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August 26, 2004

Tolerance in, Tolerance out

Although it's a broad veer from the specifics about which I was writing, and although the person to whom I was responding (Jeremiah Lewis) is by no means a secularist, Ben Bateman's comment to my first post about the Roman Catholic requirement of wheat in the Eucharist raises an interesting area of thought:

You've got a good point on the secularists' urge to redefine and reduce everyone else's traditions: Communion bread can be anything that looks vaguely bread-like. Marriage can be any coupling of two human beings. We can recognize no distinction between adoptive parents and biological parents. Procreation means maximum numbers of babies. Homosexuality must not only be tolerated, but normalized.

Wasn't there a story a few months back where either California or the feds were trying to punish Catholic churches or hospitals for refusing to provide employee benefits that include birth control? And wasn't there a story about the State of New York trying to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions?

There's a common thread here, but I can't quite articulate it properly.

Given the totality of Ben's previous comments, here and elsewhere, I'm somewhat suspicious that he's being facetious in professing an inability to articulate a common thread. In essence, it's that secularism has become a form of religious fundamentalism itself, and in its "neutral" disguise, it is crowding out all theologies that disagree. Others can nominally believe in that God thing... as long as they don't insist on behaving as if He really exists, particularly as long as they don't insist on founding public behavior on that belief.

The particular threat of creeping tolerance lies in the power of what can be seen — without denying their goodness when rightly applied — as the three fronts of a perfect storm:

  1. Political: the ideal of individual rights and freedom.
  2. Moral: the ideal of respecting others' differing moral conclusions, treating them as brethren, and evangelizing through compassion and understanding.
  3. Visceral: the core of the secular faith, which although intellectually developing out of the other two has come into its own enough to abuse its forerunners. In intellectual terms, it permits one to believe that we can intuit all truths, or that truth is whatever we intuit it to be. In emotional terms, it gives license to believe that what feels good — in whatever way it feels good — is right.

As these three fronts have coalesced in modern times, the thinking goes something like this: a person wants to do something and convinces himself that there is no reason that he oughtn't. According to individual freedom, he has a right not to be forcibly restricted by law from doing it, and according to the code of "tolerance," others must respect his decision and not use any social, economic, or even personal means to force him to reconsider, even to the point of disallowing expression of disapproval.

Complexity enters the picture when one realizes that everything involves tradeoffs; one person's individual freedom inherently restricts other people's individual freedoms. Often others' freedoms are expressed as group rights — as in holding that the individual has a right to live in a group or society that adheres to certain principles. As Ben has suggested before (if I may paraphrase a comment that I'm too tired to seek, just now), group rights find their most fundamental form in the central principles to which we must adhere on a national level, involving the validity of our system of government (founding documents included) and some basic agreement about the structures of reasoned debate.

What has happened is that sensibility and emotion (visceral) are twisting and redefining tolerance and good will (moral) in such a way as to demand that the law guard against etiquette's being breeched (political). People who don't feel that others are sufficiently following the moral dogma of respect for differences — which really codes an ideological sameness behind superficial distinctions — are trampling on freedom in order to force compliance. To be fair (and charitable), most of them probably don't realize that they are doing so; they think they're just expanding the universe of niceness, and if we all just respect other people's space (in each other's own reality), then we can all live together and do everything we each want to do... if only those intolerant people will relent on the things that they want to do, which are very mysterious (superstitious, even) and not very gratifying.

Striving to step outside of the inescapable assumptions on which our worldviews are founded, and simplifying the sides into competing claims of rights, what is happening is that the breadth of activities that must be tolerated as individual freedoms for one side keeps expanding, while for the other side, it keeps shrinking. For example, we all should agree that homosexuals have a right not to be persecuted. Recently — and I agree with the result, if not the mechanism — they cemented their right to do what they wish, sexually, in the privacy of their own homes.

Now, however, the definitive expression of homosexuality itself is being broadened to require tolerance for same-sex marriage, to the extent that the public sphere not be permitted to make any distinction between such relationships and opposite-sex relationships. Denial of this tolerance — refusal to redefine the institution of marriage, for example — is pushed under the growing umbrella of "persecution," where it joins, in the partisan's mind, the continued resistance to the inclusion of sexual orientation within hate-crime laws (hate speech in some contexts).

Switch directions. Of course Christians don't have a right to force others, by law, to adhere to their particular religious practices or to persecute them for not doing so. But now they're coming under attack for allowing their religious beliefs to inform the way in which they wield whatever force they carry as members of society — whether in determining who they'll hire or what benefits they'll offer, deciding what projects they'll take on or what services they'll offer (as in hospitals), or judging the application of law to moral issues such as abortion.

As Ben alludes, the California Supreme Court has ruled that Catholic Charities isn't sufficiently religious to qualify for exemption from a state requirement that employers offer contraception if they offer prescription coverage; the Salvation Army of New York faces the loss of millions of dollars in city contracts unless it offers domestic partner benefits; similar stories increasingly pepper the modern landscape. Essentially, the definitive expression of Christianity itself is being constrained from including the right to act publicly according to one's conscience.

The range of life in which a religious person is allowed to act as if what he believes is actually correct is being constantly cut back. So, as the respect due to homosexuals moves from tolerance for their desire, to tolerance for their acts, to public recognition and approval of their relationships, the respect due to Christians is slipping back from tolerance for the public acts informed by their religion, to tolerance for their private-sphere decisions based on religious belief, to tolerance for their profession of belief. You can believe that God frowns on homosexuality, but you aren't allowed to conduct yourself as if that's actually true.

