Skip to comments.Family as the paradigm of unalienable right [Alan Keyes: Part 11 of 'The Crisis of the Republic']
Posted on 08/20/2007 7:20:58 AM PDT by EternalVigilance
Family as the paradigm of unalienable right
Part 11 of 'The Crisis of the Republic'
August 20, 2007
If the family is the conceptual basis of economics, the premier economic issue we face in our politics today is the push to secure legal recognition for so-called marriages between people of the same sex. Why? Because we can't preserve and strengthen the family without a clear idea of what it is.
At its heart, the debate over "same-sex marriage" involves a profound disagreement about the nature of the family. Indeed, the very idea of the natural family is under assault. In a 2005 ruling later upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the City of Oakland when it threatened two city employees with immediate removal for posting a bulletin board notice that referred to "respect for the Natural Family."
Because it is camouflaged as a disagreement over sexual behavior, most people fail to appreciate the true implications of this effort to banish the idea that the family is a natural institution that involves fundamental rights that all legitimate government must respect. Of course, this failure in turn arises from the fact that we no longer see the necessary connection between the rights we have by nature and the obligations that define our nature. The latter are the seeds from which the former arise.
The laws of Nature and of Nature's God
According to the Declaration principles from which we derive our Constitution and laws, we are created beings. The way we are (our nature) reflects the will of the Creator, whose will has also determined the nature (way of being) of all things, predisposing them to accord with the possibility of our existence. This predisposition defines what is right for us (i.e., what preserves our existence).
The concept of right therefore reflects the consonance between our existence and that of the whole between what we are and what the world must be in order for us to exist.
Because, by the Creator's will, the nature of things respects our existence, in our existence we must respect the nature of things. Otherwise, what we do contradicts the possibility of existing as we do. Our existence is therefore governed by concepts of right that reflect the nature of the universe. The Declaration refers to these concepts as "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God."
We must carefully note and reflect on the fact that these laws are nothing more than the limitations necessary to secure the possibility of our existence. Like the interplay of light and shadow that marks the outline of an object in space, these laws represent the boundaries without which our distinctive being cannot appear against the background of being as a whole. In this sense, just as its outline allows us to perceive a freestanding object, the boundaries imposed by the laws of nature set free the possibility of our distinctive being.
Because these laws make our freedom possible, in this way we are bound, for the sake of freedom, to respect them. This requires that our exercise of freedom respect the limitations that make it possible. When our exercise of freedom thus reflects the requirements of natural laws, we do what is right (that is, what respects the Creator's predisposition to make our existence possible). Each such lawful exercise of freedom is therefore an exercise of right. Natural rights thus arise from the obligations imposed by the laws of nature, as the inseparable (unalienable) prerogatives that serve and preserve the distinctive existence (nature) those laws make possible.
Procreation and family
From the perspective of humanity as a whole, procreation is an obligation imposed by the laws of nature, since without it humanity as such would cease to exist. When children are first conceived, they depend entirely on their mother for their physical survival. The mother's body, which is naturally disposed to prepare for and accept this task, obliges her to care for their needs. From the perspective of humanity as a whole, the mother's physical obligation epitomizes the operation of natural law. The body, which is the form of her appearance as a freestanding individual, is constrained to act in ways that serve the species, which in nature as a whole represents and preserves the distinctive existence of humanity as such.
Of course, the children physically represent and are products of an association of two distinct forms of human existence, male and female, a fact that our scientific methods now allow us to confirm from the first moment of physical conception. But it was clear to common sense long before that. Though when the child first appears, its physical preservation depends on the mother, the child itself physically preserves characteristics derived from both male and female ancestors. It preserves these characteristics in its own unique way, perpetuating at one and the same time the distinctive qualities that define humanity as such, and the distinct individuality that defines humanity as a whole.
Through the child, therefore, we preserve both humanity in nature, and the nature of humanity. We realize this, however, only if and when we respect the unique bond or union of distinctive human forms which constitutes the child's existence. In the literal sense, it represents the obligation that preserves humankind.
Through the child, the natural obligation that the mother experiences directly through her physical form appears as a physical concept. It is an association of male and female predisposed to act in ways that contribute to the child's existence, just as nature as a whole is predisposed to contribute to the existence of humanity.
