Thursday, September 28, 2006

Comments update

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

I did this because I really don't want to have to moderate comments, requiring me to be near the Internet 24-7. Haloscan makes it possible to ban a specific person while leaving things open and free to others. I simply have no tolerance for the kind of person who won't take hints and considers queeny bitchiness, ad-hominem slanders, and com-box psychologization to be ordinary human behavior (which in his circles, it undoubtedly is. Those circles have no place here.)

Haloscan automatically erased the old comments, but I had them backed up, and I reposted them manually in the relevant Haloscan boxes, with the names and then-provided-homepages of the initial senders, even though it was I doing all the posting. I changed nothing, except for a few of double posts, grammar-correction posts and now-broken links.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ideas taken to their conclusion (twice)

And now, it's not just dissident "Mormons," but (in one case) homosexuals themselves going about the redefinition of marriage and family to deprivilege the number "2."

After all, if the male-female requirement can go by the wayside because it's contrary to some people's passionate desires, there's no reason not to reject the numerical requirement of 2-and-only-2. After all, the requirement of "2" is equally contrary to some people's passionate desires. And there's actually FAR more historical precedent (n>0) for plural marriage as for homosexual "marriage."

Anyway, on the first count, some members of a breakaway quasi-Mormon sect have filed an appeal in a Denver federal court, seeking to overturn Utah's ban on polygamy. Partially on religious-freedom grounds, but also taking pages from the pro-gay playbook.
"It's time for it to be readdressed," [Mary Batchelor of Sandy, Utah, executive director of the group Principle Voices] said in an interview. "We live in a society of family arrangements that simply are, no matter how people want to define them. They are not labeled criminal and we don't believe our family arrangements should be labeled criminal either."
Sound familiar? "Our families simply *are* -- and definitions don't matter." A triumph of the will, where the creation of something constitutes its justification, or its immunity from moral legislation. (The spate of gay "marriages" led by the mayor of San Francisco, an attempt to create facts on the ground, proves how utterly lawless pro-homosexual activists are.) Then we get the citation in the legal briefs, as cited by the Associated Press as arguing that "under a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking Texas laws banning sodomy, polygamy is a private interest that should not be prosecuted." The brief says:
The [Supreme Court] found no compelling state interest in criminalizing homosexual sodomy based on a long history of states and/or a majority of society finding the practice immoral. Similarly, the state of Utah can offer no compelling justification for criminalizing polygamy ... Utah's criminalization of religious polygamy, even if the crime is rarely prosecuted, brands plaintiffs as criminals and sanctions public and private discrimination based on plaintiffs' religious based choice of marital relationship.
The case for a right to plural marriage is actually far stronger than the case for a right to sodomy, because "the free exercise of religion" (unlike "privacy") actually appears in the U.S. Constitution. Religion, unlike sex, is an activity protected in principle from state regulation, and thus there's a "there" there besides "I want something" or the famous Casey "mystery" passage.

Then there's the other case -- involving three homosexuals in Canada (warning: link is to A gay man and a lesbian woman had a child together and are the child's legal (as well as biological) parents, but the lesbian's lover also wants to be granted parental rights.
"The family has evolved over the years in a way that the law should recognize the reality of this little boy," the father's lawyer, Alfred Mamo, told the [Toronto] Globe and Mail. "His reality being that he's got two mothers and a father with whom he thrives. They all want this for their son."
Again ... this sound familiar? The issues aren't exactly gay marriage (Canada having long ago joined the Brave New World), but the creation of a three-parent family. Still, the argument is exactly the same -- recognize the reality and diversity of the contemporary family. Pictures of a cooing baby. And heck, why stop at three. Doesn't the father's boyfriend/"husband" have any say in this? (Four.) What if this child had been carried by a surrogate mother? (Five.) And her husband/lover/partner/whatever (six)? Once you throw in divorces in these with-it times and all the shared custody issues, you might get into the double digits.

But "more" isn't "better" in the matter of parents. In fact, like with cancer cells, exactly the contrary. Parental love is jealous and depends on a love of what is really, truly one's own (in Plato's Republic, Socrates knows that the City in Speech has to keep mothers from knowing who their children are, lest they favor them). Once motherhood is decoupled in principle from the physical acts of conception and the nine months of carrying to term -- "the biological bits," the lover's lawyer played them down as, saving his strength for the red-letter word "discriminatory" -- it becomes a property contract like any other. Just as fatherhood, inherently a less-exhausting enterprise, has been decoupled from love and marriage -- with predictable results.

Here was my favorite part of the article:
In 2003 a lower court rejected the partner's attempt to be listed as a co-parent.
In his ruling, Mr. Justice David Aston said the woman plays the role of parent to the child in every sense imaginable, and suggested that allowing the trio to share equal rights as parents would be in the boy's best interests.
But Ontario law, he ruled, binds his hands. Provincial family law allows two parents of the opposite sex, or two parents of the same sex, but not three parents.
The law bind a judge's hands? Heaven forfend.

