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Is The Benedict Option Good For Gays?

Emma Green’s review piece on The Benedict Option [1] is up today at The Atlantic site. Here’s a link to it. [2] She didn’t really like the book. That disappoints me, because she’s one of the best religion reporters out there, and I admire her work. But she seems to understand that the book isn’t really for readers like her. Anyway, I appreciate the attention she gave to my book. I do want to respond to some of her points, though.

We talked for over an hour a few weeks back. I enjoyed the interview, but I told my wife afterward that I was struck by how much time Emma spent asking me about LGBT issues and the Ben Op, as if that were the main part of the book and the project. I got the impression that the main question she has about the Benedict Option project is whether or not it’s good for the gays. This didn’t surprise me too much, given that she writes for The Atlantic, which has a particular affinity for writing favorably about LGBT culture (e.g., “Meet the Latino Drag Queens Defying North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law” [3]). Still, it struck me as off-kilter — in fact, as an example of progressives and journalists deciding that social and religious conservatives are obsessed with homosexuality, when in fact it is they who are preoccupied with it, and focus disproportionately on it when they see churches not on board with full LGBT acceptance.

And so it turns out that Emma Green didn’t really like The Benedict Option [4]because … it’s not good for the gays. Excerpts:

Donald Trump was elected president with the help of 81 percent of white evangelical voters. Mike Pence, the champion of Indiana’s controversial 2015 religious-freedom law, is his deputy. Neil Gorsuch, a judge deeply sympathetic to religious litigants, will likely be appointed to the Supreme Court. And Republicans hold both chambers of Congress and statehouses across the country. Right now, conservative Christians enjoy more influence on American politics than they have in decades.

And yet, Rod Dreher is terrified.

“Don’t be fooled,” he tells fellow Christians in his new book, The Benedict Option. “The upset presidential victory of Donald Trump has at best given us a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable.”

She finds this alarmist. But I argue in the book that the de-Christianization of Western culture is a process that has been going on for centuries, and that it is something that has been masked in recent decades by the political influence conservative US Christians have enjoyed. I make the argument that political success is misleading, because it conceals the abject failure of traditional Christians on the cultural front. As I explain in the book, being a faithful Christian is not the same thing as being a Republican. The fact that so many of my fellow conservative Christians have made that mistake over the past 30 years are so helps account for the dilemma we find ourselves in today.

More:

There was a time when Christian thinkers like Dreher, who writes for The American Conservative, might have prepared to fight for cultural and political control. Dreher, however, sees this as futile. “Could it be that the best way to fight the flood is to … stop fighting the flood?” he asks. “Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation.” This strategic withdrawal from public life is what he calls the Benedict option.

Dreher’s proposal is as remarkable as his fear. It is a radical rejection of the ties between Christianity and typical forms of power, from Republican politics to market-driven wealth. Instead, Dreher says, Christians should embrace pluralism, choosing to fortify their own communities and faith as one sub-culture among many in the United States.

But it is a vision that will not be easily achieved. Conservative Christianity no longer sets the norms in American culture, and transitioning away from a position of dominance to a position of co-existence will require significant adjustment, especially for a people who believe so strongly in evangelism. Even if that happens, there are always challenges at the boundaries of sub-cultures. It’s not clear that Dreher has a clear vision of how Christians should engage with those they disagree with—especially the LGBT Americans they blame for pushing them out of mainstream culture.

Well, let me clarify the judgment in that last line. Quite often secular or progressive people want to know why conservative Christians are so concerned about LGBT issues. They ask it as if there is something wrong with us for our concerns. There are several reasons, but the most pertinent one is this: LGBT activism is the tip of the spear at our throats in the culture war. The struggle over gay rights is what is threatening our religious liberty, putting Christian merchants out of business, threatening the tax-exempt status and accreditation of Christian schools and colleges, inspiring the federal government to order public schools to allow transgenders into locker rooms (thankfully, the Trump administration is going to reverse that Obama order), and so forth. We pay so much attention to LGBT issues because we are made to care. Our religious liberty and the doctrinal integrity of our churches, especially our understanding of human nature and the meaning of sex and the family, depends on it.

This is not the fight that most conservative Christians I know (including me!) want to have. But it’s the fight that has been brought to us, and is brought to us every day.

More:

“We Christians have a lot to learn from Modern Orthodox Jews,” he told me in an interview. Many of Dreher’s suggestions appear to echo Orthodox Jewish life, including daily prayers, restrictions on diet and work, and extensive educational networks. “They have had to live in a way that’s powerfully counter-cultural in American life and rooted in thick community and ancient traditions,” he said. “And yet, they manage to do it.”

This comparison is telling about how Dreher perceives the status of Christians in American society. Jews make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, and Modern Orthodox Jews are a tiny minority within that group—Pew estimates that they account for 3 percent of all American Jews, or roughly .06 percent of Americans. While it’s impossible to estimate the exact number of Americans who would identify with the ecumenical, theologically conservative Christianity Dreher describes, it is far bigger than the number of Modern Orthodox Jews.

It seems as though Dreher is saying that Christians need to be ready to live as religious minorities. But he fails to acknowledge an important distinction between the two groups, beyond mere size. Jews act like a counter-cultural, marginalized group because they’ve been that way for two millennia—powerless, small in number, at odds with the broader cultures of the places where they’ve lived. The American conservatives Dreher is addressing, on the other hand, are coming from a place of power. For many years, they dictated the legal and cultural terms of non-Christians’ lives. The Benedict option is relevant precisely because America is becoming more religiously fractured, and Christianity is no longer the cultural default.

I think I see where the disconnect is between Emma and me. She can’t shake the idea that political power is the best measure of religious influence. Over the course of The Benedict Option, I marshal evidence to show that Christianity in America, even conservative Christianity, is a Potemkin village, one that’s going to be pushed over in the decades to come, because there’s nothing behind it holding it up.

By far the more important measure is the one sociologist of religion Christian Smith and his colleagues have made of the actual religious beliefs of young Americans, regarding Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Here is an excerpt from The Benedict Option:

This creed, they found, is especially prominent among Catholic and Mainline Protestant teenagers. Evangelical teenagers fared measurably better but were still far from historic biblical orthodoxy. Smith and Denton claimed that MTD is colonizing existing Christian churches, destroying biblical Christianity from within, and replacing it with a pseudo-Christianity that is “only tenuously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition.”

MTD is not entirely wrong. After all, God does exist, and He does want us to be good. The problem with MTD, in both its progressive and its conservative versions, is that it’s mostly about improving one’s self-esteem and subjective happiness and getting along well with others. It has little to do with the Christianity of Scripture and tradition, which teaches repentance, self-sacrificial love, and purity of heart, and commends suffering—the Way of the Cross—as the pathway to God. Though superficially Christian, MTD is the natural religion of a culture that worships the Self and material comfort.

As bleak as Christian Smith’s 2005 findings were, his follow-up research, a third installment of which was published in 2011, was even grimmer. Surveying the moral beliefs of 18-to-23-year-olds, Smith and his colleagues found that only 40 percent of young Christians sampled said that their personal moral beliefs were grounded in the Bible or some other religious sensibility.4 Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the beliefs of even these faithful are biblically coherent. Many of these “Christians” are actually committed moral individualists who neither know nor practice a coherent Bible-based morality.

An astonishing 61 percent of the emerging adults had no moral problem at all with materialism and consumerism. An added 30 percent expressed some qualms but figured it was not worth worrying about. In this view, say Smith and his team, “all that society is, apparently, is a collection of autonomous individuals out to enjoy life.”

These are not bad people. Rather, they are young adults who have been terribly failed by family, church, and the other institutions that formed—or rather, failed to form—their consciences and their imaginations.

