Writing for The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch tries to warn the Religious Right that they’re only hurting themselves by becoming even more intolerant:
… The idea that serving as a vendor for, say, a gay commitment ceremony is tantamount to “endorsing” homosexuality, as the new religious-liberty advocates now assert, is a far-reaching proposition, one with few apparent outer boundaries in a densely interwoven mercantile society. It suggests a hair-trigger defensiveness about religious identity that would have seemed odd just a few years ago. As far as I know, during the divorce revolution it never occurred to, say, Catholic bakers to tell remarrying customers, “Your so-called second marriage is a lie, so take your business elsewhere.” That would have seemed not so much principled as bizarre.
Religious people? Hypocrites? Never…
And that’s really their biggest problem. They pick and choose which tenets of their faith they’re going to go to battle over. Gluttony, greed, and divorce are all-but-ignored, while homosexuality and birth control are somehow harbingers of evil.
We all see the hypocrisy. Many Christian leaders just ignore it or rationalize it (poorly).
Rauch also plays devil’s advocate in his piece, saying those of us who support church/state separation should let some things slide:
As a matter of both political wisdom and constitutional doctrine, the faithful have every right to seek reasonable accommodations for religious conscience.
But he then provides the obvious rebuttal: The accommodations sought by the Religious Right are far from reasonable. Their goal is to legislate bigotry and have the government defend discrimination when it’s done in the name of Jesus.
Associating Christianity with a desire — no, a determination — to discriminate puts the faithful in open conflict with the value that young Americans hold most sacred. They might as well write off the next two or three or 10 generations, among whom nondiscrimination is the 11th commandment.
That’s why they might continue to win battles here and there, but they won’t win the war. Eventually, more people will come to their senses and see evangelical Christian leaders of today as the racists of yesterday: Holding irrational views justified by nothing but their own bigotry (or selective Bible verses).
Here’s the good news: The Religious Right, as usual, isn’t listening to anything Rauch says. They’re too busy swimming in their own sanctimony. They’re too busy making Christianity even more exclusive and intolerant to see the wisdom in Rauch’s warning.
If evangelical Christian leaders want to remain in power, they would be wise to listen to some of the younger members of their churches, many of whom feel the same way about the pick-and-choose battles as we do. But they won’t. And those younger Christians will have no choice but to leave their churches if they want to avoid the negative association.
We know there’s still a nasty stigma to being a young atheist, but it’s downright embarrassing to be an evangelical Christian these days. (Good job, everyone!) Many young Christians have eschewed that label in favor of having a “relationship with Jesus” — or just saying they believe in God but don’t call themselves Christians, hence the rise of the “Nones.”
Why the rest of us see that trend while conservative Christian leaders ignore it is something they’ll have to answer themselves after it’s too late.
In the meantime, we need to continue pointing out the hypocrisy, bigotry, and general asshole-ness of Christians who think discriminating against certain groups of people is the best way to advance their faith. They’ll have some short-term victories, but even those will start fading away eventually.