Orthodoxy, Liberal Society, and Gay Rights

“I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred” -Bob Dylan

It seems to me that the truest test of love is true hatred. Hatred experienced both by as an emotion of the one that loves and the experience of being hated itself. If this is the case, it quickly becomes clear that much of the way the word is currently used is little better than trash. It has become a buzzword, a vague sense that certain types of people ought to receive a certain level of acceptance while others can be comfortably denied our amorphous feeling of good will. It has lost the power it is due, the power that it carried when the LORD declared “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) or when Christ tells us “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This love is not a vague sense of social inclusion, but rather an orientation of the whole self away from my own ego and toward something outside of myself. It has little to do with acceptance and more to do with how we position ourselves toward even those we find to be morally objectionable. Love, when thought of in such a sense, can legitimately be used as a basis for a moral choice, and a person’s position can be objected to on the grounds that it fails to love. When used in the vague, amorphous sense one can legitimately respond “Who ought I to love?” By which is meant “who ought I to have a vague feeling of good will toward and accept their behavior as correct.” When seen in the larger sense the question makes no sense, rather, we are commanded simply to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

The Knife’s Edge Of Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy of its very nature must exist a knife’s edge. It is by its nature bound to navigate between intricately balanced paradoxes, neither giving too much weight to the one side nor the other. Nor should we expect anything else from the faith which tells us that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14). It goes beyond being merely immoderate. Stray but a little to the right or to the left, and all hell is there to greet you. If such a balancing act sounds terrifying, there’s good reason to think we’re on the right track. In the church we must constantly beware lest we are tending toward the easier and far wider gate that leads to destruction. Indeed, this is probably why Paul tells us that God has given us “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” to help us not be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:11,14). Lest this turn into a discussion on Church Tradition, I will return to the question at hand. Here it is clear that an imbalance of the one kind or the other does not merely result in a movement away from Orthodoxy in the one direction or the other, but rather both forms of error become conflated into each other and we are left with a binary between the world and the church, not two extremes between which the church is the mean. This is quite different from the way the question is generally formulated, where it is a matter of determining between inclusion or exclusion, acceptance or righteousness, love or judgement. In reality an imbalance in either direction implies the other and therefore a negation of itself. This is why only a proper Orthodoxy can either love or judge, accept or reject. Thus it can be clearly demonstrated through observation of the parties commonly taken to represent the two sides of this issue that this is in fact the case. If we look at those generally thought to have erred too strongly on the side of inclusion, we find that their error also includes exclusion. Are not they the party which pushes for an exclusion from society of all organizations which do not accept their moral code? They are thought to have erred too greatly in love (by which is meant vague goodwill and social inclusion), yet have you ever met a man so consumed with hatred as this sort of person on learning that such and such a one doesn’t believe in marriage equality? They are thought to have erred in their acceptance, yet who is more exclusive, more prone to fits of snobbish elitism at even a whiff of “fundamentalism.” The same is true on the other side. Such people are considered to have gone off the tracks in extreme exclusion, yet in our current presidential election we observe them in a frenzy of apostasy to accept a presidential nominee who violates all standards of Christian behavior. They are said to hate the immoral, yet are they not all too fast to forgivingly embrace lecherous politicians and vulgar news personalities, so long as they do the little dance and say the magic words to clue us in on which party they belong to? They are thought to have rejected the world, yet in reality they have become fanatical nationalists who make the kingdom of God into the empire of America. Orthodoxy, therefore, is not comprised of an attempt to balance a virtue between two opposite dispositions, but a rejection of the world as such.

Liberal Society As Altruism

Inherent within liberal society, on the other hand, at its best is a concern for our neighbor. It is a desire not to force upon him a grievous harm, whether in body or in soul. There is also, though, a more practical consideration at work. Much of liberal thought on the place of morals and religion in the public square was the result of a desire to avoid the religious wars that rocked 17th century European society. It was therefore thought good for society to be ordered in such a way as to forbid the introduction of legislation by one party and its moral ideas against the other, and each man was given the right to keep his own conscience in such a way as he thought best. However, as the ideological wars of our fathers become increasingly remote to our memory even the necessity of the liberal compromise becomes increasingly forgotten of while the loving regard for neighbor that grasps the hearts of the higher advocates of freedom of conscience disappears as well. With this loss of both aspects a perfect storm has been created for the emergence of dark alt-right and alt-left ideologies. Now no one likes liberalism as such, I myself would much rather live in a society where everyone simply agreed that it was best to order society according to principles of Christian social thought. The liberal solution comes into play when I realize not only that not all think in a way that is similar to me, but that they are unlikely to do so for the foreseeable future. Knowing conscience to be sacred and that it would be a grievous wrong to inflict on my brother such a wound to his soul as to make him violate his moral self, we willingly choose to live in society together while maintaining separate moral dispositions. Ideally this is done as an act of love, I love my brother despite the fact that I have an honest disagreement as to how he lives his life, and as such I do not want him to be excluded from society. He has valuable things to contribute and what’s more I value him as an individual, even if he sometimes says things that make my blood rise. This position is one of altruism in that even were I capable of excluding my brother and making him a pariah I would not. I would rather bear with him, false ideas and all, than see him cast out. However, for the more base this is simply a necessary compromise. People we don’t like aren’t going anywhere and unless we want open warfare on our hands we’re going to have to accept each other’s moral autonomy and learn to let each other be.

