Andrew Sullivan’s Surprising Advice for the Church on the Marriage Issue

andrew sullivanPublic intellectual and homosexual activist Andrew Sullivan has been engaged in a most interesting dialogue with Ross Douthat, among others, over the way forward for both homosexuals and Christians in the cultural and legal battles over marriage. It’s important to note that a distinction is made between the cultural and legal means for pursuing competing visions of the moral fabric of society. Sullivan here (Surrender Douthat! « The Dish) responds to Douthat’s post Terms of Our Surrender  (And Douthat has already responded back with this post). This following excerpt shows just how familiar Sullivan is with the Judeo-Christian vision for marriage (Catholic in particular) and actually encourages the church to carry the banner in a winsome fashion (and this coming from a homosexual activist — go figure):

There is a big difference between legal coercion and cultural isolation. The former should be anathema – whether that coercion is aimed at gays or at fundamentalist Christians. The latter? It’s the price of freedom. The way to counter it is not, in my view, complaints about being victims (this was my own advice to the gay rights movement a couple of decades ago, for what it’s worth). The way to counter it is to make a positive argument about the superior model of a monogamous, procreative, heterosexual marital bond. There is enormous beauty and depth to the Catholic argument for procreative matrimony – an account of sex and gender and human flourishing that contains real wisdom. I think that a church that was able to make that positive case – rather than what is too often a merely negative argument about keeping gays out, or the divorced in limbo – would and should feel liberated by its counter-cultural message.
Rod wonders if being the counter-culture “will be good for us.” In my view, it really could be. Since Constantine, Christianity’s great temptation has been to doubt the power of its truths and to seek to impose them by force. And its greatest promise has been when it truly has been the counter-culture – in the time of Jesus and the decades after, or, say, in the subversive appeal of Saint Francis’ radical vision. Why see this era as one of Benedictine retreat rather than of Franciscan evangelism? Why so dour when you can still be the counter-cultural salt of the earth?

I’m somewhat fascinated that what has been the consensus position on marriage for many years across civilizations is now considered “counter-cultural.” Sullivan’s concession that a traditional view of marriage is full of “real wisdom” reveals why Sullivan doesn’t want to use legal coercion to essentially outlaw folks from holding and acting upon convictions consistent with this view — even if he calls for Christian disengagement over fighting against homosexual unions legally. Sullivan has called off the militant wing of the homosexual agenda in seeking special protection that would deem as illegal the conscientious objection from Christians in providing goods and services for homosexual unions — or any unions for that matter. He’s leaned libertarian socially, even endorsing Ron Paul for president, not withstanding Paul’s support for DOMA at the time. Paul’s position that marriage should be decided by the states appealed to Sullivan as a reasonable way of charting the course forward, by detaching the debate from all-encompassing federal authority. Now that the state laws are being trumped with by federal justices, Sullivan has essentially said that enough is enough, no need to pick a fight with Christians or spike the football in their face.

It seems like Sullivan and Douthat have negotiated some terms for co-existence, a legal ceasefire as it were, all the while commending wholehearted cultural engagement without the fear of legal coercion. Is this possible?

© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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