Saga of the Jasonite

The continuing adventures of that eternal man of mystery…


8 Comments

Guns, Guns, Guns: Gun Ownership and Gun Control in America

guns, pistols, rifle, revolvers, and ammunition

Guns! They keep us warm at night

Is there any more polarizing or controversial topic than gun ownership in America? I suppose Trump/Hillary, but I can’t think of anything else, and the gun ownership debate is clearly present in each of our current Presidential candidates’ campaigns as well. Some folks are no doubt basing their vote on this issue alone. Gun ownership and gun control is what I mean to discuss. My tone will be one which I think is largely being lost in the shuffle these days:  respect and honest debate.

There seem to be, broadly speaking, three schools of thought on gun ownership. One says that due to the Second Amendment to the Constitution everyone has a right to almost any weapon or explosive made or available in the US. Another is that the Second Amendment was drafted at a time when the most advanced weapons available were muskets, and the founding fathers did not intend private citizens to own fully or semi-automatic weapons or explosives, these ought not be publicly available but other guns are fine. The third school of thought is that firearms of any sort are too dangerous to be owned by private citizens, and ought not to be owned or used by any but the military or police forces.

A Little History

second_amendment

We can’t proceed further without directly quoting the Second Amendment to the Constitution:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It’s very brief, and different interpretations of this Amendment have caused a lot of debate. This Amendment came about due to eventual Congressional agreement that the US will have a standing army, and that citizens will not be deprived of their right to own guns just because we do.

Currently US gun laws allow a legal right for private possession of firearms to any citizen, permanent resident alien, and even “non-immigrant aliens” under specific circumstances. They must be over age 18 (Edit: or 21 to possess a handgun, thanks for a friend’s correction), and are allowed to own firearms unless they are under indictment or convicted of a felony, have been adjudicated ‘mentally defective’, have been discharged dishonorably from military service, or have renounced their citizenship. This right was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, which overturned a Washington DC ban on handguns. The Court found “the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home…Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. City of Chicago that the guarantee of an individual right to bear arms applies to state and local gun control laws and not just federal laws. The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether the Second Amendment protects the right to carry guns in public for self defense.

Mass Shootings

Columbine

Columbine

What’s a mass shooting? The short answer is, nobody really agrees. The narrowest definition I’ve found is “indiscriminate rampages occurring in public places involving the deaths of at least 4 victims” by Mother Jones. According to this definition, there were four mass shootings in 2015. The Gun Violence Archive has a slightly different definition: “Four or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location not including the shooter.” They say there were 331 mass shootings in 2015. That’s a heckuva large range. For brevity’s sake, let’s just cover a few of the landmark shootings.

The first significant mass shooting I’ll include occurred in 1989 and is known as the Cleveland School massacre. A gunman shot and killed 5 school children and wounded 32 others before killing himself. The weapon involved was a Type 56 assault rifle.

The next significant mass shooting was the 101 California Street Shooting of 1993 which involved a man shooting and killing 9 people (including himself) and injuring six more in the offices of a law firm in San Francisco. The weapons involved were two TEC-DC9 semi-automatic pistols which he had outfitted with hollow-point ammunition and Hellfire trigger systems.

Following this was the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which two students murdered 13 people and injured another 21 before killing themselves. The weapons involved included an Intratec TEC-DC9 Semi-automatic pistol, Hi-Point 995 Carbine, Savage 67H pump-action shotgun and a Stevens 311D double barreled sawed-off shotgun. Columbine was hardly the first school shooting; reports of shootings that took place at schools go back to the 1800’s. However this was the case that seemed to ignite debate across America, and it’s clear that mass-murder shootings have accelerated in the US since Columbine.

Then we had the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, the deadliest up until this year. A senior at Virginia Tech diagnosed with a “serious anxiety disorder” shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks that day. The weapons involved were a Walther P22 semi-automatic handgun and a semi-automatic Glock 19. This shooting didn’t just involve us–because the student was born in South Korea, the entire nation of South Korea responded with sympathy and a sense of national shame. Read about it here.

Another influential mass shooting was the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 28 deaths occurred, including the perpetrator. The weapon used was a Bushmaster XM15-E2S assault rifle. This shooting reignited gun control debates across the country, as well as the effects of violent video games.

Most recently at the time of this writing is the Orlando nightclub shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in US history, which claimed the lives of 50 people (including the shooter), and has made world-wide headlines. The weapons involved included a SIG Sauer MCX assault rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. Why all these shootings? The reason for this is beyond the scope of my article, and honestly I don’t know anyway. I don’t think anyone knows for sure, though some speculation about American culture is out there.

Gun Control Laws

assaultweapon

Various gun control laws have been enacted over the years. The first major one I’ll mention was the Gun Control Law of 1968, which came about due to President Kennedy’s assassination, and the subsequent assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F Kennedy. The President was shot and killed with a rifle purchased by mail-order, so a law banning mail order sales of rifles and shotguns (and prohibiting most felons, drug users and people found mentally incompetent) from buying guns was passed. It’s interesting that the Vice President of the NRA at the time said, “We do not think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”

In 1993 the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was passed. This bill created a background check system which required those who sold guns to conduct a background check of prospective gun purchasers, and created a list of categories of individuals to whom the sale of firearms is prohibited.

