Naive Young Evangelicals and the Illiberal DNA of the Gay Rights Movement

Gov. Mike Pence

Photo: Charlie Nye, The Indianapolis Star, via USA Today

Now that our “insane national freak-out” about Indiana’s religious liberty bill has subsided a little, it’s worth stepping back to reflect on what happened and what the drama might mean for religious conservatives.  Ross Douthat said nearly everything that needs to be said in his two posts; I note up front that I agree with his substantive analysis of the law completely, and am inclined to agree with him on the question of making cakes. 

Where to begin?  Perhaps with “the hypotheticals,” which many progressives deployed to create anxiety that Indiana’s RFRA would usher in anarchy or weave any number of discriminatory practices into our social fabric. Though it was written in the middle of Arizona’s scrum, Jonathan Merritt’s post at The Atlantic is a fine example:  Merritt warns conservative evangelicals that protections for discrimination could be used by a Unitarian cake-maker against conservative evangelicals.  

Some writers mocked the progressive use of such hypotheticals, but I think we should take them seriously.  Like all such argumentative tactics, hypotheticals can function in one of two ways:  they can be predictive of “slippery slopes” that could become more plausible if a particular law is passed, or they can be attempts to find some limiting principle that would apply regardless of the social conditions. I take it that in religious liberty conversations, progressives are generally deploying such hypotheticals in the second way. 

And that’s exciting. It’s great that progressives are suddenly interested in using reductios to find limiting principles to particular legislative decisions. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we were told deploying hypotheticals was merely fear-mongering. Back when we were still talking about whether gay people could marry, conservatives argued that if the courts expanded marriage they would have no fundamental basis for limiting the institution to couples. Even if polygamy never comes about, there would be no principled basis for preventing it. That concern was resoundingly dismissed; only now we’re supposed to take such hypotheticals Very Seriously.

Two asides, though, before moving on:  First, even if framed as predictions, the polygamy reductio is much more plausible than those offered in the past two weeks. Given that our great corporate overlords are comfortable deploying polyamory in advertisements, will anyone be very surprised in a decade when the polygamy cases start working their way through the courts? Second, the search for limiting principles in RFRA cases is impossible, since it is a guideline that the courts adopt, which means it proceeds essentially case-by-case. But still, conservatives shouldn’t oppose the use of such hypotheticals per se in order to identify the underlying principles and limits of the law. 

Still, limiting principles are a knife that cut both ways. Douthat’s list of questions for progressives pursuing LGBT rights is worth re-reading at this point, even if it risks, you know, giving people ideas.

Let’s pick one that might affect many of our readers more than others:  the question of whether religious colleges and universities like Biola, or Liberty, or Wheaton, or any others that maintain sexual behavior standards for students and faculty that prohibit same-sex sexual activity should lose their tax-exempt status. At first blush, this scenario seems too fanciful to be meaningfully predictive. As an anonymous commentator suggested to Rod Dreher, the tax-exempt status of such institutions is “too deeply embedded in American thought and law to be at serious risk right now.” 

But the obvious rejoinder is that twenty years ago, the concept of marriage being limited to one man and one woman was too deeply embedded in American law and culture for anyone to think it was at serious risk. Everyone expects the Supreme Court to definitively bring that restriction to an end in June. Even if the question is only one of principle, and not a prediction, it still deserves an answer from those who are sympathetic to the LGBT cause:  why shouldn’t Christian institutions of higher learning lose their tax exempt status and their federal funding (via student aid)?  For most institutions, losing both would be a death blow: but if our progressive friends are serious about ending an intrinsically and structurally discriminatory regime of sexual mores (on their view), wouldn’t they have every reason to pursue such measures?

Now, that may be an unpleasant scenario for those who went to such religious institutions and have fond memories of them. It may even be distasteful to those with unhappy memories and who think such schools should change their policies and doctrines. But there is a wide gap between disliking the fact that the pursuit of LGBT rights makes some people mean (as the unfortunate pizza owners discovered) and providing principled reasons for why, given the logic that the LGBT cause has used to advance its own rights and that sympathizers have adopted, such restrictions and prohibitions should not be pursued. 

Such are the stakes of the great dispute that is upon us about how gay rights can co-exist with religious liberty. Which is why it’s curious to read libertarian writers like David Harsyani or Conor Friedersdorf or Ben Domenech seem surprised by the pervasiveness of the conflict. Friedersdorf thinks that it is only a “faction” of gay marriage proponents that want to exclude those who have objections (religious or otherwise) from meaningful participation in public life. But while he’s right Julian Sanchez persuasively argues our current situation with respect to gay rights is nothing like Jim Crow, the LGBT community has made all of its legal and political gains the past twenty years by arguing that those who object are motivated by animus or bigotry. The one lesson that everyone in the gay marriage dispute should agree on is that the law has a pedagogical function: having been told (now) by the Supreme Court that objectors are motivated by animus, our society is simply starting to believe it. What else would we expect?  It is precisely what conservatives have been arguing about the institution for the past twenty years, and on this they have once again been vindicated. 

Or consider this otherwise excellent article by Kirsten Powers, whom I enjoy reading and admire a great deal for her unabashed willingness to say precisely what she thinks. She chastizes the LGBT community for being sore winners—but that framing of what’s happening presupposes that having won, the LGBT community would shift the basis and terms of the arguments which had gotten them there. It’s not like the advancement of the LGBT cause was built on the presupposition that those who oppose gay marriage are misguided but otherwise okay people. The LGBT movement, by and large, really believes its own (silly) rhetoric about being on the “right side of history,” and damned if they won’t let a regressive business owner or two get in the way of bringing that history about. They aren’t being “sore winners”: they’re simply in the process of working out the terms of the case they have so successfully made.  

Now, perhaps this description of the “LGBT movement” is too broad and not helpful. And maybe it doesn’t describe the very nice gay couple down the block. There are, no doubt, countless very normal LGBT individuals who don’t have an interest in pressing the conclusions of the movement which gained them cultural esteem quite as far as we’re seeing. And good on ‘em for it. But it’s far too simplistic of an account of the world to ignore the activists and how the rhetoric and arguments have come from the top of the LGBT world. And if we look there, well, such activists aren’t exactly bashful about what their aims are. Friedersdorf may be right that it’s only a “faction” that is interested in removing conservative Christians from the public square, but that “faction” has a good deal of clout. It was a New York Times writer, after all, who suggested that society should “stamp out” views like those I hold.  But given the premises at work in the gay rights movement, that’s an entirely reasonable and understandable position to hold. 

—————–

There is no room for naivety about our current cultural crisis. Only within the evangelical world naivety is the dominant problem. Young evangelicals who are increasingly sympathetic to their cause want to make nice with gay marriage while supporting religious liberty, but until we are given arguments for how they can coexist given our current legal and political history, we have no more reason to think that is possible than that we could unwind marriage from politics altogether (which is the ultimate libertarian fantasyland). The people who are now shouting about “religion-based bigotry” may be outliers now, but if Frank Bruni has his way they’ll be the future of the movement. After all, Rachel Held Evans thinks that conservatives have blood on their hands.  If that’s not sufficient reason to do whatever it takes to eradicate such views, I don’t know what is.

