The conservative same-sex marriage freak-out

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The Scream, by Edvard Munch

Public Domain

The Scream, by Edvard Munch

The Scream, by Edvard Munch

The Scream, by Edvard Munch

You would think, from the reactions of some social conservatives to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, that the Age of Martyrs had returned.

“You better be ready and you better be prepared because it’s coming,” the Rev. Franklin Graham said moments after the ruling was handed down. “There will be persecution of Christians for our stand.”

“Welcome to the new world,” Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore preached from the pulpit at the Kimberly Church of God yesterday. “It’s just changed for you Christians. You are going to be persecuted.”

The anticipated persecutions involve the lifting of IRS tax exemptions and the imposition of other civil penalties for discriminating against gays and lesbians. Plus the likelihood of being held up to obloquy and ostracized for opposing the constitutionally mandated social norm of same-sex marriage.

All this is a far cry from being thrown to the lions, of course, so it’s hard to see an American future where, as the early Christian intellectual Tertullian put it, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” What a number of latter-day Christian intellectuals are hoping for, instead, is what American Conservative blogger Rod Dreher is calling the Benedict Option, by which he proposes that Christians in America take as their model Benedictine monasticism after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West.

Rome’s collapse meant staggering loss. People forgot how to read, how to farm, how to govern themselves, how to build houses, how to trade, and even what it had once meant to be a human being. Behind monastery walls, though, in their chapels, scriptoriums, and refectories, Benedict’s monks built lives of peace, order, and learning and spread their network throughout Western Europe.

Dreher’s idea is that just as European civilization re-emerged from these “islands of sanity and serenity,” so a religious civilization can eventually re-emerge from contemporary Christian communities that hold to traditional values and beliefs.

It’s a pretty lousy analogy, actually. The heavy business of keeping peace and order, and effecting the transition from Roman emperors to the likes of the Frankish King Clovis, was done by popes such as Gregory the Great and aristocratic (and married) Gallo-Roman bishops. Monasteries did preserve a good deal of ancient Roman culture — among other things, monks copying out enough naughty Latin literature to keep latter-day classicists in business. But the idea that people outside the cloister forgot what it meant to be a human being, while small communities of celibate men (and women) didn’t, is romantic nonsense.

More importantly, however, the monastic model served Western Christendom badly in important ways during the era of extraordinary economic and institutional growth that began after the Viking invasions ended in the 11th century — not least by making celibacy obligatory for priests serving communities in the world, and consequently devaluing the religious lives of married folks.

The Protestant Reformation responded by recasting the family as a prime locus of religious life. In hewing to the devaluation of same-sex relationships, the Benedict Option will truncate Christianity’s spiritual reach similarly to the way the Benedictine model came to do.

  • MH – Secular Misanthropist

    The freakout was inevitable, their side lost and that unleashed some pretty potent emotions. When the world does end and life continues pretty much as normal, I imagine people will calm down.

  • Former Catholic

    Rev. Franklin Graham represents the secularization of the Catholic Church and that is the reason why they are losing members

  • Former Catholic

    We will be going to war.

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  • JR

    Freak out? Really?
    Now, I teach the Catholic Faith to 7th grade students, and the Sacrament of Marriage is but one of the topics discussed.
    Inevitably, the topic of gay marriage will come up, and I will have to tell them that it is not recognized at all by the Church, and that it is civilly legal but theologically sinful.
    What happens when they speak of this at home, school, or any public setting? Will I be stifled? Will parents object to this truth being taught? What if students of gay parents are made sad?
    “Go somewhere else then”, would be my answer, for I can only teach what the Church teaches. You don’t see problems ahead?
    Wow.

