I'll say one thing about the gay marriage debate. Generally speaking, Christian Evangelicals have not been good at arguing their point. To the extent that they have argued "…Judeo-Christian values…" and "…5000 years of marriage as the backbone of civilization…", these points may contain truth but they make poor arguments when presented as talking points. As talking points they only state the opinions of those who already agree and speak nothing to those who disagree.
Not every one agrees on the “5000 years” analysis and the patent importance of Judeo-Christian values, but no one wants to be “hater”. Questions of truth aside, the gay marriage advocates have succeeded in putting Evangelicals on their heels. In my opinion, Dennis Prager, a Jewish commentator has made the best and clearest public arguments. So if here, along with my Part 1 post, is my attempt to explain the concerns of those now opposing the legal sameness of gay unions and hetero unions. My ideas are an elaboration on things that Dennis Prager has said. Here is one Prager article on this topic and here is another.
As I’ve said before many gay marriage advocates put forward the position that they are merely widening the umbrella of freedom, expanding marriage from something that hetero people enjoy to something that gay people will be able to enjoy. The gay marriage crowd say that they only wants to expand a freedom that straight people have. On the face of it, gay marriage advocates don’t seem to want to impose anything. But there is a much larger and more total imposition that can be redacted from other aspects of their rhetoric.
Allow to explain. If I were to say that I was OK with the law being blind to the question of gay marriage but I still wanted,
A) Christian adoption agencies allowed to prefer hetero couples
B) Churches that only married hetero couples
C) Churches that only allowed hetero people into positions of leadership
D) Evangelism into my church
E) The public expression on a university campus of an idea that a hetero union is uniquely special
Would I have crossed completely into the realm of non-hatred? Or would I still be hating except only in a more limited sphere and therefore represent an unfinished revolution? On the one hand I would be allowing legal freedom to marry. On the other hand I would be working against some of the essential gay marriage moral ideas through other means.
After the legalization of gay marriage, the unfinished revolution of those who allowed gay marriage “despite their personal beliefs” will be finished with more lawsuits against discrimination and hate speech and for affirmative action. Why? because that is what “gay is the new black” means:
The law not to make someone royalty is not merely a law like a speed limit. It is a law that is backed by everything that it means to be an American – backed by every resource that the country has to symbolize the moral importance of that law. Every time you see the U.S. flag, see a coin, see the name of street or city named after a Founder, every memorial carved in granite on the mall of D.C. you are reminded that we as a people are founded on a moral idea that it is fundamentally repugnant to see specialness in a family that would require that they be made royal.
If you actually believed in your heart of hearts that a particular family should be the royal family, you would have the right to your conscience as an American citizen. But for all practical purposes, this would be an exceedingly difficult country for you to practice your belief – it would be profoundly un-American.
We in 2009 recognize that the civil war was an extension of the War of American Independence. The Black civil rights movement of the 60’s is an extension of the Civil war, being Part 2 of the reconstruction that was begun after the civil war. When we celebrate Martin Luther King day, we raise the American flag and retro-actively assign the blood of patriots on Bunker Hill to the cause of the Black civil rights movement. We recognize that holidays, street names, city names, monuments in granite, flags, currency and textbooks all attest to our moral narrative as a people that we now see repugnancy in seeing specialness in a skin color as we do to seeing specialness in a particular blood line. This is at the core of what it means to be an American and we use every public resource that we have to symbolize this meaning.
If you actually believed in the specialness in a skin color, you would have the right to that belief in the deep recesses of your conscience, but for all practical purposes it would be hard to practice. While defacto segregation is still real, every national symbol is designed to point to a different moral narrative, very much including what children are taught in school. Furthermore, you would be barred from practicing your belief in any sphere of life other than clandestine meetings in the woods. Even uttering your belief in the wrong place would be the end of your career and possibly illegal under hate and discrimination laws.
If “gay is the new black”, we have adjusted the moral narrative of our people to a narrative where seeing specialness in a man-woman union is now as morally repugnant in seeing specialness in a skin color as seeing specialiness in a blood line. If gay is the new black, we now back this new moral narrative with our flag, currency, national monuments, street names, city names, holidays, etc… In addition to all symbolical resources, we will now use every available legal resource to marginalize those who still believe that there is specialness to a man-woman union, as we marginize those who oppose other sacred moral ideas that we have as a people.
So I want to be clear even if the gay marriage activists are not always so clear: if "gay is the new black", the movement does not merely want the legality of gay marriage, it wants the raising of the American flag to represent the day when we as a country vanquished the idea of the specialness of a man-woman union into the dust-bin of history.