So while it’s nice that Jonathan Merritt recognizes Bruni’s “strong-arm tactics” are “deeply troubling,” a careful reader will observe that he does not object to Bruni’s construal of the backwardness of religious conservatives. In fact, Merritt’s main argument against Bruni is that he’s going to embolden conservative evangelicals by framing them as persecuted. Apparently Merritt thinks its better to be nice to us so that none of us say anything, ever. With friends like these

Now, I don’t know where Merritt lines up on the substantive question of gay marriage. And I suspect he’d be “troubled” by the suggestion that religious colleges and universities should lose their tax-exempt status. I do know, however, one young evangelical who has a high-level position at one of America’s pre-eminent evangelical magazines who thinks they should because they are a sign of the church’s mistaken “privilege.”  And Relevant Magazine seems like they want to avoid the subject altogether (“Leadership!”) while we all engage in a group hug. 

But other young evangelicals who substantively affirm gay rights and think that the church needs to be reformed along the lines Bruni suggests should come clean on which of Douthat’s list they repudiate, and more importantly, why. If we adopt the Supreme Court’s position that the only motivation for objecting to same-sex sexual behaviors is animus, what philosophical or theoretical basis is there to not take such a cultural claim to its conclusions?  If we think, with Rachel Held Evans, that the dominant Christian theological tradition is substantively no different in its social harms than any secular or philosophical repudiation of same-sex relationships, then why should we leave any social space (much less ecclesiastical space!) for those who disagree?

——————————

It is possible to think of religious liberty as only accidentally or tangentially related to the questions of gay marriage, as an unfortunate causalty of a pre-existing culture wars that conservatives reached for as a last ditch measure because they had lost every other dispute. And there’s some validity to that story.  But the conflict with religious liberty is a structural feature of our current pursuit of gay rights, not a bug. An anti-liberal approach toward dissenting views is part of the DNA of the logic of the current gay rights argument. As long as the pursuit of “equality” continues to go forward on the terms it has, religious liberties for non-affirming communities and believers will necessarily be constrained and the opportunities for such believers (who are known to be so) to participate at the highest levels of our society will be cut off. 

 That claim needs some defending.  So lets give it a go.  Imagine, for a moment, that cultural conservatives are right that the family which begins within the union of a man and a woman is a morally unique institution, irreplacable in its role in society and inimitable in its shape by other voluntary associations of free adults, such as gay unions.  It’s hard to think such backward, retrograde thoughts, I know, but give it a sporting try.  Now, consider how pervasive sex is in society and in our human experience. Discover, if you can, some corner of our lived experience that sexual desire does not have some bearing on, either as a present reality or as a dark, forbidden possibility. Consider the effects one’s family has on one’s own outlook on the world, and the liberties we afford to families for the formation of the respective characters of the individuals who compose them.

Then grant this simple premise:  that humans are fundamentally and inescapably truth-telling beings, and that falsehoods require an elaborate and complex support structure if they are to take hold and endure for a long period of time.  A child might believe that Santa Claus is real and get on with the world just fine. But as they grow older, the kinds of backflips, self-deceptions, and tricks they would have to go through in order to maintain such a belief would be dazzling.

Now, momentarily return to that peculiar and strange thought that same-sex sexual relationships, whatever other goods have, lack particular features which make heterosexual relationships morally unique. Given human sexuality’s clear importance, and given humanity’s truth-telling nature, what kind of artifice would need to be in place to support and sustain such a deception within a society over a long period of time? What kind of intervention into the course of normal human affairs would a society have to undertake in order to obscure the morally relevant differences between those forms of sexual behavior that can generate children and those that cannot?  What kind of construct would we have to build in order to maintain the premise that all consenting erotic associations are equal, that the union of the lives of two adults (even where children are introduced via the tragedy beneath adoption or through the artifice of technology) is of the same kind as those families where a man and a woman’s love and life together introduces a third member into the community who bears witness, within their very bodies, of the love of that mother and father for each other and for no one else in a way that removing children from their biological parentage necessarily diminishes? And once this structure is built, would it have the structural integrity to allow for meaningful and public dissent? Or would it be so fragile, because false, that it had to “stamp out” competing accounts of the world? 

Erasing or obscuring the moral uniqueness of the traditional nuclear family unit—if there is one would require, dare I say, both an extensive and elaborate artifice that attempted to reconfigure not simply the family, but all those institutions which the family has some bearing upon.  Maintaining such a support would require the most powerful and influential institutions in American life, of which there are currently (by way of hypothesis) three:  entertainment, business, and the government.  And as long as those dominant institutions established such an outlook on the world, any remaining institutions would come under significant pressure to reform themselves accordingly.  

In other words, as Seana Sugrue argued once, same-sex marriage will lead to a soft-despotism because it has to. Conservatives have sometimes said that marriage is a “pre-political institution,” and they are right to say so. The possible introduction of a child into a marriage by way of procreation introduces asymmetrical ties and obligations that are deeper than the wills of the two individuals. But inasmuch as same-sex marriage attempts to imitate such ties (and use technology or adoption to replicate the family), it is a political institution in the most broad sense. And so the promotion of same sex marriage will inevitably engender the remaking of the whole of society, which families are a microcosm of. To think that it would ever otherwise be is to misunderstand the family’s unique role in human life in the first place, and to adopt the very premise that gay marriage needs in order to be plausible.  The libertarian claim that gay marriage and religious liberty can coexist is a fantasy, which libertarians can hold on to because they start from a standpoint that misconstrues the very nature of the family.

Now, it is doubtlessly the case that conservatives have sometimes defended and promoted certain illiberal laws, like sodomy laws, which gay marriage supporters have effectively turned against us in support of their own cause. I am opposed to such laws, for a variety of reasons, but one of which is that by creating an overly legalized context for the preservation of sexual norms, they tacitly transfer authority for such maintenance to the government. This potentially creates a false confidence in the stability of such norms, and threatens to displace the first and primary defender of sexual norms, namely the Church, as well as the family itself and all the non-governmental spheres of civil society. While such laws once enjoyed wide support, they were also overly morally restrictive and intrusive. Such overreaches have proved enormously costly to our own position in the world since the gay community has effectively and powerfully used them to portray themselves (with some legitimacy) as a persecuted minority. 

But as my friend Erick Erickson has said repeatedly, “You will be made to care.”  Because in the same-sex marriage regime, dissenters threaten to overturn the apple cart. The eagerness by which dissenting views are being pushed out of public and any debate is being silenced may be some of the strongest evidence we have for the view’s intrinsic falsity. 

Except.  Except.  I have sometimes said that the central question facing our society is whether there can be mercy in the gay marriage debate. I am not the only person to ask it, nor was I the first to think of it. But it captured me the moment I first heard it, and it haunts me still. It is mercy that is at stake in our current moment. For mercy is a response to a wrong done, and I have no doubt that conservatives have in the past occasionally fallen prey to hubris in their zeal to maintain norms that they think are true. There are few more liberal qualities than mercy, for mercy is a kind of permissiveness where judgment is owed. And mercy refuses to treat the status quo as determinative: it recognizes the freedom of humanity to rise above our current state of wronging each other, a freedom which is itself constituted by the giving of mercy in the first place. Such a mercy is what Andrew Sullivan defended in the excommunication of Brendan Eich from the Church of Silicon Valley.

