Queering Captain America?

The character Captain America first appeared during World War II as a patriotic nazi- fighting superhero.  After a few years hiatus, he reappeared in the 1960s and has been around ever since, recently being a key character in the enormously popular Avengers and Captain America movies.  Through it all, Captain America’s character has embodied what almost might be called the romance of classical American: courageous, committed to democracy, freedom and liberty, and above all, right over wrong.  Other superhero figures have had darker sides or uncertainties (Batman), but Captain America has consistently stood as a soldier guided by an unshakeable moral code that was explicitly the ideal of classic American virtue, but was really at heart Judeo-Christian.

This Captain America always stood up for right over wrong whatever the cost; in one place he said:


(From http://www.thequotepedia.com/images/11/doent-matter-what-the-press-says-doesnt-matter-what-the-politicians-for-mobs-say-america-quote.jpg)

And elsewhere:

“…Our enemies may appear to be endless, but that doesn’t matter. Because there is no one else. Look at me. I believe in an idea, an idea that a single individual who has the right heart and the right mind that is consumed with a single purpose, that one man can win a war. Give that one man a group of soldiers with the same conviction, and you can change the world.” (1)

He was a superhero who was so reliable and so reliably virtuous,  could almost be assumed to be on the right side.  Whatever side he was on was right.  This make some recent news so interesting. It seems that a number of fans are calling for captain America to “come out” as homosexual, according to the Twitter hastag “#giveCaptainAmericaaboyfriend.”  (2).

There are at least two interesting observations to be made regarding the demand to make Captain America gay.  First, that it reflects modern society’s obsession with sex and the decline of friendship in a modern world.  Part of the reason behind the demands of the “makeCapgay” crowd is their difficulty in believing that two men could be intimate friends without having a sexual relationship.  This would have been absurd in nearly any past age which celebrated friendships like David and Jonathan, Achilles and Patroclus, Oliver and Roland, Hamlet and Horatio, and Frodo and Sam.  Yet because Captain America, a soldier has close friendships, fans (a terms more properly used  in the classical sense of fanatic) argue that he should be gay.  C.S. Lewis said of friendship that “it is one of those things that has no survival, rather, it gives value to survival,” and lamented its decline in the modern world.  That Captain America cannot be believed to have male friends without having relationship with them is another sign of that decline.

The second observation is more interesting.  In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII of England divorced his wife, married another, and declared himself the head of the Church in England.  Nearly everyone went along with him; one of the few who didn’t was Thomas More.  Yet, the one man was too much for Henry VIII.  As Robert Bolt’s play, Man for All Seasons, put it, More was a good was honest and known to be honest- and one honest man, a man of virtue and conscience, opposed to Henry was too much, a signal to everyone else that Henry was on the wrong side.  Henry needed More on his side to assure Henry and everyone else of a lie, that Henry was right in his wrong.  And this More would not do and so Henry killed him.

This is why some people want Marvel to make Captain America gay; because Captain America is a superhero known for his courage, virtue, and commitment to truth whatever the cost.  Henry wanted More’s approval in a vain attempt to assure Henry that he was in fact on the right side, which Henry knew to be false.  Today advocates of homosexuality demand not tolerance, but approval and will not tolerate those who disagree with them.  And this because, like Henry,  they want to convince themselves that they are on the right side, which they also know to be false.  What is so interesting, though is that this search for approval extends now to the fictional character Captain America.  To turn such a character would have been like Henry VIII turning Thomas More-turning a good man to the wrong side– and just as impossible.  Captain America could not turn and still remain himself, he would be a whole other figure, strong perhaps, and in a similar costume, but not Captain America.


(1) https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Captain_America

(2) http://observer.com/2016/05/marvel-fans-want-captain-america-to-come-out-already/


Modern Superstition and Trusting the Rich

Donald Trump’s candidacy has been instructive for a number of reasons, albeit regrettable for many others.  It has shown how a loud and colorful personality, promising to make Germany  America great again can quickly gain the allegiance and more, faith, of desperate crowds who will ignore any charge against him because of the faith they have placed in him.  There are books to be written on this subject, but only one small but instructive point concerns us here: the growing faith in the rich.

