Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Would someone please deprogram Ryan T. Anderson?

Robert George has turned another promising intellect into yard mulch.

Ryan T. Anderson
Today, based largely on an interview with Ryan T. Anderson, CBN has published an article titled Traditional Marriage Movement Gaining Steam. Aside from the obvious absurdity (by all measures it is marriage equality that has all the momentum) we get gems from Anderson like:
We could get government out of the bedroom if it weren't for the fact that a certain type of act between a man and woman creates new life, and children need moms and dads.
Huh? Government is in the bedroom because men and women have sex? Then, according to the article:
Anderson sees it as a calling that goes back to his days at Princeton when he saw the traditional marriage side being dismissed, although it carried a stronger argument.

"I said, 'I almost have a duty, an obligation to be making these arguments because I understand what both sides are saying and where the disconnect is,'" Anderson said.
How did a smart guy become so profoundly stupid?
Ryan T. Anderson graduated from Princeton, circa 2004, magna cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He is currently pursuing a PhD from Notre Dame where he earned a master's degree. Anderson is a smart and well educated young man.

I am guessing that Anderson has been recruited into Opus Dei by Robby George. His day job seems to be as a "fellow" in religion and free society with the extreme right Heritage Foundation. He is also the editor of Public Discourse which is the blog of Witherspoon Institute which is an Opus Dei organization. Anderson was previously the executive director of Witherspoon where he was research assistant to Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain. Elshtain, you may recall, is an academic who, in spite of her exceptional background and erudition, supported the Iraq invasion.

Six years ago, Anderson wrote a piece on the blog for the conservative Catholic publication, First Things (where he was a junior "felllow" at the time). The article was titled Struggling Alone. The premise of the article is that a young gay conservative Catholic friend (who I think was imaginary) of several years supposedly came out to Anderson by email:
Over the past three years, “Chris” (let’s call him) has experienced a pronounced attraction to other males—for one old friend from high school in particular. A crush, maybe, or an infatuation. Whatever it was, he knew it wasn’t healthy.  ... he made a resolution never to embrace [his fantasies] as essential to his identity or accept them as permanent or untreatable—a resolution he has kept practically alone, without the support of community, family, or friends.
Unhealthy     oh my. I have no idea if "Chris" (get it?) is still in the closet but Anderson's article gets increasingly creepier:
Over the course of many phone calls and emails, he shared with me his reflections on what he thought had created his problem of same-sex attractions. He described an “exceedingly close, best-friendly relationship” to his mother, often serving the role of her sole confidant, and a subsequent alienation from his father. 
So here we have an Ivy League grad (magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa). So how does he respond to this thoroughly discredited theory? Does he research the matter? Does he consult medical experts?
... when he pointed to the likely causes and said he was seeking help in addressing them, I was supportive. ... Some people say that change isn’t possible, but he thinks that with God all things are, and he at least wants to try to do his part.
Nice job Ryan. Mr. Anderson's willful ignorance served to make his friend presumably more neurotic. In spite of all the education and intelligence, Anderson is a slave to ancient texts.

More recently, Anderson responded to David Blankenhorn's change in position. At the core of his argument seems to be:
Redefining marriage would abandon the norm of male-female sexual complementarity as an essential characteristic of marriage. Making that optional would also make other essential characteristics—such as monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence—optional,
They really like the word "complementarity;" something that I first saw in then Cardinal Ratzinger's 2005 treatise opposing any form of legal recognition for gay couples. More importantly, Anderson is claiming (without any scientific support) that gay marriage will lead to abandoning "monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence." It's nonsense.

It is made up in a pathetic attempt to provide secular reasoning for a religious objection. He "supports" his conclusions with quotes from people like Dan Savage and a decades old quote from Michael Signorile, assuming that they represent the gay community. At best, it is selective observation to support an untested hypothesis that would fail reasonable proof. The very fact that Anderson accepts this as fact is very telling.

It is the kind of stuff that a professor would rip to shreds if it appeared in an undergraduate paper.  

David Blankenhorn responded to Anderson's polemic:
Ryan Anderson’s core argument is that no one can do or say anything effectively to strengthen marriage without first agreeing with him that gay marriage is bad. How does that sound, as a basic idea?

I’m not buying. I changed my view on gay marriage for two reasons. The first is fairness. And the second is to get out of the very box that Ryan Anderson wants to put me and everyone else in — the little box inside of which the culture war on gay marriage must precede and overwhelm and define everything else. 
The "little box" that Blankenhorn refers to is the confines of ultra conservative religiosity. It deprives people of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills. Blankenhorn continues:
No thank you. And, no thank you. And I can report from personal experience that the air is much easier to breath, once you are outside that stifling little box.
Anderson's response to Blankenhorn?
Blankenhorn’s response fails—again—to say a word about what marriage is. So the question remains: What is marriage? (referring to the book of the same title written by Anderson, George and Sherif Girgis.
Let's cut through the bullshit. Anderson believes that marriage is the uniting of two people to crank out children. That is, in essence, what the Church teaches. Nevertheless, marriage really is the legal union of two people, recognized by the state as a union, in order to create a marital estate. Anderson continues:
It’s not about agreeing with me, it’s about discovering and understanding the reality about marriage, and then moving law and policy and culture closer to a better embrace of and adherence to that truth—because the truth about marriage matters for law and policy and culture.
Well, Mr. Anderson, it seems very much that it is about agreeing with you and your Church.

One day I suspect that Mr. Anderson will become an academic where he will probably enjoy some success. Nevertheless, he will still be in that little box that stifles critical thinking while encouraging conformity.  In the alternative, perhaps Mr. Anderson will grow up.

Nothing deteriorates intellect
more than certainty.
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