So, in that sense, Ben's expansion on my complaint about some people's treatment of the wheaten bread controversy is entirely appropriate. (It would be unfair to include Jeremiah in what follows, I think.) Catholics are free to believe that Christ is literally present in the Eucharist; they are free to believe that the Holy Spirit has guided the institutional Church in its deliberations about what its religion requires (although, of course, our humanity often gets in the way). But if the Church invalidates a girl's rice Communion (chosen in lieu of the available, and valid, alternative of the wine) because its institutional precedent suggests that Christ mightn't have been literally present in the Eucharistic simulacrum, well, that's just taking this belief thing too far.

Posted by Justin Katz at August 26, 2004 2:20 AM
Culture
Comments

Pardon my obtuseness for asking this, but as the English language as a written form of communication can sometimes remain ambiguous, and in that I have no access to body language which would help me interpret the gist of your entry (It was quite eloquent IMHO); I was left wondering whether you thought the Church's position on the wafer with wheat was indeed correct, or if you were just being facetious.

Posted by: smmtheory at August 26, 2004 1:08 PM

smmtheory,

Well, it's one of those instances in which I have to plea "convert." I'm still working my way through the great body of doctrine, mostly assessing particulars as I have to. Thus far, I've seen plenty to argue for the wheaten bread, although nothing absolutely clear and definitive; on the other hand, I've seen nothing to prove that it's clearly inconsequential.

The bottom line is that I defer to the Church, particularly considering how seriously the matter is taken, and my focus, in arguing about it, has been on the larger issues for which the Eucharistic substance seems mostly to have been a proxy.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 26, 2004 1:52 PM

"the larger issues for which the Eucharistic substance seems mostly to have been a proxy"

That's precisely right, I think. Here's an interview with Nancy Pearcy about her book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, in which she says,

Today the fact/value split has become the single most potent weapon for delegitimizing the biblical perspective in the public square. In any society, the dominant definition of truth functions as the cultural gatekeeper; it defines what is to be taken seriously as genuine knowledge, and what can be dismissed as mere private bias. To have any cultural impact, you first have to get your ideas past the gatekeeper.

(Hat tip: Mere Comments) The claim that God frowns on homosexual activity is a value, which you are free to hold privately, but the ( scientific, objective) fact, which is what we will make public policy based upon, is that homosexuality is no different from heterosexuality.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 26, 2004 2:22 PM

"homosexuality is no different from heterosexuality."

ROFLMAO!

Tell that to your grandkids -- IF you can ever manage to produce any that way! What a simply ridiculous thing to say.

Posted by: Marty at August 26, 2004 4:55 PM

Just to be clear, Marty, my statement was a statement of the conventional wisdom on this subject (which several people have made on this blog), and not my view.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 26, 2004 5:26 PM

I think the solution to at least some of what Justin complains about is the separation of Chuch & State, in the classical sense.

Religion is to be consigned to the private sphere, but absolutely protected there. Therefore, the Catholic Church should have an absolute right to set whatever policy it wants to regarding who can marry whom, divorce in the Church, become ministers, receive communion. And they should also have the absolute right to decide what's going to be in a communion wafer. I don't see what the problem is.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at August 26, 2004 10:00 PM

Jon,

I'm not sure what boundaries you attribute to "separation of Chuch & State, in the classical sense." It looks like you're talking about a situation pretty far along in the suppression of religion (as described in my post). That's been a key trick of the secular movement — presenting a radical redefinition of the social order as "classical."

It's already the case that a Church can do all of the private-sphere things that you list. The question is whether that forecloses the possibility of its participating in public activities such as publicly funded charity work. If it does that, among other things, what's being attempted is to disallow religious citizens from shaping their society according to what they believe to be true. You're fencing what religious people believe to be best for society within their own subculture.

Consider: you support same-sex marriage. Suppose I said, "hey, I don't see what the problem is. Homosexuals can do whatever they want in private. They can create their own wedding traditions and govern their own relationships." I don't imagine you'd find my suggestion to be as much of a no-brainer as you believe your suggestion to be.

Those for-me-not-for-thee arrangements are something we have to deal with and work through as a society. But for the sake of honesty your side ought to admit that it isn't peddling a universal objectivity that transcends faith in a version of reality.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 26, 2004 11:03 PM

from the original post:
"As Ben alludes, the California Supreme Court has ruled that Catholic Charities isn't sufficiently religious to qualify for exemption from a state requirement that employers offer contraception if they offer prescription coverage;"

What I found most disturbing about this case is that the suit was brought by Catholic laypersons. I do not know about anybody else, but I find it a particularly disturbing trend when members of a church use a public venue such as this in an attempt to bludgeon the teachers of their faith to conform to societal pressures. Granted, I do not hold the same views as the Catholic Church on contraception, but an act such as this does nearly irrevocable harm to the rights of the Church to practice as it teaches.

Posted by: smmtheory at August 27, 2004 12:19 AM

"'hey, I don't see what the problem is. Homosexuals can do whatever they want in private. They can create their own wedding traditions and govern their own relationships.' I don't imagine you'd find my suggestion to be as much of a no-brainer as you believe your suggestion to be."

Before Lawrence, homosexuals really didn't have those rights (or at least not a 13 states). Believe it or not, after that case, I think 75% of what I considered to be my "gay agenda" was fulfilled.

As to the rest, getting married within a Church has, I think, pretty serious significance, to those people who are members of the Church. If you are married within the eyes of the Church -- some people believe that's all you need.

And as far as I know, the government has never refuse to recognize Catholic marital policy. It does however, appropriately in my opinion, marry or divorce people that the Church wouldn't.

It would be as though your Church had no problem marry you to your wife, but then the state said, "we only recognize Protestant couples as married."

