Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Legislating Morality (part 3)

If you object to legislating morality, you could not, for that very reason, raise any effective moral objection to execution as a punishment for jaywalking, or decapitation for tax evasion or speeding.  Your objection to such penal atrocities and to the laws that permit or require them is a moral objection, which you say ought to be banished from law.
         Because law is not a substitute for parental authority, but is a complement to it, one must not argue (as some do) that moral education is the function of parents only and not therefore of the state.  Because parents teach morality does not mean that law does not or must not.  Parents and law share at least this:  They function inescapably as moral educators, whether for good or evil.  In cases where parents fail to perform this task wisely or well -- a not uncommon occurrence -- law must function in this capacity all the more.  Similarly, the fact that morality is meant to be implemented by individuals does not mean that there must be no public morality, no civil, social or legal standards of conduct, as if because morality has a personal dimension, it can have no social or political dimension, or as if the existence of personal morality meant that there ought to be no public morality. 
         But the case for morals-based law rests on a wider and more profound basis than the internal contradictions of those who oppose legislating morality and the impossibility of doing as they insist.  Those who wish to banish ethical considerations from legal affairs forget that civilizations are not founded on considerations of mere personal comfort and pleasure, or on science and technology, or even on self-gratification and self-preservation, but on virtue -- both public and private.  The good society, in other words, depends for its preservation and well-being on the character of its people, on the virtues that accompany, perhaps even define, good citizenship.  Only on the foundation of courage, of self-control and self-denial can a good society be founded, protected, and continued.  But these civic virtues are not natural to us.  We are not born into the world as good and competent citizens.  The civic virtues and public responsibilities that define good citizenship must be acquired; they must be learned.  In that sense, we all enter this world unequipped by natural endowment for effective citizenship and for self-government, which is why one of the oldest political insights available to us is that which insists that we are always only one generation from barbarism, that every newly-born generation needs to be civilized, or culturally housebroken, as it were.  Those necessary but unnatural social skills and civic virtues require nurture and guidance for their growth, even for their existence.  Consequently, moral education is a prerequisite for a sound and flourishing civil society.  This moral nurture, this aid to character formation, the laws of a nation help to provide by setting before the citizenry examples of acceptable behavior and incentives toward adopting that behavior as one’s own.  But law divorced from morality, law that poses as morally agnostic, cannot accomplish that task.  Instead, morally-evacuated law teaches the citizens that moral conduct is not necessary, either for their own happiness or for the establishment and continuation of a good society and civil order. 
         In short, the rule of law is necessary to a civil society, and a just rule of law requires adherence to a strict moral code.  Perhaps an analogy will serve to clarify the point:  Computer programmers often employ the acronym “gigo,” derived from the first letter of the words “garbage in, garbage out,” a phrase warning those programmers that no bad program yields good results.  You get back from the computer results that reflect the worth of the program it employs.  Farmers likewise understand that you could not reasonably expect to gather a harvest of corn from a field planted in beans.  You reap what you sow; you harvest what you plant -- a principle that applies to law and to culture as well as to farmers and programmers.  Only a legal code counseled by virtue and rooted in goodness can yield civil justice.  Justice is not the harvest of a legal system into which it was never planted.  Moral outcomes are not to be expected from a legal system into which it was never programmed, never cultivated.  Except by the happiest of chances, moral results -- in other words, just results -- do not grow from the legal field in which those seeds were never planted.  If you neglect to plant morality in the legal code, you must not expect to harvest it in court, or in the character of those citizens whose moral nurture is shaped partly by the laws of the society in which they are raised.
         One of the most the distressing facts about us today, therefore, is that we are now undergoing a deliberate deflation of traditional American ideals and values, both in the culture in general and in the law in particular.  We are enduring what Gertrude Himmelfarb called the de-moralization of society, or what George Will described as the slow-motion barbarization of America, in the wake of which politics and life have become impoverished, coarsened and tawdry.  This disaster we deliberately and foolishly inflict upon ourselves by insisting, in the face of history and of clear thinking, that we ought not legislate morality, and that governing and government have no effect upon the character of the nation and the persons who constitute it.
         Given the penchant we all have for self-seeking and for personal satisfaction, things for which we are sometimes sorely tempted to sacrifice almost anything, in our moments of honest self-reflection we know that we would alter both the government and the law to suit our whims and desires, however perverted they might be, had we the opportunity to do so.  Only enforceable laws based on unchanging morality can obviate this threat.  Civil society requires morality from its legal code for its very existence and continuance because our natural character does not suffice to constrain us.  We must never forget what thinkers as divergent as Burke and Rousseau knew:  The act of establishing a civil society is identical with that of establishing a binding morality, something a morally agnostic legal code is impotent to produce.
         Government does not exist simply to make possible whatever delights and advantages its citizens might happen to prefer at any given moment, whether privately or collectively.  If some types of pleasure are better and more socially and morally suitable than others, then one of the purposes of government is to help educate the citizenry to pursue the higher pleasures rather than their lower or more base alternatives.  Moral education, one of the functions of law, helps make those right thinking and right choosing citizens -- and the culture they desire and seek to preserve -- more likely.  Good societies, in other words, depend for their existence upon good and decent people.  Good and decent people do not simply happen.  They are nurtured, and one institution that helps to nurture them best is well-formed, morally-responsible law.  Public institutions, like law and law enforcement, need to be concerned with the bridling of egoistic motives and actions.  If they are not, something worse than chaos ensues, namely cultural perversity and moral decay.
         Put differently, political questions are moral questions.  Every government asks and answers, whether knowingly or not, “What things in life are worth having and preserving, and at what price to the nation, to the community, to the people?”  Public policy issues are simply the political and economic application in the present of the enduring moral questions.  In the public square and in the marketplace, our public policies are our appropriation of, and approximation of, the permanent things.  To form wise public policy, and the system of laws under which it is best pursued and applied, requires not a flight from morality, but a resort to it, a resort to prudence, which is by no means the same thing as a legally encoded moral agnosticism. 
         Law and morality share this burden:  Both serve the function of governor -- morality for those with self-control and self-restraint, law for those without it.  That is, morality and law are like the two banks of a river, the river in this case being human action and the passions and desires that drive it.  The banks of a river run roughly parallel: Where one turns left or right the other tends to do the same. If they did not, the river would become a swamp -- putrid, fetid and stagnant.  Law and morality, like the banks of a river, ought to move in roughly the same direction in order to help curb the defects in human nature.  If they do not, human action and human society quickly become a swamp, a morass of polymorphic perversity, something that always occurs in the absence of public virtue and the enforceable law that upholds and nurtures it.  To protect us from the moral and cultural swamp that threatens to engulf us, law must take its cue from morality.
         Well-framed law helps us make the best use of our freedom by teaching us to avoid both excess and deficiency.  Without the pedagogy of law, we are deprived of one of our best and potentially wisest instructors and are thereby vastly impoverished, both individually and corporately.  Those who are frightened by the moral pedagogy of law seem not to understand that human beings can be oppressed by an excess of freedom, which is another name for licentiousness.  Good law leaves room for liberty, not for license.  Good law helps curb human excess, while morality helps curb the law.  What a bridle is to the horse, law is to human nature.  And what law is to human nature, morality is to law.  Law helps regulate the people; morality helps regulate the law.  In that light, some of those who object to morals-based law seem not to appreciate the great cultural and moral value of shame, of guilt, and of the proper fear of just punishment.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Legislating Morality (Part 2)

When it comes to prohibiting sexual harassment or sexual discrimination in the marketplace, feminists do not complain that the proposed legislation attempts to enshrine morality in the civil or penal code, even though it most definitely does.  No serious feminist has ever sought to undo or to oppose such legislation because it was based upon a system of morals.  They complain about legislating morality only when it comes to outlawing abortion.  They object to legislating morality only when the morality in question is one from which they dissent.  When the law in question encodes a morality they support, their objection to morals-driven law disappears.
