Category: Uncategorized


The Gnu on the Parker J. Cole Show:

I had the privilege to be interviewed on the Parker J. Cole Show, a much beloved Christian comment show in Detroit. My apologies about my sloppiness on the subject to you professionals. But I appreciate the opportunity to try to speak exoterically. Thank you, Parker Cole.

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The Alter Call of Cthulhu

I just saw a film version of HP Lovecraft’s classic tale. HP Lovecraft’s vision of Horror as a feature of the human predicament in the cosmos is a combination of Edgar Allen Poe, Herbert Spencer, and Soren Kierkegaard.

Film Reference: “The Call of Cthulhu

This tale is simply the secularization narrative of the Enlightenment but with special attention given to humanity’s denial of death. The only mercy for Lovecraft is the limits to science that allow us to avoid for awhile putting the various sciences together to yield the conclusion that the laws of the universe will eventually wipe away all of humanity and it’s achievements. The Demi-Alien Cthulhu represents the ad hoc ness of mankind in natural history and it’s meaninglessness.

But Lovecraft is no Russell facing despair in a pretense of virtue, he sees this fact as intolerable to humans drawing them either to reverse the successes of science or using it without sanity, proving that there is no successful coping mechanism for final death. This made his approach to capturing cosmic and existential horror – a worldview of horror and an eschatological kingdom of horror – utterly fascinating compared to other horror takes. Lovecraft is preaching through parables.

Ernest Becker considered this feature – the denial of death (in a study with that as a title) – to be the fundamental psychoanalytic dynamic. Neurotic functioning developed principally in the individual’s degree of success in avoiding reflecting on the significance of his own death. His complement to Christianity was that it’s Gospel made recognition of death a necessary condition for obtaining true happiness.

The Christian worldview does so by agreeing with Lovecraft as much as it disagrees with him. The world does display causes of wonder that seem to transcend mere concatenations of particles that serve as signposts to the divine, humans in particular. But these divine features are at the mercy of the regular mechanisms of the machine of nature which produces storm and quake showing neither malice or pity. Pascal captures this by saying that man, though but a reed crushed by the universe, is still greater than the universe that crushes it because man is a reed which thinks.

But Christianity explains this by saying that while the world is both beautiful and terrible, this is because the world is not mankind’s normal home. The abnormality of man’s relation to the world is further said to be accidental based on events in the archaic past, and reversible, based on events that take place in an eschatological new age. But the plausibility of these inaccessible events are groined in the accessible historical experiences of the original Israel which came into existence by prophetic revelation and miraculous intervention, and which recapitulated the same conditions that led to the distortion of all humanity.

From her history we learn of an original covenant made with the original couple in a privileged place made for them, but which they broke and thus were condemned to this natural world. But also from the specific grants given to the families and rulers of Israel, we learn that God had promised humanity from the beginning that there would be hope based on God’s future provision and thus to live by faith until then. This was also accomplished in accessible history in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of one Jesus Christ according to the promises made to Israel and attested by eyewitnesses. Because all are invited to join with God in his free promises of mercy in a new covenant we may look forward to a day when the oddness of humanities cosmic location will be overcome.

All this comes to the world like a signal from space from an alien race, but a much different one than the Thule Mythos, announcing the news that redemption is there if you want it. Good news is strange to a Lovecraft-like world. But that may not necessarily make it incredible. After all, even the point of Lovecraft’s fiction is still a surmise but Christianity is reconstructable news from its sources. Even if we must be skeptics about whether Lovecraft or the historic church is right, we may still be confronted with meaningful option to believe and hope in the offered Christ.

In this way, we understand how Christianity makes facing the existential threat a condition of happiness. Christ makes science with sanity possible in a Lovecraftian universe and Cthulhu turns out to be an accidental evangelist.

