Voters in the ‘Show Me’ State Prepare to Vote on Marriage

On Tuesday, a state constitutional amendment that protects marriage will be voted on in Missouri, the first of up to 13 states to vote on such an amendment this year. Gay activist groups and other amendment opponents are pulling out all the stops to defeat Missouri’s efforts. Well-financed national homosexual rights groups are spending well over $100,000 to influence the amendment vote. The large presence of these groups shows that they understand what is at stake.

This vote will very likely set the tone for the rest of the nation on how the marriage issue will play in elections across the country this election year. Opponents of the Missouri amendment tried to schedule the vote during the state’s Democratic primary in hopes that such a maneuver would help defeat the amendment. But as polls have consistently shown, protecting marriage is one thing that unites both Democratic and Republican voters.

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133 thoughts on “Voters in the ‘Show Me’ State Prepare to Vote on Marriage”

  1. Somehow everything I say is taken to its extreme conclusion.
    Nowhere did I advocate acting upon every urge or impulse.
    I also clearly stated that love is as much a choice and dedication of the will as it is anything else.

    If your pick of a spouse was that much of a cooly rational choice, perhaps you wouldn’t have minded your Church picking your mate for you, or your mother or father. Perhaps arranged marriages are in fact the best way to go about things for then we have no reason to worry about personal tastes or “emotions” infecting everything.

    Create a list of qualities you expect from a mate, submit it to your Church and let them find your husband (or wife). Since you have admitted that your Church is wiser than you, perhaps Christians in general should have no say as to who their partner in child-rearing should be. If you disagree, I’d be curious as to why.

  2. James:

    You described my process of picking a spouse as a “cooly rational choice.” What I described was the process by which a thinking adult guides her life. Morals and standards of conduct come first, after that comes emotions and personal taste. My husband has a long list of wonderful traits that make him the unique individual he is. But before I allowed myself to become closely attached to him, I assured myself that he had a set of morals and guidelines for his conduct that were compatible with mine. After that I could delight in his many wonderful talents and traits. It was his particular combination of personal traits, attributes and talents that appealed to my personal taste. But moral and standards came first, that is how you keep your life on the right path, and, by the way, avoid endless heartbreak.

    When I referred to my Church I meant the Christian Faith rather than a particular denomination. As a thinking adult, after considerable life experience, study and thought, I arrived at the conclusion that the teachings of the Christian Faith were true and reliable and that they would result in my greatest happiness in the long run.

    I think it is a good exercise for young people to think about what qualities they want in a mate. Thoughtfulness is never a vice, James. I assume you would put alot of thought in choosing a college, or a job, or a career. Shouldn’t people put thought into choosing a mate?

    Nothing in my essay suggested that people should give others the right to choose their mate. It simply pointed out that the concept of “falling in love” is adolescent; that adults need something more substantial guide their lives to happiness.

    After ten years of marriage, I can tell you that my husband is truly a daily source of delight. He can make me laugh uproariously at the most unexpected time and place. Real love, not passing sexual infatuation, is based on deep respect, which can only exist when both partners share a common moral framework.

  3. James:

    I have seen the error of my ways. I have reformed. Emotion and personal taste, whimsy and that wonderful feeeeling of just plain “Falling in Love” will rule my life.

    Came back from the car dealership: As soon as I saw that red car I “just fell in love.” Since you can’t control what you “fall in love” with, I went ahead and bought it. Gas mileage is very low, and Consumer Reports states that it has a bad safety rating and high polluting emmissions. Oh, well, that’s love for you.

    Came back from the grocery store: Bought myself some chocolate, which, let’s face it, I just can’t resist!!!! Every day fighting those chocoholic urges, how fatiguing. Chocolate ice cream, chocolate milk, chocolate covered peanuts!!!! Yummers.

    Came back from a party: There he was… tall, dark and heart stoppingly handsome! Flashing smile, great raconteur and va, va, va, voooooom!!! Dumped my husband. There is the little problem that I later found out about, he’s a neo-Nazi, but “you can’t control who you fall in love with.” Out with the old and in with the new. This is soo-o- exciting!! Everyday is an adventure!!!!

  4. James, love can be a locomotive but the rails are committment. What secures those rails are shared moral values like “in sickness and in health.” When those rails are secure, love can be cultivated and it can flourish — the train runs forward. Keep those rails secure and the train won’t derail.

    Does this mean you can be married to anyone? No, of course not. Compatibility is a very important. But if the compatibility is there, and if the values that contribute to a stable marriage are present, a union can form where real love can exist.

    Love, by the way, is much more than a feeling. Ultimate love is losing one’s life for the neighbor, and the closest neighbor to a married person is the spouse. Easy? Not always. Worthwhile? Yes.

    I’m speaking from 21 years of experience, btw. I know something about these things.

  5. Good grief, Missourian.

    As someone who endured having to help my father go to the bathroom because he was no longer capable during his bout with cancer and when my other siblings fled, as someone who has on numerous occasions assisted friends whose families rejected them and as someone who has committed to assisting a friend with a terminal illness, I am aware that those who profess to love someone must accept all aspects of the relationship and must commit even when the goings are less than joyful. I accept this gladly.

    Neverthless, I simply cannot believe that I should pick a spouse as if I were interviewing a potential job candidate. Yes, they should be a moral person and it would be nice to have common interests. And a commitment is a commitment. Should I someday decide to marry I plan on abiding by my vows. But as Fr. Jacobse wisely stated, compatibility is important, too. If it wasn’t, I may as well just let someone else pick my spouse.

  6. Missourian writes: “Traditional morality states that one should remain chaste before marriage and marry for life. These rules are abandoned as inhumane, repressive, harsh, and condemnatory of the joy of sex. After all, no one should coerced by society to live under a set of sexual rules.”

    Even within moral rules allowances are typically made for human weakness and variability. For example, marriage is the ideal, and people vow to be married for life. Nonetheless, divorce is permitted both in the society as a whole and in almost all churches.

    The issue with homosexuals is not whether they should be free from all moral rules, but whether reasonable allowances are made. In other words, I believe there is a fundamental moral difference between someone living a promiscuous lifestyle with multiple sex partners and someone living in a long-term committed relationship with one person. In the case of homosexuality neither is the ideal, but you have to reflect on whether one scenario is closer to the ideal than the other.

    Fr.Hans writes: “The conflation of behavior and identity is something the left will never abandon because its the only way to obviate the moral prohibitions against homosexual behavior.
    Accept the premise, and the affirmation of the person is necessarily the affirmation of the behavior. Conversely, disapproval of the behavior is tantamount to disapproval of the person – a theme consistently displayed in Dean’s and Jim’s responses.”

    In the case of homosexuality we’re talking about behavior that is fundamental to human experience — not necessary, strictly speaking, but organically part of what being an adult human is all about. Within that particular context, an absolute, uncompromising, and blanket condemnation of such behavior in an important sense does constitute a disapproval of the person.

    An analogous situation is what happened to women under the Taliban. Well, a person won’t starve to death without education. You can live without dealing with male shopkeepers. You can wear head-to-toe covering and it won’t kill you. But what does it say about the person who is forced to live under such restrictions in order to satisfy someone else’s religious ethics? Do not such restrictions together and separately constitute a kind of condemnation of women?

  7. I agree with Missourian that “falling in love,” as the precondition for marriage is adolescent. Love is not the precondition for, but rather the result of a successful marriage. The Church fathers consider love to be a virtue. Love therefore is not an emotion or some chemical effect of a person that influences decisionmaking, but rather love begins as a concious choice, which through practice becaomes habit–a virtue. This is also clear from the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christ commands that we love our enemies. Our natural feeling towards our enemies is aversion or hostility, but we can and are enjoined to love them anyway. Love therefore is something that we choose to do or not do. The chemistry, the attraction, all this other stuff may make loving easier or harder, but love itself is chosen. The notion that sexual orientation dictates the object of one’s love, therefore, is a lie. Free will decides the object of one’s love, sexual orientation only governs the direction of one’s lust.

