State Dept’s Pro-LGBT Offensive Unwittingly Endangers Religious Liberty for Christians Worldwide
Plan misreads American freedom, as the caricature that leftists and theocrats like to cite.
There’s not much middle ground in our politics today. Neither here at home, nor around the world. Let me try to establish some. Unlike many thinkers both left and right, and unlike the Trump State Department, I have a touching faith in Centrism. I believe that it’s possible, all at the same time, to favor the following policies:
- Oppose theocratic regimes that imprison or execute homosexuals. And:
- Support governments’ distinguishing between real marriage and fake marriage.
We can also:
- Prevent people from harassing or abusing citizens because of their sexual conduct. And:
- Permit citizens to associate freely, act on and speak their consciences, and cleave to the Natural Law as they perceive it. Including what it teaches us about sex.
War for LGBT Rights Around the World
But the State Department has marshaled a massive international campaign whose outcome will be different. The claim is merely that it wants to pressure foreign governments to “decriminalize” private homosexual acts. I think most of us agree: We don’t want cops bursting into anyone’s bedrooms, unless they’re abusing kids.
But courts in America drew from that broad, common sense opinion some dangerous conclusions. In Griswold v. Connecticut, a court threw out all laws restricting birth control. It argued that such laws violated the privacy of marriage. There’s logic there, but a few years later, another court extended such privacy to ordinary fornication. And those two privacy right precedents were the key ones in Roe v. Wade. Sixty million dead American babies later, can we admit that the slope proved pretty slippery?
Will the Trump administration’s efforts bulldoze such a slippery slope in Latin American and African countries, creating “privacy” rights from thin air that end up affirming abortion? Or persecuting churches that cleave to biblical orthodoxy on sex? The international abortion lobby, closely linked with LGBT activists, will do its best to ensure that.
The Best of Both Worlds
For a generation, anti-sodomy laws stayed on the books in some U.S. states, but went unenforced. This was the best of both worlds. It allowed the U.S military, for instance, to reject practicing homosexual soldiers. It protected private groups such as the Boy Scouts from anti-discrimination lawsuits. But it didn’t put gay people in jail for private conduct. When the Supreme Court tossed out such laws, Justice Scalia warned where it would lead: to same sex marriage. And when the Court imposed such marriage in 50 states, Justice Roberts pointed out its consequence: the state persecution of Christians.
Scalia was right. So was Roberts. The State of Colorado seems as dedicated to destroying Christian baker Jack Phillips as some Islamic governments are to hunting homosexuals. No, Colorado is not trying to kill Phillips — just take away his living. Unless he converts, of course. Just as an intolerant Muslim government will leave you in peace if you recite the Shehada and join the Ummah, Colorado will relent if Phillips agrees to make a Satanic dildo cake. Is that too much to ask?
Is this the kind of choice the Trump administration wants to force on Christians from El Salvador to Uganda? No one at The Stream, from top to bottom, believes that. He has met personally with faith leaders from across the Christian community. We believe that he really wants fairness, freedom, and a move back to the peaceful relations between church and state that long marked our Constitutional republic.
Man Is a Natural Bully
I wonder if we can return and cleave to such a sane middle ground. In theory we can, but in practice it often proves difficult. Repeal excessively harsh, intrusive moralistic laws, and the left won’t let you stop there. Its activists taste blood in the water, and keep on pushing until they can use the State to treat believers like … well, perverts.
That’s because man is fallen. He’s a natural bully. The historic achievement of our Founders, namely ordered liberty, is not the natural state of man. Instead, it’s a rare and fragile mechanism, as America’s founders realized. That’s why they made our Constitution a virtual Rube Goldberg. To frustrate potential tyrants. It’s why they left most of the power with the citizen, and left him a gun to defend it. And tried to keep the government as decentralized as possible. So we could exert direct democratic influence on the laws that govern our lives. And if we fail, vote with our feet, by moving to a more amenable part of the country.
Natural Law, Not Revelation
Underwriting our personal freedom was a powerful, broad consensus on Natural Law. That’s the moral code which God wrote on our hearts, which an honest thinker can come upon via reason alone. This Natural Law, and not the dictates of one creed or another, is the only proper ground for coercive law in a free society. It’s wrong to demand that anyone act on truths which we can’t expect him to agree to, absent the mysterious gift of supernatural grace.
The left has comprehensively rejected the wisdom of the Founding. Leftists want a massive, centralized federal government to impose the mores and morals of San Francisco’s Castro District on every square inch of the country. They want to create a powerful national theocracy, centered on their new religion: the adolescent, narcissistic self. It’s that self which Justice Anthony Kennedy acclaimed as a world-creating deity in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. There he said that the essence of American liberty was our right to make up as we went along our own answers to “the mystery of human life.”
“Conservatives” Who Agree with the Left About America
I’m appalled, but some self-styled conservatives (I have my doubts, to be honest) agree with Kennedy. They agree with the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood, and the LGBT activists about what American freedom means. So they reject it.
Some “integralists,” like Adrian Vermeule of Harvard, openly call for a Catholic theocracy. Others, like Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame and blogger Rod Dreher, coyly refuse to say what alternative system they favor. But they take every chance they can find to insist that the Left is right about our country. Under its Constitutional system, there is no hope for Christians. We should stop citing the First Amendment or defending the Second. They seem to suggest that we just sit back and wait for the whole thing to collapse, so we can build something (they never say what) on its ruins. In the next few days, expect such thinkers to (ahem) pounce on the Trump initiative as proof that American freedom is intrinsically evil.
Wrong About the Founding
The theocrats and other enemies of American liberty (left and far-right) are also wrong about our Founding. So Joseph Loconte of The King’s College demonstrates in a brilliant piece at The National Interest. As scholar Robert Reilly did at The Claremont Review, Loconte shows how “conservatives” who embrace Justice Kennedy’s reading of the Constitution willfully misread the sources. They pretend that John Locke was a secret atheist. And make James Madison an advocate of transgender ideology, long before his time. They claim that there simply is no middle ground between Christians persecuted and Christians persecuting. Then agree with V.I. Lenin, and Thomas Hobbes, and Machiavelli, that we must be either the hammer or the anvil.
The whole point of Christian ethics is to do much better than that. I seem to remember a phrase, “Do unto others. …” The rest of it doesn’t read, “before they can do unto you.”
No major church leaders in America want a theocracy. Or laws policing the bedroom. Most gay Americans don’t want to see church people hounded by the government. The president surely is seeking a wholesome compromise. We hope and pray that he listens to wise men of faith when they bring him concerns about the global implications of this new, and momentous, initiative.