An Ontario judge engaged in a tirade when, ignoring a deal proposed by the Crown and the defence, he sentenced Canadian pro-life activist to an additional 92 days in jail for mischief and failing to comply with probation orders; Ms. Wagner walks into clinics and engages women there, in the waiting rooms, giving them a rose and pro-life counseling. According to LifeSiteNews.com, the Justice, S. Ford Clements, said the following:
“She can sit in jail, if that’s the only way to protect people,” [Clements] fulminated, calling Wagner “cowardly” for “abusing other human beings” and not having the courage to make her views known through other channels. “This is an extraordinary waste of resources. Get a grip!”
“You don’t get it, do you? What’s the rule of law? You’re required to abide by it … You’ve lost the right as a citizen to be anywhere near an abortion clinic or to speak to an employee,” he said.
“You’re wrong and your God’s wrong,” he continued. “You have complete contempt … There is a right to (abortion) in this country … You don’t have a right to cause (abortion-seeking women) extra pain and grief the way you do.”
I don’t doubt Mary Wagner’s faith informs her faith and motivates her actions. But the judge is wrong in implying pro-life passion is purely religious. Indeed, thanks to the historic and deleterious fissure between faith and reason that opened up in the middle ages, most people on whatever side of the political, cultural, and religious spectra today assume social conservatism and concomitant political action is motivated purely by religion.
But this is not true, and social conservatives has failed to make this crucial point. Our “no” to things like abortion and same-sex marriage is rooted in our “yes” to fundamental natural truths about the human person and the human community accessible by reason. Reason teaches it is not natural to eliminate the living fetus from the womb. Reason teaches it is not natural to regard the union of two members of the same sex as a marriage.
Why, then, is it mostly religious people — not just Christians, but also Jews and Muslims and others — who advocate social conservatism, who protest at clinics, who run charities serving those in crisis pregnancies, and stand up for authentic marriage?
The answer: Religious people are the only ones remaining who really believe in the categories of reason and nature. What passes for reason in the secular world is a cold copy of the authentic thing that devolves into irrationality and nihilism, as Pope Benedict has made clear again and again. Just trace intellectual history from Descartes to Nietzsche.
Speaking as a Catholic Christian, reason is at the heart of our conception of the divinity. One can translate John 1:1 as follows: “In the beginning was the Divine Reason (logos), and the Divine Reason was with God, and God was the Divine Reason.” We’re then told in John 1:3 that this Divine Reason, this logos, was the agent of creation. Thus, the created order — nature — is intelligible and rational. It can be read so that one learns truths about nature and man’s place therein. And read rightly, it can lead back to the creator God.
Faith and reason are thus complementary in historic Christian understanding. In terms of a Venn diagram, the circles would overlap. I often ask my students: “‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Truth of faith, or truth of reason?’” Just because God forbids something doesn’t mean it’s not also a rational truth of nature.
Or take abortion. The Bible says precious little about it, as pro-abortion folk point out. But this is a point in our favor, actually. We don’t oppose abortion because God simply said so in an arbitrary fashion as the voluntarists would have it. Rather, we oppose abortion because it is unnatural and irrational.
Unfortunately, many Christians — protestant, Catholic, evangelical — are unaware of the complementary nature of faith and reason, and so frame their arguments in passionate religious terms, and thus play right into the modern faith and reason split, enabling the marginalization of social conservatism as something merely religious and doing subtle damage to the pro-life, pro-marriage cause.
We have tough sledding ahead, for reason and nature are metaphysical concepts, and we live in a radically anti-metaphysical, pragmatic age, where positive law, severed from natural law, has really devolved to mere might makes right, into will to power. But we may hope enough of a divine spark remains in our countrymen and governing officials that they might respond to arguments rooted in right reason reading nature.