Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'll Stop Going on About Marriage If You Shut Up About the Poor

The way Christians are wavering these days about the benefits of upholding marriage as our commonly-held social ideal is just unbelievable. All the social science confirms common sense and tradition; children do best when they live with their natural parents all the while they are growing up - by any important measure you care to mention. Divorce, promiscuity, living together without being married, homosexuality - they all harm children by disrupting the ideal. And what is good for children is good for society as a whole, whether we are talking about physical health, mental health, productivity, happiness, or whatever. Every member of society is a child before he or she is an adult and what kind of childhood we have is crucial to what kind of adult we become.

The sexual revolution is a total failure. Elevating the convenience of adults over their duties as parents does not even make adults happier, let alone children. The rest of the world thinks the West is insane. We are not the speartip of progress; we are the barbarians. We have regressed to the state of Greco-Roman society prior to the civilizing influence of Christianity. There is no real future for the West as presently constituted.

Increasingly, we hear calls from Christians for the state to "get out of the marriage business" so that homosexual couples can be treated the same as heterosexual ones. Why? Because Christians lack courage. We don't like it when people yell at us and call us names. That is the sum total of the reason. Everything else is excuses. Excuses include the arguments from "equality" and "fairness" and "secularism." We should not, we are told, impose our faith. I don't for one minute believe this is a seriously held position. No one believes this who has thought about it for more than five seconds. Liberals who claim to agree with the secularists that secular, Western societies should not embody the morals of one religion (Christianity over atheism) are just full of it. I don't believe it and neither do they. And I can prove it.

Liberal Christians go on and on and on about "the poor" and "our responsibility" to help the poor. We all need to get involved in working for "peaceandjustice." But why? Really, why? If I'm an atheist who has read Nietzsche and I ask the question why, what is the Liberal answer? If I don't believe the poor are created in God's image, why not just let nature take its course? If they die, the human carbon footprint will be reduced and that is good for the environment. If informed by Jim Wallis in breathless tones that over a billion people live on less than $2 per day, I could simply suggest that if they all were left to starve it would solve a whole bunch of problems at once. Why do I have a "responsibility" to them? Who says? A bunch of professional peaceandjustice protesters? Why should I care what they think? I'm an atheist, remember? Why should they get to impose their liberal Christianity on me? The West is secular, remember? They are just all deluded with their sentimental humanism and they should shut up and stop putting guilt trips on all those of us who don't share their narrow and mystical religious ideas.

I don't see the difference between atheists telling us that marriage is a social construction that has outlived its usefullness and atheists telling us that sentimental humanism is a social contstruction that has outlived its usefullness. How are they different? One is as religious as the other.

If Christians let the atheist Nazis shut them up on marriage, then they should, to be consistent, also shut up about poverty. After all, many kinds of humanistic ideas regarding loving neighbours and respecting human life are rooted in Christianity. So if secularism is really such a great idea, let's run with it and see what happens.

After a few decades, a lot of people just might get a bit nostalgic for that old-fashioned Christian concern for love, fidelity, self-sacrifice and compassion.

The Poverty Issue Solved!

Halden Doerge thinks he has solved the marriage debate.

He suggests that the government get out of the marriage business and issue identical licences for civil partnerships to homosexual and heterosexual couples. Then religious people can go to their church or synagogue or whatever to get a religious marriage as well. Problem solved. Privatize marriage! A classic liberal solution from someone who claims not to be a liberal.

So let's test the logic with regard to poverty. I suggest that the government get out of the poverty business. A lot of people disagree with the government raising their taxes and doling them out to the poor. (I don't, but that is beside the point, I'm just one person.) A welfare state imposes certain religious beliefs on those who don't share them. Why should Nietzscheans be discriminated against? Is this just a matter of the majority imposing its morality - just because it can? (How ironic, the triumph of the will over the Nietzscheans!)

So we privatize poverty reduction. People pay low taxes to the government and those who are religious or who have some sort of unscientific, unprovable, mystical belief in sentimental humanism can then channel charity for the poor through their religious or social aid agency. Problem solved! Everyone is happy. Nietzschean Atheists no longer have to be second class citizens.