    In addition, some of the comments I have read above seem to suggest that marriage is some human institution designed to regulate sexual union. We know from revelation, however, that this theory is backwards. Marriage is ontologically prior to sex. Marriage does not exist for sex, but rather sex for marriage. We read in Genesis that Adam and Eve were married before the fall, and only after the fall did they have sex. This is so because their perfect union prior to the fall was already the living icon of God’s love–an icon that was defaced by their transgression. Like the rest of creation, the fall damaged the union between Adam and Eve and so sex was introduced into the world as a means by which a marriage could be renewed and realised–it is a reminder of the union that Adam and Eve had with God before the fall and a foretaste of the union that we will have (hopefully) with God at then end of time.

    Just as God so loved man as himself that He truly became man to save us, and just as the Theotokos was completely open to God’s grace as to allow God to do this, men are enjoined to love their wives as themselves and wives are enjoined to respect their husbands. This complemantary relationship is essential for the marriage to be marriage. It is not the physical organs that make it so, but rather the nature of God’s relationship to Man, as reflected in marriage, dictates the physical organs attached to men and women. Remember, before the fall, when Adam and Eve were in full union with God they had no shame of their nakedness–in other words, the physical accidents of masculinity or femininity were irrelevant to their relationship, even though they were truly man and woman, not androgynous. After the fall, these organs became relevant, and became a matter of shame and awe, precisely because marriage was the icon of God’s awesome love for man and sexual, physical union was the means by which the marriage could be realised.

    Because the complementariness of man and woman is necessary for marriage, and because sex exists for marriage, not the other way around, gay marriage cannot actully exist, and the creation thereof by the state is a sort of idolatry and the worship of a man-made thing. Marriage was created by God. Sex was invented by Man in the fall (albeit with the help of God-made physical organs). The use of sex to realise marriage is proper and good, just as the use of bread in Liturgy is proper and good. However, just as we do not use the Liturgy to celebrate bread, but bread to celebrate the Eucharist, we ought not use marriage to celebrate sex, as the SSM folks are urging us to do, but rather use sex to celebrate marriage.

    Thanks for reading,
    Han Ng

  8. Don’t forget Jim, you are arguing for moral parity on all levels, in all institutions, between homosexual and heterosexual behavior. If you are arguing that people have a hard time living up to the ideals, well, welcome to reality. But I, and others, don’t dispute that. We just don’t see this failure as sufficient justification to abandon the received moral tradition.

  9. James, no one can pick your spouse, but don’t be too quick to discredit the advice of a wise person who understands human nature well. Sometimes the “match-maker” actually makes good matches.

  10. Fr. Hans writes: “Don’t forget Jim, you are arguing for moral parity on all levels, in all institutions, between homosexual and heterosexual behavior. If you are arguing that people have a hard time living up to the ideals, well, welcome to reality. But I, and others, don’t dispute that. We just don’t see this failure as sufficient justification to abandon the received moral tradition.”

    I’m not sure about that. In other words, I think you can have laws that permit certain things that don’t also constitute a moral endorsement or approval of that thing.

    Divorce is completely legal, and there aren’t any limits on the number of divorces that a person can have. But in the general population this has not bred the idea that divorce is insignificant or without moral consequences.

    Concerning the received tradition, well, sometimes things change. Laws concerning divorce have changed greatly in the last century, as has the legal status of women.

  11. Regarding divorce: I’m not so sure that the general population regards divorce as seriously as it did, say, thirty years ago. If it did, why is the divorce rate at almost 50%?

    Also, laws that permit certain behaviors (not the same thing as no law prohibiting certain behaviors) always function as an implicit endorsement of that behavior. The law has a didactic dimension as well as a regulatory function. It’s unavoidable as long as the legal system functions justly, which ours does for the most part.

  12. I love the writing of CS Lewis and especially appreciate the tone and wit of them. I just happened upon this passage and found it interesting:

    “Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question – how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.” – C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity.”

  13. James,

    Powerful quote. I have never got the sense in reading C.S. Lewis that he would have ever argued for such a ‘christian ghetto’ concept of marriage. As a one who consistently argued for “the law written on our hears” I have doubts if C.S. Lewis would have accepted “gay marriage”, but that quote really makes me wonder…

  14. Christopher:

    Hmm, why is “homosexual marriage” connected in any way with “law written on our hearts.”

    I think that like abortion, the more you know about homosexual conduct the less attractive it is. I don’t want to lower the tenor of debate, but, an activity which by its very nature damages a part of the human body, does not seem to be
    something associated with a “law written on our hearts.” Forgive me if I don’t get weepy here.

  15. Missourian,

    I think you misunderstand me. My point is that C.S. Lewis seems to be arguing for a profound secular interpretation of marriage, and does not expect “the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives.” or “voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws”. It is he, not I, that seems to reduce natural law (and here I use that term with some trepidation because it is my experience that their is much confusion about what it means), in this case something as deep as marriage, to a mere “view” that of course “can’t be forced on other people”. Now, I do not understand the context that his thinking on marriage arose, and I suspect that it has much more to do with trying to deal with a legalistic set of laws that were considered “christian” than with what we, a mere 50 years later, are dealing with in the form of “gay marriage”. I have read other things that have sometimes have led me to believe that C.S. Lewis, despite his profundity of thought, was a bit too generous and/or naive when it came to the cultural decay around him. For example, I recall him saying to the effect that the liberals were a minority in the Anglican Communion, and their ideas were not going to carry the day. He was dead wrong about that – today’s Anglican communion, at least in American and western Europe, is de facto Unitarian rather than christian. If any other reader knows something factual about the context of marriage law reform in England some 50 years ago, I would be interested. In any case, I obviously would not have agreed with Mr. Lewis if he would have extended and expanded his thinking to include “gay” marriage in his “rules on all citizens”…

  16. Christopher:

    I can’t address English society with any authority but… had I the time I think I could make a fully secular case against social recognition of gay marriage. Even using the term is an oxymoron. Here is my outline of the secular argument.

    “FORCING RELIGION ON THE NON-RELIGIOUS”

    Virtually every rule of personal moral conduct is derived from a religious tradition. We must have rules of personal moral conduct or society falls apart. The rules against theft are also found in the Ten Commandments. My opinion that theft is wrong is ultimately based on my conviction that the Ten Commandments come from God. By asserting that we cannot outlaw homosexual conduct because the prohibition against homosexual conduct is derived from religious tradition, we would invalidate 70% of all criminal law.

    Stating that religious concerns can never be given weight in public discourse is not the “separation of church and state” it is the suppression of religious thought and its banishment from ordinary public discourse. It is a totalitarian idea punishing people of Faith for having a allegiance to something other than the almighty State.

    SECULAR ARGUMENT: PART ONE: Homosexuality is clearly a form of mental illness.

    Homosexuality is a mental illness. Despite the thick pink frosting that the current media wants to slather over homosexual actitivity, homosexual conduct is essentially and thoroughly product of mental illness. Whether or not you acknowledge the Lorship of Jesus Christ and whether or not you heed the wise words of that valiant spiritual warror, St. Paul, anyone who retains a foundation in common sense sees the illness attending homosexual acts.

    I have had occaision to spend time near large concentration of persons who consider themselves to be “exclusively gay.” The air is always thick with a generalized loathing of the opposite sex. A high percentage of lesbians don’t like men in any capacity. Check in on an exclusively lesbian chat room and see what they say about men.

