It’s refreshing to see Rod Dreher drop the pretense of euphemism and admit that when he uses the terms “traditional Christianity” or “orthodox Christianity,” he’s really talking about sex.
It seems to me that “traditional Christian” is political code for “Christians who adhere to traditional teaching about sex and sexuality.”
There is nothing more or less “traditional” about the Christianity of those of us who seek to prioritize the actual Gospel of Jesus over and above the exertion of sexual dominance through pharisaical legalism . It’s not a question of valuing or not valuing “objective truth.” We all necessarily come to Scripture with an interpretive lens. The use of the “rule of love” as a primary interpretive lens is deeply traditional – in the Gospels themselves we find Jesus interpreting Mosaic Law to his audiences!
And here’s the thing: Rod himself abandons the interpretive lens that leads to sexually conservative Christianity when it comes to some other scriptural issues. As discussed in Fred Clark recent “Whatever Happened to the Clobber Texts for Slavery,” if we honestly apply the textualist approach Rod’s “traditional” brethren apply to sex to scriptural teachings on slavery, an honest “traditional Christian” would today defend the institution of slavery. There are only two ways to get around the Bible’s slavery problem: Simply ignore all biblical text on slavery; or interpret biblical text on slavery through the lens of Christ’s Great Commandment.
The problem being that if one admits that this is what one is doing, it becomes difficult to sustain a scripturally coherent case for ostracizing and punishing homosexual persons as such or discriminating against monogamous homosexual relationships. (See also Eric Elnes’ “The Sin of Sodom.”)
In point of fact the notion of “religious liberty” that Rod and other sexually conservative Christians advance is not traditional. Rod’s “religious liberty” consists of the demand that one be free in all aspects of civic and secular life to avoid contact with or providing service or accommodation to other persons on the basis of their characteristics or beliefs. (Also, and this is important to Rod, the demand to do these things and not be called unpleasant names by anyone anywhere for doing them.) This demand is not found in any ancient Christian doctrine or practice, and it is not recognized in any traditions of American constitutional jurisprudence. It is a novel, indeed radical, doctrine. In America’s civic traditions, we call this demand “discrimination” or “bigotry.” Where this principle shows up in Christian practice, it ranges from the despicable separatism of Dominionism or Christian Identity to the noble communal pietism of some Anabaptists.
But none of those are in the mainstreams of Christian theology or practice. In terms of “tradition,” when a Christian seeks to separate from the world, he separates from the world. He does not remain in the world and demand that the world separate from him. To have the Amish cake, one must give up eating the worldly cake. Rod and others who advance this radical new concept of “religious liberty” seek the benefits of Amish-style communal pietism without the inconveniences of separation from the secular, profane world.