Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA will have all the obvious enormous repercussions in society. One of the not-so-obvious repercussions has to do with its impact on religious freedom. Benjamin Domenech argues in this post over at RealClearReligion that the problem with gay marriage is emphatically not that gay people are getting married. It’s also not that marriage itself is being redefined in society (although that is disturbing.) The problem with gay marriage is that it touches directly on the First Amendment’s guarantee that the “free exercise” of religion will not be “prohibited.” Adherents to faith systems that take homosexuality to be ontologically aberrant, and thus, objectively immoral will necessarily be shut out of the public discourse. Not only will marriage be redefined to include same-sex relationships, religious freedom will be defined as merely “freedom of worship,” safely stashed within the four walls of a church.
Here is a taste of Domenech’s piece:
So the real issue here is not about gay marriage at all, but the sexual revolution’s consequences, witnessed in the shift toward prioritization of sexual identity, and the concurrent rise of the nones and the decline of the traditional family. The real reason Obama’s freedom to worship limitation can take hold is that we are now a country where the average person prioritizes sex far more than religion. One of the underestimated aspects of the one out of five Americans (and one out of three Millennials) who are now thoroughly religiously unaffiliated is that, according to Barna’s research, they aren’t actually seekers. They’re not looking or thinking about being part of a community focused on spirituality, in prayer, fellowship, worship, or anything else. Their exposure to faith is diminished because they want it to be.
In a nation where fewer people truly practice religion, fewer people external to those communities will see any practical reason to protect the liberty of those who do. The world could in time come full circle to Mrs. Campbell’s old line: You are free to believe, as long as you don’t do it in the streets, so as not to frighten the horses.
We hear talk of living in a “post-Christian” society. I have my problems with that description, but one thing is certain–we have returned to the state in Western culture that existed in pre-Christian Europe: religious syncretism, subjective morality, and Christianity relegated to the outskirts of culture and law.
How the church responded to these realities in the second through fourth centuries, and again in the fifth through eleventh centuries, determined the subsequent direction of Western culture that has lasted a thousand years. How will the church respond this time?