MTD is the de facto religion not simply of American teenagers but also of American adults. To a remarkable degree, teenagers have adopted the religious attitudes of their parents. We have been an MTD nation for some time now, though that may have been disguised.

“America has lived a long time off its thin Christian veneer, partly necessitated by the Cold War,” Smith told me in an interview. “That is all finally being stripped away by the combination of mass consumer capitalism and liberal individualism.”

If you want to see the future power of conservative Christianity in America, look to Europe today. If I write with an alarmist tone — and I do — it’s because I’m trying to wake up the churches, my own people, and tell them that we are in much worse trouble than we think. I spoke to a campus minister who came to hear my talk last night in Canton, and he said everything I said about how unprepared Christians are for the world we’re in now, and the world we’re going into, is true, based on his experience.

In the Q&A portion of the event, an undergraduate stood and said, “I don’t understand. You say we have to do this Benedict Option, but what’s wrong with just loving Jesus with all your heart, like I was taught to do growing up?” She was sincere and genuinely confused by what I was saying. My heart went out to her, because her winsomeness and innocence was so palpable, but this world is going to eat her alive.

The pastor who approached me said that young woman is so typical of the young people he works with at the institution he serves. They’re sincere and good-hearted, but they think that’s going to be enough to carry them through. It’s not. The pastor said, “We have to do a much better job of discipleship. That is our challenge today.”

I had a wonderful conversation with a small group that included reader Chad Green, who drove all the way in from Columbus for the lecture. He told a story about a significant sacrifice he and his wife are making to ensure that their kids are receiving real formation in church, as opposed to youth group shallowness. On this blog this morning, Chad reflected:

I woke up this morning thinking about the young lady in the back who asked the question at the conclusion of your talk “Isn’t loving Jesus enough?” Your answer was very patient and kind but I think she was shaken by it. In my experience, there is very little emphasis on orthopraxy in most evangelical churches. There is very little in the way of instruction or discipleship taking place either. Her question re-enforced the awareness of the responsibility I have as a father to impart the faith to my four boys. Those of us who profess Christ as Lord must seize the initiative in our families to instill in our children the faith that has been entrusted to us. I am not sure of all the details of how the Benedict Option fits into this exactly, but a community of Christians reinforcing the teachings in the home is vital to our spiritual survival.

It’s like this: we could have Republican Party-led government from now till kingdom come, led by politicians endorsed by Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, and the lot — and it would avail the church nothing. That is the message of the Benedict Option. American Christians who want to hold on to Christian orthodoxy in a post-Christian society would do well to emulate Orthodox Jews. It’s like this: a young Evangelical high school student told me that her current (public) school is one in which she is only one of a handful of confessing Christians. She said her old public school, the one she attended before moving, had a lot more Christians in it. Yet she says she prefers the school she’s in now, because “at least here I know what it really means to be a Christian.” I asked her to explain. She said that all her youth group friends in the old school are now smoking, drinking, sleeping with each other, and living no different than the non-Christians in that school. The fact that they are members of the youth group allows them to think that they’re really walking the walk, when in fact it’s just cultural Christianity. My young correspondent told me she appreciates the clarity in her  new “post-Christian” environment.

Emma Green focuses heavily on the chapter of the book in which I talk about the Sexual Revolution as having been catastrophic for orthodox Christianity. She writes:

Most importantly, he writes with resentment, largely directed at those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and their supporters—the people, he believes, who have pushed Christians out of the public sphere.

“We are on the far side of a Sexual Revolution that has been nothing short of catastrophic for Christianity,” he writes:

It struck near the core of biblical teaching on sex and the human person and has demolished the fundamental Christian conception of society, of families, and of the nature of human beings. There can be no peace between Christianity and the Sexual Revolution, because they are radically opposed. As the Sexual Revolution advances, Christianity must retreat—and it has, faster than most people would have thought possible.This has had far-reaching consequences in all spheres of life. In the professional world, “sexual diversity dogma” is pervasive, he writes—an attempt by companies to “demonstrate progress to gay-rights campaigners.” In the future, “everyone working for a major corporation will be frog-marched through ‘diversity and inclusion’ training,” he says, “and will face pressure not simply to tolerate LGBT co-workers but to affirm their sexuality and gender identity.”

In politics and culture, “we in the modern West are living under barbarism, though we do not recognize it,” he writes. “Our scientists, our judges, our princes, our scholars, and our scribes—they are at work demolishing the faith, the family, gender, even what it means to be human.”

That chapter — one of ten in the book — is based in large part on this TAC essay, “Sex After Christianity,” [5]which I published in 2013.  If you want to know the philosophical roots of my position, please read it. And yes, I write in a prophetic, alarmist tone, because that is the actual reality facing the church. In the book, I am clear that this is not the fault of gays, that the heterosexuals who made the Sexual Revolution’s first wave demolished the Christian model of sex and sexuality. I quote Philip Rieff, no Christian he, on how the Sexual Revolution dissolves orthodox Christianity. I certainly don’t expect progressives, Christian or otherwise, who favor affirming homosexuality to agree with me and others who uphold the orthodox Christian view. But I do expect them to recognize how radical what they’re asking of us is, and how accepting their position requires us to surrender far more than we can.

More Emma Green:

Nothing in this language suggests that Dreher is ready to live tolerantly alongside people with different views. If progressives wrote about the Bible as “a lot of babble about Jesus and God,” using language similar to that of the parent Dreher cites, he would be quick to cry foul against the ignorance and intolerance of the left; his language is dismissive and mocking, and he peppers in conspiratorial terms like the “LGBT agenda.” At times, it seems like the goal of the Benedict option is just as much about getting away from gay people as it is affirming the tenets of Christianity. The book seems to suggest that mere proximity to people with alternative beliefs about sexuality, and specifically LGBT people, is a threat to Christian children and families.

That’s just weird. I have been living and working tolerantly alongside people with different views — including gays and lesbians — for almost my entire life. So what? It’s a big world out there. The threat I perceive is not from LGBT people per se; it’s from affirming the Sexual Revolution, which is something one has to do in order to affirm — not just tolerate, but affirm — homosexuality.

More Green:

[LGBT] lives implicitly pose the hard question Dreher has failed to engage: How should Christians be in fellowship with people unlike them—including those who feel aggrieved by the church and its teachings?

To his credit, Dreher nods to this, ever so briefly. “The angry vehemence with which many gay activists condemn Christianity is rooted in part in the cultural memory of rejection and hatred by the church,” he writes. “Christians need to own up to our past in this regard and to repent of it.” He does little to specify these past errors, though, and he never tries to answer the broader question: how Christians can live as one people among many in America without learning how to respect and relate to those who challenge their beliefs.

I really don’t get this criticism. For one, I didn’t “specify these past errors” because the whole question of homosexuality is such a small part of this book. Here is the fuller passage from which Green draws these quotes:

All unmarried Christians are called to live celibately, but at least heterosexuals have the possibility of marriage. Gay Christians do not, which makes their struggle even more intense.

Worse, too many gay Christians face rejection from the very people they should be able to count on: the church. The angry vehemence with which many gay activists condemn Christianity is rooted in large part in the cultural memory of rejection and hatred by the church. Christians need to own up to our past in this regard and to repent of it.

But that does not mean—and it cannot mean—that we should abandon clear, binding biblical teaching on homosexuality. Gay Christians, like all unmarried Christians, are called to a life of chastity. This is a heavy cross to bear, but one that cannot in obedience be refused.

Our gay brothers and sisters in Christ should not have to carry it alone. In recent years, several same-sex- attracted Christians living in fidelity to orthodox teaching have found their voice in the Spiritual Friendship movement. It is based on the writings of Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, a twelfth-century abbot.

