It used to be that when the voters settled on something — even twice, the matter was decided. No more. Proposition 8, the bitterly fought constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman that squeaked by in California recently, needs to be "overturned" — or so the homosexual activists tell us.
Overturn a constitutional amendment? If judges can overturn the amendment, then effectively we have no constitution and we will be governed by the whims of a non-elected judiciary. Say goodbye to the constitutional republic.
The call reveals something that the critics of homosexual activism see clearly: many in the movement embrace lawlessness. They are, to use a modern twist on an old philosophical term, anti-nomian — (against the law). But it's not merely the legal culture they hold in contempt. It goes deeper.
The tradition of American civil rights is a noble — and fragile — enterprise grounded in the belief that all people have inherent rights. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights " Truths? Created? Creator? Almost makes you think the American Founders believed that God exists and that rights flowed from Him.
This declaration is a moral precept grounded in centuries of Western history. But as the Founders and countless others understood, any claim of rights must have at their source the belief that man indeed possesses "inalienable rights." Religion, in other words, is the wellspring of the morality that shapes and guides the culture. In our world, Christianity (and Judaism through it) is that wellspring.
Human rights then, depend on a religion that serves as the source of a shared moral tradition and shapes a consensus on basic matters of right and wrong. If that tradition is abandoned the consensus shatters, and our ideas of what constitutes a human right are shorn from their moral moorings. (Think a moral tradition doesn't matter? Reflect on Islam and see how its notions of rights differ from ours. Not religious? Think of the blood spilled over Nazism, Marxism, and other utopian replacements.)
Homosexuals are, of course, afforded the same rights as any other American. What makes the American experiment so valuable is that one need not be a practicing Christian or Jew to be accorded these rights. One can be a hostile to all things religious and still make a claim to "inalienable rights," and still be protected by them.
So what explains the aggression of homosexual activists especially toward churches in California and elsewhere? Is it just because they lost the vote or is something else at work?
The homosexual lobby argued that marriage is a fundamental right denied to homosexual couples. They overlook the fact that homosexuals already have the "right" to marry. They just can't marry a member of the same sex, just as a man can't marry multiple women, a woman multiple men, a father to a daughter, a brother to a sister, and so forth. Nothing is "denied" to them that is not denied to everyone else.
"Unfair" they protested and indeed it is. But fairness to those who seek new definitions of marriage is not a concern of the moral tradition. There are compelling reasons why the convention is what it is (children need both a mother and father being one of them), and tinkering with it fosters even greater instability and suffering — as the epidemic of broken heterosexual marriages attest.
The fact that the prohibition against homosexual marriage is grounded in the moral tradition is not lost on the activists. That's why they attack churches. Churches are the cultural institutions that represent that enduring tradition. (It's not lost on the Black community either. Most Blacks resent that the language of the Civil Rights Movement was hijacked by the homosexual lobby — 70% voted to uphold traditional marriage.)
Moreover, the aggression against these religious institutions reveals the dark underside of the movement and forces cultural "moderates" to face a stark truth: the homosexual marriage movement is not really about marriage. It's not even about "fairness." It's about forcing moral parity for homosexual behavior in the culture. Wear down the institutions and you can homosexualize the culture, the activists believe (taking a page from Gramsci's playbook). Sound far-fetched? Ask yourself why they attacked the Boy Scouts.
The attacks against the churches reveal a deep antipathy towards the moral tradition. It's anti-nomian in the deepest sense of the term: a revolt against the moral ground of culture and thus against the culture itself. This chaotic disordering — this demand that the moral and civic order be subjugated to homosexual desire — is of the same spirit that we see in the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
On a more fundamental level, the revolt is an internal antipathy externalized. The activists believe that their interior disquiet arises from prejudice in the society, rather than from within themselves (thank you Jean-Jacques). Silencing the churches attempts to silence the tradition that regards homosexual behavior as sinful. This, in turn, might silence the "this is wrong" that still rings deep, if dimly, in the conscience.
Unbridled sexual desire often drives anti-nomianism, especially in our age where the desire is defined as a constituent of self-identity ("I rut, therefore I am" — just ask Madonna and cohorts; "I am what I feel" — just ask Oprah and cohorts). In this climate, any talk about homosexuality as "sin" is strictly forbidden. When the unlawful becomes lawful however, watch out. More comes crashing down than what you bargained for.
Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse is a priest in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. He is president of the American Orthodox Institute and edits the website OrthodoxyToday.org. Fr. Jacobse is available for talks through the Orthodox Speakers Bureau.