One of Donald Trump’s key arguments on the campaign trail is that people should trust him because he is rich.  Because he is rich, he cannot be bought and hence is more trustworthy.  Leaving aside the question of whether a person who buys influence, favors, and people is more trustworthy than a person who sells them, what is so interesting here is that we are being asked to trust the rich because they are rich.  Money (supposedly) makes a person trustworthy.  Poverty makes him unreliable.  Money equals virtue and poverty, vice.  This is not a new idea.  G.K. Chesterton wrote about it 100 years ago: “You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed” (Orthodoxy, chapter 7). It was as ridiculous then as it is now, but what is so interesting is how the idea is suddenly seen as widely convincing today just when the influence of Christianity seems to be fading- and there is more than coincidence in this.

Why should nations with proud democratic traditions and governments and nations (America at least) founded on the notion that all men are created equal suddenly appear so ripe for aristocracy?   Why should they suddenly be so ready to submit themselves to rule by the rich believing that only the rich can be trusted to rule?  In the last hours of its decay, the Roman republic did the same thing, as mobs threw power to a patrician strongman railing against corruption and promising to look out for them, but why should American be prepared to do the same?  What makes a nation with America’s history and democracy be suddenly willing to adopt and adopt loudly the position that the poor cannot be trusted, that we must throw ourselves on the rule of the rich?

For G.K Chesterton (and me), it was the decline of Christianity.  For only Christianity provided any consistent bulwark against this superstitious faith in the rich.

Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man….if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this — that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy (Ibid).

Some of the rich may be trustworthy and some may not, just as some of the poor may be trustworthy and others not, but no man is more trustworthy because he is rich or less so because he is not.  This is a pagan superstition and hence a modern one, but according to Christianity, greater danger lies in riches than in poverty.  As Chesterton remarked:

There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor  (ibid).

But this is why modern America can believe the myth that Trump’s wealth makes him reliable.  Because belief in Christianity is on the decline, such superstitions are on the rise; it can hardly be otherwise.  Man needs a savior and if he cannot have a divine one, then he must have a human one.  Whether such a savior can save anything, bring hope and change, or make America great again, is another, more doubtful question.

  1. Note: I find that Mark Shea already beat me to this passage in Chesterton and its applicationhere: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2015/07/the-prophet-chesterton-on-donald-trump.html

The Sanity of Theology

Years ago, (If my memory is not mistaken) the late Fr. Andrew Greeley mentioned, in a column I am unable to find, about his distaste for theology.  Theology, acknowledged, might have been necessary, it might even be a “necessary evil.”  Many progressives today agree and even go further, dropping the adjective and keeping the noun.  Joining forces with the antinomians and enemies of canon law,they would say that it is time to “progress” past medieval theology into the modern world.  Yet, there is more of regress than progress in their views- for the rejection of theology takes one only forward to a modernity that is as backward as pagan antiquity.  No one developed a theology of Zeus or the pagan gods.  And so, the “progress” of the modern progressive Catholic becomes nothing but the regression of the ancient pagan, who was more backward than the Middle Ages that developed so much of theology.  

In the early centuries of Christianity, theology was largely in the hands of the bishops, the main (though not only) defenders of Catholic orthodoxy against the intellectual attacks of the pagan.  Men like Augustine of Hippo and Ambrose of Milan explicated Early Christianity to a pagan world, defending it against heathen attacks, developing Christian thought, and applying Christian principles to new issues.  After the fall of Rome, for several hundred years, there was little done in the way of serious theology.  From 500 to 1000 AD, Christian thought, in a sense, shrunk, undergoing what one historian (Robert Markus) called an “epistemological excision,” responding to crisis by purging itself of most thought outside of the Bible.  Little else was read or considered.  In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, this was reversed.  Latin Europe recovered the science and philosophy of Aristotle and other pagan authors, applying the rules of logic and philosophy to theological questions, leading to the development of schools and universities, where a broad theological tradition developed.  

