Top Catholics and evangelicals: Gay marriage worse than divorce or cohabitation

Huntsman and Jones complete their wedding vows, with Rev. Torrence officiating, on the steps of the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West, FloridaBy DAVID GIBSON
c. 2015 Religion News Service

NEW YORK (RNS) A high-profile alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants is set to issue a sweeping manifesto against gay marriage that calls same-sex unions “a graver threat” than divorce or cohabitation, one that will lead to a moral dystopia in America and the persecution of traditional believers.

“If the truth about marriage can be displaced by social and political pressure operating through the law, other truths can be set aside as well,” say the nearly 50 signers of the statement, which is to be published in the March edition of the conservative journal First Things.

“And that displacement can lead, in due course, to the coercion and persecution of those who refuse to acknowledge the state’s redefinition of marriage, which is beyond the state’s competence,” they say.

The declaration adds that some people “are already being censured and others have lost their jobs because of their public commitment to marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”

Social conservatives have rallied around a number of cases that they say herald a gloomy future, including the recent dismissal of the fire chief in Atlanta, who had given employees a copy of his book in which he detailed his beliefs, based on his Christian faith, that homosexuality was “vile.”

Other cases include a New Mexico photographer who lost her fight to opt out of taking pictures of a same-sex wedding; bakers and florists who wanted to turn away gay customers; and an Idaho wedding chapel whose Christian owners wanted to conduct only heterosexual weddings.

This latest statement, “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage,” comes from the group Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a coalition formed in 1994 under the aegis of former Nixon aide Charles Colson, an evangelical, and the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest.

One of their goals was to encourage the two Christian communities to overcome their historical suspicions and doctrinal differences in order to battle what they saw as a growing moral laxity in the U.S.

Neuhaus died in 2009, and Colson in 2012, but the movement has continued and in some ways has become more focused as Christian conservatives have grown increasingly united in their alarm over the sudden and spreading acceptance of gay rights, especially same-sex marriage.

Discussions on a document on same-sex marriage began in June 2013 — the same month the U.S. Supreme Court required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages — according to Russell Reno, editor of First Things and a member of ECT; Reno provided a copy of the declaration to RNS.

But Reno said the members first had to agree to set aside their differences on the legitimacy of divorce and contraception, for example, and even whether marriage is a sacrament.

That enabled them to focus on the advance of gay marriage, which they say not only betrays religious tradition but, more than any other development, undermines society because “marriage is the primordial human institution, a reality that existed long before the establishment of what we now know as the state.”

“(W)hat the state defines as marriage no longer embodies God’s purposes in creation,” says the 5,000-word statement, which was first reported by Baptist Press. “An easy acceptance of divorce damages marriage; widespread cohabitation devalues marriage. But so-called same-sex marriage is a graver threat, because what is now given the name of marriage in law is a parody of marriage.”

Signers of the statement include popular megachurch pastor Rick Warren and longtime gay marriage foe Maggie Gallagher, as well as prominent conservative Catholic intellectuals George Weigel and Robert George.

Timothy George, a Southern Baptist and dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School; Mark Galli, editor of the evangelical magazine Christianity Today; and J.I. Packer of Regent University also endorsed the statement.

The signers say they “do not dispute the evident fact of hormonal and chromosomal irregularities, nor of different sexual attractions and desires.” But they say that in legitimating same-sex marriage, “a kind of alchemy is performed, not merely on the institution, but on human nature itself.”

“We are today urged to embrace an abstract conception of human nature that ignores the reality of our bodies. Human beings are no longer to be understood as either male or female,” it says. The result, it says, will undermine society by eliminating any moral compass except that which the state declares to be the norm, to the exclusion of all others.

What effect the document might have is unclear. It reads like a declaration of war, but in a battle that even many conservatives see as a lost cause, or one they see no reason to fight. Increasing numbers of Christians, like the rest of society, are more tolerant and accepting of gays and lesbians, according to several surveys.

The document declares, however, that a “faithful Christian witness cannot accommodate itself to same-sex marriage,” and it suggests that believers who accept gay marriage are no longer fully Christian.

The signers themselves do not offer a detailed plan of action to counter gay marriage, which is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and pending in several others. Reno said the statement was not intended as a road map for political or judicial action, but more as a rallying cry to Christians and “to disabuse folks of the notion that we can just keep on keeping on as we have been.”

The signers raise the possibility — which has been debated among religious conservatives in recent months — that clergy could refuse to sign state marriage licenses as an act of civil disobedience.