“Aelred helped me to see that obedience to Christ offered more to me than just the denial of sex and romance,” writes Ron Belgau, one of the movement’s founders. “Christ-centered chaste friendships offered a positive and fulfilling—albeit at times challenging—path to holiness.”12

That’s an important point, for gay and single Christians alike. Too often chastity is presented only as saying no to sex. Though we can’t deny the real and painful sacrifice the Christian ethic requires of unmarried believers, we should not neglect to teach and explore the good that may come from surrendering one’s sexuality. Though monasticism had not yet developed when the New Testament was written, Jesus said that some are called by God to be chaste singles (“eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven”). This is a steep path to holiness, an especially treacherous one in our thoroughly eroticized culture, but a path to holiness it is for some. We have that on Christ’s authority.

It is hard for single Christians to stay on that path, but at least straight Christians have the prospect of marriage to comfort them. Not so for our gay brothers and sisters. Christians—individually, within families, and within parish churches—must give honor, respect, and friendship to gay Christians who have embraced celibacy.

Moreover, gay Christians who reject traditional teaching must still be treated with love, because they too are image-bearers of Christ. Love wins, though not in the way the LGBT movement says. But it still wins. Christians don’t dare forget it.

Hear that? “Gay Christians who reject traditional teaching must still be treated with love, because they too are image-bearers of Christ.” And I would say gay non-Christians too. Those are actual words. That I wrote.

I could be wrong, but it’s hard for me to conclude other than that for this reviewer, affirming homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is the most important thing Christians should do. Inadvertently, this points to why orthodox Christians have to spend so much time dealing with this topic: because the pressure coming against the churches from outside (as well as from sympathizers within) is constant.

It didn’t occur to me to spend much time in the book dwelling on how Christians are to live in a pluralistic world because it’s obvious that we have no choice. In fact, though, I do address this in this section from The Benedict Option [4], talking about the Benedictine habit of hospitality. I’m writing here about the Benedictine monks in Norcia:

The monks live mostly cloistered lives—that is, they stay behind their monastery’s walls and limit their contact with the outside world. To do the spiritual work they are called to do requires silence and separation. As lay Christians living in the world, our calling is to seek holiness in more ordinary social conditions.

Yet even cloistered Benedictines practice Christian hospitality to the stranger. The Rule commands that all those who present themselves as pilgrims and visitors to the monastery “be received like Christ, for He is going to say, because He will say, ‘I was a stranger, and you took me in’ (Matt. 25:35).” If you are invited to dine with the monks in the refectory, they greet you the first time with a hand-washing ceremony prescribed in the Rule.

Brother Francis Davoren, forty-four, the monastery’s brewmaster, used to be the refectorian, the monk charged with overseeing the dining room. He approached that task with sacramental imagination.

“Saint Benedict says that Christ is present in the brothers, and Christ is present in our guests. Every day I would think, ‘Christ is coming. I’m going to make this as pleasant for them as I can, because it showed them that we cared,’” he said. “That’s a good outreach to people: to respect them, to recognize their dignity, to show them that you can see Christ in them and want to bring them into your life.”

As guest master, Brother Ignatius is the point of contact between pilgrims and the monastic community. He explains why the monks take Christ’s words about receiving strangers so seriously: “It is kind of a warning: if you want to be welcome in heaven, you had better welcome people as Christ himself now, even if you don’t like it, even if you suffer because of those people,” he said. “If your life is to seek Christ, this is it. You will find redemption in serving these guests, because Christ is coming in them.”

Saint Benedict commands his monks to be open to the outside world—to a point. Hospitality must be dispensed according to prudence, so that visitors are not allowed to do things that disrupt the monastery’s way of life. For example, at table, silence is kept by visitors and monks alike. As Brother Augustine put it, “If we let visitors upset the rhythm of our life too much, then we can’t really welcome anyone.”

The monastery receives visitors constantly who have all kinds of problems and are seeking advice, help, or just someone to listen to them, and it’s important that the monks maintain the order needed to allow them to offer this kind of hospitality.

Rather than erring on the side of caution, though, Father Benedict [Nivakoff] believes Christians should be as open to the world as they can be without compromise. “I think too many Christians have decided that the world is bad and should be avoided as much as possible. Well, it’s hard to convert people if that’s your stance,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to help people to see their own goodness and then bring them in than to point out how bad they are and bring them in.”

The power of popular culture is so overwhelming that faithful orthodox Christians often feel the need to retreat behind defensive lines. But Brother Ignatius warned that Christians must not become so anxious and fearful that they cease to share the Good News, in word and deed, with a world held captive by hatred and darkness. It is prudent to draw reasonable boundaries, but we have to take care not to be like the unfaithful servant in the Parable of the Talents, who was punished by his master for his poor, fearful stewardship of the master’s property.

Is it not clear that we are to relate to those outside our communities with love and hospitality? We have to draw the line at the point where that hospitality threatens to disrupt our ongoing formation in truth. I get the idea that it is not enough that we relate in peace and tolerance to our neighbors who don’t share our religious convictions. We must approve.

One more excerpt from the Atlantic piece. Emma Green recognizes that for cultural traditionalists, these truly are alienating times:

And yet, Dreher begrudges a similar fear in people unlike him, including LGBT people who have long wanted to live freely in public—something that was largely impossible when conservative Christians dominated mainstream American life. From this vantage, his Benedict option seems less a proposal for pluralism than the angry backwards fire of a culture in retreat.

I did not record my interview with Emma, so I could be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure I said that I do not want to go back to the days of the closet. That I think it is a good thing that gays and lesbians are treated with more dignity and respect now. I even supported civil partnerships back in the day. But it’s not marriage. Anyway, how, exactly, do I begrudge a similar fear in people unlike me? If it’s LGBTs, the only grudge I have is that activists and their fellow travelers hold all the cultural high ground today, but act as if they will not be free of fear until the last Southern Baptist florist is strangled with the guts of the last Evangelical pastor. They treat conservative Christians as if we still hold all the cultural trump cards, and point to the election of Donald Trump — an openly pro-gay Republican who doesn’t have a religiously conservative bone in his body — as if that proved anything. You watch: the GOP Congress will not send any meaningful religious liberty legislation to Trump’s desk. If they do, then I might be willing to listen to complaints that LGBTs have to live in fear of the Jesus-Freak mob. From where I sit, we conservative Christians really are in retreat, and are being driven out of the public square mostly because we don’t affirm the new orthodoxy.

You want to talk about tolerance? How much tolerance would a conservative Evangelical or an orthodox Roman Catholic face on most college faculties, in most law firms, in most newsrooms, and in all the other centers of cultural power and formation? This is where the real power is for the long term.

Last quote from the Atlantic piece:

Dreher wrote The Benedict Option for people like him—those who share his faith, convictions, and feelings of cultural alienation. But even those who might wish to join Dreher’s radical critique of American culture, people who also feel pushed out and marginalized by shallowness of modern life, may feel unable to do so.

Well, yes, I can state without fear of contradiction that I wrote The Benedict Option [1] for Christians who share my faith, convictions, and feelings of cultural alienation. That’s why the subtitle is “A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation”! The Ben Op cannot be all things to all people. It is not going to appeal to secular people or religious liberals. The fact that some people see examples of conservative Christians attempting to hold on to theological and cultural distinctives in a culture that is overtly hostile to them as weird or otherwise threatening — this, in a culture that does not see a threat from other groups doing the same — goes a long way toward explaining why The Benedict Option [4] is so necessary right now. Whether we like it or not, the issue of sexuality, especially homosexuality, really is the chief dividing line within all the churches. When a book with such a wide-ranging Christian critique of contemporary culture gets boiled down to its stance on homosexuality, you understand why this issue, as I said earlier, is the tip of the culture war spear.

