As I have been working out some thoughts on why, given the choice between only these two options, I prefer to support homosexual marriage in American law rather than forbid it (here and here), a couple of related questions and criticisms have been raised.
In general, these tend to ask why a Christian sense of morality shouldn’t inform our political posture as much as anyone else’s secular sense of morality informs theirs. In particular, people have been suspicious that arguing for laws that run counter to the religious preferences of Christians might leave us no room to argue in favor of our other Christian positions such as opposition to abortion.
I do not find this line of argument persuasive.
First, there is a difference between arguing for a “Christian” position and arguing for a position on Christian grounds. If the only argument we have to make is a Christian argument, then a pluralistic society should reject those arguments. Moreover, to see that such a rejection is right in our political context is simply to affirm that religious liberty is good for all faiths, including Christianity.
And, in assessing whether my “Christian” position should be enforced more broadly I am not setting aside my Christian convictions. Instead, I’m asking what it looks like in a given situation to love my neighbor as myself and to do unto others as I would have done to me. In a pluralistic society, my ethic of Christian love dictates that I do not impose my religious law on another–just as I would not have their religious law imposed upon me.
In the case of abortion, asking these questions creates a network of issues that complicates what is otherwise a simplistic and insufficiently Christian pro-life position, but they do lead inevitably to a recognition of abortion as an injustice that should be rooted out of society.
Asking these questions complicates the issue of abortion because we do have to ask what it means to love the pregnant woman as ourselves. This question is too little asked by pro-life groups, and folks who are theologically and politically conservative here tend to take too little stock of the systemic issues that both lead to unwanted pregnancy and lead to termination of it. Loving the pregnant neighbor means more than forbidding her to end the pregnancy.
But in complicating the issue it does not pull us away from protecting the life of the unborn child–because we have to ask, also, what it means to love this unborn neighbor as ourselves and to do unto him or her as we would have done unto us.
In fact, I would argue that protecting the unborn child and standing up for civil equality are two instantiations of the same posture of protecting the powerless, defending the outcast.
However, the more compelling parallel to my mind is between homosexual marriage and interracial marriage as the latter was at first forbidden then gradually allowed, and now is generally accepted–at least in theory–all by Christians and for Christian reasons. We’ll look at this tomorrow.