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Contra Erick: No Compromise, No Regrets

A Christian Conservative case for SSM

Promoted from the diaries by Erick for an alternative view on this particular topic.

After reading Erick’s post this morning entitled, Christians Side With Mammon. Mammon Sided with Barabbas, I feel compelled to respond and provide an alternative viewpoint.

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a long-time RedState lurker – I discovered RedState (and political blogs in general) during RatherGate, and have been an almost daily reader of this site ever since. I’m a committed Christian and have been since childhood, growing up in a fundamental, Bible-believing church.

I’m a graduate of Patrick Henry College (PHC). The PHC student covenant begins as follows: “I, a student of Patrick Henry College, commit to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength; to love my neighbor as myself; and to bring glory to God in obedience to His Word through the following principles.”

I not only signed the PHC student covenant, as a member of PHC’s inaugural class, I and a small team of others developed the student government framework that came up with it in the first place.

I’ve been happily married to the love of my life, Heidi, for six and a half amazing years. We have an almost-two-year-old son, Tristan.

I’ve been intrigued by politics as long as I can remember – I recall, at 8 years old – watching with rapt attention the election returns on the night George Bush defeated Mike Dukakis. In the 1996 GOP Presidential primary I persuaded my parents to cast a protest vote for Pat Buchanan, as I felt Bob Dole was too liberal, and Dole was already a lock for the nomination by that time anyway. I was fifteen at the time. In high school I interned in my Congressman’s district office. After college, I worked on my Congressman’s 2002 reelection campaign as a paid staffer. I first voted in the 1998 midterm elections and have never missed a federal election since. I was a firm believer in voting for the most conservative candidate electable, long before I’d ever heard of the “Buckley Rule.”

Hopefully, the above is enough to establish my Christian, conservative bona fides (and yes, the order of those adjectives is deliberate) as well as they can be established without sitting down and actually having a conversation with me.

Then there’s this: I’m also a firm advocate for legalization of same-sex marriage.

At 32, I’m arguably one of those “younger evangelicals” Erick described in his article (though depending on your standard for judging such things, it can be argued that I am neither “young” nor “evangelical”).

To hear Erick describe it, people like me are “turning the American ideal of liberty into an idol we worship.” Ostensibly this is because Christians who support same-sex marriage are either (a) trying to thread the needle between “personal” and “political” beliefs, or (b) engaged in a futile attempt to mollify a world that hates, has always hated, and will always hate the Creator of the Universe, His Son, and those who follow Him.

Let me address these one at a time.

“Private” vs. “Public”

I don’t want to put words in Erick’s mouth, but it sounds to me as though he means this similarly to the way Vice President Biden was critiqued from the Right (including by me) for framing his position on abortion as “personally pro-life, but publicly pro-choice.”

In Biden’s case, though, his construction was an attempt to square a circle. If you genuinely believe that (a) an unborn child is nonetheless a living human being, and (b) the government has the duty to protect the lives of those within its jurisdiction from being harmed by others without due process of law, then you CANNOT be “personally pro-life, but publicly pro-choice.”

We’ll come back to that (b) in a bit.

For same-sex marriage though, speaking for myself at least, there is no irreconcilable difference between “personal” and “political” beliefs to resolve. What, then, are mypersonal beliefs? As a Bible-believing Christian, don’t I believe that Homosexuality is wrong?

Here is my personal belief on the issue, in a nutshell:

Is Homosexuality a Sin?

I. Do. Not. Care.

Luke 10 tells the story of a legal expert who queried Jesus about what was required to inherit eternal life. Christ turned the question back on its questioner, and this man whose entire life revolved around studying the law of God summed it up in two points: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

And Christ informed him that he had it exactly right.

That’s what is required to be a follower of Christ. I’m not called to hunt down sinful people, or question the faith of my friends and neighbors, or try to wield the power of the government to enforce my convictions on others.

I’m called to love God, and love them. period. The End. Christ himself spent time with the lowest and most despised sinners of His day, and Scripture holds no account of His ever confronting them about it, except when they explicitly asked Him about it or, like Zaccheus the cheating, thieving tax collector, brought it up themselves.

Even for those who believe homosexuality is a sin, does it necessarily follow that they should wield the levers of Leviathan’s power against those whom they believe are in the wrong? After all, Scripture speaks about homosexuality a bare handful of times. Conversely, caring for the poor is a key theme all throughout the Major and Minor Prophets, the Gospels and the Epistles. Israel is repeatedly condemned for abandoning the poor, sick and needy among them. The disciples and the early church are urged to care for those same  poor and needy.

If, as the anti-SSM crowd would have it, the levers of State are to be wielded to enforce the commands of Scripture, then pardon me, but what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks are we doing spending so much time, energy and effort fighting to overturn Obamacare? If the role of government is to enforce Biblical morality, isn’t Obamacare – providing the security of medical insurance coverage to a multitude of poor, sick people who couldn’t get it before, the most Christ-like thing the government has ever done??

And what of my “public” position?

