California Decision Will Radically Change Society

Townhall.com | Dennis Prager | May. 20, 2008

Americans seem mesmerized by the word “change.” And, by golly, they sure got it last week from the California Supreme Court. It is difficult to imagine a single social change greater than redefining marriage from opposite sex to include members of the same sex.

Nothing imaginable — leftward or rightward — would constitute as radical a change in the way society is structured as this redefining of marriage for the first time in history: Not another Prohibition, not government taking over all health care, not changing all public education to private schools, not America leaving the United Nations, not rescinding the income tax and replacing it with a consumption tax. Nothing.

Unless California voters amend the California Constitution or Congress amends the U.S. Constitution, four justices of the California Supreme Court will have changed American society more than any four individuals since Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison.

And what is particularly amazing is that virtually none of those who support this decision — let alone the four compassionate justices — acknowledge this. The mantra of the supporters of this sea change in society is that it’s no big deal. Hey, it doesn’t affect any heterosexuals’ marriage, so what’s the problem?

This lack of acknowledgment — or even awareness — of how society-changing is this redefinition of marriage is one reason the decision was made. To the four compassionate ones — and their millions of compassionate supporters — allowing same-sex marriage is nothing more than what courts did to end legal bans on interracial marriage. The justices and their supporters know not what they did. They think that all they did was extend a “right” that had been unfairly denied to gays.

Another reason for this decision is arrogance. First, the arrogance of four individuals to impose their understanding of what is right and wrong on the rest of society. And second is the arrogance of the four compassionate ones in assuming that all thinkers, theologians, philosophers, religions and moral systems in history were wrong, while they and their supporters have seen a moral light never seen before. Not a single religion or moral philosophical system — East or West — since antiquity ever defined marriage as between members of the same sex.

That is one reason the argument that this decision is the same as courts undoing legal bans on marriages between races is false. No major religion — not Judaism, not Christianity, not Islam, not Buddhism — ever banned interracial marriage. Some religions have banned marriages with members of other religions. But since these religions allowed anyone of any race to convert, i.e., become a member of that religion, the race or ethnicity of individuals never mattered with regard to marriage. American bans on interracial marriages were not supported by any major religious or moral system; those bans were immoral aberrations, no matter how many religious individuals may have supported them. Justices who overthrew bans on interracial marriages, therefore, had virtually every moral and religious value system since ancient times on their side. But justices who overthrow the ban on same-sex marriage have nothing other their hubris and their notions of compassion on their side.

Since the secular age began, the notion that one should look to religion — or to any past wisdom — for one’s values has died. Thus, the modern attempts to undo the Judeo-Christian value system as the basis of America’s values, and to disparage the Founders as essentially morally flawed individuals (They allowed slavery, didn’t they?). The modern secular liberal knows that he is not only morally superior to conservatives; he is morally superior to virtually everyone who ever lived before him.

Which leads to a third reason such a sea change could be so cavalierly imposed by four individuals — the modern supplanting of wisdom with compassion as the supreme guide in forming society’s values and laws. Just as for religious fundamentalists, “the Bible says” ends discussion, for liberal fundamentalists, “compassion says” ends discussion.

If this verdict stands, society as we have known it will change. The California Supreme Court and its millions of supporters are playing with fire. And it will eventually burn future generations in ways we can only begin to imagine.

. . . more

Comments

  1. James K says:

    While I doubt gay marriage is technically a Constitutional right, I do think Prager is being a bit melodramatic in his hand-wringing.

    The states that had liberal gay marriage laws (MA and CT) have also had the lowest rates of divorces. Tennessee and Oklahoma, on the other hand, had almost triple their rates.

    Even if we ignore those nettlesome facts, I’m not sure how the disintegration of marriage can be directly mapped to liberalized gay marriage laws. Commentator after commentator acknowledges that while their marriage is (of course) not directly impacted by these laws, others will be. But how? Should we expect men across the nation to abandon their wives in favor of their bud next door? Is homosexuality “teachable” in the sense that simple exposure to it growing up will greatly increase the likelihood of it being made manifest later in life? Both sound preposterous, and in the second matter, we know that most gay men and women grow up in heterosexual households.

    I doubt the best option for gay men is to marry an opposite-sex partner. In most situations, it ends miserably as we’ve seen with former governor McGreevey and evangelist Ted Haggard. In fact, I’m willing to bet that it is most often these types who resort to the fringe elements in terms of behavior (drug use, prostitutes, etc.).

