Will there be no coming together over gay marriage and abortion? According to Pat Buchanan there won’t be. In a recent article from Human Events, The Wars of Religion Return, he asks, perhaps not without reason:
“Can Americans ever come together if we are divided in our deepest beliefs about morality and truth, where one side believes gay marriage is moral progress, the other holds it a moral outrage; where one side views abortion to be a mighty advance for women’s freedom, the other sees it as legalization of mass slaughter of unborn babies?”
A rhetorical question and Buchanan’s answer is “No.” He faults Obama for not recognizing the intractable underlying reality, and the importance, of the differences among us. According to Buchanan Obama is guilty of the the “heresy of indifferentism, which holds that one religion is just as good as another and that all religions can be a path to salvation.”
There are situations, of course, where all paths are not equally valid, all leading to salvation. Slave owners and abolitionists followed different paths and went to war over their differences. Why? Because the path of slave ownership was clearly in error, and because of that eventually lost its adherents and defenders. It was a wrong path.
Buchanan would convince us that a similar rightness and wrongness holds in regard to paths, or positions on gay marriage and abortion. And if this is indeed the case, perhaps he is right and we will eventually go to war over these differences, renewing in America’s present the horribly destructive wars of religion of Europe’s past.
But are the proponents of gay marriage and abortion no less wrong than those who fed the institution of slavery? The question about rightness and wrongness in these disputes still hasn’t been answered to everyone’s satisfaction, and is not even close to being so.
Given this situation isn’t Obama correct to be eucumenical in his approach, allowing different paths to salvation? Furthermore, and as he makes clear, the text of the Bible is no help to us in these matters, for while the Book of Leviticus does call homosexuality an abomination, it also says the eating of shellfish is an abomination and it condones slavery.
For Buchanan gay marriage and abortion are manifest evils and cannot be tolerated. For Obama, and for me, a renewal of the wars of religion is a much greater manifest evil, and differences among us over the nature of marriage, and, even more troubling, over the point at which newly conceived life is to be fully protected, have to be tolerated. Anything else would be much worse.
Well we do have freedom of speech, and freedom of the press,
freedom, especially now on the internet, to print what we want. Pat
Buchanan illustrates these freedoms. Otherwise how could he possibly be
allowed to write about the “Return of the Wars of Religion?” The return
of cave life, tribal infighting and indiscriminate killing, not to
mention 20th. century genocidal wars? Haven’t we progressed since these
cruel and intolerant times?
Could he really accept renewed wars
of religion as the means of bringing one side or the other, for him the
side of gay marriage and abortion, to complete submission? In any case
it doesn’t work. Legitimate differences can never be resolved in this
When differences are resolved by war, which does happen
although not in the case of the Wars of Religion of the 16th. century,
it’s only because one side is closer to the right, as in the case of
the American Civil War, and later the war against Hitler. And then the
losing side does come over to the rightness of the winners, although it
may take a hundred years or more, as in the case of our own South.
it’s not always the case that the losers are in the wrong in their
beliefs, nor are the winners any more often in the right. In the
instance of the two dilemmas before us, gay marriage and abortion,
there are at least two legitimate positions and as long as that
condition holds toleration of the differences is the only realistic and
As much as I find it hard to believe
Buchanan does seem to be defending the extreme position of the
Christian evangelical leader, James Dobson. For Buchanan is clearly
putting down Obama’s tolerant attitude, his willingness to live with,
and struggle with differences. Buchanan makes an analogy to the
abolitionist (Dobson) whom he admires on the one hand, and to the
politician (Obama now, and perhaps others, like Henry Clay the great
compromiser in the times leading up to the Civil War) whom he doesn’t.
cites this statement from Dobson: “Am I required in a democracy to
conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what
is right with regard to the life of tiny babies?” To quote that
statement is more than enough for us, for me to lose respect for the