conscience

conscience

Understanding Homosexuality

abstinence, Christianity, conscience, culture, news, Rick Warren, same-sex attraction, social science 1 comment

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern 

Last Tuesday, evangelical pastor Rick Warren appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” to discuss the controversial question whether people are born gay or develop gay attractions.

With the recent political campaign we have heard this topic covered in the media as gay activists are pushing for same sex marriage to be legal. As of November it is legal in 9 different states.

After listening to Rick Warren’s statement I realized that at the core of the debate is our understanding of what it means to identify as gay. We need to talk about this issue and not just fight the legal battles. Talking helps plant the seed that will start people thinking about what it means to have gay attractions versus acting upon those attractions.

The first step in talking about it is to make a clear distinction about what sexual orientation means, as Peter Sprigg explains in “Debating Homosexuality: Understanding Two Views.” Sexual orientation is an umbrella term for three different aspects of sexuality: sexual attraction, when one is sexually attracted to someone of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both; sexual conduct, whether the individual chooses to act upon that attraction; and self-identification, whether the individual thinks of himself as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “straight.”

Gay lobbyists assume that all three are consistent with one another, but based on the research, that is clearly not true.

Should an individual who feels attracted to someone of the same sex (because of the environment he or she has been exposed to, peer pressure, loneliness, or some internal self-identification) act upon these attractions? No, not necessarily.

We all have tendencies that aren’t in accordance with our God-given nature, but it doesn’t mean we choose to engage them.  As Pastor Rick Warren explained, “I have all kinds of feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it.”

So, what if someone responds, “I was born this way, I cannot change my attractions”? To this we can answer, first, that the research has not found any “gay gene” or related biological issue that proves someone is born with gay attractions, but that it’s a result of a complex mix of developmental factors. For instance, MARRI research shows that a young woman is more likely to experiment with a lesbian partner if she was raised in a non-intact family.

Second, as Pastor Rick mentioned, we can all be drawn to something that is not good for us or that is not according to our nature, but that doesn’t make it right. He gave the following example: “Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right.”

Those individuals who feel same-sex attractions should be treated with the same respect and kindness we treat any person, but that does not mean we should embrace their actions. We must fight to defend an understanding of sexuality that is in accord with our human nature and human dignity.

In order to do that we must first understand the core of homosexuality: attractions exist, but attractionsare not actions. This is especially important for helping adolescents who are confused by a false explanation of same-sex attraction or caught up in homosexual behaviors. Young people should be educated about the moral nature of every decision they make, including their sexual decisions.

Will Our Concern for Health Eliminate our Moral Values?

