Gay Marriage Inevitable?

Jesus and God and apologeticsA century ago, America was immersed in social change.  Some of the issues in the headlines during this period were women’s suffrage, the treatment of immigrants, prison and asylum reform, temperance and prohibition, racial inequality, child labor and compulsory elementary school education, women’s education and protection of women from workplace exploitation, equal pay for equal work, communism and utopian societies, unions and the labor movement, and pure food laws.

The social turmoil of the past makes today’s focus on gay marriage and abortion look almost inconsequential by comparison.

What’s especially interesting is Christianity’s role in some of these movements.  Christians will point with justifiable pride to schools and hospitals build by churches or religious orders.  The Social Gospel movement of the early 20th century pushed for corrections of many social ills—poverty and wealth inequality, alcoholism, poor schools, and more.  Christians point to Rev. Martin Luther King’s work on civil rights and William Wilberforce’s Christianity-inspired work on ending slavery.

(This doesn’t sound much like the church today, commandeered as it is by conservative politics, but that’s another story.)

Same-sex marriage seems inevitable, just another step in the march of civil rights.  Jennifer Roback Morse, president and founder of the Ruth Institute for promotion of heterosexual marriage and rejection of same-sex marriage, was recently asked if she feared being embarrassed by the seeming inevitability of same-sex marriage.  She replied:

On the contrary, [same-sex marriage proponents] are the ones who are going to be embarrassed.  They are the ones who are going to be looking around, looking for the exits, trying to pretend that it had nothing to do with them, that it wasn’t really their fault.

I am not the slightest bit worried about the judgment of history on me.  This march-of-history argument bothers me a lot. …  What they’re really saying is, “Stop thinking, stop using your judgment, just shut up and follow the crowd because the crowd is moving towards Nirvana and you need to just follow along.”

Let’s first acknowledge someone who could well be striving to do the right thing simply because it’s right, without concern for popularity or the social consequences.  I would never argue that someone ought to abandon a principle because it has become a minority opinion or that it is ridiculed.  If Dr. Morse sticks to her position solely because she thinks it’s right, and she’s not doing it because of (say) some political requirement or because her job depends on it, that’s great.

Nevertheless, the infamous 1963 statement from George Wallace comes to mind: “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”  That line came back to haunt him.  To his credit, he apologized and rejected his former segregationist policies, but history will always see him as having chosen the wrong side of this issue.

Christianity has similarly scrambled to reposition itself after earlier errors.  Christians often claim that modern science is built on a Christian foundation, ignoring the church’s rejection of science that didn’t fit its medieval beliefs (think Galileo).  They take credit for society’s rejection of slavery, forgetting Southern preachers and their gold mine of Bible verses for ammunition.  They reposition civil rights as an issue driven by Christians, ignoring the Ku Klux Klan and its burning cross symbol, biblical justification for laws against mixed-race marriage, and slavery support as the issue that created the Southern Baptist Convention.

Mohandas Gandhi had considerable experience as the underdog.  He said, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

(And then they claim that it was their idea all along!)

The same-sex marriage issue in the United States has almost advanced to “then you win” stage.  Check back in two decades, and you’ll see Christians positioning the gay rights issue as one led by the church.  They’ll mine history for liberal churches that took the lead (and flak) in ordaining openly gay clerics and speaking out in favor of gay rights.

If someone truly rejects same-sex marriage because their unbiased analysis shows it to be worse for society, great.  But it is increasingly becoming clear how history will judge that position.

Truth never damages a cause that is just.
— Mohandas Gandhi

Photo credit: Spec-ta-cles

Related posts:

Related links:

  • “Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Are Defenders of Natural Marriage on the Wrong Side of History?” Issues Etc., 5/25/12.
  • “Pure Religion: Revivalism and Reform in Early 19th-Century America,” The Dartmouth Apologia, Spring 2010, pp 20–24.

21 thoughts on “Gay Marriage Inevitable?

  1. “If someone truly rejects same-sex marriage because their unbiased analysis shows it to be worse for society, great.”
     
