Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Tag: Feminism

THE DISASTER OF ROE V. WADE

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Today makes the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.  It was a decision that profoundly changed America, that changed the values that guide us as a nation.  It short, it was nothing less than a cultural revolution.  In moral terms it was probably the most catastrophic decision since at least the Dred Scott decision of 1857 in which the Court held that African-Americans could not be citizens and had not rights which white men were bound to respect.

Roe v. Wade had far reaching social and cultural consequences.  The argument for legalized abortion is usually based on the idea of a “woman’s right to choose.”  Abortion, it is argued, involves a woman’s control over her own body, and that it should be a private decision between her and her physician.  But what about the fetus itself?  Is that just a part of the woman’s body, like her tonsils or her appendix?  Simple high school biology would tell us otherwise.  The reason abortion had been made illegal from conception was the realization that the fertilized egg has its own genetic makeup quite distinct from the mother’s.  The embryo undergoes a continuous process of development, and as it does so it acquires its own heartbeat and the ability to move on its own.  It is a distinct, living, human being.  How, then, can we justify taking its life?   Abortion amounts to infanticide in utero.

But this, in turn, raises a deeper moral question.  What makes killing wrong in the first place?  The Sixth Commandment reads, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13, Dt. 5:17; NKJV), and the Judeo-Christian tradition has always held that human life is sacred.  Human beings are created in the image of God, and thus killing a human being is not the same as killing a deer or a bear.  Roe v. Wade represents a decisive break with Judeo-Christian morality.

But what then?  What makes anything right or wrong?  Feminists argue that a woman has a constitutional right to have an abortion.  But does she really?  Where in the U.S. Constitution does it say anything at all about abortion?  The Court tried to argue that it was implied in a generalized right to privacy which, in turn, was supposedly implied in several other provisions of the Constitution.  But this was quite a stretch.  The tendency in modern times has been for the Court to treat the Constitution as a “living document” to be construed in different ways as the needs of society change.  But the problem with this approach is that it amounts to judicial tyranny – the Supreme Court can create law at will.  But the Constitution represents a social contract among the people – “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union . . . ,” and only the people have the right to change it.  It is not for the Supreme Court to read into the document what it will.

But suppose that the Constitution actually did stipulate a right to have an abortion (as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently suggested New State should put in its Constitution).  Would that make it right?  The U.S. Constitution, as it was originally written, tacitly recognized the existence of slavery, and stipulated that runaway slaves had to be returned to their masters.  But did that make it right?  What about the Nazi Holocaust, which was also official government policy?

What the Feminist argument amounts to is a denial of the existence of any higher, universal moral law.  It assumes that moral norms are man-made, and that we are not accountable to any Supreme Being.  But human societies have repeatedly shown themselves to all kinds of cruelty and injustice.  Does might really make right?

What we have today in America is a culture that is increasingly secular and amoral.  We think of ourselves as autonomous individuals acting in our own self-interest, without any respect to any higher moral principles.  This, in turn, has led to an increasingly lawless society.  Life is a matter of what we can get away with.

This lack of universal ideals has also led to identity politics.  Instead of seeing ourselves as sharing a common humanity, and as united as members of a single country, committed to the ideals of “liberty and justice for all,” we see ourselves instead as part of this or that oppressed minority group, engaged in a perpetual struggle against some other group or groups.  It was only a matter of time when white, working class people would begin to see themselves as an oppressed group; hence we have the ruse of white nationalism and Donald Trump.

But democracy cannot long endure under such circumstances.  Politicians need to be able to find common ground and reach a compromise, which is increasingly difficult when society is deeply divided over core values.  And people need an incentive to obey the law voluntarily – they need to be motivated by a higher moral law – that one needs to obey the law even when the police are not looking.  When that is lacking, when people are guided solely by individual self-interest, only a dictator can maintain order in society.

America is a very different country today than it was 46 years ago.  Roe v. Wade was a decisive break with cultural traditions held by Western Civilization for thousands of years.  It remains to be seen what the future will hold.

 

THE SECOND SEX

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Simone de Beauvoir

 

Review:

The Second Sex

Simone de Beauvoir

H.M. Parshley, trans.

Vintage Books, 1974

814 pp., pb.

 

The American publisher of The Second Sex calls it “the classic manifesto of the liberated woman,” and so it is.  Simone de Beauvoir was a longtime close associate of Jean-Paul Sartre, and as such was close to the center of the French Existentialist movement.  And yet in some ways she came to have an influence far greater and more lasting than of Sartre or Camus.  It is because her book really was destined to be “the classic manifesto” of the Feminist Movement, and as such it has had a profound effect on Western culture and society.

The book is quite lengthy (814 pages) and devotes a great deal of space to describing in detail the condition of womanhood from birth through childhood, marriage and motherhood.  It is a dreary picture of subservience and drudgery, of women not being able to reach their full potential as human beings due to the male domination of society.  Throughout it all she insists that there are no purely natural differences between the genders.  The apparent differences in behavior that we see in day to day life are the result of social pressure and conditioning.  It is human society, civilization, that has put women in this position, and if we could change society to permit the full development of women’s potential, women could compete with men on an equal basis.

De Beauvoir sees the problem, naturally, through the lens of Existentialist philosophy.  Throughout her discussion she sees herself as an autonomous being who seeks to be an active “subject” who “transcends” her natural circumstances to shape her own destiny, rather than a passive “object” who is trapped in the “immanence” of her environment.  The goal of life, then, is not “happiness,” which can be achieved by being a loyal and devoted family member, but liberty, in which you are free to pursue you own dreams and ambitions.

