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For Church, Gay Rights Trump Religious Liberty

Here’s news that ought to shake small-o orthodox Christians out of their complacency regarding the future of the church in America: [1]

The majority of Americans who identify as religious say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry and oppose policies that would give business owners the right to refuse services to same-sex wedding ceremonies, according to data compiled by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Last Friday, the Washington, D.C.-based polling firm released a new analysis drawn from interviews with 40,509 Americans throughout 2016 for PRRI’s American Values Atlas.

The data [2], which has an error margin of less than 1 percentage point, finds that the majority of only three religious demographics — white evangelical Protestants, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses — said they oppose “allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.”

While 58 percent of Americans said they support same-sex marriage, 61 percent of white evangelical Protestants, 55 percent of Mormons and 53 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses signaled that they oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage, which happened in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, making it legal nationwide.

By comparison, only 28 percent of white Mainline Protestants and white Catholics, 25 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 30 percent of Orthodox Christians said they oppose allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry.

In the story, the conservative Methodist Mark Tooley says that the PRRI poll misstates what is actually at issue regarding small business owners. Nobody has sought the right to avoid selling to or otherwise serving gay customers. The disputes have all been specifically about participating in same-sex weddings. It’s an important distinction, but I think had the question been phrased more precisely, the outcome would not have been any different.

Anyway, read the whole thing.  [3] A few things about the data [2] stand out to me:

First, religion has been no bulwark against being assimilated into the world’s views on fundamental principles of Christian cosmology (i.e., how reality is constituted), Christian anthropology (i.e., portrait of what man is) and morality. As I explained earlier, [4] the gay marriage issue is what revealed the weakness of Christianity in our culture: “the gay-rights cause has succeeded precisely because the Christian cosmology has dissipated in the mind of the West.” Excerpt:

[I]s sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?

Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph Of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.

Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework.

You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).

Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the sexual revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s death as a culturally determinative force. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct. That the West was rapidly re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation was a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.

Second, the churches that have a deeper cosmology — the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox — are doing far worse in forming the understanding of their people in America than are Evangelicals. Look at the appalling numbers for white Catholics. All those culturally conservative Hispanic Catholics on whose backs some conservative Catholics think a more faithful American Catholicism will be built? The overwhelming majority favor same-sex marriage. Same with Orthodox Christians.

Somebody will eventually say in the comments thread that if the survey had focused on people who actually go to church, the numbers would look more favorable for Christian traditionalists. Probably so, but I don’t think they would be that much more favorable, and even if they were, doesn’t this just go to show that Christianity is dissipating as we move farther into post-Christianity?

Third, the data show that only a slight plurality (44 percent) of American Muslims oppose same-sex marriage. Is that not remarkable? Such is the power of American popular culture.

Fourth, these results show why the GOP Congress and President Trump are not likely to do anything substantive to protect the religious liberty of believers who dissent from LGBT orthodoxy. Though it’s the right thing to do, doing it would not be popular. In fact, it would tar Congressmen and senators with the scarlet letter of bigotry (“bigotry”), and for no political gain. Trump, who favors gay marriage, doesn’t really care about religious liberty, and despite campaign promises to the contrary, certainly won’t endanger the things he does care about for the sake of taking a politically unpopular stand.

He’s promising to throw Evangelical Christians a bone by pushing for a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches from openly endorsing political candidates, or risk losing their non-profit status. As Tom Gjelten explains [5], it has been rarely enforced, but if it were to be repealed, it would have a massive impact on church fundraising for political candidates — and in turn, for the politicizing of religion.

I think it’s a terrible idea, and will corrupt the churches if it goes through. Besides, this is not remotely the kind of legislation that churches need right now. We need real religious liberty legislation, like the First Amendment Defense Act.  [6] In fact, last fall, Trump said on his campaign’s website that if Congress passes FADA, he would sign it.  [6] I doubt he will do that, but the GOP-led Congress should test him on it.

Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have promised to re-introduce FADA in the Senate. Rep. Raúl Labrador says he will do the same thing in the House. Watch what happens over the next month or so on this front. If a Republican-led Congress will not pass FADA and send it to the president’s desk, that’s game, set, match, at least on the legislative front (we’ll see what courts do later). Look at the poll numbers on this issue, though, and it’s hard to see any political upside to them doing so. Religious liberty advocates would have to depend on GOP politicians having the courage to stand on principle, even when it might cost them.

