Last Sunday in class, as we were discussing the protean changes in the legal and cultural landscape of the United States, David Dehart asked this question:
How did we (ever) get here?
It’s a good question, and one that, if we are to survive the flood, we would do well to try to answer. In any such effort, we start by defining our terms. What do we mean by “here?”
There are knee-jerk answers to that question, one of which is a quick pointing to the recent Supreme Court case that redefines marriage as a contract by any two (?) consenting adults, rather than an exclusive union between a man and a woman. What kind of philosophy is it that overturns and, thus, undermines the central social institution that, from time immemorial, has been the primary unit of civilized life, the means of social stability and freedom from government control?
But I think if we are to have a real grasp of the situation, we need to go much deeper than the decision in Obergefell.
What Dave means by “here,” I would say, is “the modern.” And the mark of the modern age is this – man is the measure of all things. That is – human beings are capable of marking their own successful courses of life without reference to God.
If we define the matter this way, we see that it is not simply a one-vote majority of the Supreme Court that is the problem. Rather, as John Fogerty would say, “It’s been comin’ for some time.”
Ronald Rolheiser would agree. I think he starts the modern age with Descartes. You know, the old “I think, therefore I am,” guy. Rolheiser also points to the pervasiveness of Marxist and Freudian philosophy in the modern mind (Death of the Soviet Union notwithstanding). Both of these bearded cats believed that “the way of man was within himself.” This is a denial of the fall and the beginning of the modern age. The “here” that Dave was talking about.