In 1994 ex-Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan wrote Congress asking that semi-automatic assault guns be banned in the wake of the Cleveland School Massacre in ’89 and the 101 California Street Shooting. This resulted in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban on the manufacture or use of assault weapons for 10 years.

After Columbine there were increased calls for gun control measures, as well as a radical change in security at schools. Days after the shooting, in a move that drew almost universal criticism the NRA decided to move its national convention to nearby Denver. At this convention the NRA CEO said something I completely agree with: “First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period … with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel.”

The Sandy Hook shooting again resulted in multiple proposals for gun laws, including background checks on all firearm sales and a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, but it failed. Nothing at the Federal level passed, but states began enacting their own bans. Currently 8 states in the US have some form of assault weapons ban. Following Sandy Hook, the same NRA CEO said: “Politicians pass laws for Gun-Free School Zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And in so doing, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”

What Do I Think?

gdr-vs-gunlaws

I think there have been a lot of mass shootings in the past 20+ years in the US, and a notable acceleration since 2011-2012. For a statistical analysis by a guy who knows more about statistics than I do, click here. Gun sales have reached record highs in 2010, 2011 and 2012. This can be a little misleading though, because it makes you think that more Americans are buying guns than ever before. In reality, that’s not the case. In 1973 about half of us had a gun in our homes; that’s down to 37% in 2013 according to Pew Research. Depending on where you check the number varies from 34 -41%, but it’s clearly gone down. Gun sales are going to people that already have guns, not to Americans that don’t. So what do I think about where our gun control laws should land? In general I agree with Ronald Reagan’s sentiments made February 6, 1989:

I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe than AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.

The Supreme Court itself, as cited above, supports the Second Amendment but states it is not unlimited. We have the right to own weapons for the defense of the home, and in other common uses such as hunting. As much as I support the Second Amendment, it does not give us the right to own “any weapon whatsoever.” I haven’t yet heard someone demanding that they need their assault rifle in order to hunt deer any more than I’ve heard we need to have the right to own weapons-grade plutonium. According to Ronald Reagan and many others, we don’t need it for defense of the home either.

We didn’t used to be so frightened about losing our guns. Let me be clear: Nobody is coming for your guns. This is a lie perpetuated in large part by the NRA to keep their organization thriving. As much as I want to like an organization that is supposedly there to lobby for defense of the Second Amendment, the typical magazine issue has articles that are clearly fear-mongering. To make it clear again, I am totally in favor of civilian private ownership of guns such as handguns, hunting rifles and shotguns. There are no laws on the books that will rob a citizen of their right to own these. It would never make it past Congress, and even if it did the Supreme Court would shoot it down (heh). If any laws were to come up, I will be voting against it just as much as I urge my reader to.

To those who say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, I say I agree! However, automatic and semi-automatic weapons help kill a lot of people a lot quicker. Orlando just could not have happened on the scale that it did without an assault rifle. Assault rifles have one purpose:  to kill people. It is a weapon of war, intended for soldiers who fight in war–not civilians. As cool as it can be to shoot one, that is not a sufficient justification for owning one. A recent study looking at 30 years of homicide data found that for every one percent increase in a state’s gun ownership rate, there is a nearly one percent increase in its firearm homicide rate.

Some will say, if you take guns out of the hands of civilians then only the criminals will have guns, look what happened in England! In England the Firearm Act of 1997 was passed after the Dunblane School Massacre, where a gunman killed 16 children and a teacher with Browning and Smith & Wesson pistols before killing himself. This act went further than banning assault rifles, it banned virtually all handguns. A recent analysis shows that violent crimes had increased, as some have pointed out, but after 2004 it has decreased every year. The violent crime rate now is comparable to the rate before it was first enacted.

Then there’s Australia, where they enacted the National Firearms Agreement in 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded. The weapon involved was an AR-15 assault rifle, so they banned semi-automatic and pump-action weapons and forced civilians to sell them back to the government. There had been 13 mass shootings previously; none have been recorded since. Here is a news article on it.

(Edit: this paragraph was added recently) Finally, some believe the 2nd Amendment gives us the right, whether implicitly or explicity, to ‘fight back’ against our government if we need to. I’m not sure I agree with this interpretation, or even in which circumstances this would justifiably apply. First of all, most Americans do not fear the armed forces, and virtually no one thinks that an armed populace could defeat those forces in battle. This is not the age of the flintlock rifle. If “the government” decides you are dangerous to the public, owning any kind of gun will not allow you to win against highly trained tactical teams or military forces, I don’t care who you are. Justifying owning fully-automatic weapons, for example, for some hypothetical doomsday scenario is not enough of a reason. I’m a Christian. If I died defending my innocent family, we’d go to heaven and our Lord would take any necessary vengeance. So that’s not a good enough reason for me, not when actual mass shootings continue to happen so frequently.

