Pope Benedict made a “shocking” statement Monday. He said the Roman Catholic Church opposes homosexual acts and wishes to help those who engage in such acts. The Church, he said, “should … protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed.”
The previous week, the Rev. Rick Warren made a similarly “shocking” statement. In opposing gay marriage, Warren said, “I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.”
The gay community attacked both the pope and Warren with gusto. The Rev. Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, labeled the pope’s words, “totally irresponsible and unacceptable in any shape or form.” Meanwhile, Brad Luna, director of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, jabbed, “Rick Warren is somebody who has opposed our equality.”
Here’s my question: What’s the big deal? It isn’t as though the pope and Rick Warren are articulating anything new – they’re articulating the same traditional Judeo-Christian perspective that has been a moral standard for thousands of years. So why the hubbub? Warren is not stating that he wants to criminalize homosexuality. And the pope is merely suggesting that sexuality may be flexible, and that sexual behavior can be changed. Where’s the big threat to the gay community?
The gay community constantly asks: If we want to marry, how does it hurt you? Here’s a similar question: If religious people don’t approve of homosexual behavior, how does it hurt you? We’re not advocating violence against gays and lesbians – far from it. We’re not going to invade your bedrooms and toss your same-sex partners in prison. We’re not advocating that you be fired from your job. We’re not saying that you’re rotten human beings. We’re just saying we don’t approve of your behavior. It’s that simple.
So how does it hurt you?
The fact is, of course, that a religious standard of marriage does hurt gay people. The gay community wishes to hijack marriage and use it as a shield to legitimize traditionally immoral behavior. By opposing gay marriage, traditionally moral folks prevent the gay community from having its way.
But by the same exact standard, the gay community’s insistence that homosexuality be respected – their insistence that figures from Pope Benedict to Rick Warren treat homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable way of life – hurts religious people. By opposing religious people’s freedom to articulate their view on homosexuality, they encroach on religious freedom.
Someone’s standard has to win. If the pope and Warren have their way, traditional morality will remain the standard and the gay community will feel left out. If the gay community has its way, traditional morality will be discarded and the religious community will feel left out.
Whose standard should win?
The moral answer might be complex – as a religious person, I favor the traditional marriage movement – but the systemic answer is simple: Let the people decide. We live in a republic, and that means that the American people must be given the freedom to determine which societal standards they want implemented.
Advocates for traditional morality have won virtually every electoral battle over gay marriage. The gay community has won its victories in the courtroom, calling on elitist judges to twist the words of state constitutions. It’s illegitimate, and it cuts against the most basic American value: the right of the people to decide how to regulate their communities.
The gay community has every right to oppose the pope and Warren. And the pope and Warren have every right to blast the gay community. That’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech. But let’s stop pretending that the pope and Warren are intolerant while the gay community is not. There’s intolerance on both sides. But someone has to win. The people should decide who wins.