A liberal who calls himself a conservative is still a liberal. Except to liberals. Since turning conservatism into an echo of their own thoughts is job one for them, they are happy to describe liberals who calls themselves conservatives as “conservative.”
The liberals at the New York Times, for example, designate David Brooks as their “conservative” columnist, even as he takes a position on homosexual marriage to the left of the Democratic presidential field. “He’s every liberal’s favorite conservative,” Michael Kinsley, editor of Slate, said to the New York Observer. “People were always stopping me, saying that they liked his stuff,” said New York Times editorial page editor Gail Collins. “There is something about him — he’s like the conservative guy who can talk to liberals.”
In the Observer article, Brooks plays along with the game and accepts the conservative label but says (in response to a question about whether he might become a “leftist again”), “Sometimes I do think that.…If I was with the Nation left, I’d be depressed. If I was with the centrist-Joe Lieberman left, I’d be happy.”
Brooks is already there, and perhaps past it, judging by his Saturday column on homosexual marriage. In it he makes a “conservative” case for a radically liberal innovation most Democrats aren’t even heedless enough to embrace.
Brooks’s case is not remotely conservative in its conclusion, just in its moralizing tone. He sternly calls for monogamous homosexuality. “We shouldn’t just allow gay marriage,” he writes. “We should insist on gay marriage.” Call it the case for straight-laced sin. (Demanding that homosexuals sin monogamously is perhaps stringent conservatism for the Times.)
“Anybody who has several sexual partners in a year is committing spiritual suicide,” Brooks writes. “He or she is ripping the veil from all that is private and delicate in oneself, and pulverizing it in an assembly line of selfish sensations.”
This sounds like St. Paul’s description of homosexual conduct, but Brooks’s isn’t worried about the moral character of homosexual acts, only their context. Outside of marriage they are bad for the soul, according to his moral logic. Inside of homosexual marriage they would be good for it. (St. Paul would be surprised to learn that sin ceases to be “spiritual suicide” if done repetitively with one person and with Caesar’s seal of approval.)
“We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity,” writes Brooks. What’s the moral logic here? That homosexuals can’t choose their sexuality but they can choose lifelong fidelity? That’s a curious position for Brooks to take if he is saying that homosexuals can’t help their inclinations. What if they are inclined to be unfaithful? According to the moral liberalism Brooks takes for granted as a starting point for the discussion, homosexual inclinations and objects of desire aren’t to be questioned, and certainly can’t be controlled. No, no, whatever you are inclined to do you are entitled to do. (Since a substantial number of people are bisexuals — and thus it must be a natural condition, according to liberal logic — perhaps it is time for Brooks to also make a “conservative” case for polygamy. Don’t bisexuals need the stabilizing influence of marriage too?)
Brooks even suggests conservatives are duty bound to make the case for homosexual marriage. It is “up to conservatives to make the important, moral case for marriage, including gay marriage. Not making it means drifting further into the culture of contingency, which, when it comes to intimate and sacred relations, is an abomination.”
Homosexual marriage will stop the drift of our culture of contingency? That would only be persuasive if homosexual culture weren’t part and parcel of that culture of contingency. Homosexual marriage will not stop the culture of contingency but bring it deeper into an institution already suffering under it.
Brooks says that homosexual marriage will help to rebuild a “culture of fidelity.” Fidelity to what? To God? To children? To morality? How do you rebuild a culture of fidelity on infidelity to fundamental moral laws?
Brooks says “some conservatives have latched onto biological determinism” to oppose homosexual marriage. But he latches onto a form of homosexual determinism to call on conservatives to accommodate it with marriage (though his determinism is limited. He uses it to justify homosexual marriage but forgets about it when implying that homosexuals are capable of lifelong fidelity.)
In one of his earlier columns, Brooks approvingly wrote of Pope John Paul II that he “is always taking us out of our secular comfort zone and dragging us toward ultimate issues. You can’t talk about politics, economics, science, philosophy or war, he argues, while conveniently averting your eyes from God and ultimate truth.”
Does Brooks think we should talk about redefining marriage while conveniently averting our eyes from God and ultimate truth? Wouldn’t his idea of marriage, as revealed in his design of the human body, be a little more authoritative than current fashion?
In this debate, we constantly hear about the rights of man. When are we going to hear about the rights of God? Isn’t He entitled to respect? The glibness and impiety displayed in the homosexual marriage debate is unbelievable. One would think society was debating country club memberships.
Brooks tries to elevate the tone of the debate but his moralizing tone is odd in the context of what he is endorsing. To say as he does that “we are not animals whose lives are bounded by our flesh” and that we’re “moral creatures with souls, endowed with the ability to make covenants,” sounds not like an argument for homosexual marriage but against it.
It is “up to conservatives” not to join liberals in laying an ax to the cornerstone of civilization in some deluded hope that a marriage certificate will magically make homosexuals moral, but to conserve the institution of marriage as established by God.
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