    This isn’t to suggest that the Orthodox need to rethink their moral stances on these issues, I just don’t believe that one needs to find a contradiction between their faith and what they accept in a pluralist free society. After all, we do not wish to outlaw divorce for all but Scripturally-approved grounds (i.e., adultery only).

  2. Jacobse says:

    James writes:

    This isn’t to suggest that the Orthodox need to rethink their moral stances on these issues, I just don’t believe that one needs to find a contradiction between their faith and what they accept in a pluralist free society.

    Really? And this after heaping a boatload of scorn of anyone who might dare criticize the decision? Yet you “doubt gay marriage is technically a Constitutional right” — well, that’s a relief!

    Read Prager again James, but this time try to comprehend it. He is speaking in broader terms than you perceive. His views aren’t bound by the limits of his own experience (and thus free of the shallow moralizing that afflicts your analysis). He doesn’t make dubious assertions like comparing divorce rates (who really knows why they are lower — an older population perhaps?) and gay marriage efforts to justify one over the other. In other words, he is the better thinker. You should pause a bit before crafting a retort.

    Don’t be so quick to jump on the politically correct bandwagon. The four judges, in their foolish arrogance, may just have shook many people out of their slumber.

  3. James K says:

    Fr. Hans, I have a good deal of respect for you and I think you have a finely tuned moral sense. This is why I’m a bit taken aback when you appear to take statements like the following with such casual, nodding acceptance:

    “Nothing imaginable — leftward or rightward — would constitute as radical a change in the way society is structured as this redefining of marriage for the first time in history … If this verdict stands, society as we have known it will change. “

    I would think you’d know better than to underestimate the power of such rhetoric in instilling fear and hatred in people. Perhaps I’m connecting the dots incorrectly here from Prager’s statement, but it seems that any simpleton who can read between the lines would come to the conclusion that society is crumbling because of those people, their marriage is suffering because of those people, gas prices are skyrocketing because of those people.

    So yes, when someone makes assertions like these, I want evidence. Is that unreasonable?

  4. And this after heaping a boatload of scorn of anyone who might dare criticize the decision?

    I’m curious to read this boatload of scorn. Are you referring to post #1 here? Or was there some other post on another thread that was particularly scornful?

  5. Jacobse says:

    James writes:

    I would think you’d know better than to underestimate the power of such rhetoric in instilling fear and hatred in people. Perhaps I’m connecting the dots incorrectly here from Prager’s statement, but it seems that any simpleton who can read between the lines would come to the conclusion that society is crumbling because of those people, their marriage is suffering because of those people, gas prices are skyrocketing because of those people.

    This is exactly the kind of shallow moralizing I am criticizing. You reduce Prager’s argument into something it is not, and then you ask for proof that your reduction, not Prager’s argument, is true — all the while wagging a finger.

    You’ve got to think the arguments through, James. Don’t merely reflexively react.

  6. Banescu says:

    Exactly what Dennis Prager said would happen just a few days ago is now unfolding in California. He was absolutely right! Who can say that only 2 people can marry each other? Why not 3, 4, 5, 6, even 10? By whose authority will the state now arbitrarily limit this to 2 people? If God has been removed and moral principles jettisoned what will constrain the madness and lunacy?

    California is rewriting its marriage forms for gays

  7. Jacobse says:

    The four judges have absolutely no idea of what they have just unleashed.

  8. James K says:

    Perhaps I’m naive, but I believe that what no matter the laws are, the majority of people are going to prefer heterosexual, monogamous relationships. Even if the state offered no civil benefits for the union of two people, people will still choose to form these sorts of relationships whether they decide to bear children or not.

    Keep in mind that a good number of those in polygamous relationships (as the members of the denomination in Texas) are involved in them not in spite of their religious faith (or lack of it) but often because of their faith in Christ (or at least their version what they think Him to be).

    People are holding off marriage until later in life, it is true, but it most likely due to economic and financial considerations.

  9. Jim Holman says:

    Fr. Hans writes: “The four judges have absolutely no idea of what they have just unleashed.”

