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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Priest’s Blessing or Approval Necessary to Get Married in Early Christianity (with political sidenote)

Posted by Tony Listi on January 22, 2014

Many people incorrectly believe that it was in the 16th century at the Council of Trent that the Catholic Church first began to require a priest’s or bishop’s approval to get married.

Actually, the need for a priest or bishop to bless the union of a man and woman in marriage (when one of them is Christian) goes back to the earliest centuries of Christianity.

Here are two quotes from two early Church fathers that demonstrate this historical fact:

“But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honor of God.” -St. Ignatius of Antioch (died around 98-117 AD)

“Since the contracting of marriage must be sanctified by the veiling and the blessing of the priest, how can there be any mention of a marriage, when unity of faith is wanting?” -St. Ambrose (340-397 AD)

At the Council of Trent in 1563, the Catholic Church merely reaffirmed what was taught by the earliest Christian leaders: “the approval of the bishop” and/or “the blessing of the priest” is necessary for marriage, at least for a sacramental marriage between two baptized Christians. The council did not declare anything new; it merely reaffirmed early Christian doctrine on marriage because Protestant heresiarchs were contradicting and rejecting such apostolic doctrines.

Political Sidenote:
With the cultural and political ascendancy of Christianity in the 4th century, the State began to recognize as valid civil marriages only those marriages blessed by the Catholic Church. The State did not define marriage ultimately but merely recognized in civil law the definition of marriage in ecclesial canon law.

It was only after the Protestant Revolution that the State began to arrogantly presume the authority to define marriage however it wanted (cf. Henry VIII in England). Almost 500 years later, the State now presumes to call a same-sex sexual relationship a “marriage.”

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Posted in Christian Apologetics, Christianity and Politics, Church Fathers, Church History, Government and Politics, Marriage, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

We Need Love-Only Sex Ed, Not Abstinence-Only

Posted by Tony Listi on January 17, 2014

We need a Love Only approach to sex ed, not abstinence-only. If you are not married to a person, then love demands you abstain from any sexual activity with that person, regardless of any urges or feelings you have.

If you have not publicly committed to give your entire life exclusively to the other person in lifelong loving marriage, then what makes you think you have any right whatsoever to derive any intimate physical or emotional pleasure from them/their body? What makes anyone think they have any right to use someone else/someone else’s body merely as a sex toy for their own individual pleasure, ego, and/or self-esteem? Even if a person consents to be used in such a way, it is still a harmful and unloving violation of their human dignity and thus wrong. Consent does not change the inherently harmful and unloving nature of sexual use. A person is still a person with dignity and should not have their dignity violated even if that person himself or herself consents to have their dignity violated.

It is the lifelong commitment to the other person in marriage that allows and empowers sexual acts with that person to be acts of self-giving love rather than acts of selfish use. Because of our dignity as human persons, without marriage, there would be no truly legitimate, moral, and loving reason for sexual acts; such acts could be nothing other than selfish, harmful, and thus immoral without marriage. Without marriage, sexual acts always treat the human person as a sex object or sex toy (intended or not), and that is not loving or right. Only within the context of lifelong  marriage can sexual acts recognize and reverence the person and his or her full dignity. It is the marital commitment (and fidelity to it) that ensures that the person is not abandoned and thus thrown away like trash when they no longer sexually satisfy (at all or as much as another person) and when love demands sacrifices. Sexual love by its very nature demands and entails lifelong commitment and sacrifice.

Of course, it should be noted that while lifelong marriage is necessary for loving sexual acts, it is not in itself sufficient for love or loving sexual acts. Just because a commitment is lifelong and exclusive does not necessarily make it loving. To be loving, the marriage must be a lifelong and exclusive commitment to the good of the other person in all aspects of their personhood, not merely a lifelong and exclusive commitment to live together and be monogamous.

