Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Dealing with Gay Advocacy

The excellent and superbly presented article by Jerry Z. Muller, “Coming Out Ahead: The Homosexual Moment in the Academy” (August/ September), contains an interesting paradox.

The paradox involves the following questions: Who benefits most from such an impressive presentation? Who profits from such genius? Are we who oppose the homosexual activists doing our own position any real good by devoting so much time, effort, and talent to that which is essentially indefensible?

I know that Professor Muller’s central interest is in serving the truth (which he does exceedingly well), but I wonder if such articles do not in an unwitting way tend to give an apparent and undeserved legitimacy to the arguments of the militant homosexual advocates . . . .

Of course in the realm of truth every effort is worth the time, but I sometimes wonder how much good we really do ourselves in the political and public order with such presentations. After all, when dealing with antagonists who cavalierly dismiss fundamental reality with a simple wave of the hand, shouldn’t we just as cavalierly dismiss their indefensible assertions? With opponents who deny first and self-evident principles . . . and who disallow any challenge or questioning of their own position, maintaining that power determines truth and that reality consists of mere mental and arbitrary constructs, is there any reasonable way of proceeding? Is it possible to reason with the irrational?

It seems to me wholly appropriate to give a more truncated Chestertonian type of rejoinder to such opponents. We should simply list the consequences of their principles as they must necessarily unfold in areas such as education, biology, philosophy, medicine, and the like, letting the absurdity of their positions stand in the full light of day. This, I believe, is a sufficient response for the homosexuals of academe and it has the advantage of not appearing to give credence to error in defense of truth . . . .

Arthur J. Delaney, Jr.
Philadelphia, PA

Jerry Muller’s article is both a sobering and frightening look at what is possible when all things are considered ethically permissible.
When one considers the extent to which the Christian church is embracing major tenets of feminism, one cannot help but wonder if the ancient church father Tertullian was right in asking, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem, the Academy with the Church?” His conclusion becomes more apparent as we view with dismay the trends in the Academy. “To know nothing against the rule of Faith is to know everything.” ( De Praescript . 7)

(The Rev.) Paul T. McCain
Assistant to the President
The Lutheran Church“Missouri Synod
St. Louis, MO

A Word of Praise

From what is again a marvelous issue, let me single out Camille S. Williams, “Sparrows and Lilies” (August/September).

I read it aloud recently at the closing gathering in St. Louis of nine now septuagenarian nurses (out of an original class of thirteen) celebrating the golden anniversary of their graduation from the Lutheran Hospital School of Nursing in 1943 (my wife among them). When I finished reading, there was not a dry eye in the room, including mine.

Here, in simple and wholesome honesty, is the wisdom of oneness and mutual honor in the relationship of a man and a woman, which the self-conscious and impoverished propagandists of our time so sadly lack-an understanding also of pain with purpose, of children in a family, of the sanctity of every human life, and of a privileged and fitting place in the flow of the generations.

The group wanted copies, and I made them. I expect that these women will be sharing the piece in their nine scattered states. I wish many more could know it.

(The Rev.) Paul G. Bretscher
Valparaiso, IN

Revelation and Revelatory Truth

The apostle Paul used the Athenians’ altar inscription To an Unknown God as a beginning point in his proclamation of the gospel to them (Acts 17:23). Is this altar and the impulse that caused it to be erected what Peter Berger (“God in a World of Gods,” August/September) considers to be one of those “bits of revelatory truth in places far removed from the Judeo-Christian drama”? If so, then the actions of Paul are instructive with regard to the “mythological matrix.” If, however, Mr. Berger means to be more accepting of “bits of revelatory truth,” then what does it mean to stress the centrality of biblical revelation? Does not any questioning of the uniqueness of Christ disagree with Jesus’ own claims about himself and the exclusive language of the biblical revelation?

Dune Nieuwsma
Battle Creek, MI

A New Colonialism?

Concerning Richard John Neuhaus’ discussion of Paul Johnson’s proposal for a new UN trusteeship system (“A Radical Proposal,” The Public Square, August/September):

Anglo-Saxon regimes and races have a curious urge to “save the world””from sin and its secular variants like nondemocratic regimes, and now, in Fr. Neuhaus’ words, from the status of “failed nations.” A strange recommendation in view of the failure of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and George Bush to save the world, make it safe for democracy, abolish fear, and institute a new world order. The recommendation is even more misplaced in the eyes of one like me who saw the Congo in the early 1960s occupied by UN troops, mostly from India, who plundered the territory, appropriated UN material and weapons, and whom the population feared and detested. From the Congo to Somalia, Cambodia, and Bosnia, the UN has done precious little to be entrusted with rule over “failed nations.” Besides, who is going to define “failure”? Big Brother?

On a more theoretical plane, why not consider that failure in the Third World may be, just may be, the consequence of Western imposition of political structures”democracy, pluralism, even statehood”that are alien to local tradition and mentality. If so, the Western doctor cures with one hand and causes disease with the other. I shudder in anticipation of the day of UN tutelage over the “failed nation” of Hungary, decided, let’s say, with the votes of Bucharest and Belgrade.

Finally, is the United States so pure (elsewhere in the issue Fr. Neuhaus speaks of the “stench of decaying empire”), so secure from failure itself, that we can confidently dictate to a world that has recently gotten rid of another uninvited tutor?

Thomas Molnar
Ridgewood, NJ