Circling the wagons

Someone I follow on Twitter pointed me towards an article by Rod Dreher. In it, he basically argues that the war against same-sex marriage has been lost, and that it's a waste of time fighting it. He also suggests something he calls the "Benedict option," which is essentially forming intentional communities separate from the world in which his preferred form of traditional Christianity can be practiced.

There's a lot to deal with there, but I'll say this: I agree with him on the first two points, but he's lost me with the Benedict option.

Yes, society is changing, and the ultimate acceptance of SSM is inevitable. You can see it happening now, and you can see it in the increasing "don't care" attitude of the upcoming generation. Give it fifty years, and people who oppose it are going to look a lot like people who oppose interracial marriage today. There's no going back. Sorry, but there isn't.

Rod's solution is to retreat from the world into isolated communities--essentially circling the wagons, writ large. He undoubtedly sees it as a form of lay monasticism (hence the Benedict reference), but as someone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, it makes me think of slightly less benevolent experiments in community life. Think Jonestown. Think Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

I'm not suggesting that he's planning to lead people to their deaths, or that vast fleets of Rolls-Royces will be amassed, but I am suggesting that communities which operate in isolation (or apart from) from the outside world introduce a dangerous and unhealthy dynamic, one of thinking in terms of us vs. them. For monasticism to work, you have to have an abbot or abbess who holds unquestioned authority over every aspect of the lives of the monastics they supervise. That's been proven time and time again throughout the history, and even then, problems have arisen. It's hard to imagine laypeople ceding that kind of authority to a central leader--nor should they.

Of course, someone is going to try it anyway--religious fanatics always do--and it will play out in a yet-to-be-determined fashion. That's their right.

There's a larger problem here, though, and it's one that's way overdue for an honest discussion.

That problem is the traditional teachings of the Church.

Nobody is arguing that Christianity has never taught that homosexuality is wrong. Nobody is arguing that same-sex marriage has ever been accepted. Nobody is arguing the fact that the Bible says some fairly categorical things about homosexuality and homosexual behavior.

What I'm going to argue, though, is that even for those of us who belong to traditional churches, it's time to take the blinders off. The best scholarship tells us that while it's fairly certain that Jesus existed, the four gospels were not written by the men whose names they bear, and they were written well after the events they claim to portray. In order to believe otherwise, you're required to "take it on faith," which is really just another way of saying "turn off your brain and accept this because we've believed it for centuries." And even then, assuming you accept that, you have to contend with the fact that the Bible we have today was compiled centuries after the life of Christ.

So if you're going to claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, well, Lucy, you've got some esplaining to do.

Prohibitions on homosexuality, of course, come from the Old Testament, and Christians are fairly selective when it comes to which parts of Old Testament law they want to uphold. I won't bore you with details, but suffice it to say that most Evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox don't worry too much about keeping kosher and mixing linen and cotton and wool.

But even if you want to discount all that, you've got another problem, and that's science.

I don't know about you, but I believe in science. It's provable. It's given us immunization and modern dentistry and space travel and the Xbox. It's a good thing.

And what science tells us lately is that people are born homosexual. It's not a disease, it's not a sickness, it's not a choice. It's brain chemistry and more. It's an innate part of people, and it can't be changed. So, right there, you have a problem.

If your God is a God who creates people a certain way and then condemns them for it, you can keep Him/Her/It. As a fairly wise Persian man once said, science without religion leads to materialism, but religion without science leads to superstition, and that kind of religion is something we're better off without.