Stephen Kokx is ConservativeHome College Columnist winner. He studied Business Administration at Aquinas College and received a MA in Social Justice and Community Development from Loyola University Chicago.
Most Americans are unfamiliar with the arguments of John Rawls. Most philosophers, however, when listening to Barack Obama, realize his beliefs are alive and well. In a grainy video that surfaced on YouTube a couple years ago, Obama said:
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, to take one example, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I can’t simply can’t point to the teachings of my church or invoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principles that are accessible to people of all faith, including those with no faith at all.
Rawls’ theory – as Obama alludes to – posits that the state, due to the various worldviews held by its citizens, should recuse itself from imposing a preferred way of life on its members.
In recent decades, however, with the advent of the culture of death and the usurpation of so-called human rights over the natural law, liberalism’s neutral aspirations have proved to be nothing more than a myth.
In July, for example, Illinois terminated its relationship with the Catholic Church because they refused to provide adoption and foster care services to gay and lesbian couples after Governor Pat Quinn approved a same sex marriage bill. In San Francisco, efforts were taken to disallow circumcision because it was seen as a barbaric infringement on the rights of the child. And in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy banned the Muslim burqua from being worn in public due to the fact that is shrouds a woman’s face from public viewing.
The crux of the issue, I believe, is twofold – how religion is understood in relation to political theory and whether or not Rawls’ theory is as effective as most liberals believe it is.
In comparing the distinction between an ideology and one’s faith, it is important to remember the anthropology they set forth. Catholicism, for instance, believes that human beings are made in the image of God. As such, humans, above all other creatures, possess intrinsic rights - the most constitutive being the right to life. Rawlsian liberalism, however, holds that rights emanate from a veiled state of nature where the self is prior to its ends. Our rights, in other words, are not inherent in our being, but results of a man made compact.
This line of thinking is exemplified mostly by libertarians but has gained popularity in recent decades. Not only was it evident when Barack Obama admitted that determining when a fetus obtained rights was above his pay grade but also when the HHS decided to force insurance companies to supply birth control to women free of charge.
Advocates for free birth control cite cost benefit analysis as a reason why such action needs to be taken. But speaking of the birth control on the fiscal-utilitarian plane is highly dangerous.
Ever since the 1960s, the women’s liberation movement has sought to eliminate the reproductive nature of the sexual act – and with it, the traditional teachings of Christianity. It was argued that women had the right to break free from their domesticated lives and share in the sexual freedoms of their male counterparts. Time has shown, however, that feminist aspirations have had the exact opposite effect on society.
Not only are women glorified for their sexual prowess, but – as many birth control advocates point out – almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Furthermore, within the African American community, nearly 70% of all children are born to single mothers.
Realizing this, liberals argue that it is not so much a failure of their ideology that has occurred, but a failure of the state in not providing adequate resources to those who cannot afford contraception.
When viewed through this prism, birth control is seen as human progress. Unfortunately, what is really happening is a paradigm shift in our cultural values. Religious beliefs, in essence, are sealed off from public debate – resulting in an understanding of the conjugal act as a type of manufacturing process.
But viewing human life in a proportionalist manner can have drastic effects on how society operates. Some parts of the environmental movement, to take one extreme, see mankind as a sort of evolutionary accident whose inherent worth is no more valuable than a blade of grass or flock of geese. For them, making contraception cost effective curbs global warming and assists with population control.
We can see, then, that the efforts of state subsidized birth control necessarily creates an insular society build on synthetic values which rip us apart from the reproductive nature of sexual intercourse and leads to a cavalier attitude regarding public policy and personal faith.
With society structured in this way, liberalism unknowingly saps the virtue needed for a democracy to viably function. Without ordered liberty, society plunges into barbarism wherein the public square is morphed into a laboratory of ever-shifting secular principles.