Fifth and finally, these data show where the culture is going on the issue. We small-o orthodox Christians have lost on sexuality, which led to our loss on homosexuality, which led to our loss on same-sex marriage, which is leading to our loss on gender and the natural family — and which, if Mary Eberstadt is right, will lead to the loss of religious faith. From my forthcoming book The Benedict Option [7]:

The fate of religion in America is inextricably tied to the fate of the family, and the fate of the family is tied to the fate of the community. In her 2015 book How The West Really Lost God [8], cultural critic Mary Eberstadt argues that religion is like a language: you can learn it only in community, starting with the community of the family. When both the family and the community become fragmented and fail, the transmission of religion to the next generation becomes far more difficult. All it takes is the failure of a single generation to hand down a tradition for that tradition to disappear from the life of a family and, in turn, of a community. Eberstadt is one of a long line of religious thinkers to recognize that when concrete embodiments of the relationship to God crumble, it becomes very hard to hold on to Him in the abstract.

Eberstadt makes a powerful case that we acquire religion not like information in a classroom, but more like apprentices to a craftsman. That is, we learn it by doing it, in community, most especially the community of the family. You lose the family, she contends, and you eventually lose God in all but the most nominal sense. Perhaps this is why the Bible presents to us as normative and binding what we have come to call “traditional marriage.”

These things do not occur in isolation. Things are connected. You might think you can pick and choose what to believe, based on your personal preferences. And yes, maybe some of these things don’t really matter in the long run. Maybe. But something as fundamental to Biblical religion as sexuality and the family — indeed, something as fundamental to the human experience as those things — cannot easily be changed without tectonic results.

The die is cast for American culture. Christians who are traditionalists on matters related to sexuality and the family are going to be tarred as bigots and pushed to the far margins of society. We are going to have to decide which matters more: social acceptance and material prosperity, or fidelity to the truth. Ultimately, it means having to decide between shoring up the American imperium, or creating new forms of community within which orthodox Christianity can survive.  [9]

73 Comments (Open | Close)

73 Comments To "For Church, Gay Rights Trump Religious Liberty"

#1 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 11, 2017 @ 11:43 am

I think that Christians are very permeable to those kinds of ideas because their overall tone is borrowed from Christianity.
#lovewins could have easily been a Christian motto. This is what happens when God is removed from the equation.
Something similar happened with Communism. Many workers raised as Christians welcomed the Communist message becaused it resounded with their Christian ideals and belied a Church hierarchy which, much too often, sided with the wealthy and the powerful (although not as often as per the Communist propaganda: truth is that for many centuries only the Church cared for the destitute, the orphans and the infirm).
To convey an evil message, the most effective way is to dress it in Christian clothes.

#2 Comment By DP On February 11, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

Hello everyone! (First post on this site.)

Chalk me up as another one of the Orthodox Christians who opposes gay marriage in the Church, but supports it at the state level. I guess that puts me in the 70% in your poll, but some details are missing. This is where I’m coming from:

First, I think conservative Christians need to focus less on the sins of other people and more on their own. The true way to counter gay marriage is not to argue theologically and oppose it politically, but rather to live our lives in a proper Christian way and lead by example. If we live our lives in a Godly and Christian way, that will provide a much more convincing argument for the rest of the world. Conservative Christians, by turning to politics to fight gay marriage, are putting the cart before the horse. Gay marriage is not the cause of moral decay, but a symptom of it. I agree with Rod when he says that politics will corrupt religious practice, but I think that applies to this issue as well. Plenty of us Christians angrily engage in political issues like this one while neglecting our own salvation.

I would also argue that our nation’s laws dictate that we _should_ lose this argument. I do not believe the US was founded on Judeo-Christian ideas. Sure, the majority of people were Christians of various sorts when our nation was founded, but the _ideas_ came from the Enlightenment, not Christianity. Some of our Enlightenment values overlap with Christianity. (I actually can’t think of a single Enlightenment idea that supports Christianity. Help?). Some fit with a Christian society, but really derive from natural law, neither supporting nor contradicting Christianity (e.g. freedom of speech). Many of our American/Enlightenment values directly conflict with Christianity (individualism, utilitarianism, materialism, even the American Dream itself). In this case, do we really have a solid, secular argument for denying a certain group of people access to a financial benefit? We don’t live in a country like Greece or Saudi Arabia, so explicitly religious arguments can’t work, can they?