            By the same token, when a civil rights leader supports affirmative action laws and opposes the Jim Crow legislation of the old South, both that leader’s support and opposition are based upon the moral judgment that all persons are created equal and ought therefore to be treated equally under the law.  That civil rights leader cannot then turn around and say to someone else, pro-life advocates for instance, that they are imposing their morality on others because the pro-life advocates are doing exactly what the civil rights advocate is doing, and on precisely the same basis, namely upholding the dignity and worth of every human being.  Like the civil rights advocate, the pro-life advocates are affirming the obligation of a just nation to insure that all persons enjoy equal protection under the law.
            Sometimes those who resist legislating morality do so not because they object to the morality being legislated, but because they value freedom and wish to defend it.  They seem not to understand, however, that their allegedly morals-free proposals will be the death of the freedom they value, not its protection.  Without the guidance and constraint of morally-informed law, liberty degenerates into mere license, which is not the same as political freedom.  One simply cannot reject moral authority and yet live in an orderly world.  When you banish morality from the public square, you give birth to an outlaw culture, not to freedom.  To live outside the moral law, to live without the wisdom of the ages and of God, is to court slavery and death.  Because human nature is what it is, without great volumes of enforceable law political freedom is short-lived, and finally impossible.  Indeed, without great volumes of enforceable law chaos -- not freedom -- always results.  Authentic political freedom, if it is to remain true to itself and avoid the excesses of license, must be exercised according to the dictates of truth and virtue, never the other way round.  Freedom must be limited by the demands of justice, of morality.  The most important consideration regarding any action is not “Is it free?” but “Is it good?”
            Make no mistake, legislating morality is not only inescapable, it works.  The proof that laws change behavior is widely known and not far to find:  Almost no one in the South today argues that slavery is moral, even though many of their grandparents and great-grandparents thought it was and, as a result, owned other human beings as property.  What stands between today’s southern Americans and their slave-owning ancestors is morals-based law, specifically the thirteenth amendment and the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s and later, all of which helped radically to reshape the behavior and beliefs of those who grew up in their wake.  Similarly, before prohibition the average annual consumption of alcohol in America was nearly three gallons per person.  After prohibition that number fell to slightly less than one gallon.  In fact, alcohol consumption did not return to pre-prohibition levels in America for nearly forty years.  By the same token, before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, about 100,000 abortions were performed in the US annually.  After Roe v. Wade, however, the number rose to between 1.2 and 1.5 million a year.  In short, whether the laws in question are good or bad, law has an effect.  The morality in the law, whatever it might be, tends to become the morality of the people.   Law is always a tutor to morals and a shaper of national character, both for good and ill.
            To digress:  While legislating morality is an inevitability, I am not saying anything so silly as that all sins ought to be made crimes.  No government could effectively enforce laws against lustful thoughts, gluttony, or so-called white lies, even though such activities are sinful.  And if somehow the impossibility of enforcing such laws were overcome, the immediate result would not be less lust, for instance, but rather the overcrowding of penal facilities on an unimaginable scale.
          Back to the point:  When people object to legislating morality, they fail to recognize or to remember that their own understanding of morality is the impulse behind the laws they themselves propose and defend.  It is also the impulse behind their opposition to other laws.  Yet, despite their inescapable dependence upon their own moral code when designing, proposing or opposing laws, they seek to deny that same moral impulse to others who wish to be heard, who wish to have their own ideas taken seriously, who wish to have their own beliefs and values prevail.  But you must not withhold from others in the public square what you wish to make use of yourself.  If you would banish the moral basis of the laws proposed by your political opponents, you must banish it from your own.  But no one does and no one can.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Legislating Morality

The constant or determined repetition of an error does not make it true.  Errors are errors regardless of either their prevalence or the persistence of those who advance them.  Indeed, given the egregious foolishness of some of our most widespread beliefs in the recent past, the great popularity or predominance of a notion sometimes is enough to raise suspicions about its truthfulness.  We moderns too eagerly and too often live our lives on the basis of insupportable, indefensible, half-true truisms that cannot stand up to close analysis.  The assertion that you cannot legislate morality is just such a notion.  No matter how often one hears that you cannot legislate morality, the truth is that you can legislate nothing else. 
         All laws, whether prescriptive or prohibitive, legislate morality.  All laws, regardless of their content or their intent, arise from a system of values, from a belief that some things are right and others wrong, that some things are good and others bad, that some things are better and others worse.  In the formulation and enforcement of law, the question is never whether or not morality will be legislated, but which one.   That question is fundamentally important because not all systems of morality are created equal.  Some are wise, others foolish.  Few are still in their first incarnation, nearly all having been enshrined as law at some time or place, often with predictable results.  For better or worse, every piece of legislation touches directly or indirectly on moral issues, or is based on moral judgments and evaluations concerning what it is we want or ought to be, what it is we want or ought to produce and preserve.  
         When, for example, the founding fathers drafted our original Constitution, they did so on the basis of competing belief systems, on the basis of competing assertions of right and wrong, which they endeavored to build into the Constitution.  One or more of those belief systems permitted slavery, others did not.  No side in the slavery debate at the Constitutional convention argued that you could not legislate morality.  That notion they all recognized as balderdash.  They knew that indeed you could legislate morality, and they intended for that legislated morality to be theirs. 
         Nor did any side in the struggle to legislate morality at our nation’s founding say to its opponents that trying to legislate morality was a breach of the wall of separation between church and state.  Morality, after all, is not a church.  They would have laughed at the confusion of mind revealed in one who thought that separating church from state meant separating morality from law.  They wanted the nation to be moral.  They wanted its laws to be just.  But they did not want to give any one church a national legal advantage over the others.  They did not want the nation to be Presbyterian, Baptist or Roman Catholic, which is a far different issue from whether or not to have ethics-driven law.  Under the Constitution the founders drafted, all persons are free to follow and to worship God.  The founders enshrined freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.  In seeking to avoid a state-established church, they were not thereby establishing secularism or separating law from morality.
         More fundamentally, the very fact that the founders were creating a new Constitution for their fledgling nation arose from the fact that they understood the actions of King George to be morally evil, to be politically unjust.  They all knew quite well that morality belonged in politics, in fact that politics was simply morality applied to the public square, to the public’s business.
         The founders sought to establish what they called an “ordered liberty.”  The order they sought was provided in part by the morality they intended to enshrine in law.  By seeking ordered liberty, the founders were not seeking anything new or unprecedented in political thought or in political history.  They well knew from reading the ancient works of Aristotle, for example, that morality encoded in civil law helped to provide order because law inescapably has a teaching function, or pedagogical effect:  Law teaches the citizens what is right and good, and it punishes those who cannot or will not learn that lesson, or at least act as if they had.
         To make the point from a different angle, when we pass laws that require drivers to drive their vehicles at 20 mph or less in school zones, we do so because we have a value system that rightly puts greater worth in human life than in vehicular speed.  That valuation is a moral judgment.  That moral valuation we properly and wisely seek to translate into binding and enforceable law.  We propose and pass such laws because we think it wrong for drivers recklessly to endanger the lives of defenseless children, who lack the experience, foresight and physical dexterity to keep themselves out of harm’s way on the streets.  Drivers who do not do as the law requires, we punish.  No one, in the face of such proposed legislation, says to the local authorities that those authorities have no right to impose their morality on others, even though that is precisely what such laws do.  Much less does anyone seriously argue that to propose such values-laden laws is an effort to tear down the wall of separation between church and state.