Pro-homosexual propagandists can protest that they oppose polygamy or how they now have no right to marry *at all* (which is not true), but the logic of the law and precedent-based decisions forces principles to play themselves out to their logical conclusion. If a private desire for something creates a right to it, and a concomitant right to overturn the definitions of marriage and family as mere historical accidents or prejudicial, then this is what must happen. This is far less the case for democratic deliberation, where the inherently messy mind of the demos operates as a de facto brake on the slippery slope. But lawyers, like Chesterton's madman, are more perfectly logical.

Now hear this

I'm not under any illusions that this is a high-traffic site. Nevertheless, I wish to make one thing absolutely clear.

I will not tolerate, not should I have to, name-calling against me. I state my own opinions, often quite pungently, but I simply have no tolerance or time for people (and they seem to be commoner than random among pro-gay Internet posters) who think calling someone a "bigot" or the like, or playing psychiatrist to a stranger on the Internet, is a substitute for argument. Feel free to disagree with me (really). But the punches will stay above the belt. Capice?

It should go without saying that anyone who thinks I myself violate this standard is free to call me on it. And the practice of constantly having to confess to one's own faults and sins gives one thick skin on such matters.

UPDATE: And because one particular person will not take the hint, repeatedly posting comments after I have deleted and told him he is not wanted, I have been forced to introduce comment moderation. I don't ask for much, but I will get it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Great article from the Alternapress

These were the articles that got me into the debate at Rod's -- one week apart by Julie Lyons, editor of the Dallas Observer. At her publication's blog, the woman who holds the top editorial position at the Village Voice Media's outlet in Dallas outs herself as having struggled with lesbianism and ends her story (even worse) by becoming a Pentecostal Christian who married after being born again. She underwent some kind of spiritual prayer-healing -- she's vague on the matter, and I know nothing of that side of Protestantism, but that won't prevent me from stating with certainty that it probably involved some snake-handling.

It's a brilliant piece, not the least because of the unexpected location of it (and don't think there isn't plenty of vituperation of her in the Observer blog; and elsewhere). The best line in the original piece, in my opinion, is this one:
The evangelical faith loses every bit of its meaning and power when it is separated from love, the eternal principle behind the gospel of Jesus Christ. But this love is not some squishy, infinitely malleable thing that exists apart from truth—the truth revealed in the Bible. It is a love that constrains: from hatred, and from sin.
"Love that constrains"?? How can unconditional acceptance "constrain"; constraint is denial??

To paraphrase the end of a recent George Will column, if you want to understand the real reason for the religiosity of Red America — read that sentence again. And then read the one next to it. And reflect on the differences in referents and the assumptions they both contain and cause. I'll give Lyons herself gets the last word, from the Front Burner blog, turning a favorite phrase of liberals back at them:
Last week when hostile comments starting flowing in to Unfair Park concerning Bible Girl, my husband ... wrote a very eloquent response ... I advised him not to post it, touched as I was by his concern for me. He ultimately made his own decision not to post. I told him this: Don't waste your breath on people who are unwilling to challenge their own prejudices, regardless of what you say and what you've gone through.
Preach it, sister.

"Putting a rein on it"

I read this while at Adoration last night -- for whatever reason, I tend to prefer to read and reflect on spiritual and devotional works than pray (in the "say a Hail Mary" sense). In this excerpt, one of the Church's greatest doctors talks about the appetites ("desires," we'd be more likely to say) and the degree to which we can manage them.
To sum up, this sensual appetite is in fact a rebellious, seditious and subversive subject. We must acknowledge that we cannot conquer it so completely that it will not rise up again, make opposition and assail reason. Yet the will has such strong control over it that, if it wishes, it can put reins on it, shatter its plans and drive it back, since not to consent to its suggestions is enough to drive it back. We cannot prevent concupiscence from conceiving, but we can prevent it from bringing forth and perfecting sin. ... This horde of passions is let stay in our souls, Theotimus, in order to develop our will in spiritual strength and valor.
— St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, Book 1 Chapter 3
The Great Unanswered Question for me about God and Topic H is not so much "why did You do this to me?" (or let this happen), but something closer to "why do You keep me in this state." Without touching (for now) questions of theodicy, St. Francis de Sales points to about as good an answer as any. That having in the forefront of your head a specific concupiscence, one that you cannot conquer per se, but only dampen over time by not surrendering to it, makes your will hardier (as fighters train in order to become tougher) while underscoring your dependence on God. If we could overcome concupiscence absolutely, we'd no longer be men, but angels. And since we're not angels, thinking that we are angels is an invitation to prideful disaster, to an antinomian collapse. But this is not to say that becoming tougher doesn't hurt. A lot.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Speaking of frauds...

