Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Category: Philosophy

THE GREEN PARTY’S MORAL DILEMMA

 

  Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein

          In this very unusual and unprecedented election cycle attention has been turned to possible third party alternatives to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.  One such alternative sometimes mentioned is the Green Party and its candidate, Jill Stein.

The Green Party has a very long and detailed platform, and a quick survey shows it to be very liberal and “progressive.”  Yet on closer examination we can see the underlying moral contradiction of the political left.

The party’s platform has a great deal to say about various kinds of “rights,” and in one sense it presents a very idealistic agenda.  But it raises the fundamental question of where these rights come from.  What exactly is their foundation?

The section on “Social Justice” begins by saying that “Historically, America has led the world in establishing a society with democratic values such as equal opportunity and protection from discrimination.”  But the U.S. Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . .”  And at one point the Green Party platform itself says that “We acknowledge the spiritual dimensions of life, and we honor the cultivation of various types of spiritual experience in our diverse society.”

But then the platform goes on, under the heading of “Religious Freedom and Secular Equality,” to call for “the elimination of displays of religious symbols, monuments, or statements on government buildings, property, websites, money or documents,” including the removal of the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of  Allegiance.

But if we are not “one nation, under God,” where do our rights come from?  At one point the platform mentions the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights,” which would imply that rights are man-made.  Something is “right” because everyone says so.  But that would mean that we are subject to the moral guidance of an international body made up of the likes of Russia and China.  Are foreign politicians like Vladimir Putin or the Chinese Communist Party really safe guides to right and wrong?

At other points the platform appears to appeal to raw pragmatism.  It points to a variety of social, economic and environmental problems, and takes it as a given that we would all be better off if these problems were resolved.  But that is tantamount to saying that what is right is what happens to be convenient at the moment.

But in the absence of any clear moral standard the platform is led into some perplexing contradictions.  Perhaps the most astonishing of all is its position on “Youth Rights.”  Remarkably that section begins with the statement that “All human beings have the right to a life that will let them achieve their full potential.”  That is, unless they have a right to life itself.  For in the section “Women’s Rights – Reproductive Rights” the party insists that “It is essential that the option of a safe, legal abortion remain available.”  But if a mother has the right to terminate the life of her unborn child in utero, then the whole section about “Youth Rights” is utterly meaningless.  There is no guarantee that the youth will even make it out of the womb alive, let alone enjoy “a life that will let them achieve their full potential.”

All of this raises a profoundly disturbing question about the nature of morality itself.  Presumably the reason that women must have the right to have abortions is that “Women’s right to control their bodies is non-negotiable.”  “Unplanned conception takes control away from individuals and makes them subject to external controls.”  Moreover, “The Green Party affirms the right of all persons to self-determination with regard to gender identity and sex.”

“The Green Party affirms the right of all individuals to freely choose intimate partners, regardless of their sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”  It calls for “ending governmental use of the doctrines of specific religions to define the nature of family, marriage, and the type and character of personal relationships between consenting adults,” and “the use of religion by government to define the role and rights of women in our society.”  And yet the platform itself notes that “Single mothers are the largest and most severely impoverished group in the United States, which explains why 22% of the children in our country live below the poverty line.”  Duh!

But if people have a “right to self-determination” and “to control their bodies,” why would they be required to do anything against their will?  And if the government cannot use religious doctrine to define sexual relations, then what does govern such relationships?  What would a society, free from such restrictions, look like?

The answer is, Donald Trump.  When asked about his numerous bankruptcies, lawsuits and use of eminent domain to force people out of their homes, and the fact that he hasn’t had to pay income taxes for a number of years, he replies by saying that he is a smart businessman who knows how to take advantage of his legal options.  In other words, his concept of right and wrong is whatever he can legally get away with.  For him life is all about the right of self-definition and self-determination.  Welcome to the Green Party’s vision for a secular America!

The Green Party, then, is caught on the horns of a moral dilemma.  It professes to believe in the lofty ideal of social justice; but it advocates a social philosophy of raw narcissism.  What it gives with the one hand (a vision of a just and humane society) it takes away with the other (the radical autonomy of the individual).  Absent some transcendent moral authority (God) we have exactly what we see today: a society of self-serving individuals looking for ways to game the system.  Any notion of character, duty, honor or integrity has all but vanished.

