Friday, 3/13/15

  1. Presumed unreasonable, left unconsidered
  2. Hearts, Parts, Minds and Natural Law
  3. Spiritual & moral?
  4. What We Can’t Not Know
  5. You can’t duck some fights
  6. Pre-emptive wars and last resorts
  7. Memo to SCOTUS
  8. In praise of hypocrisy

1

G.K. Chesterton famously quipped that “the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” We can adjust his words for our era: Christianity hasn’t been considered and found untenable. It’s presumed unreasonable and left unconsidered.

– There is no material reason for humans to be “idea-making” creatures, unless we were made in the image and likeness of a God who desires us to know and to understand him.

– There is no material reason why we should recognize and appreciate beauty, unless beauty is a participation in and a foretaste of divine goodness.

– There is no material reason why we should be distressed by suffering at the hands of natural processes, unless human beings have a special kind of dignity conferred by God.

– There is no material reason why all human attempts to create perfectly just societies fail, unless we are fallen creatures for whom personal and social perfection is impossible.

– There is no material reason why we long for a happy afterlife,unless that desire were placed there by a God who promises just that.

Charles J. Chaput, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, reviewing David Skeel’s True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World.

2

Some articles defy my summarization. Hearts, Parts, and Minds: The Truth Comes Out is one such article. All I can do is whet your appetite:

“If the hearts fit, the parts fit.” These words were emblazoned on t-shirts during Washington, DC’s gay pride celebration several years ago.

Back then I thought: “What a great message! It’s so simple, even out of touch conservative straights will finally be able to ‘get it.’” I was so taken with the slogan that I spread the shirt out on a table, snapped a picture, and sent it around to friends.

Since then, the gay world and I have gone in opposite directions. Now, my instant embrace of this slogan troubles me, because it was based purely on feeling and sophistry. It made great sense, and it seemed inspiring, as long as I didn’t stop to think about it.

However, once I did begin to think about what I was doing and where my life was headed, I eventually came to the conclusion that I had committed a grave injustice against my kids by divorcing my wife and attempting to create a family with another man. They deserved to be raised by both their mom and dad under the same roof. Who was I to deny them this most basic of children’s rights? I became determined to find a way to bring our family back together for the sake of our kids as they finished out their high school years.

Once I began thinking, reasoning, and examining my life, an extraordinary thing happened: I couldn’t stop ….

(Doug Mainwaring) What I find most interesting is this:

[E]ven from a very young age, I inwardly sensed something was not quite right. I knew that somehow I was different and felt apart from others—the universal experience of almost every self-identified gay or lesbian. Nowadays, it’s nearly unanimously agreed that this experience comes from society’s heteronormativity. We are told that exterior cultural pressures cause same-sex attracted young people to feel “different,” resulting in depression or behavioral problems.

My experience tells me that the opposite is true. There was a powerful, innate interior recognition that I was different. It wasn’t society telling me this or accusing me, disenfranchising me in the process. No. My own conscience was speaking to me, leading me to self-understanding. I was judged by no one, because no one knew. Why would they even suspect? I didn’t fit the stereotypical profile of a gay guy. When I was old enough to work, I got a job as a carpenter. By the time I was seventeen, I had earned my pilot’s license, and one of the most beautiful girls in school was my prom date. Yet still there was always that gnawing feeling within.

I acknowledge that this is of particular interest because of some confirmation bias.

I’ve wondered why honest people would say “all we want is X” at, say, Stonewall, and then a few years later, with X secured, insist “all we want is X & Y,” and then “X, Y & Z” and so forth. Bear in mind my premise: these are honest people, who at least superficially believe what they say when they say it, despite the later tacit repudiations.

My conclusion was that they had a “gnawing feeling within,” something that (as J. Budziszewski put it) we can’t not know, that hasn’t been sated because it’s insatiable without a reversal of course (and upon reversal of course, the “all we want” refrain ends as did Mainwaring’s captivation by the slogan “If the Hearts Fit, the Parts Fit”).

That’s my 2¢. Your mileage may vary. But then, what would your explanation be for the escalating demands?

See also the Abstract below.

3

People sometimes wonder why I’ve taken this column in a spiritual and moral direction of late. It’s in part because we won’t have social repair unless we are more morally articulate, unless we have clearer definitions of how we should be behaving at all levels.

History is full of examples of moral revival, when social chaos was reversed, when behavior was tightened and norms reasserted. It happened in England in the 1830s and in the U.S. amid economic stress in the 1930s. It happens through organic communal effort, with voices from everywhere saying gently: This we praise. This we don’t.

David Brooks, trying to prescribe cures to the pathologies Robert Putman uncovers in his latest book. No need to apologize, David, and I tend to think of you as taking the column in a natural law direction.

