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.