I just don't want the Church using the state to dictate it's social policy. What I meant by "separation" was drawing a distinction -- a "perfect separation" between "civil" and "religious" functions (similar to Madison's words).

As far as fairness between "groups" why not try to construct a social policy where "gays" as as social group are treated no better or no worse than "Catholics" or "Protestant fundamentalists."

Posted by: Jon Rowe at August 27, 2004 10:07 AM

This is key to where I think you go wrong:

I just don't want the Church using the state to dictate it's social policy.

The Church doesn't dictate its social policy. It has no power to do so. The "perfect separation," as you describe it, exists; the state governs people in its way, and the various religious organizations influence people in their capacity. What secularists are attempting to do is to treat religious citizens' efforts to enact their considered social policy as if their doing so effectively amounted to religious infringement on state power.

That's why I was hesitant to respond with the turnabout hypothetical, as I did: because I don't think the sides are that exactly parallel. Even with sodomy laws in place, nobody suggested that homosexuals couldn't vote, couldn't try to change the law, couldn't try to change people's minds. But now secularists are working to incapacitate religious people's ability to influence society both directly, through law, and indirectly, through what private pressure they can apply.

Similarly, denial of same-sex marriage isn't comparable to denial of a particular religious group's marriages. For one thing, religion is Constitutionally protected. For another, note that there's no disagreement about the core definition of "marriage," particularly between Protestants and Catholics. For yet another, homosexuality isn't exclusive to any religions; a homosexual can be Catholic, and no Catholics can marry people of the same sex.

(As an aside, it certainly does seem as if homosexuality is made to cover a lot of ground in defining people. In some arguments, it's supposed to be like race. In other arguments, it's supposed to be like religion.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 27, 2004 10:43 AM

"What secularists are attempting to do is to treat religious citizens' efforts to enact their considered social policy as if their doing so effectively amounted to religious infringement on state power."

I think this is the key point - the deck is stacked against using arguments based upon religious belief in the public square. Even private contractual decisions (like being able to decide who to rent a room to) are being banned by the state if they don't follow the prescribed secularist position. And freqently even if someone who is known to be a Christian or Jewish believer makes a public argument that does not resort explicitly to theology or the Bible, their argument is dismissed because it is assumed that it (the argument) is based upon their religious beliefs, even if it is not explicitly stated. A form of this occurs in the debates about "neocons" and the Iraq war. It is just assumed that the neocons are Jews, and that they are acting in the political interests of Israel (their religious beliefs are secondary in this particular scenario). Thus even if their argument makes no mention of Israel, and is based entirely on claims about what is in America's best interests, the argument is dismissed from the outset. This is precisely what happens to many arguments made by Christians. The problem is even more obvious if the argument makes even generic references to God.

As Justin said before, the attitude of the elites in this country (meaning most of the Judicial branch of government, the news and entertainment media, the academy, and a large fraction of the government class) is that its OK for you to privately believe that God exists, and to modify your personal behavior accordingly, but as soon as you bring that belief into the public square you are doing something illegitimate. But this is not a two-way street: the secularist is allowed to privately believe God does not exist (or doesn't care about human affairs if He does exist), and modify their personal behavior accordingly, but it's perfectly legitimate to bring that personal belief system into the public arena.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 27, 2004 12:13 PM

http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110005534

See this article for a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 27, 2004 2:48 PM

Yes, Mike Adams recently contrasted the Christian group's treatment with that of another group.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 27, 2004 2:56 PM

I think you might be overlooking what might be grounds for a compromise, and is in fact a key distinction in the analogy between anti-gay attitudes and anti-racial attitudes. In polite society, racist attitudes are considered indefensible. Those whose religious traditions hold homosexuality to be immoral fear these particular notions rooted in religious conviction are headed towards a point where believing homosexuality is wrong will be just as unacceptable as a racists opinions.

But in consigning anti-gay conviction rooted in religious belief to the realm of the "private" or "individual conscience," it can also be protected there in a way that racist beliefs are not. We don't say that "there are some folks who, because of their religious beliefs, believe that blacks are inferior, and that belief deserves respect." But we could say, "there are some folks who, becuase of their religious beliefs, believe all homosexual acts to be sinful, and those beliefs ought to be respected as religious convinction" in the same way that we would say, respect the conviction that one should only eat a kosher diet or should be in Mass every Sunday.

The trade off is we don't base public policy on those beliefs. But it's a way in which homosexuals can, with all of their rights, peacefully coexist with religious conservatives, in the same way that folks who eat kosher peacefully coexist with those who don't (and neither feel as though they or their beliefs are socially marginalized, in the way in which the overt racist's beliefs ARE socially marginalized).

Posted by: Jon Rowe at August 27, 2004 10:48 PM

One other thing: If you look at how Christians' freedom to act according to the dictates of their conscience is most restricted by the "gay agenda" it's not from, pro-gay decisions of activist judges.

If you believe Lawrence was activistic...well what did Lawrence exactly do? Prevent a majority from preserving a democratically enacted law that prevented individual adults from having relations in the privacy of their own home. Lawrence's decision neither "picked the pocket, nor broke the leg" as Jefferson would put it, of orthodox Christians.

And then we have the gay marriage decisions of Vermont & Mass. Perhaps these decisions, more than Lawrence, have public implications, that shape societal institutions. But as long as your Church, and any other private organization has the right to exclude, I still scratch my head at how gay marriage would impact the rights of Christians to act according to the dictates of their conscience. You can still criticize gay marriage all you want, as you might criticize divorce, without penalty (or you should be able to in my perfect world).

