Monday, April 28, 2008

Katherine Kersten on polygamist raid in Texas

KK asks some important questions regarding the removal of over 400 children from a polygamist compound in Texas:

First, marriages involving girls in their early teens—and social pressures that encourage under-age marriage—is child abuse, plain and simple. There should be no liberal or conservative divide on this point.

But let’s think about polygamous living arrangements as a basis for this raid. Today, traditional notions of marriage are under attack. We hear everywhere that anyone who is “committed” to another should not be denied the “right” to marry. Our constitutional jurisprudence is warming to the idea that many aspects of behavior involve a “right to privacy,” and that marriage is within that zone.

As a result, what moral, social or legal response can we give today to members of Yearning for Zion who demand that polygamy be decriminalized?

This question is relevant not only to obscure Mormon sects. In Canada and Europe, some Muslims are already demanding state recognition of plural marriage. To the right of privacy and equal protection under the law, they add religious freedom as a justification.

Another point: The Texas raid wrenched hundreds of children away from their mothers. According to Time, 77 of these youngsters are under the age of two. The children are now living in a variety of temporary facilities and foster homes, and are being supervised by a foster care system that is already overtaxed. Was grave harm done to these children and their mothers when Texas authorities seized and refused to return them? The answer seems clear, and should make us shudder.

When this story first broke it reminded me that all of our talk of "tolerance" and church signs proclaiming "WE WELCOME EVERYONE TO OUR TABLE!" is really a mask for a whole lot of discrimination. We all discriminate by drawing a line somewhere. Religious freedom is not absolute: If you marry off 12 year old girls to 45 year old men as part of your religion you should be stopped. "Tolerance" in a church is not absolute: If the pastor who "welocmes all" hired an unrepentent child molestor as a youth leader, he has done wrong by welcoming the pervert.

It is not a choice between being "welcoming" or "intolerant." The question is simply, Where do YOU draw the line? In a culture where no foundation of universal morals is recognized, all that remains is the whim of public opinion backed by the power of the state. Might not my own marriage lived according to my religion be eventually viewed as dangerous to my children?


Anonymous said...

Foundation of universal morals like what exactly? Or is that the rhetorical question I think it is?

Have you beaten your children to death with rocks for talking back to you? No? Why not? Certainly not because the bible doesn't say, chapter-and-verse, that you shouldn't.

No, clearly there is a mechanism OTHER THAN the written word of the bible at work, tempering your adherence to scripture, determining what is and isn't truly permissible to you. This implies two things: 1. That the moral foundation of the bible is no more absolute or unchanging than any other holy text or golden rule (because it is subject to interpretation, or "slow revelation"), and 2. That the mechanism for moral judgements that you DO use is actually STRONGER than the words in the bible.

What do you suppose that mechanism is?

Dan said...

I'm not here arguing for this or that interpretation of any sacred text. The foundation of universal morals I have in mind is a divine Creator who has imparted a moral law on the heart of each person. The validity of this natural law is recognized by all men because all men share the same human nature. Today people shrink from ever condemning anything as wrong in order to avoid being labeled "judgmental." My point is that we all make judgments about right and wrong somewhere. I think it's more productive to argue outright for one's own notion of morality than to pretend to be touting some kind of Laissez-faire "tolerance" when really you're really just imposing your own moral code.