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The Internet is like the Ocean

The Ocean of the Internet

One thing about the history of mankind. Men have always been fascinated with the sea. They have dared to put their small skiffs only to see them capsized by a wave. They have learned to build bigger sturdier ships travel and fish on the ocean. And now ships can take passengers who don’t know how to sail themselves. The ocean calls out to our sense of adventure.

But while the sea is wonderful, it is also terrible. When you set out to sea, you are surrounded by the ocean and land seems far away. For awhile, it seems like the sea is our whole world. The ocean is choppy with waves coming from all directions and crash into each other as well as into you. Storms can suddenly appear, forcing you to batten down the hatches. Or you can become becalmed and slowly eat up your resources not knowing when the winds and waves will help you again.

The sea is beautiful but also dangerous. One can find delicious fish to eat or use for perfume. But you could also run into a great shark or a giant squid and get thrown over and attacked. The sea is not useful generally for survival. You can’t even drink the water. If you are thrown over or sinking, there’s no one else to help you. You can even become mystified by the compelling power of the ocean, even though you know better, and begin to act as if the whole world was covered by the sea since that is all you see and despair of ever finding land and home again.

Not many of us get to sail the sea but today we have a way for everyone to have access to the experience of feeling like you’re at sea – and that’s called the internet. Moreover, in our society, everyone will be forced into the internet to meet basic needs for education and career. But kids will naturally and spontaneously seek out the internet. We might say kids today are born into the internet like fish, just as we were born into the world of television and telephones.

But the internet is an immersive experience, flooding you with more data than you process. A recent figure I read said that the average kid’s daily intake of information from the internet was equal to more than 8,100 song lyrics. But further this data is an incoherent mass of diverse opinions from all over the world without any principled arbitration. If someone had come up with a machine to download data directly into a young mind so that it is irresistibly led to skepticism and relativism, it’s hard to imagine one that could be more effective than the internet. Also, the internet is wild. There is no regulation of it. You will be exposed to dangerous images and ideas and addictive pastimes sooner rather than later. The internet is like the sea.

But one cannot simply forbid the attempt to explore the sea. But if you do, there are some things to keep in mind.

(1) The most important skills for surviving and succeeding on the sea are learned on land. These include nautical skills but the also include deeper habits such as compassion, courage, and especially faith and hope. The sea is lawless and that is why it is especially attractive to people who are lawless. But in lawless places where we cannot appeal to an external law enforcer we can still be the dirt if people whose lives embody the law in our virtue and character. But character must be acquired in the laboratories of character – the home, the neighborhood, the church. Once those graces become second nature, they will serve you well in the great “out there”.

(2) While at sea, no one is guided by the sea. They know there is nothing solid about the sea. Instead, they look to the stars. The stars are fixed in their courses and provide a fixed map such that a sailor steer their course aright. When in the world of the internet, it is also important to have fixed reference points that are other than the internet. Such reference points are the great traditions and thinkers that have proven their reliability over time by already having faced and survived harsh experiences and questions. Many ideas have already proven themselves by this point and can serve to help you navigate the internet and sort the wheat from the chaff.

Just as the sun is supreme among the stars, so is Scripture among the traditions. The Bible was not born yesterday and has survived and thrived even more severe tests than others, and over several fresh rounds, including the present moment, in its claim to be God’s own Word. And even now, it is still speaking afresh into the present as anyone who will look may see. And the situation created by the internet reminds us yet again why there must be a norm of norms. The Bible is the sun around which all the other stars find their orbits. It will be a sure guide on the internet sea.

(3) Finally, when things go wrong on the sea, the sea cannot repair them. Remember, if your boat springs a leak – and it will – the only things that will help you fix the leak are the things you bring on the boat with you. If that fails you can always fix the leak by removing and using another piece of the boat. Thus, your boat can stay afloat by repairing itself with itself. By the same token, if your beliefs are shaken by something on the internet, you can introduce a temporary ad hoc explanation that will serve until you can bring yourself back to shore for a substantial repair. The alternative is to be lost at sea. But as long as your beliefs were originally well founded (and the policy of “innocent until proven guilty” is appropriate here) then to be obstinate in belief in the face of apparent difficulties is a virtue rather than a fault. On the other hand, the policy of abandoning ship at the first sign of leaks is not prudent. This obstinacy is better understood as a mode of humility rather than pride.

