Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.

Now Blogging Afresh at Ad Orientem 西儒 - The Western Confucian

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Homosexuality, Natural Law, and Darwinism:
La Hispanidad y la Anglosajonidad

Ten years ago, while an exchange student in Chile, I had a conversation that I haven’t forgotten. My interlocutor was a Chilean and a self-described atheist (whom, curiously, I had seen make the sign of the cross and genuflect upon entering the sanctuary of the historic Iglesia de San Francisco in downtown Santiago and who admitted to having consulted spiritualists and fortune-tellers, reminding me now of something I heard attributed to Boris Yeltsin about atheism and superstition going hand in hand). [Allow me a tangential point about the word “atheism” in Spanish; from what I have observed, the word refers to the rejection of organized religion as much as to the rejection of God, which could be an interesting cross-linguistic semantic point to be considered in the debate between those of us who believe that God is revealed in religion and those who claim themselves to be “spiritual but not religious.”]

This friend and I were discussing homosexuality. My friend’s views were what we in “enlightened” North America would call “homophobic," to say the least. I attempted to play Devil’s Advocate and attempt to soften my friend’s views or at least present an opposing argument by saying that some animals, such as dogs and certain monkeys, practiced homosexuality. Surely, I thought, this was an invincible argument to show that homosexuality was natural. [Something must be said here to defend myself; this was almost ten years before I joined the Catholic Church and I had not yet even begun to question many of the relativistic cultural assumptions I was raised with and educated in.]

My friend’s response to my “logic” was swift, direct, and to the point, and I have never forgotten it: “But human beings are not animals!”

Years later, I now know that my friend was absolutely correct and I was dead wrong. My friend, the atheist, was arguing from a very Catholic understanding of Human Nature and Natural Law and I, the then lukewarm Christian, was arguing from a materialistic Darwinian point of view. I was arguing than Man was essentially an animal; my friend, that Man was a unique creature in God’s creation, endowed by a spiritual soul like the angels and a material body like the animals.

In the evolutionist view of Man (and one does not have to reject Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to reject the materialistic view of Man that resulted from it), the correlation for our Christian concept of the Fall is the Descent of Man from his animals ancestors. Instead of falling from Grace, Man falls from a perfect state of animal creation, where creatures are thought to live in harmony and according to their instinctual and biological needs. As an example of this wordview, I recall Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter to his daughter, Indira Gandhi, extolling the greatness of the Russian Revolution and Socialism by advising her to look to the harmonious lives of ants in the anthill for inspiration for human society. The Christian would look up to God, not down to ants for guidance. The Christian view holds that Man is a little lower than the angels but immensely higher than the animals. The animal world is not one that we should try to emulate.

My friend and were arguing our respective opinions utterly unconscious of the different worldviews from which we were coming from. My friend’s worldview was essential Catholic and classical; mine, more or less perverted over the course of generations by the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Darwinism, Marxism, Existentialism, Modernism, and Postmodernism. These intellectual upheavals by no means left the Hispanic world untouched, but they did not reshape it as profoundly as they did the Anglo-Saxon world, causing even Christians to let their secular claims go unchallenged. Perhaps Spain, as the bastion of the Counterreformation (la contrareforma, one of my favorite words from Spanish history) in the 16th Century, and by extension her colonies in the New World, was better able to preserve the Catholic and classical understanding of Man, even among those who later came to reject the Faith.