         Those objections are not raised because the laws in question are laws with which all serious-minded citizens are in agreement.  That these laws are morals-based, or values-driven, creates no problem for those who find the laws agreeable.  Rather, people tend to complain that laws are morals-based only when the law in question is based upon a moral valuation with which they disagree.  But to be consistent, those who object to morals-based laws would have to raise the same objection to all laws whatever, including the laws they support.  But they do not.  They never do.  When their own morals are encoded in law, they raise not even the faintest whimper of protest.  Yet when laws are passed that they dislike, they say almost nothing else.  They seem to want a sword that will cut only others, never themselves.  But any sword of objection sharp enough to cut Jack is sharp enough to cut John as well, even though John might not like it.
         Legislating morality, in other words, is not an option; it is a necessity, an inevitability.  Justice, equity, fairness -- those characteristics that all thoughtful citizens want from their government and upon which they think government and its laws ought to be predicated -- these are all moral categories.  We outlawed slavery, theft, murder, fraud, deceit, rape, etc., precisely becausethey are immoral and we wanted them stopped, or at least radically curtailed.  We proposed, passed and enforced these morals-based laws specifically toward that end, and in so doing we were right.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Verbal Plunder: Against the Feminist Encroachment on Language, Theology and Ethics

      I don't like being ripped off.
      The  more valuable something is to me, the more I hate to lose it.  As a historian of theology and as a literary critic, I value words and their meaning and I value tradition.  I won't give them up without a fight.  If some folks want to steal something from me and I can stop them, I will.  This essay is my way of saying that I’ve had enough, and I’m not going to take it anymore.
       Not long ago, a small and vocal band of feminist thugs tried to pull off one of the greatest acts of verbal plunder in the history of the Western world.  By means of a linguistic subterfuge that prohibited any term that happened to strike them as sexist, they tried to abscond not only with 1/3 of all our generic personal and possessive pronouns (No more “he” and “his,” for example.), they also tried to swipe any and every descriptive term beginning with the letters m-a-n.  And, because crime breeds crime, they fell quickly from larceny into slander by identifying as sexual bigots and chauvinists anyone, past or present, who failed to pay homage to their idiosyncratic rules of usage.  As much as I hate to endorse anything to do with Freudianism, it seems to me that some feminists suffer from acute pronoun envy.
     But I will not be bullied out of my words or my heritage by the verbal, philosophical, or cultural heresies of those who are dedicated to undermining the great tradition that brought us the good, the true, and the beautiful, on the one hand, or redemption and hope, on the other.  I know what that mob of word pirates is up to, and I want to tell them to keep their hands off my legacy and to stop spreading lies about my friends.  Anyone who thinks that Jesus, Dante, Petrarch, Michelangelo, or Milton were sexist pigs simply because they did not speak, write, or paint according to the aberrant rules propounded in the latest feminist manifesto had better think again.  Some people not only have no respect for their own language and tradition, they have none for anyone else's.  They smear those who, in ages past, “spake full well in language quaint and olden,” people whose verbal art and commitment to truth I am unwilling to abandon, condemn, or reshape in some generic mold of feminist design.  I do not trust the minds and methods of feminist teachers who, by means of their anachronistic slurs, bear false witness against the past and its towering figures.  Nor do I want them teaching my children.  I  will not entrust my descendants to those who abuse my ancestors.  Wisdom, beauty and truth are hard won things, the gaining of which took generations.  To overthrow them or to undervalue them simply because those who discovered them do not worship at the altar of one's own linguistic special interest group is both insupportably arrogant and reckless.
     More than 1500 years ago, in his monumental City of God, St. Augustine understood the principles by which modern propagandists operate:  if you want to undercut an opponent's argument, simply compromise his language.  This is done best by stealing your opponent’s words and making them your own.  When you do so, your opponent is forced either to stop and explain what he means every time he uses the words you co-opted, or else to find a whole new set of unfamiliar terms with which to advance his case.  Either option is doomed to failure.  Neither audience attention span nor media sound bites are sufficiently long to accommodate his necessarily lengthy and labyrinthine efforts at re-educating the populace to his newly acquired taxonomy.  By stealing his language, you have stolen the verbal flags and banners around which he can rally people to his cause.  Without those flags and banners he is speechless.  By pilfering his verbal arsenal, you have left him without weapons and without defense.
     That is precisely what the feminist word thieves are trying to do.  They have taken traditionally generic terms of representation like “he,” “his,” and “mankind” and redefined them so that they can be understood only as sexist or gender specific.  In much the same way that weasels suck the contents out of eggs, the feminists suck out all the content of words.  Then they go the weasels one better.  Rather than leaving the empty shell of a word behind them after they have emptied it of its previous meaning, they proceed to refill that mangled word with a definition of their own choosing.  For example, according to one prominent feminist handbook, the “only acceptable non­sexist usage” of the word “man” is in reference to an adult male.  But that is a feminist weasel word, one from which the feminists have sucked out its prior meaning and replaced it with one of their own.  According to my  Webster’s Dictionary, the word “man” is not a male word.  In fact, the concept of maleness does not enter until the third definition.  Contrary to the self-serving assertions of the feminist verbal revolu­tionaries, traditional usage is not ideologically patriarchal in either definition or usage.  For my money, Noah Webster is a far better guide to language than Gloria Steinem, Betty Freidan or Starhawk.  My point (if it is not obvious) is this:  rather than having a command of language, the feminists want to command language.
     Read my lips: I'm not buying it.
     I will defy all those who insist on taking the language and the literature of Western tradition to the verbal veterinarian in order to have them neutered.  Not all changes are progress, and neutered language is one of those changes that is not.  Neutered language is no improvement.  It is not more accurate, more picturesque, more powerful, or more communicative.  Neutered language is not preferable.  None of us is better off because standard word usage has been castrated. 
        Feminists insist on rejecting traditional verbal usage because they think it is exclusivistic and that it leaves out half of humanity -- namely women.  Their response to this imaginary impropriety is to represent the human race in neutered language -- which merely succeeds in eliminating all of us, because human beings are not androgynous, and they are not neuter. 
        If you look carefully, you will discover that much feminist language is not inclusive.   You also will notice that a great deal of feminist language (and the ideology that accompanies it) is not neutral; it is overt feminist sexism.  I don't know about you, but I've had enough of books like Jesus as Mother.  If any change is needed now, it is to have feminist language and literature spayed.  I intend to be a recruiter for, and a front-line warrior in, the resistance movement determined to stave off the feminist encroachment upon legitimate verbal conventions, and I intend to be an environmen­tal activist in the fight against semantic pollution.  I will stridently oppose all those whose verbal fetish is exposing the supposed genitals of standard English.  I, for one, will not be party to the humorless, even unhuman, triumph of Feminist androg­yny, and I will not sanction the willful blindness of those who insist upon seeing only the imaginary sameness of all things, because things that are all the same, whatever else they might be, are not human beings. 
