The Box They’re Putting Christians In


Over the fifteen years, or so, that I’ve been engaged in the same-sex marriage debate, the most frustrating thing has probably been the seeming disinclination of people who, trying to find a reasonable middle stance, simply fail to address the world as it is.

When progressive activists began going after small businesses here and there across the country, some of the middle-grounders noticed the warning sign, but not many.  The vitriol over Indiana’s proposed religious freedom law, on the other hand, was too stunning not to notice, especially since the law was relatively mild.

That awareness came too late, and anyway, those who began reconsidering the issue remained limited mainly to principled, objective libertarians.  Then, as if by design, the Supreme Court acted too quickly for any sort of push-back to form.

For a sense of where the “reasonable middle” stands, right now, here’s the New York Times’s David Brooks, writing after the Supreme Court dispensed with the Constitution and redefined marriage for the country:

I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course.

Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution. …

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life. …

This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.

What world is Brooks living in?  The Left isn’t going to let us social conservatives do this.  The box they’re pushing us in is obvious.  Same-sex marriage — especially imposed in the florid terms of the court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision — sits at a pivot point between law and worldview/religion.  The quality that made marriage such an effective institution for encouraging men and women to unite for the creation and raising of children will now make it an effective weapon against religious people who uphold traditional values.

If we organize ourselves as something other than non-profits, we’ll be seen as offering “public accommodations,” which will invite regulations about how we can offer services, to whom, in what settings, and with what restrictions on those with whom we work.  For one particularly stark example, consider the Christian ministers in Idaho who are fighting a legal battle after the city in which they operate told them that a “non-discrimination” ordinance requires them to perform same-sex weddings.

It’s going to be all too easy for the activists to insist that religion “has no place in the workplace,” or something like that.  They’ll present the image of some big employer oppressing its employees, but look at the Obama administration’s assault even on the non-profit Little Sisters of the Poor.  For a sampling that touches on clients or beneficiaries rather than employees, look at Catholic Charities’ adoption services in Massachusetts, which ended in 2006 when the state insisted that the organization place children with same-sex parents.

In some respects, the law does make more mission-driven allowances for non-profits, given that it’s easier for progressives to demagogue against the idea that the way a person makes money, in a for-profit venture, is not separate from what he or she believes.  But if those of us who would take Brooks’s advice organize as non-profits, we’ll face the opposite wall, through which the Left will proclaim that we’re bringing politics into our charity.  If we do that, they’ll say, we’re not really offering charity and shouldn’t gain the gloss of non-profits.

The upshot will be that, however we organize, activists will use the government and any other means they can find to force us:

  • To hide our motivation, installing a wall of separation between our activities and the beliefs that motivate them
  • To offer services in a way that undermines the underlying principle that we believe to be critical for long-term advancement, in the way that requiring Catholic Charities to follow the government’s rules would have made its practice inconsistent with the foundational belief that adoptive families should mirror natural families which mirror God’s relationship with the Church
  • To erase our organizational identity, by requiring us to hire and associate with people without regard to their willingness to uphold our principles

This is an early observation, of course; the box isn’t fully built, yet.  One of the urgent objectives of social conservatives, post-Obergefell, must be to ensure that our freedoms of expression and association expand from their current condition.

Our odds of success are not encouraging, though, with the likes of Brooks turning immediately to lecture us about what we should do, without a word to the Left about what they shouldn’t do.

  • Warrington Faust

    It is the bottom of the 9th and we are only beginning to react. I will try to keep this short. As with Justin, I believe there are Christian values which require protection, particularly when they accord with easily recognized
    values. I also believe that the people who hold those values require
    protection. “Thou shalt not kill” tends to keep people alive. The same might be said of “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife”. Many Christian values, for instance, chastity and marriage reinforce societal desires (at least most Christian societies, it is easy to be distracted); namely
    preventing fatherless, family less, children. There are also inheritance rights, matters for another time. This may be a case of religion serving society, I do not regard that as meaningful here. We are a Christian society, our laws and mores have evolved from our Christian values.

