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The Post-Indiana Future for Christians

I spent a long time on the phone last night with a law professor at one of the country’s elite law schools. This professor is a practicing Christian, deeply closeted in the workplace; he is convinced that if his colleagues in academia knew of his faith, they would make it very hard for him. We made contact initially by e-mail — he is a reader of this blog — and last night, by phone. He agreed to speak with me about the Indiana situation on condition that I not identify him by name or by institution. I do know his identity, and when he tells me that he is “well-informed about the academy and the Supreme Court,” I assure you that from where he sits, and teaches, and from his CV, he is telling the truth.

I will call him Prof. Kingsfield, after the law professor in The Paper Chase. 

What prompted his reaching out to me? “I’m very worried,” he said, of events of the last week. “The constituency for religious liberty just isn’t there anymore.”

Like me, what unnerved Prof. Kingsfield is not so much the details of the Indiana law, but the way the overculture treated the law. “When a perfectly decent, pro-gay marriage religious liberty scholar like Doug Laycock, who is one of the best in the country — when what he says is distorted, you know how crazy it is.”

“Alasdair Macintyre is right,” he said. “It’s like a nuclear bomb went off, but in slow motion.” What he meant by this is that our culture has lost the ability to reason together, because too many of us want and believe radically incompatible things.

But only one side has the power. When I asked Kingsfield what most people outside elite legal and academic circles don’t understand about the way elites think, he said “there’s this radical incomprehension of religion.”

“They think religion is all about being happy-clappy and nice, or should be, so they don’t see any legitimate grounds for the clash,” he said. “They make so many errors, but they don’t want to listen.”

To elites in his circles, Kingsfield continued, “at best religion is something consenting adult should do behind closed doors. They don’t really understand that there’s a link between Sister Helen Prejean’s faith and the work she does on the death penalty. There’s a lot of looking down on flyover country, one middle America.


“The sad thing,” he said, “is that the old ways of aspiring to truth, seeing all knowledge as part of learning about the nature of reality, they don’t hold. It’s all about power. They’ve got cultural power, and think they should use it for good, but their idea of good is not anchored in anything. They’ve got a lot of power in courts and in politics and in education. Their job is to challenge people to think critically, but thinking critically means thinking like them. They really do think that they know so much more than anybody did before, and there is no point in listening to anybody else, because they have all the answers, and believe that they are good.”

On the conservative side, said Kingsfield, Republican politicians are abysmal at making a public case for why religious liberty is fundamental to American life.

“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate it, and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”

Kingsfield said that the core of the controversy, both legally and culturally, is the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992), specifically the (in)famous line, authored by Justice Kennedy, that at the core of liberty is “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” As many have pointed out — and as Macintyre well understood — this “sweet mystery of life” principle (as Justice Scalia scornfully characterized it) kicks the supporting struts out from under the rule of law, and makes it impossible to resolve rival moral visions except by imposition of power.

“Autonomous self-definition is at the root of all this,” Prof. Kingsfield said. We are now at the point, he said, at which it is legitimate to ask if sexual autonomy is more important than the First Amendment.

The implications of the past week for small-o orthodox Christians — that is, those who hold to traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and the nature of marriage — are broad. There is the legal dimension, and there is a cultural dimension, which Kingsfield sees (rightly, I think) as far more important.

First, the legal. Kingsfield said he reviewed Ross Douthat’s questions, [1] and thinks they are a good framework for trying to figure out the road ahead.  I didn’t pin Kingsfield down on his specific answers to each of Douthat’s questions; we spent an hour and a half on the phone as it was, and I didn’t want to rob too much of his time. But I did take some notes about his general views.

“I read that list and I think it’s very useful,” Kingsfield said. “I think the bulwarks in terms of a parent’s right to raise a child, and to educate a child, are more durable than others.”

A college professor who is already tenured is probably safe. Those who aren’t tenured, are in danger. Those who are believed to be religious, or at least religious in ways the legal overculture believes constitutes bigotry, will likely never be hired. For example, the professor said, he was privy to the debate within a faculty hiring meeting in which the candidacy of a liberal Christian was discussed. Though the candidate appeared in every sense to be quite liberal in her views, the fact that she was an open Christian prompted discussion as to whether or not the university would be hiring a “fundamentalist.”

“I think in terms of hiring people [within the academy], that’s quite acceptable in people’s minds,” said Kingsfield. (And, I would add, not just within the academy.)

Kingsfield says that religious schools will have a substantial degree of protection in the law, at least for a while, to the extent that the school can be described as a part of a particular church, with clear doctrines that it expects its members to live by and uphold.

“There’s going to be some question as to whether this applies to parachurch charities, schools, shelters, things like that,” he says. “If you’re a church you’re pretty much protected in who you hire, pay, and so forth. If you are a school and are careful only to hire people of your denomination, you’re probably okay, though there are questions about the person who says ‘I’m a good Catholic, though I’m gay.’

“It could be that if bishop certifies that you are a Catholic in good standing, you’re okay,” he continued. “Catholics have a clear line of what constitutes the visible church, and what it means to be Catholic. So do the Orthodox. But if you are an Evangelical church that has a more general statement of faith, and depends on a shared assumption that its non-married members will live a chaste life, I’m not so sure that’s going to hold.”

For hierarchical, doctrinally well-defined churches, much depends legally on what the bishops do. “To the extent that some of the Catholic bishops want to punt, like the New Jersey bishop [Bootkoski of Metuchen] did with that schoolteacher [Patricia Jannuzzi], I’m not sure at all what happens to them.”

(Bootkoski arranged for Jannuzzi to be fired from her position teaching at a Catholic school in his diocese after a Facebook post in which she stated Catholic teaching on homosexuality and the family, but did so intemperately. “The teacher’s comments were disturbing and do not reflect the Church’s teachings of acceptance,” the bishop said in a public statement. From what Kingsfield said, this might well have laid down a marker making it hard for the Diocese to defend itself in court in future challenges over hiring.)

“If you’re a Catholic in San Francisco, in a crazy social environment, you’re in good shape, because you have [Archbishop] Salvatore Cordileone, who is going to hold the line. In Philadelphia, you have Archbishop Chaput. But if you’re in Indiana or New Jersey, you’re going to have trouble. There’s a way in which the vigilance of the bishop in governing the local church will matter in court. If the bishops won’t stand up for [orthodox Christian teaching], who will?”

