Last night syndicated columnist Terry Mattingly and myself (Fr. Hans Jacobse) discussed where religious freedom in America was under assault. The discussion was, I believe, informative. I was very impressed with Mattingly’s comprehensive knowledge and analysis of the legal challenges concerning religious liberty. The discussion focused on the moral issues, particularly gay rights, as the locus of the conflict.
I pointed out that gay rights is an anthropological question at its core that challenges the increasingly fractured moral consensus necessary to hold a society together because it fundamentally redefines what we understand male and female to be.
I see “gay marriage” as a threat to liberty because it grants government the authority to deem relationships not found in nature or the moral tradition of Western Civilization as morally licit, thereby establishing the State as both the source and final judge of the morality that shapes the moral consensus. Religion is the ground of culture I argued earlier in the program and the government arrogation of moral authority within the culture (all “rights” come from the State) portends great danger down the road.
Both of us concurred on the inviolability of the First Amendment. I am as protective of the right to free speech as Mattingly or very close to it (Mattingly says he is about as close to a “First Amendment absolutist” as one can be). I want the freedom to speak out on issues even when (especially when, I corrected myself) I am in the minority, a place I increasingly find myself. I pointed out that the language of the Constitution regarding freedom of religion is virtually identical to the language outlining freedom of the press.
I also mentioned that “gay rights” could create the legal ground for the persecution of Christianity in America.
Both of us concurred that the Orthodox Churches in America need more visible and vibrant leadership from our Bishops. I pointed out the first calling of a Bishop is to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” and we need them to divide that Word more clearly for us.
There is, I contended, “great moral confusion in the Church” about these issues, a point that will not be welcomed by Orthodox Progressives but I stand by it. Mattingly suggested that every week at least one Bishop in America publish a sermon or essay that defines the teachings of Scripture and the moral tradition so that some of the confusion can be cleared.
It was a good talk I think although it is always difficult to judge your own work. I am looking forward to hearing thoughtful criticism.
The podcast is available through Ancient Faith Radio.