     Have the feminist word bandits never learned that grammatical gender is not the same as sex?  One does not make a sex statement when one calls  the race "man" any more than when one calls a ship or a nation or liberty "she."  Genitalia are not in question.  Sex and grammatical gender must not be equated.  If you insist on equating them when the author you read or the speaker you hear has not, you will misread or mishear.  In that sense, some feminists can misunderstand in seven languages.  Their verbal fetishes make it inevitable.  In their monomaniacal quest to expose the verbal genitals of every great writer, they miss the beauty and truth and power of the world's finest works of verbal art and, in the process, make themselves beggars and complainers at the great feast of language and literature.  Their ill-conceived sexist jingoism does little else than make them whistlers, hecklers, and foot stompers in the rhapsody of words played out for us by the finest verbal performers of all time.  I, for one, am scandalized by their audacious efforts to teach the old Muses new tricks and by the manner in which they pretend to stand in ideological and artistic judgment over them.  Great words and great works judge us, not vice versa.
       As a grammatical category, the concept of gender first reached maturity in ancient Greece, where it seems not to have developed as a reference to sex, but rather as a classification of kind.  Must I remind feminists that while there are only two sexes, Greek has three genders (a distinction of which the Greeks were well aware and heartily endorsed.)?
      Furthermore, the same non-sexual character of grammatical gender is repeated in modern language.  In German, for example, the word for “girl” is grammatically neuter while the word for “turnip” is feminine.  This does not mean that the Germans confuse their women with their vegetables.  Such ideas are laughable to us because when feminist  propaganda is not blaring in our ears we easily understand that grammatical gender is a semantic classification and that a semantic classification is not the same as biological sex.  You must not impose a sexual orientation upon words where one does not exist.  
        If the words "man" and "mankind" were really male words, then it should be the men, not the women, who ought to be offended by the use of allegedly male terms to refer to the race indiscriminately because by employing a masculine word for a generic meaning our culture would be demonstrating that it thinks nothing at all of defacing or erasing maleness.  If generic words really were male words, then masculinity is being defaced everyday by everybody -- and no one seems to object, least of all the feminists.
      The feminist word fetish sometimes reaches ridiculous extremes, as even the feminists themselves have had occasion to acknowledge.  The Nonsexist Wordfinder actually feels compelled to stop and remind its feminist readers that the words “amen,”  “boycott,”  “Manhattan,”  and “menopause” are not sexist words!  I never thought they were; but apparently enough feminists did so to  require such a warning.  
    The feminist verbal agenda is the academic equivalent of an urban renewal project:  it is intended to clean things up and to modernize them, but all it does is to serve as the seedbed for future blight.  The feminist wrecking crews long ago began to demolish the venerable landmarks of language, literature, and theology.  They intend to replace the Victorian richness and character of our language’s architecture with the androgynous homogeneity and boredom of the cinder block, steel, and glass ugliness of endless rows of antiseptic, off-white, cloned cubicles of androgynous language.  They want to replace the hallowed halls of ivy with the long, gray, dimly-lit corridors of an ill-conceived, allegedly gender-neutral taxonomy. These inhospitable corridors they will pervasively and perpetually serenade with a politicized, propa­gandized, amorphous Muzak that permits you to hear all the notes, but never the music.  The feminists intend to level the great books, the great authors, and standard English just as thoroughly as the Allies did Dresden.   The great tragedy is that the feminists have met with so much success and with so little resistance, especially in political affairs and in the affairs of academia.
    We are the victims of a feminist "Newspeak" that is designed not to portray or to depict reality more accurately, more graphically, or more comprehensively, but simply to meet the ideological needs of feminism and to further its own radicalized political agenda.  The unabashed purpose of feminist Newspeak is, to paraphrase George Or­well, not merely to denigrate standard English, but to make the worldview of standard English impossible and, literally, unthinkable.  This is done partly by means of new words, but primarily by means of junking the old words, or by stripping them of their old meanings.  Feminist Newspeak is designed, to paraphrase Orwell again, to diminish the range of human thought and to make it impossible to formulate in one's mind what feminists misrepresent as the moral heresies and injustices of Western tradition.  
You see, because thoughts and words are so intimately interconnected, when someone steals some of your words, they also steal some of your ability to formulate, or to conceive, certain thoughts.  The fewer the number of words from which you have left to choose, the fewer the number of thoughts it is possible for you to think and to express coherently or compellingly.  In the aftermath of the feminist plunder of the English language, anti-feminist arguments and reasons become impossible because the words and thoughts necessary to conceive and to sustain those arguments have all been stolen.  Language control is thought control.  The feminist Newspeakers are trying to induce a culture-wide case of selective amnesia; they want you to forget major portions of the accumulated wisdom of many centuries of Western tradition and of the language in which it was conceived and preserved so that you will more willingly drink deep from the boiling cauldrons of cultural and theological heresy, and of feminist social revolution. 
Make no mistake about it, the feminist word warriors are thought police.  They will confiscate your words -- and your thoughts -- and they will deface those words and thoughts they leave behind.  Feminist Newspeak is not merely a form of ideological censorship, it is verbal plunder and mental vandalism.
That is my first point -- the feminist word warriors have damaged English language and literature.  My second point is that they have done the same thing to theol­ogy and to ethics.    
       They've even kidnapped God Himself and had Him neutered.  The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have been exchanged for God, Jesus, and the Spirit, as if the Son were not God, as if the revelation in Scripture could be altered at will, and as if heresy were a trifle.  They had better re-read St. John and the creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon.  When Christ taught his disciples to pray using the words "Our Father who art in  Heaven" (Matthew 6:9), He was not being an unreconstructed chauvinist simply because He wisely refrained from employing the neutered language of the New Lectionary.  My point here is not merely that Jesus spoke of God as Father, but that He apparently never spoke of Him as anything else -- and that matters.
      Jesus did not merely continue the patriarchal theology of the Old Testament, He widely and deeply intensified it.  In the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, God is almost never actually addressed as “Father.”  He is described as “ Father” only occasionally.  But Jesus himself alone calls God “Father” more than 160 times, and except for the cry of dereliction on the cross, which is a quotation from the Old Testament, Jesus never calls Him anything else.  The feminists, in other words, are fighting with Christ, and they must be made to realize this.  We not only have Christ’s explicit instruction to call God “Father,” we have His constant example.  I remind you that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son reveals Him, and the Son has revealed Him to us as Father.  If you reject that revelation, then, in some profound fashion, you can not know God.  If you reject that revelation, the God you know is somehow other than, and different from, the heavenly Father of Jesus.  As Adolf Harnack observed, Jesus did not make God our Father, He showed us that God is Father.  
     Put differently, in their mad efforts to rid orthodox Trinitarianism of what they mistakenly identify as sexism, feminist theologians have junked the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and replaced them with the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer.  That is, they have replaced divine ontology with function, which is a heresy.  After all, it is not only the Father who creates; it is not only the Son who redeems; and it is not only the Spirit who sustains.  Each of the three divine Persons is intimately involved in each of the three functions arbitrarily singled out here by the feminists as the means of distinguishing and identifying the Persons of the Godhead.  This feminist subterfuge is no more helpful than distinguishing the right fielder, the left fielder, and the center fielder as the one who runs, the one who throws, and the one who catches, respectively.  All outfielders do all things.  To jettison the the three Persons of the Trinity in favor of three arbitrarily selected functions of the Trinity is simply to fall into a new variation of the old Sabellian heresy of modalism, which denied that God is authori­tatively revealed to us as three Persons, but which affirmed instead that God merely fulfills three functions and plays three roles.  It seems to me that to be baptized into the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer is to be baptized into an­other religion, and not into Biblical or historical Christianity.