And so the internet is like the sea. Don’t forget to pray for those who become lost at sea, more and more every day.

The Future of the Gnuvembrist

Well, as is evident now, if the “Vembrist” part of the blog title is to have continuing relevance, it’s going to have to refer to future Novembers down the road, assuming we can hold on to our Republic for that long. For now, given the handful of remaining opportunities we still have, we must hold on to that hope.

However, the attempt to recover from this through political action is futile. I think that Romesh Ponuru has the best explanation going for the failure of the Romney candidacy, namely the stain on the GOP name as being the party of just the rich and not the party of the principles of the Republic, along with the failure of will by that Party to correct that impression.

The overt assault on the market by the administration tended to lead to a focus on the case of entrepreneurs, which while this includes mostly small business starters was interpreted as Bain Capitol clients. Since this is not an image most people have of themselves, which is yet another symptom of the effect our economic decline is having on our psychology, this message did not resonate with many average working folks. Even though there are many more and more substantial collateral benefits to the masses of facilitating entrepreneurship accrues the board, like creating more real jobs and innovating new sustainable career paths for new families, the administration’s claim that “we tried that before and it didn’t work” (even though it did work for Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton) was never really challenged by the campaign.

It’s too late to save November, but clearly to save future Novembers what we need to do is re-educate American adults about the contribution the Free Market ideals (as well as a strong national defense and the preservation of the old liberal arts) contribute to the Middle Class’s well-being.

During the 80’s, there was a return to more conservative principles in the ascendency of Ronald Reagan. But not so well known was that there was a Renaissance of educational writing for showing that conservativism was defensible and coherent world view based on critical thinking and reasonable risks. Works like “Wealth & Poverty” by George Gilder, “Capitalism & Freedom” by Milton Friedman, and “The Vision of the Anointed” by Thomas Sowell” were circulating and intellectually intriguing. I personally learned a lot in those days.

We need a similar thing today. Such a project runs afoul of the New Media as arguably the Internet facilitates lack of focus and lack of dialogue.

At any rate, it’s a necessary function that was systematically absent this time. With exception of works like “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg and “Radical in Chief” by Stanley Kurtz, there has been an apparent systematic reluctance on the part of the GOP to engage in any Gramsci-like alternative schooling to promote the rationale for their agenda. The Romney campaigns allergic reaction to campaigning on ideas is the tip of the iceberg.

Which means unless we do this ourselves, this will not get done. So I’m going to try to get into the discipline of posting something that connects the philosophy of classical liberalism (conservativism) to the new setting of the Middle Class. More than money, we need to circulate ideas. Of course, this will by from a candidly classical Christian perspective but the audience will not be limited to other Christians.

Truth in the Flesh

I am please and thankful to introduce Truth in the Flesh from Theocentric Publishing Group.

This book is an introduction to basic Christian Apologetics prepared for our adults here at our churchr in Syracuse and developed for Theocentric Publishing for everyone.  It covers both dealing with objections and putting forth arguments for Christian Theism.  It is meant for the average Christian Church member who may not have a lot of time.  Some of the things we talk about are:

–“Blank Stare” Arguments
— Christianity and Science
— Can Christianity be shown to be false?
— Do we have to be able to defend our faith?
— The authority of Scripture
— The Gospel as knowledge and as news

I hope you all find it useful.

Armchair Psychology and Missions

I want to compare and contrast some claims of three kinds of psychology: social psychology, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary psychology.  Then I want to offer some suggestions for Christian psychology.

