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Stealth religion: Why Maxim does it

Fri 29 Oct 2004 In: Comment

The big news at the moment is and Queer Nation's expose on Maxim's link with right wing fundamentalist groups in the United States. Maxim has never claimed that they are a Christian based organisation, rather they claim that they are a social policy think tank. However, given some of the research faux pas Maxim have made, given their inability to publish in mainstream psychological, and sociological journals, it seems that they must be basing their arguments on something else. So the question I am going to address is: does the Maxim Institute share philosophical beliefs with fundamentalist groups such as Destiny? What in fact are Maxim's philosophical beliefs? Lets start with Family. I have a family; I would imagine that anyone else reading this also has a family. Families to my point of view come in all shapes and sizes from the traditional nuclear family of mum dad and the kids to extended families with multiple generations living under the same roof, solo parent families, DINKs (dual income, no kids), gay families and the whole gamut in between. One of the chief commonalties shared by all these models is to provide a loving caring environment for all members. After all, as Bruce Logan of Maxim pointed out in a press statement, “Above all, human beings are wired to exist in interdependent relationship.” Sounds like a reasonable approximation of a family to me. Maxim asserts, however, that “The Institute believes that men and women are drawn to each other for coexistence and reproduction and that marriage secures an environment for nurturing children.” The logical assertion is of course that only heterosexual human beings are wired for interdependent existence. Gay human beings and those who are single parents are not. Once again, where does this view come from? Perhaps the easiest answer can be found in a statement Greg Flemming made in an Interview with Kim Hill on the 14th of October. They were two innocuous little words, but to a Rationalist, they instantly made the antennae twitch: “Natural Law” Now, there are several definitions of Natural law. Firstly, we have the scientific definition. All laws of nature must work the same way everywhere, they must be objective – meaning the results of experimentation are reproducible irrespective of who carried them out and where. Causes must exist for every effect, and the cause must come before the event takes place. All systems tend towards a state of minimum energy… and so on and so forth. Laws such as entropy are still being debated, and I would rather not get into a description of law of conservation of mass and energy here. For example, gravity is a natural law, dissolving a gram of salt in 1000 grams of water to give a solution weighing 1001 grams is a natural law – at least in the scientific world. The second definition is linked to the third, some may say inextricably so. In this definition, Natural Law is based on an internal moral compass – a basic ethic of right and wrong as it would appear to the reasonable person. Of course, one of the problems with this, as spelled out in the New Zealand Law Reports is “Systems of natural law, which at bottom are inquiries into the nature of abstract justice, tend to reflect the convictions and prejudices, either of the individual writer or of the school to which he belongs.” (Hart, The Concept of Law p 155) Your view of right and wrong are open to influence by preconceived notions, for example the family unit being only mum, dad and the kids. Where do these notions come from though and what guides your moral compass? The answer can be found in the third definition. Put simply, the natural law is the rule of conduct, which is prescribed to us by the Creator in the constitution of the nature with which He has endowed us. More simply, we are created in God's likeness; therefore Natural Law is inherent in us because God put it there. Perhaps then, this is the reason why Maxim becomes strangely quiet when asked the dreaded “But why” questions when discussing some of their ideologies. Why is it only heterosexual couples who are drawn to each other? Because it is Natural Law – as dictated by a higher power. Of course, this is not an acceptable defence in ascientific journal, which goes a long way to explaining why Maxim doesn't publish. More importantly, is this why Maxim have such an anti-homosexual stance? I would posit that the answer is yes, an organisation basing its core principles on a moral compass as handed down by God is going to have issue with Gay people in any respect. After all, Leviticus is quite vocal in its condemnation of Homosexuality. Perhaps that is also why Maxim takes so little notice of scientific and psychological research. Homosexuality is not a learned behaviour as some of Maxim's contributors, such as those found in Summit Ministries, Masters Institute and Lifeway colleges, assert. Homosexual parents according to the most