jm reynolds on gay marriage in new york

Read this first.

Done? OK.

A few things I’d like to point out:

1. “Civilization” is the way we spell it in America. With a “z.” Thanks.

2. Is allowing/disallowing gay marriage a moral issue? I’ll grant that homosexual behavior is a moral issue. But sexual behavior is not what the civil right of marriage governs. (Though it may be one of the many things governed by the sacrament of marriage in the Church.) Sure, we ought to mourn the breach developing between the traditional, religious meaning of marriage and the newfound social-political one; but Christians in other times and places have certainly dealt with this disparity before. What do you think Ephesians 5 is all about? (Hint: v. 15 makes it clear that Paul is articulating a distinctively Christian social life–over and against a pagan one.)

3. I’m as pro-natural law as the next guy, but we have to begin asking ourselves (as more and more “scientific” and “academic” folks espouse alternative notions of the natural) how and why we understand the natural as we do. Reynolds seems to think that there was (and is) a monolithic, universal intuition about the natural law (“Wiser people look to the laws of all nations, history, religion, and philosophy”)–but does such an intuition really exist? If so, what accounts for the moral blindness on the part of contemporary Western academics, scientists, and politicians?

(Note: I’m not saying that all academics, scientists, and politicians in the West are pro-gay marriage, but it’s significant that not a few very honest, transparent, soul-searching people–some of them Christians–have concluded that homosexuality might not be as “unnatural” as we’ve tended to assume. And yes, we must be wary of the “argument from inevitability,” but equally wary of dismissing the possibility of culture-wide moral enlightenment.)

4. Reynolds seems ignorant to the fact that the broad swath of Western moral attitudes has also been wrong before (namely, on the social and political status of women). If the emergence of women’s rights is not to be taken as a mistake in Western history, then one cannot speak of doggedly following the trajectory of Western moral law without at least some qualification–but I find none in Reynolds’ post.

In sum, Reynolds lacks the requisite subtlety and humility for this debate to be constructive.


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