Deacon Fournier weighs here in on the latest attack on democracy by our unelected judges.
On Tuesday, May 20, 2014, Federal US District Judge John E Jones III of Pennsylvania discarded marriage to “the ash heap of history.” Those were his very words! Of course he hid them in the judicial sophistry which now accompanies these frequent acts of judicial imperialism. He maintains he is opening the door to the oxymoron called “gay marriage” and claimed to be somehow liberating out entire social order because, in his words, “We are a better people than what these laws represent”. The laws he is referring to are the laws which the people of Pennsylvania passed in 1996 defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Of course, those laws also reflected the Natural Moral Law, the Bible, the Christian and Jewish tradition -and almost every other major religious tradition. The laws concerning marriage between one man and one woman cross cultural and religious lines and are universally accepted precisely because they are true and they serve the common good.
What is so astounding is that judges in state after state are over turning the democratically determined will of the people and Americans are powerless to do anything. Un elected officials are deciding not only the law of the land, but the definition of marriage. They do so without the consent of the people and in direct violation of the will of the people. Witness the tyranny that is always used to enforce a shallow secularist ideology.
I haven’t commented on this recent spate of rulings, because what’s the point? We all know the fix is in. We all know where this is going. What ticked me off about this particular ruling is the repulsive, self-congratulatory moral triumphalism of Judge Jones. Read his entire ruling. The cliched prose almost approaches kitsch at times.
Does Judge Jones really think that the sexual complementarity of marriage, which has been the basis of marriage in all places and in all times, until only two decades ago, is fit for history’s garbage dump? Does he really think that the Christian ideal of marriage, whose time may have passed but which is still strongly believed by many Americans, is so odious that it, and those who believe in it, must be spoken of so contemptuously in a ruling? Yes, he does. This kind of radicalism is familiar, but it must be said that Robespierre was a much better writer.
It is almost a cliché now that Christians and all those who oppose same sex marriage are ‘on the wrong side of history.’ I do not dispute the assertion if by ‘history’ we mean the train of cause and effect set in motion by our deeds but escaping our control. Popular opinion is shifting rapidly, fueled by relentless media promotion and by the perception of unstoppable momentum. Same sex marriage is legal in seventeen (or is it eighteen?) states and the District of Columbia, and the Attorney General has announced that the federal government will honor those unions. State attorneys general in a number of other states, following the Obama Administration’s lead in ignoring laws it doesn’t like, have declared that they will not enforce the same sex marriage bans in their own states. Courts across the nation are taking their cues from the specious reasoning of Justice Kennedy in U.S. vs Windsor and striking down those bans as fast as they can. And Ross Douthat has thrown in the towel. Same sex marriage, awaiting the fall of all but the last few dominos, is for all intents and purposes already the law of the land.
Judge Jones in Pennsylvania says traditional marriage will be consigned to the “ash heap of history” Michael Hanby frames the discussion as Christians being on the wrong side of history:
We must recognize first of all what this appeal to the inevitability of history is. It is not an argument but a ‘conversation stopper’ designed to put an end to argument by urging opponents of same sex marriage to resign themselves to a fate which they are powerless to resist and exempting advocates of ‘marriage equality’ from the burden of having to think about, much less defend, their position with depth or rigor. And by placing opponents of same sex marriage beyond the pale of progress and civilization, it encourages those who fancy themselves on the ‘right side of history’ to treat their opponents with contempt. The appeal to history is thus a nifty little piece of rhetorical violence, a ‘performative utterance’ that seeks to bring about the fate that it announces and to excuse the opposition’s loss of agency as the inevitable triumph of justice.
G. K. Chesterton provides a classic refutation of “the boast of certain writers that they are merely recent.” In All Things Considered he writes,
It is incomprehensible to me that any thinker can calmly call himself a modernist; he might as well call himself a Thursdayite. But apart altogether from that particular disturbance, I am conscious of a general irritation expressed against the people who boast of their advancement and modernity in the discussion of religion. But I never succeeded in saying the quite clear and obvious thing that is really the matter with modernism. The real objection to modernism is simply that it is a form of snobbishness. It is an attempt to crush a rational opponent not by reason, but by some mystery of superiority, by hinting that one is specially up to date or particularly “in the know.” To flaunt the fact that we have had all the last books from Germany is simply vulgar; like flaunting the fact that we have had all the last bonnets from Paris. To introduce into philosophical discussions a sneer at a creed’s antiquity is like introducing a sneer at a lady’s age. It is caddish because it is irrelevant. The pure modernist is merely a snob; he cannot bear to be a month behind the fashion.
Progressivism is the unthinking assumption that we must be getting better and better every day in every way. That which is new is good. That which is old is bad and must be destroyed. This assumption is, in turn, based on the acceptance of evolution–not as a scientific theory–but as a theory of everything. If all of nature is continually evolving upward into something better and better, then it must be so in all things: our wonderful society cannot possibly be doing wrong and we must be getting better and better because that is simply the way things are.
This fallacy is dangerous because we are then blind to our faults, blind to our pride, blind to our cruelty, blind to our prejudice, blind to just about everything except the latest idea and the current ideology. This fallacy cuts loose the anchors, destroys the checks and balances of history and condemns us to repeat the tragic and disastrous mistakes of history because we have already decided that those people, those events and all that “dumb old stuff” don’t matter.
They’re all on the ash heap.
I’m left to ponder the image from the New Testament of Gehenna. It was Christ’s image for hell and it was the ever burning ash heap outside the city of Jerusalem.
I’m also left to ponder what else and who else may one day be consigned to such an ash heap.