Critics of abstinence-only education are only partially right. Without this Love Only perspective, abstinence is indeed largely arbitrary repression, which is indeed harmful and in many cases inadequate long-term for remaining abstinent. Arbitrary repression does not quell sexual urges but merely holds them in tension, and if the sexual tension builds up over time, the person will likely succumb to acting out their sexual urges in an unloving way or context (e.g. premarital sex, rape, homosexual behavior, etc.). So strong are sexual urges sometimes that even the fear of potential STDs and pregnancy may be forgotten and unable to prevent a surrender and lapse into unloving sexual behavior. Besides, technology will likely continue to mitigate or remove fears of sexual disease and unwanted pregnancy. But technology will never make unloving sexual acts loving; technology will never mitigate or remove the emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage of unloving sexual acts (least not without inflicting greater damage on the person).

But abstinence grounded in love and chastity is not arbitrary repression but rather fully recognizing the dignity of the other person and choosing to love and respect them and their dignity, choosing not to treat them as a mere sex object or sex toy that satisfies a physical or emotional urge or desire. And when we are truly loving and chaste in our abstinence, we can quell the sexual urges, release or sublimate the sexual tension in a chaste loving non-sexual way, and not be frustrated. If we truly love the person, frustration should give way to joy and peace.

It may not be easy to practice loving and chaste abstinence in our hyper-sexual, hyper-stimulated, selfish, and pornographic culture, but it’s a lot easier than arbitrary and brute repression. And the deep joys and peace of love are always worth the demanding difficulty and cost (however, I should add, ideally, we should love for the sake of love and for the sake of the person, not even merely for such profound peace and joy, however transcendent and sublime).

Posted in American Culture, Education, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Children and Their Rights Unjustly Absent from Same-Sex “Marriage” Debate

Posted by Tony Listi on November 21, 2011

I’m getting really tired of seeing debates over same-sex “marriage” (SSM) that ignore, dismiss, or downplay children and their rights and that talk about marriage as if it were primarily an adult-centered civil institution. It is so sad that leftists, most libertarians, and many so-called “conservatives” treat children this way. The real debate over marriage as a public, civil institution should not be about adults but about children and children’s rights.

The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to each other for the sake of their children and their children’s rights. Marriage as a civil institution is about children; the law should recognize it as children-centered institution. Children and their rights are the reason why marriage is a public, civil institution (not merely a religious institution) and why it should have special legal status.

While not every marriage can or does bear fruit in the procreation of children, every child has a mother and father, and the well being of that child depends significantly upon the relationship between his or her mother and father, which marriage, as a civil and social institution, is designed to strengthen and stabilize.

The law should recognize these basic facts of biology, social science, and human nature and should protect the child’s rights by protecting marriage. Legal protection of marriage is necessary because children are unable to defend and protect their own rights, and the violation of those rights and consequent harm and damage done is extremely difficult to remedy satisfactorily after the fact.

SSM tries to change marriage from a children-centered civil institution to an adult-centered civil institution, necessarily perverting and destroying the essential public purpose of marriage and harming children, who depend upon marriage for their well being.

Many people often say that same-sex “marriage” (SSM) does “no harm to anyone.” While it might have little to no direct and immediate effect on adults and current marriages, SSM would certainlydirectly, and immediately harm future children by:

  1. Undermining, if not removing entirely, the children-centered nature of civil marriage, which children depend upon for their well being,
  2. Turn children into commodities to be manufactured and possessed that unrelated adults have a “right” to have, separating children from at least one parent as a matter of routine procedure,
  3. Empowering the state to routinely and arbitrarily assign parentage and custody of children without any regard for biology or genetics.

Marriage should not be about self-centered adults who want recognition and approval from the State for their private relationships which serve no public purpose. As a civil institution, marriage is not about the “happiness” or “rights” of adults but the happiness and rights of children. 

SSM strips away the essential public purpose of marriage (children and their rights) and leaves only the inessential private purposes of marriage. Under the new definition(s) of “marriage,” a whole host of private relationships having nothing to do with the procreation and proper raising of children could be considered a “marriage.” By the time the logic of these new definitions reaches its full implications, there will be nothing left of marriage except an absurd and dangerous government registry of roomates and friendships.