If I could wave a magic wand and implement my own fix, I would make the state have nothing to do with marriage at all. Let marriage be completely in the realm of the Church, and let the courthouse have nothing to say about it. Give people tax breaks for having children, not for getting married. If someone wants to create a church where they can marry a cactus, so be it. This would isolate religion from the corrupting influence of politics.

Furthermore, I prioritize the marriage fight less than other political issues. Am I wrong? I believe that the laws and policies supporting killing other human beings — abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia/assisted suicide, and the instigation of foreign wars — are far more dangerous and damaging. Our society is creating a culture, not of accepting death, but of accepting killing, and that seems far more dangerous than gay marriage.

I’m also more worried about laws preventing Christians from being doctors, artists, humanitarians, government employees, and so on. Our society is gradually (though steadily) outlawing public expression of religious belief in any form, and we will soon have many professions devoid of religious presence because religious people have been banned. This is a greater threat than gay marriage laws, because it prevents Christians and other religious groups from practicing their religion fully (which means publicly for most religions). These laws will prevent us from living Christian lives and setting a good example, and that’s, again, far more dangerous and damaging than allowing gay people to marry.

I’m curious how the BenOp relates to this problem, whether it will provide a safe haven for people to practice their religion, or whether severe religious liberty laws could quash it. I don’t really know what the BenOp is yet, so I guess those questions will be answered when the book comes out. =]

#3 Comment By Jones On February 11, 2017 @ 2:51 pm

The thing that truly and utterly boggles my mind, is the extent to which people seem to believe that somehow this is all due to politics. I genuinely don’t get it. Can a people practice and live out a set of beliefs, without those beliefs being imposed by law? I don’t see why not. Outside of a small set of cases, the genuinely few cases where there are potential infringements on religious liberty, the law is not imposing an alternative morality, but letting people do as they will.

If that’s not enough to save the culture, then isn’t that a problem of culture? How can it possibly have a political solution? How are laws forcing people to comply with Christian beliefs about marriage, abortion, etc. going to save Christianity?

This seems to be the assumption underlying all religious activism and all the angst about the Supreme Court, but it seems to be essentially wrong.

#4 Comment By James Thompson On February 11, 2017 @ 3:38 pm

Just a quick thought. Isn’t a church marriage the marriage before God? The civil marriage is a contract between to individuals to share financial obligations and pay mutual taxes. Basically a binding contract only nothing more. You can be married before God and not be civilly married and vis a vie.

#5 Comment By sadly anonymous On February 11, 2017 @ 5:07 pm

You know, so much depends on the phrasing, and how the interviewee interprets the questions. For example, I, an Orthodox Christian who fully embraces the Church’s view of sexual morality, would say yes, I support the “right” of gay and lesbian people to marry – but I guarantee you I don’t mean by that what the interviewer means. I absolutely deny that two men, or two women, can in any meaningful way constitute a married couple. What I mean by “yes” to that question is that a person who is living with, or has lived with, same-sex attraction has every right to seek to live a life in accordance with God’s will for human beings, which (in some cases, not all) includes marriage. There are many, many examples of heroic, faithful people who have done this and made it work. (I don’t have time to seek out links to all the stories I’ve read about this over the years, but the stories are out there for those who wish to hear them.)

I can’t believe I’m the only one who would answer such a question in this way. If asked outright, do two men have the “right” to marry each other, I’d say no – nobody can have the “right” to something that cannot exist – and no, something doesn’t get willed into existence just because Anthony Kennedy says so.

(I’m staying anonymous here – these opinions can be dangerous in my line of work.)

