Commentary by Donald DeMarco
The Interim

It has become commonplace for a person who disagrees with the opinion of another to ask him, usually in a derisive manner, “What’s your problem?” This question is not designed to advance discussion.

The style of Socrates, so it seems, is no longer in fashion. The more rational, civilized, inquiring question, “How did you arrive at your position?” is rarely voiced. This unhappy cultural development is an indication that pop psychology has displaced philosophy. “What are your reasons?” has been supplanted by, “What’s wrong with you?”

This crude rejoinder is not so much an invitation for the other, on the basis of instant self-analysis, to provide a clear and accurate synopsis of his mental disorder, but as a way of distancing the other from the company of the presumably enlightened Lepers were once banished to leper colonies. The politically incorrect are urged to join each other in a similarly unpromising environment.

An Australian research team, after questioning approximately 25,000 Australians, has come to the conclusion that, according to popular parlance, the mere moral objection to homosexual acts is sufficient to stigmatize a person with the label “homophobia.” The team’s findings have been published by the Australia Institute, a leftist public-policy think tank.

Apparently, virtually every person throughout human history has been saddled with this disease, one subtle enough to go undetected and unnamed until very recently. It is not clear how or when the moment of enlightenment came about that divided the human race into the “homophobic” (almost everybody) and the healthier “non-homophobic.” The matter is not supposed to be discussed on a rational basis. The use of reason, or what one might assume to be the result of “logomania,” is no longer in vogue. The matter is settled. Only “sick” people could possibly object to homosexual practices.

Ironically, the so-called “homosexual community” rejoiced when, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association decided to remove “homosexuality” from its list of mental disorders. That same “community” has enthusiastically added “homophobia” to its own list of mental disorders, thereby psychiatrically vilifying all its critics.

Ordinarily, a “phobia” elicits sympathy. A person who suffers from “claustrophobia” (fear of closed space), or “agoraphobia” (fear of open spaces) is treated with kindness and understanding. Professional therapists are only too eager to cure such people of their maladies. And they go about their treatment in the absence of public censure. But what is the cure for an orthodox Christian who believes that marriage, by nature, requires a man and a woman? “Homophobia” elicits contempt. It may be the only contemporary “phobia” that warrants punishment and exile. Perhaps “homophobia” colonies could be organized for the intransigently homophobic.

How do we deal with moral issues After Virtue, to refer to Alasdair MacIntyre’s landmark work? Do we redefine opponents of adultery as exhibiting “sexophobia,” those opposed to stealing as “ladrophobes” and those who have misgivings about lying as suffering from “mendaciphobia”?

Of course, rhetorical terrorism can be played by both sides. Those opposed to rational discussion are afflicted with “logophobia.” Then there is “ontophobia” (fear of reality) and “photophobia” (fear of light).

We are, as the sane philosophers have said, “rational animals.” We are rational by nature, even if not always in practice. But if we are true to our nature, we will exercise our reason and refrain from mindless name-calling. Reason enlightens us about who we are and how we should live. When one side of a moral issues abandons reason and resorts to verbal terrorism, it becomes apparent which side is bankrupt.

We will survive and prosper through reason. When we oppose it, we take dead aim against our own nature (idiophobia – fear of one’s self) and, therefore, against ourselves. Reason will withstand the assaults of rhetorical terrorism and re-establish the plain on which all people can resolve the issues of the day. To betray reason is to betray one’s own humanity. Reason is universal, unbiased, fair, realistic and democratic. It is opposed to terrorism of all kinds, including the form that appears in journals, newspapers, and that proceeds from the lips of ideologues.

Donald DeMaro, a regular contributor to The Interim, is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.