In the first instance, this predisposition refers to physical facts about the mother and the child (their physical nature), but the child would not exist without the involvement of the father as well. In the course of things, the father acts on this natural obligation much as the mother does, directly through his physical form. But unlike the mother, his physical form does not require that he accept the obligation as and when he acts on it. The father's acknowledgement of his obligation to the child must come about as the result of a conscious act of recognition, an act that fulfills the aspect of human nature that transcends its physical form.
Human freedom and the obligations of family
Human beings are not simply physical objects. The concept of human freedom goes beyond the possibility of our freestanding existence as physical things. It extends into the complex realm of thought, passion, and will that constitutes our nature in a moral sense.
The full discussion of this concept has its proper place elsewhere. But without some sense of its meaning, we cannot properly understand the appearance of the family under "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God."
In one sense, the family simply reflects the operation of physical laws, the way the fall of a stone dropped from a great height reflects the operation of the law of gravity. But the possibilities arising from our self-conscious awareness of existence affect our responses to physical reality.
We are stones, but with attitude. There are times when we have to fall, but there's never a time when we have to like it. As we have increased our knowledge of the way things work, we have increased our ability to translate our attitudes into actions that nullify or even contradict physical appearances.
But however much we delude ourselves with the belief that our knowledge makes the very idea of nature obsolete, this ability to defy nature and reject the very rules that make us possible is itself an aspect of our nature. We have always been free to say yes when simply physical things must say no.
We are not the only species where males are physically free to forget their children. But thanks to the capacity for recognition and choice that human self-consciousness makes possible, men who can see the bonds of identity with their children may freely choose to acknowledge and act upon them. They may affirm and build upon what by nature they are free to neglect. The law that is for objects a mere fact of nature becomes, through this affirmation, a manifestation of the distinctively human freedom that is the image of the "being beyond nature," the being of the Creator, God.
Foundation of the family
This exercise of distinctively human freedom is the primordial foundation of the human family. As the father chooses to accept his natural obligation to care for his children, humanity acting through him affirms the community the children represent, the community of one human being with another in accordance with the laws of Nature and of Nature's God; the community that preserves humankind as individuals and as a species.
This community exists by nature, made manifest in the physical disposition of the woman. But it also exists by choice in accordance with human nature, as it appears in the father's exercise of distinctively human freedom.
The child represents the preservation and perpetuation of the distinctively human being that results when man and woman come together (covenant) in the fulfillment of the obligation implied by their natural predisposition. It embodies the promise of humanity's future, a promise God makes to humanity when he creates human nature, and which humanity reciprocates when the man and woman covenant to fulfill their role in human procreation. This covenant between God and humankind, which appears in the union of man and woman, in accordance with their distinctive forms of humanity, and for the sake of human procreation, is marriage.
Understood in this way, marriage is the freely accepted consequence of the natural obligation to preserve humanity. By accepting this consequence, the man and the woman do what is right. Marriage and the family produced by it are therefore inseparable prerogatives of our nature, unalienable rights that serve and preserve the distinctive existence made possible by its (our nature's) laws.
Indeed, this concept of marriage, derived as we have done it, from Declaration principles, is the paradigm of all such unalienable rights. It represents the union of human choice and natural obligation of physical necessity and moral self-determination, of freedom and submission to law that constitutes and sustains true liberty. It is essential to the physical preservation of the people (what in our day we too narrowly construe as their "economic well-being"), and their moral strength. As we shall see, we cannot abandon it without fatally damaging them both.
© 2007 Alan Keyes
I don’t understand why folks don’t stand behind Alan Keyes more. I have never seen him waver on these issues. A MORAL person makes the best leader because morales are transcendant from God. “Morals” based on our own self-created standards are not true morals, they may be ethical in some regard but even “ethics” if not based on morals are hollow, as we have seen so often from our “leaders”. Does this makes sense to fellow FReepers?
It sure does to me. I’ve stood behind Alan every step of the way.
This is one of those pieces that grows on me greatly the more I think on it.
Family is truly our most basic human institution, and the foundation for everything else that matters.
That’s why the Left is working so hard to destroy it.
Excellent explanation of the basic natural law principle of hetero-sexual marriage.
I wish he had been appointed to the Supreme Court.
Our Founders prayed to God before writing the Constitution, so, of course, they believed in natural law.
Killing the preborn is obviously against natural law.