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Katie van Schaijik

Interfaith statement on marriage issued

Jan. 12 at 12:02pm

Thanks to a Maggie Gallagher post at the Corner, I learn that the USCCB has issued an inter-faith letter calling for the promotion and protection of marriage.  It's an important document.  Here's the beginning.

The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

Efforts to normalize homosexuality in law and culture are one of the more serious and important battlefronts in the cultural wars.

But I find it's a battle most us are ill-prepared to wage.  We lack the conceptual tools and vocabulary to resist charges that we are bigots trying to "impose our religion."  I hope this document represents a shift on that score.  


 

Hermitess21C

Wonderful news!  And lovely to be here!

#1 - Jan. 12 at 10:06pm | quote

 

TorahJew

I am pleased that these key Jewish organizations have signed the letter.

#2 - Jan. 12 at 10:58pm | quote

 

Laurence

The argument that marriage between one mand and one woman is a common good is both enduring and well-established. I don't know why it's only now, but this excerpt, which mentions marriage both as a common good and a universal good, makes me wonder why it is not more often asserted that marriage is, perhaps most imporantly (?) an individual good. 

Obviously, marriage is itself not an individual enterprise, but what I mean is that the good that a marriage (again, between a man and a woman) does for the individual is perhaps the most obvious and yet most understated argument for the institution. Maybe this is all just implicit in the broader argument that marriage is a common and universal good. But  it's at least worth repeating to myself that the responsibility, caring, sacrifice, and love that come with totally giving onesself to another person, and likewise totally receiving another person, make the sacrament and institution so incredibly important. 

Even if marriage were not essential for raising healthy families (and, of course, it is), it would still be one of the greatest forces for Good in the world. 

#3 - Jan. 12 at 11:24pm | quote

 

Laurence

The individual benefits of marriage are not nearly as available to a homosexual couple, who cannot hope to share in the consummate fulness of the union with the same totallity as heterosexuals, and this is evidence in the sterility of such relationships. 

A homosexual marriage cannot be a total union and it is not good for the individual, because it can propagate is an untruth.

#4 - Jan. 12 at 11:27pm | quote

 

TorahJew

Again, I would avoid the utilitarian argument (which can be defeated), and go straight to the Torah.

The weakness of the utilitarian argument is in part because we do not respect marriage less for being childless. Children are wonderful, of course, but the purpose of marriage is relationship, and that is between two people.

The reason why homosexual (and other) unions are forbidden in the Torah is because G-d wants us to focus and channel our creative energies (both biological and spiritual) into those relationships that can help us connect to G-d. G-d created a world of separated dualisms, and it is our job to, in a proper way, to unify those separated opposites. Among those opposites are men and women, and humans and G-d - the former being the template for the latter.

As the relationship we have with G-d is modelled on marriage, why we must only recognize relationships that are within the biblical limits.

#5 - Jan. 13 at 9:24am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Now, hang on, Torah Jew.  You don't mean to suggest that there is no philosophical argument for marriage that is not utilitarian, do you?

#6 - Jan. 13 at 9:27am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Laurence, Jan. 12 at 11:27pm

The individual benefits of marriage are not nearly as available to a homosexual couple, who cannot hope to share in the consummate fulness of the union with the same totallity as heterosexuals, and this is evidence in the sterility of such relationships. 

A homosexual marriage cannot be a total union and it is not good for the individual, because it can propagate is an untruth.

I think here you show you intuit the answer you asked just above.  The stress on marriage as a social instution for the common good comes because of the challenge that SSM proponents pose when they treat marriage as nothing more and nothing other than a private commitment between two individuals.

But in this context, it's interesting to note that the statement cited lists the wellbeing of the couple as the first good of marriage.

#7 - Jan. 13 at 9:31am | quote

 

TorahJew

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 13 at 9:27am

Now, hang on, Torah Jew.  You don't mean to suggest that there is no philosophical argument for marriage that is not utilitarian, do you?

I mean to suggest that I have yet to see an air-tight argument for man-woman marriage that does not draw on the Bible as a proof text. Gay rights campaigners can and do destroy these arguments.

The best we can do absent invoking G-d is to say that we all should be free from someone imposing their views on us against our will. This is a libertarian argument that I agree with entirely, but it is an argument for freedom, not one that defends marriage.

#8 - Jan. 13 at 9:54am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

I accidentally closed your last comment, TorahJew.  Will ask Jules to fix it.  Sorry!