A relationship based on homosexual affection or behavior is no more deserving of legal recognition and approval than a relationship based on the activities of living together, golf, chess, dancing, or studying. Homosexual behavior, living together, golfing, playing chess, dancing, and studying are all private behaviors that serve no essential public purpose. If these individuals want to formalize their private relationship and create reciprocal rights and responsibilities amongst themselves, they are free to do that under the law using contracts. But of course, no private individual or corporation outside of that contractual relationship should be forced by government to recognize that contractual relationship and to perform some specific action because of the existence of that contractual relationship.

But marriage, a relationship based on procreating children and securing their positive rights, deserves special legal status that transcends contract law because it serves the very essential public purpose of procreating children and securing their positive rights. Marriage is more than a contract because it intends to create and care for an entirely new human being, an entirely new third party to the “contract” who has special positive rights that depend upon the marriage relationship itself to be secured.

Perhaps some people will argue that SSM and the creation and proper raising of children can go together…. But SSM inherently promotes and encourages the outrageous, immoral, and harmful notion that children are commodities or things which adults have a “right” to have, regardless of whether they are the biological parents of the children or not. On the contrary, children should be loved into existence and are persons with a positive right to a relationship with both biological parents, to know and be known by both biological parents.

Creating a child with the intention of preventing the child from having a relationship with one or both of his or her biological parents is cruel and unjust to the child. Artificial reproduction technology merely makes this injustice and cruelty more possible and likely than before. SSM thus tries to change marriage into an institution that separates children from at least one of their parents as a matter of routine procedure.

Most dangerously, SSM would lead to changes in parentage laws entailing the empowering of the State to assign the parentage of children to adults based on inherently arbitrary criteria rather than on biology. Currently, unless scientific testing shows otherwise, family law assumes that the father of a child is the husband of the mother of the child (i.e. presumption of paternity), if the mother is married. But by changing the legal definition of marriage from one man and one woman, the State is empowered to ignore human nature and biology and arbitarily assign children to the custody certain adults. Such changes create legal precedent for the State having complete and arbitrary control over children and to whom they belong. If you think this sounds far-fetched, it has already happened in Washington State.

This blog post draws heavily from the Ruth Institute’s pamphlet “77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage.” Click here to get your copy!

Posted in American Culture, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Race, Sex, and Marriage

Posted by Tony Listi on May 3, 2011

“If the negro is denied the right to marry a white person, the white person is equally denied the right to marry the negro. I see no discrimination against either in this aspect that does not apply to both.”

Sound familiar? Sometimes pro-marriage advocates use this same argument and logic in attempting to defend traditional marriage between one man and one woman.

But as you can see, it is a very weak argument, and I don’t use it. I highly suggest that no else does either. It more reflects semantics surrounding the term “discrimination” than critical thinking.

Here is the truth about the comparison between race and sex with regard to marriage:

A protein (melanin) is not the same as an organ (genitalia), which is made up of many proteins that form many tissues that form the organ. The function of the protein melanin is merely to change the color of human skin. The function of sexual organs is to create new life.

Skin color is arbitrary, irrelevant, and impotent. Sex is significant, relevant, and potent because it has fertility and procreative powers. Sex has natural implications for love, children, and family; skin color does not.

Race and sex are on two entirely different levels of significance and moral relevance. The true purpose of civil marriage drives and determines the significance and relevance of each category, race and sex.

Because the essential public purpose of marriage is for the sake of children, sex is naturally relevant because children naturally come from the union of the two different sexes. Skin color has no relevance when it comes to love, children, and family. Thus this comparison to race that the other side appeals to ad nauseam is simply invalid.

But naturally, those who believe that civil marriage has nothing to do with children, parenting, and/or family will see a parallel between banning interracial marriage and withholding legal recognition from same-sex sexual relationships. The anti-marriage side is merely drawing a logical conclusion from their flawed premise about marriage and children.

