Thursday, May 16, 2013

Right to be Wrong

The March edition of First Things contained an excellent piece by Gilles Bernheim on the connections between Homosexual Marriage, Parenting, and Adoption :

I have written in light of the French debate. Whether legal rights concerning homosexual parenting and adoption are extended or limited, it is also clear that LGBT activists will use homosexual marriage as a Trojan horse in their greater efforts to deny natural sexuality, to erase sexual differences and replace them with orientations that make it possible to leave behind the “straitjacket of nature” and to pursue the destruction of the heterosexual foundations of our society.

There would be no courage and no glory in voting for a law based more on slogans than on arguments, in conforming to the dominant political correctness out of fear of being anathematized, and in hiding behind a question such as: “Even if there is no reason to pass a law, why is it a problem if we want to pass one?” The problem with the proposed law is the harm it portends for our society as a whole, and this solely for the benefit of a tiny minority. This harm consists in the irreversible scrambling of three things: genealogies, by substituting “parenting” for fatherhood and motherhood; the status of the child, who would go from being a subject to being an object to which others have a right; and sexual identity as a natural given, which would have to give way to orientation as an individual expression, in the name of the struggle against inequality, perverted into the elimination of differences.

The point that gay marriage confers benefits to a few at the expensive of many is one often overlooked in the debate on the matter. Despite widespread misperceptions, the reality is that somewhere between 1%-2% of Americans are actually gay. And among this group, the number who actually wish to get married in a very real and legal binding sense is small (check the stats in states and countries where gay marriage has been legalized). So we’re making fundamental changes to an institution that’s been one of the bedrocks of modern civilization in order to satisfy the demands of a minority of an already tiny minority of the population.

That’s exactly what the DFL controlled legislature and Governor Dayton did in Minnesota this week. One of the more amusing aspects of the debate leading up to the vote was the challenge issued by supporters of gay marriage that those who oppose it would end up “on the wrong side of history.” Firstly, many of the same people laying down this challenge and suddenly embracing the importance of history had previously demonstrated little respect for or understanding of it. Secondly, the notion that popular opinion at this particular point in time was inarguably correct and that what people had believed for thousands of years was obviously wrong is a perfect example of the conceit of progressive modernity and laughably narrow minded.

The idea that charging us with the crime of “being on the wrong side of history” would be a stinging indictment of opponents of gay marriage is also silly. Oh no, I’m not on “the wrong of side of history” as defined by Democrats in Minnesota in May 2013, am I? How will I go on with my life? Guess what? Social conservatives have been on the “wrong side of history” on abortion for the last forty years. I think somehow we’ll survive being on the “wrong side of history” on gay marriage too. In fact, I’m going wear it as a badge of pride. It never felt so right to be so “wrong.”

UPDATE: Looks like my timing on this was impeccable. The same day that I post a link and excerpt from an article that appeared in a magazine two months ago, it is revealed that parts of the article were plagiarized:

The first thing to say is that this affair can’t be interpreted as an example of progressives hunting down dissenters. Bernheim took a strong stand on a controversial issue, but it wasn’t his opposition to gay marriage that precipitated the scandal. It was his dishonesty. These transgressions of basic academic integrity were uncovered by Jean-Noël Darde, a plagiarism watchdog, not a gay activist.

The second thing to say concerns plagiarism. One of the perversions of our era is to make a god of intellectual property. Most commentators described Bernheim as “stealing” words and sentences. This is wrongheaded. Plagiarism is a sin against truth, not property. It’s first and foremost a kind of lying, not a kind of stealing. He violated our trust by speaking in a voice that was not his own, which is why in this and other cases of plagiarism the writer loses intellectual and moral authority broadly.

A third thing to say concerns the man. In my years of teaching, I had to deal with plagiarism many times. Now and then a cynical young person tried to get by with the minimum of work. But most of the students who plagiarized did so because they were desperate or scared, or both. I could tell because it was so obvious, and thus pathetic and pitiable. And indeed, when I confronted students I found that there was almost always a great deal of pathos in the background: psychological crises, terrible fears of failing, a consuming sense of hopelessness in the face of the assigned material.

Bernheim’s plagiarism seems to be of this sort. Now that I’ve reviewed some of the details, I can’t believe he believed he could get away with it. (I am, in fact, somewhat embarrassed that I didn’t grow suspicious when the French rabbi sounded so much like John Paul II when talking about sexual complementarity and transcendence.) Please join me in praying for Rabbi Bernheim. From my reading of the evidence in this affair (what’s so hard about citing someone?), it seems he certainly needs it.

The final thing to say is that I’m sorry. The essay’s arguments aren’t any less true for having been plagiarized. But we allowed the magazine to be a vehicle for falsehood. The lie was in the byline. “Homosexual Marriage, Parenting, and Adoption” was not in any proper sense by Gilles Bernheim. I apologize to you for publishing an essay that betrayed your trust in the integrity of First Things.

Amen to the point that the fact that they were plagiarized doesn’t diminish the impact of the arguments. It’s a shame that Rabbi Bernheim’s plagiarism has clouded the clarity of the message.