Be Not Afraid, Ctd

Dreher (still playing the victim) and Linker go another round. Here's Linker:

It seems to me that Rod's opposition to gay marriage and social acceptance follows less from an argument or an assertion about the world, nature, or God than it does from a disposition or temperament -- from a disposition or temperament inclined toward fear. (In retrospect, I can see how significant and telling it is that one of the first questions I posed to Rod in my original post was "What are you afraid of?", and that Andrew fastened onto that passage in his initial response and returned to it in the title of his longer post in response to Rod. Fear has been at the center of this debate from the beginning.)

Rod imagines a future in which homosexuality has been brought completely into the mainstream of American life, and he responds with a shudder. But why? What does he fear?

First, as I noted above, he fears change. This is perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of the conservative temperament. (And that's just one of the reasons why I think Andrew is wrong to insist on calling himself a conservative. But that's a topic for another post.) Rod fears that if our understanding of marriage changes to include homosexual unions, this bedrock institution of civilization will collapse. Pretty soon we'll have polygamy. Then before you know it, I'll be taking my golden retriever to dinner parties and introducing him as my fiancé. The assumption behind this fear is that change tends to make things worse -- that the primary thing holding civilization together is received custom. Without those limits to channel and direct and limit our actions, human beings will behave like beasts, or worse. We therefore tinker with and change those customs at our peril.

Say what you will about this view of things, try to come up with empirical examples to demonstrate its paranoia, etc. But, in my view at least, it has a certain dignity. I don't view the world that way. I don't fear that if I tell my young son that the men living together down the street are married to each other that he will join a group-sex club in high school or be any less likely to marry when he grows up, or be more likely to divorce. But as a humanist -- as a student of human history and culture -- I can understand where Rod's fear is coming from, because I've seen it before, and I'll see it again. And I can accept that nothing I say to him is likely to change his tendency to view the world in the way he does. Because temperament isn't the product of an argument; it's what leads you to find certain arguments more compelling than others.