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When American Christians fight human-rights violations in China and North Korea or slavery in Sudan, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof trends enthusiastic. He writes, "I've lost my cynicism about evangelical groups, partly because I've seem them at work abroad."
That's great, but when evangelicals focus on the problems of heterosexual adultery or homosexuality, cynicism returns. That's because anyone who follows the Bible will be a good guy to liberals and secular conservatives in some circumstances and a bad guy in others.
I've experienced this personally many times: Books I've written about poverty-fighting have gained some applause, or at least respect, but a book that spotlighted adultery as a leading indicator of politicians' problems garnered ridicule. Not much I can do about that: The Bible is pro-compassion and anti-adultery.
So that's the problem if we seek to gain popularity among many members of our chattering classes. As a Christian, I can't make up my own positions; the Bible determines them. Example: If it were up to me, particularly considering my wife's capacities relative to my own, I would have women elders. But the Bible says otherwise, and God is much smarter than I am.
The pressure on evangelicals to drop criticism of homosexuality is particularly enormous-but we can't comply, for two reasons. First and most important, the Bible clearly condemns it, at least five times specifically, and generally through its description of human nature from the first chapter of Genesis onward: "Male and female He created them."
Second, liberty is an important good, and an embrace of same-sex marriage will reduce liberty, not increase it: Government will be able to reduce the natural opposition of most people to homosexuality only by propagandizing children, restricting free speech, and embracing troublesome technological developments.
Let's take these freedom-denying developments one at a time. The first is not news: At a time when schools should be concentrating on reading and math, schools instead through health classes and special programs attempt to get kids to see as normal what almost all instinctively see as weird. Political scientist Seana Segrue notes, "The need of same-sex unions to be culturally coddled also increases the likelihood that the state will use public education for this end."
The second development-restrictions on preaching what the Bible says about homosexuality-is not news in Europe or Canada. Once governments (often courts) decide that same-sex marriage needs protection, dissident religious views must be silenced or at least media-shunned for indulging in "hate speech."
At that point churches have to decide whether to remain true to the Bible or, as in the official church system of China, sue for peace with a government happy to indulge churches willing to undergo an extreme makeover.
Other destructive tendencies follow. A Segrue prediction: "Once same-sex couples are given a right to marry, they will claim from this a right to procreate. The fact that they cannot do so naturally will not stop them from achieving procreation through artificial means. Same-sex marriage will increase demand among gays and lesbians for reproductive technologies to produce children. The cloning of children will become an area deemed worthy of further exploration by those who cannot mate but who can marry."
I wish that I could favor "gay rights," because that is generally seen as expanding freedom-and Christians succeed politically in America, a liberty theme park, when we add rather than subtract. The problem here is that expanding the freedom of gays will end up restricting the freedom of those who oppose homosexuality.
That's because, to quote Seana Segrue one more time, "The right to do whatever one wants to do can only exist in a society that removes all impediments and tidies up the social dislocations and inconveniences created by the sexual indulgence of its members."
Let's keep in mind the need to oppose same-sex marriage in a way that treats homosexuals as still possessing human dignity. Biblically, any posture that implies "I'm righteous and you're not" suggests an inadequate view of sin. In one sense, none of us is "normal," because sin ravages all of us.
Such caveats are faithful to the Bible, but they still won't make us popular among journalists and professors who don't understand God's word. So be it.