“Even Reformation churches that have specific doctrines that they police, they’ll probably be okay,” Kingsfield continued. “But again, if you define yourselves by a very general statement, even if your ethos is culturally conservative, it’s going to be harder. The low church people may wind up in a position where they have to start policing their churches much more closely in terms of doctrine.”

This could well push religious schools into making hiring decisions that they’re not comfortable with. Say, for example, that a Catholic school had no trouble hiring a chemistry teacher who openly advocated for same-sex marriage, because that teacher was in the school to teach chemistry. His views on gay marriage are irrelevant, in practice. The school may have a different standard for hiring its religion teachers, or its social studies teachers, requiring them to be more doctrinally in line with the Church. But that is a distinction that may not hold up in court under challenge, Kingsfield said.

The result could be that religious schools have to start policing orthodoxy in terms of all their hires — a situation imposing standards far more strict than many schools may wish to live by, but which may be necessary to protect the school’s legal interests.

Kingsfield said homeschooling, and homeschooling-ish things (e.g., co-ops), are going to become increasingly important to orthodox Christians, especially as they see established religious schools folding on this issue.

Businesses, however, are going to have a very hard time resisting what’s coming. Not that they would try. “The big companies have already gone over,” said Kingsfield.

“Most anti-discrimination laws have a certain cut off – they don’t apply if you have 15 employees or less,” he said. “You could have an independent, loosely affiliated network of artisans, working together. If you can refer people to others within the network, that could work. You won’t be able to scale up, but that’s not such a bad thing.”

Kingsfield said religious colleges and universities are going to have to think hard about their identities.

“Colleges that don’t receive federal funding – Hillsdale and Grove City are two I can think of – are going to be in better position, because federal regulations force a lot of crazy stuff on you,” he said. “I think it would be really wise for small religious institutions to think hard if they can cut the cord of federal funding and can find wealthy donors to step in.”

Kingsfield said we are going to have to watch closely the way the law breaks regarding gender identity and transgenderism. If the courts accept the theory that gender is a social construct — and there is a long line of legal theory and jurisprudence that says that it is — then the field of antidiscrimination law is bound to be expanded to cover, for example, people with penises who consider themselves women. The law, in other words, will compel citizens to live as if this were true — and religious liberty will, in general, be no fallback. This may well happen.

What about the big issue that is on the minds of many Christians who pay attention to this fight: the tax-exempt status of churches and religious organizations? Will they be Bob Jones’d over gay rights?

Kingsfield said that this is too deeply embedded in American thought and law to be at serious risk right now, but gay rights proponents will probably push to tie the tax exemption on charities with how closely integrated they are within churches. The closer schools and charities are tied to churches, especially in their hiring, the greater protection they will enjoy.

The accreditation issue is going to be a much stickier wicket. Accreditation is tied to things like the acceptance of financial aid, and the ability to get into graduate schools.

“There was a professor at Penn last year who wrote an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education [2]calling for the end of accrediting religious colleges and universities,” Kingsfield said. “It was a Richard Dawkins kind of thing, just crazy. The fact that someone taking a position this hostile felt very comfortable putting this in the Chronicle tells me that there’s a non-trivial number of professors willing to believe this.”

Gordon College has faced pressure [3]from a regional accrediting authority over its adherence to traditional Christian sexual morals re: gay rights.

“Accreditation is critical to being admitted to law schools and medical schools,” Kingsfield said. “College accreditation will matter for some purposes of sports, federal aid, and for the ability to be admitted by top graduate schools. Ghettoization for Christians could be the result.”

“In California right now, judges can’t belong to the Boy Scouts now. Who knows if in the future, lawyers won’t be able to belong to churches that are considered hate groups?” he said. “It’s certainly true that a lot of law firms will not now hire people who worked on cases defending those on the traditional marriage side. It’s going to close some professional doors. I certainly wouldn’t write about this stuff in my work, not if I wanted to have a chance at tenure. There’s a question among Christian law professors right now: do you write about these issues and risk tenure? This really does distort your scholarship. Christianity could make a distinct contribution to legal discussions, but it’s simply too risky to say what you really think.”

The emerging climate on campus of microaggressions, trigger warnings, and the construal of discourse as a form of violence is driving Christian professors further into the closet, the professor said.

“If I said something that was construed as attacking a gay student, I could have my life made miserable with a year or two of litigation — and if I didn’t have tenure, there could be a chance that my career would be ruined,” he said. “Even if you have tenure, a few people who make allegations of someone being hateful can make a tenured professor’s life miserable.”

“What happened to Brendan Eich” — the tech giant who was driven out of Mozilla for having made a small donation years earlier to the Prop 8 campaign — “is going to start happening to a lot of people, and Christians had better be ready for it. The question I keep thinking about is, why would we want to do that to people? But that’s where we are now.”

I pointed out that the mob hysteria that descended on Memories Pizza, the mom & pop pizza shop in small-town Indiana that had to close its doors (temporarily, one hopes) after its owners answered a reporter’s question truthfully, is highly instructive to the rest of us.

“You’re right,” he said. “Memories Pizza teaches us all a lesson. What is the line between prudently closing our mouths and closeting ourselves, and compromising our faith? Christians have to start thinking about that seriously.”

“We have to fall back to defensive lines and figure out where those lines are. It’s not going to be persecution like the older Romans, or even communist Russia,” he added. “But what’s coming is going cause a lot of people to fall away from the faith, and we are going to have to be careful about how we define and clarify what Christianity is.”

“If I were a priest or pastor, I don’t know what I would advise people about what to say and what not to say in public about their faith,” Kingsfield said.

There is a bitter irony in the fact that gays coming out of the closet coincides with traditional religious people going back into the closet.

“Gays have legitimately said that it’s a big deal to have laws and a culture in which they have been forced to lie about who they are, which is what you do when you put them in the position of not being able to be open about their sexuality,” Kingsfield said.

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ forced them to segment off a part of their lives in a way that was wrong. What they don’t realize today is that the very same criticism they had about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ can be applied to what is happening now to Christians: you can do what you like in private, but don’t bring who you are into the public square, or you can be punished for it.”

On the political side, Kingsfield said it’s important to “surrender political hope” — that is, that things can be solved through political power. Republicans can be counted on to block the worst of what the Democrats attempt – which is a pretty weak thing to rely on, but it’s not nothing. “But a lot of things can be done by administrative order,” he said. “I’m really worried about that.”

