Am Imagined but Instructive Dialogue on Supposed Gay Marriage

This is a dialogue constructed by Dr. J. Budziszewski. (Boojee-shefski) He earned his doctorate from Yale University in 1981 and teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, in the Departments of Government and Philosophy where he specializes in the relations among ethical theory, political theory, and Christian theology. Dr. Budziszewksi is arguing from Natural Law, not religion, or Christianity in particular. My own view is that the argument against same-sex marriage is to be taken to the market place of ideas on the basis of its rationality. In other words, the arguments used are open to any person who desires to think and move past simply desire, prejudice, tradition or even a conservative or liberal bent.


I’d been tied up with students all morning. No sooner did student number ten leave than student number eleven appeared. It was Theresa.

“Hi, Professor Theophilus. This isn’t about your course. Have you got  a few minutes anyway?”

“Fewer and fewer, it seems.  Are there still a lot of students out there waiting?”

“The hallway’s empty.”

“I must have scared the rest away.  Come on in.”

She plopped down, but instead of speaking, she grinned at me.

“What’s funny?”

“I read in the Pill about those students chanting slogans outside your classroom.”  The Pill is the student newspaper.  I’d given an interview the day before, opposing so-called gay marriage.  You can guess the rest.

“Have you come to afflict me too, O my tormentor?”

“No, I’m on your side.  In my nine o’clock class, half the students tried to shout me down for agreeing with you.”

“Your instructor didn’t keep order?”

“Are you kidding?  Professor Thanatos says ‘I have one rule for class discussion: Survival of the fittest.'” She shrugged.  “Mom and Dad taught me to be thick-skinned.  When someone tries to keep me from being heard, I just stand up and talk a little louder.”

“How can I help you this morning?”

“I’m not satisfied with the way I presented my case, so I thought I’d go straight to the horse’s mouth.  That’s you.”

I considered neighing, but thought better of it.

“Could I just lay out my argument step by step?”  she asked.  “As soon as you spot a problem, you can say ‘Stop’ and I’ll stop.”

I smiled.  “Just what I was about to suggest.”

“Okay.  Homosexual acts are morally wrong because — ”



“Yes.  I agree that they’re morally wrong, but that’s not the place to start.  You probably don’t need to make that case at all.”

“Why not?”

“Because the question on the table concerns enacted law — marriage law drawn up and enforced by the government — not moral law.”

“Shouldn’t they be related?”

“Certainly, but not in the way you’re thinking.  It’s not a moral requirement that everything immoral should be illegal.”

“Why not?”

“One big one is that the government’s job is to care for the common good, not the individual good.  For example, it’s immoral to be a glutton, but the law doesn’t keep tabs on how many rich desserts you eat.  It’s immoral to get drunk, but the law doesn’t pay much attention if you do it in the privacy of your home.  Now if you get drunk before flying a commercial jet, that’s a different matter.  Are you with me here?”

“I guess so.”

“Another big reason is prudence.  The law should encourage moral virtue, but if you try to suppress every vice all at once, you may end up making things worse.  Think of what happened during Prohibition.  A good rule of thumb is to concentrate on the worst vices, and proceed with caution.”

“I guess I agree with that too, but this is pretty discouraging.  If I can’t go directly from ‘X is immoral’ to ‘X should be illegal,’ then how can I argue against gay marriage at all?”

“It’s easier than you think.  You just have to be specific about the kind of law you’re talking about and the moral purpose behind it.  So what kind of law are we talking about?”

“Marriage law, of course.”

“Then here’s your first question.  Why should we have laws about marriage in the first place?”

“To strengthen marriages.  Why else?”

“I’ll accept that answer.  Question two.  Why should lawmakers care whether or not marriages are strong?”

“I don’t see how you can have strong families without strong marriages, Prof.”

“Another good answer.  Question three.  Why should lawmakers care whether or not families are strong?”

“Because the family is the basic unit of society.”

“If that’s all you say, most people won’t understand what you mean.  Spell it out.”