Read the whole Emma Green piece. [2]I genuinely appreciate her attention to the book. And I think her essay, however mistaken I think she is on major points, really is helpful in that it signals how non-religious conservatives are likely to read the book.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

I just read the Atlantic piece Emma Green wrote about the book, and I was a bit puzzled by some of it. She writes, “it’s not clear that Dreher has a clear vision of how Christians should engage with those they disagree with–especially the LGBT Americans they blame for pushing them out of mainstream culture.”  She also writes,”Their lives implicitly pose the hard question Dreher has failed to engage: How should Christians be in fellowship with people like them–including those who feel aggrieved by the church and its teachings?”

There’s so, so much going on in just those quotes, but what really puzzled me was that the article says she interviewed you. There are direct quotes and everything. Did she NOT ask you any of these questions directly? If Green wanted to know what your vision was for variations of the BenOp incorporating LGBTQ people, why didn’t she just ask? Or if she did, did she not include your responses in the article?

I’ve been reading you for a while now. You’ve engaged these issues repeatedly and explicitly on your blog at great length. It’s not hard to find your thoughts on the matter, and it’s clear from reading your blog that your thoughts are complicated, and that while your BenOp’s orthodoxy might exclude LGBTQ folks, you’re not declaring that every BenOp should, especially since the thrust of your critique is aimed at the arc of modernity’s atomizing, self-aggrandizing foundations. (Unless I totally misunderstand it, in which case I encourage correction!)

From my lay perspective, the piece reads like journalistic malfeasance, even though Green seems to strive to be fair. It’s just hard to believe that she read your words thoughtfully, given that the above quotes misrepresent your views. For instance, it’s not that “the LGBT Americans” pushed Christians out of mainstream culture. It was a variety of secularizing factors, including but not limited to the Sexual Revolution, which predates the contemporary civil rights battles surrounding non-hetero sexualities by decades. (Not to mention the degree to which the Church undermined itself in the U.S.) Then there’s the bizarre notion that Christians would be “in fellowship” with “those who feel aggrieved by the church and its teachings.” I suppose that all of us wrestle with the doctrinal, liturgical, and institutional failings of our church bodies. But fellowship is a practice of unity on central teachings. What does that actually mean? Is Green limiting herself to just LGBTQ folks who have been cast out of conservative churches? Is she encompassing all manner of grievance with orthodox teaching? Doesn’t that vary by denomination? My church, for instance, embraces gay clergy and performs gay marriages. But it is resolutely Trinitarian. Am I supposed to be in fellowship with someone who denies the triune God, even if they denounce gay marriage? Not to mention the fact that even if you, in your BenOp, aren’t in fellowship with an openly gay couple, it does not preclude you from being a good neighbor to them. Apart from Southern hospitality, that’s a part of orthodox Christian hospitality, and a part of the BenOp ethos. Right? Am I the one totally misunderstanding this, or did Green just not do her homework?

This seems to be the condensed symbol in practice. Green seems to wrist-slap you for talking primarily to other Christians at this point, but that may be necessary, since so many of them understand the BenOp the same way she does.

Then again, maybe it’s folks like me who misunderstand it, and I just need to slow down and read your blog more carefully. Just to make sure I don’t repeat Green’s mistakes, I’m just writing you directly. Hopefully you’ll post a response to her piece on the blog that that will clear all this up.

Well, I hope that the blog entry above answers a lot of your questions. I don’t see how small-o orthodox Christianity can reconcile itself to any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage, either hetero or homo, nor can marriage be, for Christians, a same-sex thing. I suppose the question is, what does one mean by “exclude”? I make it very clear in my book that we are not to shun LGBT folks, or mistreat them — and to the extent that Christians do or have done that, we should repent. But that’s not the same thing as affirming that homosexuality is a moral good, or even morally neutral. The question is not really, “What are you conservative Christians prepared to tolerate?” but actually “What are LGBTs and progressive allies prepared to tolerate?” Because all the pressure to conform to the new orthodoxy is coming from that side, and a lot of it is punitive. It’s Orwellian how they lament our supposed intolerance, but practice the very thing they purport to condemn.

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139 Comments To "Is The Benedict Option Good For Gays?"

#1 Comment By Lllurker On February 23, 2017 @ 6:09 am

“3) I silently decline to attend a co-worker’s same-sex marriage.”

No problem unless it is your boss, then you’ll probably want to go to the wedding and grin and bear it. This holds true even if he worships Satan by the way, just one of those power dynamics of the lived world. While you’re at the wedding you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that you’re not the only person who hates being there.

So I’m pretty much on the sideline regarding these issues and I can see the impacts on both groups of people, but this brought something to mind. I had a great uncle who passed away maybe 20 years ago. No outward signs of him being gay and as far as I know he was never even seen with a gay friend, but on the other hand he never married or took much of an interest in women and his mom lived with him until she died and other possible indicators were there if you really looked for them. He had no real social life outside of work and family. A nice but relatively unhappy guy.

So my assumption is that he was gay and he likely lived a celibate life. In his day he could not have held the kind of job that he did and been open about things. Nor could he have avoided public harassment or worse. At least not here in the Midwest.

So just to muddle through and fit in and hold a job he presumably sacrificed sex, love, a normal social life, happiness. Coming from his generation he probably carried around some very heavy self-hatred and other deep psychological conflicts as a result of the way society shunned him. Due to the constraints of the time and the culture he may have gone through his entire adult life without ever openly discussing his situation and his feelings with a single living human being.

And millions and millions of others were forced to live the same way, and of course many actually had it much worse.

So here we are in these supposedly evil modern times, where guys like my uncle can now now live a decent life if only the orthodox will agree to suffer through some lousy wedding experiences. It really is hard to look at both sides of the issue and come down in favor of the orthodox position.

And that’s without taking into account that it was the same religion, the Christian religion, that largely shaped the culture that made life for guys like my uncle so awful. (I too am Christian.) It wasn’t just a horrible way to treat people, it was an evil way to treat people. (This is why using words like “persecution” in the process of advocating for your position can backfire by the way. If one takes the time to think through the historical context of the word, and then sees the word being used to describe issues like catering weddings, the hypocrisy is enough to make one shudder.)

After some time passes and things cool down I don’t think you’ll have any problem getting a narrow carve-out so that orthodox bakers don’t have to cater gay weddings and the like. At the end of the day I don’t think the wider population really cares much either way, but this may be the sort of thing where ginning it up into a major issue does more harm than good.

#2 Comment By Adamant On February 23, 2017 @ 6:14 am

Philip,

In both of those cases, you should not only keep your job, you have solid grounds for a lawsuit you don’t, and it would be an injustice if there were any action taken against you.

#3 Comment By Stefan On February 23, 2017 @ 7:10 am

“I mean, if it’s LGBT Supremacy to believe a business, that only has customers partly because of the society built by taxes gay people pay, has to give the same service to people, no matter their sexual orientation?”

True dat. The government is partly involved in everything, and everyone pays taxes in some form. Hence all are entitled to governance that is partial to all their social views and policy preferences since any link between rights and burdens is necessarily arbitrary. With all being infinitely and unconditionally entitled, arguments over how to balance (already an archaic notion) competing claims can and will only be resolved through force, including illiberal majority rule and invoking the support of non-democratic institutional actors (New York Times style intellectual gatekeeperism, the CIA) and paranoid ideological pareidolia (Ruskiesdiddit) when one loses at the ballot box.

#4 Comment By carlo On February 23, 2017 @ 8:57 am

Lisa:

you just confirmed my point, sorry.

Your “conservative Christians” are bunch of people you read about on the internet, who are heavily involved in politics, and whose positions you interpret through the lenses of your own prejudices (like the truly weird notion of “controlling other people’s sexuality”).

Go and meet some real people, talk to them, see how they live etc.

#5 Comment By Phillip On February 23, 2017 @ 9:00 am

Thank you to those that responded. I am genuinely heartened and somewhat relieved by your answers. I honestly wasn’t sure. I think there’s a lot of unnecessary fear on both sides, and I’m grateful mine are now diminished.