    But under California’s domestic partnership law homosexual couples already had available most of the substantive rights and obligations afforded to heterosexual married couples. So I think it is likely that most of what you might object to was already legally in place. The main difference is that gays and lesbians were “domestic partners,” and heterosexual couples were “married.”

    Let me give you an example. Imagine a situation in which gays and lesbians in California were afforded all the rights of citizens — they could vote, own property, defend themselves in court, enter into all professions, hold business and occupational licenses, and in general enjoy all other substantive rights of citizens. But the difference is that they legally weren’t called “citizens,” but perhaps “participants.” Would you consider that situation legally acceptable?

  10. Jacobse says:

    Note 9. Jim writes:

    Let me give you an example. Imagine a situation in which gays and lesbians in California were afforded all the rights of citizens — they could vote, own property, defend themselves in court, enter into all professions, hold business and occupational licenses, and in general enjoy all other substantive rights of citizens.

    They already have those rights. They also, like you, have the right to marry. They just don’t have the right to marry members of the same sex, sons, daughters, two people, etc. etc.

    The hubris of the Court is astonishing. They’ve redefined marriage in a way inconceivable a few short decades ago — a revolt really against common sense, the moral tradition, and the moral practices of almost every society in all of history.

    They may have provoked a movement towards a constitutional amendment to overturn their ruling — and rightfully so. There is a deep undercurrent of feeling that some of homosexual cultural agenda needs to be checked. This might be the catalyst.

  11. Jim Holman says:

    Fr. Hans writes: “The hubris of the Court is astonishing. They’ve redefined marriage in a way inconceivable a few short decades ago — a revolt really against common sense, the moral tradition, and the moral practices of almost every society in all of history.”

    So just to be clear, what exactly do you object to — the substantive rights that have traditionally been afforded to married couples now given also to same-sex couples, or the application of the term “marriage” to same sex couples?

    If you object to substantive rights, which ones? For example, if one member of the couple is admitted to a hospital, should the other member be considered family? Pension rights? Inheritance?

  12. Banescu says:

    Jim, Fr. Hans is objecting to the hubris of the court to define “marriage” as anything more than the union of a man and a woman, which is what “marriage” is and always has been in Judeo-Christian societies since the beginning of time.

  13. Jacobse says:

    I am objecting to the hubris of the court to define “marriage” as anything more than the union of a man and a woman, which is what “marriage” is and always has been in Judeo-Christian societies, and all others in recorded history.

  14. Jim Holman says:

    Fr. Hans writes: “I am objecting to the hubris of the court to define “marriage” as anything more than the union of a man and a woman…”

    So if the term “marriage” weren’t used, but the same-sex couple had all the substantive rights associated with marriage, then you wouldn’t have a problem with it? I’m not trying to pick on you, just trying to understand what it is that you object to.

    There are literally hundreds of rights that are related to marriage, most of them very mundane — like being able to find a joint tax return. Without talking about the whole list, do you think that same sex couples should have at least some of the rights traditionally afforded to married couples?

  15. Fr. John Chagnon says:

    The sadness, to me, in all of this is that whatever a court decrees on marriage the natural laws can and will find their own level and remain in force. Despite a court’s ruling we cannot override the nature of creation and by ignoring the hard won wisdom of the past we’ve chosen to experience, again, the pain that produced it. Before sanity returns there will many who suffer, many who will die, and a great woundedness in our world. It’s already with us.

    Yet all is not lost. This decline in our culture, this pain we experience creates a great unspoken hunger that can only be answered by Christ. In the midst of these times any bit of light will stand out in brilliant relief from the general darkness. If the Church has the courage and the will to be what God called it to be the potential for revolutionary change is immense.

  16. Fr. John wrote:

    “The sadness, to me, in all of this is that whatever a court decrees on marriage the natural laws can and will find their own level and remain in force. Despite a court’s ruling we cannot override the nature of creation and by ignoring the hard won wisdom of the past we’ve chosen to experience, again, the pain that produced it.”

    Fr. John you hit the nail on the head. In school we are taught that “normal” is what is accepted by society. This is clearly a case of what “normal” is and what “natural” is. Homosexuality is not natural.

    Even though our form of government is founded on “natural law”, I see nothing in the Constitution that upholds the exclusive right of monogamous heterosexual marriage. There is however, freedom of religion. And now we are faced with not only same-sex marriages, but polygamy, and a plethora of other problems.

