At Barbwire.com I recently read Steve Baldwin’s excellent analysis of the flawed thinking characteristic of self-styled “conservatives” who are part of what he rightly describes as “a headlong rush by many conservatives … in support of various aspects of the homosexual agenda.” Mr. Baldwin questions the assumption that homosexual activity involves an issue of constitutional or civil rights like the one involved in the movement to end law-enforced racial discrimination.
Baldwin’s cogent analysis makes sense, but only if we assume that not all valid claims of right are the result of purely man-made law. So the terms “constitutional rights” and “civil rights” require further clarification. At the time the United States was founded, when the American patriots justified their resistance to the British government’s unjust actions, they referred (in the Declaration of Independence) to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” including first of all the determinations of the Creator’s will whereby He endowed all human beings with their “unalienable rights.”
“Constitutional rights” arise in the context of human agreement on the establishment of a constitution. “Civil rights” arise in the context of the human practices, habits and norms connected with the establishment of political societies. Both arise from prior human agreement, by word or deed. But neither necessarily refers to any standard of right that transcends the concurrence of human wills. Both may include respect for God-endowed unalienable rights, but not necessarily.
Only the explicit reference to God-endowed unalienable rights refers to a standard of right that transcends the concurrence of human wills. This does not mean that human concurrence is irrelevant to lawful government. It does mean, however, that only where, by word and deed, human beings agree to respect and implement what is right according to God’s will for human nature, is it their purpose to institute just law and government. When and where they do not so agree, there may be law and there may be government, but the aim of justice cannot be assumed.
This explains the relevance of the question about whether homosexuals are born that way, or not. Human beings are not born with wings, yet we fly. We are not born with the ability to withstand the airless vacuum of outer space, and yet humans have traveled to the moon. But we are born with imagination, self-consciousness, curiosity and rational thought. These faculties have combined to produce effects that extend our activities beyond what once appeared to be the limits of our natural existence.
Homosexuals may argue that the specially combined faculties of human nature have extended human sexual activities, in just this way, beyond what instinctively appears to be their natural limits. Do we forbid people to fly because they were not born with wings? Do we forbid them to travel to the moon because they were not born equipped to withstand the rigors of being in space? Among all the various ways of being in the universe of our experience, isn’t this capacity consciously to extend our reach beyond the limits of our original nature the special quality of our human nature? Isn’t it the one that, above all, distinguishes humanity from the rest?
The answer seems to be both yes and no. It seems to be yes because our everyday experience now confirms the fact that human understanding can redefine the limits of human activity. It therefore redefines, in practice, the nature of human being, for individuals and on the whole. It seems to be no because, as we erase the boundaries of human possibility, we efface the lineaments that distinguish humanity from the not particularly human appearance of the rest of things. Every day we seem to ourselves more knowledgeable, more capable, more powerful – but also less and less distinctly human.
On the whole, homosexual activity epitomizes this dilemma. We call it sexual activity because it involves bodily organs and feelings associated with the activity for which the different sexes appear to exist. Yet, in the strict sense of the term, it is not “sexual” activity at all. The functional difference that distinguishes one sex from the other quite literally has nothing to do with same-sex activity. That activity abstracts from the functionally defined difference in order exclusively to focus on bodily feelings and emotions that are important to the individuals involved, but that are of no consequence, concretely, for the species as a whole.
As individuals, some human beings may find this activity intensely gratifying. But considered on the whole, in terms of its consequences, it implies the nonexistence of humanity. The homosexual couple is not engaged in the act of human procreation. Their activity is not haunted by the possibility of human offspring. It does not imply the reification of their responsibility for the future of humanity as such. The pleasurable satisfaction it involves does not draw individuals away from their particular selves toward a concrete physical union (in the child they conceive) that represents the perpetuation of their being as a whole, their human being. Their ecstasy is more like the highest pitch given off by a guitar string just before the turn of the tuning peg that causes it to break.
Because it is, on the whole, of no consequence, homosexual activity involves no natural right – for every claim of natural right arises from respect for the law of nature, which in turn necessarily requires respect for the nature of law. Law is a sovereign determination that gives and takes account of the whole. When a man and a woman engage in the act of procreation, their individual self-gratification arises in the course of an activity that represents this understanding of law. The information each one contributes toward the nature of the individual child takes account of and passes on the Creator’s information as to the nature of humanity as such.
This simultaneous respect for the nature of the individual as a whole and the nature constituted by the whole of all such individuals is the hallmark of the natural law. Human sexual activity in the true sense (i.e., the activity of human procreation) is the concrete paradigm of this respect. Respect for the nature of human sexual activity, therefore, implies respect for the authority of the natural law. The special combination of human faculties allows human beings to act without such respect. But just as homosexual activity implies the extinction of humanity as such, so acting without respect for the natural law implies the extinction of humanity as a whole.
This reveals the supreme irony of the contemporary debate over law-enforced respect for so-called homosexual rights. In their clamor about global warming, poverty or an end to racism, those who advocate such respect pretend to be “humanitarians.” Yet they seek to discard our respect for the activity that implements the law (of the Creator) intended to preserve and perpetuate the nature of humanity as, in and of ourselves, we know it to be.
We do not forbid people to fly because they are born without wings. So the advocates of law-enforced respect for homosexuality may argue. But if and when they propose that, as a species, we should, like Icarus, fly into the sun, what then? If genocide is wrong for this or that race of human beings, how can self-inflicted genocide be right for humanity as a whole?
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