       But the feminists are not only Sabellians, they are Marcionites.  That is, like Marcion, they too have utterly rejected the authoritative witness of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Like Marcion, the feminists denigrate Yahweh and they despise the picture He gave of Himself  to pious ancient Jews in the Old Testament.  Furthermore, they despise the picture those pious ancient Jews have left of God for us.  The feminists ac­cuse the ancient Jews of doing, indeed severely criticize them for doing, precisely what they themselves unashamedly do:  remake God in their own image.  The feminists reject the God of the Jews because they think He is merely the culture-bound product of a political and sexist agenda.  I reject the God of the feminists for precisely the same reason.
      Winston Churchill is reported to have said that whatever name the Iranians choose to call their country, in English it ought to remain “Persia.”  Likewise, whatever tortured pronouns the feminists invent to refer to God, the good theologian will continue to call Him “He.”
      Feminist theology, I am convinced, is a flight from Biblical reality.  God has made us male and female, not androgynous.  God has made the male of the species not  better, but head.  God has revealed Himself to us as He.  When God became incarnated, He became a man, that is, a male.  That Man is the source and model of the Christian priesthood.  The sexuality of Christ is neither accidental nor incidental.  It is the result of divine choice.  If you don’t like it, argue with God.
      In his excellent The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom pointed out that Western scholars properly criticize the loss of academic integrity among their Soviet counterparts, who seem to revise their textbooks every time a new regime comes to power.  Whenever the academy capitulates to the whims of government or of modern culture, Bloom says, it is the death of learning.  Because theological feminism has merely baptized the gender fixation and egalitarian political agenda of the feminist left, theological feminism is the death of genuinely Biblical learning.   Even though it some­times means not to be, feminist revisionism is anti-Scripture.  Too many feminist the­ologians believe that when the Church listens to the Bible the Church becomes de­formed, not reformed.  They are wrong.  The feminist theologians have yet to learn that it is far better to listen to the Heilege Geist than to the Zeitgeist, that is, to the Holy Spirit of God than to the spirit of the age. 
        But it is not revelation that the feminist theologians crave; it is relevance.  They have not understood that all that is revelation is inescapably relevant, but that being relevant is no guarantee of being revelation.  The feminist theologians have never learned that to go with the spirit of the age is to go where all ages go and have gone:  out of vogue and into a well deserved obscurity in the irretrievable past.  They have never learned that to go with the God of revelation is to go where God Himself goes; and God Himself is never out of date.  As Vance Havner once said, God is the Eternal Contemporary.  Whenever our tomorrows arrive, we will always discover that God Himself has been there before us.
      Theological feminism is simply an accommodation to the spirit of the age, not to the core, not to the kernel, of revelation.  It finds its authority in something called “feminist experience,” and not in Scripture.
      The feminists' linguistic lobby, however, has exercised some discretion.  Although they have stormed the Bastille of language and literature, and although they have laid siege to the Gates of Heaven and kidnapped its Chief Occupant, they have not yet had the nerve to bombard the walls of Hell in order to claim its king as their own.  It's funny how calling the Devil “he” doesn't bother the feminists.  It doesn't strike them as chauvinistic or sexually bigoted to personify evil in precisely the same language they elsewhere label sexist when used to personify goodness.  Nor do they complain on behalf of all little boys everywhere about how psychologically devastat­ing it must be for males to think of evil itself as one of their own kind.  Apparently, pronouns are sexist only if they can be construed as anti-feminist.
           But make no mistake about it, the feminist encroachment on the language of religion and morality is no mere tempest in an academic teacup.  It is far more than the harmless verbal jousting  between grammarians and theologians, on the one side, and women’s libbers, on the other.  It is - - and I do mean this literally - - a matter of life and death.
That is because language is a deadly weapon.
          In the hands of a skilled wordsmith, language can sensitize peoples' consciences to injustice and motivate them to heroic virtue and reform.  In the hands of a propagandist, however, it can be the verbal camouflage that hides some wildly hor­rific crime behind apparent respectability.  When the Nazis, for example, resorted to genocidal barbarism in their quest for a "purer" race and nation, they called on their word warriors to help them cloak their wickedness in the language of decency in order to make the unspeakable speakable.  Dachau and Buchenwald were painted with the brush of inoffensive clinical jargon.  "We have merely implemented," the Nazis said, "the final solution."
     Their word ploy was largely and tragically effective.  Rather than stating the facts plainly and thereby forcing the German people to face the unimaginable horror around them and to risk life and family to eradicate it, the Nazi’s verbal subterfuge provided a respectable wall of words behind which to hide their grotesque villainy.  Who, after all, can be opposed to a "purer" nation or to a "solution"?
     I can.
     Whereas great evils are often disguised by clinical language, accurate words call the ghosts out of the closet.  That is why we must learn to call things by their real names.  That is why we must beware of every feminist euphemism.
       But, even now, decades after Hitler, we fail to speak plainly.  We have succumbed to the feminist word ploy, and as a result, millions of people are dead.
      We let the feminist word warriors hide the fetal holocaust that surrounds us every day just as effectively as the Nazis hid their extermination of the Jews.  And they do it the same way.  They do not permit themselves to utter the "M" word, even though they commit the "M" act.  That is, they do not murder unborn children, they "abort fetuses."  That terminology, they wrongly believe, helps to remove their heinous deeds from the realm of the morally reprehensible.  It allows them to view themselves and their neighbors with more self-respect and ethical complacency.  “After all,”  they say to themselves, “what nice young woman would ever pay her doctor a handsome sum to murder her unborn baby.  That is unthinkable.  We merely abort our fetuses be­cause we are unmarried and do not want to sentence our unfortunate and inconvenient offspring to a life of poverty.” 
       Never mind that such a woman is an adultress.  Never mind that she sentenced her child to the garbage can.  Described in her less graphic and less accurate language, to murder her child seems not only not evil, it seems downright virtuous.  As someone else has said, if you brush away the sentimental slush of a thousand sob-sisters, the cold fact remains that this woman wants to kill the child now living within her.
      Beware of every feminist euphemism.
      Some of the more squeamish among the feminists are unable even to say the "A" word.  Though by aborting fetuses rather than murdering babies the feminist’s linguistic sleight of hand has hidden the real nature (murder) of their action and the real identity (baby) of their victim, some women require a still heavier dose of verbal opium.  For them the feminist word warriors have had to make the accursed deed even more palatable by making it even more impersonal.  They have convinced such people that they are merely "terminating a pregnancy," a phrase which eliminates overt reference to any living thing.  Unlike fetuses and children, which are undeniably alive, and unlike abortion and murder, which seem to imply nasty things like blood and death, simply to “terminate a pregnancy” sounds as innocuous as ending a radio transmission or pulling into the station after a pleasant railroad journey.
        If “terminating pregnancies” is still too shocking a verbal description because the word "pregnant" tends to evoke unfortunate images of happy women large with child, feminist ideologues hide the crime behind an even more impersonal wall of words.  They can say that murdering unborn children is nothing more than the voluntary extraction of the "product of conception."  If that does not work, then they simply talk the way nearly all abortion clinics actually do talk:  They resort to an acrostic and say that they are merely " removing the P.O.C."  What could be more innocent?
     Nearly everything.
     Beware of every feminist euphemism.
     Pleasant words can be a fraud.  A sterile idiom can be a defense mechanism behind which we conceal the grossest reality.  But, defense mechanisms do not change that reality.  They merely disguise it.  The evil facts themselves remain the same.  Never forget that the disease you hide you cannot heal.  For jargon wizards like the feminists, therefore, and for all who have been morally subverted by the feminist’s verbal deception, there remains no therapy.  Rather than facing the facts and identify­ing this slaughter for what it is; rather than calling an unconditional halt to the war they wage on the unborn; rather than confessing their guilt and casting themselves on the immense mercy of God; the feminist ideologues have persuaded millions of women to mask their shame behind a veil of words and to sell their souls to the ver­bal charlatans and quacks who tell them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.  They hide the crime with a lie.