    Unlike Justin, I am not sure that it was the SSM debate which “did it”. Was it the 60’s when “the pill” was invented? It instantly undermined those
    societal/religious rules designed to prevent illegitimate children. Suddenly, there was another way. Couple this with “women’s liberation”. Women were able to fend for themselves, economics no longer required marriage to a good “bread winner”. For economic reasons (why pay two rents) people began “living together”. At first the “excuse” was to “test compatibility” before marriage. The talk shows whooped it up and everyone was thrilled to be witnessing the sexual revolution. Many
    wanted to participate, even vicariously. I remember my mother
    agonizing constantly about what to do if I brought a girl home and we
    wanted to sleep together; I went to an all male school.(which did not
    then permit marriage)

    Fairly soon, “living together” no longer required excuses about preparation for marriage. It became the social equivalent of “going steady” in the 50’s and 60’s. In the background nudity became acceptable in movies loosening
    a lot of sexual mores, marriage was no longer required for socially
    acceptable sexual intimacy, “shacking up” disappeared from the vocabulary, women wanted careers before kids, birth control/abortion removed the “shotgun wedding”. Marriage was progressively devalued. I think I realized that the colors had gone down when “what’s a marriage certificate? It’s just a piece of paper” became commonplace. This passed without objection, marriage had become meaningless. Still shreds survived. Women pressed me to live together so that they “would be taken
    seriously at work”. Marriage might no longer be required, but to
    be a “serious woman” it was necessary to be part of “an item”.

    Immediately to a conclusion. Marriage has been devalued. When SSM is presented to the public many will think “so what, it is just a piece of paper”. I am reminded of the Clinton/Lewinsky days. I was amazed at the number of wives, wishing to be sophisticates, who would announce “I’d be down on him in a second”. So, the question becomes, how do we return marriage its former status? With an understanding that it is about procreation and family.

    • Justin Katz

      Just to be clear: The problem with same-sex marriage isn’t that it brings a new devaluation of marriage. The problems are that it locks the lesser definition into place (marriage is just about some airy notion of love) and gives the forces of radical social change a weapon by which to go after people and organizations that hold to the traditional view of marriage.

      • msteven

        I agree with you here – and as Warrington said, it has been headed down that road for a while. This was the last steep step – even steeper than polygamy or incest. And this will be used as a weapon against anyone who dares not to agree with them. Any opposing belief is unconstitutional.

        • Warrington Faust

          My point i saying marriage has become devalued is that it has become generic, and lost any valued definition. It may be a poor analogy, it is only the “value” of a “Rembrandt” which causes people to distinguish it from a “painting”. I wonder if the new definition represents an “uptick” for DeBeers. On the theory that what can be done, will be done; I expect plural marriage shortly. Not exactly a new idea, I think it has just been “waiting its turn”.

  • Warrington Faust

    Food for thought , “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife”. In legal terms adultery was removed from the Criminal Code very recently. In the early Eighties, I was assigned to a lot of divorce work. One method to “divide and conquer” was to bring a criminal complaint for Adultery. I believe I received the last judgment in Massachusetts (1983?) for “Criminal Conversation” It was for $500,000. The wife’s paramour was a cab driver so it didn’t net me much. I offer this only to show that, in living memory, there have been a lot of changes in “thinking” about marriage. Removing “fault” from divorce is another example. I understand that you can still base a divorce on “fault grounds” but no judge is going to pay any attention to it, unless truly egregious. Actual, true, physical abuse remains rare among married couples.

    • msteven

      David Brooks may be trying to find the ‘silver lining’ in the ruling, but I agree with Justin that the activists will not stop here and attempt to stop anyone from treating homosexuality like say, racial minorities. While I may agree with some of the what-would-be called gay activism, it is not like race. And there legitimate Biblical-based beliefs that make it reasonable to be against same-sex marriage. And the ruling effectively ended being allowed to manifest those beliefs. Being against SSM is now equivalent to full-fledged ignorant bigotry.

      I totally agree with Warrington that it has been headed down this road for a while but the slope in the last several years (even weeks) has gotten much steeper. And it isn’t even consistent. There is constitutional right to gay marriage, but affirmative action is constitutional? The Supreme Court is now an unelected extension of the legislature and will of the people. Just as the founders intended (sarcasm).

      • Warrington Faust

        The term “Affirmative Action” was lifted from a Presidential Executive Order forbidding discrimination in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Executive Order issued by President Kennedy in March 1961. Lacking a clear definition it has found use in many places. for instance “affirmative Action” in academia to insure the “benefits of diversity”. There is no law requiring , or permitting this. If I recall correctly the SCOTUS has upheld the “principle”.

        • msteven

          If I recall, the “principle” was upheld yrs back by a majority written by Sandra O’Connor. Something akin to constitutional for the time being. Just as the founders thought of (‘time being’)

  • ShannonEntropy

    You would have to be insane to get married these days. Marriage falls under Contract Law, and it is the only area of contracts that is continuously “evolving” AND you are held to the standards of today, not when the contract was written

    Fer ex, I have a pre-nup with Mrs ShannonEntropy but it was drafted in 1988 and the standards of then but would be ruled invalid in a skinny minute now

    Not to mention that even tho we are not a “community property” State, that just makes it *worse* for men cuz ALL your assets — even those accumulated before the marriage, like pension plans — get divided equally

    A friend of mine caught his wife in bed with the landscaper. He had married later in life to a much younger woman and by then had $millions$ in his 401K. Yep … you guessed it … she got HALF of the whole pile !!

