Damon Linker, who supports gay marriage, is yet another of a growing chorus who is calling back those who wish to prosecute Christians for refusing to render goods and services for gay marriages. He makes his case in a recent column for The Week:
As I’ve made clear repeatedly in my writing, I support gay marriage and am cheered that advocates for it have made such stunning legal and cultural gains so quickly. I consider these gains to be broadly harmonious with recent legal precedents and cultural trends, as well as the deeper political implications of liberal democratic government and theological implications of Christianegalitarianism.
But I’m also troubled by the equally stunning lack of charity, magnanimity, and tolerance displayed by many gay marriage advocates. This very much includes Mark Joseph Stern, Henry Farrell, and others who are cheering them on.
Roughly speaking, for all of recorded human history until a couple of decades ago, virtually no one even entertained the possibility that homosexuals might seek to marry, let alone advocated it. In that brief span of time — a figurative blink of an eye in cultural terms — gay marriage has gone from being an oxymoron to a lived reality in several states and an institution accepted bymajorities or pluralities in most demographic categories. If that isn’t a cultural revolution, then nothing is.
Yes, it’s still underway. But at this rate, Nate Silver’s 2009 prediction that gay marriage would be accepted in all 50 states by 2024 is going to prove to be too pessimistic.
And yet, that appears to be insufficient for some gay marriage proponents. They don’t just want to win the legal right to marry. They don’t just want most Americans to recognize and affirm the equal dignity of their relationships. They appear to want and expect all Americans to recognize and affirm that equal dignity, under penalty of ostracism from civilized life.
That is an unacceptable, illiberal demand.
As I’ve argued before, liberal democracy is a political theory designed to allow people who disagree about the highest human goods to live together in peace and civility despite their differences. Like it or not — and a certain militant class of gay marriage proponents clearly do not like it at all — traditionalist religious believers are our fellow citizens and neighbors, and the United States is as much their country as it is ours.
That’s why the premier liberal virtue is toleration and not recognition. Toleration is perfectly compatible with — indeed, it presupposes — a lack of unanimity, or even majority consensus, about ultimate goods. It leaves the diversity of views about ultimate goods intact, forcing consensus on as few issues as possible, so that people belonging to specific regions, classes, ethnicities, and sociocultural and religious groups can build rich, meaningful lives together in freedom.
Recognition, by contrast, requires much more from one’s fellow citizens — because the end it seeks is far more demanding. Instead of aiming to “live and let live,” as toleration does, recognition strives for psychological acceptance and positive affirmation of one’s vision of the good from all of one’s fellow citizens, including from those whose vision of the good clashes with it. That makes it a zero-sum game.
© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.