This post is bound to be extremely and haphazardly unscientific, illogical, and just plain confusing. Bear with me, and do your best trying to decipher the important and meaning sentences or questions. Then, please, let me know what they are, for I’ve forgotten.
On a few occasions, I have voiced my concern that it is potentially impossible to be a good Catholic AND a good, democratic American simultaneously. When articulating this problem, I have been met with solid answers – answers that don’t make the two categories seem distinct. Therefore, I have recently been wracking my brain, trying to get at the root of my insistence on seeing Catholicism and democracy as, at least, complicated bedfellows.
For a while, I supposed my feelings were just that: feelings, and not based on any sort of objective argument. But I had a minor epiphany the other day. My problem arises from a very specific way of viewing democracy. I don’t know if my view of the sociopolitical system is correct or incorrect, but I am sure other people maintain it; and perhaps this is one of the reasons why a lot of secularists dislike anyone appealing to specific religious beliefs when considering our countries policies.
Here is the constructed version of a healthy democratic nation at work – the version I often uphold, right or wrong: If we could amicably discuss issues with one another, and lay out arguments as objectively and dispassionately as possible, we would come to similar conclusions about most issues, especially the moral ones. The problems and arguments arise from impassioned ignorance or illogical bigotry. Implied in this premise is the idea that we don’t need to appeal to specific religious beliefs.
Example, Abortion: If everyone understood the basic facts about abortion, we would agree that abortion should be illegal. And I stand by this: I think most pro-choice Americans, if they conceded the fact that abortion is actually killing a living human life, would be against it. There is no need to appeal to religious conviction or theological dogma. I’m sure you can apply this one argument to many others, and come to similar conclusions: When we lay out arguments side-by-side, with a disimpassioned desire to seek the most right decision, we would agree. Importantly, with abortion and other moral decisions, there is no need to appeal to religion.
As a man who structures his life on his faith, I often take this sort of sociopolitical stance because I believe in the ultimate truth of Christian-Catholicism; and I (naively?) think that sustained, honest thought and searching for truth will eventually lead to Truth, as expressed in the Person of Jesus Christ – even if it isn’t expressed as such.
But this line of thought falls apart with the gay-marriage issue. When I empathetically take the stance of a secular non-Christian man who is genuinely attracted to other men, I find the “natural law” reasons to sound empty and shallow. I couldn’t imagine seeing these reasons as anything but ignorant or bigoted. To truly understand why same-sex marriage is ultimately flawed, the foundational theology of the human person, as found in the Catholic Church, needs to be understood and believed. Perhaps it’s a lack of faith, but I don’t find that this foundational theology is easily accessible outside of true Faith. And I think the political scene backs up my point.
I think that most people that are against gay-marriage fall in 2 categories: 1) those, like me, who base their beliefs on theological grounds; and 2) truly bigoted people, who find the idea repulsive – but repulsive in the same way that they would have, 50 years ago, found interracial marriage repulsive. I’m not sure how many people are truth-seeking non-Christians, who simply find the idea of homosexuality, or homosexual marriage, intrinsically wrong, apart from pure emotional, sexual responses.
I know one problem with my reasoning is the fact that all moral issues need foundational theologies, including murder. So a person can say, “Yes, you need to understand Catholicism in order to understand the true backwardness of homosexuality; but you also need to understand Catholicism in order to understand the true backwardness of murder.” However, I guess my point is that murder is recognized by the majority (democracy is rule by the majority) as revolting, while homosexuality is not.
Of course, this entire argument is based on the presumption that we should not have important political positions based on specific religious beliefs; and I have, in the past, been OK with this idea, simply because I felt we should arrive at the important political positions that are semi-Christian because a search for truth is always a search for the Truth.
If I discard this presumption, I am met with eerily suggestion conclusions. For example, should I be fine with a Muslim basing all of his political decisions on his faith? Isn’t this what a lot of Christians are up-in-arms about in Europe and elsewhere? What if a good, well-meaning Muslim makes a political decision to try and remove certain rights of women, basing his decision on his faith? I think a lot of people would be upset about this. However, in many secularists’ viewpoints, that is exactly what Christians are doing by trying to deny homosexuals the right to marry. The Christian may say to the Muslim, “I’m fine with you using your faith in the ballot box, but not when your opinions take away rights from others.” Well, the secularist can say right back, “Your faith-based reasons against homosexual marriage also take away people’s rights.”
This deconstructive mess is giving me a headache. Let me end with two conclusions (even though they aren’t “conclusive”). 1) Should I not care at all that it seems impossible to convince a homosexual secular man that America, as a country, should be against his getting married to a man? If so, 2) doesn’t this take us places we don’t want to go? Example: a Muslim man voting against giving women the right to vote because he doesn’t see it as an intrinsic right, like we don’t see marriage to someone of the same sex as an intrinsic right? Or: A secular man voting for something he simply “believes,” such as voting against inter-racial marriage? Aren’t their foundations, according to American law, as solid as the Christian man’s appeal to theology to argue against homosexuality?
The mess ends here.