My Conclusion

The NRA CEO has said that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Do you know how many mass shootings have been stopped by armed civilians? As far as decades of records show, 0. None. Whether it’s a disgruntled employee, a mentally deranged person, a gang member or a terrorist, it doesn’t matter. A good civilian with a gun did not stop Orlando, anymore than he stopped 9/11. I have no problem with gun ownership for home defense, hunting or sporting. I support and will defend the Second Amendment, as I would the entire Bill of Rights. But I do not believe people have the ‘right’ to own military and paramilitary weapons or explosives. (Edit: I recently inserted this next sentence to clarify my position) I don’t think civilians should be able to own fully automatic weapons, or semi-automatic ones with larger magazine capacities–say, over 15 rounds–and no detachable magazines. These guns do not save lives, and the fun of shooting them does not justify owning them.

I don’t consider myself a liberal any more than I consider myself a conservative. I hunted with my dad throughout my entire growing up years, and had a good time. While I believe some gun control would help, ultimately the shootings and massacres aren’t about guns. I like to think this is not an extremist view on one side or the other, and I hope that mainstream America shares my view. Why do we have to many mass shootings in America? As I stated earlier, I don’t know. If I were to hazard a guess, in large part I think it’s due to the break down of the family in so many societies around the world, and the hyper-individualism in the US. But that’s just my opinion, and I could be wrong. 🙂

yeah

Too far?

Advertisements


2 Comments

What if everyone lived the Law of Chastity?

chastity-bites_posterHeh. As a sometime blog writer I always try to imagine the reaction of my readers when they first start reading something I’ve written. This topic is one that most people have an opinion on long before they’ve even seen the title of this article, and what are the chances that something I write will actually have an impact? Definitely I am trying to persuade, but more than that, this has been on my mind for the last little while and really the benefits are so obvious there’s not much of an excuse for living any other way. Having said that, most people don’t live the law of chastity, and while it doesn’t mystify me, it’s such a shame.

What is the law of chastity? To paraphrase from the Lord, it’s simply that we are to have sexual relations only with our spouse to whom we are legally married. Whether or not you agree with that on the face of it, let’s look at some of the societal implications, hypothetically, if everyone lived this law. First of all, teen pregnancy would all but disappear. In fact the only teens that would be pregnant would be those few who married at, say, 18 or 19, or those who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. In the fullest ideal sense there would be no rape or sexual abuse because of the law of chastity, but the implications of a world like that go far beyond the scope of this article. Even assuming sexual abuse continues at exactly the rate it does now (which it wouldn’t, I believe) the teen pregnancy rate would drop by what, at least 90%?

Second, abortions would plummet. Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, no prominent advocate that I know of wants abortions to be high, and there is general agreement that abortions are not a desirable goal in general. Other than pregnancies in which the mother’s life is in danger (such as ectopic pregnancies) or as the result of rape or incest, the great majority of abortions are the result of unwanted pregnancy as a result of consensual sex and the prospect of a negative impact on her life, financial instability, or an unwillingness to be a single mother. The proportion of women who seek abortions that are single outnumber by a vast margin those that are married seeking abortions, whatever the reason. When the only real possibility of becoming pregnant is within marriage–where financial stability is much more likely, where a negative impact on her life is much reduced, and by definition one would not be a single mother–abortions would be reduced by, what, 75 – 85%?

Poverty would markedly decrease, particularly among women and children. There is a large body of research on the juvenilization and feminization of poverty, and in fact entire classes at universities are taught on this very topic. The most common circumstance appears to be a single mother raising her child alone. How does this often occur? A woman becoming pregnant and then her boyfriend (or one night stand) leaves, for whatever reason. This does not explain all occurrences, of course, but when children are born in a marriage, the odds of financial stability are higher. Even in the worst case scenario, if they later divorce, a woman has a claim of income from her ex to defray the cost of raising a child, and in those cases where the ex does pay on a regular basis this also reduces the financial burden on the state to cover the cost as well. I am personally also convinced the divorce rate would drop significantly as well, as if premarital sex (and its consequences) is taken out of the equation the reasons for marrying for good and right reasons increases.

Crime in general would decrease markedly as well. Imagine the impact if virtually all children were raised by both their biological parents. There is a large body of high quality research supporting the assertion that children have the best chance of growing up to be well-adjusted, upstanding and contributing members of society if they are raised by both of their biological parents, as I cited as part of an eight-part article I wrote on the institution of marriage. Now there are all kinds of parents, and also all kinds of children, and nobody is asserting that crime would disappear or families would be perfect, but given the best possible environment, less juveniles would grow up and engage in delinquent behavior such as drug use and gang activity. In fact gang activity in general would sharply decline as well, as gangs  are simply substitutes for the absence of an intact family.

What about STD’s? Would you like a world with no HIV, for example? The first AIDS epidemic began in Africa, in the Congo in the 70’s. “It is speculated that HIV was brought to the city by an infected individual who traveled from Cameroon by river down into the Congo. On arrival in Kinshasa, the virus entered a wide urban sexual network and spread quickly.” As far as I can determine the history of AIDS in the US began in 1981, in a CDC report from Los Angeles among the gay community. This isn’t an indictment of homosexuality, and certainly AIDS is spread in ways other than sexual contact, but if most or all of us lived the law of chastity STD’s in general would largely be a thing of the past within a generation or two.

