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Tag Archive: Marriage

The weakness of it is not due to the argument itself but to the condition of the hearer

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013 (8:39 pm), by John W Gillis


Published on cnsnews.com last Friday, the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo provides a lengthy response to Bill O’Reilly’s recent dismissal of “Bible thumping” in the public square over the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, including the following comments on the incompatibility of the type of law involved in establishing such a legal fiction with a constitutional order per se:

O’Reilly fails to make clear distinctions. For example, on the issue of religion in the public square, his claim that theological arguments are unacceptable in the public square is meant to indicate that if someone does not have faith in the authority of Divine Revelation, such argumentation holds no sway. This is true.

It is incorrect, however, to grant the further implication that religious argumentation should not be used in the public square. … To presume that the public square is owned [by] or exists because of the atheists of our modern day is historically false and an easy way out of a more complicated debate.

… The clamor for same-sex marriage is symptomatic of but not the root cause of our demise. The eroding of the philosophical and cultural foundations of the West is at the root of the problem. To ignore this is to miss the forest for the trees.

… The argument from faith, being revealed by God is essentially the strongest argument per se. It may not be understood to be so, by those who do not believe in Divine Revelation, but, if God exists and Christian revelation is true, it is undoubtedly the strongest. God does not have opinions, or positions on issues. God is simply Truth. The fact that the argument from eternal law cannot be used with the homosexual lobby, which is markedly atheistic, does not grant the further claim that Divine Revelation is a weak argument. The weakness of it is not due to the argument itself but to the condition of the hearer, who does not recognize Divine Law.

… If Bill O’Reilly believes in Divine Revelation and the divinity of Christ, he surely should realize that theology and reason (philosophy) are simply two different ways of arriving at the same conclusion. Theology and revelation are necessary, even in cases where one can arrive at the same conclusion [by] reason alone, because not every individual has the time or ability to arrive at correct conclusions from reason. Revelation in this sense is a service to the human conscience, for it affords another way for many people to arrive to necessary conclusions, quickly, and without the admixture of error. Revealed doctrine is a service to reason, not an obstacle.

But since Mr. O’Reilly demands "more than Bible thumping," I argue from reason, that homosexuality is simply not a normative inclination in the individual and therefore its existence constitutes shaky ground to make a norm for society as a whole. One has to take a deep breath and depersonalize the issue. We speak at this level when evaluating policy. The question before us is whether the tendency of some men and some women toward a same sex attraction is reasonable grounds to legislate for an entire nation or state.

… Now, when we discover non-normative tendencies, we seek causes. We ask: Why is this non-normative behavior taking place? We don’t start making laws for an entire population based on the non-normative tendencies of a tiny segment of the population. More clinical, sociological, and medical science is needed here, not lawyers and judges acting by fiat to institutionalize in the nation’s law non-normative tendencies of any type. This is, I submit, an unreasonable and insufficient ground for law.

… The problem here is that if non-normative tendencies become the criteria for constitutional or state law, law itself will become biographical. This atomization of law, culminates in the inability for us to have fundamental rights, as human beings. Things are institutionalized after centuries in law and custom, because they are recognized as normative, and, in the case of marriage, as a good for society. The legal institution of marriage is the normalization of that which is de facto normative in man. Marriage institutionalized in law and by religion is the proper effect the fruit of a normative tendency in man. Heterosexual, monogamous unions were not simply admitted into the marriage franchise (to which others now seek entry), it is rather the author that produced marriage as we know it. They have as it were, authorship rights over marriage since they produced the institution.

Creating institutions in law and possibly at a constitutional level, using non-normative tendencies (which are many and vary greatly in our society), as the justification is unreasonable and theoretically unsound.

Equality under the law in this sense is already being assaulted by post-modern philosophy, as unfair. Precisely for this reason, "the notion of "equality under the law," is now seen by many as failing to address the biographical preferences and tendencies of all kinds of biographical groups in society.

If we continue down that path, there will be no end, except the end of what we now know as the rule of law. It is unreasonable to legislate on constitutional order in this fashion.

Although I’m not sure how much of Guarnizo’s far-flung argument addresses the problem with O’Reilly’s libertarian indifference to non-utilitarian aspects of public life, the article nonetheless articulates a number of ideas that rarely make their way into the public discourse on this contrived controversy.

