A Prediction about Religion

Historians should never make predictions, especially about the future, given how messy the past can be. But scientists can and do make predictions based on historical trends (assuming they continue), and the trendlines for the gay rights revolution that is unfolding dramatically on a daily basis in the form of same-sex marriage laws enacted now in 31 states (the number could change by the time I get to the end of this paragraph) lead me to make a prediction.

I predict that within five to ten years Christians will come around to treating gay men and lesbians no differently from how they now treat other groups whom they previously persecuted—like women, Jews, and blacks. This change will not occur because of some new interpretation of a biblical passage or because of a new revelation from God. It will come about the same way that such changes always do: by the oppressed minority fighting for the right to be treated equally, and by enlightened members of the oppressing majority supporting their cause. Then Christian churches will take credit for the civil liberation of the gay community, rummage through the historical record, and find those preachers who had the courage and the character to stand up for gay rights when their fellow Christians would not. They will then cite those preachers as evidence that, were it not for Christianity, gay people would still be in the closet. This is what happened after the abolition of slavery, and it is already beginning to happen now with the gay rights movement. 

Also from This Issue

Lead Essay

  • A Genuinely Liberal Approach to Religion in Politics by Kevin Vallier

    Philosopher Kevin Vallier of Bowling Green State University suggests that libertarians need to think more carefully about the complicated territory between church and state. A propertarian approach will not suffice, he argues, and yet neither the left nor the right offers genuinely liberal solutions to the problems of religion in public life. Vallier recommends a set of principles that are at once anti-establishmentarian – there will be no official church – and yet “constructive,” in that it welcomes religious interests and even religious arguments on questions of public policy.

Response Essays

  • Why Religious Conservatives Are the Last Best Hope for Limited Government by Patrick J. Deneen

    Patrick J. Deneen argues that the boundaries of political discourse have moved leftward. As a result, so-called religious conservatives now stand in the place that classical liberals formerly occupied: All that they want is a simple religious liberty, with an acknowledgement of the Judeo-Christian character of the morals needed to sustain such liberty. Today’s so-called classical liberals have forgotten their own heritage, and they stand ready to align with secular progressives. Deneen charges that these progressives have as their object nothing less than the criminalization of Christian belief and expression. Those who value small government should therefore side with Christian conservatives.

  • Religious Freedom: A Genuinely Fair Approach by Maggie Garrett

    Maggie Garrett takes some issue with the classification system outlined in Kevin Vallier’s lead essay; she does not recognize herself, for one, in Vallier’s portrait of secular progressives. She denies that she stands for secular establishmentarianism in particular, and she would not discount the opinions of people of faith. Yet to count as a valid reason in public policy, she believes that more is required than bare divine revelation; justifications must be given that carry the power to convince others. She would refuse the granting of religious exemptions to otherwise secular institutions, like businesses, that would deny services to same-sex couples or marriages. She defends the contraception mandate along similar lines.

  • Religion and Politics… and Science by Michael Shermer

    Michael Shermer argues that science is producing better government, and that religion hasn’t been a help to it. In a liberal democracy, citizens can experiment with how they want to be governed. They can compare ideas and try out new ones. The American experiment, as it is often called, has been a success in many different ways. Meanwhile, expressions of religion in the public sphere are increasingly “obsolete.” This fact should be recognized; religion should retreat from public life just as it has from scientific inquiry, and for the same reasons.

The Conversation