      Because words are inescapably connected to ideas, the feminist abuse of language has given rise to a feminist abuse of moral reason, as well.  Let me illustrate.
      My mother once asked me to clean up the back room in our basement.  Not knowing the magnitude of the task she had set before me, I consented.  When I finally got myself downstairs, I opened the wooden door to the back room, flipped on the light, and saw an unimaginable mess of almost legendary proportion:  paper, beetles, dirt, bowling pins, cardboard boxes, toys, broken tools, rags, and sawdust.  I did what any "rational" 15 year old would do.
     I shut off the light and closed the door.
     I'm not the only one who ever did that.
     Most of us, I dare say, respond to the sometimes ugly face of reality the same way, though after years of practice we have learned to do so with a good deal more dexterity and finesse, so that our indulgent and immoral evasions seem less obvious and less culpable.   Sometimes we try to rationalize our indolence and our guilt by telling ourselves (apparently) rational lies.  That is, rather than looking at the shocking facts and not wincing; rather than seeing those ugly and disturbing facts for what they are, we rationalize.  Though this ploy seems to assuage our consciences mo­mentarily, it does not help.  In fact, it does great harm, especially the way the feminist defenders of infanticide employ it.
       Feminists not only hide the hideous face of abortion behind a verbal veil of inoffensive language and pretty words, they rationalize their wickedness.  They have as many excuses for this barbaric atrocity as they have linguistic feignings to hide it.  For example, one often hears the Right-to-Deathers say horrendous things like "Surely we may terminate a pregnancy caused by rape or by incest, may we not?”
     No, we may not.
     A child does not lose its right to life simply because its father or its mother was a sexual criminal or a deviate.  Of course, rape and incest are vicious crimes.  Those who perpetrate them must be strictly and decisively punished.  Nevertheless, a civilized nation does not permit the victim of a crime to pass a death sentence on the criminal's offspring.  To empower the victim of a sex offense to kill the offender's child is an even more deplorable act than the rape that conceived it. The child conceived by rape or incest is a victim, too.  In America, we do not execute victims.
     The Right-to-Deathers think that my argument here is insensitive to the plight of the rape victim and that I would sing another tune were I myself the victim of such a crime.  They are wrong.
     Because ours is a government of laws and not of men, we must not consign justice or morality to the pain-beguiled desires of victims.  They, of all people, might be the least able to render a just verdict or to identify the path of highest virtue.  I am convinced that the more monstrously one is mistreated, the more likely it is that revenge and personal expedience will look to that person like goodness.  While rape victims most certainly know best the horror and indignity of the crime in question, being its victims does not confer upon them either ethical or jurisprudential expertise.  Nor does it enable them to balance the scales of justice or to satisfy the demands of the moral imperative with care, knowledge, finesse, or precision.  If one was an uninformed or inept ethicist or penologist before the crime, as most of us undoubtedly are, being a victim does not alter that fact at all.  Justice is traditionally portrayed as blind, not because she was victimized and had her eyes criminally removed, but be­cause she is impartial.  Rape victims, like all other crime victims, rarely can be trusted to be sufficiently impartial or dependably ethical, especially seeing that they so often decide that the best alternative open to them is to kill the criminal’s child.  Suffering an evil at the hands of another does not excuse you from the responsibility to acquire knowledge and skill before rendering judgements.  Victimization never has any power, on its own, to restore you.  It is no substitute for courage, competence, or virtue.
     "But, does a woman not have the right to her own body?" the Right-to-Deathers ask.
      Of course she does.  But that is not at issue here.  It is not her body,
after all, that is being murdered; it is someone else's.  Like hers, the body being murdered is not canine, not feline, not equine, and not bovine.  Like hers, it is human.  Like hers, it has a unique combination of 23 sets of paired chromosomes.  (If, indeed, the body in question were truly hers, its genetic code would be the same as that of her body.  It is not.  It never is.)  Like hers, the body being killed is the human product of human conception.  It is not something she may do with as she pleases.  Morality dictates that we do not kill human bodies -- including our own -- for personal convenience.  As John Locke taught us, one of the most fundamental rights of all is the right to one's own property; and among the most sacred portions of our property is our own body.  To it we have an almost exclusive right of function and disposal, a right that no one else can usurp, not even our mothers.
        “But  don’t you believe in abortion rights?”  the feminist Right-to-Deathers ask me.  “Yes,” I reply, “I do believe in abortion rights.  I believe it is the right of every human being not to be murdered by abortion.”      
       John Donne was correct -- because no man is an island, each man's death diminishes me.  That means, among other things, that you cannot diminish the liberty or dignity of one without endangering or diminishing the liberty and dignity of us all.  Abortionists, therefore, attack more than the unborn.  Abortionists, and the feminist word warriors who defend, them must be resisted.  Much depends upon their defeat.  The life you save may be your child's.  The freedom and dignity you save may be your own.  As Confucius observed long ago and far away, when words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty.
       To remain free, we must beware of every feminist euphemism and we must unmask every feminist rationalization built upon an abuse of language. 
       The feminists want to dress themselves up with the lexicon of respectability, but it just won't do.  The denigration of Western tradition, the ideological mutilation of standard English, the slaughter of millions of unborn and still defenseless human beings, and the neutering of God Himself are not respectable.  Those things are supremely wicked and they must be stopped.  Feminist Newspeak is simply the diabolical dic­tionary of the anti-God, anti-tradition, anti-human, feminist left. 
       Again, I know what they're up to, and I won't have it.  Theft and murder are despicable. To throw words away or to mangle them unnaturally and grotesquely so that you can do the same to inconvenient human beings is a monstrous wickedness.  Even if I have to stand guard alone, the feminist culture felons are in for a fight.
     So go ahead, murderers, word thieves, and slanderers, make my day.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

C. S. Lewis vs. T. S. Eliot: Why the Eliotolatry Ought to Stop (1)

Here begins the first in a series of installments meant to lay out C. S. Lewis’ voluminous and multi-faceted case against T. S. Eliot and the malignant Eliotolatry let loose by, of all folks, American conservatives who, ostensibly at least, contend for the worthy and permanent things in Western culture and who ought to know better.
This excerpt comes from a letter by Lewis to Paul Elmer More dated May 23, 1935 from Oxford.  The text is drawn from Walter Hooper’s magisterial edition of The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis (vol. 2, pp. 163-4.)  I follow it with a few explanatory notes and a synopsis of Lewis’ complaints, keyed to citations I have enclosed in brackets in the text. 

“There may be many reasons why you do not share my dislike of Eliot, but I hardly know why you should be surprised at it.  On p. 154 of the article on Joyce [1] you yourself refer to him as a ‘great genius expending itself on the propagation of irresponsibility’.  To me the great genius is not apparent:  The other thing is.  Surely it is natural that I should regard Eliot’s work as a very great evil.  He is the very spearhead of that attack on peras [i. e. proper limitations] which you deplore. [2] His constant profession of humanism and his claim to be a ‘classicist’ [3] may not be consciously insincere, but they are erroneous.  The plea that his poems of distinction are all satiric, are intended as awful warnings, is the common plea of all these literary traitors to humanity. [4] So Juvenal, Wycherley, Byron, excuse their pornography:  so Eliot himself excuses Joyce.  His intention only God knows.  I must be content to judge his work by its fruits, and I contend that no man is fortified against chaos by reading the Waste Land, but that most men are by it infected with chaos.