Given the hysterical nature of the thought-policing imposed on the matter (e.g. anyone who disagrees with the idiotic pretenses of the radicals is a “bigot’), it’s good to see some of the underlying intellectual errors exposed, as this piece does in pointing out how the special-interest nature of “biographical preference” law undermines the very basis of lawful order by replacing genuine equality under the law with targeted “rights” meant to benefit the politically well-positioned. Ostensibly advanced to serve the cause of “equality”, these kinds of laws are ultimately tyrannical, precisely because they are irrational, and that which is not rooted in the truth of the nature of things has no capacity to (continue to) exist on its own, and must be propped up by raw power. They are politically dangerous, socially poisonous, and morally unjust.

HT to Ed Morrissey at HotAir.

Not so much a cultural revolution, as it is a mop-up job

Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2013 (8:45 pm), by John W Gillis


Thanks to a link provided by Operation Rescue Boston’s Bill Cotter in a recent newsletter email, I recently came across an article by John Jalsevac at LifeSiteNews.com, which I consider the most insightful piece of short literature I have read on the cultural phenomenon of gay marriage, recognizing not only the problem the concept presents, but also acknowledging the very thin grounds modern (i.e. liberalized) “conservatives” have to stand on in resisting the expansion of the modern notion of marriage to include gays:

But an honest look at the cultural landscape raises the question of just how much is left to defend. The statistics suggest that social conservatives may be brandishing their scimitars not in defense of a robust institution suddenly threatened by a new and hostile cultural force, but rather the smoking ruins of an institution long ago surrendered and abandoned as lost. The Sexual Revolution of the 60s, and what a friend of mine calls the subsequent “hell of the Divorce Tsunami” of the 70s, have already swept this Thing That We Used to Call Marriage out to sea, leaving us clinging to the bobbing flotsam and jetsam.

By this point the statistics are so familiar that they have ceased to be shocking. And yet the numbers ought to shock us. Right now, some sixty percent of couples cohabit before marriage; nearly half of all marriages end in divorce; a record number of Americans aren’t bothering to get married in the first place, and those that do get married are getting married ever later; 41 percent of all children are born out of wedlock; 35 percent of children live in single-parent homes; only 61 percent of children under 18 live with their biological parents; and the birth rate has now dipped below the replacement level, as couples are having fewer and fewer, or sometimes no children at all.

So much for marriage being “life-long,” “exclusive” and child-oriented! Well then, what do we have left? Only the final third of our definition of traditional marriage: that marriage should be between one man and one woman. From the perspective of the gay rights movement, getting rid of this final scrap of our definition is not so much a cultural revolution, as it is a mop-up job. The revolution already happened. Now it’s simply a question of tying up the loose ends.

And they are not wrong.

Jalsevac insists that what is being defended against the encroachment of homosexuality is not marriage in any historically meaningful sense, but a liberal institution he calls New Marriage, which is little more than the corpse of that institution upon which civilization has been built. He is absolutely correct.

Liberalism – understood in its older sense, and not something that began in the 1960s or late 19th century – has had as its aim the destruction/replacement of two fundamental institutions: the Church, and the family. In fact, I think one could reduce its aim to the singular goal of the destruction/replacement of fatherhood (i.e. patriarchy). On the family/marriage front, the main battle was lost about fifty years ago. I barely know anyone who understands marriage as anything that even closely resembles the reality that formed human culture.

Were it not for the working of grace in my life, I don’t think I would be able to understand what the difference is. But there is a difference – a momentous difference – and the truth, however elusive, must be pursued, embraced, and proclaimed. I recommend following the link to the entire article.

Alan Keyes Schools a Journalist on the Distinction Between Principles and Particulars

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 (1:12 pm), by John W Gillis


Alas, how different the world might be today if that 2004 Illinois U.S. Senate race had turned out differently:

 

The video provider labels this “A strong argument against gay marriage”, though I would be inclined to call it something like “A simple elucidation of the fundamental error of gay marriage”.

For what it’s worth, Alan Keyes is the only presidential candidate I’ve ever donated money to (in the 2000 election), though I very well may have donated to Rick Santorum this year if he had been the GOP nominee.

I love the look on Obama’s face when they cut to him near the end. It looks like he’s hoping he won’t get called on. He’s clearly out of his league with Keyes intellectually, but intelligence, unfortunately, does not win elections: politics does. And don’t we know how much craftier a politician Obama is than Keyes. Keyes never really had a chance as a politician, but he sure elevated the conversation.