How about things that are less measurable, such as regret and heartbreak? Who isn’t aware of the cliche of a girl having sex because her boyfriend wants to, and not long after he doesn’t see her again and spreads the tale of his conquest all over school? How about the cliche of two people who begin dating and rush into the physical part of their relationship, often sabotaging the relationship for good, or two friends who sleep together once and permanently damage the friendship? The latter examples happen well into the 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s for a lot of folks. I’ve counseled many clients who don’t trust men or who don’t trust themselves, and how quickly people become jaded as a result. Then there’s the double standard of women being pressured into sex, but the more they have sex the more they have a reputation for being “easy” or “slutty” they have, meanwhile men suffer no particular stigma for sex with multiple partners. The amount of sorrow and regret in relationships would decrease–by how much, who knows, but what a relief it would be for everyone affected.

The seventh reason is entirely faith-based, so feel free to accept or reject it, but this blog entry would be incomplete without mentioning it. When we live the commandments, the Lord blesses us. He cannot bless us for living a commandment that we are not living, that wouldn’t make any sense. This does not imply that if you’ve had sex once in your life you are ineligible, but rather should you make a determination to start living by this law, and repent for having sinned in the past, the blessings will start to come and you will receive strength to be able to live it. It’s happened in my life and it’s pretty amazing.

I’ve outlined seven likely positive outcomes from living the law of chastity. You may think I have overstated them, but it seems doubtful that any of them could be discounted entirely. What are the reasons for not living it? They all seem to boil down to one reason: I want to do it, and I shouldn’t have to wait! There are a number of rationales based on this reason, but they are nothing else.

The choice is ours, do we want immediate gratification, or do we want to delay it for a greater reward? And the rewards are many. Some people will say it’s too hard or it’s not realistic but this is sophistry, and simply a lie. It is tantamount to saying that people are merely animals, not having any control over ourselves so we shouldn’t be accountable for not doing so. Would that argument fly in a rape case? I personally know several people who stayed virgins until they married.

For the overwhelming majority of the history of the world the standard has been chastity until marriage, and there are an uncountable number of cases where this has occurred. Heaven knows it ain’t easy, the Lord made us as sexual beings and gave us sexual desires, but one of the purposes of this life is to learn how to master our passions, not be enslaved by them. When our desires overcome our reason then we start being driven by them, instead of the other way around. Which way would you rather live? Which is the most likely to result in lasting happiness, not just for you but all of us? Something to consider. 🙂keeping-the-law-of-chastity


Leave a comment

The oft-underestimated importance of family

I haven’t blogged about anything in too long a time, I suppose. I was reading a story today that I thought I would share; it’s about the importance of family, and how powerful an effect reminding others of it can have. I’ll be quoting the story here. The setting is that several years ago, Craig Cardon and his wife Debbie attended a dinner for members of the Dean’s Alumni Leadership Council at the Harvard Kennedy School:

After the dinner the president of the council invited the council members and their companions to stand and introduce themselves. He suggested that each person share educational and professional background information, along with what each considered to be his or her most significant accomplishment. Because of the way the room was organized, our table would be the last to participate.

[My wife] later explained to me that as she saw all in attendance standing and listing their many academic degrees and professional accomplishments, she thought, ‘What can I possibly say to these people who have been ambassadors, high government officials, educators, professionals, and leaders of gigantic enterprises? I don’t even have my bachelor’s degree yet.

Her mind continued racing: ‘I’ve got to think of something to say. No, I’ve got to find an excuse to leave.’ Then, in an instant, she thought, ‘I’m going to pray.’

She said a silent, earnest prayer, pleading with the Lord for His help and direction. In that moment, a voice came into her mind with perfect clarity. It said, ‘Debbie, who in this room has achieved more important things in this life or has had more amazing experiences than you? You are a mother in Zion. You have brought eight children into this world. Those who are of age are happily married and are having children of their own. What is more important than that? Debbie, get up and tell these people with power what you have done.’

At that moment, the microphone was passed to our table. I had seen her shifting in her chair and looking a bit uneasy, so I extended my hand to take the microphone, thinking to give her additional time to prepare herself. Imagine my surprise when her hand stretched out in front of mine and literally grabbed the microphone.

She confidently stood, and with an elegance difficult to describe, she said ‘A few years ago I accompanied my husband here to the Harvard Kennedy School. And my most important achievement is that I am the mother of 8 children and the grandmother of 18 grandchildren.’

With that statement, spontaneous applause erupted in the room. It was the only applause of the entire evening. She shared a few additional thoughts relating to the central, societal role of the family and the happiness found therein. Then she handed me the microphone and sat down. I stood and added simply, ‘I’m her husband.’

The significant of what the Lord did through [my wife] was evidenced by the fact that for the remainder of the evening we were inundated with questions about families, children, and marital harmony–subjects eminently more important than anything else that had been addressed. Because she had earnestly sought direction from the Spirit and had exercised the faith and courage to respond to what she was told, the Lord had magnified her in a powerful way in furthering His purposes.

I really enjoyed this, because it helped remind me of what is really important, and also how this message seemed opposed to the message that the world is currently giving. The greatest accomplishments are not to be found in a lab or a meeting or a presentation or a discovery, but rather in the home. I hope to someday have a family of my own, and when that happens I hope I never lose sight that (next to the Lord himself) they are the most important things in this world to me.


