Are Young Evangelicals Being Naive?

Are young evangelicals being naive about our current political landscape? Is it really possible to unwind marriage from politics altogether?

What are the possible ramifications about trying to separate the two? Matthew Lee Anderson questions young evangelicals naiveté in a recent article in Mere Orthodoxy.

“There is no room for naivety about our current cultural crisis,” writes Anderson. “Only within the evangelical world naivety is the dominant problem. Young evangelicals who are increasingly sympathetic to their cause want to make nice with gay marriage while supporting religious liberty, but until we are given arguments for how they can coexist given our current legal and political history, we have no more reason to think that is possible than that we could unwind marriage from politics altogether…”

According to Anderson, it is time to seriously consider hypotheticals. It is, at least, a good starting point.

The hypotheticals game can be a tricky one to play, but it is important look into the future the opponents of the RFRA are advocating.

Ross Douthat posed some hypotheticals worth considering in a recent column for the New York Times column:

1) Should religious colleges whose rules or honor codes or covenants explicitly ask students and/or teachers to refrain from sex outside of heterosexual wedlock eventually lose their accreditation unless they change the policy to accommodate gay relationships? At the very least, should they lose their tax-exempt status, as Bob Jones University did over its ban on interracial dating?

2) What about the status of religious colleges and schools or non-profits that don’t have such official rules about student or teacher conduct, but nonetheless somehow instantiate or at least nod to a traditional view of marriage at some level — in the content of their curricula, the design of their benefit package, the rules for their wedding venues, their denominational affiliation? Should their tax-exempt status be reconsidered? Absent a change in their respective faith’s stance on homosexuality, for instance, should Catholic high schools or Classical Christian academies or Orthodox Jewish schools be eligible for 501(c)3 status at all?

3) Have the various colleges and universities that have done so been correct to withdraw recognition from religious student groups that require their leaders to be chaste until (heterosexual) marriage? Should all of secular higher education take the same approach to religious conservatives? And then further, irrespective of leadership policies, do religious bodies that publicly endorse a traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic view of sexual ethics deserve a place on secular campuses at all? Should the Harvard chaplaincy, for instance, admit ministers to its ranks whose churches or faiths do not allow them to perform same-sex marriages? Should the chaplaincy of a public university?

4.) In the longer term, is there a place for anyone associated with the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic view of sexuality in our society’s elite level institutions? Was Mozilla correct in its handling of the Brendan Eich case? Is California correct to forbid its judges from participating in the Boy Scouts? What are the implications for other institutions? To return to the academic example: Should Princeton find a way to strip Robert George of his tenure over his public stances and activities? Would a public university be justified in denying tenure to a Orthodox Jewish religious studies professor who had stated support for Orthodox Judaism’s views on marriage?

5) Should the state continue to recognize marriages performed by ministers, priests, rabbis, etc. who do not marry same-sex couples? Or should couples who marry before such a minister also be required to repeat the ceremony in front of a civil official who does not discriminate?

6) Should churches that decline to bless same-sex unions have their tax-exempt status withdrawn? Note that I’m not asking if it would be politically or constitutionally possible: If it were possible, should it be done?

7) In the light of contemporary debates about religious parenting and gay or transgender teenagers, should Wisconsin v. Yoder be revisited? What about Pierce v.Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary?

As Douthat writes, “…liberals would benefit from recognizing that the current thinking of religious conservatives, in the RFRA debate and elsewhere, is shaped not only by these kind of specific fears but by a near-total uncertainty about what happens after this, and after that, and so on. And given how the ground has shifted recently, I think there would be real benefits for both sides to having more people on the left and center-left taking explicit positions on where we might and ought to go from here.”

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