Where Christians are most likely to be affected in acting according to the dictates of their conscience is from sexual orientation discrimination codes and hate speech codes. These don't come from courts. These come from democratically enacted statutes and codes. The NJ law that held the Boy Scouts couldn't discriminate against gays was from a democratically enacted statute. The decision saying the Boy Scouts could exclude gays came from an undemocratic court, arguing under a theory that I would think most "original intent" Borkian conservatives would consider activistic.

But the problem, as I see it, isn't with sexual orientation codes in particular, but anti-discrimination laws in the private sector in general. ALL of the categories limit the freedom to act and associate according to one's conscience.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at August 27, 2004 11:05 PM

Jon,

In the first recent comment, you're presuming that homosexuality will in fact mirror race in that way. I don't see it happening. As you note in the subsequent comment, certain steps for gays are coming by way of the court — in the case of marriage, against the will of a majority. Homosexuals may wish it to be so, but I don't think human beings will gloss over the difference between skin color and sexual activity in such great numbers.

(There seems to me to be a very interesting field for thought, here, in that homosexuals tend to be more heavily represented among the elite, whereas during their civil rights struggles, blacks were more heavily represented among the lower rungs. Things could play out differently for that reason, but it's just a vague thought, at this time.)

In your second comment, you make a distinction that I didn't, in this post, between democratically instituted policies and court-forced ones. I do think our society is going too far in insisting that citizens acting in a private capacity must ignore various qualities. However, in the context of same-sex marriage, and related to one of the most significant warnings against changing marriage law, those anti-discrimination policies take on a whole new dimension in a country that considers same-sex and opposite-sex couples to be indistinguishable under the law.

(N.B., the Catholic Charities ruling in California required more than a little judicial expansion of statutory requirements.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 27, 2004 11:22 PM

There is one thing also that Jon is overlooking in the comparison of gay rights to civil rights. In any sense, the battle for equal rights for women was about redressing a minority enforced standard, as was the the battle for equal rights for non-whites. In both cases, the majority enacted legislation to set to rights a policy that was excluding those that were being left out of the opportunity to express choices. I seriously doubt that anybody could give reasonable evidence to the contrary that the majority of people believed women and non-whites should be allowed to vote, own property, et cetera. In the issue of the choice for gays, none are being denied their rights to express their choice, or even their attempt to influence anybody elses choice in their favor. When somebody in Ireland cries out that a minister in a pulpit should be arrested for hate speech because he has the nerve to express his ideas that the gay choice is immoral, then that indicates that his right to attempt to influence anybody elses choice is being threatened. Jon cannot guarantee that the same will not happen here in the U.S. when I have already been told that I was being hateful for expressing my views against same sex marriage because I believe that homosexual relations are sinful.

Posted by: smmtheory at August 28, 2004 4:13 PM

"I have already been told that I was being hateful for expressing my views against same sex marriage because I believe that homosexual relations are sinful."

I disagree that this is hateful. But unless your adversaries have the force of the law behind them, they have every right to call you hateful, even if they are in error.

But I think you miss the larger point: The problem isn't with "the gay agenda," but with hatecrimes theory in general. Those codes and statutes never never say, "sexual orientation" is a hate crime only, but rather the category of "sexual orientation" always exists along side other categories such as "race," "gender," religion," "ethnic origin," "color", and "disability." And in fact, it's more likely that a typical hate crimes statute would include all of those other categories but not sexual orientation.

As far as civil rights are concerned, previously you could be jailed or barred from a government job for being gay (ask Dr. Frank Kameny, who lost his prospective career as an astronaught because he was gay). I'd say that ranks as a pretty serious deprivation of civil rights, similar to being denied the right to vote. But those days are over.

Presently gays are asking to be included in sexual orientation codes that includes a whole plethora of other categories, like race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, color, age, and disability. So I don't think gays are asking for anything special other than what many other groups (going well beyond "race") have already received.

And of course, the right to serve in the military and marry the person that one loves.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at August 28, 2004 8:02 PM

The other point about Jon's analogy, which has been mentioned many times before, but nonetheless I think should be pointed out again: race is a physical characteristic that is unrelated to moral worth. In the case of homosexuals, the situation is more complex. I think most people agree that for some people, there is a strong genetic/physiological compontent to their sexual orientation. In that sense, sexual orientation, too, is a physical characteristic that is unrelated to moral worth. However, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to know that someone is homosexual absent some sort of behavior on their part. In addition, it is obvious that sexual orientation is not a fixed trait for everyone, since there are people who have changed from homosexual to heterosexual orientation, and vice-versa. I point this out to emphasize that most of the time, what we are talking about is behavior, not some intrinsic physical property that we can discern by looking at someone.

What we are concerned about, I think, is the way that certain areas of behavior have become off-limits to criticism in the elite sectors of society. Chiefly, these revolve around sexual activity. As smmtheory mentioned, in Canada and many European countries, the state actually uses its power to punish people who criticize other's sexual behavior. Note that nobody gets in trouble for criticizing someone's behavior if it involves smoking, however. This is because such criticism rarely derives from explicitly religious claims - it tends to derive from claims about "health", which has become a sort of religious talisman for secular elites that is used as a justification for whatever particular policy they want to implement ("children's health" is even better). The pattern is that the secular elites decide what is an what is not acceptable behavior, and they use the power of government to enforce that behavior. A non-religious example is campaign finance reform - the elites decided there was too much money in politics (and that money is not speech), and changed the laws, even though McCain-Feingold is an obviously blatant violation of the First Amendment. All three branches of the federal government were complicit in this case, but most of the time the courts are leading the way (especially in the arena of sexual behavior).

I think your compromise, Jon, ignores the reality of what is happening, and the attitudes of those who are making these decisions.