    Look at the pyschotic degradation of the women dressed up as fashion generated by gay men. Look at Vogue without blinders and you will see that essentially feminine characteristics are rejected. A naturally rounded and full figure is associated with female fertility. Round hips carry the child, full breasts feed the child. Vogue is an attack machine on the true female figure. Model are stick thin and have no breasts and hips. I don’t think it is a co-incidence that they frequently resemble adolescent males. Many heterosexual men have told me that the ultra-thin fashionable look advanced by Vogue does not appeal to them, many men like ….gasp…. real women with real, rounded FEMALE bodies. Gay men like adolescent boys, gay men lead the fashion industry for women.

    SECULAR ARGUMENT: PART TWO: HOMOSEXUAL ACTS ABUSE THE HUMAN BODY or MERELY MIMIC HETEROSEXUAL SEX

    I think philosophers use something called the “argument from nature.” Male homosexual acts abuse the male body, there is a medical condition named after the consequences of the most common homosexual activity, it is called “Male Bowel Syndrome.”
    As unpalatable as this discussion is, it should be remembered that lesbians frequently use artificial devices to SIMULATE heterosexual activity. Now tell me this is healthy sexual expression? If lesbians have such a natural and wholesome attraction to their own sex, why do they simulate sexual activities with men? My theory….. gasp…. they are maladjusted and mentally ill women who cannot manage a healthy and mutually rewarding relationship with a mentally healthy male.

    SECULAR ARGUMENT: PART THREE: YOU GET WHAT YOU REWARD or HOMOSEXUAL ACTS ARE TRULY PART OF A CULTURE OF DEATH

    Society gets what society rewards or tolerates. Homosexual activity is sterile. Societies which have provided social approval of homosexual conduct are dying populations. This is not an accident. Social studies have shown that children raised in “gay households” are ….. gasp of surprise…. MORE LIKELY TO ENGAGE IN HOMOSEXUAL CONDUCT. I have the study in my office and I can get the citation if necessary. In the 50’s children were protected from exposure to homosexual conduct. Now the media, at least, is teaching our young people that there is nothing wrong with homosexual conduct.

    No, I don’t want gays rounded up and jailed. However, I don’t want to be told by my government that I must celebrate mental illness, sterility, and relationships built on unhealthy sexual practices.

    THE MEDIA SOLD DRUG USAGE TO CHILDREN ALSO:

    Remember the media in the 60’s taught our young people that there is nothing wrong with recreational drug usage, and , only ignorant members of the older generation warned against drug usage. What do you think Easy Rider was about? Re-creational drug usage swept through the younger generation and it took decades for society to get a grip on the problem and institute anti-drug programs that addressed the issue. Homosexual conduct is not direclty analogous to drug use, but, drug use does give an example of anti-social behavior which is fully embraced by society and propagated directly to our youth. There is a book called “Road to Malpsychia” which documents that the most highly placed members of the psychiatric profession endorsed recreational drug usage in the 60’s. As a Christian I know that Satan has many disguises and he uses many people.

  17. Missourian,

    Interesting outline. Here are my comments on the first part of your post:

    “FORCING RELIGION ON THE NON-RELIGIOUS”

    Have you ever noticed (and the secularists who post here are typical examples) that secularists argue very passionately for the interconnectedness and obligations of ‘economic man’, yet hold to a radical individualistic account of ‘moral man’? On the one hand, they have no qualms about using the state to force universal health care and other economic entitlements/leveling, but on the other any mention of a state control or encouragement on a persons moral life is “forcing religion on the non-religious”. Private property is held in disdain, but private morality is held in high regard. I believe this to be a product of their modern secular man’s essential Epicurean worldview, or more accurately religion. Secular man is as religious as anyone else, because he has a creation story, a creator, a morality that derives from that creator, etc. etc. The Christian distinction, and the old American one, between the sacred and secular is lost on them. In public life, because they do not admit their own philosophy of life as being religious, they give themselves a pass on the duty of the first amendment. This has resulted in the conflict between secularists and all others because the secularist believe they have can arbitrate and restrict the public square to how they define it. In this sense, the public square in America has never been so religious, so fundamentalist, as it is today – it is controlled by secular fundamentalists who do not know themselves.

    In this sense, I believe the term “secularist” is not very good, because there is a place for the secular. These men are essentially neo-Epicurean, but because your typical modern man is so poorly educated, that term is lost on them. Modern Epicurean man is also IMO a dangerous man. As I mentioned in the Neuhaus thread, he is self absorbed and arrogant. He does not know, himself, so he really does not know others. He does not see that his role in the extremely bloody twentieth century. He is at war with Christian’s and all other religions, though he believes himself to be the most compassionate and non-violent type of man that has ever been (his skewed idea of “progress”).

    As a final note, the Church is by no means immune from this religion, and I present the religious left as exhibit A. They overlay the Gospel of Life with their prior neo-Epicurean worldview and behold, the Church has always argued for universal health care, gay marriage, moral licentiousness cloaked in compassion, pacifism, and all other sorts of secularisms or ‘epicureanisms’ in public life. That would be “forcing religion on the non-religious.” As soon as you recognize the underlying religion underneath such arguments, you see that it is a very old problem of the conflict of one religion with the other, a basic conflict of incommensurable moralities. Our bishops and seminary professionals sometimes strike me as incapable or unwilling to face this religion with robust Christianity.

  18. Missourian, you make some good points, especially concerning the ludicrous expectations of women displayed by the media, but you need to think about the following:

    1) “Virtually every rule of personal moral conduct is derived from a religious tradition.”

    This is only somewhat true. As I’ve mentioned before, there are multitude of laws that have absolutely NOTHING to do with Biblical morality, including but not limited to:

    a) speed laws
    b) laws regulating smog and air pollution (and vehicle fuel emissions)
    c) jaywalking
    d) endanged species acts protecting wildlife
    e) tax laws
    etc. etc.

    Not only that, but whose version of morality are we to embody within our legal system? Catholic? Orthodox? Protestant? Jewish? If Catholic, contraception would be illegal. If Jewish, no stores would be permitted to be open on Saturday. You can say “generic” Christian laws but even among us who declare ourselves Christian, we can’t seem to agree on whether there’s even such a thing as a good war or not. If Christians all agreed, there would not be 3,000 various denominations.

    Laws exist to keep the peace and protect individual liberties, not enshrine a specific religious dogma.

    2) “Homosexuality is a mental illness”
    First you said homosexuality is a choice, then you said it’s a mental illness. It can’t be both, as mental illness implies a lack of will and consent. If I am a schizophrenic, I have no choice over my delusions and paranoia. If one has Tourette’s Syndrome, they have no control over their vocal outbursts.

    3) “Society gets what society rewards or tolerates. Homosexual activity is sterile.”
    Absolutely. If everyone was a homosexual, the species would not perpetuate itself. However, this is also true if everyone chose to use birth control, or everyone took a vow of celibacy. I am unconvinced that “toleration” of gays equals a proliferation of homosexuals. It seems (although I am willing to be proven otherwise) that the percentage of those who define themselves as having a homosexual orientation has been relatively constant.

    Again I ask, did you or will you have children because a) you want to, b) the Church says you should, or c) it’s good for society to have more people? I think procreation is a good thing for those who can and desire it, but it should be by choice, not under compulsion.

  19. James,

    Every law you mentioned, has EVERYTHING to do with biblical morality:

    a) speed laws – anarchy on the roads get people killed. killing your neighbor or yourself is bad. anarchy = bad, not loving your neighbor. We are commanded to love our neighbor.
    b) laws regulating smog and air pollution (and vehicle fuel emissions)- we have to breath to live, life = good
    c) jaywalking – see a)
    d) endangered species acts protecting wildlife – we are stewards of the creation. here you may have a point however, in that much of environmentalism is motivated by a neo-pagan view of creation.
    e) tax laws – the peoples government needs resources (anarchy = bad). taxes go to defense, enforcement of laws, etc. To the extant that taxing is used for income redistribution, might be the extant that it is used as a tool of the neo-Epicureans

  20. Missourian writes: “Virtually every rule of personal moral conduct is derived from a religious tradition.”

    To a large extent this is true, but it is not true in the way that I think you want it to be. In many ancient cultures (and a few current ones) there simply is no distinction between the religion, culture, and general life of the society. The term “religion,” denoting a specific set of beliefs and practices separate from the culture and society, was not even used in that manner until around the 1600s, as I recall. In other words, in most traditionial cultures, what we now view as “religion” was simply perceived as “the way things are” in ancient times.