2 Comments

What is Marriage? Part Eight, A Cruel Bargain?

Marriage

Marriage

This is part 8 of 8 of my series on marriage, based on Girgis’ What is Marriage? Marriage is a comprehensive union. The state has excellent reasons to recognize it, and excellent reasons to enact the correct view of it. These reasons are rooted not in some obscure ideology or private interest, but variously and deeply in human nature and the common good of all society, which reason and experience reveal. These have been the themes of this series.

Many same-sex attracted men and women agree with this conclusion. Some do so because they object to casting same-sex unions in a mold designed for husbands and wives, but others cite reasons identical to or much like ones that have been offered in this series. Here is a link to one such, here is another and here is a third. You might fear that whatever gains the conjugal view wins for the many, it wins at a cruel cost for the few. This objection states that traditional marriage law harms the personal fulfillment, the practical interests, and the social standing of same-sex-attracted people.

Practical interests:  a civil union or other policy that granted legal benefits to any two adults upon request would receive no objection from the conjugal marriage view. People can normally obtain these benefits privately, for example, through power of attorney. Personal fulfillment and social standing:  please note that however the marriage debate is resolved, two men or two women will be free to live together, with or without a sexual relationship or a wedding ceremony. The same-sex civil marriage debate is not about anyone’s private behavior, but about legal recognition. The decision to honor conjugal marriage bans nothing. But neither does it discourage companionship. Not recognizing certain relationships as civil marriages will not make people lonelier unless we embrace the revisionist idea that emotional intimacy is what sets marriage apart–which is not true. A relationship may be of the greatest worth without calling for state recognition–especially if recognizing it would have harmful side effects. People rightly take delight in the public knowledge of their bonds in all kinds of relationships. Yet no one proposes to make friendships, for example recognized by law. Legal recognition only makes sense when something needs regulation, and can only regulate relationships with a definite structure. As has been shown, the only romantic bond that meets this criterion is marriage–conjugal marriage.

Please do not mistakenly assume that the conjugal view is concerned with targeting same-sex relationships. It is the redefinition of marriage that is concerning. What I wish to avoid is the harm this does to the common good. In the first and last analysis, what I have debated–and what I have defended–is marriage. There is no such thing as a neutral marriage policy. Marriage understood as the conjugal union of husband and wife really serves the good of children, the good of spouses, and the common good of society.

There is one final point to make, addressing full disclosure and transparency. Here I do not speak for Girgis, Anderson, George or anyone else. The reason I have spent the large amount of time and work I have on this series of blog entries is to explicate in as clear and detailed and cogent a fashion as I can the reasons I do not support any form of marriage other than the conjugal view. Their paper which turned into an essay, or whatever you want to call it, is the best way I’ve yet found to express it, however it is not complete. Of necessity they (and I) have only thus far considered implications through a secular lens. However, as those who have followed my blog for any length of time must know, I am also a spiritual and religious person. I want it clear that the genesis and root of my belief in conjugal marriage is that marriage is not the product of the human mind. It is not something that two people, or a community or a nation simply “came up with” somewhere back in the misty dawn of human civilization. Rather it was given by God himself, first to Adam and Eve, and subsequently to the whole human race.

As God has given this gift of marriage, and indeed His first commandment to Adam and Eve was to “multiply and replenish the Earth,” He is the only one who can set the terms of what marriage is. No other being has that right. In my view, the many great goods that marriage brings to pass only do so because they are following the order that God has given. To deviate from it is to at best dilute these goods, and at worst to pervert them to the degradation and degeneracy of civilization. Marriage is what it is, and man does not have the power to alter it or legislate to modify it, any more than he can alter any of the other laws of the universe. As has been said by others, “He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults to, more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured.” It is not my intention to give offense to any, simply to be as clear as I can in presenting my view.

                                                                 Part Seven


Leave a comment

What is Marriage? Part Seven, Justice and Equality

Marriage

Marriage

Revisionists raise objections to the conjugal view:  that it is inconsistent in recognizing infertile marriages, and at odds with the principle of equal access to marriage. Here I’ll show that both objections fail.

First, infertility. An infertile man and woman can together still form a true marriage–a comprehensive union–which would differ only in degree, not type, from a fertile union. Recognizing such unions as marriages has none of the costs of recognizing same-sex or other unions, most of the benefits of recognizing fertile unions, and at least one additional benefit. To form a true marriage a couple needs to establish a comprehensive mind-and-body union, be permanent and exclusive. With or without children these relationships are all comprehensive in these three senses, and without exception, same-sex and multiple-partner unions are not. A marital act between two people must combine the right behavior with the right intention.