The anti-marriage side is often merely trying to use the emotional force of civil rights and racial language to advance their cause without addressing the key question at hand: is civil marriage about children or not? They wish to beg the question and assume what they should be attempting to prove. In fact, this is a tactic that merely serves to whip up their own side into a frenzy and to put the intellectually ill-equipped and unprepared on the defensive.

The conservative can point out their logical fallacy easily (begging the question), but it will likely do little to convince the liberal because, like I said, it’s the emotional appeal to a seemingly similar oppression narrative that’s attractive and enchanting to them.

(It is interesting as a sidenote that science, evolution, and eugenics, not Christianity, gave impetus to the notion that race had more significance than mere skin color, that race could signify or establish moral superiority or inferiority.)

Posted in Culture War, Government and Politics, Homosexuality, Marriage, Race, Racism, and Affirmative Action, Science and Politics, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sex Education: Educate for the Soul, Not Just the Body

Posted by Tony Listi on December 1, 2010

Chastity education and formation (i.e. abstinence until marriage) is the only effective and moral way for children to learn about sex because it is based in truth. To teach children anything else (e.g. the misnamed “safe sex”) would be misleading (if not deceitful), harmful, and immoral.

But before I defend chastity education, I’d like to make two broader big-picture points that will surely get lost in this debate unless someone brings them to the forefront.

First, we wouldn’t be having this debate over sex education to begin with if leftists would actually support school choice and parental control. Under such a system, parents would have the choice of whether they want to send their children to a school that effectively teaches and promotes chastity or one that teaches libertinism and perversion. This controversy over sex ed would then vanish. Conservatives and libertarians find common ground here against the left.

But rather than empower parents and give them freedom of choice, leftists would rather have a public school monopoly where they can more easily indoctrinate kids with their sexual perversity against the wishes of most parents. They would rather impose a financial burden on parents who want to escape the “public option.” They have the arrogance to claim they know better than and should have more control over kids than their own parents! For instance, President Obama’s misnamed “safe school czar,” Kevin Jennings, founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which promotes homosexuality, fisting, pederasty, prostitution, public masturbation, child porn, and many other abhorrent practices to school children.

Second, formal sex ed in school is not the sole or even the major determinant of whether a kid will have sex or not before marriage. Education, in the broadest sense of the concept, starts in the home and continues within a community. Do the parents value and teach chastity? What about the kid’s peers and their parents? What kinds of websites, TV, movies, video games, and books is the kid exposed to? What does his church teach?

For example, I went to parochial Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, which taught chastity. Did every single one or even a majority of my classmates abstain from sex? While I can’t be certain, I find that notion very doubtful. Education at school is only one small piece of the puzzle. It is worthless without family and community support and reinforcement of that education.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about chastity, a word which has been purposely obscured and removed from American culture and substituted with “abstinence” in these modern times.

But before I do, a caveat: if you don’t believe that human beings have souls and are more than mere animals, then just stop reading now. I won’t get through to you. Love and morality have no meaning among mere animals.

Chastity should be taught because it undeniably works 100% of the time. No sex = no pregnancy + no STDs. That simple. It never fails. People fail. They fail to exercise discipline and self-control, which is why sex ed should take into account more than just physical well-being.

I think most people can agree that only people who love each other should have sex, which is itself a unique and intimate form of love. But what exactly do we mean by “love”? I think most people can agree that love cannot be divorced from all notions of morality. There is a moral dimension to love for another human being.

Love is a freely chosen commitment to the good of another person for its own sake. Thus sex, as a form of love, is good and should only occur within the context of commitment. It should not be engaged in casually for the sake of one’s own pleasure and ego. STDs and pregnancy aside, the sexual act and its emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences are permanent and cannot be taken back. Thus permanent consequences demand not just any “committed relationship” but a prior permanent commitment, namely marriage, for the sake of both the man and woman.

Whether one intends it or not, sex is itself a profound promise of fidelity, of commitment, that one soul makes to another. And to make a promise and then break it is wrong; it’s a sin. It causes spiritual trauma and harm. And a serious act like sex is a serious sin outside the context of love, i.e. of marriage. The marriage promise sanctifies the sexual promise.

