It is difficult not to enjoy the liberal outrage being generated by the so-called "Nashville Statement," a brief, fairly boring manifesto on marriage recently issued by an evangelical Christian body called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Woman. Here's a sample:
We affirm that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God. [Nashville Statement]
As far as Christian defenses of marriage go, this is tame stuff. Still, I understand why super-woke outlets like Salon are comfortable referring to the document as "bigotry-filled" and glibly pretending that any real Christian would surely disagree with its claims about morality. These websites also pay writers to insist that wrestling GIFs are threats of violence and that allowing male teenagers to compete in female athletic competitions is unremarkable. For those engaged in such work, clear thinking with rigorous categories and definitions is a professional liability. They accept emotion, feigned or otherwise, as the only genuine moral currency. They are geniuses who can simultaneously maintain that "male" and "female" are artificial socially constructed distinctions to which no meaningful predicates can be attached — that there is no such thing as being a man or a woman per se — and that it is possible for a woman, something that in essence does not exist, to be trapped in a man's body.
But it's not just the restless young piling on the Nashville Statement. So too are the bandwagoning would-be woke neoliberal Baby Boomers who insist that a basic assumption which they have held for most of their now-long lives — namely that same-sex marriage is an oxymoron, like married bachelorhood — is now rank bigotry. In 10 years when polygamy is legalized by fiat, they will rail in their creaking voices against "polyphobes" or some similarly monstrous coinage. Their recent decision to call those of us who insist that marriage is a covenant between men and women "bigots" is ludicrous, predictable, and somewhat grimly amusing.
It's also entirely correct. In the eyes of the world, faithful Christians will always be bigots.
But if the Nashville Statement is "bigoted," then the target of the council's animus is much wider than its critics, juvenile and geriatric, will allow. It is bigoted not only against same-sex marriage, but against participation in what used to be called "the marital act" outside of its proper context, namely that of lifelong exclusive marriage designated by God for the avoidance of sin and the conferral of those graces necessary for resisting it. It is, therefore, by extension bigoted against divorce and the fallacious assumption that it is possible for those whose spouses live to marry again and against polygamy and concubinage. It is bigoted against the unnatural practice of what was once called "self-abuse," against onanism and (though its drafters may not like having this pointed out) contraception. It is bigoted against willful delight in lust, against pornography. It is bigoted against any denial of the efficacy of God's grace and his infinite mercy for the hearts of the contrite. It is bigoted, in other words, against sin.
If this is bigotry, then all Christians are bigots.
Those halcyon periods when the spirit of the Gospel has not disgusted the zeitgeist, when our religion has not outraged the powers and principalities, the rulers of the darkness of this world, have been brief and lucid intervals. If hating sin is bigotry, then may the Immaculate Heart of Mary strengthen us in our rank prejudice not only against these sins of the flesh, but against greed, blasphemy, the occult, irreligion, murder, lies, gossip, calumny, hatred, despair, and all sins mortal and venial.
Of course, it should go without saying that hating sin is not the same thing as hating sinners, much less condoning violence or uncharitable words. All Christians must condemn such things.
And none of this should be taken to suggest that the Nashville Statement is without problems. The framers seem to assume that all men and women are destined to marriage, a plain denial of St. Paul's words about the higher calling of lifelong celibacy. They also contradict themselves, for example, in suggesting that chastity is required only of the unmarried (there is such a thing as "conjugal chastity" as well). It should also have made it clearer that the very concept of "sexuality" — homo, hetero, a, poly, or bi — is, as Michel Foucault observed, a late 19th century anachronism, like "race," a regrettable artifact of an era in which it was also assumed by a certain class that people convicted of robbery possessed innate, immutable traits that made their behavior inevitable. Christians harbor no ill toward homosexuals, not only because of the dictates of charity, but because there are no such things, just as there are no such things as heterosexuals. There are only people.
But it does seem to me rather late in the game for the Nashville framers to be taking up arms against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Its appearance was a predicable consequence of Protestant acquiescence with divorce, contraception, fornication, various disordered practices among married couples, and other evils. Unmoored from religious morality, marriage necessarily becomes a meaningless civic designation. Reversing Obergefell would be a good thing; it would not be enough to restore the legal status of marriage in this country to one in keeping with their own convictions.
For the foreseeable future, our bigotry looks like a losing game.