 

Social Psychology: Peter Berger and others have argued that the impact of globalization has been detrimental for religion.  As the world, through greater and more rapid forms of technology, political power, and economics, has increased in the awareness of alternative cultures and worldviews it has undermined more and more the presumption of truth that each culture presumes about its own religious beliefs and ways of life.  The experience of alternative total interpretations of life has a strong psychological effect on individuals, which might be called the Rashomon Effect (from Akira Kurosawa’s great film “Rashomon” about an encounter witnessed from four different perspectives with four radically distinct ways of looking at the event).  One wonders what could make one’s own cultural view the true one or the right one.

 

The impact of this pressure of a larger but dissonant community is what Berger calls “the Heretical Imperative”.  By this Berger means that one’s own experience of one’s own religious beliefs after being exposed to alternative beliefs is simultaneously orthodox and heretical as those positions are subjectively felt.  As a member of one’s own culture, one is satisfied with being considered right-minded.  But as one who is aware that many others totally disagree, one feels like a heretic going against the faith of others.  As a result, one can no longer presume his own faith being aware of alternatives.  One must willfully choose but even if one chooses one’s own faith, there is a social psychological dissonance.  The believer is supposed to be submissive to the assured doctrine but one can only appropriate the doctrine by a willful act more characteristic of apostasy than submission.  How can one be a believer and an apostate at the same time?

 

As a result, the psychological tendency is to reduce tension by avoiding commitment to any religion.  Thus social psychological dynamics tend to move the person into religious or point of view skepticism.  Forces of globalization guide each person in the world to the sort of arguments provided by philosophical skepticism and methodological doubt.  Not surprisingly this tends to go hand in hand with a tendency toward naturalism, scientism, and emotivism.  Quantifiable results based on direct experiences are not so open to controversy and do not demand religious commitment.  One does not have to really choose between, say, quantum physics and general relativity as a commitment to ultimate truth even though they contradict each other.  They are both continued works in progress demanding no further doubling down.  But metaphysical commitments and ethical commitments are not judge by science or logical consistency and do not have a basis in anything like public truth.

 

It is important to see that there is a causal account of the prevalence of skepticism, naturalism, emotivism, and scientism that is not simply the logic of holding certain presuppositions.  Yet if these tendencies follow through without any qualification, it is clear that they will lead to one particular worldview, namely Pyrrhonic skepticism like David Hume’s and the related value placed on ataraxia or the absence of conflict.  In fact, ataraxia maximizing seems to be the dynamic.

 

Cognitive Psychology: On the other hand, we need to be careful about just looking at things from the point of view of social psychology.  For starters, the same Peter Berger has noted that even though the social psychology of the heretical imperative and the craving for ataraxia leads us to predict growing widespread secularization and the adoption of a secular worldview, this is not happening.  Secular societies are the exception not the rule, suggesting that there are other sources of causation that mitigate the effects of globalization.

 

Research in cognitive psychology suggests that humans are hard wired to believe certain things no matter what.  Developmental psychology has discovered that, no matter what culture they are raised in, children have a common pattern of cognitive development in theoretical and moral judgment making as they age.  Further, linguistic psychology has discovered that all humans seem to have a common capacity to learn a language from birth as if all humans shared a universal grammar behind the particular grammars of each language in the world.

 

It also seems that we are hard wired to form particular beliefs until later experiences lead us to give them up.  We tend to believe that things have a natural teleology, such as that the stomach is for digestion and gravity is for holding things down.  There are certain moral beliefs that seem immediately true such as that torturing babies for fun is wrong.  We have a belief that we are subsistent subjects that exist through time as well as rational agents that impinge upon the world of causes.  We also seem to believe that there are other people besides ourselves and that there are states of affairs in the world that must have adequate causes.  We also seem to begin life with a belief in God and other non-material agents that cause good or evil.  These beliefs are not necessarily irresistible but they do not just get erased either.