A final question: Ben Bateman's arguments, as he recently pointed out, never mention a religious motivation for his positions. Do you really think that the vast majority of supporters of SSM think his arguments are legitimate? In a sense, the reality is backwards from your racism analogy: in that case, it's not just certain circles of society where openly racist positions are unacceptable, its throughout the whole society. But in the case of SSM, the strong majority of the country thinks it is wrong, but in the elite sectors, it is unacceptable to even hold that position, and they are trying to force it on the rest of us.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 28, 2004 9:40 PM

One more thing... This essay from First Things I think highlights some of the issues at play here: http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0406/articles/smith.htm

As powerfully diagnosed in Alasdair MacIntyre’s classic After Virtue, modern moral reasoning is in disarray. There is no shared moral framework or vocabulary, MacIntyre showed, with which people today can reason together to arrive at cogent conclusions on moral issues. The discord does not reflect any paucity of moral theories. On the contrary, theories and arguments abound. Many of the leading approaches are commonly grouped into competing camps of deontologists and Kantians on the one hand and consequentialists or utilitarians on the other. But there is often wide divergence within these camps; and each camp also makes telling criticisms against the other. In addition, many moral views reflect perspectives—in particular, perspectives grounded in religious beliefs—that do not fit comfortably into either the Kantian or utilitarian camps. As a consequence of this unruly state of affairs, most forms of moral argument will seem to some constituencies wrong from the start—that is, grounded from the outset in unacceptable moral premises.

The article spells out how the current attempts to deal with this problem in the American Courts are likely to be exacerbating the problem, not finding a way to deal with it. It also points out what I was trying to get across - that Jim Crow laws were, in fact, due to a hatred towards a particular class of people, but that most of the laws regarding homosexuality are not.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 28, 2004 10:33 PM

Mike S,
I maintain that if most people agree that there is a strong genetic or physiological compontent to sexual orientation, they have been mislead by the secular elites efforts to (in the case of those believing "scientific" studies to that effect, have been using junk science as a method in their efforts to reinforce) influence their "acceptable" opinions.

Posted by: smmtheory at August 29, 2004 1:39 AM

"Ben Bateman's arguments, as he recently pointed out, never mention a religious motivation for his positions."

Oh please, his arguments are decidedly Catholic. Since Aquinas and his coopting of Aristotle, Catholic's have had their "natural law" tradition, which *technically* is not based on the Church's understanding of the Bible, but rather, *reason* which the Church has incorporated into it's official doctrines. Therefore, when pushed, folks like Bateman can say, this technically isn't anything solely Catholic in particular, but rather based on some universal theory. This is what the very Catholic Robert George might argue of his brief that he submitted in the Lawrence case.

But let's not be fooled, this is Catholic dogma.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at August 29, 2004 9:32 AM

Jon,
I do believe you are suffering from some sort of disconnect if you think Catholic dogma does not have some theological basis from prior to Aristotle. The original Catholic theologists were of Jewish origin whose theological traditions were rooted all the way back to the time of Abraham, who it can be argued existed prior to Aristotle.

Posted by: smmtheory at August 29, 2004 12:19 PM

"But let's not be fooled, this is Catholic dogma."

Well, Jon, you're just proving my point. If an argument sounds the same as that made by religious believers, even though it contains no explicit appeals to revelation or to authority, it is dismissed. Talk about stacking the deck!

So, if you're a Christian, you can make explicit appeals to the Bible, but those appeals cannot be the basis for public policy. If you then cast your arguments in Natural Law terms (or even just in public policy terms), without explicit appeal to the Bible, that is out, too, because some Catholics have been/are proponents of Natural Law theory (or your public policies coincide with those of the Church).

Where, exactly, is the compromise in your position?

Posted by: Mike S. at August 29, 2004 9:18 PM

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/johnleo/jl20040830.shtml

A big-picture overview of the conflicts we're discussing here, from John Leo.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 30, 2004 1:59 PM

The Good Kind of Hatred
Mike S. pointed out that my arguments don’t refer to religion at all. Jon replied: “Oh please, his arguments are decidedly Catholic. . . . Catholic's have had their "natural law" tradition, which *technically* is not based on the Church's understanding of the Bible, but rather, *reason* which the Church has incorporated into it's official doctrines. Therefore, when pushed, folks like Bateman can say, this technically isn't anything solely Catholic in particular, but rather based on some universal theory. . . .
But let's not be fooled, this is Catholic dogma.”

It took me a while to understand what Jon was saying. Here is my best guess:

There is an alternate plane of reality called Jon-World. In this world, everyone knows that Catholics are evil. Even the Catholics know it. They know that no one will believe anything they say if it’s presented as a Catholic view. But those Catholics are ever so sneaky! They’ve devised a way disguise their evil dogma and present it as non-religious, foisting their poison on an innocent secular public.

In Jon-World, I may seem like a mild-mannered Texas lawyer by day. But at night I don my Catholic costume and seek global domination on behalf of the Church. (The costume is the one Monty Python used for their Spanish Inquisition skits: http://www.montypythonpages.com/pictures/spanish_inq.jpg )

Jon’s post is a bitter blow:
“Fie! Jon Rowe has uncovered our nefarious and dastardly plot to disguise Catholic dogma as natural law! Come, fellow conspirators! We must abandon our evil plans! Let us return to Rome for further instructions!”

For the record, I’m not Catholic. I’ve never been Catholic. I haven’t set foot in a Catholic church more than a dozen times in my life. And I’m not a particularly devout Protestant, either. I suppose that should raise Jon’s estimation of me.

But there is one religious topic on which I am a zealot: I feel absolute disgust for the anti-Christian bigotry that has taken deep root in the citadels of liberalism, including the universities. It is morally vile and intellectually lazy to dodge arguments by asserting the other side’s religious beliefs as a smear on their character and an attack on the validity of their arguments.