The surest and easiest way the LGBT community could prove me wrong would be to begin extending mercy toward those of us who are hopelessly and cheerfully lost on the wrong side of history, and to somehow convince themselves that the usefulness of the fiction for their cause that religious conservatives are intrinsically bigoted in their views has come to an end. Whether they will remains to be seen. But regardless of how implausible such a reversal seems or how the structural forces of our society are opposed to it, as long as the possibility of conversion remains I will continue to stay foolish in my hope. 

  • Frank Turk

    The surest way the LGBT community could prove you wrong, Matthew, is to say something like this: “Our deepest-held belief about our state in life is that we were born this way — so making our sexual identities illegal seems like a bad idea to us. But let’s face it: the vast majority of the human race was not born this way, so the idea of a man having sex with a man or a woman having sex with a woman is revolting to the rest of you. So we have to navigate the waters here as if our most deeply-held belief about ourselves (and the rest of you) is true. That means we can’t expect the rest of you to accept the way we live any more than we can accept the way you live as a norm for ourselves.”

    If they said this in any meaningful way, then it would be time to take them seriously. I mean: this is how someone like Camille Paglia approaches this problem. She completely agrees that what Queer advocates want is nothing like Christian homes and families, and all she wants is to be left to her own devices. She knows what she wants is nothing like what you and I want, Matthew — and in being honest about that she establishes a basis for the dialog.

    The LGBT position today is deeply dishonest. It’s like any other cult you might find which opposes historical Christianity: it has to lie about what it means when it uses common terms in order to fool the uninformed listener into a state of complicity. And what the rest of us are faced with is a very simple choice: allow ourselves to be lied to by them and by doing so concede all of our moral and cultural stock in this fight to them, or demand that they tell the truth about what they are requiring of us and see if that’s what we can accept.

    • Thanks for the comment, Frank. I couldn’t agree more about reading the honest voices. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed reading more “extreme” feminist theologians than the evangelical variety. At least they are interesting and consistent with what they want.

    • Freethinker01

      Mere existence of a human behavior or natural tendency is a very bad reason to automatically permit that behavior in society.

      Right now, a big chunk of society approves of homosexual behavior because it believes homosexual behavior is not harmful. I don’t think homophilic perspectives will change until the majority can be shown and convinced that homosexual behavior causes harm to society.

      • Saby Posir

        Gee, I thought that two homosexual men who are disease free and are in a monogamous relationship have absolutely no chance of acquiring or transmitting a sexually transmitted disease. If this were the case, then harming society through disease wouldn’t be a possibility. So if homosexuality doesn’t necessarily cause disease, then I suppose society would have to be harmed by the idea of two men simply living together and sharing each other’s lives. But men do this all the time, even men who are not even homosexual. So I guess I’m trying to figure out how people are going to be convinced that homosexual behavior causes harm to society. After all, everything that two homosexual men can do in the bedroom is only a subset of the things that a man and a woman can do in the bedroom. Freethinker01, could you help me out here?

        • ElrondPA

          The number of adult homosexual men who have had one sexual partner lifetime is vanishingly small. Gay-friendly periodicals have reported that half of homosexual men in “committed” relationships have other sexual partners. It is beyond debate that gay men (I think it’s not as true of lesbians) are far more promiscuous than heterosexuals. And even if gay men “can do…only a subset” of the sexual activities a man and woman can do, the fact remains that gays choose to participate in unhealthy sexual activities at rates far higher than heterosexuals (and the dangers aren’t limited to STDs). Even before AIDS, the life expectancy of gays was 20 or so years less than heterosexuals, IIRC. Not every gay died early, of course, but not every smoker gets cancer, either…

          One could, of course, take the position that a gay’s perforated rectum isn’t a harm “to society,” but just his own personal problem. And I suspect that’s not Freethinker01’s primary focus. I can’t speak for him, but my concern is the societal impact of pretending that marriage is nothing more than a contract between amorous adults primarily focused on their own happiness, that the natural production of children in a heterosexual relationship is irrelevant, that natural parents are expendable, that monogamy and fidelity in marriage are not normative and beneficial, that introducing matters of sexual orientation into the kindergarten curriculum is age-appropriate, that sexual identity is the most fundamental characteristic of a personality, that sexual license is more important than religious liberty and free speech, and that the power of the state should be used to enforce not merely tolerance of, but active participation in, homoerotic celebrations.

          • Cesare di Angelo

            Interesting that you make no mention of the harm of lesbian relationships, which in regard to sexually transmitted diseases are the healthiest. By your premise, this is the only sexual relationship that should be encouraged.

    • ‘all of our moral and cultural stock in this fight’

      You see, I would say that you have no such stock, and that you imagine you have is a delusion.

    • Cesare di Angelo

      There may be an “ick” factor on both sides, but this seems a rather adolescent response and not really an argument. Also are you so certain that some Christian gay people may want Christian homes and families?

  • Did you mean to provide a link regarding the “one young evangelical who has a high-level position at one of America’s pre-eminent evangelical magazines who thinks” that the tax-exempt status has gotta go?

  • We may have had this conversation before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself. I agree with your central thesis– that the gay marriage movement is inherently at odds with religious freedom and any chance of detente relies on mercy (although I’d strongly suspect that the ideologues you cite are a minority– not that that fact will derail their train.) And while I don’t think the church could have necessarily love-jiujitsued its way out of this by acting different over the last few decades, It’s a crying shame, though, that there isn’t a public example and political exemplar of mercy to be found that anyone could learn from here.

    • Great, let’s call ’em a “minority.” Doesn’t it matter where that minority is situated within the movement? If they happen to be the ones in power, then they’re not so much ideologues as oligarchs.

      And I think I am suggesting that it’s on them to offer mercy precisely because we need it for past missteps.

      • Sure. I raised both points because I think working them in would make you sound less like you’ll kick these folks between the legs the moment they show you mercy.

    • Paul G

      I love this phrase “love-jiujitsued its way out of this”

  • Good work, as always.

    I like the line “You will be made to care,” but I continue to prefer “Only celebration will be tolerated.”

  • Bethany Persons

    This is an interesting follow up to Jake’s post on culture war fatigue. If what’s missing is a genuine Christian culture that looks and feels different than the mainstream culture, the gay rights movement is about to create it. My husband is a software developer. If we’ve learned anything from the Mozilla incident a year or two ago, it’s that my husband’s traditional views could be a liability. And if he gets fired for being a “bigot”, who will hire him? If we’re lucky, a small traditional company with traditional clients. I regularly pray for grace to live in this uncertain time.

    • Bethany Persons

      Also, it’s a strange comfort to know I’m not the only one who wonders what life will be like in 20 years.

      • geoffrobinson

        There’s an elderly lady in my church who is not too upset that she’ll be dead soon.

