judgment, the idea needs to be discussed first. And that is precisely what I'm attempting to do in my discussions which progressives.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Church and State

In light of the controversy surrounding Archbishop Burke's decision while in La Crosse, Wisconsin to deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, I'd highly recommend this article by Profs. Robert P. George and Gerard Bradley. They handle the separation of church & state issue very deftly.
Civics lesson

Jeff Miller reminds us of the three branches of government: judiciary, judiciary. and judiciary. And he also explains the difference between a judge and a dictator.

He's writing, of course, in response to the Massachusetts Supreme Court's "clarification" that basically, only marriage will suffice for granting gays full legal rights.

And as Kevin Miller notes, "if you can have 'gay marriage,' you can have polygamy. There's just no good argument that admits the one but excludes the other." Exactly. As I've noted before, I've tried to get my progressive Christian blogpals to articulate a reason (as opposed to an assertion) why sexual relationships require exclusivity, to no avail. I'm sure some folks would reject Kevin's statement, but what reason would they advance to do so?
Need a speaker?

Attention Diocesan and Parish DRE's, etc.: if you'd like to have a solid and entertaining speaker come to your parish or diocese, might I recommend Mark Shea? Mark was in the Diocese of Sioux Falls and appeared at six parishes, giving a different talk at each, and in every case, I heard excellent reviews, and requests to have him back, to which I guess I'll acquiesce. ;-)

So, visit Mark's blog and his website, and if you like what you find, contact him for a speaking gig!
The need for Intellectual discussion

The reason I've been posting less of late is that I've been engaging some fellow Christians on topics on which we disagree. Specifically, they've been progressive Christians like Allen Brill, Matt Zemek, and J. Collins Fisher.

J. and I have been engaged in a cordial discussion of late on a wide range of issues, from abortion to papal supremacy viz. one's conscience.

J. recently decided that it was time to abandon the thread and move on, which is understandable. What disappointed and surprised me, however, was her reasons for doing so. In her final comment, J. stated,
    The problem w/ trying to have an intellectual discussion of these issues w/ you, ChrisB, is that I'm enabling you to believe that this is about an intellectual discussion. It is not.

    It is about rights. Human rights. God-given rights. *My* rights, and the sentient female-bodied persons who believe as I do (about the autnomy they have over their bodies). Queer people, who want to celebrate their God-given queerness, in the public square, and in the Church.


    This site is about being "In the World, Not of the World": in *my* world, w/ the decisions that I actually face, not some functionally meaningless "angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin/"active vs. passive potential" abstraction. [Ed: the final comment refers to the our abortion discussion and the difference between a blastocyst which has the active potential to develop into an adult human and a skin cell which only has the passive potential to do so.]
Here was my response:
    J., I'd urge you to reconsider abandoning this thread, for this reason: if we are unable to articulate a philosophical, reasonable explanation for *why* we have rights and *why* they are unalienable, then they will eventually be denied and taken away; maybe it won't happen today, tomorrow, next year, or in ten years, but it will happen, as it has always happened throughout history.

    I'm sure that given another consideration, you'd recongize that my "abstract" discussion is in fact *fundamental* to guaranteeing *our* rights, not just those of the youngest of human beings. At some point, J., *every* discussion which seeks to present the ultimate basis for who we are and what we are entitled to and obliged to do will become "abstract". An intellectual discussion thus is *necessary*.

    How does your argument not become a shouting match about what is and is not right? To simply assert that X is a God-given right and leave it at that is not an argument, J., and you know it. It's something which is typically expected of the *other* side of the Christian divide, and I'm disappointed to see you resort to it.

    I mean no offense by this post, J.: we've always had serious discussions in which the issues are discussed thoughtfully, and I'm saddened to see that you have no interest in continuing that in this instance.
I hope that J. is willing to re-engage the discussion, because her final comment is, frankly, dangerous, or more precisely, it is indicative of a position which has important ramifications for public discourse in our nation. If we are unable to have intellectual discussions in which we get to the metaphysical heart(s) of the issues which divide us, what is our alternative?