What if I were Catholic? What if I had gone to Mass every week for my entire life? What if I (shudder) actually believe in God? What if I literally believe the Bible to be the word of God?

Are you magnanimously going to permit me to huddle in my home and pray—as long as I keep my voice down so that no passing atheist can hear me and be offended? Are you going to permit me to base my political views on my religious beliefs—as long as I keep my mouth shut and don’t try to run for office? Are your courts going to interpret my beliefs as a barely tolerable irrational prejudice—because they’re rooted in religion—while your beliefs are mandates written in the Constitution in invisible ink—because you claim that they’re secular? Is that what you call religious liberty?

In Jon-World, the Catholics are the bad guys. They disapprove of homosexuality, which must mean that they hate gays. And it’s bad to hate. Therefore, the good guys are justified in hating the Catholics.

The Catholics may deny that they hate gays. But “let’s not be fooled!” Don’t listen to “folks like Bateman!” Don’t be led astray by arguments based on natural law or reason! Catholics are not to be listened to—only defeated!

If you visited Jon-World, you might be tempted to ask the good guys about the paradox of openly hating Catholics based on the assumption of their secret hatred of gays. Your question would only confuse the good guys, however. They know that their hatred—of Christians in general and Catholics in particular—is the good kind of hatred.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at August 30, 2004 3:30 PM
Mike S, I maintain that if most people agree that there is a strong genetic or physiological compontent to sexual orientation, they have been mislead by the secular elites efforts to (in the case of those believing "scientific" studies to that effect, have been using junk science as a method in their efforts to reinforce) influence their "acceptable" opinions.

I'm not basing that supposition on any research, just on common sense. Just as alcoholism tends to have genetic and/or physiological factors that predispose individuals to being more susceptible to it, I'm sure sexual orientation does to. The extent of this predisposition will vary in the population, such that some people will feel overwhelmingly attracted to members of the same sex. Others will have little or no inherent attraction, but due to circumstances will find themselves attracted to members of the opposite sex (or maybe just a particular MOS). I'm not saying there isn't a big environmental component to sexual orientation, but I see no reason to rule out genetic and/or physiological factors.

I think the whole question of genetic determination is sort of a red herring - Justin had a phrase for it in one of his posts, something like "actuality as destiny". Whether one's sexual orientation is predetermined or not, what we're really talking about is what the individual should do given their situation. Nobody argues that alcoholics are genetically inclined to drink, so they might as well just do it in a safer environment. Most people aren't arguing that pedophiles should just be allowed to molest children, because "they can't help it". (As Ben pointed out, there is a logical contradiction here for those who propose that homosexuality should be normalized, but not other sexual predilictions, even if they don't see it.) It seems easier to just grant the claim of genetic predisposition, then say, "OK, then what?", rather than arguing over whether the genetic predisposition exists or not.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 30, 2004 4:41 PM

Mike S,
But I do think it is important to make the distinction in the argument on sexual orientation. Sex drive is hard wiring. Sex partner is choice. I had maybe guessed that you were versed in the news publications of "scientific" studies that supposedly proved a connection between genetics and homosexuality. As for common sense deduction, some people build up a pretty strong denial of their tendencies of attraction. I for one, have never denied the fact that I have on many occasions been sexually attracted to the same sex. If I were to give in to "conventional" thought, I would be considered a bisexual. But I realize that I am not really bisexual, just sexual.

Maybe it is a personal thing to some people that they cannot admit that they would be sexually attracted to anybody who exudes (and I am using a nonconventional definition of Clayton Barbeau - being comfortable in one's own skin) sexuality. Maybe they have substituted denial for self-control. For whatever it is worth, looking at oneself without blinders on and seeing ourselves for who we really are is very difficult, sometimes painful.

I have once had a conversation with a fellow that said something similar to "Dating and having sex with women was always dishonest on some level", without ever considering that the dishonesty was more than likely having sex outside of wedlock, because that would be so counter-cultural.

I have a good friend who was abuse by an older boy when he was young. He lived in denial for at least 25 years that this had happened to him, and he never even thought about it once in all that time until he was going through a healing process in his marriage and the memory resurfaced and he began to see it was what drove his attitudes about sexual conquest. (I use this as an example of how strong denial can be.)

If we give in to conventional philosophy that sexual orientation has its roots in physiology or genetics, that is like a free ticket for people to duck responsibility for their own actions. It is always much easier to say "I'm a product of my DNA" than it is to say "I've made a wrong choice."

Posted by: smmtheory at August 31, 2004 12:27 AM

"If we give in to conventional philosophy that sexual orientation has its roots in physiology or genetics, that is like a free ticket for people to duck responsibility for their own actions. It is always much easier to say "I'm a product of my DNA" than it is to say "I've made a wrong choice.""

My point is that I don't think it is (or should be) a free ticket for people to duck responsibility for their actions. People are very good at rationalizing their behavior. "I'm a product of my DNA" is just one of many such excuses, and isn't any more or less acceptable as an excuse than "I'm a product of an unhealthy childhood."

Posted by: Mike S. at August 31, 2004 10:04 AM

Ben:

Are you done with your tantrum yet?

BTW: I never said Catholics are evil or that they hate gays. Some of them do.

As far as the natural law arguments are concerned, I don't have to "categorize" them as "dogma" and sweep them under the rug. I can and have rather attacked them for their logical flaws.

It's true that not every Thomist is a Catholic (is Hadley Arkes? I don't think Harry Jaffa is a Catholic). But that's not to deny that there is a HUGE connection between them.

