Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thou Shalt Not...

So. Four of the seven Justices on the California Supreme Court have just this week found that marriage is a fundamental right that has been wrongfully denied to gay couples by the state of California. Of course, this same charge, if true, must also logically be true of all other jurisdictions, polities, and constitutions everywhere, at all times. These four wise men have discovered what has lain hidden to the rest of the whole human race, going back to the mist-shrouded beginnings. There are any number of ways to analyze this--legally, culturally, socially, politically--and, perhaps most foreign to Americans and Supreme Court Justices, biblically.

My attention was drawn to Leviticus 18 in this morning's sermon on Paul's chastisement of the Corinthian church's failure to admonish a member's incestuous relation with his mother-in-law. That section of the Mosaic Law in Leviticus prohibits to the Jews the practices of the Egyptians, whose enslavement they had just fled, as well as the identical practices of the Canaanites, whose land was to be the Jews' inheritance. The list is instructive: incest, child sacrifice, bestiality, and homosexuality. All are called "detestable" and are said to have defiled the land as well as the inhabitants.

What does this have to do with modern America? Nothing, according to a very large swath of the American polity, which does not even countenance the Ten Commandments in any public venue. Even within the Church, there is uneasiness about drawing such antiquated moral instruction into our affairs. But despite the fact that all four of these proscribed practices find not only practitioners, but organized apologists, in the present day, most Americans are equally uneasy about the flouting of the biblical injunctions against these four things. Incest, child sacrifice (abortion), and bestiality of course have far fewer defenders than homosexuality; that they have any should be shocking, but alas, the bedrock liberal value of tolerance has metastasized and swamped all pre-modern moral judgments, and the land is home to unrepentant pedophiles, lovers of sheep, and serial sodomites. Still, gay people of both sexes, I have found at least, differ only in that one aspect, and I know most of them recoil against incest and bestiality as much as any hetero. Homosexuality--and even abortion-- seems to us now to not belong in the list of abominations in the Mosaic Law.

As Americans we are left to thread a needle here. Tolerance is a political and social virtue that has made America the inviting and comfortable place that it is, free from the bloodshed and tumult of religious wars of ages past. Given our focus on "rights-talk", and the inexorable logic of liberalism, I don't see how we can--or even that we should--deny equal protection of the laws to gays. Yet surely tolerance has its limits. It is unlikely we will see a future court discerning a fundamental right to incest or bestiality; but it is possible, given the utterly untethered reasoning coming out of our judicial system, and the unrelenting hatred of God and all his works by the moral descendants of Sodom and Gomorrah.

It is sobering to reflect on the fact that two of the four Levitically prohibited practices are granted the highest level of protection by our courts. Uno absurdo dato, mille sequuntur--Admit but a single absurdity, you invite a thousand. Extending the definition of marriage, a divinely ordained institution, to include what the Bible calls an abomination, is to shake a fist at God.

We are playing with fire, gambling that God will make an exception for Americans he did not make for Egyptians, Canaanites, and Jews.


Anonymous said...

By relying on Leviticus and expanding your argument in the way you have, you are not only declaring that gay marriage is wrong, and that activist judges are wrong... you are also declaring that the practice itself of homosexuality should be banned once again, and punished. Since it is one of a set of four uniquely dangerous practices, the very act itself must receive the *severest* of punishments.

You didn't come right out and say this, but the sum of your entire article leads to that conclusion and no other.

Anonymous said...


That's what Levicticus says. Modern America is not Biblical Israel, living under the Mosaic Code. I am not saying we should punish homosexuality--I expect God will take care of that, along with all other sin--I am saying we should not allow the definition of one of the foundational human institutions to be stretched to cover unnatural, immoral, perverse conduct. Political liberty assumes behavior and actions that not all approve of; it also assumes compromise among parties. Straights should leave gays alone, with all privileges and immunities guaranteed in the 14th Amendment, the civil rights and civil liberties everyone enjoys; in return they shouldn't try to force us to offically recognize their perversion as natural or wholesome or right. That is what calling gay marriage a right does.

Anonymous said...

Commenter #1 to #2:
I agree actually with everything you've said. Your main point appears to be that government should not officially affirm homosexuality, which I think is a reasonable compromise.

But would you also set up roadblock after roadblock to participation in society as special hurdles for gays?

What precisely should be the guidelines for being allowed to adopt children? Is it better for them to remain in foster care or orphanages instead, if there is a shortage of adopters?

Should you be barred from being a teacher if you're gay? Or policeman, doctor, nurse, or other profession? Any limits on participation as a leader within the neighborhood?

I know that molestors hide in positions of authority to ease their path for exploitation of children and teenagers; yet based solely on statistics do you deny all gay people opportunities? America is best when it is NOT a land of quotas or statistics; when it is not a land where identity trumps personal responsibility.

