Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Divine Order Argument Unmasked: More Evidence from Florida

Sometimes, blogworld reality seems realer than reality itself.

Case in point: just yesterday, I blogged at length (I know: I blab) about how Protestant evangelicals today eager for ammunition to use against gay human beings are intent on adopting Catholic natural law rhetoric about the divine ordering of sexuality. Never mind that natural law theology is fundamentally antithetical to the traditions now using it, or that their pick-and-choose adoption of it conspicuously ignores draconian implications that go beyond the anti-homosexual—e.g., its prohibition of the use of artificial contraception or its claim that every act of masturbation is intrinsically evil and more seriously sinful than rape, which has, at least, procreative possibility.

And never mind that significant theological work has been done for generations now by Catholic theologians critiquing the biologism of natural-law theology as it is applied to human sexuality—the implication that the morality of human sexual behavior should be judged solely by the crude standard of animal procreation, as if sexual intimacy plays no other role in human relationships. Never mind, as well, that the vast majority of Catholics in the developed part of the globe solidly reject Catholic natural-law teaching about human sexuality.

And, above all, never mind that churches which have historically emphasized scripture are now importing into their theology and preaching a theological tradition whose roots are philosophical, and not scriptural.

Despite all these weighty pause-and-think considerations about the current craze for divine-order rhetoric in Protestant churches fixated (as is the Catholic church) on vilifying and excluding their gay brothers and sisters, I argued yesterday (and in previous postings) that there’s a growing ecumenical consensus that the most useful weapon Christians have in their current arsenal to continue denying human rights to gay people is the claim that both the bible and natural law clearly demonstrate that there’s a divine order for creation, whose very heart and center is all about male-female complementarity.

As I noted yesterday, underlying this divine order rhetoric, with its claim that the churches alone stand today in the way of the total decay of Western Christian civilization once gay marriage is accepted, is a nasty implication that according equal rights to gay human beings will undermine both the divine order of things, and the social order as well. As evidence, I cited an excerpt from an essay of Florida United Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker, in which he claims that the “whole teaching of Scripture” supports the conclusion that Christians have been provided a “revelation of the divine order for the sexual life of human beings.”

My posting notes as well Bishop Whitaker’s statement that “the Church should adhere to this divine order rather than accommodate to ideas and practices acceptable in Western societies.” The church, that is, provides a bulwark against godless secularism, as secularism erodes the core values and core institutions of Western Christian society. The church alone points to a divine order Western culture is intent on casting off, with no thought of the dire consequences that will ensue if divine order is overturned, particularly in the realm of gender and marriage: Take but degree away, untune that string, and hark what discord follows!

I said all this yesterday. And today, I land on the Good As You blogsite, only to find the following quotation from John Stemberger, an Orlando attorney who is the former political director for the Florida Republican party, and the current president of the Florida affiliate of Focus on the Family, the Florida Family Policy Counsel/Florida Family Action (see This organization is leading the current fight to amend the Florida constitution to ban gay marriage. Stemberger states:

The church is the only remaining institution in society that stands as a beacon of hope; and as salt and light to preserve a decaying and lost culture. Same sex marriage is not inevitable. The church of Jesus Christ can hold the line to protect this human institution. If Florida pastors will take a stand for God’s design in human relationships – and lead their people to vote ‘Yes on 2’ – we can and we will prevail.*

Good As You notes, “Of all of the national campaigns to pass an anti-gay amendment, the Florida one has undoubtedly been the most unapologetically Christian in its basis.” To substantiate this claim, this blog cites (in addition to Stemberger's statement above) a video produced by the Florida Yes2Marriage group, which informs the voters of the state (Christians, Jews, Muslims, people of no faith or many diverse faiths) that “He created them male and female . . .lGod’s design” (see

There you have it in a nutshell: the divine order rhetoric, totally removed from any meaningful theological or even religious context, subordinated to an ugly political use—gay bashing. This is what the entire argument moves towards, in essays like Bishop Whitaker’s. This is what the claim that there is a divine order stamped onto creation by (a male) God, in which men and women have complementary roles (men rule; women submit) ultimately means. This is what it ultimately means when the same churchmen who identify that divine order for the rest of us (Christians, Jews, Muslims, people of no faith or many diverse faiths) add to their claim that their (male) God has stamped creation with divine order the further, and equally untenable, claim that scripture clearly mirrors God’s intent for human sexuality: one man, one woman, married for life.

And this is what it means when the churches claim to be the final bastion of civilization, as godless secularism erodes the institutions on which society is founded: everyone in society must submit to the men who rule the churches, or else: “The church is the only remaining institution in society that stands as a beacon of hope; and as salt and light to preserve a decaying and lost culture . . . . The church of Jesus Christ can hold the line to protect this human institution.”

Never mind that marriage is both a religious and a civil institution. And never mind that a healthy democratic society respects a pluralism of beliefs, and tolerates various ways of living one’s life, as long as those ways can clearly be demonstrated not to harm others or the body politic. The churches will rule, when it comes to gay marriage. The men who rule the churches will rule society as well as the churches, will save poor lost Western culture from itself, as they “hold the line” to protect us against ourselves.

If further evidence is needed to show the merit of my arguments of the past several days , I’d also like to draw readers’ attention to a posting by Waldo Lydecker today
( Lydecker notes that the groups opposing gay marriage do all they can to disguise what they really oppose (gay persons, gay rights), while advancing spurious arguments that accepting gay marriage will lead to the total dismantling of Western civilization. He links to a discussion of this issue at the Moderate Voice blog, in which Russell Shorto of the New York Times reports on the hysterical social-decay argument that religious conservatives are seeking to use today to “hold the line” against gay human beings ( Shorto states,

At its essence, then, the Christian conservative thinking about gay marriage runs this way. Homosexuality is not an innate, biological condition but a disease in society. Marriage is the healthy root of society. To put the two together is thus willfully to introduce disease to that root. It is society willing self-destruction, which is itself a symptom of a wider societal disease, that of secularism.**

Given the abundant evidence of what the divine order argument is really about, when it gets applied to the political and social sphere (power; control; demonization; exclusion), one can only raise one’s eyebrows when church leaders who freely promote this rhetoric say, as they do so, that “support justice for homosexuals in civil society and hospitality toward all homosexual persons.”

Really? I don’t think so. Not as long as you’re gleefully handing weapons to those who are doing all they can to “hold the line” against the people you claim to love.

*The Good As You blog is citing
** Citing “What’s Their Real Problem with Gay Marriage (It’s the Gay Part),”

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