Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why I Avoid Same-Sex Marriage Debates

 

Today at The Federalist, Dan McLaughlin has a very fine essay on the future of Christianity in America in light of the LGBT agenda. It’s the first of a five-part series, and I’m looking forward to the other installments. He prefaces it all by presenting in very clear terms the situation that confronts Christians in the United States today. Without a vigorous defense, McLaughlin says:

[B]elieving Christians in this country face a genuine existential threat: that our culture and legal systems will declare the adherence to core Christian doctrines—unchanged for millennia, directly derived from the words of Jesus and the letters of St. Paul, and in the heartland of the legitimacy of Christ’s teachings—to be outside the bounds of civilized society in the way that the Ku Klux Klan is today.

Should faithful followers of the nation’s largest religious denomination, the world’s oldest and largest church, be run out of public life? Should those of us who still believe in the words of Jesus of Nazareth be afraid or ashamed to say so in public?

Make no mistake: these are the stakes, and trying to quietly keep our heads down and stay out of trouble will not long put off the day of reckoning. They are embedded in the legal argument that there is no possible rational basis for ever finding that any distinction at all exists or ever could exist between traditional opposite-sex marriage and same-sex marriage.

I think this is just the plain and sober truth. If progressives continue to succeed in establishing their ideals as publicly accepted norms, orthodox Christians will become an underclass that is regularly subject to legally and socially approved discrimination. (Other religious groups will no doubt suffer somewhat by association, though Christians are clearly the most central target.) It’s hard to know exactly what this will mean, but there are quite a lot of historical (and, indeed, contemporary) precedents. Likely possibilities include: constrained educational and career choices, limitations on speech and worship, mandatory “tribute” to the dominant social class, and pressure to offer token support for social orthodoxies with various penalties for those who refuse. (I doubt it will come to genocide. But one never knows for certain of course, and exterminating people for their faith is by no means historically unprecedented. Not even such an aberration, sadly.)

In today’s essay, McLaughlin makes two other excellent points. First, Christian teachings about homosexuality and marriage are deeply embedded within the faith. They cannot be changed, and only very, very bad faith arguments have persuaded anyone that it is remotely possible to change them. Second, there is no reason at all to think that Christianity is out of date. Clearly, it is out of fashion. But nothing discovered by the hard or social sciences renders the Christian perspective in any way untenable. We should not allow progressives the comfort of thinking they are merely hastening the inevitable death of an obviously-outdated point of view. They are demanding the death of a perfectly tenable position, because it offends them.

I won’t rehash his arguments on this points, though I would encourage you to read them. But I did want to pull out a further point, which I myself have pressed more than once here at Ricochet. If you are opposed to this sort of oppression, it is not enough to oppose it on purely formal grounds (like “freedom of religion”), particularly if, in pressing that position, you de facto concede that Christianity is backwards, embarrassing and offensive. That argument is going to lose. If Christian teachings on sex and marriage are socially agreed to be a form of bigotry, the progressives will win, and Christianity will in various ways be suppressed. You may not per se approve, but you are helping hasten the goal if you make public arguments for the offensiveness of Christian teachings.

Now, suppose you just sincerely believe that homosexuality in general, and same-sex marriage in particular, are fine and good, and that the Christians have this one wrong. Would I ask you to pretend otherwise? No. That wouldn’t be reasonable. What I would ask is that you reflect a bit on where the cultural battle really is, and on what its implications might be.

You don’t have to change your view in order to recognize that it’s not the argument that most requires attention at this time. I mean, consider: it’s historically accurate, is it not, that “the Jews killed Jesus”? (All right, technically the Romans did, but at the demand of the Jews. Still.) But there’s a reason why it would be wildly inappropriate to make that observation in certain times and places. Many people have drawn deeply misguided social and theological conclusions from that (accurate) historical fact, which have motivated heinous injustices. So a just and conscientious person in, say, Western Europe in the earlier twentieth century, would avoid mentioning it even if he believes it to be (in the most obvious historical sense) true.