For what it’s worth, I and many other conservatives would oppose any business that simply refused to serve someone for being LGBT. The issue really is the event.

I am also sympathetic to the absence of anti-discrimination laws. But my reluctance is not LGBT, but that they tend to function in the real world as “can not fire for any reason” laws. I have had first-hand experience of working with an “unfireable” person because the paychecks were cheaper than fighting the lawsuit. Get past that, and I’m thumbs up.

Lisa,

I used “LGBT supremacy” because it seems to be the de facto state religion in America since no other religious claim apparently can ever be held superior to it.

In that vein, do you think that churches who refuse to perform same-sex weddings should lose their tax exempt status?

(It hasn’t happened yet, but the issue was raised before SCOTUS. Important because the power to tax is the power to destroy.)

#6 Comment By kgasmart On February 23, 2017 @ 9:21 am

1) When HR asks people to sign up as “LGBT allies” and help out at the next Pride march, I silently decline to do so.

3) I silently decline to attend a co-worker’s same-sex marriage.

Here’s the question:

In your vision for America, do I get to keep my job?

You can fib and beg off the wedding. But on the former – what if you decline to sign up as an “LGBT ally” in the first place?

In other words: What if you tell your HR department that, look, gay marriage is legal now and I have no problem working with gay folks and won’t cause any problems; but I simply do not consider gay marriage to be the moral equivalent of straight marriage and never will, and refuse to be involved in initiatives that require me to be an “ally” where being an “ally” means believing in this moral equivalence.

What does HR do then; and for the LGBT rights supporters – should there be some other kind of sanction for this? Because this is what tolerance but not approval looks like in real life.

And I’m curious as to how many on the LGBT left are satisfied with mere tolerance.

#7 Comment By Eric Mader On February 23, 2017 @ 9:33 am

Having carefully read Green’s review, I find myself unable to decide between the “journalistic malfeasance” interpretation and the “she is simply blinded by her own ideological preconceptions” one. Either way, I don’t feel I’ve read something written by one of our “best religion reporters”, as Rod calls her. The piece was shallow and disappointing.

Green keeps referencing her sense that Rod is not likely to be “tolerant” of LGBT folks. This has bemused both Rod and many of the commenters here. I think the mystery is not hard to solve. The problem is the debasement of the meaning of “tolerance”. For vast chunks of our 21st-century populace, tolerance simply means complete affirmation. It’s not good enough for me to be simply civil to my neighbor and recognize his or her or ze’s right to be left in peace–no, I have to go out of my way and say “You are brave and wonderful is what you are! I fully support all your ideas on culture and marriage and whatnot. In fact I already support the new ideas you’ll come up with next year!”

Really. This is clearly what Green’s word tolerance means. She is writing in a debased vocabulary. And this debasement is one of our biggest problems.

Green’s piece is an artifact from the same culture in which verbal criticism or irony or (God forbid) outright scorn are regularly defined as examples of violence or even genocide.

For Green, Rod seems not to have posed the question of how “Christians can live as one people among many in America without learning how to respect and relate to those who challenge their beliefs”. Again, I would say respect and relate to basically mean affirm in this woman’s vocabulary.

Which is why many of us are so skeptical that meaningful dialogue with this culture is even possible. They don’t know what our words mean; in their language most of the key terms in any discussion have been warped beyond pragmatic use by a thick emotivist overlay, so that we and they mean different things by the same words: tolerance, violence, respect, diversity, rights, etc.

Respectful pluralism becomes impossible in such an environment. It is clearly they who don’t understand pluralism. Live and let live is not in their playbook. What kind of pluralism is it where every group must constantly be affirming every other group’s doctrines or lifestyles? But there’s the rub: these people are too blind to recognize that their love for “tolerance” and “respect” (i.e. affirmation) as well as their love for “diversity” only works in one direction. If you don’t agree to everything demanded by the people with the rainbow flags, well, you just aren’t respectful or diverse enough.

#8 Comment By dan On February 23, 2017 @ 9:36 am

“In fact, it should never be brought up as an issue in the workplace by anyone, either by management or by co-workers. furthermore, those co-workers who do bring it up as an issue she get a strong talking to by HR, as their objections should be considered a form of harassment and not be tolerated in the workplace.”

Sounds like a recipe for a strong pluralistic society. Keep everyone’es opinions and beliefs suppressed and swirling around in the undercurrent. Tie everything to the legal system and to HR departments. What a beautiful picture of the future you paint.

I’d much rather they be allowed to fire me and we both be allowed to say what we believe.

And that should all cut both ways. If we can’t actually have freedom and pluralism, I really dread the system dreamed up to cobble it together with duct tape and bailing wire.

#9 Comment By Adamant On February 23, 2017 @ 10:26 am

Philip,

‘In that vein, do you think that churches who refuse to perform same-sex weddings should lose their tax exempt status?’

The status of clergy to be exempt from state interference in internal matters is historically beyond dispute. The state can no more ‘make’ a church conduct a wedding then it could make a Protestant minister declare that Pope Francis is truly Christ’s Vicar on earth.

Churches, being non-profits, aren’t given tax exemptions as a courtesy or ‘special’ arrangement: they have no profits to tax in the first place, and any attempt to do so would immediately run afoul of the free exercise clause. You will run-across hot-headed secularists with a ‘tax the churches’ program, but these are idiot children who speak for nobody but themselves, and any jurisdiction that attempted it would be laughed out of court.

That being said, cases like Little Sisters of the Poor give me cause for concern. If church/state separation means anything, it must mean the church or religious institution runs its own internal affairs. Likewise with religious colleges, non-profits, etc, so to an extent I share your concerns about an overly aggressive state in these areas.

If we’re going to rub along together without shooting one another, we’ve got to minimize the friction points between two wholly incompatible worldviews: religious belief and Enlightenment liberalism. The two can augment one another, butressing each others inherent weaknesses, but, like oil and water will never truly mix.

There is no real compromise on these issues, so what we need is a mutual retreat to defendable positions.

#10 Comment By Oakinhou On February 23, 2017 @ 10:29 am

“In that vein, do you think that churches who refuse to perform same-sex weddings should lose their tax exempt status?

(It hasn’t happened yet, but the issue was raised before SCOTUS. Important because the power to tax is the power to destroy.)”

Do you think that churches who refuse to perform second marriages for divorced people should retain their tax exempt status? I personally do, btw.

And why do you think this is not an issue, but Churches being forced to perform same sex marriages are? After all, if sex and sexual orientation are protected categories, it means thAt straight people are protected, and why would bigots stop two loving divorced opposite sex people to marry in a Catholic Church.

#11 Comment By Oakinhou On February 23, 2017 @ 10:36 am

“You can fib and beg off the wedding. But on the former – what if you decline to sign up as an “LGBT ally” in the first place?”

I used to work in a place where there was a lot of pressure to donate to United Way, because they wanted to be one of UW top donors, for PR purposes.

And I didn’t donate (I donate to the charities I chose myself). I just deleted the barrage of emails from HR and the office of the CEO, pressuring me to donate.

And nothing happened to me, for fourteen long years, until I resigned, except that I was promoted to senior management.