  • Elledra

    I tried to post this earlier but it didn’t work out. Let’s try again:

    I agree, Mark: what Dreher says about monastics “saving people’s humanity” during the so-called dark ages is romantic twaddle. Speaking as a trained musicologist, as well as a Benedictine oblate, I am aware that the monasteries were important in preserving written material (e.g. musically notated chant, and, as you mentioned, literature, etc.). But that’s not the same thing as people forgetting how to govern, build houses, or trade. At first I’d hoped that the “Benedict option” referred to practices within the order’s Rule aimed at helping sometimes cantankerous community members manage to live together in peace. (Benedict knew it takes all kinds to make a world–and a monastery.) I am disappointed to learn that Dreher is simply trying to work out yet one more way to create a gated community with an attitude problem.

  • Michael Bindner

    I am fairly sure the persecution they are talking about is the expectation that government will somehow mandate their celebration gay weddings. The truth is that the families of gay congregants will do that instead. What they really fear is judgment from God for doing so or having the nation do so – and that judgment is not over the constitution and acceptance of gay families (although they bemoan the end of traditional marriage, which was patriarchal and used to compare marriage to how Christ relates to the Church – a comparison which may be oddly apt if our understanding of Church changes with marriage). They really fear being somehow linked to the sex act in the marriage they solemnize. In other words, its about the sex – though they know that in regard to banning consensual private sodomy, that ship has sailed forever.

  • Marco

    Nope. No problem. Go on teaching whatever you want in your privately supported schools and churches. The government doesn’t care. However, your lessons will be ignored by 90% of young Catholics, just as they are now, and they will “vote” with their feet. And that’s the problem you are really afraid of, but it has nothing to do with the government.

  • Nick

    I imagine that you’ve already run into this problem when you teach all those children of divorced and remarried children about the sinfulness of their parents’ marriage, yes?

  • Nick

    Just to clarify, that remark was addressed to JR rather than Marco.

    For at least century Catholics in countries that allow divorce have lived with the fact that the rules for civil marriage are different from those of the church – i.e. on divorce, as well as on religiously mixed marriages.

    That’s why it’s disingenuous (i.e. a freak out) to pretend that civil marriage for same sex couples represents some unheard-of imposition on their religious liberty.

  • Ben in oakland

    Here’s something you might find interesting, JR.

    In today’s Salt Lake City Tribune, there is a letter from a now former Catholic. On Sunday, he was forced to listen to his priests diatribe about gay marriage and how evil the Supreme Court was. I’m sure that he was already considering leaving the church, as I doubt that one bad experience in church woul dbe enough to make him leave. But it was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.

    You are absolutely welcome to preach whatever you wish to your Sunday school class. I would never tell you otherwise. But if the quality of your teaching is anything like many of the comments you made here at RNS, don’t be surprised if you end up losing more of your students than you gain.

    It’s one thing to believe that homosexuality is a sin. It’s quite another thing to repeat slanders and lies about people’s friends and families. Those not poisoned by hate will vote with their feet. That is what the letter writer did.

  • JR

    Yes, all the time….and I tell them that I am not judging their parents/ relatives, but teaching them the doctrines of Catholicism. I’ve never had any reprimands or retaliation since Catholics are generally aware of these standards. Gay marriage has no historical precedent and it is a sacriligeous defamation of the married state, so legalizing it gives it the cachet of righteousness…… which it isn’t. So I forsee more confusion than is necessary.

  • JR

    You underestimate my skill as a teacher, and I welcome any and all to leave he classroom if they obstinately object to what Catholicism teaches. One student argued with me over her belief in the value of Ouija boards after a lesson on the occult and it’s uselessness. When she insisted that she would continue consulting it, I informed her that now she would remain in a state of sin since she knew the Catholic teaching against it. I got no feedback from Mom or Dad, the girl continued to come to class, and I can only hope she’s changed her mind. Why patronize those who argue over things that are not subject to argument? If people don’t come anymore, the Truth will still be there….they can’t really avoid it.

  • JR

    Time will tell. I don’t see the liberal media and its adherents not demonizing anti-gay marriage talk from the religious sector. So be it.

  • Larry

    Going the full Wallace:

    “Segregation now, Segregation tomorrow, Segregation forever!”

  • ben in oakland

    Are you planning on killing people?

  • ben in oakland

    I thought you weren’t going to be commenting on gay issues any more.

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