Just look at all of the Catholic followers of Harry Jaffa and Claremont (who posit a modern day variant of Thomism). Protestant fundamentalists, who care very little of "man's reason, unassisted by faith," also tend to care very little of Harry Jaffa and Claremont.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at August 31, 2004 12:15 PM
As far as the natural law arguments are concerned, I don't have to "categorize" them as "dogma" and sweep them under the rug. I can and have rather attacked them for their logical flaws.

Well, you didn't do that here, and you didn't point us to someplace where you had. Did you expect us to divine this by ESP? What are the arguments, then?

"But that's not to deny that there is a HUGE connection between them."

So what? Why is that relevant?

Arkes is Jewish.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 31, 2004 2:46 PM

Jon: "I never said Catholics are evil"

What you said was: "let's not be fooled, this is Catholic dogma," meaning that I was attempting to fool others into thinking that my arguments were secular when in fact they were based on Catholic dogma.

Basically, you accused me of lying about my views. And that was offensive. But it was offensive beyond words to imply that anyone's views should be discounted because the person holding them is Catholic or his views are somehow based on Catholicism.

I skimmed your blog before posting, Jon. I didn't want to accuse you falsely. But it seemed pretty evident from your archives that you have a deep dislike for Christians in general and Catholics in particular, especially when they get involved in government or politics. Your post here was consistent with that. And you haven't stepped away from it here or clarified your earlier statements.

Mike S. has asked you essentially the same question, which you haven't answered: What role do you see for the devout in civil society? Does religious freedom include the freedom to support political views based on religious principles? Like Mike, I suspect that your vision of religious freedom is that the religious are free to believe what they like as long as they keep their mouths shut about it and don't bother the secular rulers of society. If that's an incorrect summary, please correctly state your view on the subject.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at August 31, 2004 3:34 PM

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=17-04-021-f

I thought this was a great essay about the fusion of modernism and liberalism - it outlines the issues underlying a lot of modern political debates.

Posted by: Mike S. at August 31, 2004 6:01 PM

"But it seemed pretty evident from your archives that you have a deep dislike for Christians in general and Catholics in particular,"

not at all. I do take pretty strong umbrage with the worldview of Protestant Fundamentalists and Doctronaire Catholics (btw: most people who define themselves as "Christians" fall into neither category -- so watch for those broad statements when you say, I have a dislike for "Christians" generally. Bill Clinton, Garry Wills, Phil Donahue, Peter Jennings, Gene Robinson, William Eskridge (Yale law professor and gay marriage advocate) -- these people are self-identified "Christians" along with Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan), but I have nothing against them personally.

"especially when they get involved in government or politics."

Yeah--I tend to think that religion & politics mix like oil & water.

"Like Mike, I suspect that your vision of religious freedom is that the religious are free to believe what they like as long as they keep their mouths shut about it"

I don't know where you got the idea that I want anyone to keep their mouth shut. Run your mouth all you like and if government goes after you for it, I'll personally contribute to your defense. However, if a religious person says something, even if what they are saying comes from their religious worldview, don't expect that to shield you from criticism.

"and don't bother the secular rulers of society."

Regarding religion & politics: I don't want religious virtue-crats using the organs of the state to enforce their worldview. And yes I realize the left does this too. And I don't like it anymore when they do it, whether it be on the grounds of "public health" or "political correctness." That's why I am a libertarian.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at August 31, 2004 9:19 PM

"However, if a religious person says something, even if what they are saying comes from their religious worldview, don't expect that to shield you from criticism."

That's not the question - the question is whether the argument will be addressed on its merits, or be dismissed because it is just a 'personal' view that has no place in the public arena.

" I don't want religious virtue-crats using the organs of the state to enforce their worldview."

I'm not sure what you are talking about here: it is overwhelmingly liberal positions that get implemented via the courts and government bureaucrats, not conservative ones. Conservatives tend to try to get the law changed via democratic processes, like elections, referenda, and constitutional amendments. When a judge pronounces something (like that pornography is protected speech, but criticism of elected officials during an election campaign isn't), he's just "being neutral", or "interpreting the law". But when conservatives try to amend the constitution to protect traditional marriage, they are "forcing their religious views on everyone else", even though large majorities favor the traditional defintion of marriage, and even though many of those who do aren't especially religious.

Jerry Falwell doesn't use the organs of the state to enforce his worldview. His point of view is increasingly dismissed with prejudice, however, simply because it is informed by the Bible. That is the problem. What else could you have possibly meant by your "let's not be fooled, its Catholic dogma" comment other than, "we shouldn't take this argument seriously, because it comes from a disreputable source"?

Posted by: Mike S. at August 31, 2004 9:45 PM

"However, if a religious person says something, even if what they are saying comes from their religious worldview, don't expect that to shield you from criticism."

That's not the question - the question is whether the argument will be addressed on its merits, or be dismissed because it is just a 'personal' view that has no place in the public arena.

" I don't want religious virtue-crats using the organs of the state to enforce their worldview."

I'm not sure what you are talking about here: it is overwhelmingly liberal positions that get implemented via the courts and government bureaucrats, not conservative ones. Conservatives tend to try to get the law changed via democratic processes, like elections, referenda, and constitutional amendments. When a judge pronounces something (like that pornography is protected speech, but criticism of elected officials during an election campaign isn't), he's just "being neutral", or "interpreting the law". But when conservatives try to amend the constitution to protect traditional marriage, they are "forcing their religious views on everyone else", even though large majorities favor the traditional defintion of marriage, and even though many of those who do aren't especially religious.

