Last week, I wrote a post declaring that there were, in fact, rational arguments against Gay Marriage and that the Christian/Biblical position on the subject was in fact, an expression of rationality and reason. I wrote in response to a Slate.com article by Erica Friedman stating that the only arguments against Gay Marriage were basically religious arguments and that those arguments were irrational and necessarily homophobic. I ended up in a really good discussion with a friend of mine on this on Facebook and it got me thinking deeper about the subject. First off, I want to say that one can be FOR the Biblical definition of marriage (which is the position I want to maintain) without being against Homosexuals. My guess is that Gay Marriage is going to be legalized in America and I have accepted that. I am not really interested in bemoaning that or taking a position against Homosexuals. I am much more interested in finding a way to maintain a traditional Christian position in this changing environment that is both rational and respectful of others, but that also maintains Biblical faithfulness and the ability to cordially disagree with the majority position. The way forward for Christians is not to try and forcefully control politics or the government, but to provide a faithful witness as to how a life with Christ that is guided by the Scriptures would shape and form us in believing communities in a world that is rejecting Biblical morality.
I have said many times before that while I believe Homosexuality to be sin, there are lots of sins and we are all sinners and we all need a Savior - no one is any different in that regard. So, this is less about the particular stance of Homosexuality and it is more about how we have these conversations and maintain differing positions in society and still respect and get along with one another. So, with all of those disclaimers, let me dive in.
The argument is that the only argument against Gay Marriage is a religious argument and that religous arguments are, by nature, irrational because they do not appeal to Reason but instead, they appeal to Faith. Faith is irrational because it cannot be proven. It must be accepted as an act of, well, faith. So, since it cannot be proven to be true, any argument from faith must be rejected from public discourse as irrelevant. Like I said, I addressed this fallacy in the previous post.
But, here is the problem with that line of thinking in regard to Gay Rights and the Gay Marriage debate. You might be able to use that argument with the physical sciences (might) because the physical or hard sciences are related to what is observable, testable, and provable. That is what the Gay Rights advocates are doing in this situation. They are unthinkingly lifting an argument that atheistic scientists have used against religion and are applying it to the their argument. But, you cannot apply that line of thinking (that all arguments from faith are by nature invalid) to the social sciences. The social sciences (history, economics, psychology, sociology, political science/civics, anthropology, cultural studies, etc.) are directly influenced and shaped by religion and faith claims and how we structure society and culture is fully intertwined with religious arguments. As in the old game of Jenga, if you pull out the block of religion in trying to gain understanding, the whole tower can easily teeter and fall. That is what is being attempted here and it is a false argument.
The argument for Gay Marriage is an argument based on equality and freedom and human dignity, or so the argument goes. The idea is that since hetero couples can be married, how is it just and fair for gay couples to not enjoy the same rights and benefits. Christians, traditionalists, and religious people often argue from a perspective on what is moral and what God approves of and those arguments are declared invalid because they come from faith. But, here is the question: Where do arguments of equality, freedom, and human dignity come from? Of course, those concepts are embedded in Western political and social thought and do not require God to be believed. Or, do they?
The Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Jefferson was a Deist, but he was reflecting Christian thought and heritage here. Truths that are self-evident. All men "created" equal. Endowed by their Creator. Unalienable Rights. That is religious talk that was co-opted by the Enlightenment. In other words, the very foundation upon which Gay Marriage advocates are making their stand is a religious/spiritual/Christian foundation. They could not make the arguments for human equality and freedom if they had not previously benefitted from centuries of Christian thought on the nature of human dignity, rights, and equality. None of this developed in a vacuum.
Rodney Stark, who was an agnostic when he wrote The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (2005) wrote about the Western development of rationality/reason, freedom, and capitalism:
"Freedom was also essential for the development of capitalism. This raises another matter: why has freedom so seldom existed in most of the world, and how was it nurtured in some medieval European states? This too was a victory of reason. Before any medieval European state actually attempted rule by an elected council, Christian theologians had long been theorizing about the nature of equality and individual rights - indeed, the later work of such 'secular' eighteenth-century political theorists as John Locke explicitly rested on egalitarian axioms derived by church scholars."
The very thing that Gay Rights advocates appeal to (freedom, equality, individual rights) actually finds its origin in Christian thought and theology. Where else do we see perspectives on equality and human dignity arise? I would posit that this view of Equality before the Creator was birthed into Western Culture on a Cross in Palestine 2000 years ago. The Greeks didn't give it to us, despite our misunderstandings of their democratic philosophies - they were largely elitists. The Romans didn't either. Neither did the Barbarians or Germanic Tribes or Hindus, Muslims, or Buddhists. Notions of human dignity and equality for all - including women, children, people of all races and tribes, slaves, the unborn, the poor, the sick, and those in prison, and yes, sinners of every kind - found their most powerful expression in the teachings of Jesus and His followers (see Gal. 3:26-29, Eph. 2:11-22, Col. 3:11, etc.) and these teachings radically affected Western Civilization. But, the same Bible that teaches that people are equal before God and that "God so loved the world" to send His Son to save it, also teaches that some activities and lifestyles are not how we are created and are not to be celebrated. They reflect our brokenness and not our original intent and Western Civilization has, up to this point, recognized this as well and has done so quite rationally.
Because I am a Christian, I will defend the equality of every person and will oppose oppression, injustice, and discrimination. If I see a gay person being abused or persecuted, it is my faith that tells me that I am to throw myself in harms way and protect the innocent, even at peril to myself. Secular Reason doesn't establish that. But, also as a Christian I recognize that some behaviors and lifestyles are right and some are wrong and that we are all sinners and need a Savior. It is interesting to me how notions of equality found originally in the person/teachings/work of Jesus have been accepted, while concepts of sin and salvation similarly found in the person/teachings/work of Jesus have been rejected.
Truthfully, it is not that Gay Marriage advocates do not accept Christian arguments or ideas that come from the Bible about how we are to live. The problem is that they accept some Christian ideas and not others. They accept ideas about equality, human dignity, justice, freedom, and the rights of man. They reject ideas about certain behaviors that they approve of being sin. Both are Biblical perspectives. They advanced their perspective to this point by saying that all views and persepctives are valid and should be accepted and gain a hearing, but now that they are moving into ascendency, they are saying that the views that oppose them are irrational and should not be heard or accepted as valid, but should be seen as oppressive and harmful to society. The irony of ironies is that they can only make these claims by standing upon the arguments of Christians who derived their perspective from the Bible.
They can only say that the Bible cannot be used by using arguments from the Bible. Again, irony.
What a world we live in. I think that, just like the Enlightenment and the Civil War, we are actually in a theological battle and we haven't even really realized it.