    Unfortunately, it appears that homosexuality is now “normal.” Yet no one is questioning the “natural.”

    The question is, “How do we face these challenges constitutionally?”

  17. Homosexuality is not natural.

    By this, DavidS, do you mean that it does not occur in nature? That’s what natural usually means.

    Or were you using jargon?

  18. Phil wrote:

    “By this, DavidS, do you mean that it does not occur in nature? That’s what natural usually means.”

    I would say that I am using it in the fourth definition of Merriam-Webster : ” the physical constitution or drives of an organism; especially : an excretory organ or function —used in phrases like the call of nature

    Man’s natural physiology does not provide for homosexual relationships, e.g. sodomy is physically destructive, reproduction is impossible. This would be my argument on the “natural” level against homosexuality.

    On the legal side, I would argue that if one has the right to marry one of the same sex, then as mentioned before, one has the right to marry whatever one pleases. On a side note, I saw a televised debate between a heterosexual defending traditional marriage and a homosexual defending same-sex marriage. When the homosexual was asked about polygamy, he stated that polygamy was “not normal.” On what does he base his position?

    I propose this to you: Since murder(and I mean “cold blooded” murder not war) “occurs in nature” and is by definition “natural”, is murder acceptable behavior?

  19. Michael P Bauman says:

    Man is the microcosom, we have dominion. When we fell, all the rest of the visible creation fell. Therefore, all the sins we commit will be reflected in the natural world.

  20. Fr John Chagnon says:

    The fact that something “happens in nature” does not make it “natural” in the Christian sense because we posit that nature is broken by mortality and the resulting sin and death. So there are many things that occur, even regularly, in nature that we would not consider natural but rather as manifestations of a primal brokenness.

    In the case of sexuality its physically possible to do many things and there are people who feel that such acts are natural simply because they can happen or they desire them. The problem is that nature itself often begs to differ and despite the sensation of naturalness exacts a heavy price in terms of illness, dysfunction, and spiritual and psychological brokenness.

    In reading some of the reasoning behind the decision of the California Supreme Court there is a sense that the judges voting for same sex marriage felt they were doing a fair thing for an oppressed minority. But they were in fact being quite naive and in making what they felt was a “fair” decision effectively turned many good people struggling with their sexuality over into the hands of a natural realm that can exact a severe reaction to breaking its laws.

    At some future point when the sheer pain and destruction of our obsession with unlimited sexuality gets so large that even the media can’t ignore it any longer we may see change. But until then it seems we’re doomed to repeat the lessons of the past, ironically rediscovering that those “primitives” who insisted on rules and regulations rooted in their experience of both the natural world and revelation were actually wiser than at least four presumably well educated judges.

  21. The problem is that nature itself often begs to differ and despite the sensation of naturalness exacts a heavy price in terms of illness, dysfunction, and spiritual and psychological brokenness.

    Would you say, Father, that any physical act that is possible that results in illness or dysfunction is unnatural or illicit, or do these criteria apply only to things that your personal worldview finds distasteful.

    For example, pitching a baseball can result in torn ligaments and problems with one’s rotator cuff, yet we seldom hear about the moral dimension of this physical act.

  22. Phil,

    I’m still waiting on a response to the question I asked you in my previous post.

  23. Hi David,

    I responded to that question several days ago, but on my computer that response is listed as “awaiting moderation.”

    Here is what I wrote:

    I’m not sure whether murder does occur in nature, because murder requires an entity to know what he is doing when she kills another, and I don’t think I’d accept that animals possess that awareness. Regardless, I didn’t put forth the argument that things that are natural are automatically good, or that things that are unnatural are not. Arsenic may be natural, but I’d choose a Hostess Twinkie over it any day of the week.

  24. Phil,

    Okay, I see that what you meant by “occurs in nature” you are referring to the animal kingdom. Someone I know years ago, told me that homosexuality is natural because it happens among the animals. My response to that would be: Many animals eat their young. So would it be natural for humans to eat their young?

  25. Fr John Chagnon says:

    Phil,

    I believe that one of the great deceptions of our time is our sense of entitlement to do and be anything we “feel” like without sober reflection on the potential costs. We live as if the natural world doesn’t matter and our urges are justified by their mere existence. Our wishes dictate all and ignore the rules of nature and the wisdom of prior human experience.