This is where the abortion analogy comes in . . . and where Erick’s “idolatry of freedom” paradigm fails miserably. It is the role of government to protect its citizens from one another in the absence of due process. It is NOT the role of government – at least not in this particular Constitutional Republic – to endorse or enforce morality – be it Biblical or any other kind.

Recall, if you will, the time when some of the legal scholars of the day tried to trap Jesus into taking an insurrectionist stand against the Roman Empire by asking him about taxes. His response refuted Erick’s “idolatry of freedom” paradigm perfectly . . . Christ drew a bright line between things civil and things religious, and commanded his questioners to “Render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God the things which are God’s.

In a society where the freedoms Erick accuses us of holding too highly are explicitly enshrined in the nation’s governing document, support for equal protection under the law and freedom of contract aren’t idolatry. They’re simply rendering to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s!

But forget the role of government for a moment. What about Christ Himself?? Given the pattern of Jesus’ own life on earth, can you really make the argument that he cares more about homosexuality than about the poor? Can you really believe that He would want us to use the government to enforce the former type of morality, but not the latter? Can you honestly think that following in His footsteps requires us to parse out whether taking a particular position constitutes “tacit approval” of sin? Did Christ Himself care about whether his dinners with publicans and prostitutes looked to the Pharisees like “tacit approval”??

Who’s Trying to be Popular?

Look at me. I’m writing a staunchly pro-SSM post, the day after the Prop 8/DOMA oral arguments when everyone’s interest in the issue is at its peak, on RedState.com, of all places! Ask yourself if these are the actions of someone who cares especially strongly if he is “popular” or “well-liked.” Are they?

I do not care if the world approves of my beliefs. But neither do I care if my fellow-believers approve of them. Just as too many of those who support SSM act from the former motivation, too many of those who oppose it act from the latter. Both motivations miss the point – by a lot.

So I’m not in it for the accolades or the approval. I couldn’t care less.

So Why, then?

Why do I believe SSM should be implemented as legal? Three reasons:

  1. The debate over SSM is a divisive political issue that is tearing this country apart culturally and politically, while distracting from other, FAR more serious crises that we are refusing to face because we cannot resolve the differences between left and right on this one issue.
  2. Many of the arguments against implementing SSM are, I believe, misguided, misleading or mistaken.
  3. Marriage is a Good Thing, and a positive influence. I want that for as many people as possible.

Division: Erick or others will perhaps reply that such divisiveness is necessary to take a firm stand on an issue of conviction in which one believes strongly, and which is vitally important to the future of this country. To such a response, I would heartily agree! I just don’t think this is that issue. I believe issues like entitlement spending, border security, national defense, over-regulation, reckless monetary policy, education, abortion and a whole host of other issues – both fiscal and social – will have a MUCH greater impact on the direction this nation takes over the next 20-50 years than will the issue of SSM.

I also believe that, by fighting the issue tooth-and-nail as we on the right have done, we’ve invited the courts to step in and make a blanket ruling as they did in Roe vs. Wade, that will set back the integrity of the democratic process, impacting a host of other vital issues and making it harder to put in place legislative protections of conscience for those who are morally opposed to providing services in support of a same-sex wedding, adoption, etc.

Bad Arguments: It has become a recent fad for libertarians, and some conservatives, to argue that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether. I’ve been making this argument since long before it was “the new thing,” and I’m glad to see more people getting on board. This whole debate begs the question, Why does the government have an overriding interest in my personal contract to love and care for and share everything with my wife in the first place??

I’ve typically heard three sets of responses to this question.

1) The government has an overriding interest in procreation, and the most stable method for doing so is through families with two opposite-sex parents.

If this is where you hang your hat, if it’s constitutional to define same-sex couples as “not married,” then it’s also ok to deny the right to marry (Yes, Virginia, the freedom to engage in voluntary contracts with another person absolutely is a right) to anyone who has gone through menopause, or who has had a vasectomy or hysterectomy. After all, if I’m capable of fathering children, but am married to a partner who is incapable of bearing them, I am acting counter to the state’s overriding interest in procreation, am I not? What about polygamy – that infamous slippery slope that is the first refuge of anyone who opposes SSM? If you’re anti-SSM because you believe in the importance of procreation, shouldn’t you be pro-polygamy??

What about birth control? Are SSM-opponents going to turn the leftist smear that “Republicans want to outlaw birth control” into a reality??

Only if they’re being intellectually consistent.

2) Getting government out of marriage altogether would be too unworkable. Since government HAS to be involved somehow, they ought to be involved by enforcing the “correct” definition of what marriage is.

Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for “Marriage in Israel.” I suspect you’ll find it enlightening. I know I did. In Israel, civil and religious marriage are two entirely different things. Each one is regulated differently: Civil marriages by the government, and religious marriages by the religious community that performs them.

The only reason we can’t do that easily here is because the government has gotten itself knotted up in something it should never have been involved with in the first place – taxes, inheritance laws, employer-employee contracts . . . are you really going to sit there and tell me that the conservative position is that the government should have its fingers in all these things, thereby justifying an overriding government interest in marriage??