    In such a traditional society, there is no distinction between law, culture, morality, social life, economy, government, lifestyle, medicine, science, and religion. They are all one organic whole. Notice how the Pentateuch moves so easily from how to diagnose leprosy to rules regarding menstruating women to economic issues to criminal law to religious sacrifices to property rights. It’s all part of the same cloth, and all written down in a sacred book.

    So to say that moral rules and laws were derived from religion actually understates the case. It’s like saying that legs and arms are “derived” from the body. Rather, they were once all part of the same organic whole.

    I submit that we no longer live in such a situation, nor can we go back to it. What has happened in modern times — the last few hundred years — has been the fragmentation of society into different components. We have the rise of religions — defined in terms of specific beliefs and practices — that exist within the larger society but no longer are organically part of that society (the complaint of the Islamic fundamentalists). Thus, even someone with “traditional” religious beliefs now holds them in a very non-traditional manner.

    With the fragmentation of society and the presence of various religious traditions, perceived as separate from society and no longer authoritatively defining how society works, the common currency has become rationality. Rationality spawns specialists — even specialists in religion — who often operate independent of any religious context. In modern times, if we want to know how an economy is supposed to work, we’re more likely to consult an economics text than Deuteronomy. If you have epilepsy you’re more likely to take an anti-convulsant medication than to seek an exorcism.

    The rise of rationality and the loss of religious authority is denounced by some as “secularism,” and secularism is seen as the new “religion.” But this is only because rationality now infuses society in the same way that religion used to. In other words, rationality is now organically part of society in a way that religion no longer is or can be. Rationality is now how most people see things. Religious traditions now operate along side of rationality, but usually less authoritatively, sometimes as envious competitors or assistants, not as peers. Indeed, for many people religion is only comprehensible when mediated through rationalism, or when made consistent with rationalism. People with traditional religious beliefs see this as apostacy.

    It is true that our moral rules are derived from religion in the same way that ground beef is derived from a cow or adults are derived from children. And as no one can turn ground beef back into a cow or adults into children, no one will be able to re-establish organic religious authority in a society through an appeal to the necessity or origin of moral rules. There’s no going back. It’s the new _status_rerum_, the way things are.

  21. Jim, there is a mistaken assumption in your analysis. Your are reading this through a fundamentalist lens, as if all cultures assume a one-to-one correspondence between their religious texts and the broader culture. Religion doesn’t function this way in almost all cases. Exceptions exist such as American fundamentalist (which is really rationalism “religionized”) or Islamic fundamentalism, but they are not the rule.

    This was also true in pagan cultures. You can’t really argue that ancient Greece for example, was “fundamentalistically” pagan, not with Socrates, Plato, the Parthenon, fledging democracy, and other advancements.

    Russell Kirk is very helpful here. His view of religion is much more expansive than what you characterize above, and he speaks in some depth about the role of religion and culture, including such things as shaping law, etc. I think you reflect the mirror side of fundamentalism above, a kind of anti-religionism that has the same contours of the religion it rejects.

    You can find some lectures by Kirk here. Civilization Without Religion is an excellent essay.

    A side point that I don’t have enough time to develop here: secularism, I am increasingly coming to believe, is in fact a Christian heresy. What I mean by this is that secularists, who advance moral positions contrary to the moral tradition (abortion, etc. — all the things we have been discussing), employ exclusively the moral vocabulary of Christianity. They of course have no philosphical warrant to do this, but philosophical warrant plays no role in their decision. They are in fact deeply debted to and dependent upon the same moral tradition that they believe they have superceded. They don’t see this debt and dependence of course, just as they don’t even see that their moral categories rest in the soil of Christianity. I’m convinced it’s a spiritual blindness of the first order; a meager and superficial understanding of how religion functions even in their own thinking.

    The essay I wrote touches on this but from another angle, ie: secularist compassion is derived from Christian compassion but with the obligation of sacrifice for the weak extracted from it. IOW, authentic compassion is modelled ultimately by voluntary sacrifice exemplified by the sacrifice of Christ and codified by Paul’s exhortation that the strong must bear the burdens of the weak. Secular compassion can reach no higher than utilitarianism, and will ultimately find codification as the weak can impose no undue obligation on the strong. All the secularist accomplishes here however, is a diminishment of compassion. The secularist is still dependent on compassion as category, at least until his moral vision prevails and compassion becomes increasingly less obligatory — the start of a new dark age actually.

  22. Christopher, have you read Carl Becker’s “The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers”? Your post to Missourian strikes some of the themes Becker draws out but in terms of the Enlightenments philosophs’ obligations to Christianity, including the creation story (although Rosseau placed the fall not in Eden but in society), etc. I think you would like this book very much.

  23. Fr. Hans writes: “You can’t really argue that ancient Greece for example, was “fundamentalistically” pagan, not with Socrates, Plato, the Parthenon, fledging democracy, and other advancements.”

    Yes, that’s right. It doesn’t apply to all cultures. What I’m saying is that in many ancient cultures, there was no such thing as “religion” per se. Rather, religion was incorporated into the larger worldview of the society, such that one could not really separate out religion from law, ethics, etc. In other words, it was just the way that people saw things.

    But even in ancient Greece the same principle applies, though in a different context. This is the point that Alisdair MacIntyre makes in _After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory_. In the introduction he says that “What we possess . . . are the fragments of a conceptual scheme, which now lack those contexts from which their significance derived. We possess indeed simulacra of morality, we continue to use many of the key expressions. But we have — very largely, if not entirely — lost our comprehension, both theoretical and practical, of morality. . . . my thesis entails that the language and the appearances of morality persist even though the integral substance of morality has to a large degree been fragmented and then in part destroyed.”

    In other words, the concepts related to morality that we use today originated in a particular context that has been lost, and is unavailable to us.

  24. Almost all of the arguments posted here both for and against granting moral parity to homosexual behavior are concerned with effects rather than causes. We need to look more closely at the basic foundation for the argument that homosexuality should be granted moral parity with heterosexuality.

    When I examine the arguments for homosexuality what appears to me is a profound materialism which is only natural since all of the major trends/schools of philosophical thought in the west since the Great Schism have promoted or been infected with a materialistic understanding of the nature of man and society. The infection began with the Roman Church’s separation of the Church into two, first theologically with its promulgation of the need for an all powerful “Vicar of Christ”, second in reality with its self-proclaimed divorce from the rest of the Church. Catholic humanism, Protestantism, the “Enlightenment”, Rationalism, Positivism, Darwinism, Marxism, Nilhism, etc followed. All of them deny the synergy of God and man that we Orthodox continue to affirm and try to live.

    Homosexuality denies that synergy at a most basic level. God created us originally as a male/female being. He separated us so that we could more completely express His love for His creation in a personal way. The love, union, and progeny of marriage are an expression of His knowledge of us and a method for us to realize both how much He loves us and the essence of our own being in communion with Him. Marriage is an earthly expression of the loving communion of the Holy Trinity.

    Homosexuality is fundamentally wrong not because it is a perversion of sex but because it is idolatry, a “worshiping of the created thing more than the Creator.” St. Paul clearly puts it in that context in Romans.