#9 - Jan. 13 at 10:00am | quote

 

Jules van Schaijik

Laurence, Jan. 12 at 11:24pm

... this excerpt, which mentions marriage both as a common good and a universal good, makes me wonder why it is not more often asserted that marriage is, perhaps most imporantly (?) an individual good.

As I understand it, the emphasis is on marriage as a common good because that is the truth most immediately under attack. We want to show that marriage is not just one good among others—one which must be made availiable to those who choose it, just like homosexual unions must be made available—but that it is a good for society as a whole, a good that must be priviliged and protected.

Obviously that marriage is good for the individual is implied in the argument. But is should not be the main thrust.

#10 - Jan. 13 at 10:24am | quote

 

Jules van Schaijik

P.S.  Katie had accidentally closed her comment (#7). Otherwise I would not have made my last (#10) which is essentially the same.

#11 - Jan. 13 at 10:31am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

TorahJew, Jan. 13 at 9:54am

The best we can do absent invoking G-d is to say that we all should be free from someone imposing their views on us against our will. This is a libertarian argument that I agree with entirely, but it is an argument for freedom, not one that defends marriage.

I don't agree that that's the best we can do.  That's practically a denial of the possiblity of philosophy as an area of common ground between people of different faiths.

Natural law arguments, not to mention personalist arguments, do no invoke God and they are much better—truer and more convincing—than utilitarian or libertarian arguments.

#12 - Jan. 13 at 10:46am | quote

 

TorahJew

I have never been persuaded by Natural Law arguments, and I have never met any modern liberal who has been, either.

You and I can have a discussion because, while we do not share the same set of proof texts, we are both able to say: "Given your assumptions, I can see how your conclusion makes sense." And we have a lot more in common with each other, different as we are, than we have in common with a "normal" American hedonist.

Hedonists truly live for whatever makes them feel good. Natural Law does not sell in that crowd. At least a libertarian argument can appeal to their sense of self - and it gives people the freedom to choose a righteous path.

#13 - Jan. 13 at 11:06am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

I have known lots of people who are persuaded by natural law arguments.  

Liberals who don't accept the authority of the Bible certainly won't be persuaded by arguments from Biblical texts.

#14 - Jan. 13 at 11:15am | quote

 

TorahJew

Jules van Schaijik, Jan. 13 at 10:24am

...it is a good for society as a whole, a good that must be priviliged and protected.

I believe that as a matter of theological principles, G-d wants people to be free to make choices. We do well in G-d's eyes when we make good choices - which means we must have the freedom to make bad ones.

So as much as it can be practically achieved,  I don't want government legislating morality. I believe this is best, both from my libertarian and religious principles. G-d did not invest his spirit in society - he blew into one man's nostrils.

#15 - Jan. 13 at 11:26am | quote

 

TorahJew

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 13 at 11:15am

Liberals who don't accept the authority of the Bible certainly won't be persuaded by arguments from Biblical texts.

I think this is in error. As Steyn wrote:

"When people see a strong horse and a weak horse," said Osama bin Laden many years ago, "by nature they will like the strong horse."

Liberals don't like Christians. But they can and do convert to Islam in ever-greater numbers. They are impressed, despite themselves, by unapologetic statements of belief.

Logic does not matter. Speaking logically, Israel is the victim of horrible injustice. But it does not matter, because liberals ultimately credit passion, not logic.

So while Christians in Europe are in retreat, the mosques are filling with converts whose grandparents were Christian.

Liberals do not respect arguments that "cloak" the Bible. Why should they? They respect people who are not defensive or embarassed about what they believe and why.

#16 - Jan. 13 at 11:37am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Philosophy can't save our souls.  But it can serve to convince the minds of those who are open to truth.

Note that the interfaith statement linked above makes a philosophical case, not a theological one.

#17 - Jan. 13 at 11:54am | quote

 

TorahJew

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 13 at 11:54am

Philosophy can't save our souls.  But it can serve to convince the minds of those who are open to truth.

Note that the interfaith statement linked above makes a philosophical case, not a theological one.

Yes. And that is why it will accomplish nothing through the argument. The only thing that convinces government decison-makers is that fact that these groups represent a voting block with a certain electoral and financial heft.

#18 - Jan. 13 at 12:00pm | quote

 

Chana

Much as I am reluctant to qualify TorahJew, I do not see this as an either/or situation.  We should use religious texts but there are several distinct branches of ethical theory.  Maimomides like Acquinas used them all in defense of Jewish and Christian morality. We can and should use them all in defense of marriage.  We can make a utilitarian argument for marriage.  We can also make a natural law and virtue ethics and Kantian argument for marriage.  I think we can make a very strong empirical biological Darwinian argument for marriage.  We should make them all.  We need to stand tall for what we believe.

