Thursday August 19, 2010

Philosopher: To Defeat Gay ‘Marriage’ Conservatives Must Defend Traditional Sexual Morals in General

By James Tillman

August 19, 2010 ( – Among advocates of homosexual “marriage,” one of the more popular statements from Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling overturning Proposition 8 is that the state is obligated to “treat its citizens equally, not to ‘mandate its own moral code.” In an interview with, however, writer and philosopher Dr. Edward Feser pointed out that Walker’s ruling is not neutral and, in fact, imposes its own moral code. He also called on conservatives to begin defending the whole spectrum of traditional sexual morality in the public sphere.

“If Christians and conservatives are not prepared to defend traditional sexual morality in general, then they are going to lose the battle over ‘same-sex marriage,'” he said. “And that means that they are going to have to be prepared to criticize homosexual behavior itself, as well as sex outside of marriage, divorce, pornography, and all the rest.”

“The other side is motivated by a moralistic fervor, and they frame the debate in terms of rights, justice, compassion, and so forth. That sort of rhetoric cannot effectively be countered except with equal and opposite moral force.”

(To read the full interview, which contains material not contained in this summary, click here.)

Judge Walker’s decision overturning California’s ban on homosexual “marriage” has a moral force of its own behind it, he explained.

“According to natural law theory, marriage is a natural institution,” he said. And so, he continued, according to natural law theory, a judge could no more decide that two men can marry each other “just by changing a legal definition” than a “judge could decide that cats by nature ought to have five legs.”

“Now, Walker obviously disagrees with this understanding of marriage and thinks that it should not influence what the law has to say about it,” he continued. “But precisely for that reason, his decision is by no means neutral between competing moral viewpoints. It effectively writes a rejection of natural law theory into the constitution.”

“That is bad enough, but to pretend this position is ‘neutral’ adds insult to the injury.”

He explained that liberals pretend to promote governmental moral neutrality in other issues as well.

“Liberals like to say ‘If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.'” he said. “That’s like saying ‘If you don’t like stealing, don’t be a thief’ or ‘If you don’t like rape, don’t be a rapist.””

“No one would say that that sort of attitude is neutral between thieves and non-thieves, or between rapists and non-rapists. And yet liberals believe, or pretend to believe, that their attitude to abortion is neutral.”

Similarly, he said that conservatives who call for neutrality and a “truce” on moral issues in order to unify around fiscal issues are at best misguided.

“There can in principle be no truce,” he said, “only victory for one moral viewpoint or another, and to call for a truce is effectively to concede defeat.”

“But then, I doubt most of these ‘pro-truce’ conservatives really care about these issues anyway. The ‘truce’ talk is, I think, a polite way of telling social conservatives to shut up and stop embarrassing them around their liberal friends.”

Nevertheless, one of the greatest problems that Christians have when faced with liberal beliefs on abortion and homosexuality is that they are unwilling to oppose them precisely as moral issues.

“Too few Christians and conservatives have been willing to do that, or they do it only in the most mealy-mouthed, half-apologetic way,” he said. “Part of the problem is, of course, that such arguments are simply unpopular and politically dangerous. Part of the problem is that so many Christians and conservatives themselves do not live their own lives in accordance with traditional sexual morality.”

“And part of the problem is that so many contemporary Christians have very little knowledge of the riches of their own tradition and simply don’t know what the arguments for traditional sexual morality even are.”

For this reason, he recommends that people return to the arguments of the Scholastic philosophers and St. Thomas Aquinas in order to learn how to defend their own positions.

The complete interview may be found here.

Dr. Edward Feser is the author of Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide, of The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, and of other books and articles on politics and culture, on moral philosophy, on the philosophy of mind, and on the philosophy of religion. His work has appeared publications such as The American Conservative, National Review, and the New Oxford Review.

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