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Morality or Mammon?

Yes. This. What we are seeing now, unfolding at breakneck speed, is the fracturing of the conservative political coalition. As I said the other day, when the Republican governor of Arkansas can flip-flop overnight when Wal-mart executives clear their throats, you know once and for all who wields the real power in the Republican Party.

Jennifer Steinhauer in the NYT reports: [2]

 In Indiana, the Republican mayor of Indianapolis argued against the law the Republican governor had signed. In Ohio, a group called the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry tried to remove antigay language from the party platform. In Arkansas, the Republican governor faced a backlash from business and asked the Republican-led legislature to recall a bill seen as discriminatory to same-sex couples.

The Republican Party [3] is in the middle of an argument with itself.

State laws seen as discriminatory against gay couples have laid bare and intensified longtime divisions in the party between social conservatives opposed to gay rights and the pro-business wing of the party that sees economic peril in the fight.

Here is what is most telling about this moment, politically: Republican politicians do not know how to talk about religious liberty. They end up like Mike Pence on Stephanopoulos, tongue-tied and mute in the face of the word “discrimination.” They clearly haven’t thought through this issue, and figured out a way to speak persuasively to libertarians and business conservatives, as well as to social and religious conservatives. There is a profound tension between gay rights and religious liberty, one that cannot be elided. But it would be nice to hear Republican leaders make an attempt to defend religious liberty as a bedrock American value, one that has to be balanced with gay rights. The compromise won’t fully satisfy anybody, but this is a clash of fundamental constitutional principles. That so many Republican leaders were unable to articulate a defense of religious liberty, and caved so quickly to the liberal-business critique, tells us a lot about these guys and what they really value, and think about.

Shannen Coffin, writing in NRO, wants to know where all the Republican bigs who signed a friend of the court brief on behalf of legalizing same-sex marriage are today. [4]Excerpt:

But the payoff in the brief comes in the last sentence of this passage: “In a tolerant society, the right to marry can and should coexist with the right to disagree respectfully and to decline to participate as individuals based on sincerely held religious beliefs.” This is precisely the issue that has drawn the wrath of the gay-rights and corporate communities that is befalling Mike Pence and Indiana’s religious-freedom statute. According to the signatories of the brief, in a pluralistic society, gay marriage can and should coexist with the right to worship as one pleases, both in church and in one’s everyday life (including, yes, in business). So a small business can be tolerant of differences in sexual orientation while also refusing to cater to a homosexual wedding ceremony, for instance. And, importantly, the decision about “whether and how to participate in marriages between persons of the same sex” should be up to the individual and “the government should not intervene in those decisions.”  Notably, most of this discussion is contained in a footnote to the brief. But it should not be a footnote to the public debate raging in Indiana and Arkansas. If the signers of this brief held these views a month ago, where are they today, when the outrage of Apple, Starbucks, Walmart, and the Twitter universe have befallen the lawmakers who seek to defend religious liberties with the very sort of laws that these proud friends of the court claim are needed to protect religious freedom?

We have a Party of Lust on one side, and a Party of Greed on the other. For Christians, both are deadly sins. Unfortunately, many of us will feel compelled to take our chances with the GOP because they’re just embarrassed by us, and unlike the other guys, don’t actually despise us.

The Republican Party, as we are often reminded, is not a church. So what is the excuse of the Catholic bishops of Indiana’s lack of leadership on this issue? R.R. Reno, the (Catholic) editor of First Things, is disgusted [5] by their weaselly statement calling for “dialogue.” Excerpts:

Some months ago, I predicted [6] that Catholicism in America would basically accommodate itself to whatever sexual regime dominates our society. The accommodation won’t be explicit. The Church won’t endorse homosexuality or gay marriage. Instead, the bishops will step aside, avoid controversy, and just stop talking about things that carry a high price for dissent. This duck-and-cover non-statement fits perfectly into this trajectory.

More:

I’m all for sober, dispassionate, and non-partisan church leadership that stays focused on core moral and religious principles rather than allowing itself to be drawn into the partisan fray. But connection to reality is important too. Right now the propaganda against the Indiana RFRA has made it clear that any resistance to the magisterium of the gay rights movement will be denounced as anti-American bigotry. Can the Church survive as a public institution in such a context without capitulating?

What they should have done is patently obvious. We need religious leaders to denounce the hyperbolic propaganda for what it is and express unequivocal support for the Indiana RFRA. Such a statement would reflect a sober assessment of what best serves the common good and promises to protect, however imperfectly, the freedom of Christians (and Jews and Muslims and others) to teach, educate, and serve in accord with traditional moral teaching about sex, family, and marriage.

These are times of testing. Some are failing the test. And it matters.