 

These beliefs point to a species-capacity to form the framework of a non-naturalist and non-skeptical worldview as a feature of humans as a natural kind.  Such beliefs reinforce each other since God could see to it that our belief forming mechanisms are reliable, the world is intelligible, and that morals have objective status and things have objective purpose.

 

Evolutionary Psychology: In light of these competing visions from two sub-disciplines, it is interesting to read that some evolutionary psychologists are arguing that the evolution of human psychology has brought to a point where the species no longer is adapted to its environment.  This seems other than expected since, if natural selection is true, survival over time is an indication of successful adaption over time.  This does not rule out the possibility that such a thing as failure to adapt may occur.  And so the discrepancy between the exogenic factors of the social environment that tend to lead to skepticism and the endogenic factors of the cognitive powers of the human species that tend to lead to deism at least.  It seems that we have a case of a nearly irresistible force meeting a nearly immovable object.

 

Of course, evolution will tolerate free riders – the appearance of traits that come up randomly but do not play a role that contributes to either the survival of failure to survive of the organism.  But the cognitive tendencies to such beliefs do seem to effect the behavior of humans in ways that impact survival (the Libyan attacks on Sept 11 for example) so again it is other than expected.  So it seems that at first glance, the evolutionary approach makes conceivable that species and social factors could be so diverse, but it also makes it seem incredibly odd.

 

Philosophical and Christian Observations:  Obviously I can take no credit for being any kind of psychologist.  There could be many places where my fundamental assumptions which are simply false and lead me astray.  I defer to the experts but don’t spoil my fun now.  But taking things as they stand, it seems that merely empirical approaches to psychology are coming up against each other.  Further, it seems that what is mystifying on the empirical level is what we might expect on a rationalist level.  Instead of tending to think of the situation as bottlenecked. It may make more sense on the view that some tendency toward certain knowledge is baked into the mind.  On this view, those tendencies are common to all members of the human species in virtue of their kind.  But since those tendencies require appropriate contexts to be actualized, it is not necessarily the case that all of them are actualized in all times and places.  But because there is a common feature in all properly functioning persons, the apparent perplexity of diverse narratives is potentially resolvable.  When one is perplexed, it does not seem to be the case that a clear answer is available but there may be “a light at the end of the tunnel” if we keep going further in.  It might be worth our while to endure dissonance to see what may come of it.

 

It is also clear that on closer examination, the Rashomon effect is not totally peculiar to our time.  Past cultures had to deal with rival perspectives and either survived and thrived or become taken up in a larger but still not a skeptical perspective.  Some cultures survived because their environment prevented interaction with other cultures.  And some cultures actively contained or eliminated rival cultures by force.  There is something to be learned from cases of flourishing cultures in rival environments that seem to have overcome to some extent the Rashomon effect and not sink into skepticism. 

One source of explanation for the divergence of cultures is the difficulty of incorporating different types of inquiry.  Certain methods and disciplines may tend to different conclusions and it becomes necessary to take a meta-disciplinary or genuinely philosophical perspective on the whole.  We see that illustrated here in the diverse explanatory tendencies of different parts of psychology.

 

Finally, in light of this, we see the point of Leslie Newbigin’s claim that though we are Christian in a culture once thought to be a Christian culture, we need to think and live more like cross-cultural missionaries.  This reminds us that the mandate for Christian mission necessarily incorporates a mandate for cross cultural exposure, that one of the engines of globalizing and one of the forces that lead to the Rashomon Effect is global missions.  Christ must know and he assures that in going and making disciples of all nations that he would be with us.  Christ calls us to experience the heretical imperative and to work through the perplexity and apparent contradiction of it.

