December 30, 2012

The birds and the bees? Natural law and same-sex civil marriage

By Bryan Cones| 0 Comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

While some have wondered why Pope Benedict felt the need to mention same-sex marriage around Christmastime, few will wonder why Chicago's Cardinal Francis George went on the record in Sunday's Chicago Tribune on the matter:Two Illinois legislators will introduce same-sex marriage legislation this week in the lame duck session of the Illinois General Assembly. Last week,250 Jewish and Christian clergy signed a statement in support of the legislation; George was not one of them.
George rightly points out that Catholic doctrine's opposition to same-sex sexual expression is rooted not in scripture or tradition but in an appeal to "natural law," a system of ethics first proposed by Aristotle but modified for Christian use by Thomas Aquinas. The nice thing about natural law is that it doesn't appeal to sectarian or confessional doctrine to justify its conclusions but on what is determined through the use of 'reason" to be "natural" to human beings as rational animals--though it often requires belief in a divine creator as the source of natural law. Principles or goods derived from natural law can be things as basic as the duty of self-preservation or the care of children. What it isn't, however, is looking at nature for examples of "good behavior"--for example, monogamous pairing among bird species is not a natural law argument--or at least not a good one--for monogamous marriage among human beings. You can always find a counter-example in nature; same-sex sexual behavior, for example, is commonly observed among animals.
It's a bit tricky to connect the civil and religious institution of marriage in all its complexity to natural law, though. George argues that "marriage comes to us from nature. That's based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that's how families are created and society goes along. … It's a matter of reason and understanding the way nature operates." So, for George, natural law includes marriage (a religious and civil institution created and governed by various human laws), the "complementarity of the sexes" as something built into creation (we'll have to assume he means biological and not gender roles), that this relationship is "open to life" (all the time?), and, finally, "that's how families are created and society goes along" (all societies?). That's quite a bit to expect from natural law, and it also assumes a common understanding of "reason" and "the way nature operates." Good luck with that in our pluralistic culture. (By the way, I'm sure George could give a much more erudite and sophisticated account of his natural law argument against same-sex marriage--this is a newpaper story after all.)
Also quoted in the story is a scholar from the "other" side, Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif: "On sexual ethics, nature is neutral," he says. "We're moral beings. We may look to nature for some aspects of how we are in our lives, but we answer to a higher standard. Sexual behavior is an expression of human love."
The big question, however, is simply: Is that an adequate description of marriage as we now practice it? Is that an adequate description of how marriage has always been practiced across cultures? Or, to put it another way, have human societies across cultures agreed that George's description is, indeed, the "natural" definition of marriage? That's what natural law is supposed to do after all. We could ask the same question of Schlager: Is sexual behavior always an expression of human love? Both may argue that in the most moral situation, the answer to those questions is yes. For George it is simply definitional: "When we get behind the church and behind the state, you've got a natural reality that two men or two women … cannot consummate a marriage. It's a physical impossibility."
Obviously George's is by no means a universal definition of marriage, nor has sexual behavior within marriage always been an "expression of human love": For most much of its history, marriage has been defined as the union between a man and one or more women that functioned as much to assure paternity and property transfer as to express human love. Nowadays, at least in the West, but beyond as well, marriage has become more a special form of friendship that may or may not include procreation (or even sex for that matter); when it is "open to life," it usually results in far smaller famllies than it once did. While it's certainly true that men and women "naturally" come together sexually and produce children, the way societies have organized that biological function have varied, and by and large they continue to recognize as "married" couples who were never able to procreate--in fact, the church has long insisted that such marriages cannot be dissolved. Over the years and in many cultures, that has sometimes been a very unpopular position.
In the end, I'm not sure that natural law is all that helpful in the matter of same-sex civil marriage; when it comes from the mouth of a public religious figure, it ends up looking like a religious argument passing itself off as a neutral rational argument anyway. If anything, I think it better to distinguish between what is a sacrament within the Christian household and what is a contract in the civil realm. Each has its own appropriate arguments. Once we dismiss prejudice against gay and lesbian people as legitimate arguments against their civil marriage (and George, to his credit, says that "nobody should be disdained or persecuted because of their sexual orientation"), all that's left is the question of whether a civil marriage requires both a male and female partner (regardless of their willingness and ability to procreate). That's a question voters, courts, and legislatures are now deciding.
Within the churches, however, we have another set of questions that we ought to be asking, the first of which is simply: Why do we celebrate marriage in church at all? What has marriage to do with the reign of God? Is it indeed a kind of friendship? Does it require a commitment to at least attempt to bear children, or if not able to, to adopt or rear them in some other way? We might start by asking married couples and those who wish to be married to answer those quesitons themselves. We might be surprised by the answers we get.