And on the cultural front? Cultural pressure is going to radically reduce orthodox Christian numbers in the years go come. The meaning of what it means to be a faithful Christian is going to come under intense fire, Kingsfield said, not only from outside the churches, but from within. There will be serious stigma attached to standing up for orthodox teaching on homosexuality.

“And if the bishops are like these Indiana bishops, where does that leave us?” he said. “We have a problem in the current generation, but what I really worry about is what it means to transmit the faith to the next generation.”

“A lot of us will be able to ‘pass’ if we keep our mouths shut, but it’s going to be hard to tell who believes what,” Kingsfield said. “In [my area], there’s a kind of secret handshake that traditional Christians use to identify ourselves to each other when we meet. Forming those subterranean, catacomb church networks is not easy, but it’s terribly vital right now.”

“Your blog is important for us who feel alone where we are, because it let’s us know that there are others who feel this way,” Kingsfield said. “My wife says you should stop blogging and write your Benedict Option book right now. There is such a need for it. My hope for this book is that it will help Christians like us meet and build more of the networks that are going to carry us through.”

Kingsfield said he and his wife send their children to a classical Christian school in their area. “I can’t tell you how happy that makes me,” he said. “Studying the past is so important. If you have an understanding of where we came from [as a culture], you can really see how insane we have gone.”

Through the classical Christian school community, he said, he and his wife have met believers from other traditions who are very sympathetic to the threat to all orthodox Christians, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox.

“We have to get to know them better. We have to network with them. Our kids have to grow up with those kids, even if it means some driving, some traveling, arranging joint vacations,” Kingsfield said.

The professor brought up the book The Nurture Assumption [4], a book that explains how culture is transmitted to kids.

“Basically, it says that culture comes through your peer group,” he said. “The most important thing is to make sure your kids are part of a peer group where their peers believe the same things. Forming a peer group is hard when it’s difficult to network and find other parents who believe what you do.”

While each family must be a “little church” — some Catholics call it a “domestic monastery,” [5] which fits well with the idea of the Benedict Option — Kingsfield says the importance of community in forming moral consciences should lead Christians to think of their parishes and congregations as the basic unit of Christian life.

Hearing Kingsfield say this, I thought about how there is a de facto schism within churches now. It will no longer be sufficient to be part of a congregation where people are at odds on fundamental Christian beliefs, especially when there is so much pressure from the outside world. I thought of Neuhaus’s Law: where orthodoxy is optional, it will sooner or later be proscribed. It is vital to find a strong church where people know what they believe and why, and are willing to help others in the church teach those truths and live them out joyfully.

This is a time, said Kingsfield, for Christians to read about church history, including the lives of saints, and to acquaint themselves with the fact that the Christian church has actual roots, and teachings. It is not about what you “feel” is Christian. That’s the way of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is the death of Christianity.

“The most important question for Christians parents to ask themselves is, do we have a vibrant church?,” he said. “Sadly, only a small number of places have them. My family is in one. Our kids are growing up with good examples that they can look up to, and good older kids who hang on because they can stand together.”

Some people taking the Benedict Option will head for the hills, Kingsfield said, but that will be a trivial number, and that won’t be an answer for most of us.

“We need to study more the experience of Orthodox Jews and Amish,” he said. “None of us are going to be living within an eruv or practicing shunning. What we should focus on is endogamy.”

Endogamy means marriage only within a certain clan or in-group.

“Intermarriage is death,” Kingsfield said. “Not something like Catholic-Orthodox, but Christian-Jew, or high church-low church. I just don’t think Christians are focused on that, but the Orthodox Jews get it. They know how much this matters in creating a culture in which transmitting the faith happens. For us Christians, this is going to mean matchmaking and youth camps and other things like that. It probably means embracing a higher fertility rate, and celebrating bigger families.”

The professor said we also have to band together behind religious liberty legal organizations like The Becket Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom. And we have to make connections not only across denominational lines, but religious ones too — that is, with Jews, Muslims, and Mormons.

“It can’t be said loudly enough that yes, we have big theological disagreements, but the more we can stand together, the more likely we are to succeed,” he said. “The more our struggle is framed as a specifically Christian thing, the more likely we are to lose in the courts.”

Why? Because of liberal culture, and its demonization of Christians as the Other. President Obama will speak out for the Yazidis, but not for the Iraqi Christians, he said. When he talks about the martyred Egyptians in Libya, he doesn’t acknowledge that they were killed for being Christians. It’s simply a fact that there is tremendous animus against Christians within the liberal culture, and that liberal elites will tolerate things from Orthodox Jews and Muslims that they will not from Christians. Small-o orthodox Christians had better grasp that the religious liberties of Jews and Muslims are our own religious liberties, and make friendships and tactical alliances across these boundaries.

More broadly, he said all Christians must take a lesson from many Evangelicals and raise their children to know from the beginning that we are different from everybody else in this culture. We now live in a clearly post-Christian society, and Christian conservatives had better get that straight.

“There are a lot of conservatives who are very chest-thumping pro-America, but there’s an argument that the seeds of this are built into American individualism,” Kingsfield said. “We Christians have to understand where our allegiances really must to lie. The public schools were meant to make good citizens of us and now are being used to make good Moralistic Therapeutic Deists of us.”

Christians should put their families on a “media fast,” he says. “Throw out the TV. Limit Netflix. You cannot let in contemporary stuff. It’s garbage. It’s a sewage pipe into your home. So many parents think they’re holding the line, but they let their kids have unfettered access to TV, the Internet, and smartphones. You can’t do that.

“And if you can’t trust that the families of the kids that your kids play with are on the same team with all this, then find another peer group among families that are,” he said. “It really is that important.”

And for secondary education? Kingsfield teaches at one of the top universities in the country, a gateway to elite advancement, but says he’s not sure he would want his kids attending there. It depends on God’s calling. He remains there because for now, he sees that he has a mission to mentor undergraduates who need a professor like him to help them deal with the things coming at them. The fact that he has his kids in a good school and a good parish makes this possible. But he recognizes that by the time his children become college age, the landscape may have shifted such that the elite universities are too hostile.

“I could still imagine having a kid who was really strong in his faith, and believing that God was calling him to going to a prestige college. I’m not ready to say ‘never’ for that, but I do think there are a lot of kids that we need to steer away from such hostile places, and into smaller, reliably Christian schools where they can be built up in their faith, and not have to deal with such hostility before they’re strong enough to combat it.”