#6 Comment By Anne On February 11, 2017 @ 5:54 pm

Protestants, including those who’ve converted to Catholicism and Orthodoxy, may not get it, but I think a good part of the reason cradle Catholics and perhaps even (or even especially) cradle Orthodox respond this way to poll takers is that we long ago came to consider civil marriage wholly separate from what’s expected of us. While Catholics at least Seriously. I know that, back in the good old preconciliar “ghetto” days of American Catholicism, most Catholics in America came to think, as the rules that still apply encourage them to think to this day, namely, that the rules governing civil marriage may be whatever secular law and a majority of the nation’s citizens want them to be, because ultimately they’re not the rules we follow, since the Church long ago reserved the right to decide marriage matters separately for us. In other words, on matters of marriage, rendering to Caesar became automatic several generations ago. If a majority of Americans think same-sex couples should have the same right to legal marriage as everone else, so be it. The Church has its own rules based on what it understand to be God’s will, but these can only be applied to its own.

Fighting the state over marriage issues was abandoned some time back. Why pick another losing battle. If we’re going to live peacefully in a pluralistic democracy, why not treat SSM the same way we treat civil divorces and remarriages, marriages between former in-laws and other such matters the Church long ago decided to simply ignore?

#7 Comment By Anne On February 11, 2017 @ 6:00 pm

Sheesh. I keep inadvertently proving the need for an edit function. Please ignore those words “While Catholics at least” left floating in my last comment. I had meant to delete them. Sigh.

#8 Comment By Anne On February 11, 2017 @ 6:25 pm

As an addendum to what I said above, I’ve talked to a number of Millenial-age Catholics who definitely do believe same-sex marriage should be a civil right. But even they say they understand that the Church should not have to perform marriages it doesn’t believe in. They’re generally divided on how or why the Church itself should change, but to them that’s not the issue. They think rightwing Catholics and other “extremists” are simply trying to impose their views on others. In fact, they consider the uproar over SSM to be just part and parcel of a larger movement by people who are basically homophobic, racist and embarrassing to be mistaken for because they’re aligned with the same Church. Sorry, but that seems to be the way it appears to most young people, even Evangelicals, including those who go to church.

[NFR: Those young people will not be in church any longer when they’re older. And if somehow they are, their children surely won’t be. — RD]

#9 Comment By Chutney On February 12, 2017 @ 12:12 am

I grew up in the fiery crucible of the deep south during a time of intense racial conflict and fever pitched international political unrest in a white Southern Baptist household. I went to Sunday School devoutly every weekend for most of my early childhood. My favorite song was “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. One line in particular stuck in my mind. It went, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Among my earliest memories is a particular event that took place on a city bus in Mobile, Alabama in 1958. The driver of the bus my parents took me on was yelling what I would later identify as obscenities at the over crowded rear section of the bus.

The back of the bus was the only portion that members of the black or brown community was allowed to ride. And, many of those restricted to the back of the bus were literally falling over each other as the bus lurched through the city. At one point, the driver exclaimed “Cursed are the sons of Ham!” as he slammed on the brakes sending the people in the overcrowded back section sprawling on the floor. Several of those people were injured and many were ejected from the bus for crossing the white line on the floor of the bus.

In 1966, I admitted in public what was a secret to those outside of my family, that I was half Native American. I was removed from my class in the main building of the school I attended and placed in a small modular building with a class of other ‘brown children’. My textbooks were taken from me, as was my band instrument.

I found myself denied the right to eat lunch in the school cafeteria. Nor could I use any of the water fountains at school. There was a hose bib with a short section of rubber hose for us all to use. My lunch was unceremoniously thrust at me from a tiny portal in the brick wall at the back of the building. There was a small wooden plaque painted with the phrase “Pray to be forgiven” fixed over that portal.

In the warmth of a spring day in 1968, a man was gunned down because he had had the audacity to say “I have a dream” in the hearing of an entire nation and try to lead people to accept one another as being truly equal. He was, I was taught in school, a trouble making rebel rouser that was bent on bringing down the very foundations of American society. His death was supposed to have been for the greater good of all.

That same year, in the summer of 1968, my father took me to see a preacher in an effort get help with an affliction that medicine had no cure for. You see, I had trusted my father when he assured me that I could be honest with him. That I could tell him anything. He had asked me if I liked girls. He was concerned about me because I preferred to stay clean and not play in the dirt like other boys. I kept a sparkling shine on my shoes and my hair neatly combed, my clothes neatly pressed. And, there were those haunting words of barber after barber kept coming back to plague him. “You know that boy’s cowlick swirls the wrong way. If you don’t keep a close eye on that son of yours, he’s going to turn out to be one of those girly boys.”