Kwanzaa is a ridiculous, racist holiday

Ann Coulter
             Political Commentator

Is it just me, or does Kwanzaa seem to come earlier and earlier each year? And let’s face it, Kwanzaa has gotten way too commercialized.
A few years ago, I suspended my annual Kwanzaa column because my triumph over this fake holiday seemed complete. The only people still celebrating Kwanzaa were presidential-statement writers and white female public school teachers.
But it seems to be creeping back. A few weeks ago, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., complained about having to stick around Washington for fiscal cliff negotiations by accusing Republicans of not caring about “families” coming together to bond during Kwanzaa. The private schools have picked up this PC nonsense from the public schools. (Soon, no one will know anything.)
It is a fact that Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by a black radical FBI stooge, Ron Karenga — a.k.a. Dr. Maulana Karenga — founder of United Slaves, a violent nationalist rival to the Black Panthers. He was also a dupe of the FBI.
In what was ultimately a foolish gamble, during the madness of the ’60s, the FBI encouraged the most extreme black nationalist organizations in order to discredit and split the left. The more preposterous the group, the better.
By that criterion, Karenga’s United Slaves was perfect. In the annals of the American ’60s, Karenga was the Father Gapon, stooge of the czarist police.
Despite modern perceptions that blend all the black activists of the ’60s, the Black Panthers did not hate whites. They did not seek armed revolution (although some of their most high-profile leaders were drug dealers and murderers). Those were the precepts of Karenga’s United Slaves.
United Slaves were proto-fascists, walking around in dashikis, gunning down Black Panthers and adopting invented “African” names. (That was a big help to the black community: How many boys named “Jamal” are currently in prison?)
It’s as if David Duke invented a holiday called “Anglika,” which he based on the philosophy of “Mein Kampf” — and clueless public school teachers began celebrating the made-up, racist holiday.
Whether Karenga was a willing dupe, or just a dupe, remains unclear.
Curiously, in a 1995 interview with Ethnic NewsWatch, Karenga matter-of-factly explained that the forces out to get O.J. Simpson for the “framed” murder of two whites included: “the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, Interpol, the Chicago Police Department” and so on. Karenga should know about FBI infiltration. (He further noted that the evidence against O.J. “was not strong enough to prohibit or eliminate unreasonable doubt” — an interesting standard of proof.)
In the category of the-gentleman-doth-protest-too-much, back in the ’70s, Karenga was quick to criticize rumors that black radicals were government-supported. When Nigerian newspapers claimed that some American black radicals were CIA operatives, Karenga publicly denounced the idea, saying, “Africans must stop generalizing about the loyalties and motives of Afro-Americans, including the widespread suspicion of black Americans being CIA agents.”
Now we know that the FBI fueled the bloody rivalry between the Panthers and United Slaves. In one barbarous outburst, Karenga’s United Slaves shot to death two Black Panthers on the UCLA campus: Al “Bunchy” Carter and John Huggins. Karenga himself served time, a useful stepping-stone for his current position as a black studies professor at California State University at Long Beach.
Karenga’s invented holiday is a nutty blend of schmaltzy ’60s rhetoric, black racism and Marxism. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are the very same seven principles of the Symbionese Liberation Army, another charming legacy of the Worst Generation.
In 1974, Patricia Hearst, kidnap victim-cum-SLA revolutionary, posed next to the banner of her alleged captors, a seven-headed cobra. Each snake head stood for one of the SLA’s revolutionary principles: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani — the exact same seven “principles” of Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa praises collectivism in every possible area of life — economics, work, personality, even litter removal. (“Kuumba: Everyone should strive to improve the community and make it more beautiful.”) It takes a village to raise a police snitch.
When Karenga was asked to distinguish Kawaida, the philosophy underlying Kwanzaa, from “classical Marxism,” he essentially said that, under Kawaida, we also hate whites. (Kawaida, Kwanzaa and Kuumba are also the only three Kardashian sisters not to have their own shows on the E! network.)
While taking the “best of early Chinese and Cuban socialism” — excluding, one hopes, the forced abortions, imprisonment of homosexuals and forced labor — Karenga said Kawaida practitioners believe one’s racial identity “determines life conditions, life chances and self-understanding.” There’s an inclusive philosophy for you.
Kwanzaa was the result of a ’60s psychosis grafted onto the black community. Liberals have become so mesmerized by multicultural nonsense that they have forgotten the real history of Kwanzaa and Karenga’s United Slaves — the violence, the Marxism, the insanity.
Most absurdly, for leftists anyway, they have forgotten the FBI’s tacit encouragement of this murderous black nationalist cult founded by the father of Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa emerged not from Africa, but from the FBI’s COINTELPRO. It is a holiday celebrated exclusively by idiot white liberals. Black people celebrate Christmas. (Merry Christmas, fellow Christians!)
Ann Coulter is an author and political commentator.

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