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Why draw the line here?

E.J. Dionne asks why conservative Christians continue to resist gay marriage


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Why draw the line here?

Columnist E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post may sometimes be infuriating, but he is never unintelligent. After graduating from Harvard, Dionne was named a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford where he earned a doctorate in sociology. He is always thoughtful, analytical, and polite. He is decidedly liberal when comes to both politics and theology, but he also seems to find conservatives to be interesting, if sometimes downright dangerous.

Even more recently, he seems to find conservative Christians to be perplexing. In a column published Sunday, Dionne asks about our opposition to same-sex marriage: “Why draw the line here?”

It’s a fair question. Dionne, a practicing Catholic, as they say, wonders aloud why many of us cannot just acknowledge same-sex marriage and move on. Dionne goes further and argues that he does not see conservative Christians reacting with the same “ferocious response” to divorce or adultery. He wants to know why we are demanding exemptions from anti-discrimination laws and policies when it comes to our convictions against same-sex marriage.

Like I said, it’s a fair question ... up to a point. The headline question is unfair when you consider the fact that courts and legislatures have declared LGBTQ citizens to constitute a protected class. So far as I am aware, no one is threatening to force an evangelical website designer to undergo ideological indoctrination programs for refusing to celebrate adultery, but that is directly at stake in the most current Supreme Court case. Dionne knows the score on this one, and he fails to acknowledge that adulterers and the divorced represent no such class.

But, I did concede that Dionne’s question, in the main, remains fair. Conservative Christians should be first in line to indict adultery and divorce as grave sins that have wrought more direct damage to individual human lives than same-sex marriage has, or likely will. But it is not fair to argue that we have merely accommodated ourselves to either divorce or adultery. Both are repeatedly condemned by God in Holy Scripture. Both are grave insults and injuries to marriage. Both represent a breaking of the marriage covenant. Neither must be accepted by the Christian church. In my own congregation, either willful divorce or adultery would be immediately addressed by the most serious church discipline.

Furthermore, structures against both adultery and divorce make sense only in the context of knowing what marriage is—the lifelong exclusive commitment and conjugal union of a man and a woman.

Same-sex marriage replaces marriage, at least in the law, with an artificial construct, stripped (among other things) of its procreative potential and conjugal fulfillment.

The legalization of what is called same-sex marriage is an attempt to redefine marriage itself, not to recognize breaches or breaks in the marital covenant. It changes the essential meaning of marriage. It is not equivalent to divorce or adultery in the structure of the law and public conception. Same-sex marriage replaces marriage, at least in the law, with an artificial construct, stripped (among other things) of its procreative potential and conjugal fulfillment. Why draw the line here? The line is already drawn for us.

That line is drawn clearly in the long tradition of Christian moral and doctrinal instruction. That doctrinal tradition is centered in a bride (the church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ the Lord). It affirms Scriptural authority and Christian defense of a sexual ethic centered entirely on marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Beyond that, Romans 1 clearly defines same-sex sexual passions and relationships as “against nature.” That will certainly offend today’s sensibilities, but it remains true. It also remains true that Dionne’s own church still defines homosexual sex as “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered.” Don’t look for an acknowledgement of that teaching in his column.

Society’s recognition of what is called “same-sex marriage” represents a civilizational crisis. To urbane folk like E.J. Dionne, that claim looks ridiculous. But, when seen from a Biblical perspective, how do we avoid that conclusion?

I am right with Mr. Dionne if he intends to launch a crusade against divorce and adultery. Both are thunderously condemned in Scripture. Same-sex marriage is not condemned in Scripture—simply because it is inconceivable.

In his article, Dionne allows that traditionalist Christians “view homosexual relationships as sinful.” He responds, “I think they are wrong, but I acknowledge this is a long-held view.” Clearly, we are operating in very different theological worlds.

Not that long ago (1995), Dionne himself argued against same-sex marriage. Now, he openly asks why conservative Christians refuse to get with the program. There is probably little profit in arguing with him, but I will answer his question. We draw the line at gay marriage because the line was drawn for us. Faithfulness forbids us to step over that line.


R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also the host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.


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