3) The government is just acknowledging that “marriage” means what it has always meant

This one makes me literally laugh out loud. The very same Christian Evangelicals who champion the literal interpretation of Scripture have concocted a “Biblical Definition of Marriage” that excludes Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, David, Solomon and other Heroes of the Faith. From a secular historical perspective, monogamy has typically been the exception, rather than the rule. Claiming that “Marriage has always been between one man and one woman” demonstrates a complete ignorance of both history and Scripture.

The “Conservatizing” Influence of Marriage: Marriage is, as most married people will tell you, a stabilizing influence. It also seems to be a “conservatizing” one. Singles vote overwhelmingly democratic. Married people vote overwhelmingly Republican. Yet here we have a Republican-oriented site championing a policy that denies an entire segment of the population the ability to settle down and enjoy the stability and security that comes with a lifelong commitment to another person. I realize that “the plural of anecdote is not data,” but I can tell you that in my personal circle of acquaintances and friends, the ones who are both gay and married (in states that allow it) are far more willing to see the reason in conservative positions – sometimes even shocking themselves by doing so – than before they were married, and moreso than other gay friends who are not married.

And then there are the children. Even if you believe with all your heart that the best environment in which to raise a child is one shared with both a loving (male) father and a loving (female) mother . . . are you really ready to argue that a child is better off in an abusive home, or shuttling around between foster homes, or in a home with an absentee mom or dad, or in a broken home, than that child would be in a loving home shared with two parents of the same gender?

We live in a fallen, broken world, and unfortunately that means that not all of us have the good fortune to grow up in stable homes with both a father and mother who love us and are present in our lives. But for those who don’t have that opportunity, I’d argue that a stable home with two fathers or two mothers is the next best thing.

And what is it that makes it so “stable”? The lifelong commitment, public support system, and social (and perhaps, but not necessarily, governmental) imprimature that comes with the term “marriage.”

Don’t forget that, back in the 1980s when he was a real conservative, Andrew Sullivan was absolutely pilloried by the left for advocating in favor of gay marriage. The Left thought he was selling them out by buying into the institutions and traditions of conservatism.

What if they were right? Could it be that the increasingly widespread adoption of legalized same-sex marriage means we won the culture wars??

And then there are the taxes. All those taxes! One of the chief objections to the Defense of Marriage Act – the one on which the Windsor case before the Supreme Court is, in fact, based – is that Same Sex couples have no way to avoid the taxes that are not levied against married couples. Are we, as conservatives, going to be the ones arguing that the government ought to take a bigger chunk of Edith Windsor’s money because of her lifestyle choices?? Shouldn’t we be leaving such arguments to the statists who run the Other Party??

Finally there is the civil aspect of nature itself. How did we on the right become the party that is in favor of government inserting itself into the question of with whom I may freely and mutually enter into contract?

Sundry Objections

Most of you who have made it this far probably disagree with the majority of what I’ve written here. I’ve certainly come up against various objections in the past. I’d like to address a few of them briefly here – though I hope you’ll share others in the comments.

Nobody’s denying anybody anything – we’re just defining what federal law means when it uses the word “married”

Does Edith Windsor know that? Is that explanation going to give her back the money exacted from her by the government after her long-term partner died?

Liberals want to destroy the institution of marriage altogether.

Look how well that’s going. They’ve been so successful at destroying the institution of marriage that, suddenly, everybody wants one!

Liberals want to use SSM to coerce people to violate their convictions

No doubt. As Erick said in his article, the World hates those who follow Christ, and it always will. I would make it broader, and say that the world – at least the one in which we live today – hates firmly held convictions of any kind. If you believe in something strongly enough that you’re willing to fight for it, die for it, or kill for it, you’re viewed as . . . something of an oddity, vaguely unusual and probably a threat to society at large.

That’s not going to change. Are people going to use (or ALREADY using) SSM to force believers to violate their convictions? Absolutely!

So fight them there!

Are there people using SSM to shut down churches? Yes! Fight them there!

Are there people using SSM to extract more hard-earned tax dollars from those who oppose it? Yes! Fight them there!

Are there people using SSM to silence and censor dissent? Yes! Fight them there!

Right now, the hill on which conservatives have chosen to fight is a hill on which conservatism is dying – if it has not already died. The way is open for us to coopt the SSM-movement and let marriage work its stabilizing influence on them, while in the meantime fighting battles we can actually win – battles where we’re the ones arguing in favor of free speech, or freedom of religion, instead of the ones arguing against freedom of contract.

Erick juxtaposes this issue with the occurrence of Holy Week. But I would have you commemorate Holy Week by sitting down, as Christ did, to share your life with those He came to save . . . those He called you to love.

Erick would have you commemorate Holy Week by casting the first stone at them.

And for that, I am an idolater? No! Because an idol is something that takes the place of God in my heart and life . . . something that stands as more important than He is.

Freedom isn’t more important than God is to me. It’s simply the most important of all of His gifts to me.  I hope you’ll stand with me in thanking Him for it, and extending it as widely as possible to others.

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