Abortion, Gay Marriage, and the Good Life
This Sunday, my pastor told a story about an occasion he had to protest at an abortion clinic. When he arrived, there were already activists present, representing both sides of the debate: pro-life and pro-abortion. The former was lined up on one side of the sidewalk, the latter on the other. Each side had its array of signs declaring the evils or virtues of abortion, respectively. What he noticed, however, was that the pro-abortion crowd was fiercely and angrily yelling and screaming at the pro-choice crowd, fists pumping and obscenities flying. When he glanced over at the pro-life crowd, to see their response, he saw a crowd of activists, just as angry, yelling back with fists in the air and obscenities accompanying them.
He realized, at that moment, that if a non-English speaking person appeared, he would have no way of differentiating the two. Without being able to read the signs or understand the words being yelled out, the two would be utterly indistinguishable.
It is with this story in mind that I think back to the recent post on Gay Marriage and Christian Values. In that post, it was not my intention to say that Douglas Wilson was wrong to debate Andrew Sullivan, nor even that his tactics were wrong. The conversation is a necessary one, and Wilson is one of the first people I would want engaging in it.
It was, however, written to agree with Peter Leithart’s summation that the world lacks the moral imagination of Christianity to even understand it. I wanted to argue, as it were, that the world is in dire need of a new imagination and that we can get them there, or at least to a place where they desire it, by living out “the good life” and showing them what it looks like.
In considering my pastor’s story, we fail to inspire the moral imagination and to show what “the good life” is when we engage in tactics that make us Christians indistinguishable from the rest of the world. The anti-abortion activist who behaves and speaks in exactly the same manner as the pro-abortionist–all in the name of righteous indignation, mind you–is doing neither inspiring the moral imagination nor demonstrating “the good life.”
The anti-gay marriage activist who behaves and speaks in exactly the same manner as the pro-gay marriage activist is failing in the same way.
Notice what is not being said. No one is saying that Christians shouldn’t speak the truth in regards to life or marriage or any other aspect of “the good life.” We can and should. But, we should do so in a way that retains our distinction from the world, that inspires the moral imagination, and that demonstrates “the good life” we are trying to promote.