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stouthowcharitytranscendstheculturewars - HOW CHARITY...

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HOW CHARITY TRANSCENDS THE CULTURE WARS Eugene Rogers and Others on Same-Sex Marriage Jeffrey Stout ABSTRACT In 1994 the “Ramsey Colloquium,” under the leadership of Richard John Neuhaus, posed a challenge to what it called the “homosexual movement” within the Christian Church. The challenge was to prove that it had reasons distinguishable from secular liberalism—reasons consistent with orthodox Christian theology—in favor of same-sex coupling. Eugene Rogers’s book, Sexuality and the Christian Body: Their Way into the Triune God , can be read as a response to this challenge. The book is important not only for the content of its arguments, which are imaginative and theologically rigor- ous, but also for the exemplary way in which Rogers exhibits charity in his account of his conservative opponents. Rogers’s recent anthology, Theology and Sexuality , provides additional evidence that a new, more promising debate is arising within the Church, a debate that has some hope of tran- scending the rhetoric of the culture wars. KEY WORDS : homosexuality, Rogers, Eugene THE MAJOR OBSTACLE TO THE FULL LEGAL RECOGNITION of same-sex marriage in the U.S. is Christian opposition to it. Anyone who wants to remove this obstacle, as I do, has a strong reason to take note of what Christians are saying about the matter. Some of the arguments that conservative Chris- tians offer in defense of their opposition to same-sex marriage make no appeal to theological premises. Others, however, are explicitly theologi- cal. They appeal to scriptural passages that appear to declare same-sex coupling an abomination and to other scriptural and theological warrants for a traditional conception of marriage. It is a good thing for democracy as well as for the Church, I believe, for arguments of both types to be expressed openly and subjected to critical questioning. The “Ramsey Colloquium” is one of several mechanisms that Richard John Neuhaus has devised in order to advance his conservative cause in the cultural wars. The group bears Paul Ramsey’s name because its members view him as the leading 20th-century American defender of theological absolutism in ethics and because Ramsey gave a number of JRE 31.2:169–180. C 2003 Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc.
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170 Journal of Religious Ethics indications in the last decade of his life that he saw things as Neuhaus does. Neuhaus was once a Lutheran and a leader of the religious left s opposition to U. S. military involvement in Vietnam, but he became a neo- conservative in the 1970s and eventually converted to Roman Catholi- cism. He is especially taken by Pope John Paul II s conviction that the basic conflict of our time is a contest between the gospel of life and the culture of death for the allegiance of human souls.
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