Sunday, July 29, 2012

Religion and Tolerance

The controversy stirred up this week both by the remarks of the CEO of Chic-fil-A on the one hand and the mayors of Chicago and Boston on the other has been most revealing indeed. For one thing, the controversy has served to show, once again, that contemporary PC values are on a head-on collision with traditional beliefs of all kinds, most notably traditional Christianity. For decades, we lived with a type of cultural Cold War, in which liberals made headway into the culture by commandeering discourse about race, abortion, economics, divorce, and so on. And about most of these matters, religion was, when it found conflict on these topics distasteful, able to look the other way, since none of these was an existential threat to traditional religion itself. Technically speaking, one might argue that the Bible doesn't address abortion directly; it seems to permit divorce (though it allows remarriage only under very restricted conditions), and it says nothing favoring one economic system over another. So far so good: though traditional religion might be uneasy with liberal positions, it could, to this point, ignore them and get on with its own business.

Lately, however, things have taken a turn. Despite the fact that society is split on the matter of homosexual marriage, and despite it not being allowed in most states, popular culture now seems to view it as a matter of hate worthy of social excommunication if one expresses support for the norm. When a couple of years ago Carrie Prejean said in the Miss USA pageant what a majority of Americans believe and what has been the norm throughout recorded history in virtually all societies about which we have records, she was roundly anathematized by the press. Perhaps she knew then what Dan Cathy, the President of Chic-fil-A probably suspects now--that on the matter of marriage, there can be no compromise between homosexual rights and traditional religion. And this is true not because traditional Christians are bigots but because the Bible, the focus of belief for Protestant Christians, and the Magisterium, which is the collected authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church, could not be clearer that homosexuality is wrong. The acceptance of homosexual marriage is directly incompatible with the clear teaching of traditional Christianity. This was clearly demonstrated in Massachusettes when, because the state allows same-sex marriage the Catholic Church could no longer provide adoption services, even though it had long been the largest such provider in the state. Why? Because on the matter of homosexual marriage the Church is required by very clear teaching to voice disapproval: when it condemns what the state recognizes as legal, it can no longer occupy the public space.

TMH has written before that since the question of origins has long been a religious question, teaching on origins that contradicts the religious view must constitute an unconstitutional discussion of religious topics in the public schools: something very similar is true of homosexuality. When the government--as embodied by the mayors of Chicago and Boston--try to enlist the engines of government in saying that the only acceptable position on homosexual marriage is the non-traditional one, then they are, by definition, using the government to attack traditional Christianity. Although they appear to be talking about neutral issues like tolerance and sexual orientation, the logical interpretation and the infallible result of their position is that traditional Christianity is no longer compatable with American culture.

That may indeed be the case, and it may in fact be the result that the kids, in particular, who the pollsters tell us are so fervently in favor of same-sex marriage, wish. But it will be well for the political discourse if we were honest about what is at stake: homosexual marriage is incompatible with traditional religion, and the society that celebrates the one will hardly be able to tolerate the latter.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, we Catholics have, for too long, tried to keep our heads low and our religion to ourselves. Realizing the long tradition of anti-Catholicism in this country, we felt it best to say nothing, not to register our offence, and ignore political attacks in the hopes that we would be left alone. As recent events have shown (HHS Mandate, Chic-Fil-A nonstory)we have left ourselves open to a sustained attack on not only our beliefs, but our existence. We should have taken a page from our Baptist friends and become more engaged politically in order to defend our religious rights. Unfortunately, we believed that, in a civilized country (at least one with the First Amendment), such rights were assumed.