Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rick Santorum's It Takes a Family 2

In my latest reading of It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, Rick Santorum criticizes same-sex marriage and laments the erosion of community.

Essentially, Santorum longs for communitarianism, which entails people thinking about the well-being of others.  For Santorum, traditional marriage is consistent with that because it entails a man and a woman committing to each other and to their children.  And community associations such as bowling-leagues foster selflessness and community because members have to show up because their team is counting on them.  When there is a greater sense of community, Santorum argues, there is social capital, and this is the sort of thing that can help the poor.

Santorum associates same-sex marriage with individualism, for it makes marriage a matter of romantic attachment rather than commitment to children.  But I ask: Could same-sex marriage be consistent with values such as commitment and selflessness?  I agree with Santorum that it's tragic that marriage these days has become a lot like dating or going steady, but I don't think that same-sex marriage is responsible for that, or that same-sex marriage has to be like that.

At the same time, I wonder: If we as a country are to disregard what our Judeo-Christian heritage says about homosexuality, does that relegate that heritage to a state of non-importance?  What narrative, then, would we have that could help us to strengthen families and communities?  Like it or not, our Judeo-Christian heritage has been a significant factor in encouraging Americans to be selfless.  What could we replace it with?  Or would we even need to replace it, since there are gay-friendly versions of Christianity, plus even American Christianity disregards parts of the Bible (knowingly or unknowingly)?

Regarding same-sex marriage, Santorum believes that marriage being primarily a matter of romantic attachment has contributed to the declining birth rates in Europe.  The result, Santorum argues, is that in Europe there will not be a sufficient younger generation to support the older generation.

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