Being penalized for not participating in a company sponsored non work activity like Gay Pride, or United Way, or the March for Life, is workplace harassment. And it’s illegal, at least while antidiscrimination job protections remain in the books

#12 Comment By a commenter On February 23, 2017 @ 11:26 am

:Is it possible that LGBT activism is the tip of the spear because Christians balked at it in a way they didn’t balk at other sexual sins that are just as likely to be prohibited in the Bible, like cohabitation, adultery, divorce, etc. ”

Well, I don’t know about other Christians, but Catholic theology doesn’t really approve of any of those activities. Many nominal Catholics may not see it that way, and that’s probably why some Catholics have voted for politicians who supported gay marriage. But, as far as I can tell, that’s largely because those Catholics don’t adhere to Catholic theology on sexual matters in general. Most Catholics use birth control, engage in premarital sex, the rate of abortion among nominal Catholics is not really different than others, etc. So, since they choose not to suffer the burdens of following Church teaching, yet attend mass normally, go to communion etc, they dont’ see why LGBT folks shouldn’t be able to do the same. They are basically following the secular version of morality whereby a loving God will only ever ask you to do things that are not hard and that make you happy. If you have to be unhappy, it must be because someone is being hateful.

But that is not really what Catholic teaching is, so when Catholics who are using contraception declare that Catholic teaching on gay issues is hateful, that is because they themselves do not understand Catholic teaching on gay issues. And they don’t understand it, IMO, because they are not following it.

However, if you observe Catholics who do follow Church teaching on sexuality, such as those who use NFP, have large families, or were childless rather than using IVF, and so on, then, you get, I think, a more accurate and more balanced view. Catholic teaching, accurately understood, does not single out gay people for special hatred. Everyone is called to chastity: single people, married people, gay people, even priests. Everyone fails sometimes. The sacrament of reconciliation is there for all of us.

One thing I’ve learned while using NFP is that there is no target amount of difficulty that is “allowed” by morality. It is sort of like parenting. Some people have really easy kids who get straight As and sail through life with ease. Other people have kids with cancer, or kids who struggle to get passing grades in school, or kids who give in to the temptation to use street drugs and steal from their families for years before dying of drug overdoses. There’s no guarantee or entitlement that if you are a good person that you’ll get easy kids. There’s no set point on parenting that says, you only have to love your kids to THIS level of burden, and if the burden gets any greater, you can throw in the towel. Rather, we are expected to love our children even if that is extremely difficult. I think sexuality is the same way. We are all asked to be chaste even if it’s really difficult.

I think what gets lost from these discussions about chastity issues, is that there is community benefit to chastity. When you exercise chastity, you strengthen the communion of saints.

Sorry to veer into overtly religious stuff. But I think it’s fair that if people are attacking my religion as particularly hateful towards gays, that I be allowed to explain that in fact that’s not the case, and that those arguing such really don’t understand my religion.

#13 Comment By Liam On February 23, 2017 @ 12:47 pm

“Being penalized for not participating in a company sponsored non work activity like Gay Pride, or United Way, or the March for Life, is workplace harassment. And it’s illegal, at least while antidiscrimination job protections remain in the books.”

Bingo.

I’ve also utterly resisted corporate promotion of the United Way, because I give directly to smaller charities and profits with very little overhead. I also don’t participate in workplace charitable lotteries (because I don’t believe in gambling) – when I walked by a big jar in our cafeteria last year, the head of HR happened to see me do that, and personally invited me to contribute. I told him he was welcome to the extra cash I had on hand (I had just left the cash register) – on the condition that I not be entered into the drawing. He was puzzled and silent for a while, but then smiled once he got it.

The only reason I gave in that circumstance was the opportunity to illustrate a point in action without a lot of words, in a way that would be much more effective than a lot of words. Those opportunities are rare, and need to be seized upon when available.

#14 Comment By Phillip On February 23, 2017 @ 12:53 pm

Hi Oakinhou and others,

Thanks for your response. I’m glad to hear it.

“And why do you think this is not an issue, but Churches being forced to perform same sex marriages are? After all, if sex and sexual orientation are protected categories, it means thAt straight people are protected, and why would bigots stop two loving divorced opposite sex people to marry in a Catholic Church.”

I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re getting at. What do I think is not an issue?

#15 Comment By Bernie On February 23, 2017 @ 2:21 pm

“3) I silently decline to attend a co-worker’s same-sex marriage.”

“No problem unless it is your boss, then you’ll probably want to go to the wedding and grin and bear it. This holds true even if he worships Satan by the way, just one of those power dynamics of the lived world. While you’re at the wedding you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that you’re not the only person who hates being there.”

Not I…never. I’d tell my boss that I had an irreconcilable conflict to which I had committed before I knew of his wedding, and it makes it impossible for me to attend his wedding. I’d then assure him of my friendship and loyalty. (The conflict would be my conscience, which I will not mention.)

If he’s rude and inappropriate enough to ask what the conflict is, I would merely say it’s a personal matter that I must keep confidential. If he tries to take any negative work action against me, I’d go straight to HR with my documentation of exactly what I said, when, and where and any response my boss may have had. Keep it factual, with no subjective comments.

#16 Comment By Harvey On February 23, 2017 @ 2:35 pm

Philip:

These are not easy questions to answer.

First of all, the basic federal rule and in all 50 states is that employment is at-will. You can be fired for any reason or no reason at all.

The basic rule has been modified by the federal government and by the states, but in widely varying ways. Federal law prohibits discrimination against certain protected classes. So if you were terminated on account of your religion, that would be a wrongful termination under federal law. But if you were terminated for “low morale”, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Some states are far more protective of employee rights, and explicitly protect employees from termination due to lawful conduct off the job. These tend to be Blue States.

Also, as a practical matter employee protections can be very difficult to enforce. In general the burden is on the employee to show that the termination was attributable to an impermissible purpose. But clever HR managers can usually come up with a plausible-sounding permissible reason to terminate.

Note also, it’s the Democrats who tend to what to expand workplace protections and Republicans who want to roll them back.

And finally if a legal version of RD’s religious liberty employer protection law were to pass, small and family-owned companies would have far more power to terminate you, based on the company’s religious liberty to require all employees to adhere to a pro-LGBT philosophy.

#17 Comment By Lisa On February 23, 2017 @ 3:02 pm

Phillip:”In that vein, do you think that churches who refuse to perform same-sex weddings should lose their tax exempt status?”

I do not think churches should lose tax exempt status for refusing to perform any type of marriage that goes against their beliefs. However, there are Republicans or maybe Trump, can’t remember, who want to allow churches and ministers to advocate for a particular candidate. If this happens, then we might as well get rid of the tax exempt status. At that point religion would likely become even more corrupt than it already is and not worth supporting.

#18 Comment By Rob On February 23, 2017 @ 3:38 pm

I work in the employment law field and I find the hypothetical about the ally group interesting. I find it hard to believe that any employment attorney worth his salt would advise that HR should solicit specific employees to sign onto causes as allies. It is fine for an organization to associate as such and make opportunities available to those who are interested. But any sign up should be generalized. If an employee says they do not want to participate, then that should be the end of it. HR should not inquire why because it is setting itself up for a discrimination claim or similar allegations.

[NFR: Oh, this is happening to a friend of mine who works for a major international corporation, in their NYC office. Over and over, they get solicitations from HR to declare themselves LGBT allies. — RD]

#19 Comment By Zack S On February 23, 2017 @ 4:19 pm

Greene is too focused on the bad and doesn’t seem to understand what your Benedict Option is. Sounds like your system would have you separate from the culture, entirely.

As for me – I support it. It will allow us both to win: you get to keep your culture of tradition, orthopraxy, and belief and we in the culture at large can focus on scientific/social advancement and human flourishing without consistently having to knock your side out of the way to accomplish those ends whenever it goes against your books, traditions, and peculiar moral systems. It is a wise idea.

“This is not the fight that most conservative Christians I know (including me!) want to have. But it’s the fight that has been brought to us, and is brought to us every day.”

As an older gay man, I am going to have to disagree with this part. Your side did start this battle. There was a time in the nineties where I supported Civil Unions for gay people instead of marriage and most Christians of the nineties opposed this, vehemently. Some in recent time even opposed it. I distinctly remember a Life Site News article calling for Christians to oppose it as recently as 2014.