    • anon

      Fellow (in-the-closet) software developer here. I work in San Francisco for a large tech firm. Yes! These are interesting times… Tell your husband he’s not alone.

  • Bethany Persons

    Your not-so-hypothetical about the artifice required to maintain same sex marriage as a norm provides philosophical substance to the proposition that religious liberty and sexual liberty, in their current manifestations, intrinsically opposed. Again with the strange, “you’re not crazy” comfort.

  • Bethany Persons

    Finally, suppose all our fears come true. All the non-profit institutions that hold traditional values lose their tax exempt status, workers in the for profit sector get blacklisted, our freedoms in child rearing get restricted, etc. As Christians, can we still live with dignity? Can we turn the other cheek, give up our cloaks, and go the second mile? Can we share the gospel with a society that slanders and reviles us? Can we persevere in faith and refuse to believe the lies they tell about us? Can we bless those who curse us? As I consider scripture, I realize it has a lot to say about living in the context of an antagonistic culture. More, perhaps, than it has to say about living in a nominally compliant one.

    • geoffrobinson

      You better get ready for that and more.

    • “As Christians, can we still live with dignity?”

      It may be harder to if we do not properly think through the shape of hope *now* and its fundamental importance to the Christian faith.

      • Bethany Persons

        Do you mean we need to think through the shape of hope asap or think through what hope looks like in the present? Or both?

        My hope is that we can continue to be a light, that people will continue to get saved (sorry, I just can’t escape my evangelical slang), that we will persevere in the faith. My hope is that perseverance is one of the good works Christ has prepared for us, and that we will hear “well done, good and faithful servants” for how we conduct ourselves in this time.

        My belief is that Christ is the greatest hope for anyone and everyone, even and especially those who say I am hateful for holding to Christ’s word on the original design for marriage.

        Is that the shape you’re talking about?

        • To your questions, both. I think we need sustained reflection on what it feels like to hope for something, what kinds of activities are predicated on hope, what kind of content hope should have (for salvation, cultural transformation, a nice new home and a reliable car?), and nearly everything else related to the virtue.

  • Kathy

    For sure the best way to live counter-culturally is to write a condescending, snarky article that ends with a call to liberals to show mercy while insulting them in the same sentence..?

    Matthew, you make a couple very important points here with respect to double standards around religious bodies. It is paramount that you refrain from falling into the classic and rather lazy, defensive, self-protective tone that Christians so often do. From reading previous articles you have written, I sense you have more integrity than this.

    Take deep breaths. Pray. Invite private feedback to prep your article. Pray again. Listen. Then speak. If the Spirit prompts you with something important to say, I encourage you to invest more time in making sure your sarcasm or resentment doesn’t get in the way of the Spirit’s message.

    • Thanks, Kathy, for the pushback. I don’t think I’ve insulted anyone here, nor do I think what I’ve said is condescending. I’ve made some forcefully worded arguments and points, yes, and suggested that many progressive evangelicals are naive. But they are welcome to prove me wrong on that by answering the questions that Ross laid out and demonstrating their awareness of the stakes of this debate.

      And I’d point out that I’m responding to a rhetorical context where the operating assumption is that to hold my position is necessarily to be a bigot or want to discriminate against gay people as a class, both of which are distortions of the truth. I don’t think I’m being defensive or even self-protective in my response to that by naming it for what it is: wrong, illiberal, and naive about the potential consequences of carrying that view to its conclusions.

      But, I do appreciate the kind words and the gracious warning you have given me. Really.

      Best,

      Matt

      • Kathy

        Actually, the only reason I came across your article was because some Christian friends were deeply insulted and put-off by your article and wanted to make sure they weren’t off base in their response. So they solicited second opinions. In some ways, it actually doesn’t matter whether you think you were insulting or condescending or not when others are not alone in perceiving you as such..I’ve learned this the rather hard way more times than I’d like to admit. Simply saying you’re not being condescending or defensive or self-protective while defending yourself for an article in which you defend your corner using rather snarky language and parentheticals doesn’t strike me as all too convincing either.. But at the end of the day, disputes like this are likely better suited for in-person conversations, which we can’t have, alas.. So the bottom line for me is that I trust your faith, Matthew, and I trust you will continue to strive toward faithfulness in your blog-writing. So onwards!

        • “So they solicited second opinions. In some ways, it actually doesn’t matter whether you think you were insulting or condescending or not when others are not alone in perceiving you as such..I’ve learned this the rather hard way more times than I’d like to admit.”

          I’m backwards enough to think that the truth of the matter isn’t determined by counting up the votes of people, particularly in a social environment (like ours) where *everyone* is easily provoked to outrage and offense. If they are so offended and would like to take it up with the author (as you appropriately have!), my email is widely available and I’m not hard to find on Facebook. I’d be interested to hear reasons for why they think what I have written is so offensive, as the pure assertion of its terribleness does not help me see how they are seeing it any better.

          Matt

        • Freethinker01

          As a freethinker looking in from the outside, Kathy, your language strikes me as the kind of language semi-religious or passively religious people use to shame others who take a strong stance. As if strength and boldness are immoral behavior. Terms like “deeply insulted”, “snarky language”, etc, all point to a hope that someone (Anderson, in this case) will stop doing what he’s doing because he’s hurting other people’s feelings. As in “stop saying what you’re saying–even though it’s true–because it hurts my sensibilities or makes me uncomfortable.”

          I perceive that religious people are losing this culture war precisely because they are so passive and so easily shamed when someone cries, “you hurt me feelings!”

  • bill

    The very real and scary truth about this world…is that the devil holds people like lemmings when they believe sin to be good…like gay marriage…lying to themselves thinking this is ok…

    • CrossHugger

      Plus is it loving to tell them they are ok and we love them without telling them about Jesus. Aren’t we supposed to be watchman and warn those we see in sin. Is it loving to not evangelize and sentence people to an eternity lost? Are we trying to be accepted by the world? We are not of this world and should expect push back.

  • bill

    In the Words of Almighty God….I’ll spit you out like venom into a fire.

  • Kamal

    Two things. Hopefully quickly.

    I wish people on the right as well as the left would stop pretending at neutrality — stop pretending that these laws are coming from or will be applied by judges from that privileged place called Nowhere, in which the substantive claims of Christianity and the accommodations accorded to Christians are precisely the same as those for Islam and Muslims, which are likewise the same as those for Hinduism and Hindus, which are likewise the same as those for Judaism and Jews, which are likewise the same as those of the racist, misogynist, slave-owning, infidel-slaying, baby-sacrificing Mayan worshippers of Baal. (Note that there are no secular worldviews in this list. None of the Noones in Nowhere believes in God or the supernatural, those things being vicious, situated biases.)

    Somehow, hiding situated, substantive positions in places like “compelling government interest” or “religious freedom” or “marriage equality” seems to be enough to convince most people that this is *just* a battle of what’s objectively just and unjust and not also a battle of what a situated, historically-rooted society is deciding here and now to call just or unjust. And I think most of these articles about negotiating the terms of (y)our surrender (will) fail in large part because western, liberal political discourse maintains too strong a delusion of neutrality and objectivity for principled Noones from Nowhere to be able to (consistently) justify anything more than pragmatic or ad-hoc mercy on their backward, hateful, bigoted Christian neighbours.