UPDATE: The release of “Truth in the Flesh” has been postponed but is expected sometime in the Fall. I regret any inconvenience to you

The release date has been set for my ‘Print on demand” book; “Truth in the Flesh” an introduction to apologetics, for August 20. It will be published by Theocentric Publishing Group, a desk top publishing service.
The book is a polished up version of notes and reflections form my introduction to apologetics course used at church. The book covers both negative and positive apologetics. It deals with the problem of evil and suffering, science, other religions, wishful thinking objections and the falsifiability problem. Positively it argues that Christian theology is a science, that is a disciplined pursuit of truth, giving a complete argument for all the sources of Christian belief. Special features of the book include a discussion of “Blank Stare” arguments and the social dimensions of belief and doubt, guidance in using apologetics in personal conversation, and ends with a gospel presentation for non-believing readers. I use personal anecdotes from my own experiences in the academy to illustrate the material. Bibiographic sources are given in the footnotes fro anyone who wants to follow up and learn more about specific issues. The book avoids going into the presuppositional/classical/evidentialist debate but can be said to be in the spirit of the Old Princeton approach.

The book will appear then on Amazon.com but it will not indicate that the book is for sale. The book is for sale for $14.95. As soon as I have a link, I will post it. Thank you for your interest.

UPDATE: The release of “Truth in the Flesh” has been postponed but is expected sometime in the Fall. I regret any inconvenience to you.

Best! New! Release! Ever!

Man-Thing

A strange, true, and wonderful story about a comic book:

When I was a boy back in the 70s, comics were still a quarter or less. I used to read and collect them until the price topped 50 cents and my mom threw out my collection. But I had two scruples until then. One was that (with the exception of Jack Kirby’s move) Marvel heroes were better than DC, because they were so much more three dimensional and had emotional depth. And second, among Marvel titles I preferred the scifi (Deathlok, Kilraven) and horror (Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, Zombie, Morbius). But my all time favorite was Man-Thing.

Looking back, I realize that what really liked was Steve Gerber who wrote Man-Thing in the 70s. I used to think Man-Thing was way cooler than DCs Swamp Thing, because his condition was even more tragic. (See rule one.) But various reboot attempts of Man-Thing were flops. Only certain writers seem to have the knack for it. Alan Moore would do as much for Swamp Thing as Steve Gerber did for his Marvel Counterpart.

These days comics are driven by great writers and have now earned new respect. Unfortunately for me, my taste in these effusively creative types has declined. There seems to be too much excessive creativity and mind candy. The stream of comic flow is just a cataract of color and sentiment driven mainly by marketing gimmicks. Great writers can hold your attention but they don’t have much to say that isn’t approved by the mass media complex.

As I was thinking about this, I was recalling yet again that it must have been much the same when I was a kid but I was too young to see. I didn’t mind having my buttons pushed back then. But I couldn’t help thinking that there were genuine exceptions.

The one I recalled with the most fondness was Steve Gerber’s Man-Thing, especially one story that stood out in particular entitled “Song-Cry of the Living Dead Man”. That was blazed on my memory as being so much superior most anything I had ever read in a comic. I certainly forget most comics I read but I remembered that one the most vividly.

I often thought that I had a weird psychic power, which can probably be best explained as a statistical cognitive illusion, of anticipating reruns. I would think of a show or an episode of a show, and as if it Deja Vu I would be somewhere watching that very episode.

So imagine my sheer delight walking into my local comic shop today after just thinking about that very story earlier. As I looked at the usual over-choice of the same old new releases, what should I see but a new MT comic “The Infernal Man-Thing” and that the writer is the late Steve Gerber. That alone justified the $3.99 purchase. But when I opened the mag at this coffee place, I was stunned to see that it was the long in preparation sequel to the SCOTLDM story. Then, third hit, it also included in color the original story. The editor wrote an introduction to the book which explains how the book was possible which I’ll let you read on your own.

You owe it to yourself especially if you’re an old school comic hound to pick this book. Thank you, Marvel, for the greatest new release in the history of time. Verily.