Similarly here, I think a person who genuinely values freedom should be far more concerned to support Christians (and other religious groups) against the coming onslaught than to promote more intraconservative debate about marriage. As an academic exercise, fighting about marriage can be fun, but the question of whether Christians can persuade you to share their view on marriage is kind of a sideshow to the question of whether Christianity should be suppressed. The latter is the one that is actually being decided in our society today.

This is why I’ve lately grown more inclined to avoid debating same-sex marriage in open discussion forums. I haven’t declared an unbreakable personal moratorium. I’ll happily explain the Christian position to a good-faith questioner over coffee. But I don’t want to act as though the marriage issue is just another open question that we’re all free to consider. I’m not willing to pretend anymore that rational debate has anything to do with what is happening in America today (and indeed, throughout the Western world). Christians are not losing the cultural battle because they’ve lost the argument. Their arguments are as compelling as ever, but in most “decent company” they are no longer permitted to explain them, and are often subject to censure and other penalties if they try.

If you don’t agree with the orthodox Christian position on marriage, I would ask: what would it take to persuade you to table the marriage issue itself, in the interests of supporting Judeo-Christian believers? How many Christians would need to be fired, fined or otherwise persecuted for you to decide that the marriage issue itself is really fairly secondary?

There are 246 comments.

  1. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    You don’t get it: the homosexual marriage crowd is looking at the issue as a means of getting even with the Christians for past transgressions against them. When “Ricochet” had Rod Dreher on a few weeks back, the second guest they had from LA pretty much laid it out bare: this is about getting even. Cato Rand, almost every the topic comes up, pretty much always falls back to the same position. We discriminated and now it our turn to get the pointy end of the stick. Civil disobedience is our only solution now. The country needs to see on the news Christians being jailed for speaking out against homosexuality before anything will change in our favor, or at the very least until the words in the First Amendment, “free exercise thereof,” are respected.

    • #1
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:21 PM PDT
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  2. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    I once had a US Bishop tell me that he though his generation would be the last to wear the robes of office, that his successor would wear chains, after that there would be no more U.S. Bishops. That was a decade ago, I am starting to believe that he may be right.

    • #2
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:24 PM PDT
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  3. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    A couple of months ago I suggested another way to fight–a type of guerrilla war rather than open war. In just the short time since then the direct war on Christians has escalated far more quickly than I had expected. Benedict option?

    • #3
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:29 PM PDT
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  4. Tom Garrett Member

    Excellent points. The reality is that, in some contexts, “progressive” values are mutually exclusive with traditional Christian values. The First Amendment protects religious belief in a strictly legal sense, but we’ve already seen how hostile the Left is even to this idea.

    The RFRA has, in a generation, gone from something universally hailed as a positive to a law cited as “hatred” (literally) by the Left.

    In short, this is a rhetorical war between those who think the expression of sexuality trumps everything – religion, science, all of it – and those who believe otherwise.

    I’m not even particularly religious, but I do worship at the altar of the First Amendment. As I hear more and more voices calling for the freedoms enshrined therein to be “balanced” or “limited” or “amended,” I begin to worry. And those voices are getting louder.

    • #4
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:30 PM PDT
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  5. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    Mike Rapkoch:A couple of months ago I suggested another way to fight–a type of guerrilla war rather than open war. In just the short time since then the direct war on Christians has escalated far more quickly than I had expected. Benedict option?

    What is the “Benedict Option”?

    • #5
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:30 PM PDT
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  6. Leigh Member

    The polls are asking, over and over, “Should Christian bakers be allowed to refuse to bake a cake?” “Should a business be allowed to refuse to cater a reception?”

    They miss the point: that some of these will refuse, whatever the consequence. The question is not what people think would be the nicest way for society to operate, but what society is going to do to those who will not join the consensus. Should a florist who refuses to do a wedding because of her religious convictions lose her livelihood? Be sent to jail? Or is there still a place in America for her to follow her hopes and dreams?