120 Comments (Open | Close)

120 Comments To "Morality or Mammon?"

#1 Comment By Richard Parker On April 3, 2015 @ 1:36 am

So it all boils done to that you never get to say, “Ahhhh, I don’t think so…”

#2 Comment By Richard Parker On April 3, 2015 @ 1:45 am

The Culture War was lost on your TV screens. When commercial TV got so bad you could no longer bare to watch it, your children were in front of it, parked, riveted night after night after night.

#3 Comment By Elmwood On April 3, 2015 @ 2:49 am

i think the bishops’ joint statement makes it clear that the church has a nuanced approach to this controversy, that homosexual couples due to their dignity as people deserve those things that all people deserve in light of being human, i.e. jobs, healthcare, education.. etc. however, marriage is not one of them, it’s a sacrament and the protection for people who have sincerely held religious beliefs that opposes same sex marriage should be respected.

#4 Comment By David M On April 3, 2015 @ 3:23 am

@Thursday: “The problem is that liberals don’t understand religion, so they can’t believe that anyone could sincerely believe that gay sex is wrong, for religious or any other reasons.”

We don’t care that you think it’s wrong. Why should we? Your completely sincere beliefs on this matter are irrelevant.

The whole point to this is that there are a lot of different religions across the country, but their rules only apply to their own members. It’s long been obvious to most people that everyone is better off if we’re willing to both treat people equally and mind our own business when appropriate.

#5 Comment By The Sicilian Woman On April 3, 2015 @ 4:07 am

“The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”
St. Athanasius, Council of Nicaea, AD 325 attributed.

(I’d thought this was a Dante quote.)

Some months ago, I predicted that Catholicism in America would basically accommodate itself to whatever sexual regime dominates our society. The accommodation won’t be explicit. The Church won’t endorse homosexuality or gay marriage. Instead, the bishops will step aside, avoid controversy, and just stop talking about things that carry a high price for dissent. This duck-and-cover non-statement fits perfectly into this trajectory.

He’s right. There’s been a massive failure on the part of most of our bishops and so-called, “Princes of the Church” who are to guard the faith, not their privileged lifestyles. Yeah, Timothy “Rainbow Flag” Dolan, I’m talking to you. John Cardinal O’Connor was the last semblance of Catholic leadership that the Archdiocese of New York has had. I wish I’d appreciated him while he was alive.

#6 Comment By L617 On April 3, 2015 @ 6:54 am

1. Being gay, I would never want someone to bake my wedding cake who didn’t want the job, I’d move on and find someone who would

2. I find distressing the dehumanizing way the IN law was revised: because it was perceived as bad for business, not because it was insulting, even to a minority – we are no longer citizens to the GOP, merely consumers

3. By extending typical RFRA provisions to non-state actions, by greatly expanding religious protection far beyond Hobby Lobby, and by not carving out civil rights cases, the IN law WAS NOT similar to other state RFRAs. Stop perpetuating that misinformation.

#7 Comment By Frank Stain On April 3, 2015 @ 8:20 am

The problem is that liberals don’t understand religion, so they can’t believe that anyone could sincerely believe that gay sex is wrong, for religious or any other reasons.

Thursday: This is self-deception. People tell themselves all kinds of stories about the elevated and sincere motives that lead them to protect their own interests. As a fan of Jonathan Haidt, you should appreciate that. This is the famous rider and elephant metaphor. Of course, your rider wants to believe that there are sincere and elevated motives behind your desire to deny gays their full civil and social rights. But your elephant knows better. This is all about protecting group privilege, and not a lot to do with sincerely held religious beliefs.

#8 Comment By Pilgrim On April 3, 2015 @ 8:34 am

I think Eve Tushnet’s Small Thoughts on Indiana are good. I have had the same one, about just baking the cake and taking the pictures for free. Her thought about compelled art, which I take as turning cakes and photos into propaganda for the empowered side, is fascinating, to me. Sorry if this is a non sequitur, but I refusing to charge relates to removing the sting from mammon, a bit.

#9 Comment By Rob G On April 3, 2015 @ 10:10 am

“This is all about protecting group privilege, and not a lot to do with sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Frank Stain, you just proved Thursday’s point. Thanks for that.

#10 Comment By Chris 1 On April 3, 2015 @ 11:38 am

The Culture War was lost on your TV screens. When commercial TV got so bad you could no longer bare to watch it, your children were in front of it, parked, riveted night after night after night.

TV is an old-person’s medium, no-one under 35 watches TV any more.

We now swim in a sea of bi-directional electronic communications. We don’t need no stinkin’ TV, heck we don’t even need a stinkin’ computer, but outfit ourselves with smartphones and tablets and, coming soon, apple watch!

That revolution was not televised…

#11 Comment By Gromaticus On April 3, 2015 @ 11:55 am

Man, nobody takes up the cause of Sloth anymore

[7]

#12 Comment By Loudon is a Fool On April 3, 2015 @ 12:27 pm

Shorter Frank Stain:

I don’t understand religion, therefore Thursday is a bigot.

