Sunday, August 26, 2012

An outline of a secular argument against SSM (Part IV)

Well, here it is almost a week later, and I’m preparing to wrap up this extensive outline.  First, let’s recap the ground covered so far:

  • Part I: Marriage isn’t simply a special relationship between two sexual partners. Rather, it’s a social institution which both privileges and guards the basic unit of the community: the nuclear family. It gives social and legal claims against the father for the benefit of the mother and her children, as well as establishing his vested interest in his genetic offspring and legitimizing their inheritance from him. Homosexual unions, sterile by nature, cannot and do not have this reproductive orientation.
  • Part II: Insofar as a society recognizes the biological imperative of sex — reproduction — marriage serves to legitimize not just the children of the union but the union itself as proper. In our society, however, other forms of sexual union — especially homosexuality — are losing or have already lost their illegitimacy, nullifying marriage’s “stamp of approval”. In this light, SSM is “a solution without a problem”.
  • Part III: In the current political climate, reliably neutral scientific study of gay parenting is impossible because both sides want too much to dictate the only permissible outcome. However, by looking at the effects on children of family structures other than traditional marriage, we find that none work so well as having both biological parents present and formally unified. Indirectly, then, we have reason to suspect that men and women can’t simply step into each other’s roles in parenting, that biological “hard-wiring” and blood relationship have their parts. Privileging gay unions, in this sense, is a misdirection of effort; we should be working to save traditional marriage, not promote “second- and third-bests”.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

An outline of a secular argument against SSM (Part III)

III: The other horn of the dilemma

So far, we’ve been speaking about marriage as a specific relationship that has a specific function in society.  But moreover, we’ve been talking about traditional marriage, i.e., one in which one man and one woman remain together for twenty years or more, and in which all children are products of that same union.

However, traditional marriage is not the only context in which children are raised.  For example, 1 in 3 American children are raised in a single-parent home, including two-thirds of black children, over half of Native American children, and two-fifths of Hispanic children.[1] Forty-two percent of all American adults have at least one step relative: a step or half sibling (30%), a living stepparent (18%) and/or a stepchild (13%).[2]  Many children are being raised by both biological parents, but not within marriage or any understood long-term commitment (11% of all children under 1, diminishing to 2% of children from 6 to 11 and 1% of adolescents).[3]

In Part II, I alluded to the rise of alternative family arrangements, such as cohabiting parents, single parents, grandparents-only, and blended families, to illustrate the point that gay marriage is “a solution without a problem”.  Traditional marriage may have sentimental pride of place, but if it’s no longer necessary, then gay marriage isn’t necessary, either.  In fact, it has all the appearance of awarding the happy couple a free cruise on the Andrea Doria.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

An outline of a secular argument against SSM (Part II)

[I don't often change my posts after they're published, except for minor edits (spelling, punctuation, syntactical errors, and so forth).  However, I'd completely finished Part III before I realized it had gone in the wrong direction.  So the last paragraph has been amended to fit the next installment.—TL]

One of my friends confessed, “I just don’t get marriage.  Why do people get married, anyway?”  This caused a bit of an embarrassed silence; the friend in question had left her husband and two kids for another woman, so there were all sorts of potential landmines for a well-intentioned idiot to step on.  Fortunately, I wasn’t there.

Again, we’ve been looking not at motivations, which are various and range from really good to really bad, but rather at marriage’s function in society.  I’m sure had anyone tried to discuss the matter, they would have dwelt on motivations while missing the fact that the question was really about the function. 

That no one automatically connects children with marriage anymore is hardly the tip of the iceberg; imagine my astonishment when, reading a thread on contraception, I came across a comment where a woman said, in dismissal of an argument: “What has sex got to do with reproduction?”  It’s as if we have started to believe that the primary purpose of eggs is not baby chickens but breakfast and baked goods, or that cars exist for satellite radio, Bose speaker systems and Corinthian-leather bucket seats rather than to get you from Point Alfa to Point Bravo.

And yet the future for the hosts of children born and raised outside of marriage is grim and looking grimmer. Researcher Kay S. Hymowitz argues:

We are becoming a nation of separate and unequal families that threatens to last into the foreseeable future.  On the one hand, well-educated women make more money.  They get married, only then have their children, and raise them with their husbands.  Those children are more likely to grow up to be well-adjust­ed, to do well in school, to go to college, to marry and only then have children.  On the other hand, we have low-income women raising children alone who are more likely to be low-income, to drop out of school or, if they do make it to college, go to a less elite col­lege, and to become single parents themselves.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

An outline of a secular argument against SSM (Part I)

A couple of days after Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, I posted on a comment Brandon Vogt had gotten on Facebook: “So not allowing certain individuals rights based on a religious viewpoint is not dictatorship?”  In the central paragraph, I contended:

He’s assuming that opposition to same-sex marriage can be based on nothing other than traditional Christian morality, that a secular case can’t be made against it, and that therefore one-man-one-woman state laws and amendments amount to an establishment of religion.  He’s wrong; but had he said just that, a fruitful discussion on the First Amendment and the place of religion in the public square might have followed.  But no-ooo-o! he had to phrase it in a manner that implicitly equates religion with totalitarian regimes.
Them’s fightin’ words.  Or, to put it another way, that’s not how you change people's hearts and minds.
The one response I’ve gotten so far at this writing — and it was a nice comment, too! — came from Abraham:

I cannot help but notice that you do not make any attempts to provide any secular argument against same-sex marriage. Couldn’t it be successfully argued that once removed from a religious context, there is no valid reason not to recognize homosexual unions in the same way as heterosexual ones?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Apologetics toolbox: Abortion and the silence of Jesus

[Vice-President Joe] Biden is not wrong on gay and abortion, Jesus NEVER took a stand on either of these issues.  Jesus only talked about love and a belief in him, you people better take a deep look into yourselves because he is coming back soon and not loving your neighbor and not taking care of the poor and the less fortunate goes against everything my lord taught and if you do not do the same you spit on him and I would hate to be in your shoes.