Christianity, conscience, culture, pro-life, social institutions No comments

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern
 

On November 6, voters in Massachusetts and California decided – by a close margin in both states – not to legalize assisted suicide. This was a victory for life. But what if Massachusetts and California had followed the states of Washington, Oregon, and Montana, along with a number of countries in Europe, in legalizing assisted suicide?
I have to question the implications of the fact that these bills were even proposed to the voters. Why is our society pushing for the legalization of voluntary death, when there are so many advances in medicine?
For centuries pain was part of life, assumed, accepted, and never questioned; but now we can go to the hospital to prevent infections, cure a sickness, recover from an amputation, have a heart transplant…even eliminate a headache. So why are we concerned about ending life because of suffering when, supposedly, medicine gives us the power to relieve suffering?
The key to this discussion is to acknowledge that when we eliminate religion from a culture, when we deny moral values and human dignity, we’re left with our own self-preservation as our only ethical guiding light.
When justice and human dignity are no longer a priority, we go to every length we can to prevent suffering and to create comfort. As with numerous other areas of life, like education, sexuality, marriage, friendship, and leisure, our culture teaches us that it’s all about our personal satisfaction. When there is no ultimate respect for human dignity, it’s natural for men to elevate health to their highest goal in life.
But how is health related to death? A recent essay from First Things gives an explanation for the relation between the two: “When eliminating suffering becomes the overriding purpose of a society, people can easily come to perceive that it is proper to accomplish the goal by eliminating the sufferer.”
The author continues,
Elevating “health” to the ultimate purpose of society turns it into something other than health. The original definition of the term is elasticized to include a hedonistic sense of entitlement to obtain whatever our hearts desire. Health becomes understood as a prophylactic, if you will, against suffering.
With this mindset, it seems normal to want to end a life because it’s causing pain. But will this legalization turn into an open passage to suicide? What is the difference between someone who wants to die because his physical pain is too much to handle and someone who no longer wishes to live because life is too hard or the sadness of losing a loved one is too painful? Who will determine what level of suffering is necessary in order to apply for legal death?
Let’s take the question further. What if a person has the power to decide for someone else that his or her life is filled with pain or distress, as was the case with Terri Schiavo in Florida in 2005? Or to decide that someone else’s life is causing him or her to suffer, so he or she has the right to eliminate that suffering by eliminating the other person? (This is an argument used to support abortion, when an unborn baby causes financial or personal inconvenience to the mother.) Has our society drifted so far from ethical moorings that we would legalize murder on demand?
The author of the First Things essay describes our moral situation:
In such a milieu, ethics become transitory because we justify our behavior by feelings rather than robust principles of morality—which after all, sometimes require us to eschew what we want and what feels good in order to do what is right.
It is obvious that when there is no religion in a society there is no respect for life. MARRI research in 95 Social Science Reasons for Religious Worship and Practice explains many more consequences of the decline of religion. How long will we allow this decline and its consequences, all in the name of “health” and “freedom from suffering,” to go on?

Belonging to the Exception

abortion, abstinence, conscience, economics, education, family, MARRI No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern

Over the weekend, I was privileged to attend a lecture taught by a woman who devotes her life to pregnancy center and maternity home ministries.  Her presentation focused on the differences among generations, and how to best reach and engage the current generation, Gen Y (born 1977-1995).  According to her notes, my generation has the most disposable income and is very technologically gifted, but we also suffer from short attention spans and the inability to discern actions and consequences.  On average, Gen Y is passively characterized by (and too often actively boasts in) high levels of sexual promiscuity.  Highly influenced by the media, Gen Y’s are devoted to the doctrine of “cool,” and consequently, they explore true Biblical doctrine only when it enhances (and never contradicts) their fleeting idol of fame. 
“Why?”  Quickly this became the pervasive murmur among the audience.  She gave a few reasons, but implored us to engage in individual research, as she didn’t have time to explore all the factors involved.  Sitting there, pondering this less than glowing portrait of my generation, I could not help but recall MARRI’s “Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.”  
According to MARRI’s report, in the United States, the national rejection score was larger than the belonging score.  Putting faces to these figures reveals the majority of children are living in a broken family as of 2009.  As the speaker described, our culture (sitcoms saturated with sex, personal credit cards, and adult privileges sans consequences) bears some responsibility for Gen Y’s behavior, but the formation of these characteristics begins with a fractured family.  As Dr. Fagan and Dr. Zill predict, “It is unavoidable that the major institutions of future families, church, school, the marketplace, and government will be similarly weakenedas these children gradually take their place within these institutions.”
And indeed, we are seeing breakdowns in these institutions as time progresses.  This weekend’s speaker noted that most of Gen Y holds only part-time employment, and many articles report an unemployed or underemployed status for Gen Y’s.  You can blame a poor economy or the need for a graduate degree, but as articulated in “162 Reasons to Marry,” we need look no further than the broken family for the origin of this trend.  A child glimpses his first working marketplace through his family.  “Within a family built on such a marriage, the child gradually learns to value and perform these five fundamental tasks of every competent adult and of every functional society” – marketplace (work) being one.  If the teaching unit is damaged, how can we expect the lesson to be whole?  If the marketplace isn’t functional in the family unit, how do we expect it to flourish on a national level?
This weekend’s speaker also commented that some large corporations won’t even hire Gen Y’s, and a quick internet search brings up quite a few articles with similar headlines.  As Kelly Clay concludes, based on recent statistics regarding employment and economy issues, “It seems more like a strong indicator of a generation with an issue of entitlement and extreme laziness – despite the opportunities that await them.”  Another recent article titled “The Go-Nowhere Generation,” seems to agree with Clay’s depiction of Gen Y or rather, “Generation Why bother.”   This article describes their lackadaisical reliance on “random” chance rather than an energetic pursuit of opportunity throughout the country. Clearly rejection at the family level is permeating the workplace and the work-ethic applied there. 
A married family does not just positively impact the marketplace.  Children from intact-married families also perform better in school, misbehave less, are more likely to remain abstinent, less likely to live in poverty, and more likely to attend church.  All of these tendencies contradict the typical characteristics of Generation Y.  Clearly, there are exceptions to this generation generalization, and belonging within a family greatly enhances one’s ability to belong to the exceptional group. 