    Human sexuality is merely one of the places where this occurs. We see such thinking in our political structures, academia, business, and often even in the Church. I see it in myself as well because I swim in this cultural sea.

    In the specific case of human sexuality the medical evidence continues to grow and the conclusion is the same. As our sexual expression loses its sense of limits and direction there has been a corresponding expansion of disease and dysfunction. People may feel they are entitled to a particular sort of sexual expression but nature will often say “no” in its own way, and that way can be harsh.

    Although I now a Parish Priest for some years I was a health care chaplain and it takes only a few encounters with young men covered with Kaposi’s Sarcoma or a pregnant and desperate teenager to realize that our rush to throw off the limits may have gone too far. We have a particular arrogance in this culture, an arrogance that believes we’re in a period of intense human enlightement and those who caution us about the potential consequences of unlimited relief of desires are neandarthals calling us back to some illogical dark age.

    Now I sometimes tell those I serve that we in these decades seem to think that somehow we’ve invented sex, or at least perfected it and that our experience of it represents an apex of human development. We don’t often say that out loud but we often live our sexual lives that way. But in the earliest parts of the Bible there are prohibitions about sex with animals, with members of the same sex, with relatives, with some else’s spouse, the whole realm of sexual experience we now take for granted and even consider in some cases to be a civil right.

    In plain terms 4000 thousand years ago, well before the www and Playboy people were “gettin their freak on…” and experiencing the consequences of illness and dysfunction as well. These were not people sitting around saying “Hey, let’s find out how we can be the best sexual buzz kill…” but rather people who out of their own experience encountered both the full range of human sexuality and the results and were determined not, as best they could, to repeat them.

    So now we make silly comparisons between throwing a baseball and doing whoever you want when you want in the way you want and call it wisdom. But just as in those days of long ago we who have thrown off restraints in our sexuality have condemned ourselves to reexperience the consequences of such things (1 in 4 late teen to age 30 women with an STD, a growing syphillis epidemic among gay men, drug resistant STD’s and HIV). We justify it by saying it’s “natural” for us but the pain we experience and illnesses we suffer indicates that nature may not agree.

    Don’t let my collar fool you. I came of age in the 70′s and know more and experienced more then you may presume. In my own way I played the game and learned a whole lot the hard way. I thought I knew better. I didn’t. now you can choose to imitate my failures or my coming to some sense about this (althought the struggles often remain). But choose wisely because, God forbid, it could cost you your life.

  26. Hi David,

    You said that homosexuality is not natural, and you explained that by “natural,” you meant “the physical constitution or drives of an organ.”

    I find that explanation a little odd, since, clearly, homosexual persons do have drives, so they are, by your very definition, natural.

    However, in response to your question, I will reiterate: I didn’t put forth the argument that things that are natural are automatically good, or that things that are unnatural are not. Arsenic may be natural, but I’d choose a Hostess Twinkie over it any day of the week. “Natural” does not equal “correct” or “moral” in my book. But since we don’t really have the same definition of natural, that point is moot.

  27. Fr. John,

    We live as if the natural world doesn’t matter and our urges are justified by their mere existence. Our wishes dictate all and ignore the rules of nature and the wisdom of prior human experience.

    Earlier, you suggested that your use of the term “natural” must be understood from a Christian perspective. Is that correct?

    I realize that your opinions are formed by years of thought and experience. But it seems to me that you begin with a conclusion, and then you suggest evidence that supports it. That was the point of my question about the rotator cuff.

    Reasons matter. If you believe that homosexual acts are wrong because your Christian belief dictates that, say so. But if you’re going to try to give an explanation of why homosexuality is wrong that makes sense to non-Christians, it behooves you to be logically consistent.

    For example, if I say: “Murder is wrong because it takes the life of an innocent. This violates the right to life of another person, and robs them of something that rightfully belongs to them,” that would be a relatively reasonable statement. All murders take the life of an innocent, and it is never acceptable to violate the right to life of another person.

    If you said, “Murder is wrong because it stains the carpet,” that would be fallacious reasoning. Not all murders stain the carpet, and there are acts that stain the carpet that are not wrong (for example, detectives painting the outline of a murder victim.)

    If you state that homosexual acts are wrong because they cause illness and dysfunction, you are engaging in fallacious reasoning. Not all homosexual acts result in illness and dysfunction, and there are acts that are not “wrong” that can cause illness or dysfunction.

