Ross Douthat has some interesting things to add to the gay rights/religious liberty argument today. He repeats his point that actual “persecution” of traditional Christians over advancing gay rights is not likely to happen, no matter what. As I’ve said, I agree with this, more or less, but only because “persecution” is such a loaded word. If by “persecution,” we mean treating Christians in this country as they are treated in, say, Egypt or Pakistan today, no, that’s not likely to happen. But at the same time, if it’s the case that Christians and other moral trads have no right to object to whatever the culture-war victors impose on them, well, I’ve got a problem with that. Losing privilege is not the same as persecution, of course, but neither is gaining privilege a guarantee that you will be fair to the losers. And though it is right that those on the losing side of a culture war should try to be proportionate in their response to defeat, it is unfair and unrealistic to expect them to accept without protest whatever terms that the victors may impose on them.
Ross goes on to say:
And what I was trying to suggest in the original column, and will state more frankly here, is that the answer is going to be up, in some sense, to people like Andrew Sullivan — to supporters of gay marriage who have conservative and libertarian inclinations, who have a deeper understanding of the moral and theological ideas in play than some of the activists to their left, who value pluralism as a real good rather than a cause to be dropped when their own side is no longer a minority, who reject oppressive political correctness and all its pomps and works, and who prefer arguing with their opponents to dismissing them as haters.
Since Sullivan wrote the post quoted above, he and Rod Dreher have been having an increasingly hostile exchange about how justified religious conservatives are in worrying/complaining about legal disfavor and cultural pressure, with Sullivan complaining about “the hysteria and self-pity among those who, for centuries, enjoyed widespread endorsement for the horrible mistreatment of gay people.”
It’s a good line, with real bite. I can’t promise Sullivan that religious conservatives will conduct themselves with salt-of-the-earth optimism rather than self-pity, and I certainly can’t wish away institutional Christianity’s past and present sins.
But I would still ask him to be clear eyed about the current drift of liberal thinking on these issues, and the legal as well as cultural dimensions of the possible controversies to come. And to the extent that they do come — well, in the name of political values he holds dear, and a faith he knows more fully than do many of its critics, I would still ask for his support.
I say amen to that, but that’s all I have to say this afternoon, because I’m tired of being part of the increasingly hostile — and increasingly pointless — exchange. Please do read all of Ross’s entry, because he points out that there is no clear, bright line between culture and law, and that this is something Andrew and his allies ought to consider more than they do.