We must all face the fact that we live in a universe that was created by an intelligent Supreme Being.  And as human beings we are ultimately subject to His moral law.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

(Micah 6:8; NKJV)

AND THE DEMOCRATS?

          Recently I received criticism from some Facebook friends over my last blog post, entitled “America’s Broken Covenant with God.”  The criticisms centered around the fact that in the opening paragraph I appeared to be criticizing the Republican Party, but said nothing about the Democrats.  Did I honestly think that the Democrats were free of blame for the current mess we’re in?

In this highly charged political atmosphere it is a matter of “be careful, little tongue, what you say.”  But my intention was not to criticize any particular political party.  Rather, it was to draw attention to the fact that there is an oath contained in the Declaration of Independence, and that that oath obligated us to do something.  We, collectively as a nation, have failed to honor our sworn obligation.  I also pointed out, at least indirectly, that the critical decisions affecting our daily lives are often made by the U.S. Supreme Court, not elected politicians.   The Regents’ Prayer Case was decided in 1962.  Eight presidents have come and gone since then, Republican and Democrat alike; and yet the Court’s decision still stands, and we live in a radically secularized culture as a result.

There is a political process, however, and it does involve political parties.  And in the “culture wars” of the past forty or fifty years the Democratic Party has played a conspicuous role.  It has been at the forefront in attacking Judeo-Christian morality, and it is hard to exonerate it from guilt in all the adverse cultural changes that have taken place during that period.  It is a sorry chapter in American history.

At first it was somewhat understandable.  The Civil Rights struggle of the early ‘60’s exposed the racial injustice in the nation.  Then came the controversial Viet Nam War that inspired massive anti-war protests.  The manifold injustices of American were patent; the calls for reform were urgent.

There was, however, a huge problem.  While it was obvious what was wrong in America, it was not so obvious how to make it right.  The problem, in a nutshell, was secularism.  Most of the protest demonstrations took place on the campuses of large state universities, and the educational programs of these universities were largely secular.  A protest against injustice necessarily involves a value system.  But what was the value system, and where did it come from?  The problem with the “Movement” of the ‘60’s was that it was not rooted in any well-defined system of morality.  Everyone was quick to say what was false; but no one could say what was true.

Some intellectuals turned to the writings of the Existentialist philosophers such as Sartre or Camus.  Others turned to Neo-Marxists such as Fromm or Marcuse.  But all of these were secular authors, and most of them were frankly atheists.

Matters came to a head in the summer of 1968.  Lyndon Johnson had been in office for five years, and even though he had signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and had launched the War on Poverty, his reputation was severely damaged by the War in Viet Nam.  Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection; Vice-President Hubert Humphrey became his heir-apparent as the establishment candidate.  Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both assassinated.  Race riots filled the streets.  The Democrats that year held their convention in Chicago.  Outside there were violent confrontations between protesters and police.  Humphrey won the nomination but went on to lose the election to Richard M. Nixon.

The nation was bitterly divided, and a whole generation of young people came to reject the values of their parents.  The women’s movement gained momentum.  And the Democratic Party underwent a transformation.  Previously controlled by career politicians, most of them white men, it was now taken over by the younger activists.  In 1972 the party nominated George McGovern with the support of the young activists.  McGovern lost the election, but the “New Democrats” remained in control of the party.

Much of the ideology of the “liberal” or “progressive” Democrats is driven by radical feminism.  It is rooted in an Existentialist philosophy that says that we exist as concrete, autonomous individuals and should be free to define our own “essence,” or self-identity.  For a woman that means that she should not have to conform to a gender role imposed on her by society.  “Women’s Liberation” means freedom from external constraints, and “reproductive freedom” means freedom to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

But what is good for the goose is good for the gander.  By logical extension shouldn’t all human beings be free to define themselves as they wish?  What about homosexuals?  What about transgender people?  What about the husband who just wants to watch football on TV and drink beer all day long, and let his wife do the dishes?  And who should have to stay married if someone younger and better looking comes along?  Shouldn’t we each be allowed to pursue our own self-destiny?  If all the different life-styles should be treated equally and without discrimination, who is required to do anything?  And so today we have men married to men, women in combat roles in the military, and self-identified transgender people free to use the public restrooms of their choice.

