Last year, Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said something almost unthinkable:
I think it's clear that something like same-sex marriage - indeed, almost exactly what we would envision by that - is going to become normalized, legalized, and recognized in the culture. It's time for Christians to start thinking about how we're going to deal with that.Then this week, it was reported that the Roman Catholic church in Maine will not re-fight the marriage issue politically, but will work instead on educating Catholics about doctrinal views.
The largely in-house educational initiative represents a significant departure from the major role that the diocese played in supporting a successful 2009 referendum against gay marriage. The diocese contributed more than $500,000 to that $3.8 million campaign and its public affairs director took a leave of absence to lead the effort.(Of course, the cynic in me wonders how much of this is because of the black eye the RC church got from the admitted lies they told in the last Maine election. Or because NOM, the anti-equality front group, has lost the legal battle to keep its donors in Maine secret, and the RCs fear they are going to look bad when it all comes out. But I digress.)
So, with these bellwethers, is it time for the rest of the Christian right to figure out whether it's going to keep telling lies and attacking gay people, or is it time they adapt?
It appears increasingly obvious that social acceptance of gay men and lesbians and insistence on their equal rights are inexorable. If the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" weren't enough to signal the turning point, or the classification of several gay-resisting Christian right organizations as "hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there came news that Exodus International was ending its involvement in the anti-homosexuality"Day of Truth" in U.S. high schools. "We need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace," Exodus President Alan Chambers explained, "while treating their neighbors as they'd like to be treated, whether we agree with them or not."
Add it up, and you see a decision point at hand for socially conservative Christian groups such as the Family Research Council that have led resistance to gay rights. Do they fight to the last ditch, continue shouting the anti-gay rhetoric that rings false and mean to the many Americans who live and work with gay people, or who themselves are gay? Or do they soften their tone and turn their attention to other fronts?
...Conservative Christian leaders ought to be very careful about their rhetoric going forward — careful not to continue giving the impression that being Christian is in large measure about opposing gay rights, and careful not to let the public expression of their faith become primarily associated with something that looks, sounds and feels like hate to growing segments of the population.
Fighting to the end might sound gallant, but it's not a road to glory so much as a ticket to infamy — an infamy akin to that borne by the likes of Bull Connor, George Wallace and other villains of civil rights history. Is that any hill for Christians to die on?