In Support of Gay Marriage

On “gay marriage” – it may turn out, while I have been active, in such ways an ordinary citizen can be politically active in our society, for the defense of traditional marriage, that I may not be against gay marriage absolutely speaking. That is to say, that given the arguments I have been using, such as the argument from libertarianism below, there is a way of describing gay marriage such that I wouldn’t be against it’s legalization. The clue to that description is based on this post at the Volokh Conspiracy blog. 

http://volokh.com/2012/02/10/on-same-sex-marriage-and-sex-discrimination/

Caution: my take on this may not be quite the same as the author’s. 

The example is based on a “just so” story about the origin of Bat Mitzvah. In Judaism, the central importance of the Bar Mitzvah in the tradition fixes the fact that only boys, not girls, can receive it. However, for families who want to have something in parity or near parity for girls as well as boys. They thus contrive a Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Whatever this does for girls and their families, it remains clear that the ceremony is not and cannot be willed to be a true Bar Mitzvah. Some may be content with that. Others may insist that their girl gets an original Bar Mitzvah. But of course, this is impossible since discrimination by male sex is essential to the rite. To require the rite to change would be to war against the tradition. 

In this example, gay marriage is to traditional marriage as Bat Mitzvahs are to Bar Mitzvahs. Tradition (and I would add together with nature) fixes the meaning of marriage as only possible between a man and a woman and thus inherently discriminates on the basis of nature. But gay marriage acknowledges this yet creates this contrived rite to mend the harm of such discrimination being confused with discrimination not based on relevant facts, and to derive some sense of the dignity of the original to the benefit of those who are not able to appropriate it normally. In this sense, gay marriage, like Bat Mitzvah, is conscious of it’s contrived nature vis a vis it’s original and the derived nature of it’s value. The original has it’s value intrinsically or by being instrumental to some other intrinsic value defined by the tradition (or both). The contrived ceremony is instrumental to an alternative value chosen by the participants. 

Such a conception of gay marriage would clearly distinguish itself from traditional marriage but also preserve the meaning of traditional marriage as the prior and paradigmatic sense by which we understand the sense of the derivative rite of gay marriage. So rather than threatening or de-valuing traditional marriage, it would presuppose it and preserve it. 

It would also do much of what is legitimate in the concerns of gay marriage. It would embody and expand on all the rights to freedom of association and contracting that gays have in common with everyone else. It would make a return to anti-sodomy law impossible or at least difficult to legally justify. Finally, thinking of gay marriage this way would certainly protect those gays who are only concerned about such things but it would also perhaps answer to such gays who also realize that there is necessarily some things about traditional marriage that gay marriage cannot capture but that gay marriage can bring some of the gravitas of commitment in marriage to the edification of those for whom traditional marriage is simply not emotionally available. 

This way of looking at gay marriage also brings light on those who would attempt some kind of overreach against traditional marriage. They would appear odd in the same way that a girl insisting on a Bar Mitzvah would appear odd. Such would be the case of someone insisting that gays get a traditional marriage or that a gay marriage must be considered identical in kind (and not just in parity of legal status) to traditional marriage or it’s not “really” marriage. The motive may be that there will still remain the suspicion of a stigma to gay marriage. But it would be clear that this would invoke the Humpty Dumpty approach to semantics of marriage which will not change people’s opinions of gay marriage, except in some Orwellian way. 

On this description of gay marriage, like Bat Mitzvah, the spooky quotes remain there but tacitly. It’s clear that traditional marriage has entailments that gay marriage does not (such as “being able to consummate”) and vica versa. It is also clear that people do not a fundamental right to gay marriage, since gay marriage does not contribute to the perpetuity of the community is the same direct way as traditional marriage, but reflection may determine that gays have a derived right to have a gay marriage as an application of the defeasible principles of beneficence or at least non-malfeasance. 

If gay marriage is understood under this description, then I do not object to it being made a legally available option. My interest is in protecting traditional marriage from cultural warfare through law. It is not my interest to legally force people who don’t share my values to live by them. But traditional marriage is an institution with a specific sense and a subjective value. I think that this way of understanding gay marriage preserves both sets of interests.