Update: Video fixed, I hope.

Same-sex marriage violates the right of the family to protection by society and the state

Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2012 (4:23 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Thursday, January 5th, 2012.

Douglas Farrow, from an outstanding piece in the new (and terrific-looking) issue of Touchstone, entitled Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage? Nail-head, meet hammer:

[W]e should observe also that when a family of some description is founded by a same-sex couple, it is always founded by violating the natural parent-child bond that marriage is intended to nurture and protect. It deprives the child, whether in the same way that divorce does or in some more innovative technological way, of its prima facie right to its own father and mother. But we should notice something else as well, and not merely parenthetically—something too little noticed either by the detractors or by the champions of marriage. Same-sex marriage violates the natural parent-child bond in every family, and the right of the family to protection by society and the state.

How so?

In Rerum Novarum Pope Leo XIII rightly described the family as “a society very small . . . but none the less a true society, and one older than any State,” with “rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.” This society, “founded more immediately in nature,” is what the Universal Declaration has in mind when it speaks in article 16 of the family. The family’s status as “natural”—that controversial adjective is deployed only in this one specific article—allows it a certain priority over civil society and the state. The latter share an obligation to protect the family, but the family is not at their disposal.

Same-sex marriage dispenses with all of that, however. By excising sexual difference, with its generative power, it deprives itself of any direct connection to nature. The unit it creates rests on human choice, as does that created by marriage. But whether monogamous, polygamous, or polyamorous, it is a closed unit that reduces to human choice, rather than engaging choice with nature; and its lack of a generative dimension means that it cannot be construed as a fundamental building block.

Institutionally, then, it is nothing more than a legal construct. Its roots run no deeper than positive law. It therefore cannot present itself to the state as the bearer of independent rights and responsibilities, as older or more basic than the state itself. Indeed, it is a creature of the state, generated by the state’s assumption of the power of invention or re-definition. Which changes everything.

I have little to add except that I can happily cross “write a short but cogent defense of marriage from an anthropological perspective” off my to-do list – I can simply point people to Farrow’s article, which is far better than anything I would have come up with. Next time some sneering cynic asks you “How is your marriage ‘damaged’ by same-sex marriage?”, share this link. Marriage matters like nothing else matters in human society, and Farrow knows why. And he knows why contraception lies at the root of the breath-taking collapse of the institution over the past century – and especially the past half-century. Required reading for any morally serious person.

A Final Note on Hvistendahl’s Incoherence

Posted: Monday, September 5, 2011 (4:36 pm), by John W Gillis


Prior to my summer blogging hiatus, I had posted a couple of entries on some responses to Mara Hvistendahl’s recent book on the social consequences of widespread sex-selection abortions in Asia. I ended up requesting the book from my local public library, and checked it out in mid-July. I couldn’t get past the prologue; it was dreadful.

As Hvistendahl laid out her project in the prologue, it was hard not to detect something like a sadness for a great hope gone bad; a belief that abortion should have been not just a means for individual women to “gain control” of their own lives, but a vehicle for social transformation, one sure to lift the world out of the darkness of an evil past. In other words, it was supposed to be a shining example of the fundamental piety (and conceit) of progressivism: the new, technologically-empowered order of Modernity triumphing over the evil institutions of tradition. And yet, something had gone terribly wrong, somehow:

While ultrasound technology was modern, like many people at the time I thought that using it for something as crass as sex selection had to be temporary; one last instance of sexist traditions rearing their ugly head. (p. xiif)

It’s scary to consider how normal this thinking appears to many people – especially educated people.

There’s not a lot of need to explore in too much further detail the fundamental intellectual and moral error embraced by Hvistendahl: as if it were morally unacceptable to select for boys, but perfectly acceptable to select for health traits or some other eugenic purpose – or more to the point: that the practice of adults deciding which children to kill in utero can be justified on the basis of any utilitarian calculation, but only as long as the intention does not violate the sensibilities of people like Mara Hvistendahl. Abortion can’t be wrong simply because it is murderous, but it can be a thought crime, if your reasons don’t pass muster. Imagine that.