I’m not going to go into the details of what was done to me in the basement of that church. Nor, am I going to go into details of the hundreds of hours of prayer I suffered. Suffice it to say that such actions today would find those responsible peering out at the world through narrow gaps between bars of iron. For many years, I believed as I was told, that I was born defective in the eyes of God. Such were the words of those men claiming to be His representatives to me. I had, they claimed, accused God of making a mistake when I told my father that I was not actually a boy. Never once had I made such a claim as that. I merely stated that I did not feel like a boy. I did not like boys clothes. Nor, did I like crawling around in the dirt with trucks and plastic army men. I liked dolls, to draw and paint, cook and sew. I always had and still do to this day.

Like most any child, all I ever wanted was love and acceptance from my father. I did everything I could to gain that love, masculine hobbies, dangerous jobs, dating girls once I was old enough. I even married and gave him the grandchildren he craved enough to threaten my life over, should I fail. My marriage failed, not for lack of love, concern or even trying. My disgust with myself led me to attempt suicide on more than one occasion. I moved far away from my family and the south. The stress of my rejection of self eventually wrecked my health. No, I never succumbed to the use of drugs or alcohol as had my father the preacher. At the age of 59, I found myself lying in a cardiac ICU unit bed with a doctor nervously fumbling his way through an explanation of medical facts of how the chemistry of my body was at odds with itself. How literally in every other way, even though I looked and sounded like a 6’2”, deep voiced, broad shouldered male, I was really a woman after all. All I could do was to smile and sigh in relief.

Maybe, just maybe, what we are witnessing with the changing spirituality of modern society is self inflicted. If a man can be driven insane from the incessant dripping of water on his face, or die from the pain of a thousand cuts. Why can’t a religion die from two millennia of abuse, intolerance and hypocrisy?

“For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Matthew 19:12

#10 Comment By Hound of Ulster On February 12, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

The civil marriage contract is NOT the same thing as the sacrament of holy matrimony. If socons try to impose a settlement from above, they will cause a reverse for Christianity that it will never recover from. If the gay rights movement pushes to override the sacrament of holy matrimony, also from above, they will lose all of the gains they have made. It’s high time that the terminology of marriage be clarified to distinguish between the sacrament and the civil contract. That would end the debate.

#11 Comment By Joys-R-Us On February 12, 2017 @ 6:19 pm

If asked outright, do two men have the “right” to marry each other, I’d say no – nobody can have the “right” to something that cannot exist – and no, something doesn’t get willed into existence just because Anthony Kennedy says so.

You’re treading on dangerous territory. That same argument could be turned against you and your religion. Do you have a right to believe in a God who doesn’t exist? Can you ever prove that the God you believe in actually exists? If not, you’re in the same boat as the gay-married couple. You may not believe that two men could ever be married, but plenty of people don’t believe your God exists. So if you deny the right of two men to be married, you are also making it possible to deny the right to believe and practice the Christian faith.

The point is that our beliefs about God and gay marriage shouldn’t be used to set public policy. You don’t have to believe that a gay marriage constitutes a “true” marriage in God’s eyes. But by the same token, no one has to believe that your God actually exists and matters, or that your beliefs about gay marriage matter. As a practical matter, the gay marriage is a real thing, just as any secular marriage is. God’s views don’t enter the picture except on the personal level. And many people believe in a very different God than you do, with very different views on gay marriage among other things. None of that should matter in terms of public policy, however.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 12, 2017 @ 8:37 pm

That same argument could be turned against you and your religion. Do you have a right to believe in a God who doesn’t exist?

That’s not dangerous territory at all. The constitution DOES say something quite explicit about it: Congress shall make NO LAW respecting the Establishment of religion, NOR forbidding the Free Exercise thereof. Nothing derivative or speculative about it.

No God’s views don’t enter the picture of civil law. Many people who believe different things about God are all free to believe, but none to legislate.

The fact that people believe different things about same sex marriage is on a whole different plane, because it has not been singled out for protection. At best, there is an argument derived from the equal protection clause… but it is derivative, not explicitly singled out, and its rather dubious, since the 14th amendment does not require congress or anyone to treat the same two things that are unlike, or are not similarly situated. One can argue whether same-sex couples are similarly situated to opposite-sex couples… but it very much requires argument. Its not plain on the face of any constitutional clause.