    Worded that way, effectively presented and argued that way, and we will still see Americans supporting religious freedom. I am sure of that. For now.

    • #6
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:38 PM PDT
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  7. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    Robert McReynolds:

    Mike Rapkoch:A couple of months ago I suggested another way to fight–a type of guerrilla war rather than open war. In just the short time since then the direct war on Christians has escalated far more quickly than I had expected. Benedict option?

    What is the “Benedict Option”?

    Rod Dreher is the chief thinker behind the Benedict Option. It was first proposed by Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue. I summarized it briefly in the linked post, but for greater detail, here’s an article by Dreher.

    • #7
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:40 PM PDT
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  8. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I wrote this on my own blog. Maybe too incendiary for Ricochet. I’d be glad of comments.

    • #8
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:43 PM PDT
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  9. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    Mike Rapkoch:

    Robert McReynolds:

    Mike Rapkoch:A couple of months ago I suggested another way to fight–a type of guerrilla war rather than open war. In just the short time since then the direct war on Christians has escalated far more quickly than I had expected. Benedict option?

    What is the “Benedict Option”?

    Rod Dreher is the chief thinker behind the Benedict Option. It was first proposed by Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue. I summarized it briefly in the linked post, but for greater detail, here’s an article by Dreher.

    Thanks. Reading now.

    • #9
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:43 PM PDT
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  10. Bob Wainwright Member

    As long as opposition to SSM is associated uniquely with Christianity, Christians will be vulnerable to this kind of persecution. But this is a failure because the argument for traditional marriage was never meant to be understood as something that can only be grasped through supernatural revelation. It’s entirely within the realm of reason, and therefore you don’t need to be a Christian to understand it. It’s not uniquely Christian in other words. Christians would still believe what they do on the matter even if the few passages in the Bible mentioning it had never been written. So I hope others stand up and stand with Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs in this area.

    • #10
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:43 PM PDT
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  11. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m trying (not always successfully) to avoid them, too, Rachel, at least until Ricochet’s radioactive rubble cools down.

    But before something really significant happened in your life recently, I suggested a diplomatic alternative for Ricochet. Your name is mentioned. Sharp-eyed readers pointed out that you are, in fact, Catholic, though the principle stays the same.

    And about that really significant event: Congratulations on the new baby, Rachel!

    • #11
    • June 8, 2015, at 7:44 PM PDT
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  12. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Rachel Lu:Now, suppose you just sincerely believe that homosexuality in general, and same-sex marriage in particular, are fine and good, and that the Christians have this one wrong. Would I ask you to pretend otherwise? No. That wouldn’t be reasonable. What I would ask is that you reflect a bit on where the cultural battle really is, and on what its implications might be.

    No need to pretend otherwise. No need to reflect. Just sign a strongly worded manifesto saying that while you’re all in favor of tearing down a bearing wall of civilization, and cheering on the wrecking crew, that you’re not responsible when the structure collapses. You’re chagrined and appalled that would happen.

    How many Christians would need to be fired, fined or otherwise persecuted for you to decide that the marriage issue itself is really fairly secondary?

    All of them, and then some. Burn the City of God to the ground. Salt the ashes. Revocation of 501c3 status for institutions, and tax breaks for pastors will be just the beginning.

    But when the tax breaks are stripped away. When the physical plant is destroyed. When the assets are forfeit. When careers and reputations are trashed. Whatever is left will be the Church, and will never surrender.

    • #12
    • June 8, 2015, at 8:31 PM PDT
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  13. Merina Smith Inactive

    It has started to feel like participating in the “debate” is just playing their game. Love the article you link. I too am looking forward to the rest of the series. Thanks to the gutsy federalist for running it. If I recall correctly, Madison believed that all freedoms stem from religious freedom, aka freedom of conscience. Anyone who values freedom should be standing with Christians now.