It’s hard to say what kind of landscape Christians will be looking at twenty, thirty years from now. Kingsfield says he has gay colleagues in the university, people who are in their sixties and seventies now, who came of age in a time where a strong sense of individual liberty protected them. They still retain a devotion to liberty, seeing how much it matters to despised minorities.

“That generation is superseded by Social Justice Warriors in their thirties who don’t believe that they should respect anybody who doesn’t respect them,” Kingsfield said. “Those people are going to be in power before long, and we may not be protected.”

Bottom line: the Benedict Option is our the only path forward for us. Indiana shows that. “Write that book,” he said.

OK, I will.

UPDATE: From a reader (who signed his name and gave his institutional affiliation, but I’m keeping this anonymous). He teaches at a major public law school:

Loved the article. I come from a similar background as Kingsfield, although a different legal focus … . At my school, I am the only evangelical Christian within the tenure system, or at least the only open one. While I don’t think my institution is quite as bad as what Kingsfield describes, Kingsfield’s observations are consistent with mine and/or with observations by Christian colleagues at other schools. The attitude toward truth that was displayed by the left on the Indiana RFRA is dominant in legal academia. We live in a culture that is now largely post-rational, post-modern, and post-law. Power and emotions drive issues in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

272 Comments (Open | Close)

272 Comments To "The Post-Indiana Future for Christians"

#1 Comment By RevKapp On April 7, 2015 @ 7:49 pm

“This quarrel is a fruit of Luther’s Reformation, of his claim that works have nothing to do with one’s salvation. Peasants in his day took him at his word and we soon had the Peasants Rebellion, which Luther had the princes put down with force of arms.”

Dennis you could not be further from the truth. Luther taught that works were the fruit of faith. Moreover, the Peasants Revolt was lead by the Anabaptist leaders such as Thomas Muntzer, who were influenced by Zwingli.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 7, 2015 @ 9:38 pm

“The problem is, it seems that Republicans and conservatives are utterly incapable of making a simple argument based on Constitutional fact. They keep bring in the Bible which may be a great book but has nothing to do with our laws. This issue is about same sex marriage, nothing more. The simple and factual argument is this. NO public business in this county has the right to deny secular service to anyone.”

You do realize that this is utterly incorrect. Businesses with specialty services don’t sell outside their specialty. A Jewish shop is not going sell a crucifix and will not even order them on request. Baby stores will deny service because they just don’t sell adult clothes no matter how much you might think they should.

There are private clubs that deny service and membership based on the failure to meet their stated criteria. Even neighborhoods, that require certain standing. Home Associations are designed to cater to a particular type of home owner.

And while on the matter, it’s probably a good idea to consider what is meant by public.

Even if I wanted to ignore faith and practice. A private business, may deny service for various reasons. Most importantly on objectionable behavior and the promotion thereof. I understand the current weak knee’d arguments of liberals and what seems a good part of the secular community as to very peculiar argument. All people are the same kind a thing. Unfortunately for you it is not true. And as such, one has the right to freely choose whom they will partner with, as it pertains to freedom of expression, and conscience is a vital role here.

Those Christians who choose not separate themselves from their faith, good for them, in their business dealings are called to a higher accountability to the same. They are not going to abandon that because someone’s feelings are hurt. And that is protected in my view. And it is protected from multiple angles.

Yawn, I realize that some courts are wholly ignoring that protection instead are applying some cultural, emotional mystique, ” . . .such as anyone who opposes same sex marriage must have animus,” so says the justice mind reader and interpreters of every heart and mind unseen and wholly unknown to him. Liberals don’t fancy God much, but they are certainly pretending to be one.

The intrusions into those protections are and ought to be narrow. The only place that is relevant in my view is benign qualities — certainly not behavior or beliefs they count. The turn on civil rights was on the inequality of the service — not the separate.

I am not sure what biology classes you had, but in every single one of mine — men and women are distinctly, uniquely different.

I need not raise scripture, that is for those who have no idea what Christians believe or have much of glint of their understanding of scripture. The reason I need not raise scripture, because women have spent the last thirty or so years making the case that they are unique and vital, even as to how their brain functions and why in union women must have much value based on difference. I am not sure men needed to know all of that nor that didn’t already accept that women are unique from them and have a unique in marriage.

I ate to tell Justice Stephens, being a man of no small intellect along with rest of the mind and heart readers. A union of a man and a woman is not equal to that of two people of the same sex. And guess what? It will be forever superior for the purposes of human maintenance and survival. Sorry, to hurt your feelings, but the world full of multiple faiths and practices different than Christianity have arrived at the same conclusion. And no small evidence indicates that arrived at that place before — the Bible was written.

I am forever amazed that people, black people , just don’t disavow liberals wholesale. Because comments like this,

” then you can deny service to the Colored, and you could deny service to the Jews, or even Christians. That’s not America.”

are incredibly disrespectful of history of the black people, or if you prefer the colored people or people of color, though I suspect that no small number of black people will wince at the used of “colored.”
Frankly, that is America. The right to associate and do business with whom thou will. But more importantly, the issue of color is benign and as a factor has no bearing on belief, thought, or meaning save what a person brings to it.

Now whites have made quite a mess of meaning for black people to this having spoiled themselves by assigning all manner of meaning for the purpose of discrimination. And there is where the argument fails –= color has no distinct universal meaning or import on behavior, nor is color a choice. It is a benign factor common to humanity, so in that respect it actually makes some sense to challenge discrimination on that basis.

Additionally, a black person does not ask a white person to become black, eat chitlins, dance a hip hop, sing a spiritual when he conducts business. He does not request any participation save the exchange of money for goods; there is no exchange of Ebonics required(playing with stereotypes deliberately . . .).

A wedding is a completely different issue. It is a ceremony rife with meaning. And whether that meaning resides in the seller or the buyer, either one should never be forced to participate in it beyond their own conscience. That is the very essence of the Constitutional protections on individual liberty.

It is astonishing the value of so much elite education advances such milk toast, fluff, indistinct arguments and analysis on matters such meaning that demand.

A dog is an animal. A cat is an animal. But they are uniquely different. Even their dietary requirements are different. A jew looking to have a traditional Jewish/Hebrew Wedding is not going to head off to the local bible thumper planner. Makes no sense — culturally different. Nor should either be forced to do so.