4

I have now, apropos of the two preceding items, cured a long deficiency in my reading list by buying What We Can’t Not Know, of which I’ve been aware for years but hadn’t gotten around to reading:

In this new revised edition of his groundbreaking work, Professor J. Budziszewski questions the modern assumption that moral truths are unknowable. With clear and logical arguments he rehabilitates the natural law tradition and restores confidence in a moral code based upon human nature.

What We Can’t Not Know explains the rational foundation of what we all really know to be right and wrong and shows how that foundation has been kicked out from under western society. Having gone through stages of atheism and nihilism in his own search for truth, Budziszewski understands the philosophical and personal roots of moral relativism. With wisdom born of both experience and rigorous intellectual inquiry, he offers a firm foothold to those who are attempting either to understand or to defend the reasonableness of traditional morality.

While natural law bridges the chasms that can be caused by religious and philosophical differences, Budziszewski believes that natural law theory has entered a new phase, in which theology will again have pride of place. While religious belief might appear to hamper the search for common ground, Budziszewski demonstrates that it is not an obstacle, but a pathway to apprehending universal norms of behavior.

I suspect I’ll be discussing it fairly soon.

5

[Y]ou can’t duck some fights, try as you may.

Like, for example, the intensification of the culture war that will follow the Supreme Court’s anticipated discovery that the 39th Congress, passing the 14th amendment to the Constitution in 1866, included within the amendment’s guarantees a “right” to so-called “same-sex marriage.” Pressures flowing from that judicial fantasy will make it clear, save to the willfully blind, that while you might not be interested in the culture war, the culture war is interested in you—and it isn’t going to leave you in peace until you surrender, or until America regains its senses and rejects what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger dubbed the “dictatorship of relativism.”

(George Weigel, Keeping Catholic Schools Catholic, which, you might correctly infer, is not all about “same-sex marriage.”)

6

There is no way for a preventive war to be waged as a last resort. It is in the nature of a preventive war that it be fought long before all other options have been closed off. The value of seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue is not that it gives the U.S. political cover later on to start a war in the event that the current round of talks comes up short. As long as there are options for resolving the dispute that don’t involve the use of force, the U.S. is obliged to exhaust them all first.

Even when all those options are exhausted, that doesn’t mean that military action would be wise or effective. And it bears repeating that attacking Iran over its nuclear program would be undeniably illegal under international law. The other nations of the world aren’t going to be interested in whether the U.S. first tried diplomacy before resorting to preventive war. If the U.S. ever makes the horrible mistake of waging another preventive war in the region, its previous attempts at diplomacy will be forgotten and overshadowed by the indefensible decision to attack another state on the basis of exaggerated suspicions of what it might do one day.

(Daniel Larison)

7

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires all 50 states to redefine marriage. The only way one can establish the unconstitutionality of man–woman marriage laws is to adopt a view of marriage that sees it as an essentially genderless, adult-centric institution and then declare that the Constitution requires that the states (re)define marriage in such a way. In other words, one needs to establish that the vision of marriage our law has long applied is wrong and that the Constitution requires a different vision. There is, however, no basis in the Constitution for reaching that conclusion. Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father, and states have constitutional authority to make marriage policy based on these truths.

Abstract of Memo to Supreme Court: State Marriage Laws Are Constitutional.

Although the Memo appears to be a sort of Open Letter rather than a brief, I’m sure that its arguments are reflected in briefs. I commend it to any supporter of same-sex marriage who has been buying the line that only irrational hatred or animus could be behind insistence of states on defending marriage as a male-female institution. Just please don’t skim it and then dismiss it as whitewash for irrational hatred or animus. It deserves better than that. You deserve better than the bigotry of not being willing to consider that you might be wrong.

8

I have blogged about my distaste for arguments that instrumentalize religion, but here’s something that strikes me as an interesting counterpoint:

The ‘half -Christian’ is, indeed, a very useful member of society, and so long as he continues to form the backbone of a state, Christian ethics will not be challenged. Sinners will continue to sin, but they will, at least, have the decency to refrain from preaching what they practise – a much more serious offence than failing to practise what they preach. Lip-service to Christian ideals is better than no service; platonic respect for the Christian code of morality is better than official contempt. Czarist Russia, which was officially Christian, was less corrupt, less immoral, and infinitely less degraded than Bolshevist Russia which is officially atheistic.

– Sir Arnold Lunn

H/T Wagner Clemente Soto (@wcsoto) March 12, 2015. Unfortunately, in our society, the half-Christian bourgeois are living better in many ways than they’re willing to profess, and our proletariat is paying the price of the of the professed low expectations.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.