“Isn’t it obvious?”  she said.  “Families produce kids.  They shelter and nurture them and teach them how to be good.  If that goes well, then the kids grow up, take on social responsibilities, get married and form new families.  If it goes badly, then either they don’t grow up, or they grow up to be irresponsible and have dysfunctional families.  Either way, everyone suffers.  The society might even die out.”

“Ultimately, then, the reason we have marriage laws is the building up of society, generation by generation, through procreation.  Children need mothers and fathers, and that’s just what husbands and wives become.  Right?”


“Then here’s your first question.  Why should we have laws about marriage in the first place?”



“Now homosexual unions are irrelevant to that purpose, aren’t they?”  I asked.  “We’re not talking about whether they’re bad or good.  You may think they’re abominable, or you may think they’re the best thing since sliced bread.  The point is that they have nothing to do with the purpose for giving legal recognition to marriage; they don’t keep the great wheel of the generations turning.”

“So I ought to be able to present this argument even to people who don’t see anything wrong with homosexual acts.”

“That’s right.  But are you ready for the next step?”

“There’s a next step?”

“Of course.  You have to anticipate possible objections to the argument.  You have to be ready to respond to them.”

“Objections like what?”

“Coming up with them is your job.  You’re the student whose classmates have been ganging up on you.”

“But you’re the professor who gets chanted at by campus radicals.”

“Nice try,” I laughed, “but I’m not the one who needs help!  No more games.  State a possible objection.”

“Well,” she said, “here’s one.  “We’ve been saying that homosexual unions are irrelevant to the purposes of marriage laws because they’re sterile.  Right?  But sometimes the union of a man and a woman is sterile too.”

“That’s true,” I said, “but the tendency of male-female union is to produce children.  It’s sterile only when something interferes with that tendency.  Homosexual union can’t be anything but sterile.”

“How about this, then?  In a sense, you can get around sterility — by adoption, or maybe by sperm donation.  Someone might say ‘See?  Homosexual unions aren’t irrelevant to the purposes of marriage laws after all.  Gay couples can’t produce children, but they can raise them.’  How are you going to get out of that one?  I can’t see arguing that a lesbian can’t love her child.”

“The problem with a pair of homosexuals raising children isn’t that they couldn’t love them; it’s that Moms and Dads are different, and children need one of each.  Having ‘two Moms’ or ‘two Dads’ just isn’t the same.  This is common sense, but a large and growing body of sociological research backs it up.”

“I buy that,” Theresa ventured, “but some people don’t agree with what we’ve said about the purposes of marriage laws.  They say marriage isn’t about procreation, but about love.  I don’t think I’d want to argue that homosexuals can’t have genuine affection for each other.”

“Professor Theophilus,” Theresa asked, “these are great arguments — but do you have any ideas for getting people to listen to them?”

“That,” I replied, “is much harder.”

“You don’t have to,” I said.  “The crucial point is this.  Of course love is crucial to the procreative partnership of the husband and wife.  But the law isn’t interested in their love per se.  What it’s interested in is the procreative partnership.  That’s what it’s protecting when it establishes the legal status of matrimony.  If affection outside of the procreative context were enough to create eligibility for that status, then you may as well say that I should be married to my dog, my cat, and my fishing buddies.”

“I can think of one more objection,” Theresa said.  “A gay activist might argue ‘If you insist on thinking that the only reason for marriage laws is to protect the procreative partnership, go ahead.  Don’t let me stop you.  But be serious now.  What would it hurt to let homosexuals get married?  After all, it’s no skin off your nose, and it would mean so much to so many of us.”

I smiled grimly.  “Both premises are false.  In the first place, Theresa, it’s not true that so-called gay marriage would mean ‘so much to so many.’ Very few homosexuals really do want to be considered married.  In localities where ‘civil partnerships’ have been made available, for example, only a small percentage of homosexuals have actually taken advantage of them.  This suggests that the reason activists seek legal change isn’t to get married, but to get approval.  In the second place — and this is much more important — it’s not true that changing the marriage laws wouldn’t take any skin off society’s nose.  The law is a school.  For better or for worse, it teaches.  What principle would the marriage laws teach if they did offer the legal status of ‘marriage’ to homosexual unions?”

