I woke up and Christian Twitter was all a-twitter (ha) about the news that World Vision, a highly respected Evangelical global development NGO, would hire Christians in same-sex marriages. The reactions, from both sides of the culture war, were highly predictable. Russell Moore, the closest thing to an “official voice” of Evangelicalism, has decried the move as inspired by the devil. This is a problem for Catholic institutions, too.
All this strikes me as both strategically block-headed and, so much more importantly, un-Christian.
First of all, the strategy: we are fighting the all-important Hobby Lobby case. “If religious employers don’t have to offer birth control, what’s to stop them from forcing their employees not to use birth control?” “What’s to stop them from firing people for adultery?” “What’s to stop them from … ?” The “orthodox” Christian response to World Vision lends credence to these fanciful, question-begging scenarios from our opponents.
But more importantly, the Gospel. Same-sex marriage is contrary to Christianity’s traditional understanding of gender and sexuality. Ok. I support the right of religious employers to fire employees for any reason, but as we all know (right?) supporting a right to something is not the same thing as condoning that thing. Ok.
Let me ask you something: how many adulterers work for Christian institutions? The answer has to be: more than you think. How many ordained who have broken their vows of chastity? How many employees who have had abortions? How many Southern Baptists have garish McMansions? At what point did we decide that working alongside sinners was a no-no? Where in the heck did we get that idea from the Gospel?
(“Oh, but this is different! This causes scandal!” Does it? First of all, I think our habitual understanding of “scandal” needs a serious rethink. And second of all, how is this more of a cause of scandal than the other things I’ve name-checked?)
This is where we invoke the certain Gospel passages, that Jesus recruited sinners, and ate with sinners, and came for sinners, and rescued the woman taken in adultery. This has become so habitual that the other side is primed to ignore it by reflex, and the first side merely uses it as an excuse for meta-pharisaism.
“Jesus tells the woman taken in adultery to ‘Go and sin no more’!” Ok. But wait, the Gospel doesn’t tell us if she actually repents or not. Imagine she doesn’t. Jesus, being the Son of God and all, knows it. Do we think he would’ve seen the men lining up to stone that poor woman and would’ve thought “Good. She had it coming.”
“C’mon! Refusing to hire same-sex ‘married’ people isn’t the same thing as stoning a woman!” In that society it was! It was the normal, legal response. Today we have different legal and cultural means of using social coercion to punish sin, and Jesus clearly indicts them all (see: Girard’s scapegoat mechanism). Only God can judge. And your social punishments for sin are just excuses for you to set yourselves up as idols, as little gods who get to separate the sheep from the goats.
I mean, let’s be a little Kantian here. Imagine every business is a “Christian” business (and that’s the end goal, isn’t it?) and has this policy. So when you’re in a committed same-sex relationship, the outcome is that you…don’t…work? Anywhere? Never mind the cruelty, how is this supposed to get anyone to repent of anything? You have no idea how tired I am of hearing the same stories from gay friends who left the Church.
It reminds me (and some will surely find this overly polemical) of the Cold War, when Communist apologists would point out that Soviet Russia actually had a relatively small number of prisoners in its Gulag system. But that was missing the point: in the Soviet Union, for most dissidents, the punishment wasn’t forced labor–it was losing your job. And since the government was the only employer, it meant destitution. You don’t need a big gulag when the entire country is a gulag.
I’m an adulterer. Not in action, but in thought, and I’m told that’s a pretty big deal (Matt 5:28). Why my sexual sin is compatible with me writing here at a Catholic website, or doing catechesis at my parish (OMG! This sexual sinner has access to children!) for that matter, I don’t know.
I don’t know what the Evangelical interpretation of Scripture is today, but the Catholic magisterium, in any case, is absolutely clear: all unjust discrimination against gay people is a grave sin. And I see no justice here.