Princeton’s Robert George: Sophistry Disguised as Scholarship
Photo by Samantha Contis
A feature article in this week’s New York Times Magazine refers to Princeton professor Robert P. George as the “intellectual architect” of the extreme right. This is hardly an honor, considering the main competition for “Values Valedictorian” is Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and Mike Huckabee. One also has to consider admiration comes from the likes of George W. Bush and FOX instigator Glenn Beck, who calls George “one of the biggest brains in America.”
George’s primary accomplishment has been denying gay couples the right to marry, by forming an unholy political union between conservative Catholics, like himself, and Evangelical Christians. He is the chairman of The National Organization for Marriage, the group that most recently worked to strip marriage rights from LGBT couples in Maine.
Quite frankly, I’m hardly impressed with George’s cognitive abilities. If one looks at the numbers in Maine, his allegedly intellectual arguments against same-sex marriage failed miserably in cosmopolitan Portland and in Orono, home of The University of Maine. His primary talent, it seems, is to trick the unschooled and easily fooled. Given this reality, George is more back woods propagandist than deep professorial thinker.
Indeed, one of the simplest ways to succeed in America is to rabble rouse and scapegoat. It takes no brains to peddle belligerence and play the gay card by pandering to people not playing with a full deck. George exploited an undereducated constituency and fed them red meat, which is no more than a cheap shortcut for those incapable of the more difficult task of bringing Americans together. In a diverse nation paradoxically frightened by diversity, demagogues such as George are a dime a dozen and unworthy of praise.
What George offers is sophistry disguised as scholarship. For example, his opposition to gay people having sex or marrying rests on his version of “natural law”, allegedly based on “practical reason.” In the Times Magazine article, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali parrots George’s idea of “natural law” at a press conference, with George at his side, cheering on his protégé.
“Sexual relations outside the marital bond are contrary not only to the will of God but to the good of man,” said Rigali. “Indeed they are contrary to the will of God precisely because they are against the good of man.”
The “good” of which men (and women) might Rigali and George be referring to?
Is it the teenage boys who were molested in the Catholic Church because such conservative ideologues insisted on turning gay men into sexually repressed and emotionally stunted shells and then placing them in the priesthood?
Is it “good” for the gay youths who commit suicide in disproportionate numbers because men like George and Rigali tell them their love is inferior?
Perhaps, they can illuminate how such “practical reason” was “good” for Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas who came out of the closet this weekend after hiding his sexual orientation for two decades.
“Sometimes I felt so alone and depressed,” said Thomas. “I’ve stood on so many cliff edges. I used to go to the cliffs overlooking the beach near our cottage in St Brides Major and just think about jumping off and ending it all…I was like a ticking bomb. I thought I could suppress it, keep it locked away in some dark corner of myself, but I couldn’t. It was who I was, and I just couldn’t ignore it any more.”
Maybe George can explain how his philosophy was somehow “good” for Gareth’s wife Jenna, who is about to be divorced?
If “practical reason” has proven one thing, it has shown the closet, particularly for the Catholic Church, to be destructive on so many levels. George has demonstrably failed to articulate how openly gay people harm heterosexuals or how living a lie helps homosexuals be more productive members of society. His entire presentation is a ruse meant to rally the rubes.
Interestingly, George believes in restricting marriage because, in his view, only a husband and wife can experience, “comprehensive unity” and become a “one-flesh union.” He blatantly ignores that millions of people can achieve this state only through homosexual relations. By forcing GLBT people to conform to his views and presumably marry the opposite sex, he is creating the conditions to achieve the polar opposite of what he claims is necessary for a healthy marriage.
George is equally disingenuous in claiming that marriage is based on procreation. These days, the vast majority of people marry for love. Many couples choose not to have children, while others are unable to. To suggest otherwise is to proffer an incoherent and intellectually dishonest view of modern marriage.
George is an intellectual lightweight without an original idea in his head. His claim to fame is organizing like-minded conservatives and providing a veneer of education to mask his goal of discrimination. This is not the pride of Princeton, but a paean to prejudice.
Additional TWO Commentary by Evan Hurst
Tags: Cardinal Justin Rigali, David D. Kirkpatrick, Maggie Gallagher, National Organization for Marriage, Pope Benedict XVI, Princeton, Robert George, Roman Catholic Church, The New York Times Magazine