Arkansas and Indiana have taken the lead in restoring some sanity to the law in passing the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” on Tuesday that would protect the religious rights of business owners from being forced to provide goods or services to gay couples planning a “wedding” ceremony.
Certainly, numerous vocal “gay rights activists” are seeing this as an act of discrimination, when, in reality, it is anything but. The purpose of this common-sense law is to protect persons who are opposed to same-sex “marriage,” on religious grounds, from being “forced” by the law to violate their conscience, and thereby participate in what they believe to be a seriously immoral act.
Clearly, anyone who truly understands the Christian faith knows that the entirety of Christian morality is premised on the two-fold command to love the Lord God with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind; and to love one’s neighbor as Christ has loved us, which, ultimately, is to be willing to lay down one’s own life for one’s neighbor. Indeed, a famous acronym, well-known to many Christians, and which is meant to serve as the recipe for true joy and happiness in life, is based on the word “JOY;” for, the “J” stands for “Jesus,” whom we are to love in the first place, over and above anyone and / or anything; “O” stands for “others,” whom we ought to love after Christ, yet over and above ourselves; and the “Y” stands for “yourself,” whom we to love in the last place, after Jesus and others. Moreover, according to the teachings of the Christian faith, Christ so radically identifies with every single human person that it is clearly stated in Sacred Scripture, in the passage describing the Final Judgment, and the separation of the wheat from the chaff, or the goats from the lambs, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Mt 25:40) In truth, the authentically Christian response to any and all persons ought always be one of love and acceptance, especially when the individual in question is suffering any form of unjust persecution, even and especially when said persecution might be based on a so-called “morally questionable” or “unacceptable” lifestyle. Let us recall Mary Magdalen, who was caught in an adulterous act (clearly, according to many moral theologians, the sin of adultery is considered to be just as sinful as a homosexual act… and, in some cases, even more so; for, in addition to the illicit carnal act amongst the two persons involved, at least one is, or possibly both are, married to another, who must grieve the infidelity. Thus, this is a sin of double malice. And while the Mosaic law permitted for such women to be punished with stoning, Christ, Who happens to be present – cryptically writing in the sand – utters one of the most profound and oft quoted statements in Scripture: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” (Jn 8:7) Slowly, they all dropped the stones they were going to throw, beginning with the oldest and moving progressively to the youngest of them. “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No, Lord,” And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11).
This Scripture passage, not unlike so many others in the New Testament, testifies to the radically merciful nature of Christ’s mission. Moreover, Christ Himself states that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). And if Christ is to be the exemplar for all Christians to emulate, then would it not be great hypocrisy to go around casting judgment upon others? Yet, we must not forget the last thing Christ said to Magdalen: “Go and sin no more.”
Christians believe that Christ literally took every sin that had ever been committed and that would ever be committed upon Himself; and that, in so doing, he became a “curse” for us, in our place, as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Yet, this passage, while meant to serve as an explanation, is itself in need of an explanation! What can this possibly mean?
It means that Christ endured an experience that was infinitely more painful than anything that could have been inflicted upon him physically via a traditional Roman crucifixion, even if Christ’s Crucifixion was, indeed, among the most physically agonizing experiences a human being could ever endure. It must first be understood that Christ, Who exists from all eternity, despite having assumed a true, authentic human nature, very likely enjoyed the absolute fullness of the Beatific Vision – or, the bliss of gazing upon the Beloved of His perfect human soul; that is, the joy of gazing upon His Father, and experiencing the perfect reciprocity of the Eternal Father’s love for Him, the Incarnate Son, throughout the majority of His life on earth. Yet, in the Garden of Olives, Christ states, “My soul is sorrowful, even to the point of death” (Mt. 26:38). Most theologians agree that this moment marks the beginning of Christ’s Sorrowful Passion; that is, the point at which Christ, in perfect obedience to the Divine Will of His Heavenly Father, and in the single most radical act of self-emptying – or what theologians refer to as Christ’s kenosis – looses His vision and knowledge of the Father’s divine and perfect love for Him. Thus begins Christ’s experience of “God-Forsakenness” – “Eli Eli lama sabachthani.” (“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”) Moreover, the significance of these specific words, comprising the beginning of Psalm 22, would not have been lost on any Jews present during the Crucifixion, who would have immediately recognized them as the prophetic Psalm which clearly predicts the rejection and crucifixion of God’s “Suffering Servant,” a prophecy being carried out before their very eyes.