The agenda of the modern Democratic Party, however, is unsustainable.  It is based on false premises, viz., that there are no innate psychological differences between men and women, and that homosexuals are just born that way.  And it leads to disastrous results: social chaos.  Human society functions on a male / female dynamic. When that dynamic breaks down, human society ceases to function.  In the absence of social norms, civilization collapses.  What we are witnessing today is nothing less than the self-destruction of Western society.

Most of the destructive ideas that have eroded the stability of American society in recent decades have come from the New Left and the counter-culture of the ‘60’s, and have been introduced into the mainstream of American life through the Democratic Party.  Frankly, what the Democratic Party has to offer the American people is nothing less than downright nihilism, and eventually it will lead to an authoritarian reaction.  We shudder to think of what that might be.  As Cicero one said during the declining years of the Roman republic, “O tempora, O mores!” (“Oh the times, oh the manners!”).

WHICH RESTROOM?

DSCN1039

Here we are, in the midst of a presidential election cycle, and what should become one of the most hotly debated issues of the day, but who should be allowed to use which restroom?  The State of North Carolina recently passed a law requiring individuals to use the public restroom that corresponds to the gender listed on their birth certificates.  The Obama administration responded by threatening to cut off all federal aid to North Carolina.  At the same time the administration sent out a directive to school districts all over the country on how to avoid discrimination against transgender people.

It should be noted that the policy adopted by North Carolina is perfectly reasonable.  If we understand things correctly, individuals in North Carolina who undergo sex reassignment surgery can have their birth certificates changed to reflect their new gender identities.  And in the case of a public restroom there has to be a means of identifying a person’s gender.  To allow anyone to use any restroom he pleases is to defeat the whole purpose of having separate restrooms.  It especially puts women at risk of becoming victims of voyeurism.

Contrary to the way the issue is often portrayed in the press, it is not a simple matter of some people identifying with one gender or the other.  Gender Identity Disorder is just one in a whole range of sexual behaviors.  Some people are homosexuals; some are bisexual.  Some are transvestites; some engage in sadomasochism.  There are even some persons who identify as “trans” who are still attracted to the opposite biological sex.  How, then, does one identify a person as one gender or the other?  Where does one draw the line?

There is, of course, a formal psychological definition of “Gender Identity Disorder.”  But once the diagnosis has been made what is the most appropriate treatment?  Logically one could go either one of two ways: either change the body to conform to the mind or change the mind to conform to the body.  The approach favored by the LGBT community is the former: undergo hormone treatment or even sex reassignment surgery to make the body conform more closely to the person’s psychological identity.  But surgery cannot make the person a perfect specimen of the opposite sex: some of the old features are bound to remain.  This puts the transgender person in an even more awkward position: he does not conform entirely to either gender.  He is neither truly male nor female.

But an even deeper problem remains: what caused the gender identity disorder in the first place?  There is no hard evidence that the underlying cause is biological or hereditary.  Rather the available evidence seems to suggest problems in early childhood socialization.  And if that is the case surgery is unlikely to cure the underlying problem, and will leave the “trans” as frustrated as ever.  Is this really a wise or humane way to handle the situation?

Why, then, would we attempt surgery?  Part of the problem is that modern secular psychology does not have a clearly defined value system, and thus has difficulty defining social norms.  Psychiatrists are inclined to think in terms of the patient’s own inward sense of well-being.  Since most people do not want to change the way they think, the therapists tries to find a way to change or cope with circumstances.  In the case of a “trans” person that means transitioning to the opposite sex, enabling the person to live out his fantasy.

But most likely there is a philosophical agenda here as well – the idea, borrowed from Existentialism, that we exist as autonomous individuals and that we should be free to define our own “essence” or identity (“existence precedes essence”).  Seen from that perspective social norms are artificial and oppressive.  This perspective was taken up by the Feminist movement and from there spread to the LGBT community.  It is no longer a matter of “fitting in”; rather it is a matter of “being accepted.”  Hence the calls for “diversity” and “inclusiveness.”

