Thursday, December 7, 2006

To welcome the stranger - It is true; sometimes events do converge harmonically. Between the decision of Conservative Jews to ordain homosexual rabbis and recognize same-sex marriages, to the announcement of Mary Cheney and her partner expecting a child, the issue of homosexuality is once again in the news. While I am relatively indifferent to the ordination of gay clergy (my denomination - the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - has done so for some time), I am concerned by the fact that some of my co-religionists are dismayed by Ms. Cheney's announcement, as reported by the Washington Post.

When I must place my trust in others, I would more often than not cast my lot with social conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, as they accept a moral code not of their own design (and presumably, not based on the pursuit of that which is most convenient to them.) In as much as liberalism dulls a society’s ability to make moral distinctions (and its willingness to act upon them), it does great harm to both the culture and the polity. One’s capacity for making moral distinctions is rooted in the ability to affirm the value of life itself. In recent times, progressives have made peace with the idea that some lives have more worth than others, and that morality’s scale tips away from the unborn, the infirm, and those in a “permanent vegetative state.”

There is no truer proof of liberalism’s morally bankrupt state than those within it’s ranks who find themselves unable to differentiate between a distant, abstract threat such as climate change and the discernible, present-day threat posed by Islamic terror. Souls such as these labor in vain under an impenetrable moral fog, as one can only assess the relative danger of these two possibilities by deciding which of them poses the most immediate and self-evident threat to innocent human life.

So it is with those within conservative ranks who express their thinly veiled disdain for homosexuals and homosexuality. Some conservatives are wont to intone their “love” for the sinner, even as they hate the “sin” of homosexuality. But again, as we make moral differentiations, conservatives must avoid capitulation to either simple-minded allegiance to religious tradition or blind fear of the “other.” “Loving the sinner” is insufficient to meet any reasonable standard of ethical circumspection, as it presumes a falsehood in order to lay claim to a higher morality; there is no sinner to love nor sin to forgive. Those who aver that they have both love for sinners and disdain for certain sins are trying to be too clever by half; they attempt to establish a pretense of being welcoming to the stranger within their gates – as long as he renounces his sin – while in reality holding the stranger at some remove.

I would reasonably question the willingness of “sinner lovers” to make common cause with would-be pederasts, suicide bombers, serial killers and others of truly malevolent desire whose only virtue is a promise not to carry out darkest wishes. Indeed, as it pertains to the practice of monogamous, committed homosexuality between consenting adults, it would appear that the issue for some conservatives is not at all about sin, but about fear and a need to control another person’s sexuality. In as much as conservatives condone this attitude of “loving the sinner and hating the sin” vis-à-vis homosexual unions, we betray a moral blindness not unlike that espoused by some of the more illiberal societies in the Middle East; the irony being that conservatives would be among the first to declare their moral superiority over radical Islam.

Rather, conservatives should embrace any love that unselfishly respects and affirms life. (By my lights, this would automatically disqualify polygamy.) Such love, be it between homosexuals or heterosexuals, is neither a sin nor an offense to any worthwhile first principles of conservatism. Conservatives must be wiling to make ethical differentiations between choices that affirm the life that God has granted to us, such as monogamous, committed relationships be they heterosexual or otherwise, and promiscuous lifestyles, again be they heterosexual or homosexual. For conservatives to argue otherwise is to abandon the high ground of moral reasoning and to behave as moral imbeciles.

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