    The second thing is on your challenge to liberal/progressive Christians (or otherwise orthodox Christians who are liberal/progressive on sex) to seriously address Douthat’s questions. I like that you’re trying to reason them back to the truth on this issue. I’ve used similar tactics when I’ve talked to my Christian (and non-Christian) friends about these things and I’m sure I’ll use similar tactics when I talk to them in the future.

    But does it really matter? Are we really doing any good by this? Let’s say they answer all Douthat’s questions in the negative. Let’s also say they give reasons which, while we don’t find them Christianly convincing, we can see why our liberal/progressive sisters and brothers might reasonably find Christianly convincing. So what? Do we really expect them — both the particular person we’re talking and they as a group — to hold that line and those reasons in 20 years?

    • Kamal,

      Always great hearing from you. The presumption of liberal neutrality is indeed one of the great problems in this debate, as you point out. It’s one reason why refusing to bake cakes celebrating gay people is getting construed as “discrimination,” but refusing to bake cakes that include bible verses about homosexuality is permissible because that is “hate speech”. (See here: http://www.worldmag.com/2015/04/denver_bakers_cleared_of_bias_for_refusing_to_make_bible_cakes)

      “But does it really matter? Are we really doing any good by this? Let’s say they answer all Douthat’s questions in the negative. Let’s also say they give reasons which, while we don’t find them Christianly convincing, we can see why our liberal/progressive sisters and brothers might reasonably find Christianly convincing. So what? Do we really expect them — both the particular person we’re talking and they as a group — to hold that line and those reasons in 20 years?”

      Yes, I think it does matter, if only because when we get twenty years down the road it would be helpful to have some kinds of markers to compare things to. The polygamy comparison is helpful here: conservatives said there wouldn’t be any reason to stop it, and progresisves said conservatives were crazy. If it happens, that should give everyone reason to pause and reconsider the reliability of progressive assumptions about the world.

      Besides, if everyone responds in the negative to Ross’s questions, that would be great. It would then raise the question of why they aren’t supporting state level RFRA’s like we just had a big fight about. We would need some reason why they aren’t being inconsistent….and perhaps not having one, such individuals would in fact begin to support the right thing here and now.

      Matt

      • Kamal

        Thanks Matt. This was, as usual, a great piece. And, as usual, I agree with most of what you’ve said, so please take these disagreements in that context.

        You’re right, of course, about why we should keep challenging people with points like Douthat’s. I was more venting my frustration with the moving target we’re aiming at than suggesting that we stop trying to hit it.

        On liberal neutrality, I worry that it’s at least as big a problem on (y)our side as the liberal side. I saw a great clip of Ryan T Anderson on The Ed Schultz show on MSNBC. (It’s been making the rounds so I’m guessing you’ve seen it as well.) I loved most of what he said (and how he said it!) and a lot of what he writes, but people like him — and Robert P George and Douthat and, I worry, maybe you as well — as much as most of their mainstream counterparts on the left make their cases in the sterile, decontextualised language of religious freedom and sincerely held beliefs and substantial burdens and compelling government interests. And as I said, it feels as though everyone’s playing a game of Let’s Pretend.

        But it’s worse than that, because not all pretensions and pretenders and pretender-pretension relationships are created equal. This is much more their territory than ours. We have to strip most of our arguments (and lives) of layers of what give them meaning and makes them true for our arguments to even be let into the secular court of public opinion. They don’t. And it’s been meaning that their pretensions are often much more convincing than ours.

  • hoosier_bob

    Despite being a social conservative (in practice) and an evangelical Christian, I find myself agreeing with the original Indiana and Arkansas laws’ critics.

    The chief ethic by which our culture operates is that individuals have the right to expect the law to protect them from direct harm to which they did not consent. This is especially true for those in our professional classes, where this has emerged as the ultimate trump card in ethical debates.

    In the case of abortion, this likely explains the increased willingness of the culture to accept more stringent restrictions on abortion. In the minds of many, the fetus has the right not to be harmed without its consent, and that this right should generally trump other rights that may press against it.

    On the other hand, this ethic cuts against certain religious liberty interests. Most people have little concern about what conservative Christians do at church. But if Christians exercise their “religious liberty” in ways that directly harm non-consenting parties, the culture is going to object. So, there’s going to be little tolerance for laws that would grant qualified immunity to religious practitioners to exercise their religion in a way that directly harms others (e.g., turning away gay people from places of public accommodation).

    So, I suspect that our culture is fine with religious liberty in most instances. It’s just not fine with allowing religious liberty to trump the harm principle.

    I’m not sure that the harm principle gets things right all the time. But it’s emerged as a useful rule for navigating life in a fast-paced, heterogeneous culture. As a conservative, I see its emergence as a reasonably good thing. After all, it’s far more grounded in reality than the utopian idealism of the Left. Moreover, it’s so deeply ingrained in the thinking of most working-age white-collar professionals that any ethical argument that traverses it will face stiff resistance.

    Sure, the Jim Wallis crowd may have opposed the Indiana and Arkansas laws for other more facile reasons. But does anyone honestly care what progressive evangelicals have to say? These laws failed because they clashed with the corporate values of the states’ largest employers–corporate values that are steeped in the harm principle.

    • I think you’re right about the harm principle’s role in all of this, and wrong about its usefulness, especially to conservatives. I think the harm principle is one of the most destructive and pernicious doctrines of our culture.

      • hoosier_bob

        I’d suggest that the harm principle’s central role in this supports Harsanyi et al.’s suggestion that this is not a significant setback for Christians. After all, our Anglo-American legal tradition has generally viewed religious liberty as a negative right that simply limits government interference. It has not generally viewed religious liberty as a positive right that permits religious practitioners to impose externalities onto non-consenting parties in the name of religion.

        I’m not suggesting that the harm principle is perfect. But in a culturally heterogeneous country with a myriad of disparate religious practices, I think it does a reasonably efficient job of adjudicating inter-cultural disputes. What do you propose as an alternative, bearing in mind that the proposed alternative should be: (a) widely applicable across various kinds of inter-cultural disputes; (b) facially agnostic to any particular religion and/or culture; and (c) amenable to implementation in a way such that its benefits outweigh the transactional costs associated with its implementation and maintenance? The harm principle has risen to cultural prominence because it seems to satisfy these criteria better than any competing rubric.

        From my perspective, the extension of a religious-liberty defense into private-party civil disputes increases the transaction costs of adjudicating inter-cultural disputes without providing a substantial enough benefit to offset those costs.

        • If what constituted “harm” was as neutral as you claim, then I’d be more sympathetic with it. But it’s pretty clear that certain forms of speech which traditional Christianity has always deployed (like the language of sin) are going to be construed as “harms.” That is going to lead to, the worry goes, that the “negative right” of religious liberty isn’t sufficient to overcome the government’s putative standards of what is “harmful,” and the government *will* in fact become coercive toward religious bodies, even if it is a soft coercion.