Women, the more relational sex, seem to understand this truth better than men. They should trust this instinctual need for commitment and demand their boyfriends say “I do” before having sex. Only then, ladies, will you truly know whether he loves you or is just using you to gratify himself, playing you for a fool, and disposing of you when you no longer satisfy him. Take it from someone who knows exactly how men of all kinds think and act when you’re not around. While chastity is crucially important for both sexes, women will benefit the most from a more chaste society. Women have been harmed the most by widespread sexual perversion and yet a lot of the power for virtuous change rests in their hands, as girlfriends, mothers, and teachers. Men are not born lovers.

These are the simple truths about sex that children should be taught at home, in school, and within their local community. Parents have a responsibility to make sure that happens. Government has a responsibility get out of the way, not to hinder parents in any way from informing and forming their children in the virtue of chastity.

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Contraception (& Protestantism) Paved Way for Gay “Marriage”

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2010

No Children

Contraception literally divorces procreation from sexual intercourse in violation of Scriptural commands and of both Catholic and early Protestant traditions. It is immoral and its rotten cultural fruit, including the gay “marriage” craze, has been immensely harmful to American society.

Contraception also allows men and women to divorce procreation from marriage. Because of contraception, American society no longer views marriage as a children/family-centered institution but merely a relationship of mutual self-gratification and convenience that can be ended at whim. Children and their rights are no longer integral to the institution of marriage in the minds of many Americans, especially among the young.

Because marriage is viewed this way now, it is only natural that the notion of gay “marriage” has gained ground culturally. Popular debates surrounding the issue hardly ever even mention children and their positive rights (see here also). Marriage is treated as an institution whose purpose is primarily for the benefit of the two (or more, perhaps) people involved. Only when one forgets that only one man and one woman united together procreate children and that children develop better under the care of their biological parents do the notions of “marriage discrimination” and “marriage equality” begin to gain plausibility.  

Contraception is what started the cultural ball rolling in divorcing children and their positive rights from marriage.

And how exactly did contraception come to be accepted and widespread in American society? American Protestants caved in to liberal regressives in the early 20th century. Up until around 1930, all Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) rejected contraception as immoral. It was only a matter of time before this cultural change would produce legal changes.

So I find it very ironic that many conservative Protestants are staunch defenders of marriage and yet condone the use of contraception, the very thing that paved the way for gay “marriage” in American culture and law.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Conservatism, Culture War, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Children’s Positive Rights

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2010

Libertarians sometimes complain that Big Government treats its citizens like children (e.g. using the adjective “paternalistic” to describe govt.). They also denounce the notion of natural positive rights, which are rights that compel others to do something, and uphold negative rights only, which compel others to refrain from doing certain things.

The irony of all this is that many libertarians don’t see that these two concepts, children and positive rights, are related. The government should not treat its adult citizens like children because adult citizens have only negative rights and no positive rights. But the inherent logic of this sort of argument seems to dictate that children have positive rights, unless one wants to erroneously assert that no one has positive rights.

Adulthood, legally defined according to age as a matter of prudence, carries with it a moral responsibility to take care of oneself rather than demand others take care of you (which is what children and statists do). Thus one major reason why the welfare state is immoral: it forces some citizens to care for other citizens as if the former were parents and the latter were children when in fact everyone is an adult. Adults are expected to be mature, self-sufficient, cooperative with others, rational, independent. Thus they have no positive rights.

Children are irrational, dependent, and helplessly weak by nature. Yet they are still innocent human beings, persons with human dignity. It is children’s irrational, dependent, and helplessly weak nature that confers upon them natural, individual, positive rights. They have a right to attention and care for their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. It is an evil and an injustice for a child to be neglected or abused.