For many moderns, one senses that this development was a regrettable one- at best a necessary evil, and perhaps worse.  These dislike what they see as the limitations of (good) theology.  They see theology as something that limits, restricts, and holds back.  The theologians (the good ones at least) say, for instance, that a man may not marry another woman while his first wife is still living; they impose other limitations even less popular.  They, like lawyers, make distinctions, draw lines, and put up fences.  The modern man would rather blur the lines and, in his contempt for theology, tear down the fences.  But, as Chesterton has said, a man should be cautious about tearing down a fence until he knows why it was put up in the first place.  If a man, imagining he was to break free of limits and boundaries, and strike a blow for progress and liberty, should blow a hole in a dam, he would find at least one boundary that even he might regret crossing.  

In a real sense, theology does limit.  It limits in the same sense in which a dam limits.  It places a boundary not to limit individual freedom, but to guard it, for a man who broke the boundary of the dam would quickly find himself less free and not more.   And so the medieval theologians did limit.  They drew lines and made distinctions.  They were the lines that separated truth from falsehood, and inside the Christian faith from without.  To be more precise, perhaps, they did not draw the lines, so much as recognize the lines that were there.  If the marriage of a husband and wife is the image of the relationship between Christ and the Church, then a line exists between that man and any other women he would wish to marry while his first wife is still living. The line defends not only the man’s wife from abandonment, but the man from sacrilege.  The divisions between truth and falsehood are not made by the theologians, but only recognized by them, for they are in the gospel also.  They are there when Christ declared that he came not to bring peace into the world, but division.  They are in the gospel when He told of those within the wedding feast and those without.  When the Light came into the world, He divides the light from the darkness, which some prefer because their works are evil.  And when the Truth comes into the world, there will be a line between Him and falsehood, though some will prefer the falsehood.  

Yet, theology does not only limit- it expands.  It sees the world as a part of a larger world.  Theology is the “study of God,” yet, in his theology, Thomas Aquinas, wrote not only of God, but much on man.  This was because theology studies also the whole of creation, seen in light of God.  And seen in light of God, that is, by theology, the world expands and grows larger.  Flatland becomes a three-dimensional world.  A higher and larger floor is added to a poor and rude hovel.  Seen in light of God, a sunrise becomes not only a sunrise, but a sign of God’s majesty, and a storm, a sign of his splendor.  Marriage becomes not only marriage, but a sign of the union between Christ and the Church, a union that man cannot break, but may break himself upon.  This was the world of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas, this larger world of which the material was only a sign or symbol.  

This at any rate, is the task of good theology.  There is also bad theology.  This sees not the world in light of God, but rather, sees God in light of the world.  Feminist theologies that see the gospel in terms of secular feminism and liberation theologies that see it in terms of marxism are only two such examples.  This sort of theology, which is not really theology, is not necessary, though it may be evil.  But theology, real theology, as long as there is truth in the world, will draw lines.  As long as there is light in the world, it will recognize the darkness.  And God help those who try to pull the fence down, lest they learn the hard way why it was put up in the first place.  


Kill All the Lawyers? The Place of Law and the Gospel (I)

The first of a two post series on canon law and some current issues in the Church

The great playwright, William Shakespeare, once had one of his characters in Henry VI say: “the first thing we do, let us kill all the lawyers.” The sentiment is one that one suspects would find a sympathetic audience today. Attacking lawyers is certainly fashionable today, both within the Catholic Church and without it, though it is the former that concerns us here. The great canonist Ed Peter’s has recently complained about the spirit of anti-nomianism that seems pervasive today as people reject the law, some in the name of mercy or the gospel, and some simply in the name of their own desires. Defend the law and one risks being labeled a Pharisee, a legalist, one who cares more for law than people.

But we cannot so easily do without canon law. Canon law, that is, the law of the Church, grew to maturity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the same time that saw the founding of the universities and major reform movements in the medieval Church to free it from secular control. This was not mere coincidence. One strength of the law was its ability to draw distinctions, the same skill developed by the scholastic theologians. For instance, throughout Aquinas, when he takes on a problem, he often points out the much lies in how one makes fine distinctions. When discussing whether it was necessary that Christ become man, Aquinas explains that in an absolute sense it was not necessary, but in another sense, it was (because it was the most fitting and efficient way to work salvation). He distinguished sense, he drew lines.

