The morning after is always worse than the night before. Today is the Christian blogosphere’s morning after. Yesterday, President Obama gave his support for gay marriage, making him the first sitting president to do so, and this morning thousands of Christian bloggers took to their keyboards.
Yes, I’m here too.
Depending on the angle, the responses fit into a few categories. Most people say how not surprised they are. While the news was still breaking, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler offered a sarcastically parenthetical “again” after announcing the news of Obama’s support for gay marriage to his Twitter followers. This morning he too took to his blog saying, “No observer of this president could be surprised.”
In one of the strangest, and thus one of my favorite, responses, my fellow Patheos writer Bristol Palin quipped, “Is anyone really surprised by the fact that President Obama came out of the closet for gay marriage?” From there she went on to suggest that the president arrived at his opinion solely from listening to his teenage daughters and watching Glee.
And yet the challenge for the too-in-the-know-to-be-surprised crowd is to still make this seem like a matter of grave importance. Mohler again, “His call for the legalization of same-sex marriage yesterday is an historic and tragic milestone.” He goes on to say that this is a “sad day for America” and a “sad day for truth.”
Collin Hansen, at The Gospel Coalition, sees the president’s announcement as an opportunity for Christians to strategize on “How to Win the Public on Homosexuality,” as his piece is titled. He calls homosexuality a challenge “that threatens us all,” and goes on to argue that at the heart of the problem is the way we’ve redefined God into a granter of our desires.
It’s easy to agree with a lot of what Hansen says. Are American Christians redefining God in our own image? Yes. Have we come to believe that we should get what we desire? Yes.
But, as a response to the president’s announcement yesterday, Hansen’s piece fails because a discussion of sinful desires or our conception of God or any of the other nine scripture references that Hansen peppers throughout the last three paragraphs of his piece have nothing to do with legalizing gay marriage.
The issue of gay marriage isn’t a religious issue; it’s a political issue. Remember that what President Obama affirmed yesterday was the right of two consenting adults to be granted married status in the eyes of the state.
Of course this doesn’t mean that political views can’t be shaped by one’s faith; the president himself illustrated this in his interview with ABC. He said of he and Michelle, “we are both practicing Christians…when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
I believe that President Obama’s faith really has influenced his decision to support gay marriage, as it has mine. As I’ve written in many places, I don’t think a politician or a voter should be expected to separate his or her political beliefs from religious ones.
Likewise, when Christian bloggers like Hansen respond to the president’s declaration or to the issue of marriage equality in general, they are free to let their faith mold their opinion. But ultimately, in a pluralistic democratic society that opinion has to hold up to secular scrutiny.
Even in citing religion, President Obama modeled the kind of compromise that has to be made when using religious motivation to back up a political opinion. Note the way that he, like many people often do, changed the wording of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” to the Golden Rule version, “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
But those that argue against the legal marriage of two adults because they believe that gay sex is sinful, or as Hansen’s more evolved theology has it “the vain pursuit of self-fulfillment” is sinful, have the burden of proving why in secular society, a religious consideration like sin is a viable factor. Like the president, they must show how their religious views correspond to a secular argument.
They cannot. There is no way to argue against gay marriage from a religious standpoint because when it comes down to it, it’s not a religious issue. Even if Collin Hansen and his ilk convince the whole country that homosexuality is sinful, it will not hurt the argument that gay marriage should be lawful.
They will never “win the public on homosexuality.”
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is editor of Patrol and author of Not Your Mother's Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better. Follow Fitz on Twitter.
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