Religious freedom cannot survive colorful banners.
Thanks to Roy Edroso for pointing out, in his dense examination of conservative blogger reactions to the Supreme Court hearing arguments over DOMA and Prop 8, that Erick Erickson had a remarkable series of posts as he melted down over the possibility that some gay people somewhere else would marry each other.* Roy had a roughly a billion other entertaining reactions, but Erickson’s were extensive, so I thought I’d touch on them here, because they really paint a picture of an entire worldview. Sure, it’s an unintelligible, paranoid, inconsistent, but self-serving worldview, but hey, he has one.
He started with a piece claiming that religious freedom and legal gay marriage are incompatible. How can this be, you may ask, for many churches believe in gay marriage and would like to perform them legally? And how can this be, when it’s been long established that churches don’t have to marry anyone—such as divorced people—that they don’t want to marry? Well, you need to heavily tweak your definition of “religious freedom”.
Already we have seen florists, bakers, and photographers suffer because they have refused to go along with the cultural shift toward gay marriage. There will be more.
By “attacked”, he means “heavily criticized”. So, apparently Erickson believes that religious freedom means that other people are not allowed to hold, much less express, a critical opinion of anything a person calls their “faith”. The problem with this is that religions criticize each other. In fact, in this very same post, Erickson writes this:
The Christian Left would prefer to view Matthew 19 as a passage on divorce, which is discussed. But they willfully ignore Christ’s definition of what a marriage is — one man and one woman united to become one.
By his own definition, he violated the religious freedom of the Christian Left by criticizing their views. Clearly, this is a conundrum, one that can only be solved by making a fundamentalist, conservative definition of Christianity the official state religion—whose freedom must be preserved by censoring all criticism of it—and declaring everyone else heretics. This is “religious freedom”, right wing style.
Since he probably knows, somewhere in that dense skull of his, that this is the stupidest argument ever, he just makes the leap into claiming that government censorship will become a thing. Erickson knows that if you can’t really defend your position on the facts, it’s time to start making shit up.
Within a year or two we will see Christian schools attacked for refusing to admit students whose parents are gay. We will see churches suffer the loss of their tax exempt status for refusing to hold gay weddings. We will see private businesses shut down because they refuse to treat as legitimate that which perverts God’s own established plan. In some places this is already happening.
He has no evidence, unless he’s counting boycotts of places like Chick-Fil-A, and again, there’s no reason to believe the First Amendment requires Americans to be customers of businesses who use “faith” as a cover for bigotry. Churches have not lost their tax exempt status for refusing to marry divorced people, so it follows they will not be forced to marry gay couples. He’s just lying here.
The school thing, however, it a bit interesting. He might be right about that. What he’s thinking about is something the Christian right doesn’t discuss in open spaces where others can overhear, but is something that still burns their asses to this day. Max Blumenthal wrote about it in his expose of what Jerry Falwell’s life was really like:
Then, for a time, Falwell appeared to follow his own advice. He retreated from massive resistance and founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy, an institution described by the Lynchburg News in 1966 as “a private school for white students.” It was one among many so-called “seg academies” created in the South to avoid integrated public schools….
For Falwell and his allies, the true impetus for political action came when the Supreme Court ruled in Green v. Connally to revoke the tax-exempt status of racially discriminatory private schools in 1971. At about the same time, the Internal Revenue Service moved to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, which forbade interracial dating. (Blacks were denied entry until 1971.) Falwell was furious, complaining, “In some states it’s easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school.”
Back in the 60s and 70s, the Christian right routinely cited “faith” as the reason to oppose desegregation and claimed that they had First Amendment protection for whites-only Christian schools. It is true that the schools—though not the churches—were told that that they had to follow Brown v. the Board of Education and civil rights legislation because they serve secular purposes, etc. You’re probably familiar with the arguments because they came up over protests against the contraception mandate. I imagine this is what Erickson is thinking of, that just as they forced Christian schools to accept black students, so they probably will force them to accept gay students. You’re free to draw your own conclusions about his basic human decency based on that.
had his religious freedom oppressed got criticized by other Christians, who noted that his frothing-at-the-mouth hatred for gay people is not very Christ-like. His response was great:
First, you are not loving your neighbor if you are cool with them going to hell. Do you want to go to hell? No? Well then how are you loving your neighbor as yourself if you’re cool with him going to hell? Leading people to Christ requires leading them to ask Christ to forgive them of their sins. It requires a deeper understanding of what is a sin. The Bible is clear.
Being gay is not a sin. But same sex sexual relations is a sin, as is lying, greed, gluttony, etc — no more or less worse than any other sin — and Christ himself is clear that marriage is between one man and one woman.
So, his theology holds that if you force someone not to sin, then that keeps them out of hell. I’m not a Christian, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works. It also seems Erickson seems to be under the delusion that stopping the marriages somehow stops the sexual relations.**
He continues to hammer at his confusion between having people disapprove of you and having the government censor you:
But the world will one day make you care. Your church, should it open its doors to all, but refuse to perform a same sex wedding, will be accused of discrimination. In some places, the church will be forced to stop performing weddings. Many churches will lose their tax exempt status. The costs of sharing the gospel will go up.
As we know, the claim that preachers will be thrown in jail and churches will be shut down because of this is a lie—it didn’t happen when the Christian right was up in arms over desegregation, and it won’t happen now. But his real concern is also expressed under all the lies. His is afraid of being disapproved of. He suspects that as homobigotry becomes more socially unacceptable that it, like racism before it, will stop being something that conservative Christians feel comfortable citing as a religious belief of theirs. He is, in other words, a coward. He is afraid of having convictions that are really unpopular, even as he claims that they’re a religious belief. For a man who claims to worship someone who was literally hung up on a cross and murdered slowly for his faith, Erickson’s whining here really smacks of cowardice.
It’s worth pointing out that desegregation was not the end of the religious right, by the way. I’m sure they’ll find a way to survive this, too, probably by doubling down on the misogyny. Maybe mandatory veiling of women to protect “religious freedom” will be the next big thing.
*Reminder: Gay marriage is already legal in some places. Including, you know, New York, where Erickson works for Fox News. We’ve already disproved the right wing Christian belief that the second a gay couple has legally blessed honeymoon sex, demons will rise up from hell and stab us all with pitchforks.
**I’ve been made to understand by many, including Megan McArdle, that it works in the other direction. *rimshot*