The underlying premise is atheism – that there is no such thing as Intelligent Design, that we live in a meaningless, purposeless universe, and thus are free to define ourselves any way we please.  But this creates a huge problem for society as a whole.  If each individual is free to define himself any way he wishes, and should not be required to any particular gender role, who will assume the duties and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood?  Marriage, by its very nature, is confining and demands self-sacrifice.  And marriage is the very foundation of society.  Without it there is no stable environment in which children can grow and mature.  Human society as a whole depends on the interaction between the sexes, and society simply cannot function in the absence of standards and norms of some kind.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27; NKJV).  We do not, in fact, live in a meaningless, purposeless universe – it was created by an intelligent Supreme Being.  Try as we might we cannot escape God’s created order.  We ignore God and His purposes for us at our own peril.

Are we witnessing the collapse of Western civilization?

THE END OF GENDER?

           This week the world stared in astonishment at the cover of Vanity Fair magazine which features former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner posing as a woman in a corset. The sight has prompted admiration from some, sympathy from others, and outrage from still others.

What are we to make of all of this? What is in view here is a stark contrast between two opposing views of human sexuality. But behind these two different views of sex there looms an even larger contrast between two different worldviews. Jenner’s actions strike right at the core of human existence: who are we as human beings, in what kind of universe do we live, and is there any universal set of norms to which we are required to conform?

We need to be perfectly clear about one thing: genetically Jenner is still a male human being – he has both “X” and “Y” chromosomes. He was born a male, he competed successfully as a male athlete, he was married to women three times and fathered several children by them. Physically he was a normal male human being. His decision to transition to a woman was based on his feelings and emotions.

Jenner says that he has suffered since youth from Gender Dysphoria, or Gender Identity Disorder, as it used to be called. What makes this claim a little hard to accept is that boys with Gender Dysphoria are typically effeminate, whereas Jenner went on to star in athletics. He did engage in cross-dressing years ago, but that might indicate a different condition known as “transvestic fetishism.”

But let us assume for the sake of the argument that Jenner really does suffer from Gender Dysphoria. There is a great deal of discussion and debate about what exactly causes this disorder, and many psychologists will say that it is still something of a mystery. There is evidence, however, that it is the result of a problem in early childhood socialization. An individual’s gender identity develops between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, and during that time a child’s relationships with his parents and peers is critical. In boys an overly possessive mother and a detached father is a common pattern.

But granted the diagnosis, what should the treatment have been? Logically we would think that there would be two choices: 1) try to change the mind to match the body, or 2) change the body to match the mind. Jenner chose the latter course.

But Jenner’s decision raises some profoundly disturbing moral questions. Does it matter what gender we are? Are we free to choose whatever gender we like? What kind of impact does that have on other family members, or society at large?

The transgender movement is the logical outgrowth of radical feminism, with its denial of gender roles. Radical feminism, in turn, is rooted in Existentialist philosophy, which held that existence precedes essence. In other words, as we come into the world (presumably through a blind, impersonal, natural process) we simply exist – we have no particular identity or “essence.” Our identity we acquire through our interaction with other human beings. Therefore in order to be truly free and equal we must create our own identity and force society to accept us as we are. Thus feminist pioneer Simone de Beauvoir could write, “it must be repeated once more that in human society nothing is natural and that woman, like much else, is a product elaborated by civilization . . . Woman is determined not by her hormones or by mysterious instincts, but by the manner in which her body and her relation to the world are modified through the action of others than herself” (The Second Sex, Conclusion). Thus society must be changed in order for women to be truly free and equal.

But what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Should men be confined to specific gender roles? Why should anybody be constrained to think or act or dress a certain way – or sleep with a member of the opposite sex for that matter? Thus, the logic goes, Bruce Jenner should be allowed to change his gender if he so desires. The mere fact that he was born a biological male should not constrain him to be one as an adult.

All of this, however, presupposes that God does not exist, and that therefore there is no reason or purpose for anything in life. But what if God does exist? Everything then would have a specific purpose and meaning because it was created by an intelligent Supreme Being. Sex exists for a specific reason and purpose, and we are not free to manipulate it any way we want in order to suit our own selfish desires.