    Most, if not all, the culture war comes down to a conflict between those who want to have a social vision founded on materialism vs those who have a social vision founded on a loving inter-communion with God. Unfortunately, many of those supposedly fighting on the God side are profound materialists themselves, almost all Protestants for instance. Such confusion engenders a great deal of conflict and misunderstanding. Even with our proported allies and co-religionists, we cannot assume the same words mean the same thing.

    I would urge all of those posting on this topic to re-examine their arguments and see if we can get beyond the effects and address causes and the basic assumptions required to grant moral parity to homosexuality.

  25. MacIntrye’s book is good, but…

    …his very good explanation of how American culture has shifted from a Judeo/Christian consensus to a fracture moral vision is different from the claim that the religious imagination still informs the new moral vision (and corresponding intellectual structures) that seek to replace it. In our age, at least in the past century, that vision was primarily ideological, variants of Marxism mostly. Marxism died, and the philosophical materialism on which it was based is dying with it (one reason why the Intelligent Design movement is so revolutionary). But either new structures must take its place or the Judeo/Christian “world view” (moral vision and intellectual structures)will have to return to its preeminence (a new Great Awakening if history is a reliable guide).

    I submit secularism is this new structure and functions as a new religion. MacIntyre’s thesis, in other words, is primarilly historical and sociological, not anthropological. It’s a great book as I recall, but it speaks to the nature of the breakdown of the consensus in terms different that I use here.

    Speaking in general terms, macIntyre exhibits a limitiation of Protestantism, particularly Zwinglian Lutheranism. Luther and Zwingli had significant disagreement on the nature of the Eucharist, particularly the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. It strikes us as an arcane, even anachronistic debate, but Luther understood the full ramifications: if Christ was not “really present” in the Eucharist (“how” He was present doesn’t concern us here), then he was not present in Creation either. Luther rightly saw the seeds of Deism (and ultimately secularism) being planted and he fought it vigorously. Luther won the debate, but Zwingli won the war.

    In practical terms, religion became solely a private matter, and Pietism was born. The notion of man as a religious being began to dim, and the full dimunition became apparent in our generation. This is why I mentioned that your notion of religion is really the mirror opposite of fundamentalism, and why ideas such as rationalism standing against religion gain currency although only as a matter of a different moral sensibility that is, as its foundation, still religious.

    Religion in the modern world, in other words, functions no different than, say, a code of ethics does, as an intellectual structure you “put on” like a different shirt or tie. Behind this assumption however, is the belief that man is something other than a religious being, created for something other than worship and obedience to God. This assumption is still religious in nature because it is drawn from sources that only religion can articulate and frame.

    So we are not so different than the ancients. We just think we are. The ancient pagans in fact, may have been closer to the God of Abraham, than even some modern Christians. Many modern Christians for example, don’t understand the exlamation “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one God.” They think it is a proposition, not a statement of deeper reality. They think it becomes “real” when they beleive it. They don’t see that eternal verities don’t depend on the faith of the believer to make them true. The ancients never labored under such assumptions.

    The diminution of this sacred dimension of creation is a major reason why mainstream Protestantism became a minority religion this year. It is also the reason why much Evangelical Protestantism slips into hyper-moralism, and why “religionized” rationalism drives Fundamentalism — at least in its American varieties. I’m only speaking generally here since many Protestants I know don’t function exclusively in these categories. These categories, however, unfortunately limit the articulation of the experience and intution Protestant believers have that would counter these assumptions. A good friend of mine, a devout and conservative Lutheran, isn’t held by these limitions at all, for example. Again, these are only general observations.

    So, if I may…

    Your approach operates in this framework. I don’t think some of the personal criticism you have received is fair, and I would same the same for James, and perhaps even Dean, although I think James needs to read more and Dean “religisizes” politics too much. (They both are too easily swayed by moral posturing.) In other words, I take a face value the assertion that bad motives don’t drive the objections raised.

    But I don’t think that your anthropology is informed as it should be. Religion is not merely a formal enterprise, a code of ethics. Religion is ultimately expressed just as the scripture says: treatment of the neighbor. If a commandment is broken, such as “Thou shalt not kill” in the case of say, abortion, then the religion expressed is something other than Christianity, but it is still a religion. Looking at it another way, even the denial of religion is a religious statement. Our inability to see this dimension only speaks to our truncated moral sensibility, our loss of the awareness that man has a sacred dimension woven into his very existence. This loss does not mean that the sacred does not exist, but only that we have become blind.

  26. Michael, imo you are right on the mark with your assertion (paraphrasing you here) that anthropology is the next great step we need to make. Solzhenitsyn said this too although in different words. See: The Harvard Address, particularly the very last sentence.

    I look back at the great councils and I see the Church wrestling with who Christ is, who the Holy Spirit is, but we may be at the stage where we need to define who man is. Historical necessity drove these definitions, and secularism may be the new necessity (especially if secularism indeed represents a new heresy).

    BTW, there is a great article on Solzhenitsyn in the latest issue of “First Things.” I saw it yesterday at Borders. Fr. Alexander Webster’s book “The Virtue of War” got a brief, but positive, mention as well.

  27. Fr. Hans,

    You interpret me correctly. I have in fact made that explict argument in other posts elsewhere on this blog. We Orthodox have never lost sight of the knowledge that we are beings only because of our inter-communion with God. The Orthodox vision of man as a theophany is in direct opposition to the western vision of man conditioned, even in its religious expression, by centuries of thought founded on man as the measure of all things. DeCartes’ famous dictum, “I think, therefore I am” is really blasphemy from an Orthodox standpoint. Our being is totally dependent on God and Him alone.

    The politician’s dictum, given even greater credence by Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid” is just further extrapolation of the false idea that man is fundamentally material in nature.

    We Orthodox don’t need to define man any differently than we always have, we just need to articulate the truth we have always held and act on our understanding. The bishops in particularly need to get their collective heads out of old world politics and jurisdictional power plays and start teaching the true Orthodox faith in a way the impacts the lives of their flocks. At best now they only react.

    Father Hans, I am sure you do the best job you can working with the community under your charge, I know my priest is quite good too although he is a little vague on specific application. Orthodox laity must take up the challenge as well to reject all of the false gods and false ideologies that materialism throws up.

    In “Unseen Warfare” the enemy is identified as the world, the flesh and the devil. Most of the time, the devil need not get involved as we are so easily led astray by the world and the flesh. When we also try to fight the culture war using their tactics, terminology and basic assumptions, we’ve already lost.

    We have to believe that we are a theophany, we have to act as if we are a theophany, and we have to speak from the foundation of that reality. Once we do that, the issues of the culture war become quite clear, neither confusing or muddy. Such an understanding also provides a foundation for concrete steps in the socio-political realm that will be of benefit to everyone.

  28. Welcome back Michael, we missed you. I want to explain to you why some Christians, like myself, may feel comfortable with another person’s decision to be gay. I’m not asserting that my views are correct,or that your views are incorrect, just telling you what factors influence my views.

    First, my views are strongly influenced by the terrible genocides and political and racial persecutions of the 20th century. People were lynched because they were Negro, or killed because they were Armernian or Ukranian Kulaks, or Jewish or because Pol Pot hated people who wore eyeglasses, or because they lived on the wrong side of the ethnic divide in Bosnia and Kosovo. The cruelty inflicted on millions of people during the 20th century because of some ethinc, racial or economic attribute they possesed represented a highwater mark for evil in the history of mankind.

    The impression this terrible history leaves on me is the lesson that we must never persecute or oppress another human being becuase of some physical, racial, ethnic religious, or economic attribute. I refuse to ever be part of something like this.