#13 Comment By sadly anonymous On February 12, 2017 @ 10:26 pm

“You’re treading on dangerous territory. That same argument could be turned against you and your religion. ”

Wait, that’s satire, right? This is ALREADY HAPPENING. Anybody running a business that gets a significant portion of its revenue from weddings is being policed in exactly this way – there have been at least two well-publicized cases, and who knows how many that haven’t made it onto the media radar.

If you have run a photography business, or a floral service, or a bakery, you must participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony if someone wishes to hire you to do that, even if you consider that ceremony to be a celebration of something forbidden by the God you worship, on pain of losing your livelihood and facing utter financial ruin through hyperpunitive lawsuit damages. It doesn’t matter if you are willing to refer the customer to a reputable practitioner of the same service who does not share your values. Thus there is no damage to the customer involved – it’s purely a matter of saying “your God doesn’t exist here.” And it’s not just Christians – where I live, Muslim cab drivers are forced to carry alcohol in their taxis, even though they consider alcohol gravely immoral.

Don’t you see? Exercise (or “practice”) of religion, to a believer, extends into every corner of one’s life. Free exercise of religion doesn’t just mean getting together with like-minded people once a week and singing songs, burning incense, or whatever. SOMEBODY’S ox is going to be gored in the way you are describing. The choice our society now faces is, do we divide into hostile camps, and seek to gore the other guy’s ox in as bloody a way as we can, or do we try to seek some way to coexist (as the popular lefty bumper sticker says)? Regarding marriage, how about getting the state out of any arrangement called “marriage” altogether and having legally and financially binding civil contracts, between any number of consenting adults (including siblings or cousins), carrying all the legal benefits currently found in civil marriage? Now that’s something I could get behind.

#14 Comment By Joys-R-Us On February 13, 2017 @ 5:33 am

That’s not dangerous territory at all. The constitution DOES say something quite explicit about it: Congress shall make NO LAW respecting the Establishment of religion, NOR forbidding the Free Exercise thereof. Nothing derivative or speculative about it.

Quite true, but irrelevant when the argument is that things are only true if you believe God says so. The Constitution, after all, was not written by God. It’s not a book in the Bible. So no truly believing Christian can hide behind the First Amendment as representing some primordial truth, since that’s not the word or law of God.

So if the argument against gay marriage is that it can’t possibly be true because the God someone believes in says it can’t be true, it also means the First Amendment can’t be true either, since none of it is in the Bible. And that’s why this is a very dangerous argument to make. It not only invalidates gay marriage, it also invalidates the Constitutional protections we all enjoy.

But otherwise, you are right that we don’t really have to worry about either gay marriage or the Constitution being invalidated because of someone’s religious beliefs. I’m just pointing out a terrible flaw in this sort of argument that, if truly applied, would negate the very freedom we have to make such arguments at all, and believe what we do.

#15 Comment By Joys-R-Us On February 13, 2017 @ 5:49 am

Wait, that’s satire, right? This is ALREADY HAPPENING. Anybody running a business that gets a significant portion of its revenue from weddings is being policed in exactly this way – there have been at least two well-publicized cases, and who knows how many that haven’t made it onto the media radar

That’s not comparable. One is not required to believe a gay marriage is a “true” marriage in any religious sense, only to acknowledge that it is a civil right in our legal system. A photographer is not required to believe the marriage he photographs is “true” in some metaphysical sense. They are only prohibited from discriminating against a legal marriage because of the type of people getting married. And that would apply just as well to a gay photographer who is hired to document a fundamentalist Christian marriage ceremony. Anti-discrimination law applies across the board.

If you think a person’s religious beliefs trump (pun intended) civil or criminal law, you are once again opening up consequences you probably haven’t anticipated. You may not believe that the IRS is “true” under God’s law, but you still have to pay your taxes. That’s not a violation of your right to practice your religion, because it applies to everyone regardless of their religion. It would be different if, say, only Christians were required to photograph gay weddings or pay taxes, but that’s not what’s going on.

If you want to get rid of civil marriage just because of teh gays, you are acting out of sour grapes and bad faith. But strangely enough, you seem to want the legal construct of marriage to continue, but just call it something else. Again, because of teh gays. How does that make any sense at all, other than as a way of sneaking in a religious set of beliefs via negativa?