I'm friendly towards the "no special rights" argument, but I worry that it has a coda: "... but rather, instead, all kinds of special hurdles."

Mike Devx

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You bring up the difficulties we are faced with in a liberal society that still has a substantial Judeo/Christian moral basis. One part of this problem is the fact that no group is monolithic; none of the gays I know would march down 5th ave announcing their "gay pride" with vile and provocative acts and states of undress; and in fact, one of my dissertation committee members is gay, and she and her partner have taken in a young boy whose home life was utterly shattered. That kid is so much better off with these two women. Yet to officially enshrine that into law? I would rather just look away, and allow good acts like that to be unimpeded, but not officially sanctioned, in order to disallow other situations that would be toxic to the children. Who is to decide though? It's a never ending circle, that always comes back to morality, and where you draw lines like these. In order to avoid the inevitable moral drift that abandoning religion entails, I think the wise counsel is to stick with what is natural and what has worked since the beginning--one man, one woman, raising children who do the same in turn. Gays, who fall outside the norm, should respect the norm, while expecting and receiving full constitutional protection, just like everyone else.


Anonymous said...

Hello, Harold,
I'm unclear on your comment. You said:

"she and her partner have taken in a young boy whose home life was utterly shattered. That kid is so much better off with these two women. Yet to officially enshrine that into law? I would rather just look away, and allow good acts like that to be unimpeded, but not officially sanctioned, in order to disallow other situations that would be toxic to the children."

But then you say,
" I think the wise counsel is to stick with what is natural and what has worked since the beginning--one man, one woman, raising children who do the same in turn."

The first part seems to indicate that you agree that gays should be allowed to adopt. The second part more clearly indicates that no, they shouldn't, and we need explicit laws barring gays from adoption. However, single people can still adopt, because they're not gay.

Barring gays from adopting is one of those cases I was speaking of. "No special rights" becomes "No rights, and fewer rights."

When you start down this path, where do you stop? Isn't this a case of deliberately creating second-class status, enshrined into law?

I don't have a dog in this fight; I'm never going to adopt.

It seems to me that the better solution is to include this in a wide array of considerations of value for the worth of an adoption. And a husband a wife are by far the better choice, and that's worth a lot of "points" to the total. Being single or gay, not so much. I don't even mind if being single has a higher "points" status than being gay.

In the end though, I think it is fine and correct to define a policy that a married couple is worth far more as a positive environment than any other possibility, and that is absolutely fine, and correct, by me.

Of course, then we have those damned judges declaring that unconstitutional, when I believe it is perfectly constitutional. Being allowed to adopt is not a right. However, being BANNED from adopting, via enshrining it into law, is very troublesome to me. Value and worth to the child, with an emphasis on married couples, would be better to me. Were it not for the courts.


Anonymous said...

Hey Mike,
I too am conflicted about how all this works out. I wonder if the either/or criteria you are pressing down on this is the way to look at it though. Either we allow gays to adopt via explicit granting of the right (which you point out correctly is not a right), or ban gay adoption outright. I guess I am for something a little fuzzier, where people of good sense--(a criteria right there that leaves out most of the social service apparatus in this country, unfortunately)--use their judgement in individual cases, out of sight of litigious civil rights groups and fundamentalist church groups wanting to stamp out all sin. In hard cases, gay parents might well be the better alternative, like my friends I mentioned. Hard cases, however, as the lawyers say, make bad law. We are already in a situation where having children is viewed by many as more a lifestyle choice than a moral imperative to "be fruitful and multiply". And if strident gays decide they want the next logical "right" after marriage--children-I don't see how, given the "rights" framework, it can long be denied.

You say you are not comfortable "banning" gay adoption, even though it is not a right. Thinking about a ban doesn't trouble me for the following reasons. Gays should not consider child rearing a thing to be expected; once they decide, or discover--we won't open that can of worms--that they are gay, children should be out of the picture for them, because, especially in the case of gays being the would-be parents, the interests of the child ought to predominate. In the ordinary case, children are much better off with a father and a mother--they need input from both sexes to be correctly oriented to the world. Thus, in my mind, the argument for gay parents in general aligns with the feminist myth that single mothers and divorces are no problem for the children. Because of the "rights" mentality that has come to characterize our society, the best interests of the childeren are sacrificed to the desires of the adults involved, who most the time are blinded to the reality of the siuation. Broken homes devastate children, no matter what anyone says. Outside of very difficult circumstances for a child, gays as parents, in my mind, are right out. If with the passage of the gay marriage thing we find large numbers of gays demanding the right to adopt children as part of their normalizing agenda, we should strenously fend it off, lest even more children are sacrificed to the "rights" of adults.
I fear however that that is a losing battle, as your own line of attack on my position suggests. ("attack" undertood in an academic or forensic sense, not antagonistically).