Lawyer did the same things. The also drew lines. Those lines included the line between the sacred and the secular, as the drew a line around the Church as firm as the walls of Constantinople and said that no secular ruler might cross it. Drawing lines between the secular and sacred meant that, free of secular influence (in theory if not always in practice), the Church was free to reform and to grow in holiness.

The law had another advantage. It is said today that “the law is reason free from passion.” Certainly, this saying fits with the attitude of the medieval Church lawyers. Men are too easily given to passion, they find it too easy to put reason aside out of anger, greed, or even compassion. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, once said that “most men live by sense rather than reason.” It was not said as an insult, but a realistic account of human nature. But the men of the Middle Ages knew that passion was no safeguard. Their’s was, in a sense, the first real Age of Reason, for they believed in the power of reason to understand the world in a way few had before. Reason, the rules of logic, would take them to a just and true outcome regardless the personal feelings or preferences or those involved. By reason, man escaped prejudice, and moved away from the animals and toward the angels. Hence, one task of law, reason free from passion, was the justice and fairness that came from truth. This was the purpose of law, to discover justice, regardless the feelings of those involved.

This was important when, in the early thirteenth-century, King Phillip Augustus of France, the most powerful ruler in Europe asked (demanded) that the Pope, Innocent III, grant him a divorce of his wife. Pope Innocent III, however, was not a mere sentimentalist, rather, he was a canon lawyer. Hence, was able to look past the personal preference of himself (he would have preferred not to anger the king) and the king, and tell the king that the law found no justification to put aside the plain words of Christ in the gospel: when a man divorces his wife and marries another, he commits adultery. By the law, the Pope tried defend the innocent wife of a powerful king who had begun to find her inconvenient.

This is why it is so unfortunate today when some in the Church set the law against the gospel and try to claim that we must put aside the law in the name of the gospel. Nonsense, if the law, reason free from passion, is not allowed not draw out the implications of the gospel and to consider its application to particular situations, then the decision will be unjust. If reason cannot decide, then unreason will. And when two passions collide, the passion of the stronger person usually prevails. Hence Henry VIII, who also demanded a divorce, rejected the advice of his lawyer, Thomas More, who told him that he had no grounds to break up his marriage. Henry ignored him; since his reason would not rule, his passion did and the first thing Henry did, was to kill the lawyer.

One final thought. In Robert Bolt’s Man for All Seasons, Thomas More’s son-in-law told him that he would cut down every law in England to achieve a desired end. More’s reply was biting: “And when the last law was down, and the devil turned round on you– where would you hide Roper, the laws all being flat… if you cut them down– and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then…?” Kill the lawyers, put aside the law, but who, as Bolt’s More says, could stand upright in ensuing storm.

Care for the Poor: Who Are the Poor? Medieval and Modern Views

Pope Francis has recently gained significant acclaim with his love of the poor and of poverty. He has suggested that he wants a “poor Church for the poor and excoriated excesses of the modern economic system that turn man into an economic animal rather than a spiritual one.” His call to care for the poor has seemed to resonate with a world that also professes its own desire to care for the poor. Sometimes, this is even used by enemies of orthodox Catholicism as a tool to be set against traditional Catholic concerns like abortion– the defense of the unborn– and marriage. Forget about that nonsense, say Francis’s secular admirers, focus on the poor, who we really need to care about. Rather than be “obsessed” with controversial social issues, focus instead on the poor. And some Catholics have agreed, preferring the agreement to conflict.

Yet, who are the poor and what does it mean to be poor? In the modern world, poverty means a lack of money. This may say more about the modern world than about genuine poverty. In the Middle Ages, though, poverty had a broader meaning. Poverty, paupertas, meant not so much the lack of money, as the lack of power. Poverty meant powerlessness. The poor were the weakest members of society: this meant they often lacked money, but it was not quite the same thing. In the earlier Middle Ages the poor were monks- men who stepped away from the violence of aristocratic, feudal society and threw down their weapons to live as unarmed monks. And as the poor, they suffered helpless the attacks of other noble warriors and, even more so, the attacks of Vikings, which devastated monasteries throughout Europe. Later, poverty came to refer more to giving up money, as with St. Francis, who gave up his wealthy middle class lifestyle to become a poor vagrant. Yet, even here, the emphasis was not just on giving up of money, but of power. St. Paul had written that “in my weakness, I am strong,”- this was the point.