    Well, somewhat less than great, IMHO.
     
    You write as if the only measure of the value of an opinion is whether it’s sincerely held. Hell, HITLER was probably sincere. You’ve gotta look beyond that.

    • Good point. I was focused just on the context of one person and an honest and dedicated effort on their part to come to the right conclusion. In the broader context, you’re right that other issues come into play.

  2. The inevitability of something does not make it right. There is a path that seem right to man, but the end is destruction. What is unacceptable to man’s Creator will ultimately prove false.

        • Maurice:

          You don’t agree with something. OK, got it. Now give me some evidence. You’ve made a statement, not an argument.

          What is the truth and why should we believe it?

    • What DOES make something right? I agree, inevitability doesn’t do the job. But what DOES? AFAICT, it’s pretty much a matter of opinion, either your own or that of someone you’ve subcontracted out your thinking to.

      • Ultimately, the basis of morality is a matter of opinion. For religious people, that involves attempting to divine the whims of some deity. For humanists, that involves determining what’s best for people (minimizing harm and maximizing benefit.). I’m with the humanists.

        Once you’ve decided on a basis for morality, then you need to look at individual issues and determine what choice is consistent with the basis. People often muddle this, making gut decisions without considering all the implications.

  3. This post confuses me. It seems that you are friendly with the gay-marriage movement but, from your evolutionary standpoint, shouldn’t you reject it? Also, I think you paint “Christianity” with a very broad brush. It is unfair to say that Christians were pushing for slavery, supporting racism, or being anti-science. The Catholic Church does not represent Christianity. Also, bigoted preachers who promoted slavery did so against the teachings of Scripture, not because of it. Would it be fair for me to say that Hitler shared a similar worldview you do, so that isn’t right? If not then why do you do the same to Christians?

    Also, I find it hilarious that other commenters believe that morality is a matter of opinion. The irrationality of that statement should be obvious to everyone. Michael, if you and I disagree that stealing is wrong then who breaks the tie?

    Travis (AnotherChristianBlog.org)

    • Travis: Nice to hear from you again.

      I’ve touched on this in previous posts about homosexuality (see the links). A quick answer: it makes no sense to cheer on or reject a trait of evolution. It’s like cheering for or booing the chemical properties of various elements. (“Arsenic is poisonous–that makes me so mad!”)

      Evolution is simply an explanation. Since it’s well established, you don’t reject it. That would be like rejecting germ theory simply because it offends you in some way.

      As for how I characterize Christianity, obviously there are a zillion angles from which Christians can come from, and yes I’m painting with a broad brush. It would be pointless and tedious to split hairs about the subtle differences between how this branch of Methodism differed from that branch of Pentecostalism on civil rights issue X (and so on).

      You’re welcome to find your own Christian views in this (admittedly) brief historical description.

      Some Christian were indeed pro-slavery. And some were anti-slavery. And so on.

      Call pro-slavery preachers bigoted if you want, but don’t delude yourself that they didn’t have very good scriptural backing for their position. The Bible makes a far stronger and more overt pro-slavery case than anything in opposition to slavery.

      I’ve spent a fair amount of time condensing my thoughts on Christianity and slavery into a series of posts here. Feel free to read and critique.

      Would it be fair for me to say that Hitler shared a similar worldview you do, so that isn’t right?

      You’ve lost me. Please rephrase.

      Also, I find it hilarious that other commenters believe that morality is a matter of opinion.

      Morality comes from opinion (the shared views of society are one major factor) and instinct (the moral programming that we all share). If you have a better explanation for why we have the morals that we do, feel free to put it forward.

      Michael, if you and I disagree that stealing is wrong then who breaks the tie?

      You’re stuck in the idea that there are objective moral truths, I think. If you propose objective morality, defend that claim.

      If Travis and Michael disagree on a moral issue, obviously Michael thinks he’s right and Travis thinks he’s right. It’s pretty simple.

      If I come into the picture, I might have an initial opinion about who’s right, and after listening to you two debate, I might (or might not) change my mind.