What stops us is that no matter how accomodating we are in tolerating homosexualily and homosexual marriage.  We are ALWAYS accused of bigotry.  For the liberals toleration is not important.  They seem to think everyone is entitled to full scale approval and emulation.  How do we fight that?

#19 - Jan. 13 at 12:51pm | quote

 

TorahJew2

I suppose, TorahJew, that we on the observant Jewish spectrum tend to withdraw from these debates. We don't try to convince people of our faith or (except for the most basic) our values.

Because of this, I don't see this as an argument that needs to be won.

Rather, the term marriage should be pulled away from government (where it has long been controversial).

We can have various government rights for unions (whether platonic or not). Heck we can support multiple unions (like co-dependent siblings).

I think marriage is a term reserved for religious organizations. Using it with homosexual unions suggests approval - refusing to use it suggests bigotry. There is no magic bullet to fix this. Progressive churches should be able to recognize it - and I should be allowed to ignore it.

Interestingly, this is the path of divorce. It went from prohibited (although it was never prohibited for Jews) to pro-forma. Nonetheless, even as civil authorities have taken over the civil aspects, religious groups have maintained their impact on it.

#20 - Jan. 13 at 1:19pm | quote

 

TorahJew

Chana , Jan. 13 at 12:51pm

We are ALWAYS accused of bigotry.  For the liberals toleration is not important.  They seem to think everyone is entitled to full scale approval and emulation.  How do we fight that?

This is tough. Pointing out that *we* are not given the same deference never works. Logic fails here again.

Which means that we are left with one avenue: humor. Reducing their positions to absurdity is the single best way to teach. See this one for a great example of how "tolerance" is a much better call than full-scale approval.

#21 - Jan. 13 at 1:42pm | quote

 

Chana

TorahJew,

We are agreed that government should get out of the marriage business. It should also get out of the divorce business.  Breaking a civil union is a civil matter. For many people today divorce is simply a civil matter in any case.   

Marriage should remain a religious institution.  Some churches and synagogues will marry gays, others won't.  But, as you, I, and Katiev know when we suggest this, we are still accused of bigotry, aren't we. 

#22 - Jan. 13 at 1:45pm | quote

 

TorahJew

TorahJew2, Jan. 13 at 1:19pm

I suppose, TorahJew, that we on the observant Jewish spectrum tend to withdraw from these debates. We don't try to convince people of our faith or (except for the most basic) our values.

Good point. We really just want to be left alone. So the Agudah and O-U signed this letter because the situation is so dire that minding our own business is NOT legal anymore.

Which is more realistic:

  1. Winning the argument 
  2. Wielding political clout to "win"
  3. Separating government from marriage

?

#23 - Jan. 13 at 1:49pm | quote

 

TorahJew

Chana , Jan. 13 at 1:45pm

...we are still accused of bigotry, aren't we. 

Yes, we are. And it is not because of marriage. Gay marriage, like abortion, is merely a proxy for a general attack on religious principles.

When we say that our lives can be more than just the fulfillment of our hedonistic desires, we make hedonists feel bad - even guilty. The solution for liberals is to treat the symptoms, and not the disease. So they target those who make them feel guilty for not being better people - that would be people who believe in life and marriage and higher purposes.

I was once laughed out of a college class for suggesting that people are capable of original ideas. Liberals thinks that the very idea that we are capable of doing something real with our lives is itself a threat to their entire belief system!

#24 - Jan. 13 at 1:59pm | quote

 

TorahJew2

TorahJew, Jan. 13 at 1:49pm

Good point. We really just want to be left alone. So the Agudah and O-U signed this letter because the situation is so dire that minding our own business is NOT legal anymore.

Which is more realistic:

  1. Winning the argument 
  2. Wielding political clout to "win"
  3. Separating government from marriage

?

.Agreed. But there is no argument we can win. The clash of values is too fundamental. There is almost no common values language. #3 is the only available door, imo.

Without Torah (or some other foundational text) you only have 'ethics.' Ethics, as defined by Marxists are just ever-changing community standards - they do not connect to morality.

Because of this, secular hedonists see hypocracy as the worst sin. We see it as moral aspiration that came up short (unless, as with Spitzer heavy hammers [like government] was selfishly swung).

