Invaded by sex
It never ceases to amaze me how easily our political conversations are invaded by sex.
For me, a hugely conflicted fellow traveler—if not an apologist—of same sex marriage advocates, this simply adds a confusing element to the discussion.
When I have opposed same sex marriage, or even been a late-comer to its defense, I have been slow to support it simply because I think some care and humility is in order when we start talking about a radical retooling of millennia-old societal definitions.
However, to my mind, this is different from a discussion of sexual mores, which can change from generation to generation without much if any permanent damage to Western Civilization.
I think it was a serious mistake for a great many social conservatives, within the church and without, to conflate these two issues as they fought the same sex marriage battle. That battle is not the same as the battle to define what is and is not moral in our sexual behaviors. That battle is over for the time being, and it was over well before the agitating began for same same sex marriage. Often overlooked, but critically important, is the fact that homosexuality was a miniscule part of this battle. Adultery, divorce, materialism, abortion, parental neglect, vocational distractions, religiosity: these did the heavy lifting in the destruction of family life and the resulting impoverishment of our culture.
Not the gay rights movement.
When the too-late-to-matter battle for heteronormative sexuality became conflated with the battle to redefine marriage, both battles were lost.
I think it would’ve been lost anyway, but on the merits. The good of fairness and compassion for real human beings in various seasons and dimensions of their lives—end of life decisions, medical records confidentiality, company benefits, and so on—would eventually have come to outweigh the question of heterosexual marriage as the pillar of society.
Because we can accommodate and adjust. We can find creative solutions.
And, not incidentally, do a much—much—better job of encouraging and protecting healthy marriages and families within the proper sphere of our own influence—the church.
Something we in the church were frankly not doing well, even as we rode out on our chargers to inflict our moral sensibilities on the public at large, who were largely indifferent to both our cause and our case.
Why were they indifferent (and now aggressively hostile)?
Holding to a form of godliness
Because, as I realized while reading Matt Lewis’s piece on this phase of the culture wars (For Christians, a silver lining to losing the culture war? to which I respond here), the church in our time has largely lived down to Paul’s description of it in 2 Timothy 3:5, “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”
Unfortunately, there was (and still is) a mob defending marriage by attacking the culture’s acceptance of homosexuality.
Having lost that battle, some wish to absent themselves from the field and leave it to others to defend the resulting loss of liberty engulfing all of us.
I don’t agree with Matt that we lost the culture war simply because I define culture in a far larger way than sexuality and same sex marriage.
American culture is built on a number of critical values, some of which are under direct attack today and as a direct result of fighting the wrong battles in the wrong arenas in the wrong way at the wrong time.
Today’s picked-on become tomorrow’s bullies
The conflation or misidentification of issues is deadly both in the church and in politics.
In this case, by confusing the defense of marriage with an attack on homosexual relationships, we attempted to build a wall that could not be held, and left open the field of battle for the barbarians to overrun everything we actually care about.
Especially civility, tolerance, understanding, compassion.
Liberty is the wall we must defend against the newly-minted bully-barbarians, because it is the bulwark of our culture and the foundation for everything else.
Defending liberty is a responsibility that none of us, inside or outside faith communities, dare shirk.
Especially given much of the church’s responsibility for undermining the battles that have brought us here.
As for marriage, morality, and Christian values, they begin—and end—with individual believers and their faith communities taking their biblical mandates seriously and tending to their own houses rather than minding the business of people far beyond their sphere of positive influence.