The impending decision from the United State Supreme Court on the California Prop 8 case has special interest groups, religious groups, and LGBT rights activists on capitol hill. While I agree with Derek Webb that “there has never been a Savior on Capitol Hill” it is difficult to convince most Americans of such a sentiment.
As a church planter and Bible-believing Christian, I have some interest in the current culture war over gay marriage as I fear that reverse discrimination will take effect in a number of years. However, as an amateur philosopher, I recently wondered, “Does Christianity have a leg up on secular philosophies when it comes to gay rights?”
When I was on my high school Speech & Debate team, a secular agnostic argued against a gay marriage bill during a mock congress exercise. I also argued against the bill, but our arguments were worlds apart. This student basically argued that homosexuality went ‘against nature’ and made our species ‘weak’ by hindering our survival probability.
I also appealed to ‘secular’ arguments against gay marriage, tracing the Western legal tradition and British common law from the Magna Carta to Sir William Blackstone’s political philosophy of the 18th century, but my friend argued from a naturalist and Darwinian point of view.
When I combine this experience with my knowledge in philosophy (“Do we really have any ontological or epistemological warrant believing in human rights apart from God? Are Neitzsche, Satre, Ruse, Wilson, and the Churchlands right?”) and the historical evidence that human rights, as we know them in our Western tradition, trace their origin to Christian thought (cf. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs), then I begin to fear for my homosexual neighbor, whom Jesus calls me love (Mark 12:31).
While liberal progressives have won the current debate on sexual ethics in today’s culture war, is it possible that the tide will turn and that homosexuals could be persecuted in the distant future? In other words, will secular Westerners who are epistemologically self-conscious realize that a Darwinian naturalism provides no basis for gay rights, but that such a worldview promotes the persecution of such a people group?
I can’t predict the future. I hope this future scenario will not come to pass. However, it seems clear that Christianity has a firmer basis for not only human rights, but even gay rights. The creation narrative posits all of humanity made in the glorious image of the Triune God. Since all of humanity is ‘royalty’ and bear the dignity of their Creator, Jesus’ Great Command to love all our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31) makes sense. In addition, Jesus’ teaching on the Great Commandment shows that in our fallen, broken, fragile world with racial, religious, and cultural hostility, Christians are called to love those they might differ and disagree with the most.
Now, does this mean that Christian should support gay marriage? Not necessarily. In fact, I contend that our culture war (which has the unhelpful mentality “I must win, and they must lose”) inhibits the effort to pursue a moral imagination that seeks to love and respect all our neighbors, whether sexually liberal or traditionally religious. The two sides in this culture war are prepared to ostracize and demonize the other side so that the loser is, for all practical purposes, excommunicated from cultural discourse and human flourishing. All rational, moderate voices are drowned out by cultural narratives, conventions, and “Will and Grace”.
I hope some my gay friends, who are very militant on this issue, and my secular Darwinian friends, particularly those who are consistent in their beliefs, will not get their way. I hope Jesus gets his way.
Mark James said:
Good thoughts. I’ve tied them together in my thinking for apologetic purposes. If one hold’s to Darwinism, then he or she has no good reason to believe homosexuality is genetic. Therefore it moves it into the realm of morals, choice, and the ability to change. If vice verse, then Darwinism cannot be true, and some sort of intelligent design should be posited. Just another way to point out an inconsistency within the secular humanist system. Either homosexuality is a moral choice, or there is some sort of intelligent creator.
Daniel F. Wells said:
Thanks for the comment Mark.
I would ask for clarification as to what one means in saying homosexuality is a choice. All sides should agree that our actions (i.e. the tangible expression of one’s volition) are choices for which we are morally responsible (though William Dennett and other fatalists would disagree). As to sexual orientation, I think the jury is still out on that, is it is on other internal desires. What causes our desires? I tend to dislike monoperspectival views. It seems that specialists in their field claim that their genre of academia is the sole proprietor for how society functions (biologists and chemists look at genetics, sociologists look at the dynamic of relationships, psychologists locate the problem in the mind/brain, etc.). I would contend that our desires are the formed from the conglomeration of chemical, psychological, sociological, and spiritual forces. Yet, the formation of these desires do not necessarily weigh in on the moral question of the expression of one’s volition.
Mark James said:
Well from the way it has always been presented to me (this being at a liberal college) is that the genetic-ness of homosexuality rules out any moral aspect/quality to it. Thus, it is logical to equate it with civil rights. One is born black or what or Hispanic. One is born gay or non-gay. So as the way I’ve been exposed to the teaching from the other side, there is a sort of genetic fatalism at play if you will. So that is what I have in mind when interacting with those who argue that it is genetic.
Daniel F. Wells said:
Ah, I understand.
I think such discussions are very confusing and are often laden with political and culture war sentiments than rational discourse. Indeed, both sides to this debate can be simplistic.
My ethnic minority friends (both religious and irreligious) have expressed offense to the claim that gay marriage is a civil rights issue. My own opinion is that gay rights and gay marriage are in a different category, for two reasons. First, civil rights are really ‘second-order’ rights in the American political tradition. Civil rights are rights granted by the magistrate, not that which is confirmed by nature. Thus, the magistrate could just as easily take away civil rights and there would be no strong basis to dispute such an act. Second, Martin Luther King Jr. appealed to ‘higher law’ (i.e Law of Nature) in framing his civil rights cause. In many ways, King was less about civil rights and more about the application of inalienable rights.
LGBTQ activists today don’t argue the way King argued. So, I would not favorably compare the two movements. There is more contrast, actually.
This doesn’t settle the gay marriage debate, though it does have implications for gay rights.
That’s what we’ve all been waiting for! Great pointsg!