Now that LGBT dreams of “marriage equality” have been fulfilled with last week’s Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, what comes next for LGBT activists? In this New York Times piece, Jodi Kantor reports a “twinge of loss” that comes with this historic victory for their cause. After all, theirs is a community that has defined itself in terms of its oppression and thus as an “outsider culture.” While Kantor’s article merely contemplates this question, I think it is worth considering the likely next step for the LGBT activists: counter-oppression. As we have seen over the last several decades, with each victory in the legislatures and courts, LGBT activists have only more aggressively sought further legal changes in their favor. Should we expect them to proceed any differently now? On the contrary, I think it is more realistic to expect that with the backing of federal law, they will be emboldened to ensure that their “oppressors” (i.e., proponents of traditional marriage) be made the new “outsider culture,” even if this must be done by force.
Hints of this direction appeared in another New York Times article a couple months back, this one authored by Frank Bruni. In this op-ed, Bruni quotes gay philanthropist Mitchell Gold as proposing that church leaders should be made to “take homosexuality off the sin list.” Bizarre as this suggestion is, Bruni declares that “his commandment is worthy — and warranted. All of us, no matter our religious traditions, should know better than to tell gay people that they’re an offense.”
Perhaps this will be the next rallying point for LGBT activists—to fight for censorship of those who would question the moral legitimacy of same-sex relationships. If achieved, this would entail severe proscribing of religious freedom. Perhaps this is why four of the Supreme Court justices issued such dire warnings in their dissenting opinions in the Obergefell case, announcing the dangers this decision represents for religious traditionalists, with Judge Scalia even calling the decision “a threat to democracy.” Strong, chilling words.
In a Time Magazine piece in response to the Supreme Court ruling, Rod Dreher has suggested that Christians “must now learn to live as exiles in our own country.” What this amounts to, says Dreher, is taking the “Benedict Option,” as described by Alasdair MacIntyre in his prescient 1982 book After Virtue. In other words, we must essentially go underground in order to preserve the values of our community. The trouble is, of course, that things are very different for 21st century U.S. Christians than they were for 6th century Benedictines. Socially, economically, and technologically, we are too entangled to achieve anything like a true Benedict Option. To paraphrase the great boxer Joe Louis, we can run but we can’t hide.
What this means is that if LGBT counter-oppression is coming, we’ll simply have to face it—with as much courage and integrity as we can manage. For many, such courageous resolve will be too demanding. And this will undoubtedly mean a sudden realization that, well, the sexual pluralists were right after all. For 4000 years of Judeo-Christian history all of the greatest ethicists and theologians in our tradition were mistaken about same-sex relationships, as are the overwhelming majority of orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims today. With this admission, the forbidden conviction will be “off the sin list,” just as ordered, and gone will be any worries about persecution from legal authorities.
For others who stand firm, this may mean loss of jobs, the death of businesses, the end of educational institutions, jail time or even worse. There is, after all, a price to be paid for certain convictions in a culture where the “oppressed” become the oppressors. And where decades, even centuries of suffering under the tyrannical rule of a majority opinion can justify imposing even greater suffering on those who persist as proponents of that same opinion when it has become, at last, a vulnerable minority view. Or so some may reason. All for the sake of “justice,” of course.
A Speculative Parade of Horribles–whether from the left or the right– has always struck me as one of the least effective rhetorical setups. Let’s keep vigilantly monotoring the situation though, much as we might have after the SCOTUS decision on interracial marriage in Loving (also vociferously opposed by some Christians, btw, as unbliblical). I’m unaware of any Christians who had to go “underground” in the (spectacularly uneventful) societal fallout from that ruling. And if they did, I’d hesitate to call them Christians.
Your essay casts opponents of same-sex marriage as the real victims and almost martyrs–even endangered (!!)–by this recent development. Again, time will tell, but count me skeptical.
Curiously absent from your predicton of “counter oppression” is any recognition that–but for the very aggressive and (to our same-sex friends who wanted to have their unions recognized generally, and not just a patchwork of states)–*oppressive* (to co-opt your word) actions on the state level, which were spearheaded and championed by Christian groups, who were themselves very much “on the offensive.”–the issue might never have even reached the Supreme Court. It’s important to be careful what one fervently wishes for.
Whether one agrees with the majority’s reasoning in Obergefell or not (and I’m commenting as a lawyer who concedes that Roberts’ dissent actually raises some very compelling points–Scalia’s and Thomas’ pearl-clutching about the end of the Republic, not so much) I guess I just don’t see the cause for alarm.
