Three Things for Tuesday

1. We Need to Talk about Arizona (and Kansas, and Oklahoma, etc.)

Bill Lindsey has some great posts on the recent spate of “religious freedom” laws being forwarded—and, thankfully, mostly faltering—in various states that are intended to allow businesses and individuals (in some cases, government employees) to express moral disapproval of gay marriage by discriminating against gay people. Andrew Sullivan has alsowritten extensively about these laws, with a balanced take including some reader dissents

From the other side, I’ve been puzzling over this column by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. Longenecker laments that people who oppose gay marriage might soon be held in the same regard as segregationists. Okay, that’s a standard complaint on the right. Then he sort of makes the case for his opponents:

When I was a student at Bob Jones University in the 1970s there were some fundamentalists in that world (as there were in apartheid South Africa) who argued that segregation was Scriptural. They maintained that God planned for the races to be “separate but equal.” Then along came the equal rights movement and virtually the whole of society rose up against such people and said they were not only wrong, but evil.

When the government came along to forcible integrate schools and ban segregation the Christian segregationists argued that their freedom of religion was being trampled on. At that point the government smiled and said, “I’m sorry. Your religious freedom only extends so far, and we’re the ones who decide just how far that is. You will integrate or suffer the consequences.”

Then he concludes that “the same drama will play out over the issue of same sex marriage.” See why I’m puzzled? He‘s the one equating gay rights opponents with segregationists, whom he seems to grant a certain amount of sympathy. I admit I might be reading him wrong, but how else should we take that piece?

2. More from Mark Regnerus

Everyone’s favorite bumbling researcher is at it again. Jeremy Hooper reports that he’s been telling people that the normalization of homosexuality will lead straight men to ask their wives for permission to sleep with other women (instead of just going to hookers on the sly, like in the good ol’ days). Apparently, he’s also now working with something called the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, which has just released a hip(ish) viral(ish) video that takes ten minutes to say that men don’t buy the cow when they can get the milk for free. Also, women should unionize, or something.

I like the Austin Chronicle’s take on the institute: “On the veranda of a buttercream Victorian, the fellows sip lemonade while casting disappointed glances at University of Texas co-eds. After all, one has to have a lawn if they want folks to get off of it.”

3. Sunday Morning Secularism

Speaking of Austin: On Sunday I woke up before anyone else in the house and read Adam Gopnik’s recent article in The New Yorker on the declining influence of religion on society. Gopnik mentions Wallace Stevens’ 1915 poem “Sunday Morning,” all about, in Gopnik’s words, “what to do when you don’t go to church.” While I read that poem, I put on (of course) the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning.” A few hours later, I was driving my daughter up South First on our way to church.

Because we go to the 11:30 service, and because Austin is glorious in February, the whole town seemed to be out doing something. Kayakers were paddling on Town Lake, joggers and bikers were going along the shore, groups of laughing people were waiting for tables outside of Torchy’s Tacos and Kerbey Lane and Bouldin Creek.

On one hand, the scene perfectly illustrated Gopnik’s point: Stevens’ poem is about the isolation and solitary pleasures of skipping church—100 years later, driving to church on a sunny day made me feel isolated, cut off from the city.

On the other hand, the sheer goodness of Austin on a sunny day reflected the problems with traditional understandings of secularism in society. While the pleasures that Stevens finds in his poem are no doubt real and good, it’s easy to make a case that they’re lacking something, specifically because they occur apart from any community. But when (it feels like) the whole community has moved outside of the church, that case doesn’t work as well. The argument has to be deepened.

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