Throughout her book de Beauvoir emphasizes the role of environment as opposed to heredity in shaping the human personality; but she is opposed to any form of naturalistic determinism.  She scarcely mentions the role of hormones in influencing the way a woman thinks and acts.  “. . .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 relations to the world are modified through the actions of others than herself” (p. 806).  She concludes, then, that “woman is the victim of no mysterious fatality; the peculiarities that identify her as specifically a woman get their importance from the significance placed upon them.  They can be surmounted, in the future, when they are regarded in new perspectives” (p. 809).  Hence the impulse to write her book.

So according to de Beauvoir, what would an ideal society look like? She points to what the Soviet Revolution originally promised: women would be trained and educated exactly the same as men, and would work for the same wages.  “Erotic liberty was to be recognized by custom.”  A woman would be obligated to support herself financially, and “marriage was to be based on a free agreement that the spouses could break at will; maternity was to be voluntary, which meant that contraception and abortion would be authorized . . .,” and the state “assume charge of the children” (pp. 805-806).  In her discussion about abortion she goes into great detail about problem pregnancies, but scarcely mentions the moral problem involved in taking a human life.

De Beauvoir in particular paints a dreary picture of traditional marriage.  “Marriage is obscene in principle in so far as it transforms into rights and duties those mutual relations which should be founded on a spontaneous urge . . .” (p. 496).

The underlying worldview in all of this, of course, is an Existentialist one.  There is no God.  There are no divine, eternal essences that define reality.  We exist as autonomous beings and are free to choose our own individual destinies.

But what if God actually does exist?  What if we really are created beings designed to fulfill a divinely ordained purpose?  That would mean that the only way society as a whole can function properly, and the only way that we can find individual fulfillment and happiness, is by conforming to the will of the Creator.  In that case neither man nor woman is free just to “be himself,” to pursue his own selfish desires and pleasures.  Rather we are called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37, quoting Dt. 6:5; NKJV), and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39, quoting Lev. 19:18.  And love, in turn, requires that “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).  Love, the genuine kind of love that God requires, does not act in a selfish or lustful manner, but looks out for the wellbeing of others.   It honors commitments.  It is a self-sacrificing love, a love that imitates Christ.  It is not just that wives are to be subservient to their husbands; both husbands and wives are to be subservient to God.

In a sense, what de Beauvoir is advocating is the very essence of mankind’s rebellion against God.  She could not have stated it in starker terms.  But in the end we must all face divine judgment.

THE DUTY OF WIVES TO THEIR HUSBANDS

 

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Anthony van Dyck: Family Portrait

 

America has a marriage problem.  One out of every two marriages ends in divorce.  40% of all children are born out of wedlock.  The American family has clearly become dysfunctional.

Why can’t we make marriage work?  Part of the answer lies in feminism.  Radical feminists have attacked gender roles and put careers ahead of childbearing.  No-fault divorce fundamentally altered the character of marriage and destabilized the family.  But these are all symptoms of an underlying disease.  Our problem as Americans is that we are too narcissistic.  It is “me first” at the expense of everyone else.  And that mentality is a sure prescription for disaster in marriage.  Very few Americans, it seems, are willing to think in terms of the duties and responsibilities of marriage.

In Ephesians chapter 5 the apostle Paul address the subject of marriage.  In verses 22 through 24 he addresses the wives and in verses 25 through 32 he goes on to discuss the role and responsibilities of husbands.  He then concludes by saying “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respect her husband” (v. 33; NKJV).

Paul compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church, and interestingly, in this passage, he spends nearly as much space talking about Christ and the church as he does about husbands and wives.  And so Paul begins by telling the wives, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (v. 22), and then goes on to explain why: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.  Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (vv. 23,24).

Here, of course, Paul is referring back to what he had said earlier about Christ and the church.  In chapter 1 he had explained that God the Father had placed Christ in a position of authority over the all things, “and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (1:22,23).  Here the relationship between Christ and the church is compared to the relationship between a head and the rest of the physical body.  The head contains the brain – it is the head that gives direction to the rest of the body.  But the head is also vitally connected with the body; it does not function apart from it.

The role of the church, then, is to be subject to Christ.  He is the church’s Lord and Savior.  It is not for the church to decide for itself what it wants to do.  Our conscious aim must always be to please Christ – to do whatever He wants us to do.  The church is not a social club, and its aim should not be to pursue its own denominational distinctives.  Nor does it exist to make the pastor rich and famous.  Rather Christ himself should be at the center of everything that the church does.  We need to feel our dependence on Christ, to worship and adore Christ, to be subject to the will of Christ.  “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15) – not His suggestions, not His helpful advice, but His commandments.  If we refuse to do so, it is because we don’t really love Him.

Wives, then, are to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22).  The husband, we are told, is the wife’s “head . . .as Christ also is the head of the church” (v. 23).  Marriage is an intimate, hopefully loving, relationship.  The husband is supposed to be the leader, the wife the follower.  She works under his direction.  She was created to be “a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18), not his dictator or boss.

Paul concludes this section by saying, “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33).  The wife is to honor her husband as one who is in authority over her.

A loving husband will appreciate his wife’s opinions on various matters.  But ultimately it is he who must make the final decision.  And if a husband and wife are still arguing and fighting over the matter the wife is simply not submitting to her husband as Scripture has commanded her to do.  And is this not why so many marriages fail?  Wives will fuss and nag over this and the other thing (“When momma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy”), and fight to get their own way; but in the end they wind up destroying their marriages.  And then what have they gained?  Isn’t God’s way better?

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?

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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?