Almost every time I hear someone go on a rant against opponents of gay marriage, there’s a mention of “It’s the year 2014 for crying out loud, it’s not the middle ages anymore!” The connotation being that we know better, we’re more tolerant and evolved, and it’s the most insane thing that gay marriage is not a constitutional right like the freedom of speech. The problem with those sayings is that, quite frankly, they’re indicative of what a thoughtless age we live in. The watchword is always ‘tolerant’ or its bumper-sticker brother:
The whole tolerance game results in the degradation of the moral argument. What happens is that anyone who offers opposition to something seemingly good in the public eye (i.e. gay marriage) is labeled a bigot, intolerant, and hateful. Then the conversation stops there. It means that we can never disagree with each other without continuing to respect the dignity of the human person. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
I think I’ve figured out where this all stems from. A guy from the 18th century named René Descartes, who gifted (not really) the world with this little number, “I think, therefore I am.” It epitomizes the rationalistic Enlightenment ideal. It is pure mind separated from body. We use our minds to observe nature and exert control over it. It is mind over matter. That means one thing for the development of the sciences, another thing entirely for the human person.
This is where we get the LGBTQ gender ideologies from. Someone thinks to themselves “I am a man in a woman’s body,” and therefore, because they have thought it, that is the case. It is mind over matter. It is Mind exerting power over nature. It is ideology, the rule of an idea. Our identity as human beings is not informed by our given bodily reality, it is determined entirely by what we think we are, and therefore must manipulate the bodily/material reality to reflect what we think.
It does not end there though, because only a few people ever reach the over-educated level of a radical feminist with a quintuple degree is Women’s Studies, Psychology, Sociology, Human Sexuality, and Philosophy and Politics of the 20th Century. Those are the ones who have the mind-numbing explanations of the different gender identities and rant endlessly about gender fluidity, patriarchy, and agency.
The West has not thought since the 1960’s, in other words, since the sexual revolution. That is the time when the West lost its mind; when the human person became a mere piece of meat to be sexually consumed by each and every other person, governed by mere primal instinct, the lowest level of feeling. We’ve thrown ourselves into the roiling pot of “me and my desires and what I want.” The culture we live in does not recognize the human person anymore; there is no more human dignity of the other to respect when we disagree now.
This is why there’s such disconnect between the Church and the modern world. It’s not that the Church is irrelevant, on the contrary, people’s vitriolic reaction to Catholic teaching is a testament that it is more relevant than the hippest mega-church letting people sip lattés while they get warm and fuzzy feelings from their pastor’s “positive message” (again, culture of feeling). The Catholic Church has never lost its mind the way the West has (thanks especially to spiritual and intellectual giants such as Bl. Pope Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). The Church will say something, an idea or an act, is wrong, but will still respect the dignity of the person. The Church sees the person, a child of God meant to share His abundant life given to us through His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, that’s not where we are with gay marriage. We’re at the level of “I am what I feel. If you’re saying that what I feel is wrong, then you’re saying you think I, as a person, am wrong.”
Where do we go from here? The New Evangelization. We must do the New Evangelization well, and if we do I’m making this prediction; the New Enlightenment is coming. The Old Enlightenment of the 18th century is tired and worn out and has run its course. It’s over, dried up; it wasn’t true enlightenment. The New Enlightenment will be a time when the mind is re-united with the body. We will take nature as a given, and then use our minds to deepen our understanding of our given identities as whole, integrated persons. It will be a time when the conventional wisdom of the world: fame-seeking, hyper-sexualization, power grasping, and money hoarding will yield to the fullness of joy in living lives of service to others, especially the poor. People will live heroic lives of self-sacrificial love, whether it’s a red martyrdom or a white one. The New Enlightenment will be the society-wide realization that the Catholic Church has had it right since 33A.D., it all depends on if we who believe decide to live the New Evangelization now.