          As to what should replace it, that is the question. I’d commend Oliver O’Donovan’s *Ways of Judgment* for the beginnings of a substantive proposal of an alternative.

          Best,

          Matt

          • hoosier_bob

            I understand what you’re saying. I don’t see that as a significant concern. I’m not aware of any state in the US where one would be civilly or criminally liable for speaking to others in ways that they find offensive. The closest you get is the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, but liability under that tort generally requires fairly extreme conduct. Harsh words alone won’t cut it.

            When I was a student at IU-Bloomington, there were several evangelical pastors who stood near the Student Union and asserted that female students were sinning by seeking an education, wearing provocative clothing, etc. They rankled a lot of feathers. But, as far as I know, they never faced either criminal or civil liability for the many feelings they hurt. So, if certain Christians feel an urge to go around and call out every gay person as a sinner, it’s hard to imagine that such conduct would ever be legally actionable.

            I read O’Donovan’s book about a decade ago. I should probably read it again. My personal views on these issues trend in a much more Lutheran direction. I’m quite content to permit the world outside of the parish walls to be ruled exclusively by principles drawn from God’s general revelation.

          • FWIW, my concerns are not necessarily about constitutional protections for free speech. The scenarios I gave had to do with federal funding for students who elect to go to Christian colleges, and other interrelated issues.

  • GinaRD

    Excellent article. Thank you. I just have one quick question (I want to post the link at my website, so I needed to check this): Why did you put “blood on their hands” in quotation marks? I looked at the link to RHE’s tweet and I didn’t see that exact phrase used by her or by any of her commenters.

    • Those quotes (now deleted) are a total mistake. It was a paraphrase of her view (and an accurate one, I think), and I was writing late at night and put them up and didn’t catch it in the editing. It’s completely my responsibility, and I apologize for the error.

      • GinaRD

        Oh, okay. Thanks for clearing that up!

  • Elisa

    There will be *no* mercy from them. NONE! While they talk a good game about “love” and “grace” (for those using Christian jargon adore “grace,”) in truth they have *no* notion of either. Both concepts are what they believe they are *owed* and they are opposed to dishing out either to the “undeserving” like Christians.

    It’s a lovely thought, though, that liberal, professing, unbiblical christians would do that… But the second they do, they demonstrate they have become true conservative, biblical Jesus followers and abandon loving sin.

    And there is the crux of the issue: Choose you this day who you will serve; A house divided cannot stand.

    • hoosier_bob

      Elisa,

      As I noted in my comment below, I suspect that most secularists couldn’t care less about what conservative evangelicals think, say, and do, as long as said evangelicals aren’t engaging in conduct that directly harms others.

      The Phelps family’s victory at SCOTUS a few years ago surely indicates that there is little likelihood that conservative evangelicals will face criminal or civil liability merely for declaring their beliefs concerning gay people. It was an 8-1 decision, with Justice Alito as the lone dissenter. Moreover, white supremacy is alive and well, more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. If the Phelps family and white supremacists can speak out without fear of incurring civil or criminal liability, I see no reason why conservative evangelicals believe that they will somehow fare worse.

  • lucesociator

    So, we all get to choose if we want to take “the mark of the beast” in order to get by in our brave new Babylon.

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  • AJCastellitto

    Nice article linked by Tim Challies….. They answer to a different authority. We must keep the apologetics going and go down fighting. I like to expose the depravity of the secular globalist movement not to seem holier than thou but to connect the loss of truth with the loss of morals. We will lose this battle but win the war and bring a few casualties into the light!

    • hoosier_bob

      I do think the differences here may be ones of authority. I believe in the basic tenets of Nicene orthodoxy, but I reject the notion that the Christian church should have any form of social authority. The church’s job is delineated by the regulative principle: preach Christ, serve the sacraments, and do nothing else.

      Besides, God has wired each of us to be rational utility maximizers. But if information exchange is poor, certain mediating institutions may arise to improve social-transactional efficiency under conditions of poor information flow. But once information flow improves, those mediating institutions take on less of an authoritative role and more of a subservient/artifactual role. This phenomenon is well documented in the writings of Ronald Coase, Douglass North, and Oliver Williamson.

      Due to improved information exchange in recent decades, the church now has the freedom to return to its decreed functions, and no longer needs to sully itself with exercising cultural authority. In fact, the more the church withdraws from exercising cultural authority, the more readily people can develop more efficient social-transactional institutions for accumulating social capital. After all, there’s no reason for the church to exercise a heavy hand, if the invisible hand of the market (coupled with efficient information exchange) will lead people more predictably to utility-maximizing social outcomes.

      Just look at the cognitive elite. Their rejection of authoritative religion has correlated with lower divorce rates, lower instances of same-sex coupling, and denser networks of social capital. It may seem counter-intuitive to certain believers in church authority. But I see it as no accident that those who hold to an institutional view of the church that lies most consistent with the regulative principle are also those who seem to be managing better by most social-economic metrics.

      • AJCastellitto

        Not sure where you are getting your information or even the real point you are making but you do sound very intelligent and you are very articulate – so major style points

      • Cesare di Angelo

        I would appreciate your source identifying the cognitive elite and the correlations associated with their rejection of institutional authority.

        • hoosier_bob

          That information is widely available from a number of sources. Bear in mind, however, that I said correlation not causation. I suspect that the rejection of authoritative religion had little causative effect here.

  • “If we think… that the dominant Christian theological tradition is substantively no different in its social harms than any secular or philosophical repudiation of same-sex relationships”

    Matt, I’m usually a relatively bright fellow, but after reading that sentence (and the surrounding context) several times I am still not getting it. Do you mean some think that secular, philosophical repudiation of same-sex relationships causes social “harm” (noting the discussion of that elsewhere in the comments), and religious objections cause no less harm?

    • Rick: It’s a reductio. I take it that Rachel Held Evans and her progressive colleagues take opposing same-sex marriage, for religious or secular reasons, to be harmful in precisely the same way…which raises a serious question about why religious liberties should be protected for those with conservative views.

      • Freethinker01

        Agreed. The homosexual movement has been extremely successful in controlling the vocabulary of the debate. One need look no farther than the establishment of “hate crimes” laws, which then led to “hate speech” concepts and even to “hate thought” accusations. If any language deemed to be un-approving of homosexual behavior can be labeled as “hate speech” (as it was for the Colorado and Florida bakers who refused to put anti-“gay” phrases on cakes), then such speech can be suppressed.

        I oppose the homosexual movement as a freethinker because of the extreme threat to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association.

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  • wmrharris

    As interesting as the hypothetical is, is it sufficiently robust? I have my doubts.

    If one grants that sexuality permeates all that we do, how then do we avoid advocating a regulation of gay sexuality through marriage (or civil union)? The premise of anthropology militates against the marriage proscription, all the more since homosexual behavior in society is to be tolerated (at least, this is how I read your preference against legal barriers).

    Secondly, the leaning on the traditional nuclear family unit would benefit from an honest acknowledgement of the cultural shifts in marriage in the 19th C. What we understand as traditional is in many ways a bourgeois cultural construct, the fruit of the new wealth of industrialization. And if we overlay this with the emancipation of women such that we no longer have a sexual hierarchy in the home, then the role of procreation becomes something like a synecdoche for a broader sense of fruitfulness.

