Christian Carnival XXVIII

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The 28th Christian Carnival is up at Fringe. As of this writing, I can't get it to load any individual pages. If that's still true when you check, go to his main page and scroll down. The Carnival is still there.

It features my Organized Religion and the Church.

Doc Rampage reflects on some encounters he's had with people on the street asking for money, unsure what the proper Christian response should be. The last encounter he describes is worth reading just to see what lengths someone will go to get the actual cash in his hand rather than getting something paid for.

My Domestic Church has some excellent thoughts on the selfishness of youth and the wisdom of middle age. Some of this wisdom didn't come from aging but from the responsibility of having children, but the point is the same.

Exultate Justi has an excellent explanation of the sort of political theory I would endorse, a libertarianism of sorts limited by a realization that some forms of morality really do need to be enforced and mollified that Christians values are a perfectly good starting place for wanting to encourage and protect against certain behaviors or attitudes. He concludes with a good explanation of why "you can't legislate morality" is a fairly stupid claim but also what true claim people mean to be expressing when they say such things.

Messy Christian shows that having a ministry is simply choosing to serve people. She gives some excellent examples to help us avoid the trap of thinking we don't have a ministry simply because no one has put us in an official ministry position.

Digitus, Finger & Co. will be hosting next week's Carnival #XXIX.

6 Comments

Jeremy,

I've been following your posts on the legalization of same-sex marriage debate. Thought you might be interested in reading the blog of the Centre for Cultural Renwal (http://centreblog.blogspot.com), which is a Canadian thinktank that has actively opposed the legalization of SSM up north here. Recently, the centre's director (Iain Benson, a conservative Catholic intellectual and lawyer) has conceeded that SSM will become legal, one way or the other (see the latest post). He received a lot of angry e-mails from conservatives who are convinced that the current federal law (which has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and must be amended over the next two years) can be salvaged. They are dreaming.

The Centre is now pushing the federal government to institute civil unions, as opposed to full out marriage, for gays and lesbians seeking to be joined in matrimony. For the record, I am opposed to the legalization of SSM and SS unions - I think civil laws can be tailored to allow same-sex couples to claim insurance benefits, hospital visitation rights, and other benefits without having to admit the category of SSM or SS unions. Still, I concede that SSM is a train that can't be stopped (up here in Canada, at least). The polls show that support for the legalization of SSM is quite high among Canadians under the age of thirty - so, SSM will become a reality in this generation or the next.

Regarding something you said in an earlier post -"The only way they're going to see such an amendment is as Christians' attempts to force everyone else to pretend they follow Christian morality." Well, you could say that about attempts to prohibit abortion too. That may not be a good reason for withdrawing support for the FMA, however. Instead, it may be a good reason for convincing skeptics why they should not view anti-SSM arguments as strategies aimed to ensure that the moral content of the law remains Judeo-Christian in the historic sense.

The insincerity of the advocates of SSM legalization lies in their thinking that they can offer a vision of the civil law that is morally neutral between competing conceptions of matrimony. This is a Rawlsian type move, if you ask me (that the exercise of political power is legitimate only when it is justified by reasons formulated within a framework of political discourse not grounded in any comprehensive moral, philosophical, or religious foundation) Yet the view that (legal) marriage should not be peculiar to heterosexuals is itself morally charged. It is grounded in a conception of the good on which marriage is held to be an institution whose ends strictly implicate the love and devotion of any two committed adults, regardless of sexual orientation. That theory of the good is no less up for debate than any other. This is what most liberals and progressives fail to acknowledge - that they are advancing a theory of tbe good, all the while insisting that the civil laws they advocate are not morally loaded.

IT just occured to me that the second and third paragraphs of my previous post seem inconsistent. In defending the traditional view of marriage at law, opponents of SSM legalization are of course defending their own theory of the good. That is not a theory of the good that should be seen as unendorsable (I may have just made up a word there) by people who are not evangelicals or conservative Catholics. Of course, the advocates of SSM legalization insist otherwise. That is why the premises of an anti-SSM legalization argument need to be framed carefully. If the critics remained convinced that this theory of the good is something no non-religious person could endorse without remaining non-religious, then so be it. At least we tried.

The difference with abortion is that opposition to abortion is defense of human rights. Same-sex marriage doesn't threaten anyone's life. Abortion does. It's not about Christian morality. Many people besides Christians oppose abortion on moral grounds. As far as I've been able to tell, those who resist gay marriage who aren't Christians (and therefore don't have Christian reasons to be opposed to homosexual behavior) are just bigots who think gay sex is disgusting. Since that's such an awful argument against allowing something, I see no non-religious argument against homosexual sex, at least none that I think should convince anyone, as I've argued before. The same just isn't true with abortion. You're suggesting that an FMA wouldn't be a way to retain a Christian morality in a historic sense, but I can't see what else it would be. You don't need to adopt Christianity or any other religion to oppose same-sex marriage, but I don't see any halfway decent reason to do so without a Christian basis.

I don't think all those who support same-sex marriage are doing so with the view that this is neutral and everyone's theory of the good will support it. Some of them are aware that there's a different sense of what's good at work. They're just solidly convinced that they're right about what's good.

Oh, I agree that what's at stake in the abortion debate is not the strenghthening or weakening of Christian morality per se. Unfortunately, too many pro-choice advocates are inclined to think that this is what their opponents real agenda amounts to. What else could account for the widely-held misperception that only someone religious could believe that human life begins and conception (suggessting, falsely, that there's a conceptual linkage)? So it isn't surprising that many critics continue to believe that pro-lifers want to draw the boundary that seperates church and state somewhere else (and that is all too true of so many fundies and hardline evangelicals, no?)

Now, as I'm sure you know, there are reasonable anti-SSM legalization arguments that anyone who isn't religious can take into consideration. They may not be *good* arguments, but they're there nonetheless. I think of the work of John Finnis, Robert George, Gerard Bradley, and David Blakenhorn. Roger Scruton, Stanley Kurtz, and Maggie Gallagher have published articles in the National Review. Up here in Canada, Daniel Cere, Douglas Farrow, and Margaret Sommervile have presented before federal committees (http://www.marriageinstitute.ca/pages/issues.htm).

Granted, many of these folks are religious and they are prompted by their convictions. Still, the view of marriage enshrined in the law need not be seen as exclusively Christian, even if it *is* historically rooted in Judeo-Christian norms. To insist otherwise is to commit a kind of genetic fallacy. Most non-religious people in the West think that adultery is proper cause for divorce, but that cause is, in part, an extension of Judeo-Christian norms. The law can borrow content from Judeo-Christian morality, without having to present it as rules for living some sort of Christian life. Conservatives about marriage just happen to believe that the traditional view, historically rooted in Judeo-Christian morality as it may be, is a view that should remain enshrined in the law. What's wrong with that? A theory of the good may be Christian in origin, but that is no reason why non-religious people cannot adopt it - especially when you consider that the proponents of SSM legalization would like us to adopt *their* theory of the good. Otherwise, were just back to the Bentham/Mill type view that the only function of the law is to prevent harm (and not promote the good) and you yourself have argued against that elsewhere.

As for those non-religious bigots who are disgusted by gay/lesbian sex (well, maybe not lesbian sex... plenty of non-religious guys like that), they may be exhibiting an irrational animus (as many religious folks do too), but disgust has its purposes. We don't think that, say, incest should remain illegal only because of its ill genetic effects. Upon reflection, we conclude that it *is* disgusting and we have good reasons for concluding so (I'm not suggesting that everyone reflects about the matter - certainly most people just have the "that's icky" reaction and leave it at that, but if we did reflect upon the matter we could indeed find justification for our disgust). It is not *mere* disgust, but is, in fact, a concern for protecting human goodness. Note that I'm not in favour of criminalizing gay sex (I don't find it abominable) and I don't think being disgusted by some act is a sufficient ground for prohibiting that act. All I'm claiming is that it is not irrational to be moved by disgust into thinking that some activity should be illegal.

That should read - "it is not *always* irrational to be moved by disgust into thinking that some activity should be illegal." Sorry.

You're right that some inconsistently use disgust as an argument against incest but refuse to allow it as an argument against gay sex. The consistent liberal view of sex as ok except when harmful or nonconsensual has a harder time arguing against incest. I think you can argue that incest is psychologically harmful, but the same arguments might apply to gay sex, depending on how they go. Incest between two adults of roughly the same age is very hard to argue against except on grounds that might also apply to gay sex. Now whether that requires adamantly resisting a growing trend to have laws against it is another matter.

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