God permits Christ to lose literally everything, up to and including Christ’s experience of the Fathers love and acceptance of Him. Thus, in a certain sense, it may be said that this “God-forsaken-ness,” experienced by Christ, would not have been dissimilar to that ultimate rejection and “alone-ness” experienced by the damned. Viktor Frankle, founder of the third Viennese school of Psychotherapy, often describes his Logotherapy (which translates into “meaning” or “purpose” therapy) using the following formula: “He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear with almost any ‘how.'” Here, Christ looses His ‘why,’ thereby rendering the Passion the agonizing hell that it is. The Creed’s description of Christ’s “descent into hell” couldn’t be a more accurate depiction of what Christ must have endured.
Thus, getting back to our original topic, it seems that any authentic Christian would whole-heartedly reject the notion of rejecting anyone on any grounds. This radical love may even, at times, come across as “tough-love.” That is, if I see one of my closest friends starting down a road of poor, self-defeating choices, I have a duty and an obligation, as a friend, to do everything in my power to assist that individual in getting back on the right track. It could be alcohol. It could be drugs. It could be neglect of something that he or she has an obligation to attend to or take good care of, such as: one’s studies in a high-school or college setting; one’s self, as in a clinical depression; one’s child or children. It could be a decision to start spending time with the wrong crowd. Or, it could be an unhealthy relationship – and we all know that unhealthy relationships can take many possible forms, including those of the homosexual variety.
There is no question regarding the unselfish love that any authentic follower of Christ is called to: “whatever you do to the least of My brothers, you do unto me” (Mt 25:40); “This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).
Further, any informed and intelligent Christian should know and understand that, in almost every situations, same-sex attraction is not a “choice;” why would anyone in their right mind choose a course of action that would make them prime candidates for discrimination and / or rejection??!! Thus, the plight of the homosexual Christian is not unlike that of so many other Christian persons who must bear a burden that, all too often, seems far too heavy for a weakened human will. We, as a society, must support and love our gay brothers and sisters, as they the according to the sometimes seemingly overwhelming challenges of the Christian faith. For, while love and support ought always to characterize the authentic Christian response to each and every individual, we must, at the same time, heed the words of Sacred Scripture, which condemn the homosexual act – not the person – as an “abomination:” “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22); and St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1st Corinthians 6:9-11).
Yet, to legally oblige Christians to directly or indirectly support what they believe is an objectively immoral activity, and further, to participate in it, is a violation of their primary and authentic “right” and duty to abide by the dictates of their conscience and / or the tenets of their religious beliefs.
It is the conviction of this author that so much of the chaos in this arena stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of “gay rights.” To explain this, let us break down the very concept of a “right.” A genuine “right” is something that is owed to, or due, a person, or a group of persons. Certainly, gay individuals, not at all unlike any other grouping of individuals, from every walk of life, have a fundamental right to be treated with the same respect, civility, decency and dignity as any other person. Yet, it in no way logically follows that a gay person’s right to be treated justly and with dignity ought to be conceded to the “acts” or to the “lifestyle” of the person who is gay. We must, then, distinguish between the persons (who ought always to be respected and loved with the very love of Christ), and the actions of those same persons (which I have every right to disagree with, particularly when those actions are condemned by my religion [or my conscience] as immoral). Moreover, I, as a Christian, have the “right” to decline my own participation in those actions which I believe, and my Bible teaches, to be immoral. If I happen to own a bakery on the corner of 8th and Main, and a gay couple wishes to elicit my services in baking their “wedding cake,” I, as a practicing Christian, have every right to decline my services, as to agree to bake the cake would be a tacit, unspoken agreement with, or at least a form of support of the event that is taking place. Thus, in making this cake for this couple, I become complicit in an act which is intrinsically immoral – from the vantage point of my own faith. If there is any immorality taking place here, it is the gay couple demanding my participation in their celebration, which contradicts my beliefs and renders me complicit in an act which, according to my belief system, is intrinsically immoral.