recent APA study do just as good a job as heterosexual ones – unlike the assertions made by Maxim. Yet, this research is ignored. Why? Because of Natural Law, Gods set of values and moral compass– the philosophy championed by Greg Flemming on the Face to Face with Kim Hill show – says that homosexuality is against nature and sinful. It couldn't possibly be that Gay people are just as capable as raising normal healthy well-adjusted children as straight people. Further to this, in his expose entitled State Owned in Godzone, Maxim's director of research, Paul Henderson stated that the formation of an individuals values system over time and with reference to their social environment was "unsettling; it challenges notions of continuity, natural law and virtue as something inherent to humanity". But wait, the story gets better. This time in a contribution to Maxim's vast research base Samuel Gregg mentions that political systems should be tempered by influences such as education, religion and Natural Law. Writing with respect to the United States Gregg states "For Locke and the American founders, the objective was to establish a new political order that permitted people to follow often very different interests. Nevertheless, these thinkers considered it obvious that this order would be limited by moderating influences such as family, education, religion, and natural law." Is this Maxims position? Given Greg Flemming's statement on Kim Hill, and Paul Henderson's morbid fear that people's values may be shaped by society (that's you and me) rather than by Natural Law, it does seem quite likely doesn't it? By falling back on an argument whose central premise is that "Its right because God says so", you can maintain your position even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This is a very similar premise to early Augustinian teachings in the 4th century which held that it was pointless to study the natural world because that was the way God made it, it was the natural order of things as stated in the Bible. Who else believes this? Why, Pastor Brian of course who is also fond of quoting Natural Law in defence of his anti Gay stance – I go against nature, am unnatural, and because I have violated God's law and rejected Natural Law I am a sinner. Now, we come to a point where we can ask ourselves a question, is Maxim religiously motivated? I would assert that yes, they are. Unless of course Mr Henderson, Mr Flemming and Mr Gregg are using the term 'Natural Law' in terms of physical sciences, although I do think that it is just a tad unlikely. Why does a “think tank” supposedly carrying out legitimate social research go quiet when asked to clarify various contradictions in their reports? Why do they get defensive? Simple, a social policy research organisation such as Maxim loses most of its credibility if it can be identified as having religious motivators. Why did Mr McMurray not respond when I asked him twice to define Natural Law? Perhaps because the only answer that can be given is the one I have laid out here. So that only leaves one more issue to be resolved. Do I as a gay male have anything to fear from Maxim? Scott McMurray suggests that no, I don't. Yet, as a gay secular humanist the idea of allowing religious Natural Law to decide my position in society is one that does not sit overly well with me. It is ironic that Maxim's mission statement is “through policy and public debate to promote the principles of a free, just and compassionate society”. Yet, basing this free, just and compassionate society on religious principles is simply not possible. Take for instance Richard Lewis, leader of Destiny's political wing “As far as Destiny New Zealand is concerned, the sexual preference of an extreme minority does not equate to a civil right deserving of law”. There you have it, I do not get equal rights according to Destiny, who at least are open enough to say so publicly, nor do I get equal rights in Maxim's utopian society based on Natural Law. Do I have anything to fear from Maxim? You bet I do. It is the reason why we as a free and open society need to question them so vigorously and call them to account at every opportunity. Is Maxim religiously motivated? Undoubtedly. Do they want to wind the clock back? Of course, the question is just one of how far and are we going to allow them to do so. So now I place a challenge before you the reader. Make your voice heard. Don't allow Maxim to influence MP's with poor discredited research, bad science and studies which are simply vehicles for clandestinely espousing religious beliefs. Beliefs which have no place for anyone who does not fit Maxim's Ideal (that's you and me by the way). Maxim claims that it wants open and honest debate, so give it to them. Am I anti-religious? Well... "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." -Ghandi Scott Stevens - 29th October 2004    

Credit: Scott Stevens

First published: Friday, 29th October 2004 - 12:00pm

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