Monday, November 15, 2004


The folks at The Village Gate want to help America "move past its adolescence" (meaning, of course, those "adolescents" who reelected the President, i.e. narrow-minded judgmental bigots like myself).

I propose that we help help the left move past its college freshmenness. You know how college freshman can be... they take a philosophy 101 or liberal arts core class, and suddenly they know what's best, how to solve the world's problems, and how their elders are backward thinkers.

This behavioral status has been manifested of late in the diatribes by various left-leaning folk against the Red State Morons (as they would have it).

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Justice, Rights, and the Culture War

In the aftermath of the election, I've been reading a number of liberal blogs -- Christian and secular -- to see how things are going. I've mentioned some of what I've seen previously, in other posts. Here I want to begin a discussion about another complaint I see being made: oppression.

If you read blogs (political ones in particular), you will have seen that the "moral values" issue was the major topic of discussion for most of the past week, in light of the fact that some 22% of voters pegged that as their number one issue in voting, and some 80% of them went for Bush. Quite a few bloggers (here, predominantly on the left) connected that with the same-sex marriage issue. The argument goes like this: Bush (or rather, Rove) made sure that constitutional amendments on marriage were on the ballots in a number of states (eleven, to be precise), betting that this culture war issue would result in a huge turnout of evangelical Christians, who would also vote for Bush; and he was right.

Now, although this argument was very popular late last week, many bloggers and pundits didn't accept it, including yours truly... to me, "moral values" refers first to the life issues, than to other things. A number of commentators made similar arguments, and over the last four or five days, the previous argument has waned in popularity.

Nonetheless, a number of liberals still think that Bush won this election thanks -- essentially -- to all the homophobes in the red states who have empowered the President to continue to deny them basic civil rights, i.e. the right to marry their same-sex partners. Bush et al -- the assertions go -- are oppressing gays & lesbians; they are denying them their civil right to marry; they are unjustly discriminating against them.

Here's the thing: it's easy to assert that one's rights are being denied. But in the face of opposition -- and especially when your position constitutes a radical departure from the past -- you also need to demonstrate that you actually possess the right that's allegedly being denied.

Let me put it another way. I think those who cry "discrimination!" when the government refuses to marry them have an insufficient understanding of justice. Justice is (classically) defined as giving someone what they are due. But the very point of the same-sex marriage controversy lies in the last four words: "what they are due". Is it due to someone that they may marry someone of the same sex? If so, what is the rational argument in defense of that claim? Thus far, I have never seen these questions addressed. I see plenty of people (gay & straight) saying that it's unjust to disallow gay marriages, but I've yet to see a rational demonstration of the right to marry someone of the same sex.

I'm sure that proponents of same sex marriage are mystified and dumbfounded by this line of argument. After all, why can't gays & lesbians marry? Their right to marry is, well, self-evident, and the only reason people like me can't see that is because we either hate, fear, or don't understand gays & lesbians.

I'm sorry, but that won't cut it.

There is a rational basis for every right we possess, and hence there is a rational argument which can be made to set forth any particular right, in every case.

Again, I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of justice at work here. To help illustrate this, I'd like to quote from the document, "Family, Marriage and 'De facto' Unions" issued in 2000 by the Pontifical Council for the Family:
    (10) Equality before the law must respect the principle of justice which means treating equals equally, and what is different differently: i.e., to give each one his due in justice.This principle of justice would be violated if de facto unions were given a juridical treatment similar or equivalent to the family based on marriage. If the family based on marriage and de facto unions are neither similar nor equivalent in their duties, functions and services in society, then they cannot be similar or equivalent in their juridical status.

    The pretext used for exerting pressure to recognize de facto unions (i.e., their “non-discrimination”) implies a real discrimination against the family based on marriage because it would be considered on a level similar to any other form of cohabitation, regardless of whether there is a commitment to reciprocal fidelity and the begetting and up-bringing of children or not. The orientation of some political communities today of discriminating against marriage by attributing an institutional status to de facto unions that is similar, or even equivalent to marriage and the family, is a serious sign of the contemporary breakdown in the social moral conscience, of “weak thought” with regard to the common good, when it is not a real and proper ideological imposition exerted by influential pressure groups.
Now, the Council is referring here to de facto unions in general and not to same-sex unions in particular, but the point is the same: justice involves treating equals equally, and unequals unequally, and same-sex unions and marriages between man and woman simply are not equals. Why? Because the former are not ordered to the procreation and education of children, while the latter are, even if the couple doesn't have any children.

If same sex unions are going to be equated with marriages between a man and a woman, someone must at least attempt to argue that there is a right to marry someone of the same sex. I haven't seen that yet.

Now, before I get flamed, I want to make something perfectly clear: I don't hate or fear gays and lesbians. Yes, I do know homosexuals. This has nothing to do with denying anybody their rights, but is all about recognizing the natural order of marriage and the family. If you want to disagree with me, fine. But don't do so by merely accusing me of bigotry and discrimination; instead, make your case. Show me how marriage is open to same sex unions. And when you do so, know that my first question will be this: if it's unjust to deny marriage to gays and lesbians, why isn't it unjust to deny marriage to more than two people? So make sure that your argument takes that into account.

