Selective rebellion is not submission
March 7, 2014 § 100 Comments
Cane Caldo had an excellent post on the proper attitude toward authority a while back entitled You Bowed Up When You Should Have Bowed Down, where he addressed the right posture someone under human authority should have when that human authority inevitably, because human, exhibits flaws.
We know that there are always due limits to the authority of men because of the nature of authority: because authority produces moral obligations, and it is literally impossible to produce or voluntarily take on a moral obligation to do evil. “Moral obligation to do evil” is self-contradictory.
So how we navigate the moral waters of our lives is first and foremost bound by deontological limits: by the objective reality of the moral rocks upon which we will shipwreck if we choose to point our rudder at the rocks. The rocks form “bright lines” that we cannot cross, behaviors which we cannot choose, without transgression.
But the lower limit of avoiding intrinsically immoral behaviours is just the beginning of morality:
On the other hand, the fact that only the negative commandments oblige always and under all circumstances does not mean that in the moral life prohibitions are more important than the obligation to do good indicated by the positive commandments. The reason is this: the commandment of love of God and neighbour does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, but it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken. Furthermore, what must be done in any given situation depends on the circumstances, not all of which can be foreseen; on the other hand there are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response — a response which is in conformity with the dignity of the person. Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.
So the fact that many moral questions do not have bright line boundaries that apply in all circumstances doesn’t mean that as long as we don’t crash upon the rocks we are free to do what we will. In the comment thread below ChesterPoe says:
The one aspect of modernity with which I frequently observe even self-proclaimed anti-modernists/anti-liberals/reactionaries/traditionalists/etc… make compromises is the sexual revolution. That’s the heart of the beast. It’s what divides the old left from the new left. All of us are guilty of indulging in it at some point, whether it was premarital sex or viewing pornography, but the difference is about rationalizing it. Those who seek compromise do so for the simple fact, not of the conviction that synthesis is best, but rather that they cannot muster the will power or moral fortitude to overcome their indulgence in sexual depravity. You can hear this in the words of gamers/puas or those sympathetic to them. They exclaim, “They’re just taking advantage of this bad situation. It’s not great, but what else is left for them?” That is cowardice and surrender. That’s saying, “I hate the depravity, believe me, but I need my little piece of it.” As Christians, sin is indefensible, unjustifiable. And to make compromises with it is the equivalent of compromising with the devil.
Chastity is a positive virtue, so it doesn’t have a “bright line” moral boundary. It isn’t that it is difficult to draw the line: it is that the line does not exist. So when we encounter the authority of chastity – the virtues are authorities over us because it is their nature to generate moral obligations – it is important to bow down, not up. If we are trying to do everything we can to come as close to torturing the prisoner as possible without actually crossing the line and torturing the prisoner, we have misunderstood the moral nature of the situation. There is no line.
Sure there are acts, certain intrinsically immoral behaviours, which clearly offend against chastity and are always morally wrong under all circumstances. But those acts are hardly the only offenses against the virtue of chastity. Chastity is not a virtue that lends itself to realpolitik and compromise, any more than wifely submission is something that lends itself to selective rebellion: compromised chastity just is inchastity. The slutty Christian woman may rationalize the escalation of her hemline (as long as she doesn’t actually fornicate or commit adultery, thereby achieving the Minimum Adult Daily Requirement of chastity) as a kind of realpolitik adaptation to practical realities; and since society is being deliberately (though futilely) reconstructed by liberalism to be ever more androgynous this traditionally difficult area for women has become more difficult for men also, as one of the fruits of equality.
But if your idea of chastity is that it is something that can be adapted – at the level of personal engagement with the virtue of chastity – to modern “SMP” or “MMP” realities through some sort of realpolitik, I would suggest that you don’t yet grasp what chastity is.