      Surely you understand how people argue and (sometimes) change other people’s minds, right?

      • Bob,

        It has been a while because getting on to read blogs had to be put on the back burner due to life. Anyway, I think it is pretty bold to say, “If Travis and Michael disagree on a moral issue, obviously Michael thinks he’s right and Travis thinks he’s right. It’s pretty simple.”

        You don’t live that way. You don’t simply on your opinions. You may think a law is wrong but you still abide by it. People don’t only live by their opinons. Plus, if this post-modern thinking applies to morals why doesn’t it apply to science? Math? Logic? Or do you think there are no absolute truth within those categories?

        Also, I have written a little of your slavery posts but I never found a discussion about slaves being set free during the time of Jubilee. I also never saw a discussion about how slaves often would willingly return to their masters for work even after being set free. I am not saying you didn’t highlight these aspects of slavery during the time of the Bible’s writing because I haven’t read all of them. Did you mention those things?

        Travis

        • You may think a law is wrong but you still abide by it.

          You have an objection, but I don’t know what it is. If I think a law is wrong, then I think it’s wrong. (Though I may indeed abide by it.) If I disagree with you, I think you’re wrong. (And you think I’m wrong!) If you changed my mind, then I wouldn’t disagree, and I wouldn’t think you’re wrong.

          This is all trivial, and we must be on the same page, so I’m not sure what the issue is.

          Anyway, I think it is pretty bold to say, “If Travis and Michael disagree on a moral issue, obviously Michael thinks he’s right and Travis thinks he’s right. It’s pretty simple.”

          Bold? What’s the problem?

          Did you mention those things?

          Pretty much. I made a clear distinction between enslavement of Jews (very similar to indentured servitude in America) and enslavement of “other” (very similar to slavery of Africans in America).

    • I don’t understand what you mean by “your evolutionary standpoint”. It’s not clear what a person’s position on evolution has to do with gay marriage one way or the other. Could you explain?

      I think that, far from painting Christianity with too broad a brush, Bob was careful to point out that it allowed self-professed Christians to come down on BOTH sides of an issue like slavery, which also goes a long way toward substantiating my own contention that morality most certainly IS just a matter of opinion.

      How can you, with a straight face, POSSIBLY claim that slavery was against the teachings of Scripture, when the Bible is veritably riddled with justifications for it and advice on how to go about it?

      FWIW, Hitler and I definitely did share the same worldview if by worldview you mean that average working-class folks should be able to own an inexpensive “people’s car” (a volks-wagen) and drive it on government-built superhighways (autobahns). I am delighted to claim kinship with him in regard to that forward-looking social policy. Was that what you had in mind?

      The only irrationality with regard to considering morality a matter of opinion is that you fail to do so. If I contend that a falling body near the Earth’s surface will accelerate at a rate of 9.81 metres per second every second, I can demonstrate it anywhere at any time to anyone to any degree of satisfaction they could ask, because it’s a law of nature. Call that Case A, for absolute. If, OTOH, I say that blue is the prettiest color, that’s clearly a matter of opinion, and many people would disagree with me. Call that Case R, for relative.

      Now, if I say it’s wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family, and you disagree with me, which of those 2 cases, A or R, is this matter of morality most like? Can either of us PROVE our contention?

      • Richard,

        You said: “How can you, with a straight face, POSSIBLY claim that slavery was against the teachings of Scripture, when the Bible is veritably riddled with justifications for it and advice on how to go about it?”

        Me: Slavery, during the time of the Bible, was radically different from the slavery of America. We often want to import our modern understandings of concepts onto the Bible. That isn’t fair. Yes, the Bible does speak about slavery. However, The Bible is clear that Christians are to consider their slaves as equals. There are also many different nuances within the Roman type of slavery and the slavery that was endorsed by the Old Testament.