Again, this isn't about hatred or fear. It's about recognizing how we are created and what the natural order of the family is meant to be. In other words, it's how we are all meant to find fulfillment and true, lasting happiness.

More on the justice thing to come.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Is this guy on to something?

Andrew, the Backseat Philosopher, is a Democrat. Today he penned a post entitled, "To My Fellow Democrats". The post opens as follows:

    We Democrats are supposedly the party of the therapists, the teachers, and the 'relationship experts.' If anybody would be proud of the title, 'active listener', it would be a Democrat. We're the soft ones who understand where the other side is coming from and negotiate.

    Many Democrats think that our patience and understanding are our weakness. "We don't know how to fight like the Republicans," we all told ourselves after Florida 2000. "We have to be more like them: tougher, meaner." "We have to energize our base more."

    Actually, no. Our error is that we Democrats are far less understanding than we think we are. Our version of understanding the other side is to look at them from a psychological point of view while being completely unwilling to take their arguments seriously. "Well, he can't help himself, he's a right-wing religious zealot, so of course he's going to think like that." "Republicans who never served in war are hypocrites to send young men to die. " "Republicans are homophobes, probably because they can't deal with their secret desires." Anything but actually listening and responding to the arguments being made.

    And when I say 'responding,' I don't just mean 'coming up with the best counterargument and pushing it.' Sometimes responding to an argument means finding the merit in it and possibly changing one's position. That is part of growth, right?

I think he's on to something, but I'll let me Democratic family and friends let me know.

I honestly believe that what is needed in politics today is an attempt to crawl inside the other side's head and try to understand where they're coming from; to attempt to construct the best possible argument for an opposing viewpoint, not merely to debunk it, but to understand where the other guy is coming from.

Now, you always won't be successful in the attempt. It was precisely my inability to understand John Kerry on abortion & embryonic stem cell research that led me to conclusions which provoked angry responses. I simply saw no rational basis for his position, and it angered me.

But I really believe that we need to do more to try to understand one another. What that requires, though, is a real grappling with issues, and it's honestly something I've had a hard time doing lately with many of those who disagree with me. That's one reason that led me to stop commenting at The Village Gate/The Right Christians... I simply felt that my ideas were never engaged by those who disagreed with them. Rather than reason and interact with my ideas, they attacked me. And I've seen the same thing happen in reverse.

Nonetheless, I still think that we (me included) need to do more to make this attempt.

I hope this is just post-election hysteria

I've seen way too many liberals responding to the election as if George Bush is about to install a theocracy (for example, see these comments, and many of the posts here).

What this tells me is that people who believe this simply have no idea who people like me are. Somehow, conservative Christian is equated with Pat Robertson. Now, Pat and I might share some common views, but he definitely does not reflect my theology nor how my theology impacts my politics. I have absolutely zero interest in a theocracy, and I know that the vast majority of people who think like me are in the same boat.

The "moral values" people who gave Bush the election aren't interested in theocracy... they're just interested in human rights (in the case of abortion) and maintaining the traditional family structure (in the case of same-sex marriage). Neither of these require the imposition of a religious viewpoint, meaning that they can be understood through reason alone. That they aren't is sometimes the fault of those making the argument, and sometimes the fault of those hearing it. Either way, we don't need to replace the Constitution with the Bible or the Catechism to make the pro-life and pro-family case. For whatever reason (and the fault is sometimes our own), that's not typically understood by those who disagree with those views.

There is no theocracy coming. Hopefully, just a better recognition of human dignity and the nature of the human family.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


It's with a sense of relief, gratitude, and -- most of all -- excitement that I write this post. 24 hours ago, my mood was much different, as I was still absorbing the first round of exit poll data (get rid of 'em, I say!).

But today, I am pleased to see a Bush re-election (over 50% of the popular vote, not done by a Presidential candidate since 1988!), a Daschle loss (his first ever!), the passage of marriage amendments in all eleven states were they were on the ballot, and data showing that "moral values" were the issue that won this election for the President.

There's a lot for me to comment on, some in looking back, some in looking forward, and I plan to do so over the next few days. Possible topics include: my level of anger toward Kerry as the election approached; my nearly-exclusive focus on life issues (abortion & embryonic stem cell research); the goofy behavior of the networks in (not) calling states last night (did you know that Kerry's margin of victory was smaller in PA than was Bush's in OH?); the (signficant) work which remains to improve the Republican party and its platform; on the (im?)possibility of bridging the gap between conservatives and liberals through reasoned discourse; and more on the importance of one's understanding of faith and morality viz. politics, and how that understanding itself bears on political matters.

Stay tuned.

And, watch as this blog returns to issues of a more theological nature.