Take intention. For any couple’s act of bodily union to be an act of marital union, they need not choose it for the sake of conceiving, but simply to make concrete their marriage. An act of sexual intercourse is bodily union whether or not it causes conception, as our law has always recognized. The man and woman’s bodies are still united toward reproduction. The nature of the behavior doesn’t depend on what happens hours later outside of their control:  whether an egg is fertilized. Intercourse remains a form of bodily coordination toward a single bodily end (whether or not it is an end they seek) and thus a form of bodily union. And that–being a bodily union, not actually causing conception–is what makes sex, if chosen with the intention to embody or renew their marriage, a valuable part of the whole:  a marital act that extends a marital, or comprehensive, union. That is why, as our law has always recognized, infertility is no impediment to marriage, something good in itself, existing with or without children. A friendship of two men or two women is also valuable in itself. But lacking the capacity for bodily union it cannot be valuable specifically as a marriage:  it cannot be comprehensive, nor ordered to procreation on which marriage depends.

Recognizing infertile marriages carry none of the costs of recognizing same-sex, polyamorous or other nonmarital unions. It does not make it harder for people to realize the basic good of marriage, for it does not undermine the public’s grasp of the nature of true marriage. Nor does it undermine marital norms, or make mothers or fathers seem superfluous. It prejudices no one’s religious or moral freedom. An obviously infertile couple can live out the features of true marriage, and so contribute to a strong marriage culture. There is also one special benefit. To recognize only fertile marriages would be to suggest that marriage is valuable only as a means to children–and not what it truly is, a good in itself. So recognizing the marriages of infertile couples serves at least one purpose better than recognizing only fertile unions does:  to recall for us the crucial truth that marriage has value in itself.

Second, equality. Revisionists often equate traditional marriage laws with laws banning interracial marriages, stating that all should have equal access to marriage. The analogy to interracial marriages fails for many reasons, but two are decisive. First, opponents of interracial marriage did not deny that marriage was possible between Blacks and Whites any more than segregationists argued that some features of the Whites-only drinking fountains made it impossible for Blacks to drink from them. The reason laws banning interracial marriage existed was to maintain White supremacy. Many states refused to recognize marriages between Black slaves for similar, White supremacist reasons; and marriages between two different non-White races, having no effect on White supremacy, were generally allowed. Revisionists would not leave our basic understanding of marriage intact and simply expand the pool of people eligible to marry, they would abolish the conjugal view of marriage from our law and replace it with the revisionist view.

Second, while history shows that hostility motivated anti-miscegenation laws, it rules out this explanation of traditional marriage laws. Yes, homosexual acts were widely condemned for centuries here in the West, and still are by many people and religious traditions. But so were (and are) those same acts between a husband and wife, such as sodomy. The basics of marriage law allowed consummation by no other act than intercourse, even between a wedded man and woman. Some cultures, as in ancient Greece and Rome, recognized only opposite-sex unions as marriages even when they celebrated homo-eroticism. Only ignorance of all these facts could support an idea that anti-gay hostility shaped our marriage law and that of every other culture as well.

The analogy to interracial marriages would also mean that any kind of distinction is discrimination. If so, we would be compelled to recognize those seeking open, temporary or polyamorous marriages. It cannot be argued that these folks can be free to enter those relationships but not have legal recognition without acting like hypocrites themselves. If, like most conjugal and revisionist supporters agree, these kinds of unions should not be recognized as marriages, then you have to accept three principles. First, marriage is not totally malleable–it is not “just a contract.” Second, the state is within its rights to recognize only true marriages. Laws that distinguish marriage from other bonds will always leave some arrangements out. Third, there is no general right to marry the person you love, if this means a right to have any relationship recognized as marriage. There is only a general right not to be prevented from forming a true marriage. There is no direct line from the principle of equality to same-sex civil marriage. This series will be concluded in part eight.

                      Part Six                                                                               Part Eight


Leave a comment

What is Marriage? Part Six, Threatening Moral and Religious Freedom

Changes in marriage norms causes harm

Changes in marriage norms causes harm

The harms of redefining civil marriage would extend beyond the couple and their children, to anyone who holds the conjugal view. Americans are not particularly patient with those we think are enemies of equality. People who have attitudes that remind us of Jim Crow, Chinese exclusion laws, Japanese internment camps, or forbidding women the vote are today’s exiles, barred from the public square and even respectable jobs. The revisionist view depends on the idea that there are no important differences between same- and opposite-sex relationships. By endorsing it, the state would imply that the conjugal view makes arbitrary distinctions, and conjugal marriage supporters would become champions of discrimination.

Photographers, caterers, innkeepers, adoption agency officials, parochial school administrators, counselors, foster-care and adoption providers, and others will be forced to comply with the revisionist view or lose their jobs. This is not fear-mongering, this is taking revisionists at their word. If support for conjugal marriage really is like racism, we need only ask how civil society treats racists. In Canada a prominent sportscaster was fired from his job for expression on Twitter of his support for conjugal marriage; a Georgia counselor contracted by the CDC was fired after an investigation into her religiously motivated decision to refer someone in a same-sex relationship to another counselor (that one in particular burns me up, as I am a counselor); a ministry in New Jersey lost its tax-exempt status for denying a lesbian couple use of its facility for a same-sex wedding; and a photographer was prosecuted by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission or declining to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

Conflicts with religious liberty are inevitable when marriage is extended to same-sex couples. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities was forced to give up its adoption services rather than violate its principles by placing children with same-sex cohabitants. When public school began teaching students about same-sex marriages because it was now law, the court found that parents did not have the right to exempt their students. In fact the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports that “over 350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of same-sex marriage.” Because of the mutual influence of law and culture, emerging legal trends are mirrored by social ones. A Washington Post story drew cries of journalistic bias for implying that one conjugal view advocate was “sane and thoughtful,” and in fact compared the profile to a piece about a KKK member! A New York Times columnist has called conjugal marriage proponents bigots. Now organizations pushing the legal redefinition of marriage label themselves as “champions of human rights” and opponents of “hate.” And all this has occurred before any nation-wide or state majority legalization for same-sex marriage!