A wedding of two men is never going to make sense to a Christian rooted in scripture, might not sense to the secularist either, even if they acquiesce just to shut up the homosexual practitioning crowd. Nonetheless, it makes no sense for such a couple to even consider such a baker.

And let’s be honest they are not man and wife a cultural understanding of marriage that Christians are wedded to — so asking a Christian to get his or her mind around that hurdle is ludicrous. Their belief system, protected, will not abide it. And no one has to know a word about scripture to grasp, “Ohh, I don’t believe that and therefore will not do that.” One may shrug, they may be hurt, but one moves on, unless they have an agenda.

And the homosexual has several which they and Justice Stephens apparently thinks they can resolve by force.

1. they want the affirmation by Christians. As if that will give them Godly affirmation —

2. they want personal affirmation that they are ok and what better way to get it than from a uniquely Christian business.

3. they are forcing a legal issue that does not exist for the purposes of being told that they are ok —

Uhhhh, it seems to me be a warped avenue to seek affirmation from people who think your choice is an abomination and a worse avenue to think that forcing the service will affirm that you are ok. If anything it reinforces the notion that you are not only an enemy of God, of them, but of the Constitution as well.

And good grief, stop leaning on the kindness of blacks. Make your case based on your choice not some example wholly dissimilar.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 7, 2015 @ 9:41 pm

” . . . may be a great book . .”

Furthermore, belief in God or know, the value of the book is how it has shaped civility and law for the purpose of justice, for people regardless of their faith.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 7, 2015 @ 10:36 pm

I’d implore Rod and his commenters to keep this in mind whenever they claim that secularists and liberals hate Christians.

Another Matt, you have been authorized as spokesperson to affirm in public that secularists and liberals fully accept the Rick Warren quote you reference? If that were true, and socons also signed on, then as Phil Ochs sang, “I declare, the war is over.”

#5 Comment By Another Matt On April 8, 2015 @ 12:37 am


I guess my point is that socons have been denying anti-gay animus, hatred, etc. I’m willing to believe that’s the case as long as they extend me the same courtesy. The ones in these threads have been quite cavalier with the way they have applied “animus” and “hatred” in their descriptions of liberals and secularists. It’s easy for both sides to want it both ways — we don’t hate, we just disagree with their false beliefs and will not participate in validating their lies. They are clearly blinded by their hatred for us.

Either we can have “love the sinner, hate the sin,” or we can have “hate is something you do, not something you feel.” There isn’t much room between the two when “hate the sin” requires doing things the other person experiences as harm. I suppose it will eventually come down to which side has the more persistent bullies. Christianity has had far more practice at it, so I wouldn’t count them out.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 8, 2015 @ 11:26 am

” . . . “animus” and “hatred” in their descriptions of liberals and secularists. It’s easy for both sides to want it both ways — we don’t hate, we just disagree with their false beliefs and will not participate in validating their lies. They are clearly blinded by their hatred for us.”

Sigh . . . and just what examples of that haterd and animus are you talking about?

1. First niether of those are against the law. And

2. the constant turn to hrt felings or “thse christians ar so mean, is hardly the point.

While popular with Justice Stephens, and liberal cadre, how others feel, also protected, is not rally the issue.

I matters not at tittle how you feel about me or I you, I would not provide services specific to encouraging, affirming homosexual choices with respect to my enterprise.

But for the sake of one’s strategic emotional manuevering – My animus is for the wholesale disregard liberals have for faith and practice and how the protections that apply to you also apply to people, who actually think scripture is the best trust as to faith and practice.

Christian “bulies”. That’s rich.

#7 Comment By bt On April 8, 2015 @ 2:17 pm

There will be more hand wringing as the years go by, as for the most part the majority will rule. In America as in most any other country. Even with South Dakota having 2 senators. And as time is going by there will be fewer religious people in America, that is just how this rolling. And partly religious leaders are to blame for this, especially the ones who insist that the rules are perfect and eternal and can never bend.


“is that the old ways of aspiring to truth, seeing all knowledge as part of learning about the nature of reality, they don’t hold. It’s all about power. They’ve got cultural power, and think they should use it for good, but their idea of good is not anchored in anything”


This is the central conceit of religious people, the notion that there notion of right and wrong are superior because there are these rules that they have chosen to submit to. As if these rules, the ones THEY choose to follow are superior and irrefutable and infallible. But these religious rules were written by humans after all. And at a time and place that is entirely foreign to the world we all live in today.

Then you need to face the fact that whole sections of the bible are just routinely disregarded because they are entirely foolish in the context of our society. The parts about slave treatment, for example. Those parts were very helpful and to the confederate cause and civil way, but not so much to anyone with a moral compass. So they are ignored, along with all of the bacon-eating and shellfish-eating. Your religious anchors are much softer than you know, or are willing to admit.

Funny thing about ISIS and Taliban and those guys. They more or less do follow these kinds of commandments, you know, death to the infidels sort of thing, of which there is plenty in the old testament. It’s not a good fit for me.

#8 Comment By David Ritchie On April 8, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

While I agree with much of what is written here concerning the current threat to religious liberty, I feel we’re in the midst of an understandable reactionary environment right now – a backlash to centuries of what the author acknowledges was mistreatment. It’s really just the tip of the iceberg, historically, when he says “Don’t ask, don’t tell forced them to segment off a part of their lives in a way that was wrong”). The problems he’s lamenting are a blip in history, a pendulum swing too far the other direction (as pendulums always do) while we find a way to be inclusive of all, settling soon, I hope, into an ultimately more healthy place.

My thinking is, this will be a non-issue in 10 or 15 years because every organization with any visibility will have “gone over”, as he puts it in this article, just as our society eventually “went over” after the church stopped defending slavery (oh yes, the church was instrumental in that institution), and later stopped defending anti-miscegenation laws on scriptural grounds. It would be instructional, when he exhorts Christians to read about church history, if he would include those parts as well, not just the part the church wants to remember and attempting to gloss over long periods of being wrong. The verses that orthodox Christians used against black individuals didn’t change. Society changed. Society is doing it again now. National same-sex marriage is coming – probably this summer. Nothing will or should stop individuals from saying what they believe, but these very vocal fights against gay rights will in the not too distant future seem archaic. The conversations will continue among friends but will be settled as a matter of policy, just like interracial marriage can be debated among friends, but it will no longer be debated in the courts.

