When Dogma Becomes Prejudice

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 24 2012 @ 12:43pm

In a dialogue with Will Saletan, Ross tries his hardest to make the case that Christianity shouldn’t accept gays:

Gay relationships may be unitive in some sense, but they are not unitive in the male-female, difference-reunited sense that the Biblical narrative strongly suggests that God intended sex to be. Gay people can bear and rear children, but they cannot bear and rear them in accordance with what the Biblical narrative suggests is God’s original intention for the reproduction of the human race. Homosexuality may be innate, but recall that one of the core doctrines of Christianity is that sin itself is innate—that our innermost being is in some sense broken and fallen and turned from God’s desires for us. What a traditional Christian morality asks of gay people seems impossibly difficult, but the Jesus of the New Testament asks the near impossible of people quite frequently.

Saletan sighs in response:

I’m watching an intelligent, compassionate writer torture his intellect and his values to fit a dogma that can no longer be justified by anything outside itself.

Your argument requires you to believe that God’s natural order inflicts on hundreds of millions of people a sexual orientation they can never consummate or solemnize in a way that would honor His purposes. That these people, regardless of sin, “cannot bear and rear [children] in accordance with … God’s original intention.” That Jesus demands celibacy of them, but not of you or me. That every marriage must be heterosexual — not to be virtuous or to benefit children, but to represent a “microcosm of humanity.” You even end up downplaying marriage. Now it’s you, not the sirens of the sexual revolution, proposing “alternative ways of life besides marriage.”

And as a practical matter, how do you tell 2 percent of the population that in this culture they have to be chaste and invisible? In this culture? And if you cannot, what is your actual social policy toward these people? Or do you simply not have one – except to wish we did not exist?

MARRIAGEDCAlexWong:GettyLet me use an obvious analogy which really gets to the heart of the unfairness at the center of this. Modern America is full of divorced couples. Unlike homosexuality, Jesus spoke unequivocally about divorce. Does Ross insist that our civil laws return to banning divorce on all grounds? No. Does he back a constitutional amendment to ban civil divorce? No. His reason would be to say that it simply cannot be done democratically. But that precisely reveals the church’s discriminatory position on gay people. Unlike divorcees, the gays’ position is not a choice. But unlike divorcees, they alone are the target of a massive campaign by Christianists to deny them any right to marry at all – not just twice but ever! This is where the current hierarchy is.

Notice too how they are not threatening to shut down services for the poor and homeless because one of their civil employees might be re-married or divorced (and thereby violating church doctrine). And yet they apply that standard to gay people – who have not chosen any lifestyle, but are guilty purely of being as God made them. They do it because we are few in number and they can deploy the power of religion to demonize us.

This deliberate tolerance of heterosexuals and deliberate intolerance of homosexuals on the same issue is on its face discriminatory. And don’t get me started on annulments. Newt Gingrich gets to marry his third wife in church, but the Vatican wants a constitutional amendment to prevent my having one civil marriage with no church involvement. What else can this be rooted in but animus? And total panic.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty.)