How about undermining friendship? The social prevalence of the revisionist view would make things harder on single people:  as marriage is defined simply as the most valuable or only kind of deep communion, it becomes harder to find emotional and spiritual intimacy in nonmarital friendships. Revisionists cannot define marriage in terms of real bodily union or family life, so they tend to define it instead by its degree or intensity. Marriage is simply your closest relationship, offering the most of the one basic currency of intimacy:  shared emotion and experience. The more we absorb this assumption, the less we value deep friendship in its own right. Self-disclosure, unembarrassed reliance, self-forgetfulness, extravagant expressions of affection and other features of companionship come to seem like unwelcome impositions outside romance and marriage. Here is an article explaining it more fully, it is a deeply thought-out treatise.

It’s been made clear that redefining civil marriage would affect how we conduct our sexual relationships, how we parent, how we treat conscientious dissent, and how we deal with friends. However there is a common “conservative” objection to part of this. Some say that adopting the revisionist view would actually strengthen it, by imposing traditional marital norms–conservative values–on more relationships. Note that it doesn’t show the revisionist view of marriage to be true or the conjugal view false. Untouched are our claims that fathers matter as well as mothers. Nor does it dispel concerns about moral and religious freedom, or the diminution of friendship. If marriage is understood as an essentially emotional union then marital norms, especially permanence and exclusivity, will make less sense. Rather than imposing traditional norms on same-sex relationships, abolishing the conjugal view would tend to erode the basis for those norms in any relationship.

Examples are easy to find. In their statement “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage,” more than 300 scholars and advocates call for legally recognize sexual relationship involving more than two partners. A University of Calgary professor thinks justice requires us to use legal recognition to “denormalize heterosexual monogamy as a way of life.” What about the connection to family life? Andrew Sullivan, who is a conservative proponent of same-sex marriage says that marriage has become “primarily a way in which two adults affirm their emotional commitment to one another.” EJ Graff celebrates that recognizing same-sex unions would change the ‘institution’s message’ so it would “ever after stand for sexual choice, for cutting the link between sex and diapers.”

For those who want more proof, here is a great example: In the 1980’s Professors David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison, themselves in a romantic relationship, set out to disprove popular beliefs about gay partners’ inability to stay monogamous. Of the 156 men they surveyed, whose relationships had lasted from 1 – 37 years, more than 60% had begun the relationship expecting exclusivity, but not one couple stayed sexually exclusive longer than five years. They concluded “the expectation for outside sexual activity was the rule for male couples and the exception for heterosexuals.” Far from disproving popular beliefs, they confirmed them. The NY Times reported on a more recent study that stated, “‘with straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,’ said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, ‘but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.'” To contrast, 99% of of opposite-sex couples expect sexual exclusivity in their marriage according to a Journal of Sex Research article in 2009, and violations of it are so serious they are “the leading cause of divorce across 160 cultures and are one of the most frequent reasons that couples seek marital therapy.”

It’s important to avoid stereotypes, which exaggerate infidelity unfairly, however I will summarize three studies that address this issue. A 1990’s UK survey of more than 5000 men found that the average numbers of partners over the previous five years for men with exclusively heterosexual inclinations was two, with bisexual inclinations was seven, and with exclusively homosexual inclinations was 10. A US survey found the average number of sexual partners since age 18 for men who identified as homosexual or bisexual was over 2.5 times as many as the average for heterosexual men. Finally, a study of same-sex civil marriages in Norway and Sweden found that “divorce risks are higher in same-sex partnerships than opposite-sex marriage and…unions of lesbians are considerably less stable, or more dynamic, than unions of gay men.”

So this “conservative” objection does not seem to bear out in reality, even in countries where these unions are uniformly legally recognized. There is no reason to believe, and abundant reason to doubt, that redefining civil marriage would make people more likely to abide by its norms. If anything it would undermine people’s grasp of the basis for those norms.

                       Part Five                                                                         Part Seven


Leave a comment

What is Marriage? Part Five, What’s the Harm?

Changes in marriage norms causes harm

Changes in marriage norms causes harm

So, then, what is the harm? To pick up right where we left off, as a revisionist might put it, “how would gay civil marriage affect your lives, liberties, or opportunities, or your own marriages?” Remember that from the beginning I have said that this debate is not about homosexuality, but about marriage. I’ll show later how the conjugal view respects same-sex-attracted people’s equal dignity and basic needs. In this article it will be shown how the revisionist proposal would harm marriage and much else also. Our argument depends on three simple ideas:  law tends to shape beliefs; beliefs shape behavior; beliefs and behavior affect human interests and human well-being. If all can agree on these truths, then, it will be shown that an unsound law of marriage will breed mistaken ideas that will harm not just marriage but parenting, common moral and religious beliefs, and even friendship.