To be sure, I agree with the author that “religious liberty is fundamental to American life”, but I don’t agree with his statement that “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it”. There is nothing wrong with those men saying why they believe same-sex marriage is wrong, but it doesn’t follow that they should be able to bar others from entering into such an arrangement. What is happening to some outspoken individuals today is likely wrong, just as what has happened to homosexuals in the world for centuries has been wrong. But I maintain that it will not be considered “compromising our faith” to treat one another with the respect we each deserve. And we will get there. The author draws the wrong parallel when he compares current persecution of those who adhere to traditional Christian sexual morals with other historical persecution of Christians. He touches on a more interesting parallel when he says, “There is a bitter irony in the fact that gays coming out of the closet coincides with traditional religious people going back into the closet.” It would be instructive if he compared persecuted Christians today to persecuted homosexuals in the past, because traditional Christians have been the ones doing the persecuting, and a little contrition will be in order if Christians wish to claim the moral high ground when faced with this backlash.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 9, 2015 @ 8:39 pm

” And partly religious leaders are to blame for this, especially the ones who insist that the rules are perfect and eternal and can never bend.”

I am not sure what “religious leaders” you are talking about, but the two most formost, god and Christ are in unison since they set man on the earth, ok, at least since the fall.

As for therest, they may be at fault, but it not because they hold certain truths eternal, but because they bent those truths as you suggest. They strayed from what Christ himself says,

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
Matthew 5:18 KJV [6] 5:18&…

By embracing that which God has forbidden they have done enormous harm, they did in fact bend the truth.

#10 Comment By Joan On April 9, 2015 @ 8:57 pm

Kingsfield teaches at one of the top universities in the country, a gateway to elite advancement, but says he’s not sure he would want his kids attending there… “I could still imagine having a kid who was really strong in his faith, and believing that God was calling him to going to a prestige college. I’m not ready to say ‘never’ for that, but I do think there are a lot of kids that we need to steer away from such hostile places…”

I remember being shocked when British Christian writers such as C. S. Lewis would write about ambition as a sin. Raised in the States, I was taught that upward mobility was a virtue to which we should all aspire. When I was a little older, I came to understand that what I was taught was about escaping poverty, while what Lewis, et. al., were condemning was the desire to be part of the elite. It’s what we would now call an ego thing, a desire to outrank as many people as possible and therefore pretty obviously a form of the sin of Pride. In the past, when this was nominally a Christian society, an individual could devote his (or, less often, her) whole life to this sin and yet still be believed when claiming to be a traditional Christian. Nevertheless, it was always a sin. Families and churches just agreed to pretend otherwise because of the advantages that came to them as a result of a member’s success. The Sexual Revolution has made this pretense more difficult than it used to be, but there was never a time when it wasn’t a pretense.

#11 Comment By Lee On April 11, 2015 @ 11:23 pm

“ For us Christians, this is going to mean matchmaking and youth camps and other things like that. It probably means embracing a higher fertility rate, and celebrating bigger families.”

No no no No NO! How is this even Biblical? ‘Breeding’ more Christians rather then going out and doing the hard stuff like preaching the Word, advocating a sort of disappearing into familial enclaves rather then going out and facing that some might not like you for preaching the Truth. Whatever happened to going out speaking the Truth and discipling? Or has it become such that the solution to everything is to breed, hoping sheer numbers overcome the sinning masses like a swarm of locusts? Yuck. if you want to overcome the forces of Darkness, do what Jesus did in the Bible. Breeding and pushing out babies like a Pez dispenser isn’t going to win over anyone. Dicipling, preaching the Word, and loving the least of these will.

#12 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 12, 2015 @ 9:50 am

I think what Dr. C.S. Lewis was talking about was ambition as sole, paramount pursuit. If self aggrandizement is the sole goal, then is serves as becoing the replacement what should be a higher call to something other than self.

But a desire to be the best at something I am not sure qualifies. Attempting to discern the heart of a person in ths regard is hard fare in my view.

It may be easy to confuse, confidence, certainty, commitment to purpose for ambition, which in and of itself is not a sin.

#13 Comment By Julien Peter Benney On April 13, 2015 @ 4:09 am

The issue is really serious, but it is one which has been played out throughout the Enriched World. In reality it is only in Australia and Africa with their abundant flat land, hot climates, and comparative advantage in agriculture that Christianity can have a future.

One must remember that what is happening in the US, Western Europe and Latin America today happened in the Stalinist nations of the Eastern bloc fifty to seventy years ago, with the full support at least of the urban working classes and certain sections of academia. Once the likely opponents of radical atheism – the farming community and traditional royalty – lose the value of their resources little can be done.

In this sense, the militant atheism of the Enriched World today is an inevitable by-product of the “Green Revolution”, which intensified its comparative disadvantage using its sole natural resource (exceptionally young and fertile soils) and in turn intensified an already-dominant envy among its lower classes. Critically it seemed to make the lower classes more aware of (to paraphrase Lenin) “what was to be done” – eliminate traditional morals, radically masculinise women and break apart the family – to achieve the ultimate goal of radical equality of outcomes that they had held for many generations.

#14 Comment By NGPM On April 13, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

“I feel we’re in the midst of an understandable reactionary environment right now – a backlash to centuries of what the author acknowledges was mistreatment.”

Even just framing the question this way is ceding any and all ground, and it’s no wonder that these horrible arguments by the author attract such vile anti-Christian nonsense in every post about gay marriage.

One does not have to feel sorry for gays qua gays as a “persecuted minority” to condemn any specific injustice committed against an individual. An effeminate male who has done nothing wrong deserves no punishment, end of story.

The question of how Christians allowed “humanitarian” discourse to go from there, to the argument that one has a natural right not only to penetrate from behind but also to force acceptance, toleration and equivocation of a publicly flashed social identity around preference for such penetration on everyone else.

Why should one?

#15 Comment By tz On April 18, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

Why do Christians sign up to the military if they are going to have to take their brethren to the concentration camps?

#16 Comment By R.C. On April 26, 2015 @ 9:17 pm

One particularly sad thing about this whole affair, is how few people realize when and where and how it started.

It started when Christians abandoned the high-point of their philosophical roots, the Scholastic metaphysics of the High Middle Ages (Aristotelianism-Thomism).

They didn’t abandon it because it was wrong. They didn’t disprove it. They were just sick of it. They were exasperated with the fact that it — boringly! — offered consistent, logical answers. They’d gotten to the point where they didn’t want to hear the Truth any more, because they’d already been hearing it for hundreds of years and it had become The Same Old Thing.

