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A View from the Altar / Zero-sum game
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Zero-sum game

It’s not often I find myself in hearty agreement with a gay rights activist, but today is an exception.  It’s encouraging to find anybody out there who understands that the ongoing social contest about homosexuality has a deeper, underlying meaning that is bigger by far than gay rights.  Chai R. Feldblum is an outspoken advocate of gay rights, a self-identified lesbian, member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the author of the following statement:

Once we acknowledge this reality about moral assessments, it becomes easier to understand that we are in a zero-sum game in terms of moral values when it comes to LGBT equality and some (albeit, not all) religious believers…. [A] gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side.

Chai R. Feldblum, Moral Conflict: (Some) Religions and Marriage Equality

Why does morality have to be a zero-sum game?  Simple: Because morality flows from authority, and the nature of authority is that there can be only one in charge.

The question that remains unanswered and perhaps even unaddressed is that of who is in charge?  The Christian knows this question exists and necessarily has an answer: Jesus is Lord, and in the memorable words of Tennyson, “right is right and wrong is wrong because God is God.”

Somebody like Mizz Feldblum seems vaguely aware that there’s a question hovering nearby, but she doesn’t ask it or offer an answer.  She has her idea of the way things oughtta be but adduces no source of transcendent authority for who says so.  Her article, linked previously, repeated says, “I believe.”  If that seems like it has a whiff of religion to it, it’s because it does.  It’s a statement of faith with self as its object and selfwill as its content.  “I’m in power now, and this is how I want things.”  Here’s how Mizz Feldblum frames moral arguments:

I believe marriage equality for gay couples is long overdue.

I believe the burden on religious people that will be caused by granting gay people full equality will be justified. [Italics in original]

I believe granting liberty to gay people advances a compelling government interest.

I believe it is simply wrong for an LGBT person to be refused an apartment, a job, a space in a bed or breakfast, or a table in a restaurant because he or she is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.

I believe it is simply, basically, deeply wrong for society to allow such discrimination to occur.

I believe society has an obligation to protect my right to eat at any restaurant regardless of what my sexual orientation may be.

Her moral position, if traced to its ultimate and plainly stated conclusion:  “Right” is the will of whoever possesses the levers of government power, and “wrong” is whatever that person doesn’t want.  She says the state should “justify” its rules, but offers us no standard by which things can be justified.  All we get is her beliefs about what is, or isn’t, justified.  And her beliefs say that if homosexuals and Christians want a ride on the same bus, then Christianity rides in the back.

To Mizz Feldblum and those who reason as she does, I say this: Your analysis of the zero-sum nature of morality is spot on, but you bypassed a major fork in the road without realizing it.  There is indeed a contest going on which pits this moral code against that moral code.  This is the story of human history, and it goes on all the time.  But without a transcendent Author, morality is just the opinions of whoever temporarily has the most guns.  Today, that’s you.

Tomorrow, it won’t be.  The page will turn, and different people will have the guns.  What then?  Suppose they’re the kind of people who believe what you do about the source of morality being the opinions of those with the power and will to use it, but suppose they just don’t like your kind — lesbian, Jewish, white, American?  What then?  What would be your argument as to why they should let you live?  And how would you respond when they say, “This is a zero sum game.  I believe your kind should be oppressed, and you lose.”?

At that point, you’re going to wish for an Authority whose law transcends the “I-believes” of man.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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