    We don’t know if homosexuality is a “lifestyle choice”, or an inborn genetic trait, like blues eyes, or red hair. I do know that many gay people struggle with their sexual identity and resist the compulsion to be hommosexual for many years before “coming out.” The suicide rate for Gay teenagers is three times the national rate. This suggests that homosexuality is an inborn, genetic trait, and if so, than our efforts to convince them that they are sinful because of their secual identity will join the other horrible episodes in hiistory of oppression based on a physical attribute.

    Secondly you state that just being homsoexual (a state most gay people sincerely believe they are unable to change) is an act of rebellion against God because God only made a man and a woman. But is a gay man not a man and a Gay woman not a woman? You state that the purpose of each human beings and God’s requirement for them, is to join with a member of the opposite sex in matrimony and procreate. If this is true doesn’t that imply that every celebate monk, priest of bishop is living a life of rebellion towards God? Saint Paul actually advised widows that they might be better off not marrying, providing the impetus for the formation of societies of celibate religious women living in a monastic setting.

    While homosexulaity is condemned in the bible, it always condemned as part of a larger condemnation; the condemnation against any sexual behavior that is unloving, irresponsible, and exploitative. Since homosexuality was far more prevelant in the ancient world ( we see it on greek vases for example) then it is today it’s not surprising that biblical injunctions against sexual sin included homosexuals.

    The highest law in the bible is the law of love, love towards God and our neighbor. These should never be in conflict. There is no love for God that would result in hatred for a neighbor, and our love for our neighbor is the direct result of our love for God who commanded us to love our neighbor, even if he or she is gay. Writing discrimination into the constitution and amlifying debates about homsexuality to the most hysterical pitch do not seem to me to be loving acts.

  29. Fr. Jacobse,

    Thanks for the reference! Mr. Becker’s book sounds like an interesting read and I have it on order.

    Fr. Jacobse & Michael,

    It was Orthodoxy’s anthropology that was real source of my zeal for the Church when I was converting. It is my belief that the Church has a largely untapped resource in speaking to the very real pain and hopelessness that modern secular man feels – rightly so given his philosophy. Michael says “We Orthodox don’t need to define man any differently than we always have, we just need to articulate the truth we have always held and act on our understanding” and I heartily agree. My question is how? I mean question more as a practical question, one of praxis, rather than an internal one within one’s own soul.

    I know both of you feel I have been too hard on the secularists who post here, but the my reasons have to do with my question. First, I am looking for a way to effectively communicate with other Orthodox Christians on such questions. So far, I have not been a part of a parish where such questions are discussed on anything but the most basic level, and then only as part of another enterprise like “bible study”. An electronic site such as this might be part of a solution, but as I have noted and I don’t think either of you can/will disagree, much more time is spent defending/defining/explaining the basics of the Faith. I in no way want to deny the “Great Commission”. However, if I may put it this way; When a general is planning his engagement, he gathers his commanders and advisors around him, and they strategize and come up with a plan on how to engage and vanquish the enemy. Now imagine if every time he did so, many members of the pacifist party showed up and forced the commanders to spend many hours discussing whether they should even fight? Not only that, but officers from the enemy camp show up and purposely skew the intelligence and planning in a way that confuses the situation. Now when the battle starts the next morning, how effective is the general going to be?

    Second, I recall reading an exchange between an atheistic philosopher named Stanley Fish and Richard Neuhaus in First Things years ago. Mr. Fish argued very persuasively something I have always thought, that in most public forums, secularists/liberals define the terms, questions, and process of the debate. I believe that on the “macro” level, like the WCC/NCC or bishops prayers at the conventions, somehow – someway, traditional Christianity always gets diluted and obscured. Fr. Jacobse has said this before and I believe it, we traditional Christians suffer a crises of courage. I think we too readily accept a seat at what Fish calls the “liberal round table” and then try to debate and reason on the liberals own terms. We are doomed to failure, and that failure is all around us. Michael, your are right when you say “we also try to fight the culture war using their tactics, terminology and basic assumptions, we’ve already lost.” I think we also do this on the “micro” level also. Look at Dean’s post #78 where he once again equates the Church’s position on homosexuality with calling someone a “nigger”. How many times are we going to weakly (not meekly πŸ˜‰ say “that’s no right Dean”. Really, what’s the point of yet another post defining and explaining in very basic and fundamental terms the Faith on this? I believe the basic’s are better learned in a personal setting, like Church, talking to your priest and other Christians, and in our relationship with the Lord as we craw our way to Faith in the given circumstances of our short life. I don’t think faceless and nameless blogs are much good at that. When two peoples assumptions are so at odds, when there is so little common ground, I believe a polite “go learn” is about the best you can do. There has to be a point though when you politely say “stop that” if met with stubbornness

    So, perhaps the first question is to Fr. Jacobse: What is your desire and hope with this blog? Because if it is a free-for-all, then Michael’s last sentence:

    “We have to believe that we are a theophany, we have to act as if we are a theophany, and we have to speak from the foundation of that reality. Once we do that, the issues of the culture war become quite clear, neither confusing or muddy. Such an understanding also provides a foundation for concrete steps in the socio-political realm that will be of benefit to everyone. ”

    will not, can not, happen here. If the terms/issues of the debate are set by the secularists, then the issues will remain both confusing and muddy. Now there could be another benefit, one of witness to the non-believer. But that is catechesis, not reasoning on praxis. Catechesis is necessary obviously, but is the internet really the place for that? I think it is quite limited in that capacity. I think the internet is one of the least visited places by the Spirit ;). And what of praxis, how and when is that going to be addressed? However, this is only my opinion, and you Fr. Jacobse may have a completely different vision. I would be interested in what it is, or your ideas Michael.

  30. Christopher,

    A clear definition of the purpose of this blog would be a good idea, but perhaps it is we users who can define it best. I too weary of constantly going over and over the same ground without any sense of understanding on Dean’s part. Dean is especially disappointing because he claims to be Orthodox yet his posts are always from the worldly, materialistic framework uninformed by any hint of the Orthodox understanding of man.

    You have said several times that you will no longer read his posts,yet you too are drawn back into the web and respond to his outrageous ideas.

    At first, arguing with Dean and others was an impetus to greater clarity of thought and expression, then it became a stubbornness to not give in to his peculiar expression and understanding of our faith. Yet he no doubt represents a far greater proportion of our own brothers than we would like to think. We had better know how to deal with him if we expect to make any serious headway within the Church.

    The others represent the world with which we must deal. When we are drawn into discussions of effects as happened here, we fail, that is the course of unproductive debate and the doubtful disputation about which St. Paul warns us. Fr. Seraphim Rose made a practice of not arguing with those who disagreed with him. He made the best statement of what he belived and why then let it alone. Perhaps that is what we should do as well. Make our statements as complete and as basic as we possibly can, then don’t post any more. Of course the treads would be much shorter and Fr. Hans would have to come up with more discussion starters, but the discourse would be more of the caliber you suggest. There is also the option of communicating privately on a topic outside the posts.

    I know that I really can’t say much more about the topic of homosexual marriage than what I did say. If Dean and others can’t comprehend Romans 1, then anything I have to say will not make it any more clear. We are simple minded religious bigots who will go down in history along with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Fr. Coughlin, the KKK, etc.

  31. Dean,

    I will try to resist any more responses to your absurdness, but just for the record….

    I have absolutely no problem with breaking bread with repenting homosexuals, alcoholics, murderers, etc. But we show them hatred, cowardice and apathy, not love when we excuse the very sin that prevents them from knowing the love of God. Also, before you reveal your stupidity any more than you have, find out the Church’s teaching on monasticism and marriage and reflect on it. Such an exploration into the mind of the Church would do you a great deal of good. Read the first chapter of Romans and reflect on the entire context. It is an exercise I engage in on a regular basis. Each time I do, I come to a deeper understanding of the nature of sin and the effect of the fall.

  32. Dean, your defense of homosexuality above was one of the most empty-headed I’ve read in a while. Short on substance, long of sentimental moralizing.