She answered, “The principle that marriage and procreation have nothing to do with each other.”

“Would that be good for families?”

“I think it would be terrible for them.”

“Then you know how to answer the objection.”

“Professor Theophilus,” Theresa asked, “these are great arguments — but do you have any ideas for getting people to listen to them?”

“That,” I replied, “is much harder.”

Ten Most Important Documents in American History

The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights are specifically EXCLUDED , since they’d be in the top three practically by default.


A Prayer for Old Age – William Butler Yeats

A Prayer For Old Age
William Butler Yeats

GOD guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;
From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song’s sake a fool?
I pray — for word is out
And prayer comes round again –
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.

Low Information People – in Church

There’s a new moniker going around that refers to voters who are “low information people.” In some cases this is code for minorities without making a specific reference to any group in particular. It is a way to avoid the accusation of rascism.

But apart from the political use of the term, it is an apt description of many a church discussion and many a church decision. Sometimes it can seem that it doesn’t even really matter what the Bible says – all of the Bible, that is. In some cases a favorite Bible verse might be used, as if it stood for all that the Bible has to say about a subject. “Do not judge that you be not judged” easily slips into any conversation as if that was the end of a matter. But are there not other verses that call the church to self-examination and exercising responsibility for its corporate health? Conscience demands that we use all of the Bible when applying any one part of the Bible.

Another case of “low information” response is that the church is about being made right with God through faith alone, and therefore any emphasis on behavioral standards is legalism and a light from our Protestant heritage. Surely we are made right with God through faith in Christ apart from works of the law. But as surely this faith alone is not faith that is alone. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

Is this not also true with respect to the continuing debate over the sovereignty of God and the free will of humanity? Any fair view of the issue must admit that both sides have texts that support one position or the other. To quote one text as settling the issue for all time doesn’t make it.

It’s all about balance, and keeping balance is the hardest thing to do is life and ministry. It is just too easy to slip over into a favorite verse or a traditional position without thoughtful interaction with biblical texts that seem to teach otherwise.

In no case does obeying one verse mean that we must end up disobeying another verse that seems to teach the opposite. No one verse or text can teach all that the biblical authors would have us consider. In putting it all together, one can begin to sense a trajectory of the biblical teaching that rises from the mass of texts and that needs to be applied with sensitivity to any particular situation.

Surely it is the job of a Pastor to be a voracious reader of the Bible so that the whole of its counsel bears at all times on every discussion and deliberation. And surely laymen should consider the breadth of biblical exposure information the Pastor brings to any one situation. All are invited to drink deep of the biblical fountain, but in fact many do not have the opportunity to read as widely or as deeply as clergy are responsible to do. I have been amazed by the number of times someone has quoted me a Bible verse that they think checks my understanding of the Bible, as if I don’t know that verse. Most Pastors would know that verse – and many others, too. But it is the whole of the biblical revelation with which we have to do and which we are responsible to obey.

Matt Taibbi Reflects on ZD30

This is worth the read. War is dirty business. What is our responsibility for how dirty we become in a dirty business? I have not served in the military and cannot speak for the soldier class who daily face in practice what is to me an imagination. My hats are off to those who enter this one to protect and defend. But I do have an interest as a civilian (and in the USA civilians remain in control of the military) what is done on my behalf and in my name. If I question such, I must do so civilly, deferentially, and respectfully before those who march at my own request. Yet, having asked them to march, I do not bequeath my responsibility to ethically engage the means of warfare.

See Taibbi’s article here.

Is there no end to the damage former Sen. Chris Dodd can do?

Chris Dodd is finally out of the Senate. His role in the financial meltdown that began in 2008 has been very well documented by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone. He wasn’t the only player, for sure. But if you wanted to find the one person in the government to criminalize for the crisis, surely Chris Dodd would be your man.

