Here at Hang Together our stated goal is to create moral consensus, finding those areas of morality on which we all as Americans can agree regardless of political or religious differences. Over the last few months, many conservatives have been scrambling to find this moral consensus over the issue of gay marriage, only to discover that there is little shared ground upon which to build. Much of the country rejects the Bible and anything it has to say about sexuality. Christians especially are left scratching their heads and wondering how to talk to supporters of homosexuality. But the issue is deeper than many realize. The dividing line is not simply over gay marriage, but over the very idea of moral consensus. Most of our culture has bought into the postmodern idea of personal morality, a morality which makes no impact whatsoever on your personal morality. Morality is no longer cultural but personal.
Rod Dreher over at the American Conservative discusses this in his fabulous article Sex after Christianity. In his article, Mr. Dreher points out that American culture does not simply disagree on sexuality but on the very idea of a transcendent authority that has the right to tell me what to do. Most Americans do not believe such an authority exists. And that transcendent authority does not even have to be a ‘god.’ Instead, the only authority is self. Americans reject anything other than the self and the supreme authority of the self to tell me what is ‘moral.’ The very idea of a moral consensus is ridiculous to many Americans because you have to listen to yourself as I listen to myself. We are own authorities and it matters very little if we agree or disagree! You cannot tell me what is ‘moral’ and I cannot tell you what is ‘moral.’ The only ‘immoral’ act is for you to declare what my self has declared ‘moral.’
Sadly, much of Dreher’s article is a review of book by Philip Rief from 1966. This is sad because Rief saw the pattern decades ago which would eventually lead to gay marriage today. Both Dreher and Rief are correct that the issue of gay marriage is not one of sexuality, but as they put it, cosmology. The American view of the world is one of extreme individualism which denies anyone the right to say anything to anyone else about morality. Most of American culture rejects the idea that anyone can say anything about the morality of homosexuality except those who are homosexual! Dreher and Rief is stating that American culture has become an ‘anti-culture.’ Culture has no ability or authority to declare what is right or wrong, only the self. We must engage the discuss of homosexuality, not just on the level of morality and sexuality but also cosmology and issues of who is the authority.