        As far as your 2 cases illustration. I am not sure I follow. You seem to believe that there are absolutes. Is it wrong to steal? Yes. Is that a matter of opinion? No. Here is a better question. Is it wrong to kill a Jewish person because you sincerely believe that it would be better for your country? I will assume you say yes. If you do then was it wrong for Hitler to do the same? If you say no, then kudos at least you are consistent. If you say yes, then your worldview crumbles. The truth is that you live by my Christian worldview because you know there is a right and a wrong. Those are categories that the majority of people live by because the law of God is written on everyone’s hearts. You suppress God’s law in your spirit but it is there and you show glimmers of it when you say what Hitler did was wrong…if you choose to do so.

        P.S. Bob understood what I meant by connecting same-sex marriage with an evolutionary standpoint. Evolution makes no room for homosexuality because it defies the goal of evolution, which is passing on one’s genes.

        Travis

        • Slavery, during the time of the Bible, was radically different from the slavery of America.

          Wrong. Very wrong. Jaw-droppingly wrong.

          Richard is at least as capable as I am of pointing out your error, but since I got here first …

          You should read my second post on slavery here. The Bible is enthusiastically in favor of good old American-type slavery. Chapter and verse–it’s all there.

          There are also many different nuances within the Roman type of slavery and the slavery that was endorsed by the Old Testament.

          So New Testament slavery wasn’t so bad but Old Testament slavery was hideous? I’m not sure what you’re saying.

          Is it wrong to steal? Yes. Is that a matter of opinion? No.

          Let’s make sure we’re using the same terms. If “it’s wrong to steal” isn’t an opinion, then what is it?

          Is this statement objectively true? Then back up this claim with evidence.

          P.S. Bob understood what I meant by connecting same-sex marriage with an evolutionary standpoint. Evolution makes no room for homosexuality because it defies the goal of evolution, which is passing on one’s genes.

          It’s good that we understand each other. Do you accept my answer to your concern about homosexuality?

          Homosexuality has been observed in 1500 animal species. Evolution obviously has no issue with it.

          If every human were homosexual, the human race would die out. But, of course, if every human were female it would also die out. Neither has happened, and there is no reason to fear that either will happen. (I hope this allows you to sleep peacefully tonight.)

        • Thinking of evolution as having a goal is the teleological fallacy. Evolution has effects, not goals. In particular, the main effect it has is to reinforce the characteristics that lead to SPECIES survival. Those are not necessarily the same characteristics that lead to INDIVIDUAL survival.

    • Also, I find it hilarious that other commenters believe that morality is a matter of opinion. The irrationality of that statement should be obvious to everyone. Michael, if you and I disagree that stealing is wrong then who breaks the tie?

      All motivations are driven by emotion. Reason doesn’t provide motivation. Reason provides a strategy for obtaining what emotion wants. This is particularly import when there are motivation conflicts. This could be an internal conflict (e.g. I want both security and freedom) or conflicts with others. Reason is the best chance of mediating the conflicts and optimizing the results. But depending on the emotional motivations of different people, there’s no guarantee that we can agree on all of morality.

      You can’t get absolute morality from a god. If a god is the source of the morality then it’s based on the whims of that god and subject to change without notice or reason.

      • Michael,

        You said: “You can’t get absolute morality from a god. If a god is the source of the morality then it’s based on the whims of that god and subject to change without notice or reason.”

        Me: If God is an ever changing God then your point stands. If God never changes, as Scripture affirms, then your point is rendered moot. There is no subjectivity with an eternal and all-powerful God.

        Travis

        • There is nothing BUT subjectivity with an eternal and all-powerful God. Don’t think so? Then what does God use as an external source of objective authority?

        • If God is an ever changing God then your point stands. If God never changes, as Scripture affirms, then your point is rendered moot. There is no subjectivity with an eternal and all-powerful God.

          If God is incapable of change, then he is incapable of thinking, or being aware of anything, or listening to your prayers, or being all-powerful, etc.

          A perfect God (all knowing, all powerful, eternal, unchanging) is a contradiction in terms. The Jews took their tribal gods and enhanced them into their one god. The Christians and Muslims then took that to absurdity.

  4. Pingback: Homosexuality v. Christianity | Galileo Unchained

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