Democracy, The Individual, and Moral Revolutions (Part 2)

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


Discrimination Can Cut Two Ways

In Al Mohler’s op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on July 1, 2011 (“Evangelicals and the Gay Moral Revolution”), he correctly noted how quickly American moral intuitions have changed on the issue of homosexuality. In contrast to earlier moral transitions which evolved over long periods of time, the issue of gay rights has become the new moral orthodoxy virtually within a generation. In a July 11, 2011 Op Ed piece in the Boston Globe, Tom Keane wrote in a similar vein but from a vastly different perspective than Mohler,

“The fight over same-sex marriage – a topic undiscussed 20 years ago, a shocking proposition a decade ago – will soon be over. It will take some years more, and battles remain, but the outcome of the war is clear. This may seem a remarkable claim, given the federal Defense Of Marriage Act, the 2008 rejection of same-sex marriage by California voters, and the laws of a majority of states, all of which aim to preserve traditional, heterosexual marriage. However, the game is over. Laws against gays marrying will soon seem as wrong to the younger generation as anti-miscegenation laws now seem to us. Gay marriage will eventually be the law of the land.”

Mohler and Keane rightly noted the revolutionary change in our attitudes towards the issue of gay marriage. And Mohler wisely thought about an appropriately irenic and humble Christian reaction to the change. But I think Mohler has missed a significant part of the cultural narrative which Keane alludes to, viz., that gay marriage was a small step to take once the issue of gay rights was underwritten by the language of exclusion and discrimination. It was but a short step from civil unions to gay marriage on this moral trajectory. It was that original often unnoticed affirmation of civil unions that led inevitably to the reality that gay marriage could/would be viewed along the spectrum of discrimination rather than the spectrum of personal morality. And in contemporary democracies, there are few arguments with such persuasive force as those connected with discrimination. And my question is simply this: should not evangelicals think twice before rejecting claims of discrimination which have historically been rooted in the equal dignity of all humans created in the image of their creator?