Engaging Culture

The Loss of Dissent in America

The lawsuit involving a Michigan gay man suing two Bible publishers and the California court ruling on same-sex marriage has really made me mourn the loss of two important aspects of our culture:

1)  The Loss of Dissent:
With the court ruling on same sex marriage, I fear we’ve lost the ability to dissent and the freedom of speech that comes with it.  What used to be a great liberal ideal has now been relegated to the dustbin of history. The New Mexico wedding photographer discovered that fact when she decided because of her religious beliefs to turn down a request to photograph a gay wedding.  She was sued and has now lost the case.  So now, legally it’s apparently impossible to dissent from the issue because of personal morality, values, or religious beliefs.  The problem is that there are intellectual and reflective arguments on both sides of the issue, but now, when it comes to this issue, dissent is illegal.  If the government can force us to act contrary to our moral and religious values on this issue, it can force it on any issue.  The paradox is that the very value the gay community has always championed – their right to live their lives according to their dictates – has now been denied to the rest of us.

That has certainly opened to door to lawsuits like the one in Michigan.  After all, if we can’t dissent from believing same-sex marriage is not in the culture’s best interest, then what do we do with all those pesky religious beliefs and the preachers who teach that stuff?  We’ve got to get rid of those as well.  Will the gulags not be far behind?

2)  The Loss of a Definition: After literally thousands of years, we’ve lost the definition of the word “marriage” from our vocabulary.  The word has always been used in reference to the core unit of a man and woman and the ability to procreate.  But now, that definition doesn’t exist anymore.  It’s not an issue of gay couples being able to live together, share benefits, tax status, or have a family unit.  But by co-opting the word “marriage,” they haven’t expanded it’s definition, they’ve eliminated it.  I’m not against same-sex couples of any kind living together legally and with financial and government benefits, in the same way two aging grandmothers should be allowed to live as a family with the retirement benefits, beneficiary benefits, and hospital access that means.  But I fear to change the very definition of the word marriage is a far greater loss that we realize.

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  1. I read the article on the photo service, and then the comments.

    I am always surprised at the venom that accompanies criticism of the conservative viewpoint. 

    But maybe I shouldn't be… when our press is always about what group we hate, and where the next boycott will be. 


    A book I will suggest: "They like Jesus but not the Church" by Kimball, published in an ironic twist, by Zondrvan. 

  2. Phil,

    I agree with your analysis (not that you needed it) and am particularly concerned about the first one.  If we lose the ability to dissent we lose our voice.  Ironically, the very amendment (freedom of speech) the liberals and others tout as their "right" they are taking away from those who dissent from their viewpoint.  If the NM photographer doesn't want to do the wedding then she should have the freedom to say, "No I won't do the wedding."  That is her "right" to do so.  It will get really sticky if a hate crimes type law is passed that will not allow pastors to preach what is right and wrong in the Bible for fear of reprisal.  I am not just talking about homosexuality.  How about adultery?  How about the thief? Or sexual predator?  Or bestiality?  It goes on and on.  And any time I or another pastor preaches what he believes to be the truth of the Bible, we stand as marked men.  

    As for the second: I will continue to use the word marriage for a man & a woman.  I will use another word, maybe partnership, for anything else, be it a homosexual union or a living together arrangement. 

  3. In olden times, my guess is that it would have been laughed out of the court.

    But now, given how whacked out our society has become, this lawsuit falls more or less under the category of "ho-hum, we all knew it'd eventually happen" news.

    The only important question now is whether the publishers Zondervan and Nelson will vigorously defend themselves and prevail on the basis of our First Amendment rights to free speech. If the First Amendment means anything at all, then the courts ought to throw out this lawsuit.

    Because, if they don't, there will be next to nothing left to protect us from the gulags, and you may as well use the Bill of Rights as your toilet paper.

  4. Whats even more weird is the "right" to IVF services! I mean, do we throw out our biology textbooks?

  5. In regards to motivation for evil, humans need no motivation whatsoever as weeds need no process or care for growth. It’s the motivation for godliness & goodness that we need sufficient (and in times as we are in, a tremendous amount of) motivation for us humans, just as fruit bearing trees require care, patience & a process for proper growth & fruitfulness.

  6. Phil, I appreciate your post.

    As a practicing lawyer and Christian, I've had great concerns about the marginalization of dissent, especially in the form of the "Christian Right." As Christian leaders (we'll call them that) have actively sought to curry favor with the political man or mantra of the day, they have effectively abandoned those who have stepped up to the microphone, such as the New Mexican wedding photographer. The "Man of God," as it were, used to be the guy who lived in the rough and tumble world of dissent in the public square instead of boasting of his access to the Lincoln bedroom or commendations on the wall.

    As to the definition of marriage, I believe what we are seeing is the crumbling of mediating institutions in our culture. Institutions that provide protection against governmental intrusion, such as marriage and church, are being redefined as expressions of individualism. Without those mediating institutions there comes a grinding tension between the government's dictates of morality and our basic beliefs and faith. As shown by the New Mexican photographer, in this brave new world, you may possess a strong faith, but you certainly dare not act on it.

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