This combox entry appeared in Carson Holloway’s piece, “Paul Ryan, Joe Biden and Liberal False Equivalence”, on  Of course, besides our anonymous troll’s factual error — that Jesus talked about much more than love and faith in him is easily demonstrable from the Gospels — s/he also commits an argument from Gospel silence.  Such arguments, as I’ve said before, can become ad ignorantiam fallacies unless the argument to be made from the silence is consistent with what came both before the Gospels (pre-Christian Judaism) and after the Gospels (the New Testament letters; the writings of the Church Fathers).

And yet, there are those who will insist that Jesus the Compassionate would have understood, and implicitly given his approval to, a woman’s desire to abort her unborn child … especially if she were young, poor and in some sense downtrodden.  Not only is this argument hard to sustain without Scriptural proof-texts, it perfectly illustrates why asking “What Would Jesus Do” is bad moral advice: it invites us to turn the Lord into a sock puppet telling us to do what we want to do anyway.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Democracy, truth and the death of liberalism

©1980 David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.
—Winston S. Churchill

In First Things, Matthew Schmitz writes an interesting breakdown of some recent social-survey data which indicate that youth support of gay marriage is somewhat soggy and undependable as a sign of the future.  His basic premiss, of course, is that liberals in the media misrepresent the numbers; a couple of years ago I would have argued that the misrepresentation wasn’t all intentional … in fact, on another subject, I did.  (Now, after the blanket party they threw for Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A, not so much.)

As good as it was, I wouldn’t even bring the article up except for a disturbing “drive-by” comment by a person identifying himself as “Dan”:

I realize that this article pertains to generational opinions on marriage equality for gays and lesbians, however a larger issue is being ignored. The USA is the only nation on earth that has allowed the public to decide this important civil rights issue via ballot measures. This is a grossly immoral act which violates every principle of our Republic. Ultimately, the majority has no right to determine the civil rights of minorities. Have we learned nothing from the struggles of women for the right to vote or blacks to attend the same schools? Therefore, whatever young people think regarding this issue is irrelevant [bold font mine].

So much for “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.  Perhaps Dan merely wanted to throw a cold bucket of disillusionment over our grand national fantasy of representative democracy.  Perhaps in reality we were always just token participants in our government; perhaps even the modern cumbersome and expensive primary process is just an elaborate scheme for putting the élite’s Chosen Ones in office and judicial chambers.

Considering Mitt Romney, I half believe it myself.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The road not taken

This morning I saw a Facebook post from my good friend StacyTrasancos:

Judging from the scene in my kitchen this morning, you’d never believe I used to dress in smart business clothes, march through labs where people did exactly what I told them to do, and sit in a quiet and tidy office solving complex problems.  Motherhood can be overwhelming — and sticky — at times.  Sigh.

I could just picture her in sweats, her hair put up carelessly with a comb and two or three pins, trying to exercise some calm and pull order out of chaos as five children noisily and messily ate their breakfasts, perhaps while swabbing up some spilled milk and scooping some free-range Cap’n Crunch off the counter.

But I can also picture the smile she had when she posted that thought.  This is the kind of moment Stacy will reflect upon as her children cross stages to receive diplomas, as they step nervously up church aisles to be wedded, as they themselves try to wrestle some kind of calm out of their own kids’ anarchy while Grandma looks on fondly.  And Time will embroider the scene in threads of gold and silver for her to carry through the rest of her days.

And so I couldn’t help but remember the final stanza of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.[1]

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hurt feelings a “human rights violation”?

“Chick-fil-A faces vandalism, ‘human rights violation’ complaints for defending marriage”

Almost as soon as I read the LifeSiteNews headline, I had to double-check the story.  I knew about the vandalism at the Torrance, Calif., unit, but … human rights violation complaints? Are you freakin’ kidding me?  I simply could not believe it — no, no, LSN had to be exaggerating something, or simply reporting one of the many bogus bits of information that spread like Captain Trips throughout the ‘Net (remember last year, when Jon Bon Jovi died in that New York hotel room — oh, waitaminnit, no he didn’t!).  Nobody could possibly be that petty and hysterical!

But no, the Civil Rights Agenda’s own website confirms the action, reporting sadly that “Chick-fil-A’s ‘intolerant corporate culture’ violates the Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits a ‘public accommodation’ from making protected classes ‘unwelcome, objectionable or unacceptable.’”  To get to the story, you have to click on a Photoshopped picture of a Chick-fil-A sign whose marquee proclaims, “YOU & YOUR GAY FAMILY ARE OBJECTIONABLE & UNACCEPTABLE”; the caption sullenly informs you, “Our lawyers are making us say: the above graphic is obviously a parody and what we believe LGBTQ folks see when they look at a Chick-fil-A sign.”

Not only will this story not die a natural death, it doesn’t appear even to be suffering a summer cold.  Could this be the year the left goes so far over the top that they lose all credibility even among those they purport to champion?