This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Christian Humanism

I was surfing the web today, Googling blogs on Christian Humanism. Three recent pieces jumped out at me. Indywatchman goes to one extreme and discounts Christian Humanism as a man centered evil. Andrew Haines and Pastor John cite a more conventional God centered Christian Humanism. Needless to say, I agree somewhat with the latter with one important qualification: any natural law philosophy worth its salt must be humanist or it is something besides natural law.

Natural law must consider the role of God in forming humanity and also God's relationship to Himself as a starting point. Here is where I depart from either of the strains cited above: God does not have a stake in our morality. God is perfect and perfectly happy. If our behavior touched him negatively, He would not be perfect. He has an alturistic concern for us - one based on pure love - but this does not give him a stake in our game. By this, I mean that a morality based on Humanism, especially Christian Humanism, must be centered on the happiness of man as God created him for this world. If there is a divine virtue to be replicated by our morality, it is Love, which is also a giving thing and an accepting thing rather than a chastizing thing.

Why does God want us to Love? Because a morality based on Love will make us happy. Any precepts must pass muster against this principle or they are not natural law. The Lord said "Come to me all you who labor, for I am meek and humble of heart. My yoke is easy and my burden is light." This is profound and it is confirmation that God's stake in the game is our happiness rather than his own.

This has profound implications for how Christians look at morality. Right off the bat, it shows that doctrines which attempt to oppress homosexuals are not natural law based. Our understanding of natural law must be fluid, as our understanding of human nature changes with the advancement of science. We now pretty much know that homosexuality is not disordered and homosexual acts are not sinful for homosexuals because God created them that way. Homosexuality is a part of natural variation, indeed it is prevalent in other primate species. What is disordered is homosexual promiscuity, since this violates the law of Love because it is selfish.

The whole idea of a "natural order" is suspect, and I suspect it is a way to set up an objective philosophical standard in an attempt to get around the axiom that a perfect God cannot be damaged by human conduct. The natural order is a proxy for God in this, since it can be violated and God must then punish violations of it out of justice. This is a sophistry. The natural order, if it exists at all, must reside in and only in the nature of mankind and what we know about it.

If the Pope thinks differently, then the Pope is wrong. This happens sometimes. Of course, the spiritual relativism that is the grant to Peter of the "keys to the kingdom" gives believers an out by trusting in what Peter says - even if he is wrong (and assuming that the heir to Peter is not Barthalomew, whose see would have become Prime when Constantine moved the empire - much in the same way that the western patriarchate moved to Avingon when the Pope moved there from Rome).

I am not saying we don't need a Church. What I am saying is that the Church must reorient its understanding of natural law. I can say that, since I am a member and I am not leaving. (Try to kick me out - it will only raise the visibility of the issue). The Church will always retain a valuable teaching role, which will improve with time as everything does. More importantly, the Church is the guardian of the rituals. This, to me, is more important than its moral teaching. I can think for myself and at some level must form my own conscience. I cannot, however, adopt my own public ritual. I can certainly make suggestions, for instance, the adoption of the Tridentine Mass presented in the venacular (if it was so good, it will retain its splendor in a language I can understand) - although it is the hierarchy which makes this decision for the community.

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