A QUESTION OF CIVIL RELIGION
As a Christian I am very careful about how I defend “Judeo-Christian Values” from my personal practice of Christianity. I am not happy when Christians elide from one into the other without making careful distinctions. I'm also mindful of pantheists (worshippers of natural forces) who elide from a civic argument for maximum freedom of personal expression into the evangelism of a pantheistic worldview.
As I've said before I define a "morality" as an idea of right and wrong that flows from an essential idea of design. A "moral narrative" is a moral idea that is seen through the lens of past, present and future.
A country is more than a set of laws: it has places and objects of public and even sacred importance that identify it as a people. It is these symbols – whether a coin or a monument – whereby a country indicates its moral narrative and in which it invests moral meaning. And where there is a moral narrative there is a hint at that the "design source"; the source from which the moral design derives from that makes the right right and the wrong wrong.
Any publically owned item, such as the design of a coin or national monument, that is capable of containing symbolic meaning has the potential to communicate symbolically the moral narrative of a people and the design idea behind the narrative. In this way, every public symbol is in some way a “sacrament” has invested in symbolical importance indicating the ultimate source of its moral narrative. This sacrament of moral ideas invested in public symbols is a society’s “civil religion”.
All societies have a moral narrative and all societies have some sort of a civil religion even if it is very minimal in its presentation and does not require that you attend a church on Sunday. Even a country that said that it did not have a narrative would have the moral narrative of nihilism.
Discussing the “separation of church and state” in all of its forms from the verbatim text of the First Amendment to its modern interpretation would other writings. Suffice to say that his idea was designed so that the government cannot press you into going to a church. However, we do not and have never had a complete separation from an idea of a God above nature that resembles the Judeo Christian God. What we have is a moral narrative that is consistent with a God-belief in a God above nature vaguely reminiscent of the Judeo Christian God. We have some minimal references to this God in our symbols.
As a result we have a country that generally allows the easier and fuller expression of conscience to those who believe in a Judeo Christian God, especially so than those who belief in a god that requires human sacrifice, allegiance to a blood line or a skin color. You and I both agree that we don't want to grant largess to the conscience of one who believes in a God that requires regular child sacrifice. But as a nation we are at a pivot point between a society that will either give largess to those who believe in a God above nature or those who do not believe in a God above nature. One party will be the loser.
Many argue that the representations of and references to God in our country national symbols represent an unfinished revolution in the separation of church and state. But if you were to remove every reference to this God above nature from anything that is touched by the government you would not actually separate government from religion. This is true especially in a modern world were government touches everything from sidewalks we walk on the school ciriculum requirements established by the government. For better or for worse the modern government touches almost everything.
Now if you treat a force in nature with the same allegiance that god-believers treat God, then you have a religion of a different form. And if you significantly alter the moral narrative of a country, you alter the idea of the "design source" behind the moral narrative.
If gay is the new black in all the ramifications that I have described above, we now have a moral narrative that is not consistent with a design source being a God above nature. Rather we would have a moral narrative that is inconsistent with a God above nature but that is thoroughly consistent with a god-like force of Nature expressing its wisdom in the warp and woof of human opinion and desire. All public granite, silver, holidays and flags would now point to this form of god.
This is the same god-like force that is revered when a certain cross-section of emerging opinion is taken as the ultimate and final source of all moral wisdom. As George Will pointed out in his column on Jerry Brown, Brown takes this view of Natural Law expressed as the god-force of the emergence of libertine opinion as the ultimate source of all moral truth that judges can use to over-ride any other moral idea.
So if you removed the reference to the Judeo-Christian God with a moral narrative that vanquished the idea of man-woman specialness into the dustbin of history, you would not separate government from religion: you would simply be replacing one civil religion with another.
This is what is behind the gay marriage debate are conflicting impositions rising from conflicting ideas of moral fundamentals. Many Evangelicals, me included, would impose on gay people a legal position of a union that is inferior to a hetero union—even if it’s a slight distinction: this so that the symbolism of freedom and the blood of patriots is not used to make repugnant the idea that there is something special in a man-woman union. This specialness of a man-woman union can be seen from certain evidence in nature but is seen most completely in the light of a God above nature. We want to have a land where it easy to express conscience that is consistent with a Judeo Christian God.
The hardcore gay marriage advocates are seeking to impose a moral vision that re-interprets the moral narrative of our country and orients it toward a "god as nature" civil religion. This imposition is not stated boldly but can be redacted from the rhetoric of the gay marriage movement. This imposition in its full form will make it harder to express a conscience that is consistent with a Judeo-Christian idea of God
If this imposition occurs I will accept it and face whatever marginalization / persecution follows, but that does not mean that I will not attempt to articulate what is at stake.