But upon whom do children have these rights to attention and care? Not upon everyone. Not upon the State. And not upon just any random person. It is parents who are obligated to provide attention and care insofar as they are able to; it is upon them that children have positive rights. Why upon parents? Because the parents gave their children life and existence and are thus responsible for their children and their children’s rights. One would think this would be self-evident but apparently not in this decadent era and culture.

It is the concept of children’s positive rights that separates conservatives and libertarians philosophically. From this concept springs the conservative’s commitment to pro-life and pro-marriage public policy. The inherent moral differences between adulthood and childhood cannot be ignored or glossed over when it comes to political philosophy.

The purpose of government is to protect people’s rights, both natural and civil, both positive and negative, as far as it is possible for government to prudently do so. Of course, this purpose assumes an accurate determination of what rights human beings actually have and what differences among human beings really matter.

Not only does the child in the womb have negative rights against being killed, but he or she also has positive rights upon the mother, a right to her body and the sustenance it provides. (However, if the baby actually does pose a threat to the life of the mother, which is extremely rare and usually means the baby would not survive either, one may save the life of the mother by infringing on the positive rights of the child but not the negative rights. One may remove the child from the mother but not actively kill the child through violence.)

The government has a duty to protect both the positive and negative rights of the unborn son or daughter as prudently as possible. Outlawing abortion and prosecuting abortionists seems very prudent. Because the preamble to the Constitution reveals that our founding document was meant for “posterity,” i.e. the unborn, and their rights too, I believe one can make a sound originalist, constitutional argument for federal involvement in protecting the rights of the unborn. But if not, I will take the states’ rights alternative as the next best thing. Even pro-life legislation has to be constitutional to be enacted, for the rule of law according to founding principles (e.g. federalism) is more important than any individual right or single issue.

Once born, how well these positive rights of children are secured is intimately tied to the character of the relationship between mother and father. The purpose of marriage as both a civil and religious institution is to ensure that the relationship between mother and father is best suited for the procreation and raising children. As a civil institution, it has no other purpose. Children are best raised by their biological mother and father (see here also). If the relationship between mother and father is unstable and unloving, the child’s positive rights will suffer in a variety of ways.  Because homosexual relationships are absolutely sterile by nature (not by dysfunction), they do not deserve any legal recognition whatsoever. (And the legalized separation of children from their biological fathers and mothers through sperm and egg “banks” is immoral and should be outlawed. No one has a “right” to a child and such “artificial” children suffer psychologically.)

The government has a duty to protect the positive and negative rights of children as prudently as possible. American society recognizes that children have negative rights, thus the laws against physical and sexual abuse. There are very few things that government can prudently do to secure the positive rights of children without causing greater evil. However, through prudent regulation of the institution of marriage, it can promote more stable, enduring marriages, which in turn will help secure children’s positive rights. Legally defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, repealing no-fault divorce, and treating marriage like a corporation are a few basic, prudent measures government should take to help strengthen marriages and thus better protect the positive rights of children. Because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, I’m not sure how one can avoid a national marriage policy. But again, if the states’ rights alternative could work, I’ll take it as the next best thing. Even pro-marriage legislation has to be constitutional to be enacted, for the rule of law according to founding principles (e.g. federalism) is more important than any individual right or single issue.

Many libertarians like to say that “liberty is indivisible” and that conservatives are inconsistent for dividing economic and individual/social liberty. But in reality, conservatives absolutely agree that liberty is indivisible. We are not inconsistent; we just have a different view of human nature and rights. It is merely the case that many libertarians are unwilling to acknowledge the obvious and relevant differences between adults and children with regard to rights. This self-evident and empirical distinction among human beings is what libertarianism seems unable to handle morally and humanely.

Posted in Abortion, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Culture War as Stigma War

Posted by Tony Listi on August 1, 2010

Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way, however. It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do. You may keep your life, your property, and everything else. But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger among us. You will retain your civic privileges, but they will be of no use to you. For if you seek the votes of your fellow citizens, they will withhold them, and if you seek only their esteem, they will feign to refuse even that. You will remain among men, but you will forfeit your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellow creatures, they will shun you as one who is impure. And even those who believe in your innocence will abandon you, lest they, too, be shunned in turn. Go in peace, I will not take your life, but the life I leave you with is worse than death.
Alexis de Tocqueville

A friend of mine drew my attention to a very important article written by Jeff Schafer at the Alliance Defense Fund. It’s entitled “Stigma and Dogma, Revisited.”