  33. Michael, Christopher, good points. I’ve been mulling over them too. I see no purpose in consistently going over the same ground. Dean’s post above is an example. Self-congratulatory moralizing, particularly when its framed in religious terms, borders on the ideological and doesn’t allow contrary views. No real progress is possible I think.

    I’m not sure what this means for this blog yet. There needs to be a venue to discuss the anthropological dimension that’s being brought out. I’m not really interested in debating discredited ideas over and over again, which is a weakness of the current format.

  34. One of the major arguments against permitting gay marriages is the “slippery slope” idea which says that polygamy may be legally forced upon us by the judiciary.

    Most of the major Old Testament prophets were polygamists, including Solomon and Abraham. Nevertheless, they are considered to have had extraordinary close relationships with God despite never having changed this particular behavior. Can someone explain this?

    ***
    Michael, you said:
    “Most, if not all, the culture war comes down to a conflict between those who want to have a social vision founded on materialism vs those who have a social vision founded on a loving inter-communion with God.”

    What do you mean by this? It’s great to have such a vision as the latter, but the idea that we can do this through the implementation of secular civil law seems to be contradictory.

    Christopher calls it “secular thinking” to say that the prohibition against murder is based not on the Bible but on a legal concept of liberty which is infringed upon when this act is committed.

    So what is “Orthodox thinking” in regards to how religious doctrine should be executed within civil law?

  35. For the record, having looked at many of the world’s religions and political systems, I find the Judeo-Christian ethic to be the most advanced (though Buddhism is very close in regards to moral issues though not theological issues).
    I also agree that secularists do not realize that the moral claims upon which they are basing their arguments are rooted in religious doctrine.

    I think the issue is how do we strive as a society for a compliance to these ethics while respecting the individual freedoms of the people within it.

    We need to clearly define what the line is between behavior that is to be encouraged (or forbidden) via law and behaviors that fall outside that realm. What is the litmus test for rewarding or criminalizing certain behavior?

  36. Fr. Hans writes: ” . . .Short on substance, long on sentimental moralizing.”

    Actually, I think that sentimental moralizing may be a good thing.

    One issue that Dean’s piece hints at is what happens spiritually to people who set themselves up as opponents of some other group. He focuses more on the larger cases, but what about at the more mundane level?

    In my observation, taking an opposing stance with respect to others has an increasingly negative spiritual effect on the one doing the criticizing. In my adventures in internet discussion groups, the nastiest, most vicious people are either the fundamentalist Christians, or the anti-fundamentalists. The nastiness is always self-perceived as “defending the truth,” but it looks a lot like cruelty, plain and simple.

    A severe ideological criticism of others always involves a dehumanization of the person being criticized. In the process of criticizing homosexuality, we tend to strip away all other attributes of the person except for homosexuality. That one feature becomes THE defining characteristic. Is the homosexual a kind, compassionate person? Is he or she friendly? A hard worker? A good parent? Creative? Patriotic? Well, we rarely get around to that, as the very complex and remarkable person created in the image of God becomes reduced in the discussion to a nameless, faceless set of genitals having same-sex orgasms.

    To dehumanize another person is to dehumanize oneself. As the list of enemies grows, other people are seen less as “neighbors,” and more as targets and opponents. Interestingly, the rhetoric used against various groups is typically of the “fill in the blank” kind. In other words, you can put in a different group and the criticism works just as well. I don’t know how many people here realize this, but fundamentalist Christians denounce Orthodox believers using language remarkably similar to what people here use in denouncing secularists and liberals. In other words, there is a certain rhetoric of denunciation that cuts across all religions and ideologies but is used by all religions and ideologies.

    I think what Dean was saying is that he simply doesn’t want to go there. He doesn’t want to be involved the dehumanizing process of engaging in rhetorical denunciations of other people. He doesn’t want to be that kind of person. If that’s sentimental moralizing, then God bless him for it.

    I say all of this because I was that kind of person. Years ago, during my fundamentalist days, I faithfully denounced homosexuality along with the other members of my group. Of course, I didn’t actually know any homosexuals, but that was beside the point.

    I worked in a fundamentalist organization that provided temporary shelter and food for hitchhikers and travellers. Shortly after we opened a new facility, a middle-aged fellow came to the door one day, with several bags of clothing and food. He said that his church heard about our organization and wanted to help out with these things that he had brought. I asked what church. He said “the Metropolitan Community Church.”

    Aha! So this was one of those evil homosexuals that I’d heard about for so long. I laid into him with all sorts of scripture — “abomination,” “evil,” “reprobate,” “Sodom.” You name it, I poured it on, and sent him and his stuff off the porch with the rebukes of The Lord ringing in his ears. Afterward I told my supervisor about that encounter, bragging about it really, and he gave me an “atta-boy,” and even mentioned it at the Bible study that night as the sort of thing that a faithful Christian should do.

    Of course today, I’m very ashamed about that. In the midst of his kind act, I was intentionally cruel to him, and then bragged about it later so as to make myself look good. He treated me like a neighbor; I treated him like an object. On that front porch many years ago, between his kindnes and my cruelty, you tell me who was the most Christian.

    So if Dean doesn’t want to go there, I completely understand. I’ve been there before. It’s an ugly place.

  37. Jim, you may want to read “Salvation For Sale” by Gerard Thomas Straub, one of the former producers of the 700 Club and former associate of Pat Robertson. You may recognize many things and find it very insightful!

    There is a tremendous difficulty in finding a balance between affirming and loving someone and still being able to accept or reject some of their actions, a balance which many find so difficult that they simply choose the easiest path and reject the person altogether.

  38. Jim, thanks for the sermon. For all the warning about rhetorical denounciation however, doesn’t it do precisely that?

    Again, there is a world of difference between sentimental moralization and the defense of an idea. Wagging a finger is not the same thing as reasonable discourse.

  39. James, it’s really not that difficult. Don’t swallow the assumption that feelings constitute personhood, even sexual feelings. Don’t conflate personhood and behavior. Separate sin from sinner. That way you can still treat the homosexual person respectfully, while ignoring the misdirected cultural dictate that approval of a person also implies approval of his lifestyle, ideology, whatever. Needless to say this requires a high view of the person, so high in fact that it culminates in this command: love your enemies. It’s a tall order, but an order nonetheless for those who take their Christian faith seriously.

  40. Fr. Hans writes: “For all the warning about rhetorical denounciation however, doesn’t it do precisely that?”

    I hope not. My intention was certainly not to rhetorically denounce those who rhetorically denounce others.

    I don’t have any problem at all with people defending ideas, even when the defense of an idea involves an implicit or explicit criticism of certain individuals. But as James noted, “[t]here is a tremendous difficulty in finding a balance between affirming and loving someone and still being able to accept or reject some of their actions . . . .”

    I think that the test for whether the criticism is appropriate or overdone is simply whether the criticism fairly portrays the person or group that is the object of the criticism. Looked at another way, I think that part of not “bearing false witness” against our neighbors involves being a faithful witness to the totality of the person.

    For example, in my time on the internet I have heard some very harsh criticism of Orthodox believers. When I compare that against Orthodox believers whom I actually know, there is a disconnect. I’ve heard very extremely critical remarks made about liberals, with whom I am quite familiar. The problem is that that often the criticism does not portray any liberals I know. It’s not just that the criticism is unfair, but that the people it supposedly describes are completely unrecognizable to me.

    Surely there are things about any group that can and should be criticized. But the motive and manner of criticism is important. In attacking an idea we have to be careful not to cause “collateral damage” to people as well.

