A Brief Response to Professor Gehrz

Over at his blog at Patheos, Professor Chris Gehrz has responded to my most recent post at First Things.   Rod Dreher has provided a good reply but I offer here just a couple of brief comments.


First, Professor Gehrz seems on the whole to think that I see the problem with the LGBTQ movement as one of sexual morality.  I certainly do see it as a matter of morality, but then I see the problem of heterosexual cohabitation as one of sexual morality too.  But morality is not what makes this issue so contentious.   What makes the LGBTQ issue interesting and more significant is that it is also a matter of fundamental identity.   That makes the political debates surrounding the issue of profound importance, as anyone knows who has observed how the matter has played out in the public aquare in general and higher education in particular.


Second, and flowing from the first, Professor Gehrz states that he does 'I don’t believe that marriage, sexuality, or gender identity is anywhere near “the heart of the Gospel.”'  This statement would seem to indicate that he does not see the LGBTQ issue as one of identity (unless he wants to argue that identity -- who we are and who we think we are at our most fundamental level-- is nowhere near the heart of the gospel).  But even if it were just about sex, then sexual morality seems to be something about which both Jesus and Paul have many things to say. It is not for us to mark off as irrelevant to the gospel areas about which Jesus and Paul spoke.


The problem here is clear: he thinks I'm talking about sexual behavior/morality and he sees that as being of little importance, at least when it does not fall outside the boundaries of morality as society currently constructs them. But I am talking not so much about morality as about identity and the politics that flow from that.   And his failure to realize that this is the nature of the debate over LGBTQ rights etc., or perhaps his eliding of the matter of identity and morality in a manner which minimizes the significance of the former, means that he is completely underestimating the nature of the political problem. 


And, of course, we get the usual coda (using the military images of which he apparently disapproves when utilized by Rod and myself): "Conservative Christians have long waged culture war on sexual minorities, with precious little of the mercy, love, and grace that are actually at the heart of our Gospel."   Such an unqualified statement has a rhetorical force and no doubt plays to the progressive gallery but it actually slanders the many conservative Christians who have worked with grace, love and patience in this area, often in anonymous, local contexts.   Indeed, such a sweeping generalization from one who professes not to be able to see into the hearts of others nor to jump to cynical conclusions regarding those with whom he differs on these issues is quite remarkable. I wonder what he counts as 'waging war'?  As little as believing that marriage is to be between one man and one woman, and that sexual activity is to be restricted to that relationship, and that one has the right to say that in public perhaps?   Because that is certainly how the liberal culture now defines it.