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Conservative Christians, equality, inclusion and the path from here

Conservative Christians, equality, inclusion and the path from here

Religion Dispatches has a story up examining the different paths open to Christian conservatives who are opposed to marriage equality and the full inclusion of all people, regardless of gender or sexuality in the life of the Church.

It describes the conservative response to the Supreme Courts affirmation of marriage equality as falling within two distinct ways of seeing the issue and responding;

In the months since the Supreme Court’s decision to make marriage equality the law, conservative Christian thinkers have followed two tracks. On the one hand, writers like Rod Dreher and Ross Douthat have used the language of war, battle, and struggle as a call to retrenchment. If we just went back to what the Bible intended for marriage and sexuality, in their thinking, Christianity might be able to steer itself back toward a central place in American culture and morality.

However, most conservative Christian thinkers are also aware that if this is a battle, it’s a losing one. And in fact, it has probably already been lost.

In Christianity Today, Michael Gerson and Peter Werner write about what they describe as “The Wilberforce Option,” using the model of the 18th century British abolitionist to push the notion that instead of retreating, as in Dreher’s Benedict Option, Christians should focus on “the relentless defense of human dignity in the course of human events.”

The piece also underscores that what’s at stake for many Christians is the stuff which is at the core of their understanding of who God is and what it means to be God’s people;

Arguments about scriptural interpretation aside, however, what the current squabbles over Christian identity mean both for evangelicals and Catholics is the same. Equality won. Women claimed and earned a place in the national dialogue about religion. The spectrum of gender identities that we now recognize as normal is becoming a topic of mainstream discussion, and while much trouble still lays ahead for the passing of laws that might offer protection and rights to those across the LGBT spectrum, the fact of the matter is this: Americans are becoming less religious, but the majority of Christians are becoming more accepting of same-sex relationships.

And this has put churches into a bind. Should they welcome women as leaders and same-sex families and trans individuals, they risk alienating some of their most committed members (and donors). Should they reject those same notions of parity, they risk losing (and in many cases have already lost) the majority of Gen X and Millennials, who have grown up with feminism as a given notion and LGBTQ equality as the civil rights issue of their generations.

Churches also risk what Douthat and Dreher see as the hill their faith will live or die on: the notion of a single, defined sense of a Truth that cannot change. What we see in their writing of late is the shattering of that notion. It’s emotionally difficult to witness, in many ways. The defensiveness, finger-pointing, and circular arguments amount to the same thing: a sense of fear, devolving into resignation over the loss, shifting into ad hominem attacks.

Read it all


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Anand Gnanadesikan

From my experience in Indian-American churches Prof. Seitz and NPR do have a point. While I suspect the majority of folks in such congregations have a belief that Americans are sexually “loose”, that doesn’t lead them to be enthusiastically in lockstep with the political conservatives.

However, with Indian Christians the picture is more complicated than “they are used to being a minority.” For folks who have grown up as religious minorities, moved to another country, and done well there the conservative arguments “because tradition” and “things are changing for the worse” are simply less powerful. Add to that the fact that Indian Christians have been leaders in women’s education and the emancipation of lower castes, and you get a different set of concerns.

I wonder if the NPR story had limited itself to Hispanic evangelicals if the picture would have been muddied, or clearer?

Prof Christopher Seitz

I made them out to be nothing.

It was the NPR premise.


Prof Christopher Seitz

I heard an interesting story on NPR concerning the Hispanic population, the majority of which is religiously conservative, as was noted. It was pointed out that a minority population with conservative religious views does not have any expectation that they fit into cultural patterns. So they watch the candidates that defend their right to participate in the workforce in the US, but have no particular penchant for asking them to defend their conservative religious views. That isn’t something their own cultural location asks for because it is already reinforced where they worship, live, etc.

Minorities are used to being, well, minorities. Conservative Christians will need to learn a lesson here.

David Allen

If the majority of Hispanics are religiously conservative, why do they have the 3rd highest extramarital birthrate at 53%? Behind non-Hisanic Blacks at 72% and Native/Indigenous at 66% and ahead of whites at 29% and Asians/Pacific Islanders at 17%.

Philip Snyder

Perhaps they are religiously conservative, but like all religious conservatives, are unable to live up to their standards.

However, the inability to live up to your own standards does not mean that you don’t have standards. It means that you understand yourself to be less than perfect.

David Allen

That’s mostly word salad.

My point, vis-á-vis the extramarital birthrate statistic, is that perhaps Hispanic folks in the US are not as Conservative as you make them out to be, since greater than 50% of their births are extramarital.

Or perhaps it’s cultural. Most Hispanic nations have vast poor populations. The poor can’t often afford the marriage license and so forgo legal marriage for a civil union (common law in the US.) Their births would still be considered extramarital, even though in their minds they are in committed, life-long relationships.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Mr David. You will have to take that up with NPR (not a bastion of conservativism).

My suspicion is that a large percentage of Hispanics–the category I referenced–is religiously conservative (much as NPR allowed), and this percentage is higher than respectively comparable groupings.

The main point? They are used to being a minority vis-à-vis the cultural ascendancy, and conservative Christians will have to learn this path as well.

Mark Mason

The state doesn’t compel marriage in any form. Since the state doesn’t compel marriage in any form it must find the out-of-wedlock birth rate acceptable at the same rate it finds nonmarriage acceptable, 100%. Marriage Equilty, in any form, doesn’t have anything to do with it in this sense. From the state’s point of view there is no justification to compel it’s citizens to marry.

Does it matter if the actual rate is 44.6% vs. 52.2%? Is something better or worse? Our Father finds 37.6 ok but 40.0 too high? Anyway, that is a different question.

Mark Mason

I still don’t get it when it comes to this. With a 50% out-of-wedlock birth rate and a divorce rate that is about the same, how can commited life-long relationships be what is identified as the problem with marriage from any vantage point? Christian views on marriage don’t seem to be having a great influence on they way people practice ‘marriage.’ The goverment doesn’t compel marriage in any form. What is an acceptable out-of-wedlock birth rate? By the SC standard it is 100%. If the “Church” is taking a hit because of marriage; it isn’t because of it’s views on their being too many commited relationships!

John Chilton

“What is an acceptable out-of-wedlock birth rate? By the SC standard it is 100%.” Huh? Are you saying the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality implies an acceptable out-of-wedlock birth rate is 100%? Non sequitur.

By the way, here are some facts. (Jan. 2015)
1. The birthrate to unmarried women is 44.3% (year 2013) the same as in 1995.
2. “The teen birth rate for the United States in 2013 was 26.5 births per 1,000 teenagers aged 15–19, down 10% from 2012 (29.4) and another historic low for the nation.” And it’s not just because of contraception (and even less, abortion).

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