    And lastly, a word about mercy: it is not ours to expect but ours to extend. it is a distinctly Christian calling. And politically, mercy may have a benefit as well. Society is far more likely to listen to positions that arise out of the practice of mercy and grace than one honed in the knife fights of polarized politics.

    • To your second and third points, yes and yes. I’m not suggesting we should *expect* it. In fact, mercy isn’t the kind of thing that one could ever really expect, it seems to me. But it might be the kind of thing one hopes for anyway.

    • hoosier_bob

      Very well said, Harris. We are often quick to forget that what has passed for “traditional marriage” in American culture is less than 100 years old. It’s a bourgeois construct closely tied to our movement from an agrarian society to an industrial one.

  • Steven

    “[W]hy shouldn’t Christian institutions of higher learning lose their tax exempt status and their federal funding (via student aid)? For most institutions, losing both would be a death blow[.]”

    Another potential death blow is losing accreditation, but “this scenario [actually isn’t] too fanciful”. Are you aware of the Gordon College controversy?

    • Yes. Ross mentions accreditation as a possibility. I left it out because….I was writing and forgot to include it. (I’ve got nothing, really.)

  • tb03

    I know I shouldn’t be, but I am always surprised with the lack of clarity, actually the complete silence over why gay Americans are perusing marriage rights. Most of conservative Christian writing on the subject, this article included, constantly falsely claims that recognizing same sex marriage rights will lead to persecution of heterosexuals, especially hetero Christians. It is the height of anti-intellectual nonsense to claim that not placing heterosexual families on a civil pedestal will lead to persecution or the breakdown of the family, or even (yeah I’ll say it) the ridiculous claim that same sex marriage will lead to polygamy. As if it was the acknowledgement of some fabled “definition” of marriage that led to the banning of polygamy. Nope, not at all. It strikes me as being like a conversation with a petulant child who believes that since they think they are the best that they deserve a special treat only to scoff when the parent gives all the children the same amount of cookies. Let me be perfectly clear, gay marriage has
    never been associated with any social ills. I won’t bother with the whole “natural law” argument, you can read most federal judges response to that pile of garbage. Christian conservative fear mongering is being exposed for their lies.

    Which brings me to the next point about the Indiana RFRA. I agree that there was much misunderstanding on both sides that lead to panic, but no one could honestly deny that the law to the core was to limit service to gays. It is quite disingenuous to say that this is about “religious freedom” when what conservatives were reacting to were cakes, flowers and photographs. There is
    nothing sacred about wedding cakes, floral arrangement, or photographs in a
    Christian wedding ceremony. The notion that a cake could be equated to a sacred eagle feather is preposterous. Sure these items make the wedding more
    enjoyable, but that only proves that what we are really talking about here is
    goods and services, not a religious freedom. The assertion that people or business can use a loophole to shirk long standing, deeply meaningful civil rights protection is offensive to Americans. Conservatives laughed it off as hysteria but we are left to wonder that if anyone can invent a religious belief and use it as a defense placing strongly held civil rights protections at the mercy of a judge what could be the result? A doctor refusing care to a lesbian couple’s baby? Police refusing to protect gay people during Pride? Oh yeah, that ACTUALLY happened. Please, stop pretending that you are the ones persecuted when a lawyer is working to pass a law making the execution of gay people on the basis of them being, well themselves, legal. The claim that gays are bullying YOU in the face of our daily humiliations is obtuse narcissism.

    So, since it is clear that you really don’t understand why LGBT people actually NEED civil marriage rights without public accommodation restrictions, please let me first explain who LGBT people are NOT. We are NOT rapists or pedophiles. I know that may be insulting to those of you who know that not to be true but still are opposed to same sex marriage, but it is necessary to remind you that ALL biblical “evidence” against gay people are equating your everyday gay couple to molesters, rapists and pedophiles. All biblical references used against gay people are not actually references to gay people as we understand them today. What’s infuriating is that Christian conservatives should know that, yet they are still reducing the gay or progressive Christian argument to the morality of all sex regardless of context. No, not even close! It’s deeply disrespectful to reduce us to our sexuality as opposed to recognizing our humanity, and all humanity has a sexual orientation. Homosexuality is real and innate, not a neuro-behavioral disorder. No amount of public policy or cultural change increases or reduces the number of gays in society. We have the right to life and dignity, and that necessitates civil marriage rights. I’m a lesbian and although I’ve only been married 8 years we have spent more than $10,000 extra in taxes that we should not have. Our 3 children do not have both parents on their birth certificates, and even if we gain complete marriage equality next month we may still have to undergo a humiliating adoption process to “adopt” OUR OWN KIDS! Take a moment and imagine that humiliation… I could go on and on, but let me address your question. It takes some nerve to ask us for the “mercy” to allow you to continue to subjugate and humiliate us but not consider you a bigot. You are asking the wrong question.

    • Thanks for the comment. I don’t expect to persuade you, and this wasn’t a full-blown defense of the substantive and normative view beneath my account of same-sex marriage or religious liberty.

      I will simply note, though, that your claim that “gay marriage has never been associated with any social ills” is true, but unilluminating. From what I can tell, gay marriage in this contemporary form hasn’t been tried before at all (which I take is the force of your claim that those old texts don’t matter much for contemporary discussions, right?).

      Matt

      • tb03

        Let’s not forget that same sex marriage has existed in this country for over a decade, in other countries longer. There is not a indication that it is causing problems, yet there is already evidence of the benefits to same sex couples health and well-being. There has also been extensive research in regards to same sex parenting, and the consensus is that children do as well in same sex homes than in married heterosexual homes. So, there’s that. Too bad it is “unilluminating” to you.

        I shouldn’t be surprised, but it is stunning that you believe that human marriage (yeah, that’s actually what we are talking about) is an entirely new venture. Gays are not aliens, so let’s not act like this is the first colony on Mars. Mr. Anderson, you have consistently reduced this conversation and LGBT people to our sexual orientation. I also don’t expect to persuade you, but it will be impossible to continue a real discussion on this issue unless there is honest realization of the humanity and dignity involved in seeking equal marriage rights.

        • hoosier_bob

          I think it’s fair to say that same-sex marriages have existed in this country for decades. The mere fact that the government didn’t recognize them as such doesn’t detract from the fact that they existed. And, yes, there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest that same-sex coupling imposes any substantial cost on society.

          • The state of the research regarding children of same-sex couples is *far* less univocal or thorough than you suggest. And while there have clearly been long-term, stable same-sex sexual relationships, why ignore the difference between those and the institution of marriage?

            To do so is to presuppose the progressive point of view on marriage, which is to view it entirely as the creation of the wills or plans-of-life of two individuals, rather than as a moral possibility acknowledged by an institution that two individuals willingly enter into, but do not themselves establish the terms of.

            Which is why we all talk at cross purposes in this debate. You accuse me of not caring about the dignity and humanity of gay people. My only response can be the same you have given me here: to try to plead with you to step outside your presuppositions and see how a traditionalist account of marriage does not impinge on anyone’s humanity or dignity.