#16 Comment By J. H. On February 13, 2017 @ 12:15 pm

I think it’s worth noting that the top 7 states for Catholic population are all either new England or California. That is, Catholics happened to become concentrated in the areas that would be the most progressive in the country. On the other hand, the top 7 states for evangelicals are in the South, and the next ones are also the south or the west. Maybe the difference isn’t in the power of the churches but the relative power of progressivism in different areas?

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 13, 2017 @ 2:03 pm

One is not required to believe a gay marriage is a “true” marriage in any religious sense, only to acknowledge that it is a civil right in our legal system.

This is the sort of soothing, homogenizing pablum that obscures real and vital legal distinctions. IN GENERAL, there is no basis for discrimination in commerce. IN SPECIFIC, there is a firm constitutional principle that the government may not compel speech or expression. Thus, a Massachusetts public accommodations law may not compel organizers of a parade to permit a float or banner with a message the organizers do not wish to have as part of the parade. And, in those limited areas of commerce where there is actual expression of a viewpoint, no person may be compelled to participate. A Jewish baker may no more be compelled to bake a cake iced with a swastika and “Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler” than a school board in West Virginia may compel a Jehovah’s Witness to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Ditto for actual participation in a “wedding” that is contrary to one’s own religious views. Its no different than, if I own a print shop, and it means more to me than the money for the business, I can refuse to print bumper stickers for Scott Walker’s re-election.

And why would the GOP want me too? Surely they would fear getting a substandard product? There is something peculiarly vindictive in wanting to FORCE a photographer to record and arrange a permanent sentimental record of “the happiest day of our lives” who despises the whole event, rather than finding someone who will take joy and honor in the responsibility.

Quite true, but irrelevant when the argument is that things are only true if you believe God says so.

So who made that the argument? Straw man plus. The constitution has a great deal to do with what is actually going to happen, what is legally enforceable. That someone made a logically invalid argument raises no danger that the constitution will no longer apply.

sadly, anonymous volunteers to be a supplemental straw man here. No, religious EXERCISE does not trump the rights of everyone else, any more than your sexual dysphoria trumps the rights of everyone else to locker rooms limited to those unambiguously of their own sex. You don’t get your way in “every corner” of your life because “its my faith.” I have some sympathy for Muslim cab drivers who don’t want a dog desecrating their vehicle — although there are limits to my sympathy when its a seeing eye dog. But, the fact that a passenger is carrying alcohol is none of his business — nobody is asking him to either consume or purvey it, just to transport a passenger and whatever inanimate objects they may be carrying.

#18 Comment By Mia On February 13, 2017 @ 6:38 pm

“Second, the churches that have a deeper cosmology — the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox — are doing far worse in forming the understanding of their people in America than are Evangelicals.”

The ones who do better, perhaps, are more interested in Biblical fidelity than deep cosmology.

#19 Comment By Joys-R-Us On February 13, 2017 @ 9:53 pm

A photographer is not compelled to say anything in support of a wedding they take pictures of. All they do is document the event. They do not participate in it or have to give their assent to it. They would have to do the same for a Muslim or Hindu or Jewish wedding, even if they don’t believe in that religion. No different for a gay wedding.

Likewise, baking a cake doesn’t require assent to the wedding the cake is made for. Nor is renting the venue or playing in the band or any of the thousands of other minor functions and products that go into a wedding.

Now, on the practical side, I quite agree that in most cases, a gay couple wouldn’t want a photographer or a baker who hated gays to be involved at all. Which is why there are so few examples of this ever happening. We literally have the same lame arguments over and over again over the same two measly examples, repeated ad nauseum. It’s really not much of an issue at all in the real world, except in a few rare cases that everyone obsesses over. I’m sure in most cases the anti-gay photographer or baker just tells them they’re overbooked on that day and can’t do the order. And in most cases, it’s no big deal because there’s others who are happy to have the business. It’s only an issue when someone feels they need to make some sort of public stand against the gays and make a show of their “resistance”. Fine and well on some level, but on the legal level they are expose themselves to legal consequences. Or they just want all that conservative donor money that often comes streaming in. So even as they lose the legal case, which is only to be expected, they win in other ways. Which is also to be expected.

#20 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 14, 2017 @ 6:17 pm

A photographer is not compelled to say anything in support of a wedding they take pictures of. All they do is document the event. They do not participate in it or have to give their assent to it.