... there is a new "spiritual adviser" and performer of homosexual marriages, now recently out of the closet herself.

Miss Cleo.

Threat to religious freedom

The New York Times notes that religious conservatives are making a new argument against gay "marriage" -- namely that it's incompatible with religious freedom. Set aside for now the typical NYT bias -- couching the argument in its lead grafs in terms of conservatives trying to drum things up from fear of losing their base, etc. Here is the meat of the argument:
To revive some of the emotions around the issue, several organizers said they were taking up the argument that legal recognition of same-sex marriages would cramp the free expression of religious groups who consider such unions a sin — an idea much discussed at the conference.
“That is an issue that wasn’t around two years ago and one that is absolutely moving to the very forefront,” said the Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, a conservative Christian broadcaster and advocacy group.
Although that idea may seem far-fetched to many liberal or secular-minded voters, legal scholars across the political spectrum agree that authorizing same-sex marriages could present legal questions for some religious groups. A Roman Catholic group in Massachusetts, for example, recently stopped offering children for adoption rather than provide them to gay couples.
At the Values Voters conference, Mr. Perkins played a preview for an October telecast to Christian broadcasters that dramatized the conflicts in stark terms. He interviewed parents who are suing the town of Lexington, Mass., because its public school assigned their 7-year-old son a book called “King and King,” about two princes who marry.
Amplifying what I wrote below, saying the homosex activists simply want "tolerance" is not true. Nor could it be (I'm not arguing bad faith). Tolerance is only possible for that which society considers "tolerable," and what is "tolerable" cannot be understood apart from some (religious or quasi-religious) notion of the good -- or right and wrong. The judgment that homosexuality is a morally neutral fact or attribute is not compatible with freedom for religions that say it is not, because that judgment of so-called "neutrality" will determine public policy on such matters as, say, assigning books in schools.

I'll note with amusement that the Times sees fit to note that the "idea may seem far-fetched to many liberal or secular-minded voters" -- and then goes on to cite two examples of how "tolerance" for homosexuality impinges on religious freedom (there are many others). Why is that necessary to note? "The idea that Bill Clinton is a cad may seem far fetched to many liberal or secular-minded voters" followed by references to Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey, Gennifer Flowers, etc. Or should I be cynical and suggest that "liberal or secular-minded voters" are blind to events before their eyes because, in their typical narrative, their template of understanding "Christians" are by definition persecutors, rather than persecuted.

Over on Beliefnet

I spent a lot of time at the weekend at Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog debating gay "marriage" with religious liberals. Some of the people could actually parse a sentence, though hopelessly trapped inside their own assumptions; others were just drama queens throwing a hissy fit (I provide the link to the combox to prove I am saying nothing behind anyone's back that I didn't say there).

Predictably, it reached the following impasse with the first set. Impasse one from Susan:
So, CM, maybe you need to bow out of this conversation since you aren't willing to think outside your ideological box. People are trying to talk more abstractly and push beyond their own perspectives, but you don't seem to be interested in that.
Impasse two from watsy:
I have no problem with Courage Man or Rod or anyone else having objective truths. But we live in a diverse culture. I want to know why CM and Rod think that they have the right to say that MNW and his spouse should not have the benefits that come with marriage.
There is a certain sense in which these are both true.

Discourse among people with incompatible first principles is pretty jejune -- one is tempted to say pointless. And it IS pointless -- absolutely so -- when one party is so wrapped up in his first principles that he doesn't even see them as disputable (fish not noticing the water and all of that). It is also true that American society is not monolithically Christian, and its government is (and should be) secular.

But where both these commenters go off the rails is the conclusions they draw from these facts (or from the implicit ways they frame these facts), and the errors they make are fairly typical (the reason for my putting them here).

For example, if it be true that I am "unwilling to think outside my ideological box" in saying that "marriage means a man and a woman and so talk of 'gay marriage' is talk of 'four-sided triangles' or 'male pregnancy'," then it is equally true that gay "marriage" advocates are equally "unwilling to think outside their ideological box" by defining marriage as "the union of two persons." Again, you have to have *some* starting point and understanding of definitions. Further, to call me "unwilling to consider abstractions" is, to be polite, batshit crazy. I insist that the gay "marriage" debate is meaningless unless and until we consider what marriage *is.*

Further, why does it follow that if Susan and I¹ cannot have meaningful discourse because our starting assumptions are too incompatible (so far, so good), that (a) the fault is with me -- i.e., I need to be the one who "bows out" of the conversation; and/or (b) only *I* have an ideological box, outside of which I am unwilling to think.