So they chucked it: Realism was rejected in favor of Nominalism and Conceptualism (even though both are irrational). Forms and Teleology were rejected in favor of Mechanistic Thinking (which itself is irrational, persistently collapsing in reductiones ad absurdum). The soul as the form which is life in a living being was lost in favor of Cartesian Dualism, with irrational fideism filling in the gaps.

And while Natural Law Morality hung on for a little while, and even was championed inconsistently in the American Founders and their writings, still, by the 1930’s, it too was gone. Folk not infected with the intellectual hubris of Progressivism were scorned as rubes, as “hicks in the sticks,” for thinking that appeal to “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” was any more than a quaint superstition of our ancestors.

See, all the good things that were abandoned along that path, were abandoned because they were naturally-drawn conclusions of High Christian Philosophy in Europe, and people were getting tired of the institutions of Europe.

Without benefit of the “4 causes” and other Aristotelian-Thomist foundations in your philosophy, your philosophy can’t be rational…but when you’re tired of everything that goes along with being rational, you’re ready to try irrationality for a change.

The Is-Ought problem, the Mind-Body problem, the quest for some Ethics that doesn’t reduce to “whoever has the power makes the rules” …these WEREN’T PROBLEMS until the foundations of Christian intellectual life were kicked out from under it because they’d become unfashionable.

All the crazy Nihilism and Solipsism and Amoralism which are the logical conclusions of modern philosophy are entirely unnecessary. But people wanted to get rid of what they had, and didn’t realize what they had, until it was gone.

Actually, they never realized it, because habit and custom preserved the beneficial outcomes of Christian Philosophy long after Christian Philosophers had the philosophy that provided those outcomes (e.g. Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Descartes, Locke).

It’s only their great-great-grandchildren that are seeing where the choice led; only the sad thing is, they don’t remember the choice, so they’ve no clue how we got here, or that there was ever any alternative.

You’d think these crazy conclusions necessitated by post-Cartesian philosophy would, in themselves, qualify as reductiones ad absurdum, for all the thinkers in academia. You’d think they’d say, “Hey, the logical outcome of modern thinking is: Every man for himself, because probably nobody exists other than me, anyhow; but that can’t be right, therefore modern thinking has gone wrong.”

And they would say that…were it not for the disturbing (to them) alternative.

The alternative to the Modern Error is to go back and Undo The Error. The alternative is to reintroduce Aristotle’s 4 Causes as developed in Thomas Aquinas to produce Natural Law Morality.

But, you see, if they went back to THAT, they’d have to accept its conclusions about sexual morality.

And they want NONE of that!

So they prefer to stick with any old irrational philosophy provided it DOESN’T lead where the only rational philosophy developed in the last thousand years leads, morally speaking.

Folks, THAT is how all this happened.

How many young Christians in public schools know this?

How many in private schools, even? Even Christian private schools? How many, even, of the Christian homeschooled kids know this?

For that matter, how many Christian adults? Pastors? Seminary professors?

One in a hundred? Maybe not even that many?

Christians have no idea how to answer their critics in intellectual debate. Why?

Because their critics challenge them by standing on the foundation of anti-Christian philosophical categories and modes of thinking, and the Christians are attempting to respond…standing on that same foundation!

How’s that workin’ out for ya’?

#17 Comment By OpenlyQuiet On April 27, 2015 @ 1:08 am

All of this is true, and then some. I teach at one of the most highly ranked Christian law schools, and the less I acknowledge that the law school is in fact Christian, the better off I am in the legal academy. When asked about the religious affiliation of the school, I downplay it as much as possible, lest I be drawn into a hostile and judgmental discussion about gay rights (a topic that never comes up in my daily life, except for when I’m dealing with non-Christians who want to know just how much of a bigot I must be b/c I go to church or am willing to teach at a Christian university). It’s not that christian perspectives on thought are not welcome in the academy — as that presumes my thoughts would get out of my mouth before I was judged, rather Christians are not welcome in the legal academy, and there’s no turning this ship around. The next shoe to drop will be ABA accreditation. Going forward I think we will increasingly become an insular institution, serving only those who already know they want to be among us. But I’m resigned to it… I realize, not fighting all of this probably makes me a bad Christian, but to fight would mean that everyday would be a battle against thousands who would shout me down on my publicly available email address and harass me and my family online. No thanks. And, the reality is that I’m not alone, I can sense that many at the institution are drawing inward, pulling up the bridge, raising the walls.

#18 Comment By Russ Davis On April 27, 2015 @ 5:28 pm

“EliteCommInc. says:
April 7, 2015 at 9:38 pm
“The problem is, it seems that Republicans and conservatives are utterly incapable of making a simple argument based on Constitutional fact. They keep bring in the Bible which may be a great book but has nothing to do with our laws.”
That lie would have surprised our Founders who knew it well and knew that we’re “endowed by our Creator [not the govt] with certain unalienable rights. They knew that without God and the Bible the nation was doomed and rightly deemed EliteCommInc.’s historically ignorant and bigoted delusions certain to be fatal.

#19 Comment By Russ Davis On April 27, 2015 @ 5:41 pm

“R.C. says:
April 26, 2015 at 9:17 pm”
ironically nothing about Christians and the Bible, just philosophy & theology. Ironically those who condemn the Bible are ignorant of it because what they want is orgasm, not the reality of family, the reason why perverts want the “same sex marriage” fraud of “The gay invention” (see [7] & [8] for its refutation as invalid lawless, fascist derangement). Ironically, as we’re already seeing, as in the 1789 French Revolution the cruel monsters will first turn on and destroy each other and then everyone will get simply tired of their filthy, deranged debauchery and call in a Napoleon to restore sanity/order by which they will be decimated in war. God will not be mocked. Our arms are far too short to box with Him since He easily hands us over to our Romans 1 depravity. The imaginary “victory” of perverts is a Pyrrhic and merely temporary one indeed as their own indecency eventually destroys them, especially eternally in a Christless hell if God does not, please God, grant them repentance unto life eternal with Jesus in heaven. See C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra Trilogy for a profound depiction of such eternal truth, soli Deo gloria.

#20 Comment By Nervous Mormon On May 4, 2015 @ 12:12 am

Very interesting article. I wish Professor “Kingsfield” would write more on this himself, for he is very clearly a thinker and most likely a clear and thoughtful writer.