Jerry Falwell doesn't use the organs of the state to enforce his worldview. His point of view is increasingly dismissed with prejudice, however, simply because it is informed by the Bible. That is the problem. What else could you have possibly meant by your "let's not be fooled, its Catholic dogma" comment other than, "we shouldn't take this argument seriously, because it comes from a disreputable source"?

Posted by: Mike S. at August 31, 2004 9:53 PM

Jon,

And libertarians don't seek to align government with their worldview?

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 31, 2004 9:54 PM

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=40239

Jon, do you get just as upset when liberals go to liberal churches and mix politics and religion? Just wondering...

Posted by: Mike S. at September 1, 2004 12:06 PM

"Jon, do you get just as upset when liberals go to liberal churches and mix politics and religion? Just wondering..."

Yes.

I tend to think that laws must have a secular basis, and I think basing a public policy position on "natural law" as opposed to "religious tenants" is a step in the right direction. (Then we can argue on whether this or that particular natural law theory is logical or correct).

Let me clarify what I was thinking w/ my "Catholic dogma" comment. I was thinking of Robert George's brief that he wrote for the FRC in the Lawrence case. George is a devout Catholic and an expert in the natural law. Technically, Thomism/natural law, is a universalitic theory based on nature. But since the Church has adopted it, and since its formulator Aquinas was a very important Catholic, and since it seems that nearly EVERYONE who posits this theory is Catholic (I mean in our language, we used the term "Catholic natural law"), this has come to be almost synonymous with Catholicism. In reading this George’s brief, it just seemed to be a very "Catholic" brief. But I realize there is a distinction.

We can put the formula this way: Every doctrinaire Catholic is a Thomist, but not every Thomist is a doctrinaire Catholic. But the overwhelming majority of them, Harry Jaffa, Hadley Arkes, and Ben Bateman aside, are.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at September 1, 2004 1:31 PM
"Jon, do you get just as upset when liberals go to liberal churches and mix politics and religion? Just wondering..."

Yes.

I think you're in the distinct minority. I never see people complaining about Democratic/liberal politicians going to churches for campaign events. But maybe that's just due to the places I look...

I tend to think that laws must have a secular basis, and I think basing a public policy position on "natural law" as opposed to "religious tenants" is a step in the right direction. (Then we can argue on whether this or that particular natural law theory is logical or correct)."

Well, next time maybe you should do that, instead of deriding it as "Catholic dogma".

We can put the formula this way: Every doctrinaire Catholic is a Thomist, but not every Thomist is a doctrinaire Catholic. But the overwhelming majority of them, Harry Jaffa, Hadley Arkes, and Ben Bateman aside, are.

This still doesn't address why Catholic doctrine is somehow off-limits for discussion in the political arena. I think the distinction between us is that I agree that the law should not be made in explicitly sectarian terms. But I do think it should be based upon philosophical premises that are rooted in theology. At least, such premises ought to have an equal hearing in public deliberations. But you give the appearance, at least, of thinking that such premises are illegitimate in the public square. That's why I think the Declaration of Independence is so brilliant. It incorporated religious themes in a sufficiently general way that the sectarian arguments could be avoided, but the general principles that there was widespread agreement on could be proclaimed. In your way of thinking, though, you wouldn't allow the Declaration to be written the same way today, since reference to the Creator is not secular.

The problem we face now is that there is widespread disagreement about the fundamentals now. It's much harder to reach common ground when the two parties have radically different ideas about the nature and source of man's freedom (and the limits thereof). But the solution is not to exclude all religiously-based arguments from the getgo. I'm sure your experience is different from mine, but I see a fundamental asymmetry at play: the secularist (whether they are liberal or libertarian) claims that religious views are inappropriate for the public square (in particular if they are conservative views). The religious believer, however, doesn't claim that the secularist shouldn't be allowed to make their arguments in public - they just want to be able to make their arguments, too, whether they are explicitly Biblical or not. (I realize there are some fundamentalists who are exceptions to this rule, but I think they are much more far and few between than the press makes them out to be.)


Posted by: Mike S. at September 1, 2004 4:12 PM

To tell you the truth, I think the Declaration of Independence is, for the most part, a secular document.

The reference to "nature's God" is about as close to a secular version of God (and yes, I do believe in a secular version of God), as you can get.

I've got some, what I think are interesting blog-posts on this very subject.

As far as the legitimacy of religious views/public policy are concerned, let me make an aside:

Some very influential conservative scholars, of whose work, I have pretty big interest in, and I think, a fairly decent understanding of—the Straussians—(or at least the non-Jaffaites), blame what has become the inability of religious conservatives to argue effectively that their convictions are legitimate bases for public policy—on the Founders, or at least on the expositors of the natural rights philosophy of the Declaration (I’m sorry, I know I could have written that so it reads clearer).

For instance, remember when Dr. Laura made all of these anti-gay arguments, and she explicitly argued that she supports these policies solely because she is an orthodox Jew and Leviticus says X—she just wasn’t convincing anyone. Her arguments didn’t work in this society. Why?
Someone like Allan Bloom would argue (while lamenting this) that it was because the philosophy that founds this nation (exemplified by the Declaration) so effectively separated Church & State; it consigned “religion” to the realm of “opinion” (just look at Jefferson’s VA Statute on religious liberty, which speaks of religion exclusively as a matter of “opinion”).

In this nation when we discuss religion, we discuss something that we think is very personal. Whereas before the Founding, under the old order, it wasn’t personal at all. Religion & the public were one & the same. Up until some time in the 19th Century, it was crime to deny the Trinity in England!

When we speak of basing public policy solely on religious tenets—whether it be gay marriage, or whatever—to many folks, you might as well be forcing those who don’t share you tenets to eat Kosher or not eat red meat on Fridays.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at September 1, 2004 9:18 PM