To begin, let’s discuss the harm to marriage and parenting. Remember the law affects our ideas of what is reasonable and appropriate. You might think more of marijuana use if it were allowed, state subsidies of heavy metal music promote a different view of musical merit than chamber music, and a school board curriculum of quack science and chauvinistic history impart a different message about knowledge than one with more rigorous standards. Revisionists are on board with all of these ideas. In fact they find civil unions insufficient even when these offer same-sex unions all the legal benefits of marriage. Redefining marriage though, would change its meaning for everyone. Legally wedded opposite-sex unions would increasingly be defined by what they had in common with same-sex relationships. Marriage, the human good, would be harder to achieve; one can realize marriage only by choosing it, for which you need at least a rough idea of what it really is!

Obscuring the good of marriage to make it harder to live out is the first harm of redefinition:  other harms are the effects of misunderstanding, and failing to live out, true marriage. By warping people’s view of marriage, revisionist policy would make them less able to realize this basic way of thriving–much as a man confused about friendship will have trouble being a friend. As more people absorb the new law’s lesson that marriage is fundamentally about emotions, marriages will increasingly take on emotion’s instability. Since there is no reason that emotional unions should be permanent or limited to two, these norms of marriage would make less sense. It might seem far-fetched to predict that values as cherished as permanence and exclusivity would wane, however even leading revisionists now agree that if sexual complementarity is optional, so are permanence and exclusivity. If marriage is primarily about emotional union, why privilege two-person unions, or permanently committed ones? Also, because children fare best when reared by their wedded biological parents, the same erosion of marital norms would adversely affect children’s health, education and general formation. Additionally the size of the state would balloon, adjudicating breakup and custody issues, meeting the needs of spouses and children affected by divorce, and attempting to contain and feebly correct the challenges these children face. Marriage policy could go bad, and already has in some ways, especially by the introduction of no-fault divorce laws which make marriage contracts easier to break than contracts of any other kind.

Conjugal marriage laws reinforce the idea that the union of husband and wife is the most appropriate environment for rearing children. Recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages would legally abolish that ideal. No civil institution would reinforce the notion that men and women typically have different strengths as parents, or that boys and girls tend to benefit from fathers and mothers in different ways. Revisionist marriage laws would diminish the social pressures and incentives for husbands to remain with their wives and children, or for men and women having children to marry first. Yet the resulting arrangements–parenting by divorced or single parents, or cohabiting couples–are proven to be worse for children, as has been shown in the previous two articles. And mothers and fathers do both bring necessary strengths to the table for children. There is a preponderance of evidence for example, showing that girls are likelier to suffer sexual abuse and to have children as teenagers and out of wedlock if they do not grow up with their father. For their part, boys reared without their father tend to have much higher rates of aggression, delinquency, and incarceration. Rutgers University sociologist David Popenoe states, “we should disavow the notion that mommies can make good daddies, just as we should disavow the popular notion…that daddies can make good mommies… The two sexes are different to the core and each is necessary–culturally and biologically–for the optimal development of a human being.” A University of Virginia sociologist found much the same:  “…the best psychological, sociological and biological research to date now suggests that–on average–men and women bring different gifts to the parenting enterprise, that children benefit from having parents with distinct parenting styles, and that family breakdown poses a serious threat to children and to the societies in which they live.”

There is lots of research out there and not much of it is top-notch. Top-notch research contains large, random and representative samples observed over time (longitudinal). Not one study of same-sex parenting meets this standard of research. By contrast, a 2012 study was completed that was based on a large, random and nationally representative sample regarding outcomes in adulthood of various family structures. Compared to children of parents at least one of whom had had a gay or lesbian relationship, those reared by their married biological parents were found to have fared better on dozens of indicators, and worse on none. Penn State’s professor Paul Amato said the study’s methodological advantages still make it “probably the best that we can hope for, at least in the near future.” Ultimately, we have two reasons to expect that same-sex parenting is generally less effective:  first, every alternative to married biological parenting that has been examined in high-quality studies has consistently been shown less effective, and second, reliable studies suggest that mothers and fathers foster–and their absences impede–child development in different ways. Princeton and Wisconsin sociologists found, based on four longitudinal studies of nationally representative samples including 20,000 subjects, “Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents…regardless of whether the resident parent remarries.” This reinforces the idea that the state’s primary interest in upholding marital norms is to keep biological parents together.

In short:  redefining marriage might make it more socially acceptable for fathers to leave their families, for unmarried parents to put off firmer public commitment, or for children to be created for a household without a mother or father. But whatever the cause, there will be a cost to depriving children of the love and knowledge of their married mother and father. Please understand, none of these points implies that men and women in same-sex relationships have weaker devotion, or less capacity for affection. It is no insult to heroic single parents to point to data showing that mother and father together is more effective. What are compared in all cases are the outcomes of various parenting combinations, not individual parents. The next article will cover the consequences to moral and religious beliefs, and friendship.

                      Part Four                                                                       Part Six