For us, failing to even aspire morally is a greater problem than hypocracy.

#25 - Jan. 13 at 2:17pm | quote

 

Jules van Schaijik

TorahJew, Jan. 13 at 1:49pm

Which is more realistic:

  1. Winning the argument 
  2. Wielding political clout to "win"
  3. Separating government from marriage

Thinking out loud:

3. Separating government from marriage is, it seems to me, not an option. It may happen, of course, and we'll survive if it does, but it is far from desirable. Marriage is not just a religious option but fundamental to any human society.

2. Imposing marriage because we have the political clout to do so is also no good. Using that kind of force is at odds with the dignity of persons.

1. Winning the argument is the only solution, but only if properly understood. It is not enough to "beat" our opponents in the intellectual arena. That is just a more subtle way of using force. Instead we must aim to "win them over" to the truth. And to do that we cannot just cite Torah or the Bible or any other authority (unless they first accept these sources as authoritative). We must appeal to what they know, deep down to be be true, and pray for an openess to truth (on both sides).

#26 - Jan. 13 at 10:05pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Chana , Jan. 13 at 1:45pm

Marriage should remain a religious institution.  Some churches and synagogues will marry gays, others won't.  But, as you, I, and Katiev know when we suggest this, we are still accused of bigotry, aren't we. 

To clarify my own position, Chana:

I agree with you when say that we should make every possible argument in defense of marriage.  

But I wouldn't agree that "government should stay out of marriage".  I see it as essential to society, and therefore something that a right-thinking, self-governing people should uphold and protect in law.

We won't all agree on everything it means, but we should be able to agree on its basic norms: sexual complementarity, monogamy, fidelity, mutual responsibility.

#27 - Jan. 15 at 7:19pm | quote

 

TorahJew

This is where I break faith with social conservatives.

I believe that marriage, like Truth, will best emerge when all ideas are able to compete freely. And that is why I don't want  Nazis censored, or government defining marriage. It encourages the lunatic fringe, and does not allow the best solutions to rise to the top. In a free market, the Truth wins. So will traditional marriage.

Others believe that there is a "national" sense of morality, and a set of ground rules that define a society. I don't disagree with the concept, but I feel very strongly that social pressures, not governmental, are the best tools for achieving these ends. Social pressures both require more from other citizens, and can truly come from love, while government is only faceless coercion.

#28 - Jan. 15 at 9:14pm | quote

 

Bill Drennen

Are you saying that truth is not independent of our perception of it but somehow only emerges as we perceive it and decide what is true? Or are you saying that truth is best perceived when we look at all the options?

As for marriage, the truth of what it is and is not has been observed over thousands of years of human history. Shouldn’t we have learned this very basic thing by now? If not we are quite pathetic or if we feel we need to reconsider it I think it also sheds quite a embarrassing light on our fickleness!

Saying the government should not define marriage in my view is like saying the government should not dare to define that air is what we breathe and water is for drinking!

#29 - Jan. 16 at 5:56pm | quote

 

TorahJew

Bill Drennen, Jan. 16 at 5:56pm

Are you saying that truth is not independent of our perception of it but somehow only emerges as we perceive it and decide what is true? Or are you saying that truth is best perceived when we look at all the options?

Just as scientific theories do battle in trying to uncover the way the universe has been constructed, so too with any knowledge. When science is corrupted, it often happens because people try to artificially shut down alternative lines of enquiry.

There is an adage of our sages that those who live in the plains are strong, and those who live behind walls are weak. Certainly history has countless examples of this in reality.  If we are unafraid, then we can win. But when we try to construct walls, others sense weakness, and press their advantage.

#30 - Jan. 16 at 6:22pm | quote

 

TorahJew

Bill Drennen, Jan. 16 at 5:56pm

As for marriage, the truth of what it is and is not has been observed over thousands of years of human history.

You and I know what works. Others defend Greek, Roman or Harem society models that wallow in decadence - but certainly "work" in the way that gay marriage proponents think.

Our argument is not really about marriage: that is the symptom. It is about the underlying problem of our society which, like late Roman society, suffers from unrestrained selfishness and hedonism. People simply do not connect their lives to any greater meaning, and since we live in such enormous luxury compared to our ancestors, Americans have the twin challenges of not needing stable relationships to survive, and have enormous time to contemplate their own navels and fixate on what they think will make them happy.

People are fickle because in our world they can be, and we have not successfully "sold" them a better alternative. Our challenge is in selling a moral life, not in mandating it by law.