    • #13
    • June 8, 2015, at 9:14 PM PDT
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  14. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    I posted on the Facebook group that this was a series to watch. The first installment was thought provoking. I can’t wait to read the rest.

    As to the main point, I don’t think marriage really is even the point; it’s but a mere speed bump on the road. This is the eschaton of the sexual revolution. No boundaries. No limits. It will be the undoing of civilization.

    • #14
    • June 8, 2015, at 9:14 PM PDT
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  15. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu

    Thanks, Gary! Since some seemed to think I was insufficiently communicative about the new one in my last post, I’ll try to make up for it with a picture. Here’s the little nipper.

    11411678_10206766481221480_13235431738653902_o

    • #15
    • June 8, 2015, at 9:27 PM PDT
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  16. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What a child! Every little finger or wisp of hair, every precious feature is already perfect. What a joy you must feel. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    • #16
    • June 8, 2015, at 9:34 PM PDT
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  17. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    Rachel Lu:Thanks, Gary! Since some seemed to think I was insufficiently communicative about the new one in my last post, I’ll try to make up for it with a picture. Here’s the little nipper.

    11411678_10206766481221480_13235431738653902_o

    Is that an Astros shirt? I couldn’t quite tell, but no matter as long as it’s not soccer—it’s a JOKE. Fine looking kid.

    • #17
    • June 8, 2015, at 9:36 PM PDT
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  18. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    Bob Wainwright:As long as opposition to SSM is associated uniquely with Christianity, Christians will be vulnerable to this kind of persecution.But this is a failure because the argument for traditional marriage was never meant to be understood as something that can only be grasped through supernatural revelation.It’s entirely within the realm of reason, and therefore you don’t need to be a Christian to understand it.It’s not uniquely Christian in other words. Christians would still believe what they do on the matter even if the few passages in the Bible mentioning it had never been written.So I hope others stand up and stand with Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs in this area.

    The cultural arguments have beeen made, by Roger Scruton among others, but the media will not cover these people–including Fox. O’Reilly claims we’re all Bible Thumpers, then defended his idiocy by saying “I said they thumped their Bibles, but I did not call them Bible Thumpers.” It would be nice to see conservative outlets spend a few of their precious minutes looking for arguments from sources not specifically religious. But that would require work…

    • #18
    • June 8, 2015, at 9:41 PM PDT
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  19. Trinity Waters Inactive

    A lot of fine comments so far.

    Always loving Ricochet!

    [Editors’ Note: Sincerity is a virtue, up to a point. Let’s keep this civil, folks.]

    • #19
    • June 8, 2015, at 9:42 PM PDT
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  20. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    BTW: Excellent article at Crisis about when the slide into chaos began.

    • #20
    • June 8, 2015, at 9:43 PM PDT
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  21. Zafar Member

    Rachel, you seem to be saying that the issue of SSM isn’t really about me, but all about you. I disagree – I think it really is mostly about me, and only tangentially about you.

    • #21
    • June 8, 2015, at 10:14 PM PDT
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  22. Zafar Member

    Tom Riehl:The time for rhetorical temporizing is over. These societal sociopaths need to get back in the closet and quit sullying the public square with their repugnant, sinful behavior.

    Never!!!!!!

    • #22
    • June 8, 2015, at 10:16 PM PDT
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  23. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu

    Zafar:Rachel, you seem to be saying that the issue of SSM isn’t really about me, but all about you. I disagree – I think it really is mostly about me, and only tangentially about you.

    If that were true, Zafar, then this whole thing would pretty much be over. But clearly, it isn’t.

    • #23
    • June 8, 2015, at 10:36 PM PDT
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  24. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Just because beliefs are based on a particular religion does not mean they can’t be discriminatory. Why do Christians think they get a pass just because they have been the dominant religion for so long? Are you really asking us to defend the fact that its okay to think homosexuality is wrong when we believe that this particular aspect of Christianity is heinous? I’m usually very sympathetic to religious liberty arguments, but when someone starts talking in nigh apocalyptic language and mentions genocide I tend to think they’ve gone a little bit off the reservation.

