The Corner

Religion

The Demise of Traditional Christian Sexual Morality Is Greatly Exaggerated

(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Last week the United Methodist Church — led by its African congregants — voted to reaffirm its commitment to traditional, orthodox teaching on sexual morality. Here’s how The Atlantic’s invaluable religion writer, Emma Green, framed the story:

The United Methodist Church has fractured over the role of LGBTQ people in the denomination. At a special conference in St. Louis this week, convened specifically to address divisions over LGBTQ issues, members voted to toughen prohibitions on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. This was a surprise: The denomination’s bishops, its top clergy, pushed hard for a resolution that would have allowed local congregations, conferences, and clergy to make their own choices about conducting same-sex marriages and ordaining LGBTQ pastors. This proposal, called the “One Church Plan,” was designed to keep the denomination together. Methodist delegates rejected its recommendations, instead choosing the so-called Traditional Plan, which affirmed the denomination’s teachings against homosexuality.

This is an important cultural moment. It is now clear that a majority of America’s largest mainline denomination agrees with the teaching of their Catholic and Southern Baptist brethren about the immorality of sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

For some time now, the progressive cultural elite has been casting traditional Christian sexual teaching as fringe, outdated, and even bigoted. Yet here we are in 2019, and the largest Christian denominations remain united. Add the growing LDS church to the mix, and each of America’s four largest churches are united on the basic fundamentals of sexual morality.

Yet time and again we’re treated to breathless reports that this or that celebrity, judicial nominee, or politician dares to believe the entirely conventional, ancient, and mainstream truths of their faith. The more I review these stories, the more I’m convinced they’re the product of the bubble mentality of a small slice of Americans who exercise disproportionate political power — white progressives. As I’ve written before, this cohort of Americans isn’t just religiously out of step with white Republicans, they’re far out of step with nonwhite Democrats. Only 32 percent of white Democrats believe in the God of the Bible, yet this is precisely the American cohort that occupies the commanding heights of American media, pop culture, and the academy.

In the days after the 2016 election, New York Times executive editor confessed that the elite media didn’t “get” religion. I’m not sure the situation has improved. Perhaps the Methodist vote can be a wake-up call. Rather than write off the Catholic Church, the nation’s largest evangelical denomination, the nation’s largest mainline denomination, and the LDS church all as bigots, it’s time to truly understand the actual love and faith that motivates their beliefs.

Secular and religious Americans will often disagree about important matters of sex and identity, but it’s time to for the secular elite to grant the religious faithful a measure of respect. Their beliefs are sacred and enduring, not backwards and bigoted.

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