Thursday, July 2, 2015

What About Natural Law?

I'm probably the world's most inconsistent blogger. It's been almost a year since my last post. Yet, here I am composing a new article. Part of what has inspired me to start writing again is my exposure to a very important book by Robert George entitled Conscience and Its Enemies. George is considered one of the foremost Christian intellectuals of our day, and this book reinforces that claim. In the book, he uses natural law theory to point out the importance of traditional marriage and the defense of the unborn. As far as I'm concerned this is a must-read book for all of us who are concerned about the direction of our culture.

A further inspiration is the Supreme Court decision at the end of last week to legalize gay marriage. It is amazing to me that of all the commentators enlisted to explain the ruling and its significance, Robert George was not among them. Even Fox focused primarily on the short-term impact of the ruling, giving one of the premier architects of the political argument for gay marriage, Ted Olson, a significant platform to "celebrate" this victory for "civil rights." Olson is correct to this extent, the gay marriage decision will not directly harm my marriage or prohibit heterosexual couples from marrying. But this is a very short-sighted view of culture and the unintended consequences of cultural change. There may not be immediate harm now, but there will be serious damage to come. As the old advertisement put it, "It's not nice to fool mother nature." In essence, she won't be fooled. Nature (by God's design) has built in a series of blessings and curses (to use a biblical metaphor). These blessings and curses flow directly from choices and behaviors, and mankind has often had to learn the lessons of natural law the hard way. We are about to embark on another failed experiment in social engineering based on the presumption that we "know better" than all the millennia of human beings that have gone before us (not to mention the God who has graciously revealed himself to us). Like every other society that has tried to "change" human nature or ignore the reality of natural law, we will pay a heavy price for our arrogance and ignorance.

The problem is not the acceptance of gay marriage per se. It is, rather, that this is just the latest renunciation of traditional values and one more step in the direction of an "anything goes" view of permissible behavior with no thought of the adverse consequences it may produce. George points out that this permissiveness is inherent in our current approach to moral questions. "It has become a matter of dogma that the traditional norms and structures are irrational-they are the vestiges of superstition and phobia that impede the free development of personalities by restricting people's capacities to act on their desires." (George, 28) Gay marriage is just the latest vestige of this emphasis on personal "liberation," and rejection of the older notions of morality and human well-being. It is where this road leads that is the real problem. For, while the same-sex decision will not affect my marriage today, it will profoundly affect the institution of marriage in the future. We are already seeing the effects of this in  the dramatic increase in the percentages of births to unwed mothers. In many communities of our society, marriage is already a thing of the past, especially in regard to the birth of children. The number of out of wedlock births among African Americans exceeds 75%, among Hispanics it exceeds 50%, and for all Americans it approaches 40%. Without intact families many, if not most, of these children will suffer the adversity of childhood poverty and all the hardships related to being raised in single-parent households. If we are truly concerned about income inequality it would seem that we should be concerned about the forces that are undermining the traditional family.

Looking at this question from the perspective of the state and its concern for the well-being of its citizens one would assume that government officials would want to protect this traditional view of marriage and the family. This institution, after all, is the means by which the next generation arises and is prepared for life in society. Nothing, in fact, is more important to the long-term health of our culture than this necessary institution of marriage. In even more practical terms, many studies have shown that the most significant factor leading to childhood poverty and an ongoing cycle of poverty is children being raised in single-parent households. This is not to deny that single parents can be good parents and have success in raising their children, but statistics show that these successful outcomes are the exception and not the rule.

But that is not a question that is even being asked by the ruling elites in our culture. Only a handful of scholars and leaders are thinking that far ahead, and those that do are ostracized, marginalized, and ignored. Robert George is just one of many who is considered "out of touch" or worse. The present Supreme Court is a clear example of a lack of a historic and ultimately moral perspective. The impetus for the current decision was the immediate needs and demands of the gay community in the United States. As Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion, the decision was about providing "dignity" and state sanctioned support for the demands of an oppressed community. But we must ask, is this the best way to meet the needs of gay couples while still promoting the best interests of the larger society? Ultimately, this is nothing short of an attempt to shape American culture according to a secular progressive agenda with little regard for the ensuing consequences. So, why are we engaging in this process of social engineering without asking what will be the long-range impact of the decision? And by the way, how is it that the Left (the driving force behind the marriage equality movement) can get away with forcing this decision upon the nation, when they often accuse Christians of "seeking to impose their values on the rest of us?" Isn't that profoundly hypocritical? If imposing values is bad, it must be bad for everyone who does it. The bottom line is that based on the expected damage to the institution of marriage and the family, and considering the reality of natural law, we can fully to expect that this experiment in "progress" will be anything but progressive. We will, in fact, move further down the path of decadence and decline. Heaven help us all.

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