  41. James,
    Orthodox doctrine on the interaction of civil and religious law to the extent that it exists was formulated within the Byzantine Empire and is based on the idea of a Christian ruler. One of the purposes Fr. Hans had for this blog in the first place, I think, was to provide a place where Orthodox could try and work out how we are to respond within a non-Christian, egalitarian society. The Orthodox Church has never had to deal with such a social structure any where in her history until now. She has either had to deal with Christian Emperors, Muslim despots, or Communists tyrants. From that stand point we are neophytes in how to act within a non-Christian, democratic society.

    Orthodox understanding of government, however, is based on the same anthropology, i.e, man as Theophany, that I have recently mentioned. Civil government exists to provide order and harmony, a harmony based on the reality of the Incarnation of Christ, His call to community, and the need for hierarchy within that community. The Justinian Code represents the first and most complete attempt at codification of such an ideal. Perhaps Missourian or some other legal mind can enlarge on my general statement as I am quite weak on specifics.

  42. James,

    Materialism denies the non-corporeal reality, recognizing as real only what can be seen, tasted, felt, measured, dissected, mathematically explained and weighed. In a sense, it is the direct opposite of Buddhism which posits that the physical world is nothing but an illusion from which we need to escape. Materialism posits that the non-corporeal reality is nothing but an illusion which must be rejected.

    Orthodox Christianity recognizes the basic goodness of the physical world (despite its falleness it is still a creation of God) while at the same time affirming that the very substance of the physical world is wholly dependent on God for its existence. Further our very being is likewise wholly dependent on God. As such, we should strive to live in a conscious awareness of such a dependency. We are only able to do so by the Grace of the God who created us and Incarnated in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Incarnation restored the natural order of creation and allowed individual humans to participate in that heavenly order through a life of repentance, almsgiving, and communion.

    As I write this, I cannot help but think of Christopher as my statement is such basic Christian belief and practice as to be of the “See Dick Run, see, see, see, Run Dick Run” type. It is a foundational understanding of all Orthodox Christians aware of the most basic teachings of the Church and an experiential reality to those who partake of His Body and Blood with any awareness at all.

    Fr. Hans, Christopher, The Missourian and I am sure many others have an implict understanding of what I was saying. Your questions illustrates the frustration that Christopher has expressed. When we constantly have to go back to kindergarten in every post, no higher understanding can be reached.

    I am sure, if you reflect on the vast difference in social and moral policy coming from a materialist mind set vs. a Christian understanding, a new understanding will come to you.

    God grant you his Grace and enlighten your mind.

  43. Michael writes: “When we constantly have to go back to kindergarten in every post, no higher understanding can be reached.”

    It seems to me that people here are pretty explicit the negative agenda, but less clear about what’s on the positive agenda. I know what most of the Orthodox folks are against, but not much idea of what they’re *for*.

    So ok. No abortion, no gay marriage, and liberals are bad. Got it. Now what? I’m ready to shut up and listen while people talk about these other, more advanced things.

  44. Jim, my only point is Dean’s endless stream of moralizations whenever an idea of his is challenged. He doesn’t defend ideas, he mostly sermonizes. I not really interested in discussing how to properly speak about homosexuals, or any other group that seeks victim status, either.

  45. Michael: Thank you for responding to my post. You did not however respond to the three substantive questions contained therein. Since, as you say, they were “absurd” and “kindergarten” like, you probably didnt think they merited the courtesy of a reply. I will repeat them again, because I think they are important:

    One: How do we know, conclusively, that homosexuality is a flexible, lifestyle-choice and not an intrinsic, genetically-dictated, hard-coded physical trait?
    Two: If the latter, how can we judge a person to be sinful for behavior that is dictated by their genes and DNA?
    Three: In Biblical references to homosexuality, is it the unloving, promiscuous and exploitative nature of the homosexual encounters that is being condemned, or does the Bible consider it a sin simply for one human being to love another human being of the same gender?

    These are serious substantive and pivotal questions, for me at least, upon which the morality of the gay Marriage debate is determined. I don’t see how we can make an informed decision without answering them. Thats all I was saying. To avoid the perception of sermonizing, I specifically admitted up front, in my post to you that I didn’t have all the answers.

    I agree with your last point that if you perceive a person’s behavior to be sinful it is not a loving act to leave them trapped in a pattern of spiritually self destructive behavior. I knew someone who was a cocaine addict; in 1991 she was murdered while buying drugs in a rough neighbrohood. At her funeral, as I stood looking into her casket, I bitterly wished I had tried to intervene earlier.

  46. Dean, although I have answered all three previously both here and in other posts, out of courtesy, I’ll give a quick recap.

    #1&2 Don’t matter–read Romans 1, all of creation fell when we did, all are born into sin, we each have inborn temptations to besetting sins, that does not make them any less sinful nor our responsibility to live a life of confession and repentance any less.

    #3 Homosexuality is a form of idolatry, loving the created thing more than the creator, the sexual part of it is really secondary. Again Romans 1

    When dealing with sinful behavior, we all tend to look at sin in a relativistic way,e.g, I’m not that bad, so his/her sin must be worse than mine. Wrong attitude. Jesus calls us to perfection and theosis to recapitualte the Incarnation in our own beings by His grace and forgiveness. All sin separates us from God. All sin must be repented of.

    The “if it’s in the genes, it must be OK” argument is a perfect example of the materialism to which I fear you have fallen prey. It assumes the physical body is identical to man and leads ultimately to a genetic determinism.

    And yes, such an attitude in a person who professes to be an Orthodox Christian is not just kindergarten, it is pre-school and essentially heathen. It displays a total lack of appreciation for the the anthropology of the Church, the Incarnation and Resurection of our Lord God and Savior, and the need for salvation.

  47. Fr. Jacobse & Michael,

    Well, as you note, the current format is weak. I think that if the purpose is to think/discuss current societal and cultural issues in something resembling an Orthodox or traditional Christian context, it has failed in my opinion. IMO, many here assert themselves/philosophy in an inappropriate way, given the explicit context of the site. Whether they do this willfully or out of ignorance is beside the point, IMO (personally, I tend to give people some credit and assume they know what they are doing). I will be moving on.

    Fr Jacobse, if in the future you have reason to switch to a moderated or some other format, and you think about it, drop me a quick email or post a note on the homepage announcing the change. My guess is that others besides myself would be interested. Keep up the good work on the homepage, I find most of the articles well worth the read.

    So long and thanks for all the fish!!:) No hard feelings! The Lord continue Thy loving kindness on them that know Thee!!!

  48. If you really wish to filter the discussion, check out Andrew Sullivan’s political site (www.andrewsullivan.com) for format. He does post dissenting letters in a separate section, however.

    You should probably do this anyhow in the possible (albeit unlikely) event of someone random wishing to post something off-color.

  49. As a non-Orthodox believer, I thought I’d say that it has been interesting and informative to read both similar and opposing viewpoints to my own within this blog.

    Some of your statements have made me think about my own position on various social topics, something that would be unlikely were I to have gone to a discussion group of people who agree on all things.

    As Michael said: “One of the purposes Fr. Hans had for this blog in the first place, I think, was to provide a place where Orthodox could try and work out how we are to respond within a non-Christian, egalitarian society.”

    I believe there are two options: first, believers can segment themselves off from society so that they may live out their beliefs more fully (as do the Amish who actually do quite well for themselves)… or: they can peacefully co-exist with a non-Christian but democratic society by maintaining their own beliefs in their own lives and interpersonal relationships but also working to ensure that their own beliefs are not imposed upon by the society in which they live.

    I’m assuming the latter is the preferred? Perhaps this has been my point in many of my posts: to highlight the fact that the greater the role of the Church is in government and politics, the greater is the risk of that same government turning around and dictating to the Church what they must say, do and believe.

    If the Church wishes to move the legislative bodies in a certain direction, I believe the most effective way of doing so is by arguing from democratic and even secular principles which are agreed upon by all. To do this is not manipulative or deceitful, it is simply speaking a language that everyone understands.

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