    Note that, in this post, I’m not putting forth an argument that homosexual acts are “not wrong.” I’m just pointing out the flaws in your logic; you are using a red herring.

    I don’t think you do this to be intentionally dishonest. I think that you already believe homosexual acts are wrong because they violate your Christian moral code. Even when homosexual acts don’t cause illness or dysfunction, they still violate your Christian moral code. Thus, everything negative that can be attributed to a homosexual act can serve as evidence to support this conclusion.

    If you begin with a conclusion that cannot be questioned, it is easy to find illogical reasons to support that conclusions.

    Again, I’m not arguing about the rightness of homosexuality. This is a meta-discussion: I am talking about this discussion, not about homosexuality itself here. But I do think that, in debate, reasons matter. And it appears that, in order to accept and understand your reasoning, one must also accept your Christian beliefs. Would you agree that that’s correct?

  28. Fr John Chagnon says:

    I believe that the traditional Christian understandings about human sexuality are consistent with nature itself. Christianity posits an ideal that the genital expressions of sexuality are limited to the context of a single life long heterosexual marriage. When people depart from that, whether they accept the Christian teaching or not, their risk of illness and dysfunction grows to the extent of their departure. What the ancients knew from their own experience science in the present is confirming.

    My context is broader then homosexuality in this regard. You are correct in saying that individual acts outside of the Christian and what I would posit “natural” ideal do not always cause immediate harm. But each has the potential to and the risk of harm escalates with each involvement regardless of the perceived orientation of the people involved. We are seeing in our culture an epidemic of disease and pathology directly related to our desire to obliterate the old boundaries that guided our sexual expression. Nature itself appears to be telling us that our perspective on these matters is flawed by the physical, emotional, and social hardships that have resulted. It just so happens that this new information isn’t new at all. The historic Christian faith addressed these issues and provided answers millenia before Kinsey.

    My reasons behind this argument are pastoral. I know the story of a man my wife cared for who died in considerable pain with his scrotum swollen to the size of a small football, among other things, as a result of the opportunistic infections that can run rampant in those with HIV. This was a man who paid a terrible price for for a lie that he in his hunger for meaning and love accepted as truth at least enough to take his life well before his time. And his story can be told a million times over. It’s insane that people, especially in the Church, would posit for a moment that the kind of behavior that would expose a person to such destruction (in this case he was a gay man) should ever be considered to be normal or good, if not for the sake of a moral argument at least for the sake of his own health.

    You choose to worry about whether my logic fits some pattern. I’m trying to keep people alive.

  29. James K says:

    Fr. John, I know a man who contracted HIV from his wife after she was unfaithful to him and neglected to inform him of her infidelity. From your perspective, the man did “all the right things” (chastity before marriage and monogamy during). Advising people to remain celibate for life is not going to be all that successful: most people at some point (even if they’re marrying) are going to choose to throw caution to the wind and decide to trust someone because some element of risk is going to be preferable to a lifetime of solitude. That is, at least for most people.

    Besides, the element of danger doesn’t seem to be all that much of a discouragement to people: despite countless reports of traffic fatalities every year, people still don’t buckle up and many drink and drive. I’m not suggesting that the warnings not happen, it’s just that the risk element alone is not going to be all that effective in getting people to abstain.

    How about suggesting that sex does not necessarily equate to intimacy? Too often, people mistake physical closeness for some sense of communion which simply isn’t the case. In fact, real intimacy may often decrease as promiscuity increases. For others, it’s just part of the never-ending battle to feel desired and affirmed on a frequent basis: they use people to reinforce their own egos, not realizing the futility of it or the fact that they really do not want to be loved the way they think. Perhaps highlighting these other negative elements may assist in getting people away from more destructive paths.

    In any rate, I’m not sure what all this has to do with homosexuality or gay marriage, per se. I’ve seen these sort of mistakes across populations, and I’ve seen fidelity and monogamy in heterosexual and homosexual couples, so I’m not sure I see the relevance here.

  30. Hi Phil,

    How would you explain Romans 1:27?

    “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

  31. Michael Bauman says:

    Of course, it is not just physical damage that is the problem. As Phil points out, physical damage may or may not occur. It is the state of the soul that is paramount.