So, who are the poor today? The modern world, with its obsession with money, simply equates poverty with the lack of money, but possibly the Middle Ages has something to offer. If paupertas, poverty, is seen not only as lack of money, but the classic sense of lack of power, i.e. weakness, then this would force reconsideration of who the poor are today.

If paupertas is weakness, then who are the poor? Who are the weakest members of society we should care about? Seen in this light, a man from the Middle Ages would consider absurd the claim that we should forget about the unborn and focus on the poor. Or that we should forget about marriage controversies and focus on the poor. This would be a contradiction in terms. Who in society is weaker than the unborn? Who is more powerless? Who is weaker than the children who suffer most from the breakdown of marriage?

If modernity is not too proud to take some lessons from the past, then perhaps it might learn something from past views of poverty and weakness. It might learn the absurdity of claiming to care for the poor, but not the unborn, who are the poorest and weakest of all. And it might drop the ridiculous sophistry of saying that we should talk less about abortion and more about poverty. Liberals sometimes accuse anti-abortionists of only caring about children before they are born. Of course, this is nonsense. Catholic Charities is among the largest non-governmental charitable organizations in the United States. But it also misses an important point: that the need to care for the poor, also entails the need to care for the unborn.

If the modern, secular world really wishes to take some lessons from Pope Francis and his concern for the poor, then one lesson it must take is this: care for the poor will necessitate care for the unborn, on pain of hypocrisy.

Marriage Symbolism and the Question of Women Priests

I have suggested before that people in the Middle Ages simply did not see the same world that the modern man sees. Or to be more precise, they saw the same facts, but those facts had a different meaning. The world may have looked the same, but it did not mean the same thing. It did not mean the same because man in the Middle Ages looked out on a world made by God, a world with its meaning written into it by its Maker. And because the material world was not all there was, it could represent higher spiritual realities. Hence, St. Francis of Assisi loved the world, not as some neo-pagan nature worshiper, but (as the historian C.H. Lawrence put it), but because he saw it as a sign-book of its Creator’s love.

The modern world does not see the world this way, for the modern world has forgotten God, and so matter appears as little more than matter and symbolism- the use of matter to represent higher spiritual realities- is seen as something vague, arbitrary or subjective. To the Middle Ages, the marriage of a man and women was sign of a higher spiritual reality, the union of Christ and the Church, and so divorce was simply unthinkable. A man could no more divorce his wife than Christ could leave His Church. Yet, because the modern world does not see a marriage as having this higher symbolism, divorce is very natural to it and it cannot understand the Catholic world-view.

The same is true of the Catholic priesthood. The modern world sometimes asks why women cannot be priests, as if the priesthood were a right and all that was lacking was the permission of some overly backward pontiff. Yet, it is not so. The priesthood, like marriage, is based on certain symbolism, symbolism that defines its nature and makes it what it is. The symbolism is this: the relationship between God and his people, from Old Testament times, is described as a marriage. So too, the relationship between Christ and His Church. Jesus often spoke of Himself the bridegroom (“can the wedding guests fast when the bridegroom is with them?”), while heaven is described as the wedding feast of the lamb.

Hence, the physical reality of marriage represents the higher spiritual reality of the union of Christ and His bride, the Church. Yet, from this follow certain facts about the nature of the priesthood; for Jesus is Himself a priest (Hebrews 4:14- “A great High Priest”). And the job of the priest was to stand between God and the people and to offer sacrifice. This the priest does today as well, standing in the place of the Great High Priest, Jesus Himself. Standing in the place of Christ, the priest stands in His place in relation to the people. And Christ is the Bridegroom of his bride, the Church. Hence, standing in the place of Christ, the priest, as Christ, stands as the bridegroom in relation to the Church. For this reason, the priesthood was seen as the vocation of men, not by virtue of their worth, for they have none sufficient, but by virtue of spiritual reality.