            Matt

          • tb03

            http://whatweknow.law.columbia.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-the-wellbeing-of-children-with-gay-or-lesbian-parents/

            Know this as well, when the infamous family structures survey by Regneres was corrected to control for family stability it then actually supported the consensus. Your traditionalist view of marriage and its supposed good is simply not reflected in humanity or reality. Yet conservatives have refused to honestly address real sociological inconsistencies in their view, not only here but on many things. Sorry, your side has lost much credibility.

          • hoosier_bob

            When I read my state’s civil marriage statute, I don’t see anything about moral possibilities, and the like. I’m not saying that religious communities can’t have their own standards for what constitutes marriage. But as far as the state is concerned, “marriage” is little more than a set of default rules concerning the rights of two people with respect to property, debt obligations, and any children.

            Besides, our Anglo-American tradition includes a long history of recognizing certain non-traditional arrangements as de facto marriages for certain purposes.

          • Freethinker01

            Socially recognized and affirmed homosexual behavior is in its infancy. I think it’s far too early to proudly proclaim that it causes no harm in society. While my opinion is completely that–my opinion–I think the consequences of affirming homosexual behavior will be very insidious. I also think you and I will be dead and gone before we’ve gathered enough evidence to determine if this social experiment has been harmful.

            Perhaps it would be instructive to look back on history and see if there has ever been a point in time where affirming homosexual behavior stood the test of time.

          • hoosier_bob

            No one is affirming anything here. The state doesn’t condition the granting of marriage licenses on whether the marriage in question would benefit society.

            In our society, individuals get to do what they want. If the state wants to stop them, it generally bears the burden of proving that the proscribed conduct was harmful to others in some specific, tangible way. The law doesn’t generally stop people from being unwise.

    • pduggie

      “All biblical references used against gay people are not actually references to gay people as we understand them today”

      Not lying with a man as with a woman is really clear as to what is prohibited and involves no cultural context to decode. It describes an action.

      [So I suppose ‘technically” you are correct: it doesn’t describe ‘gay people as we know them” it describes gay actions as we know them]

      • tb03

        The bible is also clear that those “lying with a man as a woman” should be executed. That’s proper context useful for today? Thanks:(

        • pduggie

          You need to bracket that point out. What is done about it is separate from the issue of whether the text approves it or not. Adulterers could be executed too, but even John 8 doesn’t change the bible’s disapproval of adultery.

          Anyway, the simple point is you said “all verses” and that’s clearly not literally true.

          • tb03

            No, read in context it refers to temple prostitution, not gay marriage. http://www.affirmingtheology.com/leviticus-1822-2013/

            Neurobehavioral disorder implies problematic, being gay is not. I don’t have a problem with being gay, I have a prob with how some people want to treat me. I wasn’t arguing that there are not any innate neurobehavioral disorders, just that homosexuality is not one of them. Sorry if that was confusing.

    • cmh

      Brava! And thank you!

      Yes and let us Pray there is mercy of the very kind that hasn’t been bestowed. Seriously.

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  • Excellent article Matthew!

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  • This article seems to be founded on the most obvious lie that the recent religious Freedom bills that came up in Indiana and Arkansas has NOTHING to do with gay people or denying them service.

    I repeat, this was a LIE. Indiana governor Pence signed the bill in secret and was photographed doing so surrounded by people famous solely for their anti-gay activism.

    These bills are nothing but a short-term response to gay civil rights advances. This is why they are happening NOW. This is why they are being fought NOW. This is why they are failing NOW.

    The public does NOT support them because they know what they really are.

  • I cannot see how the arguments in this article cannot be advanced against all forms of divorce.

    But you rarely see conservative evangelicals trying to ban, or even restrict, divorce for the simple reason that it is too ingrained in our legal and political culture, too pervasive and too bound up with civil freedom. It is a social monolith that looms beside civil marriage.

    So instead of applying the arguments in favor of child-man-woman, procreative, pre-political, morally good, social stabilizing marriage to DIVORCE (which is the true opposite the negation of marriage and the dissolution of families,) you apply it to a much smaller, weaker target: same-sex marriage (which if it is alternative and inferior, is at least positive: a promise made, not broken.)

    And that, I would say, is yellow, pragmatic and dangerously close to dishonest.

  • What does this have to do with Christianity? Ctrl+F “Jesus” brings back 1 result- in a comment. This is a defense of the nuclear family (a new trend compared to the church) and has nothing to do with following Jesus.

    Beyond that, the first issue I have with this article is the supposedly “simple premise: that humans are fundamentally and inescapably truth-telling beings.” I thought this was a reformed blog? What part of total depravity accounts for humans being inescapably truthful?

    In addition to that, in your (refreshingly honest) appraisal that gay relationships are unequal to straight relationships due to their inability to produce biological children, you neglect the thousands of single Christian people and the child-free Christian couples (including my wife and me.) We are choosing not to have children in an attempt to better live out our calling as disciples of Jesus, like many Christians have since the very beginning of church history.

    Also, if you are opposed to sodomy laws, then why are you also opposed to the possibility of two gay people making a lasting commitment to each other? How is premarital sex being the ONLY choice for LGBT couples in any way consistent with Christian sexual ethic?

    I won’t even get into your weird apparent animosity of adoption- even though Jesus had a lot more to say about taking care of orphans than He ever did about marriage of any kind, let alone the nuclear family.

    I will agree that the liberal position can lack mercy at times- but that’s true of any group. The democratic party isn’t supposed to be known for their mercy however- we as Christians are. We have no ground to stand on until we embody mercy at a higher level than those we are supposedly witnessing to. To be honest, there is almost no mercy in this article or in your following article. Why demand of another group what we are unwilling to extend?

    Here’s my problem that underlies all these other problems: you are waving the Christian banner while defending traditional values, but in doing so have neglected values with even more scriptural support and traditional importance.

    • Cesare di Angelo

      Superb understanding of Scripture, Mr. Masters. I too have been troubled by Christians who in framing the argument against same sex marriage sometimes forget especially in regard to biological children that through Christ we become the adopted children of God.
      That is not to say that practically speaking the argument that the prepolitical nature of the marriage institution advancing a great economy of societal stability, is without merit but as you surmise we would be well advised not to advance an absolutist defense of traditional marriage as a Christian phenomenon.

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  • Jacob Blaustein

    “place. Such a mercy is what Andrew Sullivan defended in the excommunication of Brendan Eich from the Church of Silicon Valley.” And lost on other Christians as well: http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2011/09/01/hypocrisy-unlimited-anti-gay-groups-denounce-boycott/
    “The possible introduction of a child into a marriage by way of procreation introduces asymmetrical ties and obligations that are deeper than the wills of the two individuals. But inasmuch as same-sex marriage attempts to imitate such ties (and use technology or adoption to replicate the family), it is a political institution in the most broad sense. And so the promotion of same sex marriage will inevitably engender the remaking of the whole of society, which families are a microcosm of. ” so heterosexuals will stop getting married because…gays are?