Gender, in fact, is something created by God. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them’ (Gen. 1:27; NKJV). Eve was created to be “a helper comparable to” Adam (Gen. 2:18,20), and together they were to “be fruitful and multiply” (1:28). Thus men and women are different from each other (by design), and they have different roles which complement each other. Thus together a husband and a wife form a functioning family unit. But in order for the family to function the way it is supposed to both the husband and the wife have to fulfill the specific gender roles assigned to them.

One might be tempted to look at Bruce Jenner and sympathize with him. But where does that leave the rest of society? If we create the impression that there are no rules, that anything goes, then no one will feel obligated to do anything he doesn’t feel like doing. How, then, will anyone make a marriage work or successfully raise children? In showing compassion for one person we create a dysfunctional society, and in solving one individual’s problem we create a myriad of other problems. The latter end is worse than the former. Can we as a society afford to suffer the consequences?

FEMINISM V. CHRISTIANITY

There is no doubt that Feminism has been one of the most influential forces shaping contemporary culture. It has altered the relationship between the sexes and with it the structure of the family. What is more, it has provided inspiration for the gay rights movement. “Equality” has become the byword of our generation.

The emphasis on equality is very much in keeping with the spirit of American democracy, which probably explains why the logic of women’s and gay rights seems so irresistible. Don’t we all believe in fair play? Why should anyone be discriminated against? Shouldn’t we be tolerant of others?

The relationship between Feminism and Christianity, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. Throughout the Bible women play a subordinate role to men, and wives in particular are exhorted to be subject to their husbands. Feminist theologians have resorted to exegetical gymnastics to explain away these passages, but their explanations look forced and contrived. Most mainline Protestant denominations now ordain women and in some cases even practicing homosexuals. In the final analysis these churches has sold out to secular thinking.

Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir

It was the great feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir who put her finger on the real issue. In the introduction to her classic work The Second Sex, de Beauvoir describes the predicament in which women typically find themselves. As human beings they have a natural desire to be free and independent. But as she exists in human society she is most often consigned to a subordinate role. The question then becomes, how can she achieve genuine self-fulfillment.

All of which raises a profound question about the nature of reality itself. De Beauvoir asserted that “The biological and social sciences no longer admit the existence of unchangeably fixed entities that determine given characteristics . . . Science regards any characteristic as a reaction dependent in part upon a situation.” Here she undoubtedly has in mind the Theory of Evolution. Nature, presumably, is in a constant state of flux. That being the case, there is nothing in the ultimate nature of things requiring a woman to be “feminine.” That is just an artificial role forced upon her by society. De Beauvoir then notes: “Yes, women on the whole are today inferior to men; that is, their situation affords them fewer possibilities. The question is: should that state of affairs continue?” Her answer, of course, is “no.”

But de Beauvoir assumes that a woman is “a free and autonomous being like all human creatures.” But is she, or all other human beings for that matter, “free and autonomous” in reality? What if we were actually created by a Supreme Being? What if there really is such a thing as Intelligent Design? Would we still be “free and autonomous”?

The biblical answer is an emphatic “no,” and herein lies the major difference between biblical Christianity and contemporary secular thought. We are here on this planet by design and purpose. It is our Creator who determines the conditions of our existence, and that includes, among other things, gender roles. None of us are free to live unto ourselves, but each of us, as human beings, male and female alike, are required to live our lives for the glory of God and the greater good of humankind. Marriage is an institution ordained by God, and it entails a lifelong commitment with definite responsibilities for both husband and wife.

Are gender roles artificial and man-made? Then so are women’s rights. Both presuppose a fixed moral order to the universe, derived ultimately from a Supreme Lawgiver. Take away the Lawgiver, and nothing is left but the law of the jungle. No one would be in a position to question the way things actually exist now. Who says women have “rights”? The U.S. Supreme Court? The King of Saudi Arabia? On the secular view of things, what you see is what you get.

Ultimately both our rights and responsibilities derive from God. Our proper goal in life is to be the human beings, the men and women, that God intended us to be.

We did not bring ourselves into existence.