But they conclude simply that “whatever courses of action are deemed necessary, the coming years will require careful discernment.” They say that the best strategy is for Christians themselves and others “of good will” to live lives that are faithful examples of traditional marriage. “On this basis alone can we succeed,” they say.

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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20 Comments on "Top Catholics and evangelicals: Gay marriage worse than divorce or cohabitation"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Gary Bebop
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Too much of the banter here resembles intramural badminton and would not pass the sobriety test. Progressives appear oblivious to the historic, ecumenical discussion context. Their arguments boil away to nothing but the grime of human desire, the world “as you like it” and want it to be. They post incessantly, but their arguments do not advance.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

The context is evident: the right-wing is fully committed to exclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters. That’s not a good battle plan. It’s the Alamo plus Masada with a little of the Fourth Crusade thrown in the mix.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

My friend, you have a right to your opinion. However, your expression of a gleeful desire that society return to where women are kept under wraps and LGBTs are all on the down low is likely to leave you disappointed.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

In other news, The American Temperance Association reiterated for the the 82nd year its position that Prohibition should be brought back.

james
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an interesting thought is that the umr and mr. shuler seems to have all but shut down the discussion. has that been your aim?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Sir, I did nothing to “shut down” the conversation. You are certainly free to converse about what you wish. However you will never be free from criticism for it, nor should you ever be, or me, either.

Wes Andrews
Guest
I believe the Roman Catholic Church has dealt with the secular and sacred issues regarding marriage much more honestly and effectively than protestants. The church has no “power” over the “state” (nor should the state or culture have any power over the church). The state has no transcendent basis to define marriage in my opinion, no matter how noble it might seem be in a given season. Only God has the authority and perspective to define marriage and the basic values of life. It is the church’s responsibility to inspire and teach people the truth of God in these matters,… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

The actions in the last paragraph fail because oppression is a bad business plan where dignity of all is expected in the marketplace. Right-wing Methodists are ascending in the same sense as the Amish – creating sad, scared islands sinking under the weight of fearful hearts in Sheri Reynolds’ apt phrase.

Sandy Wylie
Guest
What a sad state of affairs. It’s very disappointing when a group declares that believers who disagree with them “are no longer fully Christian.” What a conversation stopper! This is directed at those of us who simply want to take up for some of the most vulnerable among us–people who are discriminated against and demonized due to a circumstance that isn’t of their choosing; people whom many churches turn into third-class members; people who want to be happy like everyone else; people who serve their nation and communities as much as everyone else does; people who are as moral and… Read more »
Paul W.
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Your post surprised me and caused me to go back and re-read that section of the article; I would be greatly surprised at several of the participants agreeing with that strong of an assertion. All that the article actually says though is that it is the opinion of the author (David Gibson) that “it suggests that believers who accept gay marriage are no longer fully Christian”. Until the document is released, there is no way at present to determine or refute the author’s claim.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

for the American right-wing, political correctness is what Christianity is all about.

Wes Andrews
Guest

It was not meant to be. In fifty years we will see that this experiment simply did not work. The divorce rate for the average citizen is around 50%. For the church attender 50%. For the serious Jesus follower under 20% (Gallop), for the future same sex unions….. 80+?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

The assertion “it was not meant to be” is a matter of opinion.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

“You can’t stop a river
As it rushes to the sea
You can try and stop the hands of time
But ya know it just can’t be…”

Riley B Case
Guest
I have watched as the Presbyterian Church in my home town went through bitter division after the Presbyterian Church USA voted to ordain practicing homosexuals. I watched as the Congregational Church (UCC) lost two-thirds of its congregation after the UCCs voted to ordain practicing homosexuals. I watched as the Lutherans were so decimated after the Lutheran Church voted to ordain practicing homosexuals that two congregations needed to merge in order to be viable. Persons who believe that the UM Church will not be so affected if the church either approves the ordination of practicing homosexuals, or continues not to hold… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Pretty good assessment – the reason progressive UMCers don’t leave is we want to be there to provide resources to LGBT kids born into fundamentalist families. The Point Foundation, a charity providing scholarships to LGBT kids, for instance, often serves those rejected by their families, as they did for the lesbian daughter of right-wing huckster Alan Keyes.

Stephen Rankin
Guest

I’m a little sorry that this article lapses into the editorial: “It reads like a declaration of war, but in a battle that even many conservatives see as a lost cause, or one they see no reason to fight.” I’m not sure what relevance this comment has for the article itself.

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