#31 - Jan. 16 at 6:39pm | quote

 

TorahJew

Bill Drennen, Jan. 16 at 5:56pm

Saying the government should not define marriage in my view is like saying the government should not dare to define that air is what we breathe and water is for drinking!

But the government does neither of those things! Why? Because there is nothing in it that adds to their power at the cost of our freedom.

Government is an organic entity that seeks to continually aggregate its power. It has no conscience or morality. As George Washington put it:

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

If we use government to define marriage, it will surely come back to bite us, as others will, over time, use that very same authority to define things that we find unacceptable in the extreme.

But many of our opponents can agree to remove government from this quarrel. And with that, every church can define marriage on its own terms, competing for souls in the open market.

#32 - Jan. 16 at 6:50pm | quote

 

Bill Drennen

 

2 problems with this approach:

First, even though the government never has been in the business to explicitly define marriage, it has indirectly affirmed the cultural understanding of marriage by the many laws that are in place which assume this definition.

The government has never needed to define water is for drinking because this is so obvious that it is taken for granted and then many other laws are put in place assuming this truth. Pure water laws, new construction regulations ect.

However, (and this raises the second point) the minute some crazed group starts to push for changing the public water works to using alcohol the government needs to be more explicit to protect the public. The society for free public alcohol takes the case to the courts and the courts have no basis to dismiss it because after all, where is the law that says it must be water? The congress then must act to pass this law which of course should be obvious but such is the state of our decay into ignorance that such an embarrassing law becomes necessary.

We are in exactly the same state of affairs with marriage.

#33 - Jan. 17 at 10:40am | quote

 

Bill Drennen

 

TorahJew said:

People are fickle because in our world they can be, and we have not successfully "sold" them a better alternative. Our challenge is in selling a moral life, not in mandating it by law.

While we do this we do not have the luxury of waiting till the effect happens while there are children at peril now. Without a law to protect them, the unjust laws now in place will allow them to be brought up severely handicapped. An other problem with your argument is that the government has not remained neutral but has already actively progressed down the path of changing marriage. Erase all those changes and maybe your argument would have more weight. The strongest government interest is with regards to the children. If it was still illegal for them to be adopted by gay couples then I'd feel a bit more patient.

#34 - Jan. 17 at 10:57am | quote

 

Bill Drennen

Torah Jew said:

Just as scientific theories do battle in trying to uncover the way the universe has been constructed, so too with any knowledge. When science is corrupted, it often happens because people try to artificially shut down alternative lines of enquiry.

There is an adage of our sages that those who live in the plains are strong, and those who live behind walls are weak. Certainly history has countless examples of this in reality.  If we are unafraid, then we can win. But when we try to construct walls, others sense weakness, and press their advantage

Shutting down a false line of inquiry is not artificial. Science is corrupted when false lines of enquiry are persuied and it is purified when true ones are found. A false line may lead to the discovery of the opposite in which case the false line is abandoned.

The truth does not care how it is arrived at and no extra points are given for the difficulty or length of the enquiry. My daughter can spend all night on a math problem and get the wrong answer or she can get it right in one second. Fear has no impact.

#35 - Jan. 17 at 11:19am | quote

 

TorahJew

Bill Drennen, Jan. 17 at 10:57am


While we do this we do not have the luxury of waiting till the effect happens while there are children at peril now.

This argument can be used to defend any policy under the sun. Indeed, liberals use this very argument to defend every proposed law and government program.

Before authorizing new coercive powers, think of what your opponents would do if they had them.

#36 - Jan. 17 at 10:36pm | quote

 

TorahJew

Bill Drennen, Jan. 17 at 11:19am

Shutting down a false line of inquiry is not artificial. Science is corrupted when false lines of enquiry are persuied and it is purified when true ones are found. A false line may lead to the discovery of the opposite in which case the false line is abandoned.

The truth does not care how it is arrived at and no extra points are given for the difficulty or length of the enquiry. My daughter can spend all night on a math problem and get the wrong answer or she can get it right in one second. Fear has no impact.

I think the process *is* important. Science is not corrupted when it tries things that turn out to be wrong - it is a sign of *health* when scientists can try new ideas which stand or fall on the results of an experiment.

The tempered blade is much stronger. When we seek to discover truth by debating, we can rightly be more confident in the result. That is in the very nature of discourse, and the purpose of sites like these.

#37 - Jan. 17 at 10:40pm | quote

 

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