    Sexuality in a fallen world is rife with passions of all kinds. The world has always encouraged full expression of all of our passions so that we won’t pay attention to God and our soul. Freedom is made equivalent to license.

    Moral codes and cultural norms exist for one reason, to restrict the behavior of human beings for everyone’s betterment. Even in the licentious world the admonishment to ‘use condoms’ is a recognition that human behavior needs to be restricted because we don’t always act in the way that is best for us.

    Our culture is so arrogant that it persumes to know better than any preceeding culture about what is best for human beings. We throw aside cultural and spiritual wisdom that has been promulgated and practiced for millenium with a sneer and a knowing wink claiming we know better than anyone who has ever lived.

    As to having a conclusion then constructing evidence to support it–Kinsey was the master at that slight of hand. He was sexual deviant and perverted and used his ‘scientific studies’ to justify his own behavior and encourage others to it.

    Most of todays ‘sexperts’ are mired in a mechanistic, materialistic world view that ignores the fullness of our being and demeans human beings at every turn.

    Attempting to use baseball as an example that in any way relates to the wholesale destruction of people’s lives and souls brought about by the hedonistic view either shows no understanding of the issues involved or is simply an attempt to deflect discussion from the real issues.

    So Phil is it ignorance or fear that causes you to use such wholly wrong examples?

  32. DavdS,

    I’m not sure what you mean when you ask me to “explain” it. I’m just a visitor to these parts, not an Orthodox Christian, and I try not to argue against other people’s religious beliefs.

    If I have a consistent theme, it’s that one ought to live according to his or her beliefs without trying to compel others to live by those beliefs.

    In some ways, I “agree” with Michael Bauman: the paramount “damage” resulting from homosexual behavior, from an Orthodox perspective, is to the soul or spirit. Fr. John tries to use material evidence to illustrate what’s wrong with homosexuality. Basically, he writes that “it causes [physical] illness and dysfunction”*. The problem with such a statement is that it’s illogical; the same evidence that makes one act illicit is irrelevant for other acts.

    This is not uncommon when someone with deeply-held spiritual beliefs tries to apply those beliefs to others– to nonbelievers. They present “evidence,” but whether that evidence is convincing or not, they still think their beliefs should be followed because they are inherently True.

    Sometimes, I think public discourse would be improved if we admitted, to ourselves and others, when we are arguing from the depth of our religious beliefs, instead of “dressing up” the argument with material evidence that doesn’t really prove the point we’re trying to make.

    *(He also writes that is causes other things. But like I said, I generally try not to argue against other people’s religious beliefs, so I’m focusing on the material claims he made.)

  33. Fr. John Chagnon says:

    Jim,

    Your case only underscores one of my points, that when we stray from the model our Faith gives us, a model rooted not just in divine revelation but in nature itself (from a Christian perspective this shouldn’t that suprising because we understand that the Creator also reveals Himself), we bring pain and suffering on ourselves and others. In the case you cited the woman in a marriage made a choice and that choice affected others in her life, in this case her husband and perhaps others.

    I am not advocating life long celibacy. I am advocating chastity. Chastity allows for sexual expression within the confines of heterosexual marriage. Chastity is supported by both nature and revelation and my points about the physical damage that can be caused by a lack of chastity were made to help people try to avoid the potential damage and to underscore that far from being some crazy thing a bunch of dead white men made up to spoil the party the traditional Christian understandings of sexuality promote health and seek to minimize dysfunction in a broken world.

    But other writers are also correct. There is damage to the soul and damage to the greater society and many kinds of problems that occur. I believe your statements about promiscuity and intimacy are correct but I focused on my own points in an attempt to call to mind that the decision of the California Supreme Court regarding same sex marriage buys into one of the predominant lies of this era, namely that we are somehow above the wisdom of the past and nature itself and the rules are whatever we want at any particular moment. I was not attempting a comprehensive argument but rather one that hits home in a direct way. God’s plan for sexuality in a broken world, expressed in revelation, is supported by nature itself as well and we risk much when we decide to ignore it.

    For the longest time I have hoped and prayed for a comprehensive Orthodox Christian catechism for sexuality. The points that you made are all very much related to the fact we haven’t done a particularly good job in addressing sexuality from the fullness of our faith and the reality of where people live their lives. Our Faith has real answers to many of the questions in this area, answers that promote wholeness of body, soul, and society, but we have been, like on many other issues, disturbingly silent. The California Supreme Court has made its argument from its worldview, where is ours?

