In North Carolina, a group called Faith in America is starting a billboard and newspaper ad campaign against “religion-based bigotry,” aka Christian sexual ethics.
Of all the things I have observed from my perch on the front lines of America’s culture wars, the most curious is the phenomenon of the crucial moral authority of the gay man in our newly unfolding society.
Many Americans, especially conservatives, feel the need to find some gay person to defend, who will in turn defend them, reassure them that they are good persons, not intrinsically “anti-gay.” Where did gay men get this moral authority?
Moral authority is, of course, in itself a curious phenomenon. Where does it come from? Who has it? How is it made visible in the external and everyday world?
Every human child begins with anxiety: Am I OK? Is what I do good enough? Am I a good person?
The reassurance that mothers and fathers give ultimately passes to some external force in human affairs, one that defines and binds a society together: Moral authority is that influence over the human mind that requires no external backing. We crave it, we seek it, we respond to it. Human beings are made that way.
The moral crisis that the gay rights movement poses for American civilization is ultimately a crisis in moral authority.
The original civil rights movement built upon a Judeo-Christian and biblical foundation, used the power of suffering, with dignity and courage, to call for social respect for African-Americans.
The new civil rights movement takes Christian pity and uses it as a weapon to unmoor the Christian tradition itself of all moral authority in our society in order to accomplish the “transvaluation of all values.”
The phrase is Nietzsche’s, of course.
“I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity. … I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind. … And one calculates time from the dies nefastus on which this fatality arose — from the first day of Christianity! Why not rather form its last? From today? Revaluation of all values!” he wrote in “The Antichrist.”
For Nietzsche, the two great besetting sins of Christianity were its elevation of pity — the moral authority of the weak — and chastity; both in his mind were violations of the natural order in which desire and the strength to attain desire were the natural basis of morality. Christianity was “anti-life” because it interfered with the twin goods of strength and desire.
The genius of modern Progressivism is to instead take these two Christian virtues, pity and chastity, and pit them against each other — to take pity for human suffering and direct it against the restraint of sexual desire.
The new intiative, Faith in America, is quite specific in urging the use of this tool to create a crisis in moral authority among believers: “Being bigoted or prejudiced conflicts with a person of faith’s core principles of love, compassion and respect. So making them aware that they are causing harm to others increases the chances that they will stop using religion-based bigotry.”
I have pondered on the hatred I have generated, as a symbol of resistance to this new morality, in the gay community.
I do not think of gay people as my enemies, but as my fellow citizens, neighbors and sometimes friends, with whom I agree on many things and disagree on others, including the nature, meaning and public purpose of marriage.
I walked into the heart of the gay marriage debate to defend one great principle of truth: Marriage is the union of husband and wife because children long for their mother and father.
But this the gay elites cannot tolerate — not the idea that anyone can see our Christian moral tradition as good.
To the gay rights movement, a strong moral confidence in the goodness of our marriage tradition is in itself the core moral offense, which requires disciplining, punishing, silencing, shunning.
Why? So that legitimate pity for the gay man, and his suffering as a child, can be turned against the moral authority of chastity, for that system of sexual ethics that begins not with our desires but with our responsibility to discipline and elevate them.