20 October 2010

Fall '10 Election: Cuomo and Fake Christians

Stephen Kershnar
Fake Christians against Paladino
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
October 17, 2010

The recent furor over Carl Paladino’s comments on gays involves the usual stench of leftist hypocrisy. According to the Huffingtonpost.com, New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino spoke before a group of orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn. He promised to veto gay marriage legislation and noted that he didn’t march in this year’s gay pride parade. He denounced those who would hurt gays and said that he adopts a live-and-let-live approach. He then said the following, “I just think my children, and your children, will be much better off, and much more successful getting married and raising a family. And I don’t want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option. It isn’t.” The Jewish leaders then applauded. According to Newsday, Paladino had the following line in the prepared text, but left it out of his speech, “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual. that is not how God created us.”

Paladino’s opponent, Andrew Cuomo, supports gay marriage as did the two previous governors, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. Patterson introduced legislation to legalize it. Given that Cuomo pledged to make gay marriage a priority, were he elected he would probably succeed in legalizing it.

Here is an argument for Carl Paladino’s position and probably one he would accept. (1) If Christianity is true, then what the Bible says is strong evidence of what is true. (2) The Bible says that homosexuality is wrong. (3) Hence, if Christianity is true, then there is strong evidence that homosexuality is wrong.

There is good reason to believe that Christianity is closely connected to the Bible. Christians generally hold that the Bible (Old and New Testaments) was written by humans who were divinely inspired and that it is either the word of God or good evidence for it. This can be seen both in Christian doctrine and practice. Different Christian groups (for example, Catholics and Protestants) and Jews differ as to which of the Biblical books are canonical. Also, the Bible provides evidence for many Christians concerning the divinity of Jesus, a doctrine that lies at the heart of Christianity.

The argument for the notion that the Bible says homosexuality rests on statements like the following.
• “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Leviticus 18:22.

The New Testament has similar sentiments.
• “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” Romans 1:27.
• “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, … will inherit the kingdom of God.” Corinthians 1:9-10.
• “Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, … and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine. Timothy 1:8-10.

Cuomo and Paladino are Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church asserts that homosexual acts are contrary to natural law and sinful. It claims that this is in part because such acts are not related to the reproduction and in part because they do not proceed from genuine affection and do they complete the participants. The Church considers homosexual desires to be disordered, but not sinful. It also condemns premarital sex, marital sodomy, contraception, pornography, and masturbation. One can see why Bill Clinton never joined it.

The Catholic Church is not alone. Other Christian branches that hold that homosexual acts are sinful include the Orthodox/Eastern Christian, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, and Mormon. Other popular branches, Anglicanism and Presbyterianism, are torn on the issue.

One objection is that the Bible is a poor guide to morality. Consider the following.
• Pig Eating: “[Swine] shall be even an abomination of you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.” Leviticus 11:7-8
• Money Lending: Anyone who engages in money-lending “he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.” Ezekiel 18:13.
• Slave Owning: “[Y]ou may acquire male and female slaves … You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property.” Leviticus 25:44-46.

The objector claims that the Bible is no substitute for moral reasoning. However, if the Biblical injunction is repeated in several places, if most of the major branches of Christianity interpret it the same way, and if the early version used plain language, and I don’t know whether this last condition is met, then the Biblical injunction on homosexuality can be distinguished from the above passages.

A second objection is that we should separate religion and politics. Notre Dame philosopher Robert Audi argues that politicians should present sufficient secular reasons for their position, even if they have religious reasons for holding it. This is incorrect. If someone knows what is wrong because God has told him so, whether directly or indirectly, then it is irrational for him to ignore this when deciding what the state should do or what to teach his children. He also shouldn’t hide his thinking from the public.