Your side made it necessary to destroy you. I remember a time when people considered homosexuality and pedophilia synonymous thanks to the effort of your for-bearers to slander us with bad studies and abused statistical correlations that I find myself still arguing against online to this day.

That said, for me at least, there are no hard feelings. We are at war, after all. All’s fair when it comes to destroying your enemies, right? I am not above dishing out low blows to your side from time to time.

Dreher is wise enough to see that there can be no coexistance between us. I think your side is evil and you think my side is evil.

[NFR: “Your side made it necessary to destroy you.” Well, there we are. — RD]

#20 Comment By J On February 23, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

I think that she is speaking an entirely different language. The very concepts in the book are foreign to her. This shows the very reason for the book and idea in the first place.

#21 Comment By Brendan from Oz On February 23, 2017 @ 6:09 pm

@Lllurker:

Personally I use the Drew Carey line: “The fact that I am unattractive to weomen does not necessarily mean that I’m gay.”

Google “I’m 50 and never had a girlfriend.” Your uncle simply may have had self-esteem issues or just not be attractive to women. Perhaps he was gay, perhaps not.

Some of us are just sad old men who were sad young men, not angry or violent towards women, but not gay. Being a socially awkward and/or unattractive techno-geek is what it is, for instance.

And the notion that Celibacy is tragic or sexually deviant is weird. IMHO, of course.

#22 Comment By Oakinhou On February 23, 2017 @ 6:39 pm

[NFR: Oh, this is happening to a friend of mine who works for a major international corporation, in their NYC office. Over and over, they get solicitations from HR to declare themselves LGBT allies. — RD]

The amount of emails “from the Office of the CEO” that I got to contribute to United Way in my 10 billion in revenue, operations in 20 countries, energy company will probably dwarf the ones he gets to become an LGBT ally.

I never gave a dime. I just deleted the emails as they arrived.

I made it to senior management. I was just one of the few that didn’t have a United Way Thank You plaque in the wall. And never, ever, anybody asked me about my lack of a plaque.

So I honestly doubt the pressure he says he is under would have any negative repercussion if he just ignores it.

Now, i have the fear that instead of ignoring it, he really, really, wants to loudly make his position known. Depending on how he “makes his position known, that might probably cross the line into workplace harassment. Just if I had stood up in the cafeteria about United Way

#23 Comment By Oakinhou On February 23, 2017 @ 6:47 pm

[NFR: “Your side made it necessary to destroy you.” Well, there we are. — RD]

Rod, in 2005, when you lived and worked in Dallas, you had the chance to vote for or against in the Proposition 2 referendum:

“Article 1, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution, as amended, states:[1]
(a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.
(b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

Since Proposition 2 also banned Civil Unions, which you say you always supported, did you vote against Proposition 2 (You might remember also that your newspaper at the time actually supported the No)?

So, when the time came, as they say “Dad, what did you do on the war?”

[NFR: I honestly don’t remember how I voted on that one, but I did not “always” support civil unions, so I could have voted for Prop 2. But I recall that I came to that position much earlier than other social conservatives. — RD]

#24 Comment By Oakinhou On February 23, 2017 @ 6:51 pm

@Philip

““And why do you think this is not an issue, but Churches being forced to perform same sex marriages are? After all, if sex and sexual orientation are protected categories, it means thAt straight people are protected, and why would bigots stop two loving divorced opposite sex people to marry in a Catholic Church.”

I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re getting at. What do I think is not an issue?”

I apologize for being a lit coy, but i meant was, why are you concerned that two gay people will force the Church to marry them, but you probably have never been concerned that two divorced opposite sex people will force the Catholic Church to marry them?

The legal arguments for one or the other are exactly the same. And the Church’s legal protections against it are the same too

#25 Comment By Perichoresis On February 23, 2017 @ 10:36 pm

Zack S: “All’s fair when it comes to destroying your enemies, right?”

Uh, actually, no. To accept that is to accept moral nihilism.

#26 Comment By Carlo On February 23, 2017 @ 11:52 pm

Zack S.:

“we in the culture at large can focus on scientific/social advancement and human flourishing”

Ah, ah, that was the funniest thing I read this month. Where do you live? I live near New York, and the last thing I see is secularist liberalism producing human flourishing.

#27 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 24, 2017 @ 3:17 am

Two cases.

1) When HR asks people to sign up as “LGBT allies” and help out at the next Pride march, I silently decline to do so.

3) I silently decline to attend a co-worker’s same-sex marriage.

Here’s the question:

In your vision for America, do I get to keep my job?

In both cases, yes.

As others have noted, that may not be the law in many places (employment-at-will generally means you can be fired for any reason or no reason, other than specific reasons such as race that are forbidden), but I’m all for the principle that employees should not suffer adverse job consequences for private political or religious views, as long as such are not germane to the job at hand.

So as long as you aren’t working for e.g. a gay rights advocacy group (where there is a reasonable expectation that employees support the LGBT movement) or a conservative religious organization (which might reasonably expect its staff oppose same), whether or not you are an “LGBT ally” ought be none of the boss’s business. The company is entitled to spend its money on political causes it supports, but what you do with your own money and your own time is your business.

And likewise for a co-worker’s wedding (or even the boss’s wedding). You should (assuming said nuptials are off the clock) be able to accept or decline, and if the latter, with no reason given.

Of course, the same should apply if the boss is a conservative Christian, assuming the job and the company is secular in nature. A boss insisting that you go to church, or donate to the GOP, or attend a high wedding mass in a church you disapprove of, is equally out of order.

As noted above, this isn’t the law in many places–but I think a general principle of off-the-clock privacy is an excellent addition to labor law. It’s obnoxious when conservative bosses attempt to stiff-arm employees or punish them for perceived sins, it’s equally obnoxious when liberals do it.

#28 Comment By Lllurker On February 24, 2017 @ 7:37 am

Brendon: “Google “I’m 50 and never had a girlfriend.” Your uncle simply may have had self-esteem issues or just not be attractive to women. Perhaps he was gay, perhaps not.”

Maybe I should have just said “I’m pretty sure my great uncle was gay” and left it at that. I spotted the way that sounded right before I posted but was to tired at the time to sort it out.

Incidentally my point stands even if I was completely wrong about him. His individual case is irrelevant to the impact that the society wide shunning has had on gays and lesbians.

Celibacy tragic? I don’t view it that way. Permanent life-long celibacy enforced by the law or the culture? I suppose I’m with the libertarians on that. And of course it was just one aspect of a package deal that was in fact tragic.

On a different but related subject I do view how it is handled with priests — prohibiting them from marrying and having a family — as a case of the church demanding an unnecessary sacrifice. Yes of course they do make the choice of their own free will but I’m not convinced it is the best approach or even a smart approach.

#29 Comment By Oakinhou On February 24, 2017 @ 8:12 am

[NFR: I honestly don’t remember how I voted on that one, but I did not “always” support civil unions, so I could have voted for Prop 2. But I recall that I came to that position much earlier than other social conservatives. — RD]

I apologize for coming back to this, but when Civil Unions first came forth (VT and NJ come to my mind) they were a compromise to accommodate the needs of LGBT people, a compromise that was also flatly rejected and taken off the table by social conservatives in referendum after referendum.

Social conservatives rejected the compromise that was offered, at a time when that compromise made sense. It’s too late to say now “Can we go back to that civil unions proposal you made –and I rejected- where you only get half the loaf, instead of the whole marriage thing?”

What I’m trying to say is that there were many opportunities for social conservatives, when they were winning referenda with 75% majorities, to have set a system that would have protected both “marriage” and LGBT families. But the 75% YES votes went to their heads. Social conservatives did not offer peace on their terms because they were confident they could crush the opposition.