The opposite plea rests on a very elementary confusion between poetry that represents disintegration and disintegrated poetry.  The Inferno is not infernal poetry:  the Waste Land is.  His criticism tells the same tale.  He says he is a classicist, but this sympathy with depraved poets, (Marlowe, Jonson, Webster) is apparent:  but he shows no real love of any disciplined, and magnanimous writer save Dante.  Of Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Milton, Racine, he has nothing to say. [5] Assuredly he is one of the enemy:  and all the more dangerous because he is sometimes disguised as a friend. [6]
And this offence is aggravated by attendant circumstances, such as his arrogance.  And (you will forgive me) it is further aggravated for an Englishmen by the recollection that Eliot stole upon us, a foreigner and a neutral, while we were at war – obtained, I have my wonders how, a job in the Bank of England – and became (am I wrong) the advance guard of the invasion carried out by his natural friends and allies, the Steins and Pounds and hoc genus omne, the Parisian riff-raff of denationalized Irishmen and Americans who have perhaps given Western Europe her death wound.”

[1] About a month earlier, More had sent Lewis a copy of an article from the American Review that More had written on James Joyce.
[2] By breaking down the standards of art while at the same time professing to uphold them, Eliot, one of “the literary traitors,” was undermining the permanent things in literature.  For example, Eliot’s own poetry simply and intentionally defied understanding, as Lewis argued in “De Descriptione Temporum,” his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, wherein he points out that Eliot’s little poem “Cooking Egg,” had, at that time, been before the world for more than thirty years and no one, not even the experts, had the slightest idea what it meant.  Eliot’s poetry was not just new, Lewis said then, but “new in a new way.”  Unlike earlier new styles of poetry (poetry by Donne or Wordsworth, for example, poetry that could be understood if you knew the basis on which the poet wrote it), Eliot’s new poetry fully mocked decoding.  It was not simply about disintegration; it was disintegrated and disintegrative, as Lewis says below.  Contra MacLeish, to Lewis a poem must not simply be but mean.  And meaning here with Eliot was quite shut out, and not by accident.
[3] In his praise for Dryden at the expense of Shelley, Eliot claimed that Dryden was a classical poet, to which Lewis replied in “Shelley, Dryden and Mr Eliot” that “The days are or ought to be long past in which any well-informed critic could take the couplet poets of our ‘Augustan’ school at their own valuation as ‘classical’ writers.”  After explaining a bit about the Augustans, Lewis writes, “Of the school in general, then, we may say that it’s a good unclassical school. But when we turn to Dryden, we must, I think, say a good deal more than this” (italics added).   That Eliot could make such a gross mistake regarding either the Augustans or classicism struck Lewis as evidence that Eliot was not a well-informed critic, was no classicist, and was probably a poser.  About this I shall say more in future installments.
[4] Those who undermine literature often defend themselves on the ground that they are really literature’s friends, and that they are but writing satirically.  That is, when they write chaotically, they say they are simply showing the adverse effects of chaos, not that they have imbibed it.  For them, the medium is the message.  Not to Lewis.  For him, the message is the message.  One could write about the Inferno, as Lewis says below that Dante did, without writing infernal poetry.  You could write about Hell without being hellacious.  In short, Lewis subscribed to the common criticism levied against Eliot that he had the disease he claimed to rail against.
[5] When Eliot did turn to say something about Milton, he got it badly wrong, so much so that Eliot himself had to retract his views.  But even that retraction was shockingly defective and inadequate.  Eliot and his ilk were so badly mistaken about Milton that Lewis devoted an entire chapter of his Preface to Paradise Lost to exposing the incoherence of Eliot’s criticisms and its fatally flawed premises.  The result is a masterful exercise in logic chopping that dismantles Eliot’s self-congratulatory methods stick by stick.  I shall say more about this in future installments.
[6] To Lewis, Eliot posed as a friend of literature and the permanent things, a pose that fooled the uninitiated, the under-informed, and the unwary.  To Lewis, Eliot was a sheep in wolve’s clothing, one to whom the sheep foolishly looked for guidance and protection.  They seemed not no notice the company the wolf keeps -- predators and underminers like Gertrude Stein, a lesbian poet who compared Francisco Franco to George Washington and who said Hitler deserved the Nobel Peace prize; and like Ezra Pound, the anti-Semitic, fascist, anti-American traitor.  To Lewis, if it walks alike a wolf, talks like a wolf, and keeps the company of wolves, it’s a wolf.  The chief difference between Eliot and his wolf pack was that he was more subtle and more adept at insinuating himself into the camp of culture’s great protectors than his friends were.  Just as Karl Barth sounded the alarm in Germany about the churches' complicity with Hitler and colossal evil, Lewis was sounding it in England about Eliot's axis of friends and colleagues.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mommy or Daddy: Pick One --The Tragedy of Same-Sex Marriage

You might recall the awful option faced by the title character in “Sophie’s Choice:” Pick one child or the other.  It’s not a choice any mother wants to make.  No matter what she chooses, her loss is unutterable.
Nor would any child want to make the same choice in reverse:  “Mommy or Daddy, Sally.  Pick one.”
But that is the ugly position into which same-sex marriage presses children, except that the children themselves do not get to choose.  Someone else chooses for them.
No matter what you might think about same-sex marriage, we know this:  Any child raised under a same-sex union faces a tremendous loss -- either no Mommy or no Daddy.  In a union where two men or two women are involved, that’s always the outcome.
When Mommy picks a woman or Daddy picks a man as a life partner, the children always lose something enormously valuable and irreplaceable:  a mother or a father. 
That loss often has tragic consequences for a child.  If, for example, you are raised in a home with no father around, the odds that you will drop out of school, that you will take or sell drugs, that you will go to prison, that you will be very poor, and that your children will suffer the same fate you did all skyrocket.  That same cycle of hopelessness and crime follows upon the absence of a mother.
You can’t get around this enormous loss by invoking the fatuous lie captured in the title of a recent, famous children’s book, Heather has Two Mommies, simply because she does not.  Heather has but one.  The other lady is not her mommy; she is the lady Mommy has sex with.  Having sex with Mommy doesn’t make you a Mommy any more than drinking milk makes you a calf.   And if having sex with Mommy makes you a mommy, then what would Daddy be?
The point here is not remotely homophobic.  The point here is not that Mommy and her lover, or Daddy and his, are to be shunned.  The point here is that mothers and fathers are fundamentally important in the normal development of children, and therefore in the future of the nation, which depends upon the development and maturation of the next generation.  That works best when children have both a father and a mother.
Wise governments and wise citizens do well always to remember that basic fact of life, and to avoid making laws that undermine the traditional family and traditional family roles.    

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When Homosexuals Tell You They were Born that Way: A Response

Because we are fallen by nature, the fact that something is natural to us, the fact that we are born with it, is not a moral justification.  Indeed, the fact that something is natural to natural-born sinners seems a good reason to suspect it, not support it.
If, for example, someone is born a pedophile or a sexual sociopath of some other sort, that fact is neither an exoneration nor an excuse to let their preferred activity proceed unabated, much less to endorse it with government protection.  Sex is too important and too powerful a thing to leave to our fallen nature.  It needs redemption too.  It needs to be transformed and domesticated or else by it we will ruin ourselves and others.  It takes only a moment to notice the pathetic litany of misery, betrayal, disease, guilt, conflict, and death that sex has scrawled across human history.