By inviting me to "bow out" Susan (ditto note 1) is indicating a belief that she gets to define the terms in, and the terms of, meaningful discourse. If I speak Spanish and someone else speaks French, it'd be false and self-righteous for me to say that the Francophone needs to "bow out" of the conversation because he doesn't speak the right language. Inability to communicate because of incompatible languages/discourses is always and inevitably a two-way street. Liberals tend not to realize that because they generally think their "language" is that of all rational men. Not realizing that it isn't. Why is Susan's invitation/dismissal more rational than for me to say that she should "bow out" because she is unwilling to think outside her ideological box (which, phenomenologically-speaking, she clearly is not)? Or to overextend the metaphor, on what basis could one assume that Spanish (or French) is the natural language of discourse, the one that sets the terms of the conversation in the first place.

And the pro-gay-'marriage' folks clearly, obviously and repeatedly show their "unwillingness to think outside their ideological box" (or insistence on speaking French) by talking as if, and using constructions that presuppose, it were already uncontroversially and incontrovertibly established that marriage is the union of two persons, rather than the union of a man and a woman. For example, watsy talks about "MNW and his spouse," which is the intellectual equivalent of stealing all four bases. And I'll say it up front -- if marriage is the defined as the union of two persons, rather than a man and a woman, then there really is nothing to discuss. Everything turns on the definition of marriage. But Susan (ditto note 1) said that my definition puts me beyond the pale.

Further, there's a political analog here to the "bow out" exhortation which intellectually-aware Christians never fail to pick up on, and which watsy made quite explicit. As extrapolated from the private sphere of a combox discussion to the body politic, that analog provides an insight on liberals' general psychology -- namely that they assume, usually without even realizing it, that the "public square" belongs to them. That others, including Christians, must participate in it on their terms. But they truly do not realize how deep their unexamined assumptions go or that they reason from principles that they take to be self-evident, but which are not. This was how watsy put it:
I don't know that it's enough to say that "somebody" has to say. I think that the person who can provide the best non-theological reasons one way or the other should get the say. The reason that I think that it should be the best "nontheological" reason is because our civil laws aren't based on the Bible or what a subset of people consider to be sacred.
In one sentence -- why are "non-theological reasons" privileged? I understand why a secularist would think they should be, but what understanding exists that a Christian (or Muslim or Jew or Zoroastrian) might find persuasive?

Yes, it is true that Bible is not the civil code, but one cannot extrapolate from that to the notion that public reason, i.e., what counts as an argument in the public sphere, therefore must be non-religious. Sure, I don't expect a non-Christian to be persuaded by a citation from Romans 1 (or even Catholic Natural Law philosophy). But why is the measure of "public reason" the ability to persuade a non-Christian? Why isn't it just as damning that a Christian will not be persuaded by an citation from Hume (or even an argument that presupposes, implicitly or explicitly, that God doesn't exist)? And if it doesn't matter that "secular" arguments can't persuade Christians, why shouldn't Christians take that as a sign that secularists consider them second-class citizens or second-class intellects?

Yes, it is true that not everybody holds the same things sacred. But everybody considers *some* things sacred. Maybe not in the "place in the monstrance for Adoration" sense of "sacred." But in the general sense of "sacred cow," meaning the that-which-cannot-be-questioned, secularists have just as many as Christians (secularism itself, equality, freedom, identity, one's personal ideology). And so someone's sense of the "sacred" will have to prevail, and there is no independent reason to privilege these secular "gods" over the Christian one. They are every bit as pre-rational and universe-defining.

The error is is assuming that one can go from the legal separation of church and state (an institutional arrangement that Christianity developed a millennium before Jefferson's ancestors were this side of the Atlantic) to the social separation of religion and society. The latter, to put it bluntly, is impossible, absent the formal disenfranchisement of Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. A religious believer has to believe that his religion is true, just as a secularist must believe that secularism ("freedom is good"; "the measure of public reason is to provide secular grounds for something") is really true. So to say that the religious person *has* to bracket his religion but a secular person need not bracket secularism is unvarnished arrogance, an imprisonment inside one's one beliefs so deep it cannot even see itself as imprisoned.

In the earlier quote above, watsy says she has no problem with "Courage Man or Rod ... having objective truths," which completely misses the point about "objective truth." By saying it's something somebody is "having," the speaker always already personalizes² or privatizes the matter, which is not what "objective truth" is. Watsy is presupposing that truth is something internal that one constructs for oneself rather than something external that is discerned -- like saying 2+2=4 (an objective truth, I think we can agree) is a matter of opinion rather than a truth binding upon you, whether you want it to be true or not.

Put that way, it's obvious that there's not much "there" there except "if everyone agreed with me, we'd all agree." Which is somewhat less than persuasive.
¹ It should go without saying that I use these names simply to designate ideal-types and for convenience's sake, not for the purpose of personalizing matters.
² "Personalizes" in the sense of "turns into a matter of personal opinion"; not "personalizes" in the sense of "making a disagreement into a personal attack" -- "you're a stupid bastard" and all that. As I used the word at the end of note 1