Summer 2015

The Saving Difference

Adrian J. Walker Rachel M. Coleman

"[T]he primary 'mission' of difference is entirely beneficient: to enable creatures to be with one another, and so to help one another to recognize being itself as the purely good gift that it is."

At first sight, today’s increasingly common invocation of “diversity” seems to express nothing more than a simple wish to “celebrate” the differences among human beings. Underneath this apparently clear and placid surface, however, we glimpse a more turbid undercurrent at work: the tendency to repackage certain deviations from the natural norm as examples of the good difference essential to the constitution of any properly human society. In the political sphere, this tendency culminates in a (juridical) neutralization of the sexual difference and, with that, of every natural difference between persons—a great triumph for the homogenizing logic of liberalism, which, if it is consistent with itself, will eventually contest the authority of this most natural and original of (human) differences, challenging its innate right to define who we are in advance of our “sovereign” choosing.

We see a particularly clear example of the public neutralization of difference in what is perhaps the diversity regime’s most emblematic political goal: the institution of so-called “same-sex marriage.” For, by attempting to write the sexual difference out of the essential constitution of marital society, so-called “same-sex marriage” strikes at the natural root from which all other inter-human differences derive and in which they find a horizon and measure. In this sense, the ideal of “diversity” represents, as just noted, a certain radicalization of the logic of liberalism, which locates man’s dignity chiefly in the pure formality of his potential for choice, seen as detached from, and opposed to, what man actually is by nature. Instead of seeking to reconcile nature and freedom, as authentic politics demands, “diversity,” like the liberalism it expresses, cements their bitter divorce to the ultimate detriment of both parties.

In our opinion, the attempt to neutralize nature in the name of diversity is animated in part by the suspicion that this same nature, along with its inbuilt norms, is inherently discriminatory, as if, in yoking man to a definite bodily nature, God had unfairly withheld from his creature the full possibility of self-determination that the Creator jealously reserves for himself alone. Of course, we are all intimately familiar with this suspicion; it is coessential to what we might call the “logic of original sin,” governed as it is by envy. For Adam and Eve begin to fall when they first entertain the possibility that their finitude is a deficit imposed on them by divine envy, and their sin comes to fruition when they ape this imagined envy by grasping at “equality with God as an advantage jealously clung to” (cf. Phil 2:6).


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