This article re-echoes something that De Tocqueville (quoted above) observed early on about the dangerous tendencies of democratic culture. Stigma and social pressure rule the day in a democracy.

Yet stigma and social pressure were what kept the U.S. conservative and free for so long, esp. with regard to our current social issues. In the early history of America, abortion and deviations from traditional marriage were so powerfully and thoroughly stigmatized that they were not political issues at all. Not so anymore.

Stigma is the expression of moral outrage. The article reminds me of one of the Leadership Institute’s Laws of the Public Policy Process: “Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.”

If conservatives are to take the long-term view of changing the culture in order to win (as the left did over a century ago), we have to be willing to publicly engage in the Stigma War. Big govt., govt. coercion, govt. dependency, promiscuity, sexual perversity, infanticide, etc. must all become shameful, stigmatized things again. Conservatives have to be willing to publicly denounce these things as immoral and shameful.

Why do you think the left likes to engage in name-calling? Racist, sexist, homophobe, bigot, etc. All these epithets are intended to stigmatize conservative views, whether the labels rationally apply or not. And they’ve done a pretty good job of it.

When people evaluate candidates or policies, it is moral factors that determine their choices; it is the elements of shame and guilt that convince people to be politically active and to hold certain political views with intensity.

We need not lose hope completely that the world is doomed to irrationality though. Feelings of guilt, shame, and moral outrage do not spring up spontaneously or irrationally; they are rooted in certain rational, though often false, paradigms and faith systems. The problem with the left is not that they aren’t rational; they are, assuming their faith-based assumptions to be true. It’s the fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality, human nature, and justice that separate us from them. (And these false assumption are inculcated into Americans through the cultural institutions of primary schools, academia, arts & entertainment, churches, and the media.)

We need to bring the reasons for our political faith and assumptions to the surface in the most clear, concise, direct, impactful, and thought-provoking ways possible. And this is where the necessity of activism comes in. And good activism is based on good organizational preparation beforehand that gathers the people and resources to make activism effective.

Moreover, activism should be directed not merely at challenging current leftist stigmas and dogmas but toward recapturing the cultural institutions mentioned above that inculcate these false stigmas and dogmas into American youth (and older).

Posted in Abortion, American Culture, American History, Culture War, Democracy, Education, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Activism, Political Philosophy, Political Psychoanalysis, Race, Racism, and Affirmative Action, Student Activism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Frank Meyer, Libertarianism, and the Family

Posted by Tony Listi on July 24, 2010

 

Frank S. Meyer

Frank S. Meyer’s book In Defense of Freedom and essay “Freedom, Tradition, Conservativism,” are must-reads IMO. His critique of Russell Kirk in his essay “Collectivism Rebaptized” is also insightful and persuasive. Kirk and Meyer have been the most influential thinkers on my own political views but Meyer most of all.

In his essay “Freedom, Tradition, Conservativism,” Meyer argues his belief that conservatism and libertarianism derive from the same Western political tradition and merely represent two different but complementary emphases that have always been in tension:

I am well aware that what I have been saying can be criticized as eclecticism and attacked as an effort to smother principle. But it is not the laying aside of clear belief, either by the libertarian conservative or the traditionalist conservative, in order to present a front against contemporary collectivist Liberalism, that is here conceived. Rather it is the deepening of the beliefs which each holds through the development of their implications in a dialectic free of distorting narrowness…a dialectic in which both sides recognize not only that they have a common enemy but also that, despite all differences, they hold a common heritage….

[E]ach side emphasizes so strongly the aspect of the great tradition of the West which it sees as decisive that distortion sets in…. [T]he complementary interdependence of freedom and virtue, of the individual person and political order, is forgetten.