I understand that professional academics generally occupy a rather different world than that of working stiffs like me: they travel within their own peculiar orbit of fashionable dogmas that seek to explain the world according to mythologies that place professional academics themselves at the epicenter of a deterministic universe, as gatekeepers to the science of the Answers to Everything™. They function as the Priesthood of Progress – and if they also wear a white coat, then they’re like high priests, or bishops, or something. I get that. But what is a simple thinking person to make of fatuity such as this:

If females are scarce, males may kill a female’s existing offspring to maximize their chance at passing on their genes, inadvertently speeding up the species’ path toward extinction. (p. xv)

It’s hard to know where to start. Although written as a support for her theorizing on the declining prospects for peace in the world given the new gender imbalance among mankind in Asia, it is clearly standard-fare, goofball Darwinistic mythology – applicable, as must be the case, to sexual species generally. It’s tough enough to come up with a credible scenario wherein men might find a scarcity of women an inducement to kill other men’s children in order to try to ensure their own progeny, but to postulate such a clever motivation to irrational, purely instinctual creatures is beyond laughable. Of course, it’s hard enough to see how anyone can reconcile a Darwinist orthodoxy with an abortionist mindset to begin with, unless it is out of utter self-contempt. Still, this may seem somewhat irrelevant to my assessment of her book, but I offer it as an exemplar of the intellectual quality of the work as a whole.

What we’re given in this prognostication is a transparently dubious assertion about reality, being pressed down for validation into the quasi-sacred space of Darwinistic “explanations-of-everything via the progressive/evolutionary struggle for existence”, an intellectual playground where all kinds of absurd explanations for the world around us (sometimes derisively known as just-so stories) are readily embraced without much comment, and are supposedly validated by the fact that things are indeed the way they are (i.e. the just-so explanation for why things are that way must be true, or they wouldn’t be that way, right?). This is the logical fallacy known as affirming the consequent. It attempts to ride the coattails of a meaningless tautology (whatever exists is that which had been most likely to survive), but reads that tautology backwards, via a neo-pagan cosmology of primordial chaos and violence, into an origins mythology of a universal struggle for survival, which begets magical thinking in various affirmations of causeless effects, and assertions of motivated matter and acting secondary substance (i.e. species).

Sufficiently coated now with enough Darwinist dogma-dust so as to be protected from serious intellectual questioning, the idea is then walked back from the murky mists of evolutionary just-so-ism to a place where it can be supposed to be applicable to human society. Again, I understand how popular this kind of mental processing is, but I just can’t stomach it. Now, whether or not a theory of evolution, recognizable as such to a modern Neo-Darwinist, will ever offer a satisfactory biological explanation for the mysterious analogy of life on Earth is quite beside the point here. The point is that the kind of cheesy magical thinking exposed above, coupled with the ideological credulity already evident in Hvistendahl’s thinking on abortion, rendered the idea of a close reading of the entire work, in my judgment, a waste of precious time – although I would end up spending a bit more time scoping out the other sections to better grasp the work as a whole.

Browsing further, I found an interesting section exploring the effects of the woman shortage on marriage norms in Asia, where young women are now routinely imported as sexual commodities into countries with more aggressive girl-aborting practices, where they are very often taken by abusive men with no understanding (or concern) of how to treat women properly. There is also, of course, a burgeoning market in prostitution. In short, Hvistendahl reveals that abortion has facilitated the subjugation of the region’s poorer women in a cruel and demeaning system of sexual slavery. Who would have thought that imposing a barbaric institution designed to kill children for profit and convenience could give rise to such blatant disrespect for women as persons? Go figure!

Hvistendahl might be right about the ominous practical implications of the Asian gender imbalance facilitated by abortion technology – and championed by Western “do-gooders” – but she is blind to the root cause, which is not the prevailing circumstances themselves, but the underlying moral imbecility of embracing pure evil as a vehicle for achieving a desired good. Moreover, little do the Mara Hvistendahls of the world understand what’s ultimately in store for women in the West, whose status, in order to descend to such complete depravity, has to fall so much further than it did in societies in which women have not traditionally been viewed through the dignifying lens of Christianity. But the chickens will surely come home yet to roost, as men – increasingly alienated from any sense of duty, purpose, or responsibility in a consumerist, “liberated” society – continue, progressively, to see women not as wives and as partners in the perpetual generation of civilization in the family, but as more or less useful playthings.

The “freedom to choose” touted by abortion apologists is nothing but a fraudulent license to kill, and the price of murder is the loss of all decency. The bill for this idiocy is coming due.

On a Nationalized American Religious Disposition

Posted: Saturday, September 3, 2011 (8:57 pm), by John W Gillis


I don’t take many calls that come in from 800- or similar area codes, but I took one this morning, because I am expecting a call-back from HP regarding a warranty replacement hard drive for Ezra, my Windows 7 desktop computer (which I had prematurely identified last week as suffering from software problems, but which were being caused by a failing hard drive).

The call was from an organization looking to add my name to a petition supposedly being submitted somewhere or another as a token of protest against the legal successes of a militant atheist group committed to outlawing the observation of the National Day of Prayer. This anti-religious campaign, I was assured, represented an affront or assault (I can’t remember which now) on my “Christian rights”. I listened to the entire recorded message from the organization’s general counsel, but hung up before I could be roped into providing a telephonic “signature” to the petition (or be hit up for a contribution, which was undoubtedly the real point of the call).

It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to the goal of this group: resisting the pernicious agenda of an angry minority intent on manipulating the law to enforce a practical atheism on American society in a kind of ironically inverted federal establishment of (anti)-religion. It also might not be prudent to blithely assume that such clowns, and their judicial enablers, will never be able to pull off their ultimate goal – they have made significant inroads already, after all. Moreover, every battle lost involves real casualties, even in a winning war. Making it illegal for the president to proclaim a National Day of Prayer would surely strike an historically alienating and politically chilling blow against liberal society’s foundational building block of religious freedom, and even against the idea of tolerance itself, and it would teach a stark lesson to society (and to society’s children): that solidarity can and should be trumped by religiously intolerant ideology. This would be grievous, because sans the bitterclingers of atheistic denunciation, the National Day of Prayer effects nothing but a spirit of national solidarity across a wide and diverse body of people, many of whom profess religious views and affiliations that would have surely made them enemies to each other in most pre-American societies – and even still today, in more than a few places:

Religious Hostilities in the World, 2009 (Pew Research)

Still, I have a hard time getting worked up about defending the National Day of Prayer. Partly because I don’t like it. Contrary to those opponents who claim the practice “supports religion”, I think it undermines religion, usurping religion for secular/political purposes. Despite the finding of the U.S. District Court judge who, in April 2010, found in favor of repressing the National Day of Prayer in part because it “promote[s] a particular religious practice”, it is in reality the utter opposite of a “particular religious practice”; it is the very definition of a generic “religious” practice – at least from a religious perspective. It is “particular” only in the sense that it is national, and focused on the nation over against any understanding of the Divine – that is to say, over against religion! Hardly the kind of thing that worried Madison, Jefferson, or their compatriots.

Having been thoroughly steeped in the Old Testament, I am far from comfortable with the idea that God can and should be reduced to a generic concept, or a least-common-denominator deity, invoked for the sake of serving the interests of the state. That smacks of idolatry to me. Nonetheless, I don’t denounce the practice as idolatrous per se, since I can see how it is quite possible to build toward the realization of theological truth through the embrace of virtue inherent in the social idea of solidarity, and so I can warily accept it in Christian hope while rejecting its reductionism.

But perhaps the thing that bothered me most this morning was the acute absence of that other crucially important social idea: solidarity’s sister, subsidiarity. Here was this guy, from somewhere probably half-way across the continent, calling me – a complete stranger – to ask me to listen to a pre-recorded spiel from some overpaid lawyer who wants to argue a silly case in a federal court somewhere, and finally to place my essentially anonymous name as a quantifiable object on a petition (assuming one actually exists) to be submitted as evidence that there is some sufficient mass of people within the republic who object to the theological rape of the public square. Good grief.

Can a handful of judges and lawyers really be allowed to determine the religious character of a nation of over 300 million people? Do we really need lawyers to tell us how and when to pray at all? Is this what citizenship has been reduced to: reciting your name (in perhaps an indignant tone) into a computerized phone bank’s storage array? And what does it mean to fret about a symbolic national prayer event when local churches close for lack of parishioners; families fracture at a continually alarming rate (when they even bother to form at all anymore); the fundamental communal institution of marriage is recast as a personal lifestyle choice of the self-focused individual – until we no longer even know what marriage means; entire generations continue to be reared in a “pop culture” that stridently and effectively promotes alienation from society; employers routinely lack any fealty toward either the communities that support them, or their employees; and political speech has been largely reduced to a propaganda of binary options embracing either faster or slower centralization of power and decision making into a federal bureaucracy.

We don’t need a national day of prayer; we need to stop expecting Leviathan to fix our problems for us. We need to re-learn the idea of community, as an antidote to unfettered individualism – beginning with marriage. And we need to start building a national fellowship based not on cues taken from distant politicians, but on a broad commitment to the commonweal rooted in the social cultivation of virtue – a true patriotism, which can only take place in a society that is open to honest and vigorous religious (and moral) dialog in the public square. This, it seems to me, is not something to be accomplished through national campaigns, events, and petition drives, but by the simple practice of virtuous citizenship, and by the practice of a truly hopeful religious ecumenism: one that refuses to sacrifice truth for serenity, but insists that a real knowledge of God is possible among honest men and women.

Wait, it’s my kids

Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 (8:36 pm), by John W Gillis


A few days before Christmas, I was coming home late after being out attending to some delicate family matters, and I stopped at my favorite local Chinese restaurant for some food to bring home for supper. After placing my order with the manager, I decided to sit at the bar and wait for my order.

There were two young professional women, perhaps into their early thirties, sitting in conversation near the south end of the small bar, so I walked to the north end, sat down on the corner where I’d have a view of the door leading to the kitchen, and ordered myself a beer.

After several minutes, a cell phone began to go off raucously, and one of the women turned, reached into her bag, and eyeballed the noisy phone. She glanced at her friend, and said: “Wait, it’s my kids…”

“Hi buddy… uh-huh… I’ll be home at like 9:40. I know… I know… Is Dad home? Probably not, huh… OK…Listen, it’s only 40 minutes… it’s really only 37 minutes… Is Sarah in bed yet? Good. You be in bed by 9:30, OK? I know… I know… look, it’s only 36 minutes now. You be a good boy now; I gotta go. See you soon.”

As they refreshed their cocktails, the women rekindled their conversation, now loudly enough that I couldn’t but hear them in the otherwise quiet room. The second woman, who had had her back to me, turned toward the bar to stir her drink, so I could now see her in profile. She was heavily made-up, wearing silly and ostentatious jewelry, and an expensive-looking blouse that fit like a nice driving glove should. She held her drink between both hands on the bar, and delved back into a saga already half-told:

“He was telling me about all the things I used to do to piss him off, like ‘All those things I  did in my room’… and I’m like ‘What things?’ He goes, ‘Like how it was all black, and how I was doing that witchcraft and stuff’…”

The first woman – the one with the attention-seeking cell phone and interrupting children – snorted, and quipped:

“So, did you like tell him that this is the 2010s? Get real…”

“Can I brag for a minute? That was my son Toby, you know? The big fella brought home his first real report card yesterday. He had two A’s, 4 or 5 B’s, and 2 C’s. And the C’s were, like, not even fair. I was so proud of him. He works unbelievably hard, especially for a little guy. And his father is, like, No. Help. At. All!”

I spotted the manager coming out of the kitchen holding my dinner, so I quickly drained what was left of my beer, pushed a tip toward the bartender and thanked him, and intercepted the manager as he came around the corner of the front desk.

As I took the food and turned toward the door, I glanced back at the women at the bar, shook my head slightly in sorrow, and counted my blessings. And then I said a prayer for Toby and Sarah. I suppose I also should have said a prayer for those two young women, and the one’s husband, and the other’s father. But at the time, I just couldn’t see past the kids. Thank God for his grace in my life…

Gay Marriage and the Handicapped Parking Spot Problem: A Parable

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010 (9:25 pm), by John W Gillis


Once upon a time, a certain society made a conscious decision to confer a particular benefit upon a specific segment of the population: the rationale being that people with various physical ailments encountered particular hardships when attempting to access various public places, because of the long distances they often needed to locomote themselves after parking their cars in parking lots and garages – their physical ailments and disorders making such treks tedious, and sometimes even dangerous. As a remedy to this perceived problem, the society – let’s call it Liberstan – decided to require the designation of a certain amount of choice parking spots for these citizens in all public parking areas, creating a phenomena known as handicapped parking spots.

Despite the occasional cheat, the program worked pretty well for a number of years. People who experienced difficulty walking could obtain placards or special license plates identifying them as legitimate beneficiaries of this perk, which in turn better enabled them to participate in public activities with their neighbors. Most able-bodied citizens respected the handicapped parking privilege, but human nature being what it is, not everyone did. Usurpers of the privileged parking, when caught, would have their cars towed, and would be subjected to fines. This punishment deterred most people, but it unfortunately eventually inflamed the passions of a small group of fully able-bodied citizens who felt wronged by the situation.

These citizens – let’s call them Samers – insisted that conferring this privilege on the other group of citizens amounted to iniquity toward themselves, reasoning that all drivers desiring public parking places should have equal rights to the choice spots. The Samers were offended that some people were being privileged while they were not, because the Samers were egalitarians; their definition of egalitarian being “everyone’s the same.” And, boy, they prized those choice parking spots.

Critics argued that having a physical handicap legitimately qualified the so-called handicapped for such a privilege, since it merely made it easier for them to engage in activities common to the rest of the citizenry; it leveled the playing field somewhat.

This sounded like a difficult argument for the Samers to overcome, but, boy, they prized those choice parking spots. So they were faced with a tactical problem: would their aim using the choice parking spots be better served by arguing honestly against the legitimacy of the policy of privileged parking spots for particular people (a legitimate policy question, even if transparently mean-spirited), or by undermining the intent of the policy through subterfuge, dissembling, and sophistry? Well, wasn’t that a no-brainer…

“Nobody’s perfect,” the ensuing counter-argument proclaimed: “hence we all have some sort of handicap, and it is therefore discriminatory to withhold choice-spot parking rights from citizens who are merely differently handicapped than those who have been historically privileged by this policy. Citizens Unite! Equal Parking Rights!”

The ensuing controversy was soon heard by a judge who, being far more clever than wise, and easily enthralled by reason that seems to emanate from penumbra, was delighted to find himself flummoxed by the Samers’ argumentation, and who decided that parking equality was an idea long overdue. Soon, people with any kind of handicap – that is, anyone who was not a physically perfect specimen, which meant… well, everybody – converged upon the RMV to pick up their special Handicapped Person placards, and the choice parking spots were finally available to everyone equally, regardless of handicap type. Furthermore, it quickly became a “hate crime” to question anybody’s claim to handicap status: “we’re all handicapped, and that simple truth unites us in a global brotherhood that just might somehow sow the seed of permanent peace and understanding among peoples.”

Now, some quicker thinking readers might at this point be predicting a logistical complication to the story. After all, if, say, 5 percent of the population previously had handicapped parking privileges, and 5 percent or so of the available parking spaces were accordingly designated as handicapped parking spots, how could these spots possibly accommodate the ninety-five percent of the population that was now legally handicapped? [In any population, it is fair to assume at least 5 percent of the people will not debase themselves by participating in such a self-serving scheme, but once the perks start to flow, most everybody else will.]

Well, not to worry: there’s no problem here a little paint can’t fix. The solution, of course, is to designate a full ninety-five percent of the available parking spaces for privileged handicapped parking. This not only allows everyone who desires it to enjoy the privileges of handicapped parking spots, but has the added social benefit of exiling those obnoxious, self-righteous troublemakers – who make up the recalcitrant 5 percent of non-conformists – to the far reaches of all parking areas. Equality wins out over bigotry again.

The moral of the story is that the kind of moralistic bullying engaged in by the “Samers” produces losers, but no real winners. You begin with a legitimate benefit, but end up with an anti-benefit for a minority of well-behaved people, and a loss of benefit for those whom good reason had once privileged. If the argument over “equality” could have been made in honest terms, the once-good-reasoned privilege could have been examined rationally and reasonably, and a good-reasoned decision could have been made to continue or terminate the privilege of the genuinely handicapped. But by using subterfuge to eliminate the once-privileged distinction (the state of being handicapped) by changing the definition of the criteria upon which the benefit distinction was made, reason was undermined by demagoguery.

With 95% of parking spaces marked as privileged, and 95% of the population eligible for the privilege, the idea of privilege becomes absurd. More to the point, so does the idea of handicap. By equivocating on the meaning of handicap, the antagonists are able to do sufficient violence to the meaning of the term as to render it impossible to use as a differentiator between those who face serious difficulties in accessing public places and those who don’t, despite the fact that the term was initially intended to mean precisely that. This not only all but eliminates the opportunities for the truly needy to park in the truly choice spaces, but makes it impossible to even have an intelligent discussion about the problem – at least using the term “handicapped,” which no longer has any distinction (i.e. meaning).