Further, significant clarification is needed in order to shed light onto the erroneous philosophical presuppositions which place alleged “Gay Rights” on an equal footing with various other authentic civil rights, such as the right of African-Americans to be treated with the same dignity and respect that any white person could justly expect to be treated with; and the right of women to cast their ballot for the political candidate of their choosing. Being treated in a humane fashion and not being unjustly discriminated against based on the color of one’s skin is a fundamental, basic right that ought always to be afforded to every person. The expectation to be treated with equality and to not be discriminated against on the basis of one’s ethnicity is, indeed, an actual “civil right.” Moreover, the expectation to be able to cast a ballot and to vote for the political candidate of one’s choosing, and to not be unjustly prevented from participating in this democratic process as a consequence one’s gender, is, indeed, an actual “civil right.” In both instances, individuals are being denied basic rights not on the grounds of a lifestyle choice, or a behavior, or an action (or series of actions), but rather, the discrimination arises from some quality or attribute of that person – a quality or attribute over which the person has no control. Thus, in both examples, the individuals are being discriminated against based on an attribute that has absolutely no moral connotation or denotation.
Unlike skin color and gender, both of which are attributes, a freely chosen homosexual lifestyle – which must be distinguished from a mere homosexual attraction, upon which one may freely choose not to act based upon one’s moral convictions – is hardly an attribute over which the individual has no control. Convicted felons cannot vote as a consequence of the behavior that led to their felony conviction. Behavior has consequences; this we all know and agree with. Yet, due to what Pope Benedict XVI has referred to as the “Dictatorship of Moral Relativism,” which is the prevailing and ubiquitous attitude that there do not exist any objective, absolute or universal moral codes, norms or mores that would be applicable to all persons of all times and all places, morality becomes relegated to the realm of mere opinion; thus, that which may be “immoral” for me might not be “immoral” for you, and, as the name implies, morality is made “relative” to each individual. This clearly obliterates any such thing as objective right vs. objective “wrong,” and, at long last, we can all finally free ourselves from that nagging yet so unnecessary guilt we tend to experience when we do something that our parents taught us was “bad.” Damn conscience. To heck with conscience – we should all just agree with Freud that conscience is merely the “introjection” of the moral code of our primary care-givers. For, if that truly is all that morality is, then, in all sincerity, I would whole-heartedly agree with trashing it! Yet, such is not the case, thank God!