Moral order, tradition, liberty, and individualism need not be in conflict in a free society though a healthy tension exists among them.

Notably for contemporary disputes among conservatives and libertarians, in his book In Defense of Freedom, Meyer affirms the exceptional and necessary character of the institution of the family (emphases mine):

To this completely voluntary character of associations proper to the free nature of men, there are only two exceptions–the state and the family. Neither can be voluntary because of the human condition itself…. The family is the institution into which children are born and under which they develop as human beings. As far as they are concerned, it is not voluntary…. As far as their parents are concerned, the family is, however, entered into voluntarily; marriage is, in a free society, originally a mutual voluntary act of two individuals–voluntary, even though any marriage worthy of that exalted name is an unbreakable compact and though the family, proceeding from marriage, creates morally indissoluble bonds of parental obligation.

The family is the most important form through which virtue is inculcated in children. But it is not the institution of the family as such that inculcates virtue; it is the persons who constitute the family–father and mother and other close relatives–who in actuality decide the issue of the moral and intellectual direction that children take…. The family as an institution cannot guarantee the raising of the young in the paths of virtue, although the family is a necessary form; only individual persons, acting through the form of the family, can do so.

Frank Meyer embodies my political philosophy: an Austrian libertarian who recognizes the necessary and exceptional nature of marriage and children. Libertarians would do well to temper their ideology of liberty with the same recognition of the unique nature of the family. One cannot expect limited government and liberty in a society where the institution of the family is weak, if not completely destroyed.

Posted in Abortion, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Quotes, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Libertarians Wish to Legislate Morality…Just Like Everyone Else

Posted by Tony Listi on July 17, 2010

I’m getting very tired of hearing libertarians (and others) say, “You shouldn’t legislate morality!” As if their philosophy and policy proposals were morally neutral!

Ironically, most Big Government statists have a sounder grasp of the general relationship between morality and politics than libertarians. The “Don’t Legislate Morality” objection against conservatives and statists alike is mere smoke and mirrors, a rhetorical flourish with no substance whatsoever. Rights are always a matter of morality, regardless of where one’s moral assumptions come from.

Libertarians wish to codify their morality of liberty into law. The most thoughtful and principled libertarians would support liberty even if it did lead to impoverishment, inefficiency, and misery. They see liberty as a moral issue; liberty in itself is not morally neutral. Violence against the life, liberty, or property of another person without just cause (self-defense or reparation for previous injury) is not merely bad for material prosperity but bad for people; it is immoral, a violation of human rights. Moral relativism or neutrality simply doesn’t exist in conscientious libertarianism (or any other political philosophy).

And yet there are many people in this country (socialists, leftists, regressives, liberals, etc.) who disagree with this libertarian morality of non-violence. They believe that it is very moral to enact laws that plunder some people in order to give to others or that make people act in certain ways. In fact, they believe libertarianism in itself to be immoral. So libertarians need to ask themselves: “are we trying to impose our morality of non-coercion on others?” That answer has to be YES. Libertarians oppose the (im)moral assumptions behind statism and statist laws. A law has no less moral or immoral content merely because it allows people to freely act in certain ways, for the allowance of that freedom is based on moral presuppositions.

The question is not whether we should legislate morality (for that is a given) but “what is moral?” and “what can the law prudently do to enforce that morality, if anything?” And conservatives and libertarians agree more on these questions in comparison with the statists, especially when it comes to economic issues. In the realm of economics, I’m about as libertarian and Austrian as they get. Of course, when it comes to issues of abortion and marriage/family, I part ways with libertarianism– for reasons that I can explain in even libertarian/scientific terms, phraseology, and paradigms, showing how libertarianism breaks down in these cases.

So if you’re a libertarian reading this now and happen to disagree with me on these social issues, please refrain from incoherent slogans about “legislating morality.” They’re irrational and self-contradictory. Realize that you and I are both making moral claims. Then we’ll understand each other better, find more common ground, and be better able to cooperate politically.

Posted in Abortion, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »