Thursday, November 17, 2016
The Triumph of Taste. . .
Carl Trueman, Rusty Reno, Robert George, and Archbishop Chaput have been talking about this and Trueman may be right in assigning the difference to the aesthetic of the argument. Could it be that the resurrection of the pro-life cause has come not on the basis of intellectual or moral argument but simply as a fruit of the aesthetic of baby parts, perfectly formed fetuses ripped from the womb, and the ghastly image of an aborted baby left to die or killed because the procedure did not do the job?
I will admit to wondering why the apparent success of the pro-life cause has not translated into the arenas of same-sex marriage or transgender rights. Could it be that the success has been largely because of the grisly images that accompany the right to abort and not because of the triumph of the sanctity of life arguments? It makes you think.
The imagery of same-sex marriage is driven by smiling faces of people who have been underdogs in the political arena and who demand for themselves the same rights long accorded to male grooms and female brides. They are the images of sons and daughters, grandchildren, and grandparents, middle aged and thirty-somethings who have been forced to hide their identity, denied the right to be who they are, and prevented from living "normally" in their affection for another of the same sex. How can morality argue against such a picture? How can family order and thousands of years of Judeo-Christian practice stand up against such an earnest picture crying out for justice. Could it be that these are correct and we have lost the moral argument simply on the basis of the graphic? How else could it be so easy to declare opposition to same-sex marriage untenable and the opponents deplorable?
The imagery of transgender rights is shaped by children who insist God got their gender wrong (at least for now), of a fashion trend in which Covergirl can have a Coverboy to display and sell its makeup, and of the faces of the genderless picture of so many around us who walk with us on the streets, wait on us in restaurants, and sit with us at the concert hall who eschew the ordinary marks of male or female identity. They are just people, we are told, and do not threaten anything. Live and let live? How else could explain how quickly we went from transgender being outside the mainstream to being perfectly normal -- so to speak?
But taste does account for so many differences. Preference is king over everything else. Even conservative churches appeal to preference and taste for worship styles, music, arts, and doctrine. Why not let preference and taste define what is moral, what is right, what is wrong, and what is normal? We adjust our phones, our tablet and laptops, our social media pages, and everything else to preference and taste? Why not shape morality, virtue, and vice by the same criteria?
The media have done an excellent job of mainstreaming those who once lived on the fringes or shadows and it seems we have lost the battle for traditional marriage and family largely through the aesthetic of it all. How will we gain the upper hand without such access to the media? Without the moral high ground (since traditional marriages fail and traditional families are just as screwed up as same-sex ones)? How will we reshape the aesthetic of this argument to rescue our cause as we have done in the area of abortion? I wish I knew. What I do know is that we better begin by acknowledging at least that the aesthetics are against us on every moral cause before us except perhaps abortion. Whether we can ever speak again in terms of morality, truth, and right and wrong I do not know. These are the areas where we might win the argument -- if only anyone were listening.
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Indeed, it is easy to become discouraged these days. The moral values which shaped our lives are under assault at a time often depicted as a Post-Christian era. I remember very well the turbulent 1960's, when American society almost came unhinged. Yet, many people I have known who came through that period remain faithful and unchanged, having rejected the false narratives of secular humanism and moral relativism taught by the so called enlightened engineers of social activism. The reason I am hopeful and still generally optimistic is because I know that the Bible reveals that permissiveness and immorality are historical social trends, and we as Christians are called to expose and confront evil in all generations, and share the lifesaving message of the Gospel. It is no easy task, but Jesus never said being a follower was a comfortable journey. You find even among many young people today, those who reject the values of this society. I think Christians need to remember we are mostly a minority and part of the remnant. Christianity may seem like a popular religion, but many who profess it do not practice it in reality. They are still mainly worldly people adhering to the morals of the day. We cannot change everyone to accept our beliefs, but we must guard ourselves lest we join the crowd and forget whom we are and to whom our loyalty lies.
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