Liberalism and Orthodoxy

Whether or not liberal society as a rule is a system compatible with a Christian understanding of society is a subject I shall leave untouched. Suffice it to say that I think it probable that at least in regards to how it is often understood, such a social philosophy, in so far as it makes use of human greed for an engine of economics and pays little heed to the welfare of the poor, is inconsistent with the tenants of the faith. However, what I am more chiefly concerned with is not economic liberalism, but civic liberalism and the traits of genuine tolerance entailed. As was discussed above, embedded within Orthodoxy is often an inherent paradox. When Christians speak of loving the sinner and hating the sin this is not a tricky turn of phrase to justify an immoderate dislike of neighbor, this is a project Christians take quite seriously. However, this implies a simultaneous acceptance and rejection of the sinner. A charity that entails condemnation, a love that would offer up its own life freely while warning that “if you do not repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). It is here that the teaching of the church is most consonant with liberalism. The liberal conception of tolerance is just that, a position that you must tolerate certain people. It is a virtue designed with the specific purpose of keeping people whose behavior disgusted each other from harming one another. As I mentioned, this can be a sheer practicality in that we don’t want a war on our hands, or this can be interpreted positively. It is an act of love for neighbor. It is to the latter that I suggest we associate Christianity, for within this conception of tolerance we can comfortably fit the Christian paradox of how we relate to the outsider, the wayward, the lost sheep. God has given to man a freedom of the will which is both sacred and dangerous, nevertheless, it would be a great act of impiety to deny him his own path. As Irenaeus of Lyons said “it was proper that the image and likeness of God should be formed with a free will and a mastery of himself.” That I am my brother’s keeper does not imply that I am to keep him from offering his insufficient sacrifice. We neither boorishly accept him in his transgression, nor take it upon ourselves to control his mortal soul. The sword, however, slices both ways. Indeed, the greater danger to liberty by far to our society does not come from the church but from the advocates for homosexuality.

The Alleged Gay Rights Movement

Gay rights is no longer a movement, it is a religious crusade. As such, it is attended by all the fanaticism such projects are prone to, with its necessary lack of clarity or subtlety. That in the past homosexuals have been guilty of wrongs is certainly true, that unkind words or unfair stereotypes still exist is equally likely. This, however, is not the substance of the gay rights movement. What the substance of the gay rights movement is is the abolition of the concept of liberal tolerance from our society. It is abundantly clear by the mere fact that such a movement as gay rights still exists that that is the goal. They do not devote their time to overturning laws which forbid homosexuals from inhabiting such and such an office, or forbids such and such a practice, for no such laws exist. They can no longer even claim they are working toward remitting a horrible oversight in the way their unions are classified by a large “marriage equality” movement. What they are devoted to is the large scale enforcement of approval not of the fact that homosexual people exist and ought to be treated with respect and dignity, but to the enforcement of approval regarding the homosexuality itself. In short, a move to no longer tolerate those who hold different moral dispositions regarding sex than they do. It is not the behavior of one motivated by an altruistic regard for the moral integrity of his brother’s soul to force him to cater a union he does not approve of. Especially when those involved are activists who specifically search for and target service providers known for their Christian values in the hopes of depriving them of their livelihood. Such behavior shows not only a contempt for the integrity of the conscience of my fellow citizen, but a movement backwards in time. To be engaged in such behavior is to attempt the destruction of our progress in tolerance and instead to devote oneself tooth and claw to a new religious war. It is to side with the darkest decision of our ancestors that the value of human beings was not sufficient, nor our love for our brother, nor their own moral integrity, to guarantee them a place within society. It is regressivism at its best. This, perhaps, ought not to surprise us. As I previously observed, often an act of immoderation in one direction includes the opposite vice wrapped up within it. That a move which ostensibly promotes love should become so full of hatred is perhaps understandable. The ghost of past wrongs is hard to get rid of once you’ve let him in, and true forgiveness and love are both much harder than we perhaps give them credit for. However, like all struggles that devolve into quests for vengeance the current gay rights movement is both largely engaged in an attempt to punish the innocent, and in violation of clear moral laws.

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