Saturday, April 13, 2013

A rude awakening: The 'realpolitik' of gay marriage

Earlier this week the Washington Post reported that a number of culturally conservative organizations asked the Republican Party not to support same-gender matrimony in the light of last year's general election, threatening to leave if it reversed course.

I seriously doubt, however, that they will. Reason: From a financial and organizational standpoint, they have always been highly dependent on the secular conservatives who have dominated the GOP since the 1970s. And if they do, which to me would be a surprise, they will find themselves increasingly isolated.

They're headed that way anyway; they stopped being a force in American politics on the national level in 2006. That became clear when Focus on the Family, facing the potential of major GOP losses in Congress due to the lobbying scandal and the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, sponsored officially non-partisan "Stand for the Family" rallies in several battleground states hoping to turn out its supporters, one of those, essentially a shill for Sen. Rick Santorum, taking place here in Pittsburgh. (Of course, GOP candidates lost every one of those Senate races, Santorum losing to Bob Casey Jr. by 18 points.)

More to the point, however, the vast majority of secular conservatives really don't care about gay marriage, abortion or other social issues of import to conservative evangelical Christians, something that would be obvious if you subscribe to secular conservative media. You won't see discussions on those in secular print or online media or on the Fox News Channel, FNC's bogus "War on Christmas" notwithstanding.

More troubling, however, is just how easily many of us Christians were suckered into the war against "big government," which in essence was always a class war; the movement from its beginnings in the mid-1950s took aim against those of lesser means who may benefit from political action, in my view violating Biblical principles of social justice. (Yes, the Scriptures do support such, contrary to what you may have heard.)

And while there's nothing wrong with making money, too many of us have idolized businessmen as the Christian ideal, ignoring the economic exploitation that they supported that began taking place in the early 1980s and the heavy lobbying to maintain their privileged status that they do today. In the process the church, in failing to confront the greedy then, has lost much of its prophetic power, which is why few are listening to it today when it comes to a clear violation of another Biblical issue.

Indeed, many, many gays are otherwise politically conservative. I was stunned to learn about a decade ago about the Republican Unity Council, a now-inactive organization that sought to recruit gay or gay-friendly conservative candidates, and one survey noted that George W. Bush received about a quarter of the gay vote in 2000. And of course you have today the more-established Log Cabin Republicans and the more recent GOProud that irritate "culture warriors" to no end. Clearly gays are becoming a more powerful force in the Republican Party, whose chief concern is winning elections, not taking moral stances.

With the gay-marriage issue now facing the Supreme Court -- and remember that one of the lawyers who argued for the overturning of California's 2008 Proposition 8 that banned it was Ted Olson, who played a small part in the 1990s anti-Bill Clinton crusade -- it's time for us Christians to understand that secular conservatives were never really our friends. I always was concerned that Christians might be thrown overboard if we were seen as costing them elections.

That day may have come.

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