In the recent dinner-table debate between Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Dan Savage of … normal life, Dan said this:
John Shore, who’s a Christian blogger, a pro-gay-marriage Christian blogger and author, says that the Bible has no place in a conversation about the legality or illegality of gay marriage. Illegal is not a religious term.
When Dan and I spoke a few days before the debate, my primary advice to him was to be sure the camera wasn’t on him when he suddenly lunged across the table and stabbed Brown in the forehead with a salad fork. “Then,” I said, “You could just say ‘Whoa! Did you see that? My fork just flew into Brown’s forehead! He must have a magnetized steel plate in his head!’ Who wouldn’t believe that Brian Brown has a steel plate in his head?”
No, but seriously.
What I mostly suggested was that at its outset Dan entirely shut down the debate (then titled “Be It Resolved: Christianity Is Bad for LGBTQ Americans”) by resolutely insisting that the Bible has no place in a discussion about gay marriage.
“Employing the Bible in an argument about the legality of gay marriage,” I said, “is like employing pliers to saw through wood. It’s the wrong tool for the job. Illegal is not a religious term.”
NOM likes to pretend that the Bible is not to them what the atomic bomb was to Harry Truman: the principal, ultimately final weapon. Though they’ll deny it until they’re screaming at a pitch only dogs can hear, NOM is very much a Christian organization. It represents a Christian base without which it would crumble.
And here’s the problem with Christian organizations like NOM (and the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family, and the American Family Association, and on and on and on) figuring in the debate of an important national legal issue: the Bible (reminder alert: I’m a Christian) has no proper place in such a debate. Unfortunately it does, in fact, have a place, because when it suits them so many Christians so willingly forget what their otherwise swoon-inducing Founding Fathers so explicitly said about the separation of Church and State. But just because I passionately love my conga drums doesn’t make it okay for me to whang on them during an opera performance. If I’m carrying my congas I should be forbidden from entering any venue wherein an opera is being performed. Because they don’t belong in that place. They’re not appropriate. Congas are for an entirely separate category of music.
Here in America the Bible isn’t supposed to in any way have anything to do with establishing public policy. That’s what our government is for. And our government is supposed to represent all of us. And some of us are Muslims. Some of us are Jews. Some of us are atheists, Buddhists, Hindus. We come from a zillion different faith traditions; we dearly hold all kinds of beliefs. But the one thing that we’re all supposed to understand and hold to is that in order for America to work Church and State must remain separate.
And NOM knows this, of course. Brian Brown has a Master’s degree in history from Oxford. NOM’s chairman of the board, John Eastman, is a law professor—he’s the founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, for bleep’s sake.
NOM knows it’s wrong to use the Bible to argue public policy. But (however subtly—which is to say not at all) they persist in doing so. Why? Because in the final analysis the Bible is all they have. They’re know what at least at some level you, me, and everyone else is perfectly aware, which is that the fight against gay marriage has nothing whatsoever to do with intellectuality, logic, or reason.
The fight against gay marriage is about fear. It’s about anger. It’s about unadulterated bigotry. It’s about stupid, ignorant, stubborn, blind, gut-level hatred. It’s got as much to do with anything Jesus taught as checker pieces have to do with playing chess.
But you firmly strap a Bible to that anger? You transmogrify Jesus’ love into men’s hatred? You manage the alchemizing of rank bigotry into the will of God?
Well then you have yourself some serious traction. Traction that will last. For a while. Until the real love of Jesus—the real truth of the Bible, the real truth of universal love, Christian or otherwise—inevitably reoccupies its rightful place above all.