The Personalist Project

I'll confess up front that I haven't looked carefully into the controversy surrounding Indiana's new law protecting the religious liberty of business owners who are committed to traditional marriage. My general sense of it from a distance lines up with David French's take at the Corner. The hysterical reaction to a modest legal rear guard action against a pro-same-sex juggernaut exposes a "toxic combination of anti-Christian bigotry and sexual revolution radicalism." I also agree with Maggie Gallagher, when she says:

Pay attention: The Democrats are attempting to use their power in the mainstream media to get Republicans to retreat and mute the GOP on religious liberty or face being labelled anti-gay.

Even so, I can't seem to get too worked up about it. I don't feel like answering Gallagher's impassioned call: 

join me in whatever venue you have - your Facebook page, your radio show, a candidate forum, a letter to the editor, an Op Ed - to ask Republican candidates for president this key question: Why is Mike Pence the only Republican defending Indiana's new religious liberty bill?

Why? Am I lazy? Am I apathetic? Am I cowed by peer pressure? I don't think so. At least, not in this case. I have real reasons for my non-engagement.

1) It seems to me that the political battle to protect marriage is already largely lost. Legal efforts like this one in Indiana are small and marginal and perhaps not worth too much time and attention. Losing them won't make things much worse than they are already. Winning them won't hold back the fascist tide; nor will it establish any great principle. At best, it will provide a little temporary relief from violence. At worst, it will provoke more violence, sooner.

2) While I sympathize very much with Christian wedding vendors who don't want to be legally coerced into participation in the moral travesty that is same-sex marriage, I don't think laws establishing their right to refuse services are all that great. 

A) They do nothing to establish the truth about marriage in law.

B) The right to deny services is a strange thing for Christians to be fighting for, since we're supposed to be all about providing service. 

C) They give the anti-Christian left a cause to rally around. (The analogy with Jim Crow is bogus, but all too plausible to those who don't think carefully, which is to say, the great majority.)

D) They sap energy and drain resources for more effective efforts on the political and cultural fronts.

E) They depress the spirits of Christians, who need to live in hope and joy to be convincing witnesses of the Truth.

F) They seem to me somewhat out of step with the spiritual approach Pope Francis is calling for. 

That last point raises the question: What should we do in these circumstances?

To that, at the most basic level, I have a three-part answer:

1) We should live more deeply and witness more compellingly to the truth about marriage as a permanent, life-giving union and communion of love between a man and a woman. Let that light shine.

2) We should find ways to make the love and care we profess for homosexuals concrete and practical in the world. I have in mind things like Mother Teresa's houses for those dying of AIDS, and Courage.

3) On the political and cultural fronts, we should be prudent and discerning. For instance, we should support politicians who can be relied on to judge wisely above those who pay lip service to our causes, but who lack deep conviction. We should put more effort into laws that protect us from direct participation in intrinsic evil than those that protect us from indirect participation. We should draw more attention to the plight of children who are suffering from the collapse of marriage and the rise of consumer/owner approach to fertility and parenthood. We should find ways of helping true stories be told: stories of women who regret their abortion; stories of homosexuals who have found peace and healing in the Church; stories of adoption; stories of children raised by gay parents or born through IVF.

Above all, we should realize peacefully that we are living in a post-Christian society that we can't expect to think well of us or do right by us. We will have to learn to live more by faith in God, less by confidence in the American experiment. The best hope for the restoration of our nation's greatness lies in cultivating a religious revival. And the most effective measure toward that end is our personal witness of love and fidelity, not our political activism or moral outrage.

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