Student Debate: Taxing Conscience

conscience, contraception, sexuality No comments
By Alex Schrider, Intern
September’s Values Voters Summit included a “Student Mixer” that featured a debate between Blake Meadows, a student at Patrick Henry College, and John W. McCarthy, Chairman of Catholic University of America’s (CUA) College Democrats.  The debate focused on the HHS contraceptive mandate, against which numerous Christian institutions (including CUA), and even states, have filed suit, arguing that it infringes on the “free exercise” clause. 
Mr. McCarthy claimed two major things: 1) the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception is something with which good Catholics can disagree, and 2) the fact that the pope made his decision contrary to the recommendation of his council of advisors somehow cheapens the contraception teaching of the Catholic Church.
The primary argument against the HHS mandate is that it compels individuals and organizations to act against the established teachings of their religion, a point that Catholic institutions have emphasized. But if the Catholic contraception position is optional, as McCarthy suggests, then on what basis can an institution “force” that position on its employees? Even a church couldn’t be exempt if that were true, as the matter becomes a question of personal choice, not religious doctrine.
Of course, this might have been a moot point if the robust conscience provisions left in place at the end of the Bush administration had remained in place. Instead, those provisions have been attacked (and, for the most part, gutted) by the same administration which is now mandating contraception coverage. Without an appeal to religious doctrine there is little left to protect the interests of objecting individuals, and nothing left to protect objecting institutions…even places of worship.
Except for one thing: Mr. McCarthy is wrong in his representation of Catholic teaching. The teaching of the Catholic Church (fecundity) is clearly laid out in its catechism, and is beyond contestation by the faithful (sec. 891 and 892). To compel a person or organization to be an accessory to an act contrary to deeply held religious belief goes against the core of American tradition. This trespass of government shouldn’t energize only Catholics, but every individual who believes in moral truth, particularly when the “benefit” from such a measure is undetectable.
As numerous individuals, including FRC’s Jeanne Monahan, have pointed out, the “need” for increased access to contraception is non-existent: there is already substantial government funding, many insurance companies already cover it, and it is readily available and affordable. So why the zealous push for an intrusive mandate?
MARRI has documented the effects of widespread contraceptive use: when birthrate decreases, the average age of a population increases, eventually leading to population decline. An aging and declining population is associated with economic problems, not the least of which is the substantial burden placed on the shoulders of the smaller, younger generation, which must provide for the disproportionately large elderly generation. There is no long-term economic benefit to be derived from coercing contraceptive use.
Beyond the cost-benefit analysis, however, it boils down to a question of principle and tradition. Until now, American government has generally erred on the side of religious freedom, and never has moral and religious conscience been taxed…until this administration. A fundamental shift in regulation of conscience has occurred: the traditional freedom of individuals to “practice what they preach” should be curbed to facilitate sweeping partisan policies.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather have the option to conscientiously disagree with the ruling party – without being fined for it.