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February 17, 2004

Constructing the Christian Ghetto

The day after fretting that the form of the gay marriage movement suggests that "America is one generation at most away from true tyranny," Methodist Rev. Donald Sensing seeks to disengage his Church from the general culture:

Instead of getting the state out of then wedding business, I would rather see the church get out of the wedding business.

This is heresy, of course, not in the sense of violating theological-doctrinal standards, but in the sense of crossing a deeply-embedded, socio-religious more. There still remains in American society a strong sense that you are "supposed" to get married in a church by a cleric, even among couples who never otherwise darken a church's door. A lot of times an engaged couple with no active religious life seek a church wedding just to make mom and dad happy, and/or because they want a traditional photo album of wedding pictures.

You can read my lengthy response in Sensing's comments section, if you'd like, but I think commenter Tom Cohoe succinctly captured an aspect of Sensing's "solution" that represents further danger:

Your last post on this subject ended with the thought that tyranny was close. Instead of retreating into the defense of the interests of your church, I think you should fight for the salvation of marriage for the benefit of the whole society.

Marriage works — and it does still work — because it fits well as a sort of interface between so many distinct and separated aspects of life. It connects one generation to the next, one family to another, man to woman, the private family to the public society, and (although libertarians will wrongly decry it) religion to the government. Removing the religion-government link — in our society, as it is constructed — will cause the other links to burst, as well.

Worse yet, it is a fool's delusion to believe that the newly extended church-state barrier will hold. Homosexuals are not simply seeking legal rights that, for the most part, they can already secure through other means. They will chase down withheld approbation wherever it remains. In this, they are perhaps representative of secularists more generally. Moral and religious absolutes are strong and true banners when carried forward into cultural conflict, but they make for irresistible flags to capture when safeguarded like treasure within sectarian walls.

Posted by Justin Katz at February 17, 2004 11:19 AM