The priesthood was thus not a matter of rights, but of the nature of reality. The marriage of a man and woman reflected the union of Christ and the Church, and the priest stood in the place of Christ. A female priesthood was simply impossible, perhaps even a contradiction in terms. The meaning did not work. And the meaning was not arbitrary, but objective, written into matter by the God that made it, and reflecting God’s own nature.

But the modern world cannot see this; it cannot see the material world as a sign of higher spiritual realities- for there are none. Symbolism thus becomes wholly arbitrary and subjective- something man made and something he might make otherwise if so wished. The American flag is a symbol of America with 50 stars and 13 stripes. But it need not have had those numbers of stars or stripes or, indeed, any stars and stripes at all. It might have had squares, or deus avertit, butterflies. In the Catholic world-view, some symbols were like that- a knight’s crest perhaps- but not all were. Some symbols had an objective meaning, a meaning because it was written into matter by matter’s maker. Marriage and the priesthood were among these and no one had the power to make it otherwise.

Rhetoric, Reason, and Truth

In ancient Greece, a group of philosophers, the sophists, made a name for themselves for their skill in debate. The took the position, a position shared by so many in the modern world, that no objective truth existed. Instead, truth was merely subjective. Because truth was subjective, debate did not have the purpose of finding truth, but of simply convincing others to adopt one’s views without regard to whether or not those views were true. Hence, the sophists would teach others to debate both sides of an issue with equal effectiveness since neither side was more (or less) true than the other. In their world, one without truth, the side of an issue one adopted would be based on the slick arguments used, the appeals to emotion, persuasiveness of the case to a particular person etc. But one never chose a side of an issue or course of action because it was true- it was not.

Against the sophists, rose the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, who created rules of logic, including the syllogism, as well as a list of fallacies that invalidated an argument. Hence, a claim that “you only think that because you are a man,” or “you only think that because you were raised to think it,” would be rejected as fallacious irrelevancies to the question of whether or not a claim was true. In this view, logic and reason, not rhetoric or slick talk would determine the truth value of a particular claim.

Yet, in the ancient world, Aristotle (as well as his teacher Plato) formed a distinct minority. It awaited the Middle Ages for his views to be spread to society at large. In one of those strange accidents or twists that makes history so interesting, the twelfth century rediscovered Aristotle’s works in the universities that were just beginning to form and spread throughout Europe. Harmonized with Christianity by Thomas Aquinas, logic became the language of the universities that formed the basis of the modern university system. While Aristotle had invented it, it took until the Christian Middle Ages for Aristotle to really catch on as “The Philosopher,” “the master of them that know” in the words of Dante.

Maybe such reason and logic could never really have flourished in a pagan world. Maybe the reason it took until the Christian Middle Ages to really take over lay in that Christianity offered a basis for the logical explanation of the world that pagan antiquity never really could. In the Christian conception, the universe was the product of a divine mind, a greatest conceivable being (in the language of Anselm). Hence the universe was an orderly place reflecting the order, reason, and love that had made it. Consequently, the universe could be explored rationally. No one in the ancient world thought Zeus or any other god particularly rational—at any rate, the ancient gods were creatures and not creators, anyway. More commonly, the universe was simply regarded as the product of chance, appearing for no reason, according to no plan. Hence it was not especially likely to be a rational place; far more likely were it to be non-rational and random. Logic and reason simply had more basis to flourish in a Christian society—and so they did.

Possibly this is why logic and reason are on the decline in the modern world. As the world grows increasingly pagan, the world appears as a cosmic accident, a chance event. Why then, should it be a rational place? Why should reason be able to tell us anything about it? Instead of reason and logic, debates in the public sphere often seem to be a matter of emotion, of slick and clever sound bites. The sophists have returned and they have all the force of the modern media, newscasters, social media, and twitter behind them. One might hope the universities, with their medieval basis, would be an exception, but as they secularize, they too are less places of rational and free inquiry and more places where students are taught a particular viewpoint (the pagan one). Arguing now means insults and personal attacks rather than the cool analysis of a particular issue. This has been particularly evident perhaps in recent debates over same-sex marriage. Opponents of it are not reasoned with; they are merely insulted, called names, and dismissed with no more than a few cheap cliches. In an increasingly secular world, perhaps this is unsurprising, but it is still nonetheless regrettable.