That is an absurd attempt to reshape the material world to conform to your own petty prejudices.

The photographer, in particular, is not a mere observer, but it creating a celebratory expressive message to record and extol the happy day for years to come. It is not a mere neutral, mechanical role. Would you want a photographer at your wedding who was merely mechanical? Hey, the bride and groom are somewhere in that photo I took, is it my fault if they aren’t front and center, nobody can see their faces, etc. etc. etc.?

Baking a cake… if someone comes in off the street and buys a generic cake off the shelf, even a generic wedding cake (if there is one kept on the shelf) then it is none of the baker’s business to inquire, “So, is this for two gays getting married?” But, if the cake is a custom ordered hand-crafted message, whether it has a big swastika frosted in Nazi colors, or “Adam and Steve, together forever in wedded bliss,” then the baker is indeed being asked to employ their art to communicate a message. And they have a constitutionally protected right to refuse. There is decades of jurisprudence about that.

It’s only an issue when someone feels they need to make some sort of public stand against the gays

Au contraire, its only an issue when some gay couple with a chip on their shoulder feels its more important to MAKE this errant bigot do their wedding than to have someone who is really with the program and will do them proud handle the baking, photography, flower arranging, etc.

Making the rather nuanced distinctions I have been arguing for about what is and is not invidious discrimination would go a long way to settle this down. The fact that some want public condemnation of all things gay to be the order of the day, while others want to cram their gayness down the nearest throat while adding “And you’d better like it” is what makes this so intractable.

A pox on BOTH your houses.

#21 Comment By Mike private On April 10, 2017 @ 3:27 am

Coming from a man who has read the old testament 3 times and the new testament 9 times.Also, a graduate of a Christian school. I also have 4 uncle’s that are Assembly of God pastors. One of my sermons was on television when I won a competition in the eighties in Kansas City. But the ONLY reason ANY so called Christian accepts this is because the devil has put blinders on these FAKE Christian’s. God says in scriptures several things about homosexuality and it also said the Bible NEVER changes! I heard a POPE and FAKE Christian pastors say that the church no longer is against the homosexuals BECAUSE that was OLD doctrine which contradicts the Bible. The Bible talks about the end times and how devil will deceive many. The Bible states there will be alot of people who learn when the get to heaven they were wrongly deceived by Satan. I am sad to say it will be too late when they learn the REAL truth!!!!

#22 Comment By JAhart On May 28, 2017 @ 9:15 pm

There is SO much to comment on here.

Let me begin with gratitude @DP above for putting to words much of what I’ve thought and said for a long time. For me, separation of church and state isn’t just a good idea: it is a good way for both to maintain their own independent integrity. As Rod Dreher pointed out, direct church involvement in fundraising for politicians seems likely to distract from their primary spiritual purpose. To Ceasar what is Ceasar’s.

From the article: “[I]s sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?”

My Christianity is founded on following Jesus the Christ, and having read and re-read, studied, prayed, meditated and multiple translations of the Bible, if sex is “the linchpin of Christian cultural order”, then that order isn’t based on the teachings of Jesus.

His teachings, and the behavior of his followers and the first Christians as recorded in the New Testament are very little about sex and sexuality. If we Christians are depending on this to give Christianity its power as a social force, perhaps we have misplaced our priorities. Even as you stated, community was the center of early Christian beliefs and practices – but not a family-centric (and certainly not a nuclear family) community. (and certainly not a nuclear family). All were held on even ground, equal in the eyes of God, regardless of gender, marriage, money or family.

@Mike private: There was no word for homosexuality in Greek or Aramaic. Try finding a translation without that word and get back to me on what you think it says.

#23 Comment By Jerry Krause On July 4, 2017 @ 9:39 pm

Fact is, same-sex marriage is on track to being reversed. On the other, whenever one violates the natural moral order established by God, one sins and offends God. Same-sex “marriage” does just this. Accordingly, anyone who professes to love God must be opposed to it. Thank you.

[NFR: Same-sex marriage is in no way on track to be reversed. If Obergefell were to be reversed next term (which is not going to happen, but let’s say it were), all that would do is send the issue back to the states. In most states it would be instantly legalized, and in the others it would be legalized within the next few years. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. — RD]