Unwilling to limit his damage just to government, Dodd has moved to the entertainment industry to force shutdown of websites under the guise of SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act.

From Wikipedia

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. RepresentativeLamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property andcounterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the websites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the websites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Proponents of the legislation state it will protect the intellectual-property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign-owned and operated websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign-owned and operated websites, and citing examples of “active promotion of rogue websites” by U.S. search engines, proponents assert stronger enforcement tools are needed.

Opponents state the proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage.

Aaron Swartz led the activist opposition to this rather blanket authorization to shut down the free flow of information over the web rather than take due legal process. He identified Christ Dodd as the man behind the monied entertainment industry’s move to move through “webdom” and shut down any site it deemed threatening to its economic interests.

When monied interests need a front man, Chris Dodd has always been their man. There is no end of the damage he has done and continues to do.

Cornel West has a problem with Obama using MLK’s Bible for inauguration

Prophets are always useful to the generations that follow. I have to admit that majority white culture quoting him promiscuously has always bothered me. My side of the street spent so much time standing against full integration that it just doesn’t seem right that we cozy up to MLK’s legacy and quote him as if we were always easy with his words. It has to bother African Americans to see him co-opted by dominant culture. It was dominant culture that he stood against.

Cornel West says it best.

My Preferred Ending for Spielberg’s “Lincoln”

Yes, I know it is a bit late, but I finally got around to going to see Lincoln. Only about six people in the theatre, so I had my choice of seats.

It is hard to imagine a finer piece of acting than that of Daniel Day-Lewis. During the film there was no doubt that he was Lincoln. Talk about channeling!! Even the voice, which all reported to be not sonorous, and was not in the film, seemed to fit the man, along with the slightly bent walking posture. I was wondering how Spielberg would play Lincoln’s angrier moments. He made that work. I was especially concerned how he would work Lincoln’s fame for story telling without making him look hokey and keeping me engaged without rolling my eyes during a seeming “time out” while Lincoln was allowed to do his thing. Handled masterfully. He made the storytelling work and avoided the trap of making Lincoln look like a poser.

Is there ever a movie where Tommie Lee Jones doesn’t take center stage!! I am a Jones fan. Powerful role played well in depicting Thaddeus Steven. Sally Fields rose above her “you like me, you really, really like me” moment at the Oscars some years ago. Ever since then it’s been hard for me to not conjure up that moment when she is on film. But she kept the Oscar ghost away in Lincoln.

There a couple of things I would have played differently, but they are minor and simply a preference.

1. The role of religion in Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation could have received the prominent role that it did,in fact, play. Lincoln and his wife slid into a tunnel of despair following Willie’s death. Lincoln was revived through the comforts of Christ that came to him through the ministrations of Reverend Phineas D. Gurley of Washington’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. This was the crowing part of that process that led to Lincoln’s conversion, a conversion that he was ready to give witness to on Easter Sunday by receiving baptism, cut short by his assassination on Good Friday. I do not fault the movie for not following this trail for it was too religious of a journey for the movie going public to focus on. It would have swallowed up the story. However, in the PBS series, God in America, this dynamic is traced clearly and receives its due, all the more interesting for it being a PBS production. Stephen Prothero, a central contributor to the series and a professor of Boston University, and former Evangelical, is sensitive to the religious dimensions of the American story, that it is essentially a religious story. It demonstrated that Lincoln became that one President who most interjected Christianity into the national political scene, in significant measure because of his own conversion while in the White House.

2. I preferred the film to end with the President going down the stairs of the White House to attend the play at Ford’s Theatre, shot from behind in the evening. It would have been a moment when the President was walking off the stage into that other world of American history and lore. I fully expected the movie to end right there. The drama at Ford’s Theater, powerful in its own right, would have received its due and yet not distracted from the story line. It all seemed so disconnected in the movie.

Great movie. It has my nod over The Hobbit.