How does this analogy hold up to the case of the “gay marriage” movement?

In an important sense, this parable is more analogous to the question of the legitimacy of civil unions for gays than it is to “gay marriage” – because it turns on legal definitions for political concepts such as social privilege and benefits, whereas marriage is a pre-political institution that cannot in reality be defined by a polity. Nonetheless, it does demonstrate how the question of the political privileging of marriage in society (an early emphasis, one will recall, of the anti-marriage lobby – our own “Samers”) was used as a rhetorical tool to subvert the original intention of the political structure around marriage by a moralistic misrepresentation of the concept of equality, or egalitarianism. Still, the battle over marriage is not about benefits, or any other realm of politics, but about the survival in this present society of the fundamental institution of human decency.

More to the point of the “gay marriage” problem is the example of how the usurpation of the term “handicapped” to mean most anything at all only renders the term meaningless. This is precisely what the “gay marriage” advocates have largely accomplished with the term “marriage” – and note that I put that in the present tense, for this is a political accomplishment that is social in character, not legal, and is largely a fait accompli. The Left has successfully manipulated the terms of the controversy so as to make the arguments of the traditionalists incomprehensible in the ears of many. The looming legal victories, if they come, will simply make it illegal to engage truths that are becoming increasingly difficult for many people to understand, anyway.

It’s true that people are being bullied into abandoning the idea that marriage is different from other sexual unions out of fear of being called bigots, but they never could have found themselves in such a vulnerable position unless they had already lost the ability to see the differentiation for themselves; unless they were already prepared to believe that marriage is no more than an honorific bestowed upon a sexual relationship by some social authority – be it religious or the state.

A Saint for Our Age

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2008 (11:33 pm), by John W Gillis


Today was the feast day of Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, and I spent a lot of time thinking about him. When Maximilian was canonized by Pope John Paul II, the pope proclaimed him The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century. He was a great evangelizer and defender of the faith, as well as a protector of Jews and a fierce critic of Nazism – a witness which eventually landed him in Auschwitz as a prisoner.

It was there that his legend was cemented. In retribution for an attempted prisoner escape, the deputy commander of the death camp ordered ten men from Maximilian’s barracks to be sent away to be starved to death. One of the men cried out in grief over his family, and Maximilian stepped forward to take his place. The man survived to personally see Maximilian canonized 41 years later.

The 20th century was nothing if not the stage for the full flowering of Enlightenment deism into outright atheism, and its attendant religiously-flavored inanities. Maximilian’s sensibilities were very much shaped by his experience of the hostility of Europe’s public order toward the Church. As waves of nationalism, socialism, and finally National Socialism, reverberated through the remnants of Christendom, sweeping away traditional meanings of community, the vacuity of the “Enlightenment” project was once for all exposed in the unimaginable darkness of abject brutalities, culminating in the misanthropic hell holes of places like Auschwitz.

Maximilian, in the very midst of the madness, responded in the only way the Church can. He followed his Lord in offering his life, not only for his neighbor, but for his neighbor’s family.

It’s no accident of history that the descent of civilization into various barbarisms in the 20th century has left the 21st century with a legacy of broken families, the destigmatization and social embrace of fornication, a view of sex even within marriage that is radically divorced from its organic meaning in fatherhood and motherhood, the utter collapse of nature’s most fundamental bond of love in the unspeakable crime of abortion, and now, even the attempt to erase the memory of marriage from the consciousness of humanity by perverting its meaning, so that future generations will not even possess a word by which to distinguish marriage from other, non-covenantal, and even explicitly self-centered, domestic arrangements. There will be no thread binding the family together that is left unrepudiated, except the duty of children towards parents – and the wheels of “progress” are already moving to dismantle what remains of that, as society prepares to implement the mirror-image function of abortion in Kevorkianism.

It turns out, it seems, that the family and civilization do not so much support each other, as reflect each other in different historical permutations of the same reality. The family is to civilization as the fetus is to the adult. You cannot destroy one without destroying the other. This is the true crisis of our age, as John Paul II (and his successor) understood as well as anyone. And that Maximilian of Auschwitz is also the patron saint of families is no coincidence.

We need more men like Saint Maximilian with the courage, and the prudence, to offer their lives for the sake the family. The truth is that the world is not so much saved one soul at a time, as one family at a time.

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.
Acts 16:31 (NAB)