Evangelicals aren’t going down without a fight, are they?
Marvin Olasky of World Magazine is upset that Jennifer Schoenrock, a deputy clerk in Missouri, was fired for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples—and that the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) did not defend her.
You might think that AUSCS, which in previous decades wanted to restrict government power out of concern that officials could then impose a state-sponsored belief system on others, would be consistent with its past by wanting state separation from the new Church of Gay Dominance. Nope.
Church of Gay Dominance? Really?! Tell me, where is this Church of Gay Dominance so that I may go and visit it?
AUSCS is showing what its critics have long contended: It’s not for separation of church and state but for separation of Christians from state. “No one is forcing Schoenrock to be a clerk,” AUSCS’s Simon Brown wrote. “She sought the job. If she is unwilling to perform all aspects of her job, it’s time for her to look for another line of work.”
Um . . . can someone working at the BMV refuse to issue driver’s licenses to women if their religious beliefs prohibit women from driving? I don’t think so! If you’re a clerk, you are suppose to issue whatever licenses the government tells you to issue. And yes, if you have moral objections to that, you need to find a new line of business. I at least understand the argument that bakers shouldn’t be required to bake cakes for gay and lesbian weddings (even if I don’t agree), but this? This really isn’t complicated!
You might think that AUSCS would at least be sympathetic with Mrs. Schoenrock, but nope. No tears. Out she goes. I’ve debated AUSCS executive director Barry Lynn a couple of times and occasionally felt sympathy for him, but I now realize my glasses were foggy. Looks like I was actually debating Madame Thérèse Defarge, the memorable revenge-obsessed Dickens character in A Tale of Two Cities, who kept knitting, knitting, knitting as the guillotine carts rolled past her.
Wha . . .
No seriously, guillotine carts? Unless I am very much mistaken, Schoenrock was fired but not beheaded.
And then there’s James Dobson statement that we could be facing a civil war over marriage equality. He said this, too:
The country can be no stronger than its families. I really believe if what the Supreme Court is about to do is carried through with, and it looks like it will be, then we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two. I just am convinced of that. So we need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if our society really is built on the married, heterosexual family (which is clearly what Dobson is talking about here), we should have seen collapse quite some time ago. After all, half of all babies are currently born out of wedlock and close to half of all marriages end in divorce. If our country can survive this, I’m pretty sure it can also survive gay and lesbian couples getting married.
And also this:
I agree with [Home School Legal Defense Association founder] Michael Farris that the only thing we can do is to have a state constitutional convention to re-examine the Constitution. I wish I could say I believe pouring a lot of opposition, which may not even be there now, onto the Supreme Court is going to make a big difference.
Funny how conservatives are all about following the Constitution . . . until they’re not.
And then there’s Patrick Henry College graduate Thomas Holgrave’s coining of the term “gaytriarchy.”
Okay, a couple of things to note:
1. Evangelical identity is built around a persecution complex—and this isn’t a new thing. Modern evangelicalism is the descendent of 1920s fundamentalism, which developed in response to the growth of modernism both in society at large and within Christianity. The entire premise was that apostasy was widespread and dominant and true Christians were only a remnant. This rhetoric continued even through the 1950s, when the country grew more religious as a whole, and then intensified from the 1960s on.
2. Evangelicals always seem to be engaged in a major cultural battle, but which battle that is varies. it seems many evangelicals have chosen marriage equality as their cultural battle of the day. When I was a teenager in the early 2000s, abortion loomed larger than homosexuality, but that seems to be tipping today, and I’m not entirely sure why. It seems like it’s easier to run on opposition to abortion—where you can run pictures of sweet innocent babies—than on opposition to marriage equality—where your opponents are the ones running the sweet pictures.
3. The rhetoric is shifting away from the idea that homosexuality is disordered and toward the idea that growing up in a same-sex family is damaging to children. Oh sure, evangelicals are still arguing that homosexuality is morally wrong and even that sexual orientation is something that can be changed, but as more people have openly gay friends and relatives the rhetorical focus seems to be more on the wellbeing of children with gay and lesbian parents than on the evilness of gay and lesbian individuals.
I for one am profoundly curious how this will all play out. As public perception shifts toward marriage equality, public perception of evangelicals has become more negative. As this happens, evangelicals are beating the drum of persecution only louder, which doesn’t help their image.
We live in a society where it is still legal to discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals in most of the country, and yet it is evangelicals who say they are being persecuted. In some sense, it’s profoundly odd that giving one group of people rights would be seen by another group as a loss of rights. But then, we’re talking about giving rights to a group that is viewed by another group as immoral, inherently ungodly, and even profoundly dangerous. I’m not sure there’s really a precedent for that.
In a sense, evangelicals inhabit a different world than do other Americans. The rhetoric is all topsy turvy and the world they describe is wholly different from the world the rest of the population inhabits. Listen to Christian radio for a while sometime, and you’ll see what I mean. Evangelicals are increasingly speaking a different language from everyone else, especially on hot button issues. Dobson’s rhetorical reference to civil war is clearly an overstatement, but whether evangelicals shift their position or fence themselves into a sort of self-isolation remains to be seem.