So the question is, can liberals accept the same solution for poverty as for marriage? Or are they inconsistent? Do they think that some things, in order to be effective, have to be done by society as a whole rather than by isolated individuals here and there? Well, if this is their argument, I agree, but I'm consistent enough to agree on both poverty and marriage.


Halden said...

If marriage is a sacarament of the church I see no reason why any government should be entrusted with policing it.

Should the government be handing out baptism certificates too?

This is only privatizing if you believe the church is a private club. I don't. I think it's a real thing.

Craig Carter said...

Do you really think that a sacrament of the church is not reflective of the real creation God made? Do you really think it is just a social construction of the group of people called Christians? Do you not believe in any sort of natural order in the universe that is knowable by anyone who is humble enough to acknowledge it? Or is your view of sin so extreme that you think pagans know absolutely nothing of natural law?

Murder is one of the Ten Commandments. Does that mean we can't expect the government to police it? Would you privatize enforcement of murder too?

Halden said...

The logic cuts both ways. Is not baptism reflective of God's creation of the human race as one body? As such then, shouldn't the state regulate this public social reality that bears witness to God's creatonal intent?

Not taking the Lord's name in vain is in the Ten Commandments too, should the government be sending people to jail for that? Or criminalizing adultery.

You're spiraling here, Craig.

Craig Carter said...

Baptism is reflective of God's creational intent and that is why
Christians rightly supported Martin Luther King and civil rights. Or do you think that should be a private matter too - if you are religious then don't put up a "Whites Only" sign? Yoder's Body Politics made this point quite clear.

You just keep coming with examples that prove my point.

Why shouldn't adultery be a matter of law breaking? That is essentially what we had 30 years ago before no-fault divorce. Why should someone get off the hook for being unfaithful? A promise is an obligation, especially when other human beings are depending on you. A just society would not let a man walk out on his family and get away with it. Even pagans know that when they are honest. Christians have better reasons for why it is important, but it is still wrong for everybody.

Halden, you seem to think that the way things are here and now has some sort of sacralized inevitibility to it, as if this messed up excuse for a culture is the only way it can be and the way it has to be. Is it some lingering Dispensationalist pessimism in your theology? It is tough to figure out.

BTW, do you think murder should be illegal? All murder? Or should there be exceptions for legalized private killing?

Craig Carter said...

Since you think the state should not impose anyone's religious beliefs on the marriage issue, I assume that you think the same goes for poverty reduction? Right? Capitalism, socialism, welfare state - since the church is the real thing and the state is not, what difference does it make what the state does, right?

Halden said...

It just seems more and more obvious that the only thing that can be "public" in your imagination is stuff the nation state does. Insofar as I reject that notion, you continue to talk past what I am actually saying.

You continue to duck my question about baptism. What you're presenting here clearly implies that baptism, being a reflection of God's will for all humanity, should be regulated and managed by the state. You don't want to admit that such is the outcome of your view, hence you keep obfuscating. Your proclaimed desire for consistency is a doubled edged sword, I'm afraid.

The issue of poverty (which is not one I've ever gone on about regarding the government's role) is really a pretty silly comparison to marriage. Marriage is a sacrament of Christ's relationship to the church. What does that have to do with whether or not a nation should take care of its impoverished citizenry or not?

Besides, your view of marriage vis a vis the state is historically naive. The state did not regulate marriage in any legal sense until the early modern period, specifically beginning with Calvin's Geneva. See John Witte's From Sacrament to Contract for a thorough historical analysis of marriage. If anyone is adopting a sacralized view of the modern nation state and its role in marriage it is you, not I.

Adultery should not be a mater of lawbreaking because Jesus' own witness specifically contradicts this (John 8).

RightDemocrat said...

It would be a grave error for government to get out of the marriage business. Marriage is more than just a religious sacrament. It is a legal institution that exists primarily to provide a stable environment for the rearing of children. The state clearly has an interest in the stability of marriage especially when minor children are involved.