Okay, so I’ve introduced the philosophical stance of moral relativism which numerous persons use to justify their obliteration of any such thing as an absolute, objective or universal morality. How would I, as a believer in objective, absolute and universal morality, respond to moral relativism? Well, I might point out that when one flushes morality down the toilet, s/he is additionally, necessarily & simultaneously flushing any and all concepts of “justice” down with it, as justice is nothing other than the objective, absolute & universal moral reality whereby each member of society renders onto the other that which is his due. If morality is hogwash, then so too is justice. Thus, our employers could work us to the bone with all sorts of promises of time and a half, and then, come payday, not cough up a dime, because, ultimately, my employer’s “concept” of justice may not be in accord with my “concept” of justice. Once we make things willy-nilly and purely subjective (or purely “relative” to the individual), we single-handedly do away with all justice, as, “What I consider to be “just” may not be what you consider to be “just,” and so on, and so forth, et cetera…”
One more example of taking moral relativism to its logical conclusion: If Hitler truly believed, in his heart of hearts, the his Nazi programme of Eugenics was, indeed, a “morally good and upright thing,” then, according to moral relativism, who am I to say he’s “wrong?” Wouldn’t that be an imposition of “my subjective morality” upon him? This leads us straight into one of the most ironic and tell-tale conclusions regarding Moral Relativism: almost everyone who espouses this philosophy falls prey to the self-inconsistent trap of having recourse to objective, absolute & universal morality in their effort to “enforce” subjectivism. For instance, say I am invited to a psychological conference to give a talk on Moral Relativism, and after the address, I begin to field questions from the audience. One man, in particular, has had his hand raised for some time, and seems fairly annoyed. I then call on the man, inviting him to pose his question or make his comment. The man proceeds: “Ya know, you really are something else. With all this talk on Objective morality and such. Who in the hell do you think you are, going around and imposing your morality on everyone else. You ought to be respectful of the various beliefs of persons of differing cultures. It’s people like you that make me sick. That’s all.” To this, I respond with the following: “Whether you realize it or not, you, Sir, have just made a tacit appeal to an objective morality, in commanding that I “ought” to be more respectful of people of differing beliefs. For, anytime the word “ought” is used, a tacit appeal is being made to an objective, absolute and universal code of morality, that is binding on persons of all places, times and cultures. Not only do I agree that I “ought” to be more respectful, but I additionally agree with your tacit, unspoken appeal to an objective moral code, that recognizes the universal, absolute and objective moral goodness of the virtue of tolerance.
Finally, to tie all of this up, I would like to propose that it is impossible for any human person, or group of human persons, to possess a “right” to engage in any activity that is immoral. Yet, in order to make this assertion, I must further qualify what, precisely, I mean by “immoral.” An immoral act, according to what many philosophers refer to as the “Natural Law,” is any act that somehow thwarts the goal-oriented nature of moral acts. With regard to human sexuality, the teleological purposes are life and love. Thus, the conjugal act must, at the very least, be open to the possibility of the emergence of new human life, as love is fecund and fruitful. In order for any conjugal activity to meet this criteria, clearly the partners must be male and female; they must not be using any type of artificial birth control; et cetera. For the “Love” criteria to be met, the couple must have already stated publicly their intentions to love each other in good times and in bad, for better or worse, in sickness and health, until death do they part. The totality and reciprocity of the mutual gift of each of the spouses to the other is the bedrock upon which the conjugal act becomes the physical expression. Moreover, we must not forget that as human persons, we truly are body-soul composite beings. Thus, people often make the mistake of thinking they may do one thing with their bodies and quite another with their souls. Such is not the case. Human sexuality speaks the body-language of committed love. Thus, as body-soul composites, it is entirely possible to tell lies with the body language of conjugal love. The body language of such conjugal love is nothing other that , “I give my whole self, all that I am and all that I have, to you, and to you alone, forever.” Essentially, the language of human sexuality is a reiteration of the solemn promises that were made by the couple to each other, on the day of their wedding.
Based on the above, it becomes quite clear that there are many “lies” that the body can tell. In the case of an extra-marital affair, we are attempting to give a gift that has already been given, and which belongs to someone else. In the case of pre-marital sex, we are making a most solemn promise with our bodies that we’ve yet to make publicly. And, in the case of homosexual intercourse, we are violating the laws of nature, as no child can ever become the “personification” of this misguided love.
Sadly, we have entered into an era of unprecedented immorality, which, necessarily and invariably, will lead to the single greatest persecution of Christians that the world has ever seen. Precisely because evil has become good, and good has become evil, we, the “remnant faithful,” can expect to be subjected to every sort of persecution imaginable. Indeed, this author has already been the victim of unjust discrimination on countless occasions, and has even been unjustly terminated from employment based on my uncompromising Christian stance. Yet, this is our moment – the moment to stand up before a Godless nation and a sinful world – and to boldly and joyously proclaim Christ Jesus, and His Mystical Bride, the Church, as “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6).