Friday, March 7, 2014

Negotiating Our Surrender: Douthat and the Lordship of Caesar

If you want to know just how rapidly secularized America has become in the past half decade, consider how the serious debate over religious liberty is being treated in the media and public square. The first amendment assures Americans that the state cannot coerce its citizens to violate its religious conscience both within and outside the walls of their place of worship. Americans have traditionally defended the freedom of religion assuming that one's theology directly impacts their politics, economics, business practices, and day-to-day lives. Secularists has redefined the first amendment as a freedom of worship meaning liberty within the church walls.

I firmly believe that a baker and/or a photographer should, as a matter of conscience, not be forced by Caesar to participate in a gay wedding ceremony. This is not a matter of discrimination, but of liberty. Each community includes a number of bakers and photographers and the rights of those dissenting (and turning away business) should be respected.

But the secularists object. What we are witnessing in the media, from the President and his party, and from the public square in comparing such dissenters to the KKK and southern racists from the 1950s reveals what happens when those without religion try to understand religious liberty.

Enter Ross Douthat's prophetic column entitled The Terms of Our Surrender. He begins:
IT now seems certain that before too many years elapse, the Supreme Court will be forced to acknowledge the logic of its own jurisprudence on same-sex marriage and redefine marriage to include gay couples in all 50 states.

Once this happens, the national debate essentially will be finished, but the country will remain divided, with a substantial minority of Americans, most of them religious, still committed to the older view of marriage.
America will then need to choose between two doors. The first door would push the division into the cultural background, with marriage joining the long list of topics on which Americans disagree without making a political issue out of it. The other door is to enforce secularism at the cost of religious liberty by comparing dissenters of gay marriage to segregationists. This is the direction we are currently headed toward. Douthat writes:
In this scenario, the unwilling photographer or caterer would be treated like the proprietor of a segregated lunch counter, and face fines or lose his business — which is the intent of recent legal actions against a wedding photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington State, and a baker in Colorado.

Meanwhile, pressure would be brought to bear wherever the religious subculture brushed up against state power. Religious-affiliated adoption agencies would be closed if they declined to place children with same-sex couples. (This has happened in Massachusetts and Illinois.) Organizations and businesses that promoted the older definition of marriage would face constant procedural harassment, along the lines suggested by the mayors who battled with Chick-fil-A. And, eventually, religious schools and colleges would receive the same treatment as racist holdouts like Bob Jones University, losing access to public funds and seeing their tax-exempt status revoked.
This was all made clear to Douthat, and to other social conservatives like myself, in the recent controversial Arizona law vetoed by its Republican governor. The bill was misconstrued at best by the media. Douthat rightly argues that such bills are a way for social conservatives to negotiate surrender — "to accept same-sex marriage’s inevitability while carving out protections for dissent. But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore" (emphasis his)

Amen and Amen.

Of course the so-called cultural war was never really just about marriage or even sex. Just like debates over climate change are not just about the weather or the environment so to religious liberty was always at risk throughout each stage of this debate. Those who disagree with same-sex marriage have been marginalized as backwoods sexist rednecks who want to return America to the Stone Age where men chose their mates by beating them over the head with a club and dragging them by the hair. The gay lobby hijacked the language of civil rights when it was never about civil rights.

Ultimately, we are witnessing the outworking of theology. For all of its criticism of Christian exclusivism, it turns out that the secularists were the exclusivists all along. Homosexual marriage has become the primary means in America for Caesar to declare his lordship. But Caesar is not Lord and thus anytime Leviathan violates the religious convictions of its citizens is the minute it has forgotten its place.

Our culture worships sex and thus the normalization of fornication isn't enough, it must be enforced and all dissenters must be damned. The abortion clinic has been the house of worship for this ancient god and now the state increasingly encourages its citizens to worship the idols of licentiousness.

The time is quickly approaching when dissenting is criminal. But Christians have no other choice. Jesus is Lord. Not Caesar.

For more:
The Assault on Religious Liberty Continues . . .
A Must Read: Defining Religious Liberty Down
Another Attack on Religious Liberty?: California Bans Anti-Gay Treatments
The Wall Doesn't Exist: What the Contraceptive Mandate Reveals
Crossing the Wall of Separation: The Danger of the State Wooing the Church
Prophet, Priest, and President:  Is Obama the Messiah? 
- It Ain't Easy Being the Messiah:  Is Reality Finally Hitting Americans About the Messianism of Politicians?
With Presidents Like These Who Needs God?: "God of All Things" and the Modern Presidency
Endowed By Who?: Three Strikes and the President is Out
The Ongoing Conversation on Religious Liberty
The Extent of Freedom & Liberty: What Snyder vs. Phelps May Mean For Christians in the Near Future
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