    So even tho I Lo♥e Mrs S_E to bits, there is no friggin’ way I am *ever* gonna walk down that aisle again nosiree !!

    More =►

    • Warrington Faust

      I had so many “caught in bed” cases that it became impossible to conclude that it wasn’t planned to “put the matter on the table”. Been a lot of years since I saw a divorce case, but I understand that it is now standard to subpoena “On-star” records to see where the wife has been.

      • ShannonEntropy

        A woman can get a pre-nup tossed just by testifying under oath that she “didn’t understand” what she was signing … even if she had a lawyer advising her when she signed it

        But my male friend couldn’t just testify that he caught his wife in flagrant adultery … he had to “prove it”. And if he actually could, he could only get her share of his wealth reduced from 50 to 40 percent. He couldn’t “prove it”, which cost him six figures

        Do you see now what I mean when I wrote that the Courts are totally biased in women’s favor ??

        p.s. I told him he should have shot the guy. Then he would have EMTs as witnesses to a naked wife & guy in his bedroom … or would even *that* have been “proof” enough ??

        • Warrington Faust

          Testimony of a percipient witness is “evidence”, or “proof”, it is simply a matter of the judge refusing to be swayed by it. I am reminded of a Boston judge who belonged to my lunch club. He had a case where a cop was cut by a knife while arresting someone. The cop testified that it was probably accidental. The judge’s opinion was “I have a guy with a knife and a cop with a cut on his hand, he’s going to jail”.
          Rhode Island is an “equitable distribution” state ( a former associate of mine, Munroe Inker basically invented that). The judge is supposed to consider various factors in determining the “equitable distribution” of the property, and write an opinion showing his/her determinations. Too much work, it long ago became “I think it is 50-50 unless you show me why not”. Where I was the court day was 5 hours. The divorce judge would look out and see 200 people in the morning, call that 100 problems. Divided by 5 hours, that is 20 problems per hour, or 3 minutes each. What can you expect? Consequently lawyers would make it a “motion practice”, bringing a separate motion for each of the 20 problems their client had. At least each separate problem got its own 3 minutes.
          I do not deny your belief in bias, try this one. I have had a “platonic” female guest living in my house for about a year. I had known her for years (she and former husband managed my property when I lived in Boston) and she was in a desperate situation. She proved to be an alcoholic and became unruly. I have asked her to leave. About 2 hours ago I was served with a restraining order to prevent me from “abusing her” and not to force her to “engage in sexual relations unwillingly” (not a problem). This was an “extension”, meaning there is an outstanding order of which i was unaware. I could have been arrested for having said hello to her this morning. There, I’ve vented.

          • ShannonEntropy

            YIKES !!! That is horrible, Warrington !!

            The other day while sitting in the Hot Club sipping a Rolling Rock® & bemoaning the fate of modern marriage among other things, with an attorney friend of mine
            — who is one of the biggest medical malpractice plaintiff’s attorneys in the
            State — and he told me this =►

            If you ever find yer·self single again and want to co·habitate with some chick, make her sign a Lease first. That makes her your tenant and gives you a legal way to get rid of her should the time come.

            You can “gift” her the “rent” … IRS regs say you can give someone up to $14,000 a yr tax free, and then she won’t have any cancelled checks or receipts which will make it all the easier to evict her

            But it’s too late for you. And whatever you do, donut watch the movie Pacific Heights tonight !!


          • Warrington Faust

            There is an eviction proceeding in progress, since the inception of that she has called the District Attorney, State Police, and local Police. She has had the Health Dept and Bidg. dept here (1770 house, easy to find violations). “Cop Law”, cops will not remove a guest who has furniture. They told her she was a “tenant” and had “rights”. That was when trouble began. Now that cops have made a mess, they have decided she is nuts and no longer accept her calls.

            A little lesson. These papers indicate I have defaulted on a prior hearing. The law requires that it be served by a “law enforcement officer” who must make a “return of service” as to when I was notified. Going to the courthouse later, I will be very interested in seeing the “return of service”.

            The order to stop “harassing her” is basically a finding that I have been harassing her. Compare, your friend finds his wife in bed with another man, that is not “proof”.

            Enough, this is a “political” forum, not a Victorian newspapers “agony” column.