Actually, after all the confetti is swept up, I’m more inclined to think that the “twinge of loss” leads not to some sort of pogrom against Christian opponents of SSM, but rather to the inevitable sense of hard-work-ahead, for people who fought hard for something they got, and now have to actually live with it.
For the record: none of the present survey data on religious beliefs or identification suggests that Xians are a minority constituent, whether that be among religious identifiers within the US or the larger mass public. It could be the case that minorities oppress majorities (e.g. South African whites oppressing blacks), but, as is more often than not, minorities are the ones getting oppressed. It’s a little silly–bombastic? absurd?–to allege that Xians run the risk of being oppressed in mass. Last time I checked, this group either owns outright or is involved heavily in setting the agenda on most of the privileged socio-, legal-, and political- positions within the US. Pearl-clutching, indeed.
Wisdom and Folly? Well, I certainly see the Folly…
The specter of “counter-oppression” is a story the once oppressing heads of conservative Christian churches are now telling either because they can’t believe that anyone out there is less spiteful and power-hungry than themselves, or because they don’t want those who they still have power over to realize how misguided their leaders have been to spend time and energy and money on stopping something which will turn out to have little if any negative impact on their lives. Congratulations on having had culture-wide power for a long time, but those days are fading, and they have for a long time. It seems funny to mention MacIntyre in this context, since the changes he is most worried about deal with the managerial/utilitarian systems of valuing that the conservative wings of the church (yes, along with almost everyone else) have basically swallowed whole cloth; he is no culture warrior in the contemporary evangelical sense.
Long time no speak, Jim. To be honest, I visited your site expecting to be incensed. Based on my impression of where you have arrived in life, with your strong and relatively orthodox Christian position, I was expecting some sort of screed against the moral fall of our nation while “the rest of us sane and enlightened” folk take these great and heroic strides in social justice.
However, it might surprise you that I mostly agree with your point and your worries.
I’m not gay but I’m very, very pro equality and all that. I think that it’s horrible and fascist to try to block any legal or civil equality in any way. However … HOWEVER … something much weirder is going on now in our society than these superficial battles.
Here’s how I see it. Let’s say I drop a hit of acid and see a vision where an angel tells me that all dog owners are evil. In the afterlife, dog owners will be turned into slugs. Actual slugs that live on Pluto. So I start a church and gather a following of people who share my vision of the afterlife etc etc.
Now … if it is exposed in the newspapers that I’m refusing to promote an otherwise worthy employee because he’s a dog owner, you should throw me under the bus. Really. If I try to oppose the rights of one dog owner to share consensual responsibility for the children of another dog owner, again, throw me under the same bus.
However, as soon as the dog owners band together and say, “We REQUIRE you to change your church by-laws to declare that dog owners will actually go to heaven,” that’s when things get pernicious. You MUST stop believing that dog owners will turn into slugs! You must stop telling other people that you think this!
Now I do think that there is a certain “oh, boo hoo” counter argument here. So Judeo-Christian values have kept gay people living in fear for, like, forever. And you’re going to get upset because society wants you to reconsider your definition of “sin”? Oh, boo hoo.
But this misses the point. Or points. First, the opposition is not merely urging a redefinition of sin. Rather it is looking for ways to impose, at very least, social/civil consequences for holding certain ideas — for just thinking a certain way. One of the first posts I saw on reddit after the SCOTUS decision asked, “Well, now can we kill tax exemption for religious groups?” Nobody can be so foolish as to doubt that a great many liberals would love to marginalize religious belief — that this is what they are pushing for. This fantasy is driven by a comparably “religious” and “zealous” faith in a philosophically stunted materialism.
However, second, and way more important to me, the real problem is that they aren’t just trying to control YOUR thoughts. They are trying to control MINE as well. At least that’s how I feel. I could just be paranoid.
In other words, if I’m NOT just paranoid, something far beyond any so-called LGBT counter-oppression is happening here: progressives, perhaps without knowing it, are flirting with ideological fascism. Just sayin’.
On a positive note, I don’t think you really need to worry too much. It’s an old conservative cliché, but the liberals control the media. So you get the impression that the insanity is far more pervasive than it is. It sucks for me as a liberal, but I fully expect everything to get turned upside down in the next election. The liberals will circle-jerk each other into thinking that someone like Bernie Sanders could actually win and that EVERYBODY feels the same way about all of these “OBVIOUS” and “SELF-EVIDENT” progressive ideas. Then Jeb will just waltz into the White House on a path of rose petals thrown by swing-voters who are just sick to death of the thought police.