Tl/dr, yes, social conservatives had a chance to settle, and chose further war. And now we are here.

[NFR: Nonsense. This is such a canard. The state of California did offer civil unions that were the total equivalent of marriage, except for the name. That wasn’t good enough for LGBT activists. — RD]

#30 Comment By Lllurker On February 24, 2017 @ 8:28 am

Bernie: “Not I…never. I’d tell my boss that I had an irreconcilable conflict to which I had committed before I knew of his wedding, and it makes it impossible for me to attend his wedding. I’d then assure him of my friendship and loyalty. (The conflict would be my conscience, which I will not mention.)”

The Satan reference wasn’t meant to be literal it was just to make a point. Though I suppose in a country with north of 300 million people it does happen.

The point really is that people around you who are not orthodox or Christian or anything are also making situational sacrifices. There’s a difference between the way things ought to be and the way things are and we each must choose which battles to fight. And the stakes can vary dramatically. Some people are in desperate straights, have no leverage in the employment marketplace, and are in a situation where legal action or even making some sort of stand on principle is laughably out of reach. One can also be in a situation that is the complete opposite of desperate, yet be at a point in your career where a particular boss is positioned to determine how the rest of your career is going to play out. In the lived world declining invitations from coworkers is quite a different kettle of fish from doing the same with a boss, and every situation is unique.

There are talented people who stumble over these small things for their entire career and wonder why they never get the same opportunities as others. Also there are people who are in a vulnerable position that would make it foolish to not take things like this into consideration when making decisions.

#31 Comment By Phillip On February 24, 2017 @ 8:54 am

Hi Oakinhou,

Thanks for clarifying.

I guess it’s because I haven’t read any rumblings recently about divorced people suing the Catholic Church for a marriage ceremony, but I have seen some mutterings about such from gay people.

I’m not very plugged in to mainstream LGBT culture (surprise), so I don’t know how widespread or accepted that sentiment is.

However, would you (or anyone else) care to recommend a mainstream LGBT site (The Advocate?). I would genuinely like to understand better those perspectives, but I currently wouldn’t be able to distinguish between a good site and a fringe one.

#32 Comment By Bernie On February 24, 2017 @ 9:41 am

Lllurker: I was primarily talking about attending my boss’s gay wedding – I thought your reference to Satan probably wasn’t literal. I don’t judge the consciences of others; I’m responsible only for my own. I see my attendance at a gay wedding as a public witness that I approve of gay marriage, which I don’t. In my mind it is being complicit in approving of something I think is prohibited by scripture. Others will come to different conclusions, and I respect that fact. I actually agree with you about the risk, difficulty, and awkwardness my belief involves. I was in HR for 28 years, and believe me when I tell you I can empathize with you regarding the sensitivity of this matter. In a perfect world, each employee should follow his conscience in such personal matters, and all employees should try to treat each individual’s decision with tolerance, if not respect. But I know we don’t live in a perfect world. Work in HR for 28 years and that’s the one truth you’ll learn.

#33 Comment By Perichoresis On February 24, 2017 @ 11:08 am

Oakinhou: “social conservatives had a chance to settle, and chose further war. And now we are here.”

That’s bunk; if LGBT activists had truly been interested in equality instead of affirmation, they would have endorsed the libertarian position of getting government out of the business of issuing marriage contracts entirely (see [6])

Conservatives with an anti-government bent could have been persuaded on that. But the activists instead chose to go for the Orwellian redefinition of an objective concept.

#34 Comment By Lllurker On February 24, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

[NFR: Nonsense. This is such a canard. The state of California did offer civil unions that were the total equivalent of marriage, except for the name. That wasn’t good enough for LGBT activists. — RD]

So I wasn’t in the middle of this and I don’t know the particulars of the battles that transpired, but I think there are lessons in all of this. If you view civil unions as a sort of pressure release valve that might have been used as an alternative to keep traditional marriage in place, you have to also realize that one can’t wait until moments before the whole contraption is ready to explode before you decide to install the pressure relief valve.

Meaning that if civil unions were in fact the preferred outcome (which I know they really weren’t) had they been pushed much earlier, years or even a decade earlier than they were — and pushed by the Right — I don’t think there is much question that the approach could have succeeded.

The socially conservative Right is in the habit of approaching politics with the underlying assumption that if they gin up enough concern out in the pews they can win the day by using the politics of brute force. At some point there will come a realization that it just isn’t that way anymore. But once that is fully accepted as fact it will become apparent that there still remains a truly outsized ability to influence political outcomes, but that it will require a different approach.

It looks to me like accepting the loss of political clout may require a sort of collective grieving process, along with or even apart from what is transpiring regarding the big cultural losses. After that the needed changes in approach will start to become apparent. One aspect is to recognize that going forward more emphasis must be placed on establishing a high level of credibility within the broader society.

#35 Comment By Perichoresis On February 24, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

Llurker: “The socially conservative Right is in the habit of approaching politics with the underlying assumption that if they gin up enough concern out in the pews they can win the day by using the politics of brute force”

That better described the current whipping up of progressives into an unhinged frenzy. The problem for them will be that they will soon pine for the day when social conservatives were the primary opposition (who are constrained in the means they might use by the admonitions of Christian ethics). The populist/nationalist secular alt-right, which is pushing social conservatism to the back in term of the politics of the right, appears to agree with the progressive left that the ends justify any and all means.

#36 Comment By Gregory On February 24, 2017 @ 8:44 pm

@Forester

These facts make it hard for orthodox Christians to get their message across. Maybe it’s me, but I’ve been reading you almost daily for years and in spite of your many explanations and my desire to understand, I still don’t get it, why homosexuality is more important than the other sins.

Seriously. Mr. Dreher, perhaps you should write about cohabitation. I’m 30, and I think perhaps five percent of the people around my age chose not to cohabitate. The other ninety-five percent include a lot of people who call themselves Christians. There are far, far more couples choosing to live together outside of marriage (which must of course be an equally serious sin) than there are homosexuals in this country. Why not write about them week after week?

With that said, I think the reviewer was unfair to your book. She brought a pretty strong ideological commitment to her review, and I think it was weak as a result.

#37 Comment By Perichoresis On February 25, 2017 @ 10:04 am

Gregory: “There are far, far more couples choosing to live together outside of marriage (which must of course be an equally serious sin) than there are homosexuals in this country. Why not write about them week after week?”

Maybe because there is not an organized movement of activists for co-habitating people cracking down on religious liberty. If a florist refused to do an arrangement to celebrate a “co-habitation” ceremony their business would not be shut down.

#38 Comment By JonF On February 26, 2017 @ 7:53 am

Re: The state of California did offer civil unions that were the total equivalent of marriage, except for the name.

I do believe the poster was referring to an earlier period, pre-Goodridge decision. The CA business happened quite late in the game at a time when SSM was already established in several states. And during the 00s it was abundantly clear that the Social Right would target civil unions as well as SSM, writing bills with such vague and sweeping language that ion some states same sex business partnerships would have been disallowed by a literal reading of these laws.

#39 Comment By fred On February 28, 2017 @ 2:29 pm

I waited a while intentionally, I hope you’ll read this but it doesn’t spur controversy. I was disappointed in Emma Green over her review, because the picture she paints of you doesn’t match what I’ve read from you on this site. She lost some of my trust with this.
But I read your “The Endless Culture War From The Left” on the way here, and I’m really disturbed by your “if not for the color of her skin, she could find scholarship help” comment. I don’t even know how to interpret this coming from you. So I won’t. My deepest belief is that talented students should get the education they need. Strike that: the education we need. I think it’s in everyone’s interest. Not only the best (too tough to tell that early anyway), but all who could contribute. Denial of education to those who can benefit from it is what strikes me as unjust, no matter how you allocate the precious places that remain once you have given tribute to the rich or powerful.