A third objection is that Christianity and, probably also, Judaism are false and thus should be ignored. My guess is that this is what Cuomo and many of his supporters believe. It is dishonest to pretend that you are a Roman Catholic and then treat Catholic doctrine as a big joke. Were the reporters not in the tank for Cuomo, one would ask him why he considers himself a Catholic when he rejects Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, abortion, birth control, and divorce. Perhaps he could start a group entitled, “Catholics against Catholicism.”

Paladino also claims that children shouldn’t be taught that homosexuality is an equally valid lifestyle. His argument rested on its not being in the children’s interest. It is implausible, and in any case not supported by any evidence that I’m aware of, that a gay lifestyle is bad for people who have a homosexual orientation. However, there is a different reason to accept Paladino’s conclusion. Given that public schools are paid for by coercively obtained taxes and given that many parents are in effect forced to send their children to them, the schools should hesitate to ram down the children’s throats messages that violently clash with their family’s religious beliefs. There is no burning reason to do so here and the schools should therefore avoid the pro-gay propaganda. Such propaganda is what drew Paladino’s ire.

If Andrew Cuomo and other fakers want to heap scorn on the Catholic position, they should explain how their view is consistent with the Bible or their faith.


The Objectivist said...

Being a Catholic carries with it certain content. For example, if one were an atheist and claimed that God didn't exist, then he is not a Catholic no matter how he labels himself.

The same is true for various moral positions that either by themselves or in combination are essential to being Catholic.

The Objectivist said...

Cuomo is the usual mediocre liberal dullard (see, e.g., Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, and Joe Biden). His midwifing the Housing Crisis was shameful.

He will be faced with the state with the highest taxes and a massive deficits. Expect him to respond with tax increases and begging the federal government for state welfare.

R.K.H said...

You hit the nail on the head. Technically speaking, Cuomo should not be allowed to receive communion because of his public position of opposition to the Church. But he is certainly not the first Catholic politician to hold such beliefs and he will not be the last.

Jonathan said...

I've noted the same hypocrisy in Catholicism for years (which is why I made the personal decision to no longer consider myself a Catholic). However, I would note that it can be very difficult for believers to come to terms with the fact that what they SAY they believe cannot be reconciled with what they ACTUALLY believe, and there are several reasons for that.

One reason is that many "Catholics" simply don't understand what the Catholic church stands for or what its positions are on a variety of moral topics. These people are what I'll call "Casual Catholics" - those whom continually live their lives in willful ignorance of some of the more controversial stances inherent the church's teachings, simply because they enjoy the warm and fuzzy experience of weekly church services or coffee hour after mass.

Another primary reason for religious hypocrisy is classical human conditioning. Most people don't come to their faith independently, they inherit it, and in most cases at a very young, impressionable age. Years of living in a particular faith community has a tendency to breed feelings of pride and/or shame that make it extremely difficult for some to dissociate themselves from that community, even if their beliefs have waned. We should not underestimate the power that human conditioning can have in fostering religious hypocrisy, especially in more dogmatic faiths like Catholicism.

Finally, there are the truly "fake Catholic" hypocrites. Those who are contradictory in every way, but choose to use the label of being Christian or Catholic for political or social gain. These folks are truly taking advantage of other true believers, by tarnishing the reputation of otherwise virtuous groups through their misdeeds.

As you correctly pointed out, content does matter in religion, and believers more than anyone else should take the content that defines their faith seriously. Thus, Catholics who can't accept notions such as homosexual sin, the infalability of the Pope, the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the like should think twice before labeling themselves as "Catholic".

On the other hand, the struggle to reconcile the positions held by one's religious institution and one's personal views can be, and for many people is, a genuine struggle. There is something to be said for the human condition of imperfection - that while the moral positions of a particular faith are absolute (e.g. the Catholic position on homosexuality), the human resolve to understand and live by those positions may falter at times.
My point is, there is a difference between being an imperfect Catholic - one who has faith in the teachings of the Bible but struggles to live perfectly by those teachings on the one hand, and a hypocrite on the other. I'm more inclined to conclude that Cuomo fits the latter, but you know what scripture says about judging others...