(Links and outtakes from news reports, with the thoughts they inspired)
Is the nature of marriage a matter of principle or public opinion? In statements he makes in the article linked above, Newt Gingrich falls in line with other members of the GOP’s Trojan Horse brigade of so-called conservatives. He said that so-called-Republicans can “no longer close their eyes to the course of public opinion…[H]e suggested that the party (and he himself) could accept a distinction between a “marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state” –the latter being acceptable.
Unlike some politicians, I think Gingrich is intelligent and educated enough to understand that what he is saying destructively discards the understanding of the basis for civil society that made it possible to establish and sustain constitutional self-government in the United States. Gingrich knows that the family is the primordial human community. It exists in consequence of what the Declaration of Independence calls “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” The first rights of nature, including the natural paradigm of all property rights, arise in the context of the family. In the first place, a parent is quite literally obligated to care for the child after conception. Indeed, she must care for the child as she cares for herself. Thus by nature, humanity is circumstantially and emotional disposed to provide this care. It is, again quite literally, a commission from the Creator, conferred even as the child is conceived.
In effect, the purview of this commission extends beyond the preservation of the child. It involves carrying out the full implications of the first law of nature by which (as the great instructor of America’s founders put it ) as every person “is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station willfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind.” (John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chapter II). Procreation manifestly aims to fulfill the obligation to preserve mankind.
From their fulfillment of this natural commission arises the authority of parents over their children. It is the first delegation of God’s sovereign authority that extends beyond the natural community formed by the organic unity of the body itself. In this respect the child literally represents an extension of that organic unity, by way of the natural bonds of affection that subsist in consciousness after the last vestige of bodily (the umbilical cord) union quite literally falls away. As the parts of the body, properly disposed, belong together for its preservation, so the members of the family belong together for the preservation of the species. The first human belongings thus arise in the context of the first law of nature, satisfying by the same token the requirements of individual well being, and those of humanity; the good of the whole and of each particular subsumed within it. By thus fulfilling the whole purpose of the first law of nature, the natural family constitutes the paradigm for human activities done in accordance with God’s natural law, pursuant to which the human agents of the law may claim, by God’s authority, the right to act as they do.
The natural family exists in fulfillment of a natural obligation to God essential to the existence and perpetuation of humanity, individually and as a whole. Because the actions pursuant to this obligation are thus inseparable from the existence and perpetuation of human nature, they are unalienable. To deny or extinguish them is to extinguish humanity itself. Being in this sense natural, these rights are antecedent to both civil society and all government but that of God himself. They do not depend on, and cannot be altered by, the actions of human institutions.
When he pretends that the nature and rights of family can be altered by acts of government, on account of the pressure of public opinion, Newt Gingrich tacitly denies and rejects the whole logic of God-endowed natural rights. If the self-evidently God-endowed natural institution of the procreational family gives rise to no unalienable rights, though it corresponds exactly to the requirements of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God”, what rights remain that government cannot forcefully destroy? Either natural rights come from the hand of God, or they are fabrications of human whim and power. If from God, then the purpose of just government is to secure, not redefine and destroy them. If from government, then it serves no good purpose to speak of rights when what exists is only force and fiat, whether right or wrong.
Newt Gingrich is a thoughtful man. He is certainly capable of understanding the general significance of the assault being mounted against the Boy Scouts, the Churches and myriad other groups. Those who reject the authority of God and His natural law are using the force of law and public opinion to coerce people into abandoning the natural law basis of marriage and family life. Cut off from the logic of God-endowed natural right, the assertion of rights becomes a battering ram for tyranny minded demagogues. It will be be abused to unleash government’s enforcement power against anyone who refuses to accept the notion that rights and justice will henceforth be whatever the forces in control of government say they are. Gingrich is smart enough to understand that this will undermine the moral confidence and courage required to resist abuses of power perpetrated to enforce policies in the name of government fabricated “rights”.
Shallow Trojan Horse conservatives like Mary Matalin dismiss the careful natural law reasoning presented here as “dancing on the head of a pin argument.” In fact, once we acknowledge the authority of the Creator, God as America’s founders did, it is rationally argued common sense. What Gingrich, Matalin and others like them are really saying is that the natural logic of decent liberty must now be abandoned and ridiculed so that they, and the elitist powers they serve, can discard the Constitution of government based upon it. I am inoculated against their sudden worship of sham elections and “public opinion” because I remember that. at some time or other, in some place or clime. the pressure of public opinion has favored practically every form of folly depravity and injustice known to human experience. Justice is not determined by force of public opinion, arms, wealth or any other indiscriminate power of human will. To know this with certainty is the great advantage arising from the fact that God is the ruler and will be the judge of all. The elitist faction leaders and pundits of the GOP think its time to abandon the understanding of marriage derived from that fact. By saying so they make it clear that it’s long past time to abandon them, and the Party now controlled by the unprincipled clique they represent.