I am a Mormon who once worked for the government and saw firsthand the restrictions on freedom of expression imposed on those who did not toe the orthodox line. I can tell you that my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based on public statements, is VERY interested in this topic, and if you are looking for friends in other faiths, they might be good people to reach out to.

#21 Comment By Stephen Gould On March 25, 2016 @ 9:25 pm

@R.C.:”Natural Law Morality.”

1. Natural law morality is no more “objective” than any other form. Who decrees that because it is in the nature of X that Y, therefore Y is moral? Granted, it has the impression of internal consistency, but that does not make the morality argument grounded.

2. I have yet to find any natural law moralist – though I am prepared to accept your claim of exception to this – who did not present a natural law position that did not, by miraculous coincidence, align perfectly with his own prejudices about what is right and wrong and therefore what was natural (noting that almost invariably, the decision about right and wrong precedes the analysis of human nature). Further, I have not met one either who was prepared to examine the real world scientifically to determine what really was in some entity’s nature, or who was prepared to change their minds about some point of natural law when scientific evidence showed that their understanding of what the nature was was wrong.

#22 Comment By R.C. On January 2, 2019 @ 10:51 am

Stephen Gould:

I appreciate your reply, and the critique is welcome. (But I am very belated in seeing it.)

Your first objection is: “1. Natural law morality is no more ‘objective’ than any other form. Who decrees that because it is in the nature of X that Y, therefore Y is moral? Granted, it has the impression of internal consistency, but that does not make the morality argument grounded.”

The difficulty is that diagnosed by Alasdair MacIntyre: An equivocation on the term “moral.” In Natural Law Morality there is no is/ought problem because there is no distinction between that which leads to Entity A1 of type A to flourish as an entity of type A, and that which is “moral.” To use your symbols, to call something moral just is to claim that “it is in the nature of X that Y.”

(P1) It is good that things exist and flourish; the existence and flourishing of those things just is goodness regarding them.
(P2) things have a rationally-recognizable telos, such as the way that an eye is “for” seeing.
Therefore (C) one helps good thing maximize its full-flowering by refusing to act in ways destructive/subversive of that thing’s telos, unless as an undesired double-effect of preserving another higher-priority telos (e.g. kill a tiger to protect the villager).

Moral behavior by rational agents first requires use of right-reason to fully apprehend the teleology of the agent as the kind of agent he is (e.g. the telos of a human qua human, including the telos of a human’s appetites qua appetites and his pleasures qua pleasures, etc.). Next, the behavior is morally good if it contributes to the rightly-understood fulfillment of human telos qua human telos, and morally bad if it destroys or subverts it.

It might help to understand that the idea of “divine mandate” — that God has commanded to do such-and-such — was superimposed on the idea of Natural Law by the “blending of Athens and Jerusalem.” Your response seems to suggest you’re searching for a reason why something immoral is “against the moral law” without having recourse to some revelation of divine law. But Natural Law Ethics, once separated from Classical Theism, does not define human immoral behavior as being against some law. It describes what constitutes the failure of a human to be a “good human” by the same standards of a failure of a broken watch to be a “good watch.”

Of course, when recombined with Classical Theism, the idea of law is restored because now we have a Lawgiver adding, “…and I insist on you humans being good humans.” And there are good reasons, entirely apart from revelations or miracle-stories, to believe in the existence of the God of Classical Theism. (Ed Feser has done good popular-level work on this topic in recent years.)

But even without introducing God and His commands, one can still ask, “Look, man, if you were a watch, would you want to be the kind of watch that slips ten minutes a day?” As the Internet Meme says, “You had ONE JOB.” For us humans, the job is to be a good human.

Your also object that: “2. I have yet to find any natural law moralist – though I am prepared to accept your claim of exception to this – who did not present a natural law position that did not, by miraculous coincidence, align perfectly with his own prejudices about what is right and wrong and therefore what was natural.”

Well, it might not be a miracle or coincidence. It might just be that they’re all correct (unless they contradict one another).

For of course their “prejudices” as you call them — that is to say, their “cached responses” about commonly-posed right/wrong questions — are probably informed by traditions from earlier eras of society, dating from an period in which Natural Law Ethics either predominated or was more commonly-embraced (even by those who disobeyed it) than today. Their “cached responses” are likely to have been correctly-calculated during that earlier period, and are being repeated zombie-like by many people who are no longer capable of calculating them for themselves.

Or, perhaps some of them are capable. In that case they are “doing the math” today just as their forebears did, and usually getting the same answers as their forebears.

Let’s not mince words: Usually it’s the sexual thing, right? We humans have low-resistance to having our dopamine system hijacked by whatever behaviors produce frequent orgasm, especially coupled to a feeling of excitement followed by a feeling of belonging. And, the neurotransmitters and hormones in semen have the effect of triggering bonding chemistry in the brains of women who absorb them.

As a matter of evolutionary psych, it’s pretty easy to see how that goes well with procreating and family-formation in the kind of species whose pregnant females and young are very vulnerable unless defended and cared-for by another member of the species who is not pregnant and has a strong instinctive drive to protect his offspring.

The Natural Law Ethicist looks at all this and asks, “After all, why should there be such instincts? And animal instincts, when gratified, are always rewarded by a pleasure-response whose type is specific to the instinct. (The pleasure of taking a deep breath after holding one’s breath is different from the pleasure of eating a good meal after fasting.) Sure, we could trigger those same pleasure-responses by electrocuting the relevant neurons in the brain, but if we did that, they’d be happening apart from the human-flourishing behaviors they’re supposed to reward, which would subvert the telos of that whole reward circuit. So: Taking that circuit as a whole, and noting its effect on long-term pair bonding biochemistry, what should we conclude the system is for, when it is not being subverted?”

The answer is pretty obvious. So the Natural Law Ethicist concludes that one can abstain from gratifying those instincts if right-reason argues for a better use of one’s time (abstention is neither destructive nor subversive), but that one ought not subvert those instincts (and the associated pleasure experiences in the brain) by, say, masturbating to pornography (for example), since that fails to produce either offspring or the long-term instinct-reinforced bonded pair who is instinct-driven to nurture and instruct that offspring towards his/her own flourishing.

A person could, of course, ignore this disconnect and go ahead and abuse themselves with porn all day. The Natural Law analysis is, “Fine, go ahead, but you only have one life, with a limited duration, and currently, you’re sucking at being human qua human.”