Humility (adjectival form: humble) is variously seen as the act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others, or conversely, having a clear perspective and respect for one’s place in context. In a religious context this can mean a recognition of self in relation to a deity or deities, acceptance of one’s defects, and submission to divine grace or as a member of an organized, hierarchical religion. Absent a religious context humility can still take on a moral and/or ethical dimension.
Can you imagine what 18th century French historian Alexis de Tocqueville would think of American society today? We impressed him to no end once upon a time…and this was a man who knew a thing or two about societies and the people in them. He knew what made them great, and he knew what made them fail. He once said this: “It is the dissimilarities and inequalities among men which give rise to the notion of honor; as such differences become less, it grows feeble; and when they disappear, it will vanish too.”
I believe humility is the first virtue to go and once it’s gone, honor cannot be far behind. Have we ever had an American President so lacking in humility? Has there ever been a generation of Americans so lacking in it’s appreciation of humility as a virtue worth having? Who can forget the embarrassing moment when Kanye West stole the microphone from Taylor Swift in the middle of her acceptance speech? What does it say about a person who would do such a thing? If we can’t find humility in the people we look up to, then where will it be found…and who would bother to look for it?
In The Soul of a Lion, Alice Von Hildebrand wrote of her husband Dietrich, “But he learned a deep lesson, namely, the importance of humility in intellectual life. It convinced him that philosophical errors are often caused by a proud and arrogant intellectual posture (Could there be a better description of Obama?), but they are rarely due to a lack of intellectual acuteness.”
Check this out…“We say that the dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them.” ~ G.K. Chesterton
So…naturally…when I read that a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday suffered a “dose of humility”, it naturally caught my attention. Perhaps “Tuesday’s Sweet Breeze” was a precursor to a wind more divine in nature? 🙂
The 6th Circuit said: “A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the states…. One starts from the premise that governments got into the business of defining marriage, and remain in the business of defining marriage, not to regulate love but to regulate sex, most especially the intended and unintended effects of male-female intercourse. Imagine a society without marriage. It does not take long to envision problems that might result from an absence of rules about how to handle the natural effects of male-female intercourse: children.”
And the judges wrote: “Once one accepts a need to establish such ground rules, and most especially a need to create stable family units for the planned and unplanned creation of children, one can well appreciate why the citizenry would think that a reasonable first concern of any society is the need to regulate male-female relationships and the unique procreative possibilities of them…. People may not need the government’s encouragement to have sex. And they may not need the government’s encouragement to propagate the species. But they may well need the government’s encouragement to create and maintain stable relationships within which children may flourish. It is not society’s laws or for that matter any one religion’s laws, but nature’s laws (that men and women complement each other biologically), that created the policy imperative. And governments typically are not second-guessed under the Constitution for prioritizing how they tackle such issues.”
There is a logic behind traditional marriage, they said… “What we are left with is this: By creating a status (marriage) and by subsidizing it (e.g., with tax-filing privileges and deductions), the states created an incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring. That does not convict the states of irrationality, only of awareness of the biological reality that couples of the same sex do not have children in the same way as couples of opposite sexes and that couples of the same sex do not run the risk of unintended offspring. That explanation, still relevant today, suffices to allow the states to retain authority.”
With this issue now clearly destined for the Supremes, I’m feeling a tingly glow of nostalgia as one of their biggest hits is playing in my head; You Can’t Hurry Love…which reminds me of the post-Roe v. Wade lament expressed by Justice Ginsberg recently.
My friends, there is plenty of room in the compassionate heart for humility and logic. I’d say we’ve about exhausted our fair share of “philosophical errors” wouldn’t you? In fact, I’d say that Tuesday was perhaps the beginning of what could be a major course-correction. But take heed dear friend; if by the Grace of God we manage to wrestle this ship off the rocks, it will take all hands to bring her about!