#13 Comment By Thursday On April 3, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

There are plenty of liberals who are Christian, and some conservative Christians support gay marriage. It’s not that they don’t understand, it’s that they don’t agree with you.

They hold to MTD or some New Age frou frou version of religion. They don’t understand.

#14 Comment By Thursday On April 3, 2015 @ 1:39 pm

This is all about protecting group privilege, and not a lot to do with sincerely held religious beliefs.

How the h*** would you know? Jonathan Haidt’s work shows that liberals have no idea what conservatives are really thinking. The reverse is not true. Haidt also shows that conservatives have genuine concerns about purity which are not reducible to in group – out group distinctions.

As I have said, liberals can’t even conceive of how anyone sincerely believing that gay sex is wrong. So, of course the real motive must be lording over somebody else.

#15 Comment By Thursday On April 3, 2015 @ 1:42 pm

A lot of liberals are just ignorant of what conservatives actually think, but for others the very idea that conservatives don’t just want to lord it over others is a major threat to their world view. Frank is Exhibit A for the latter.

#16 Comment By Herb On April 3, 2015 @ 2:06 pm

“Unfortunately, many of us will feel compelled to take our chances with the GOP because they’re just embarrassed by us, and unlike the other guys, don’t actually despise us.”

Objection, facts not in evidence. I think a good part of the GOP despises us as much as the Dems do but do it quietly like the Dems do with religious blacks to not risk the votes.

#17 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On April 3, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

JoRo said:

2. He has now openly embraced the proposition that it is ENTIRELY RIGHT AND JUST for judges to decide whose religious beliefs are worthy of legal protection.

3. Why does he assume his version of Christianty is going to be protected? If the legal system can pick and choose which faiths it defends, how wil that in any way prevent the Law of Merited Impossibility?

I tend to agree that he’s not thinking through the consequences. If conservative Christians are a minority, then probability says it’s more likely a conscience would be used against them then by them.

Calvin said:

I have never supported boycotts before (largely because I am not big on trying to police the behavior of others), but it seems like it may be time to throw a brush back pitch at a strategically selected corporation or two in order to get them to realize that there are indeed costs to joining forces with the jacobites in this endeavor.

I keep telling you people to boycott Apple.

Computers are supposed to be ugly beige boxes running developer ugly software that’s unfriendly to the core. Not sleek aluminum chassis running UI’s designed by latte sippers. It’s unnatural.

#18 Comment By Richard Bundy On April 3, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

What’s the Matter with Kansas? was published ten years ago, and Thomas Frank was far from the first person to ask why social conservatives keep voting for their own families’ financial and cultural destruction. The con job has been going on for about 30 years and, despite the occasional flare-up of disgust, nearly all socons will continue to vote Republican as long as the only other option is to violate their tribal allegiance and vote for, say, an anti-choice Democrat who opposes gay marriage and tax hikes (there are plenty, especially in the state legislatures).

This isn’t going to happen on any meaningful scale because tribalism is the heart of social conservatism (it’s no accident that the Republican Party is almost entirely white and Christian). Social conservatives will continue their allegiance to the Republican party not because it works for them, but because the entire movement is defined by its opposition to liberalism… and the Democratic party is pegged as the liberal party, fairly or not.

If it makes you conservative readers feel any better, the Democratic Party craps on its leftists in a similar manner – we wanted universal single payer health care and we got the Heritage Foundation blueprint for a national health care plan. We want the reckless and immoral drone strikes to stop, but Obama became the Drone President. We want corporate political power brought to heel but, despite the occasional bit of noise from the farthest-left D’s, both parties collude to strengthen it.

I guess what I’m saying is that you can vote for either party, but neither will respond to your wishes or mine. When push comes to shove they both do what the money tells them to do and count us voters on both the left and the right as reliable suckers.

#19 Comment By sean On April 3, 2015 @ 10:00 pm

“So what is the excuse of the Catholic bishops of Indiana’s lack of leadership on this issue?”

1). A church that has homosexuals serving in it as priests (and yes Bishops) is going to vocally demand a law which allows to refusal of service at local businesses for its members.

2). What kind of moral weight or influence do you honestly think the bishops have? Is this joke? People who acted in a criminal fashion during the abuse scandals are no going to have the moral weight to speak out or do anything. That’s finished for good many years until the older generation of priests passes away. I give it about 40. That’s a useful, standard Biblical number for exile and wandering.

Perhaps next time religious conservatives in Indiana will enlists the imam for the mosque in Indianapolis to lend moral weight and influence to their cause.

#20 Comment By John On April 4, 2015 @ 12:24 pm

“I don’t worry that the gays (or anyone) don’t get cake. I do worry that pharmacists could choose whom to serve”

Yes. That is where the objection to these RFRA laws should be challenged. We need a balanced approach.

A law that in general prohibits discrimination on account of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity but then allows exemption for religious institutions and wedding-based services (since there is a religious element to them).