Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not this, Not That

C-Span brought a program titled “Religious Freedom and Public Policy” yesterday, sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. EPPC is “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues in public policy.” Watching it, I got to thinking about Robert Graves, the poet—whose lead I follow when it comes to the conflict discussed by EPPC’s panel.

The shrouded theme of this conference was what might be called a divide based on different views of sexuality broadly viewed. I call it a shrouded theme because the overt discussion centered on rights, particularly the rights of religious communities; but beneath that loomed two issues that are non-negotiable on either the hard left or the hard right: gay rights and abortion rights.

I thought of Graves, the poet of the White Goddess, because this conflict really centers on the Patriarchal Order, which the category “Judeo-Christian” reduces to a single phrase, and which the modernist rights movement challenges by its initiatives. The Matriarchal Order seems to have been overcome at least four thousand years ago. Therefore, for all practical purposes, it has virtually no resonance at all—except to poets; and there is also that brief flash of courtesy and courtly love in medieval times. Now my views on Modernism are probably known to be negative—but of one of its aspects I highly approve. It is the overt and energetic assertion that females are actually fully human.

If they were—in the Judeo-Christian moral tradition—we would have female priests, bishops, and popes, say; female rabbis; and, among the patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches, the occasional matriarch. But in all of these traditions, the female is subordinated—even when she achieves extraordinary rank. Modernity gives women genuine equality—de jure, anyway if not in meaningful practice. But this impulse in Modernity does not go far enough. Graves and I at minimum wouldn’t stop at equality. We’d go a whole lot further. Therefore, overflying this scene, as I was doing yesterday, and looking for a place to land and rest, I couldn’t find a perch either on the left or on the right. Not this, not that.

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