Love, Marriage and the Common Good— Part IX
Mr. Haseltine and others may deny that the conceptual dehumanization involved in abortion and so-called “marriage” for homosexuals leads to massive atrocity, but the whole weight of 20th century history proves them wrong. That century’s mass atrocities including, of course, the ongoing abortion holocaust were rooted in ideologies that dehumanized the victims.
Hitler dehumanized Jewish people, portraying them as virus like agents of Germany’s moral, economic and physical destruction. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and all other proponents of various forms of Marxism, dehumanized the opponents of their totalitarian Parties, speaking of them as dead appendages of history, to be cut off remorselessly, objectively, mechanically, as one stems a flood or extinguishes a fire. So too the mentality of expansive greed characteristic of morally unbridled capitalism dehumanizes employees and consumers alike, treating their activity, for money’s sake, in terms of numerical abstractions without regard for anything but the bottom line.
In light of this evidence, Mr. Haseltine makes no sense, in terms of human reason or Christian understanding, when he pretends that knowing how to act toward those we consider wrong is more important than knowing right from wrong. Our knowledge is a function of our humanity. Apart from our humanity, how can we claim to “know” anything at all? Human conceptions are the stuff our knowledge is made on. When we no longer respect the existential basis for those conceptions our faculty for knowledge gets swept up in the confusion of things of which we can give and take no reliable account because we let go of ourselves in the midst of them.
Without the perspective that is right for humanity, knowledge itself becomes the most doubtful perspective of all. Isn’t this why Socrates made self-knowledge the sine qua non of the serious quest for truth? But except we observe ourselves, we cannot know ourselves. Except we respect what we observe, we cannot conceive of ourselves. And except we respect our conception of ourselves, such as we are, we cannot recognize, and so consciously grasp, all that we know. Moral understanding is therefore the indispensable ground of human knowledge, for the world we know reflects the beings we are.
Christ says “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” What is the Sabbath? It is God’s day of rest. It is the day on which God puts aside His ceaseless activity, wresting it diversely so that in the clearing His self-abrogation makes creates, man may exist, along with the world for which man’s existence is possible. In the presence of man, He takes upon Himself forms suitable for human understanding, even though it means enduring the self-extinction of each and every whole inconsistent with that understanding. Thus He ordains, renews and continually perpetuates, once and for all, the way of abundant life God wills for all human beings, so long as they are willing to follow it.
In the way of God’s intention, man comes in fulfillment of God’s conception of the world, in the day made when the rest of God makes that fulfillment possible. In that day we appear to be the one for the sake of which all the rest is made. In that day God appears as the other, informed of, by and for the day when the Son of Man appears.
When the man and the woman come together in order to conceive the child, their activity recapitulates the conception for which God’s day of rest is made. The child is the Son of man, the parents, in conforming themselves to the possibility of the child, are the rest of God’s being, giving and receiving the information of the child; standing apart from themselves in ecstasy even as they unite to become the One who informs the child’s existence.
Except in the presence of the whole constituted by the union of male and female, the rest of God’s creation labors but in vain. For God’s rest is a labor of love, performed for the sake of man’s existence. He made them male and female so that in man, this labor should be perfected. For God it is an act of freedom. For man, it is an obligation, i.e., an act that binds him to God’s perfection. Marriage is man’s acceptance of that obligation, by which he consents to his own existence, expressing the knowledge of God that is the key to understanding the world that God continually creates for the recreation of man, such as he is.
Ironically, this means that marriage exists for man’s convenience, in the most profound sense of the term, because it is arranged so that man may continually become what he is, i.e., such as he is according to the benevolent intention of God’s creation. But the fulfillment of God’ intention for man depends on man’s acceptance of the obligation it entails, the obligation represented in the conception of a child.
God’ provision for man’s role in that conception reflects the way God loves humanity. He takes care of the well-being of the whole (the species) in a way that takes care of the well-being of each one who comprises it. He encourages the self-respect essential to our humanity by defining marriage in a way that supports and contributes to the properly self-conscious sense of individual importance that is the prerequisite of personal responsibility.
The attention parents pay to their children helps children perceive their importance to others. The perception that he or she is important to others contributes to the realization that what we do with respect to others is as important to them as what they do is to us. Properly encouraged, this becomes the basis for our sense of personal responsibility, i.e., the obligation to answer when others call as they answer when we call.
This sense of personal responsibility, grounded in the logic of the Golden Rule, is profoundly the basis for human social morality. One aspect of parenting involves dealing with our offspring as they develop (or resist developing) this moral sensibility. Parents undertaking this task practically every day encounter situations in which they must deal with a son or daughter they consider to be acting wrongly.
That they should do so with love is a truism almost everyone acknowledges. But careful parents learn from experience that simply satisfying their feelings of affection isn’t the same as truly acting out of love. True love accepts the sacrifice of feeling whereby individuals overcome their own partiality, thereby showing respect for the good will that, on the whole, perpetuates the existence of each and every one.