I get a great many thoughtful questions. One of them reminded me that often thoughtful opposition to gay marriage sounds like it should lead to the desire to make many private behaviors illegal.Christians, including men like the Founders influenced by Christianity, believe that authority comes from God. Human beings are given rights by their Creator that do not come from the state or from society. These rights do not have to be written down, because they are written in nature and nature’s laws. For example, the right to life does not need to be in any written constitution on this traditional view, because it is not a right the government gives us or could take way. In fact, there was no bill of rights in the original constitution partly because of a fear that limiting government in a few ways would be seen as a full list of all the rights people have. Such basic “unwritten” rights include the right to life, liberty, and the ownership of private property.There are different types of authority in a culture. Social pressure is often more controlling than law! I have known students who would break state laws without a thought in their driving habits or drug use, but who would not have listened to the “wrong” music or the dressed the wrong way for any amount of money. Religious groups have their own ways of enforcing discipline as do families. Traditionally, Americans have thought of culture as divided into the authority of church, family, and state. Each has its own powers and most importantly limits.As a result, most things that a Christian thinks are immoral need not be illegal. Christianity is fundamentally a religion of liberty. Our God placed man in a good garden and gave man the right to sin. Man should not have sinned, but God allowed him to do so. In the same way, a good Christian commonwealth does not force men to do good things. They allow for evil in this age.Of course some things are so bad that society cannot tolerate them. Murder harms others and so cannot be an area of personal liberty. Many other moral evils cannot be officially allowed, because they are so devastating to the culture. These areas should be kept small however. State power, or any other sphere, is always apt for abuse. No one wants to give the government that runs the Post Office much power over families.Homosexuality need not be made against civil law in a Christian state. Christians may decide, as most American Christians have, that this is an area best dealt with by social and religious sanctions. Men and women who wish to sin and break the laws of God and of nature should be allowed to do so.However, gay marriage takes this one step further. One can allow the neighbor to paint his house pink and green (merely irritating!) or to live in with his girl friend (wicked and harmful to society). No man should be forced to give the neighbor a prize for co-habitation or proclaim it equal to real marriage.The homosexual is our neighbor. We have pity on his disorder as we hope he pities our own sins and disorders. His sin is not the worse sin a human being commit nor the most important to our culture. Unjustified divorce in families with children is far worse. (Of course, the fact that someone is worse than I does not justify me!) Like all sinners, a fault in one area does not prevent virtue, even great virtue in another area. The homosexual neighbor is created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity with his virtues recognized.What we will not do is pretend that his relationship is good or normal. We will not and cannot put it on par with marriage. Of course, he may disagree, but he is a tiny minority. Toleration is all he has the right to demand and we must grant him that. No bullying. No name calling. However, we will also not be bullied by the Andrew Sullivans of the world into refusing to see what any sane man can see: homosexuality is an objective moral disorder that misuses a great and powerful gift for end for which it was not intended. We will not encourage and celebrate evil and call it good.
Essay / Culture