Cafeteria Theocracy In America

Conor Friedersdorf recoils from a blogger who views gay unions as "a relationship based upon a sexual act which can never rise above entertainment." Rod Dreher agrees with Conor on this point. (It's a garbled version of Robert P. George's and Benedict's attempt to dehumanize and delegitimize sex without reproduction). But Rod's deeper point - and the point of his favored blogger - is not against gays but against Christianists. He finds the Christianist politicization of deep moral questions inconsistent. 

What Rod wants to recover, I think, is the pre-modern notion of obedience to religious authority and its interpretation of "nature" as a basis for modern civil society. It's a version of Alasdair Macintyre's hositility to modernity's philosophical incoherence. But Macintyre was smart enough to recognize that modernity was here to stay and to adopt a Benedictine option in response - of retreat from the world rather than an attempt to mold it in ways that simply will not work without coercion and cruelty and excessive government power.

And the difficulty of both embracing some parts of the modern world, while eschewing others, is evident in our current climate. That's why I favor a religious stance of distance from the world, rather than enmeshment in it and an attempt to control it. One critical thing Jesus taught was that controlling the world is not just impossible but inherently sinful. Our task as Christians is to control no one but ourselves and to love all. Our main weapon must always be example, not control.

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Moreover, Christianists cannot both assert a fundamental right to economic and personal freedom and yet also oppose that freedom when it means that women can choose if and when to have children, when it means that gay couples can choose to form build strong and admirable relationships and have children, when it means that straight couples can buy and use contraception, etc. The Christianists are engaging in cafeteria theocracy here. Which is why their obsession with gays and avoidance of so much else does indeed bespeak a form of prejudice against a group of people they barely know or understand but nonetheless scapegoat for much broader social ills.

In other words, Christianists cannot both be pathological consumers of debt and materialism while condemning gay people as a class for the same thing. I see no real distinction between gays and straights on the consumerist, materialist front. And it remains true to my mind that until Christians start condemning the greed and debt and consumerism of the past two decades as morally wrong, they have no standing on other moral questions that are now in play.

On this, Benedict is more consistent than his Protestant and evangelical fellow-travelers in the culture war. But he too is deeply wrong about gay relationships. And he too has wrongly singled them out as emblems of something they are no guiltier of than many of those in Benedict's own ranks.