    While there is a political element that Christians should address in reagrds to legislative and court decisions in the are of sexuality I think something more is in play. Some time ago I preached a sermon at a Pan Orthodox gathering in the Twin Cities following the Mayor of San Francisco’s unilateral decision to allow same sex marriage (a decision, btw, that the Supreme Court of California validated). I told the gathered people there that our culture was the way it was because we as Christians were not who we are supposed to be and that the Mayor was a prophet, in his own twisted way, of what was to come if we didn’t wake up and start to encounter and change our culture. I still believe this is true.

    It’s too late to whine, in some ways, about the error of the decision of the California Supreme Court in this matter. What is done, for now, is done. But imagine what a difference could have been made if our Orthodox churches had not been content to be sleepy little ethnic hamlets and for the love of God and neighbor decided to live and teach our hope in a way that mattered to the greater world? Our laziness as Christians allowed a pagan culture to take root and flourish in this country and we should not be suprised when civil authorities, steeped in that culture, make decisions accordingly. While we slept in our comfortable beds evil was wide awake and converting folks one person at a time and through that converting institutions as well. Now we’re seeing the results.

    The nuances of semantics and debate have a kind of importance but it pales compared to our need to bend our knees, roll up our sleeves and with humility, love, patience, and a holy urgency reach out to this culture with the message and reality of Jesus Christ. That where the revolution begins.

  34. I am not advocating life long celibacy. I am advocating chastity. Chastity allows for sexual expression within the confines of heterosexual marriage.

    In the context of a gay couple, then–say, one of the poster-couples in California who have been together for years and fought for the right to marry, do you then advocate that they should
    1) Split up, and
    2) Find someone of the opposite sex to love and marry?

    It seems like that’s what you’re saying, otherwise “Chastity [which] allows for sexual expression within the confines of heterosexual marriage” is kind of meaningless for such a couple.

    I just think it’s worth pointing out that, in such a case, your views advocate splitting up a couple, and you also seem to advocate that both partners should find someone _new_ to marry and have sex with. Your position has an interesting result.

  35. Jim Holman says:

    Fr. John writes: “Our laziness as Christians allowed a pagan culture to take root and flourish in this country . . . ”

    I have been following the discussions here for several years, and homosexuality has been frequently discussed. While the Orthodox church as an institution, and Orthodox believers as individuals oppose homosexuality on theological and moral grounds, with respect to public policy, in my observation even Orthodox believers actually agree with much of what might be called the “homosexual agenda.”

    For example, I have never heard anyone in this venue say that homosexuals should be fired from jobs or evicted from their apartments merely in virtue of the sexual orientation. I have never heard anyone say that homosexuals should not have equal protection under the law or equal access to public accommodations. I have never heard anyone say that homosexual conduct should be criminalized, or that homosexuals as a class should be subject to public ridicule or disapprobation. I have never heard anyone say that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to vote or hold public office. I have never heard anyone say that homosexuals shouldn’t have the same free speech, freedom of assembly, or freedom of association rights that everyone else has. There may be some opposition to the idea of domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, but if so, it does not appear very often here. There even seems to be some support for the idea that homosexuality is more of an inborn orientation than a “choice.”

    While the opinions of individuals may vary on these issues, I think the above is a reasonable characterization of the public policy opinions that I have often seen expressed here by Orthodox believers, even as they oppose homosexuality on theological and moral grounds.

    In that sense, the “normalization” of homosexuality has already been been largely accepted in society, and even in many religious communities. For example, where I used to work there was a weekly newsletter that featured profiles of new employees. Profiles such as “Jill and her partner Mary enjoy skiing, and have two dogs and a cat” were common, and passed by without anyone even raising an eyebrow. People vote for homosexual candidates for public office. They watch movies and TV shows portraying homosexuals and sometimes featuring homosexual actors and actresses.

    But once all of the above are accepted, the only public policy issues of substance that are left are marriage and adoption. But once all of the above are accepted, it becomes much more difficult to make the case that same-sex marriage and adoption would be the end of civilization as we know it — that in spite of all the above homosexuals should not be able to marry or adopt. I mean yes, you can make that argument, but in light of the widespread acceptance of homosexuality in all these other contexts, it is a difficult argument to make.