    • #24
    • June 8, 2015, at 11:03 PM PDT
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  25. Zafar Member

    Rachel – I think it will clarify things about freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of and from religion, but no more than things like desegregation did before it. Perhaps it is also about you, although still less than it is about me?

    • #25
    • June 8, 2015, at 11:04 PM PDT
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  26. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Tom Riehl:The time for rhetorical temporizing is over. These societal sociopaths need to get back in the closet and quit sullying the public square with their repugnant, sinful behavior. Notwithstanding religious precepts involved, which are just voluntary methods for improving ourselves, our society is degraded by their unseemly behavior. I don’t want my progeny to think that this type of behavior is just a “choice”. We’re hanging by a thread.

    This kind of rhetoric is vile – is this what you’re asking us to defend Rachel?

    I wouldn’t want to live in a society where it was forbidden to say these things, but neither would I want to live in a society where this kind of rhetoric is considered part of polite public discourse.

    • #26
    • June 8, 2015, at 11:08 PM PDT
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  27. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Religious freedom is under siege, as is free speech. I am not a believer. Indeed, I was once somewhat hostile to religion. The last few years have changed me. I’ll take up the defense of religion not because I believe, but because I value liberty. The once oppressed have become the oppressors. This ugly, yet oft-repeated, pattern of history can lead to horrors if we stay silent.

    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

    • #27
    • June 8, 2015, at 11:12 PM PDT
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  28. BThompson Inactive

    This only ends by the gay rights activists overplaying their moral authority and exposing themselves as intolerant bullies for all to see. At that point Christians will have to respond with civil disobedience, love, perseverance, and courage.

    Christians are losing now because people do not see in us the light of Christ’s truth, mercy and grace. We will have to put those virtues on display and make them a shield while enduring calumny and persecution. There will be no compromise until we regain a measure of moral authority and show the world once again the face of Christ in how we respond to those who want to destroy our faith.

    • #28
    • June 8, 2015, at 11:40 PM PDT
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  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Rachel Lu: If you don’t agree with the orthodox Christian position on marriage, I would ask: what would it take to persuade you to table the marriage issue itself, in the interests of supporting Judeo-Christian believers?

    This question may not really be addressed to me, since I’m already a fairly orthodox Christian, and have reasonably orthodox theological intuitions regarding marriage.

    That said, I’ve always been in favor of setting aside the marriage issue: I consider it a sideshow. It seems, though, that many fellow believers are uneasy with the support of someone who’s basically uninterested in the current marriage battle.

    How many Christians would need to be fired, fined or otherwise persecuted for you to decide that the marriage issue itself is really fairly secondary?

    Secondary to what? To religious persecution? To the State meddling in religion?

    As you note, both occurrences are fairly normal throughout history. Bad compared to our founding ideals can still be pretty good compared to historical norms, although the founding ideals mean we can rightfully demand better.

    But being in the midst of even a losing battle can’t possibly convince a Christian that God won’t win the war: Christians worship a God who has already conquered – and in the bleakest moment, too. If Christians lose culturally, God doesn’t lose. Christians worry that losing the culture means that more human souls will alienate themselves from the source of true joy. But God doesn’t lose. God can’t.

    • #29
    • June 8, 2015, at 11:58 PM PDT
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  30. Robert McReynolds Inactive

    Rachel Lu:

    Zafar:Rachel, you seem to be saying that the issue of SSM isn’t really about me, but all about you. I disagree – I think it really is mostly about me, and only tangentially about you.

    If that were true, Zafar, then this whole thing would pretty much be over. But clearly, it isn’t.

    If it was only about “you,” you guys would have stopped at civil unions which gave you the same legal standing in terms of property, taxation, etc as heterosexual married couples. Clearly, this is not about “you” so much as it is about forcing churches to confer upon you something that you are not: married.

    • #30
    • June 9, 2015, at 12:12 AM PDT
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