We all are born pagan, and our sexual desires, like everything else about us, desperately need the redemptive and transforming grace of God.  It's not what we are born that is the measure of good and bad, but the things that God wills us to be once we are born again, the things into which He is re-creating us, that show us the direction we ought to go.  The measure here is the mind and character of Christ, into whose image we are being transformed, and not what proclivities we have at birth.  We are duty bound to stand with Him.  When we see Him either endorse or practice things like homosexual activity and homosexual marriage, then we can endorse it too.
Until then, when it comes to sexual sin, we must tell ourselves and others what He told the woman caught in adultery:  “Go and sin no more” (John 8: 11).
It won’t be easy to do, either in our own personal practice or in our address to others.  But that is our obligation

Friday, May 11, 2012

Context, Numbers, and God

If somehow you were to extract the shadow of a table from a Rembrandt painting and simply to look at it on its own, devoid of its natural context, you would have a difficult time understanding its origin, its nature, its function, and its purpose, if any.  You’d be hard pressed, if you’d never seen a lock, to understand the design and function of a key, or that of a bow if you’d never seen a violin.  The same holds true for every created entity.  Without its proper context in relation to God, it cannot be well understood regarding its origin, nature, function, or purpose.  The same holds true for science and mathematics. 
As God’s creatures, numbers are both made and upheld by God.  From Him they received, and continue to receive, their being, their truth, and their significance.  Without Him, even mathematics itself cannot – and does not – escape the descent into contradiction.  Without God beyond and behind it to hold it up and to give it its proper creaturely context, meaning, application, and significance, the mathematical quest is doomed to final incoherence.
That, at any rate, is my contention.
Here’s what I mean:
In his effort to escape the bruising contradiction he discovered in Cantor’s influential set theory, atheist mathematician Bertrand Russell ran into the problem to which I now allude, though he understood and articulated it far differently from how I am doing it here, as you might imagine.
Russell noticed that in Cantor’s system, even though its premises were true and its conclusions were valid, the final conclusions to which they led inevitably resulted in contradiction, no matter how you worked them.  Because of his worldview, Russell considered that result flatly unacceptable.  So he determined to extricate set theory from it.  But try as he might, Russell and his colleague A. N. Whitehead failed.  Indeed, their failure was inevitable and inescapable, as Kurt Godel demonstrated.  Godel showed that any mathematical system, in fact any logical system whatever, must finally be inconsistent or incomplete.  If so, then Godel’s conclusion is devastating for physics and for any attempt to arrive at the much-vaunted and so-called “theory of everything.”  It cannot happen. It will not work.
Whatever else you think you might find at the end of mathematics, you don’t find final, comprehensive, or explanatory truth.  Instead, you find contradiction and incompleteness; not truth and not dependable logic.  Final, eternal, explanatory truth escapes mathematics, as it finally escapes all things without God.  That’s because things without God are devoid of their proper creatureliness.  They are devoid of their finitude and of their proper context in God, eternity, and creation.  Apart from seeing it in the context of God its Creator, mathematics loses its real status as a finite effect.  Rather, it poses and preens as final and full explanation or as ultimate cause, a posture it cannot long maintain without collapse.
Accepted humbly and understood wisely, that disorienting collapse of finite, mathematical explanations for the universe can prove liberating because by it we might begin to notice that such a collapse inevitably follows from God’s absence.  Only in Him is found mathematics’ properly limited explanatory context.
Taking God into account explains the creatureliness and dependence of all things, numbers included.  It explains their status as finite effect, and not as full explanation or as cause, roles for which they are ill-suited and cannot fulfill, something a “theory of everything” seems to require of them.
Put another way, science cannot be true to the world it seeks to understand unless it makes room for its own contingency, its own creatureliness, and that of its tools and of its objects of study.  Even the scientific pursuit itself, the pursuit to exercise dominion over nature, properly belongs to us and to science only by the grace and command of God (Gen. 1: 28).  If we examine nature apart from God, then in the end we uncover only nature’s inexplicable and intellectually self-stultifying limitations, not the eternal and the finally true, not the authentically and ultimately explanatory.
That’s because even at our best we are not objective and dispassionate observers of natural systems.  We do not employ objective means of analysis, even when we do simple calculations and observations because, even at our best, we always exert an effect.  We always bring about some altered particular state simply by our presence and our activity, simply by our experimenting.
At our worst, and by that I mean normally, we skew our task of understanding the world aright because we skew our conception of the world itself and our role within it.  That matters because the scientist’s theory and actions are interdependent.  Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have bad ones.  For that reason, if the scientist is deluded, then the scientist’s theories are likely to be deluded too.  Revelation says, with strong emphasis and effect, that the scientist is indeed deluded.  We are not passive; we are not objective.  We are creatively, cleverly, and wickedly distortive, sometimes to greater, sometimes to lesser, degrees.  We are prone to look at nature and to suppress the truth it reveals about God, truth for which we substitute a lie (Rom. 1: 19-25).
Even the best and most productive of our methods are fundamentally twisted because they assume all things are answerable to us, to our methods, and to our questions.  But in Revelation, we are questioned by God and are answerable to Him.  In modern secular science, however, He is not merely not questioned, He is banished from the discussion, both as a cause and as a conclusion.  For example, if the resurrection is true (and I have argued elsewhere on this blog that it is), if God raised His Son from the dead, if Spirit therefore effects matter and can even re-animate it, then science has ruled out from the beginning some of the most powerful forces and trueest explanations in or out of the universe.  If, as Wolfhart Pannenberg argues, God is a field, indeed the field, of force, one without the limitations of time or extension, one that gives rise to new creatures again and again, one that the Bible describes as multi-Personal and as fatherly love, then the scientists have been dealing with God all along and never knew it because their twisted and myopic notion that only material explanations are permissible bars them from the truth.
Yet, in His grace, our shrunken methods still prove quite serviceable, if that is the right word for it.  But serviceability and utility are not the same as truth.  Think of it this way:  Flawed and distorted as were their methods, ideas, and worldview, the three magi still arrived at the feet of the Messiah in Bethlehem (Matt. 2: 1-12), which I take to be the grace of God, and not evidence of their insights or proof that ancient Middle Eastern astrology is actually true.  Hence “serviceable” and “properly understood” are not interchangeable concepts.  You might achieve your purposes in impressive fashion and still be mistaken.  It might take a long time for your mistakes to surface, but they will, as scientific worldview replaces scientific worldview in a long succession of paradigm shifts reaching back past Ptolemy and forward beyond post-Einsteinianism to who knows what -- Who but God.
To paraphrase my late friend Thomas Torrance, in its depths the universe is characterized by openness and spontaneity, even surprise.  Nature seems explicable only from beyond itself, only from the inexhaustible possibilities within the Divine rationality.  The universe finds its final intelligibility only in references beyond itself, and not in the inappropriate rigidities and allegedly necessary truths of contingent human reason, which at its root, and all on its own, is worse than suspect, lacking as it does metaphysical warrant for its assumed role as arbiter of all things physical and non-physical, a role to which we often exalt it, as if Revelation were to stand before the bar of human intellection and not the other way round.
We find our proper place and role more accurately by holding always before us the contingent truths and contingent rationality that undermine universal mathematical formulation.  We absolutely require those higher levels of Reality -- God and His actions -- that are not readily reducible to the same laws by which lower natural particulars seem to operate but that give those lower levels their proper context.  Then we know, and then we remember, that lower things are open to explanation upwardly, and that Higher Things are not accurately reducible to the laws of reality downwardly.
The various levels of created reality do not and cannot contain within themselves their own sufficient reasons for their own contingent order.