Sometimes, in just one public argument, all the worst winds gather together as a perfect storm. Perhaps no article in recent months fits that mold more than an opinion piece that ran just days ago in The Washington Post by veteran columnist Richard Cohen. The headline of the article reads, “It's Not Just Northam. Republicans Must Confront the Bigotry of the Pences Too.”
So we are told in advance that the article will condemn bigotry. The headline itself carries a weighty context—the background of the article flows from the charges levied against the governor of Virginia after embarrassing photographs surfaced that indicate a repetitive pattern of racism. Understandably, the Democratic Party has decided that Northam should resign. But Richard Cohen says that by the same logic, if Governor Northam must go, Vice President Mike Pence must go too. Why? Because both Northam and Pence stand equally guilty of bigotry.
Actually, Cohen seems to argue that the Pences, both the Vice President and his wife, may be guilty of an even more heinous bigotry. Cohen writes, “If bigotry is repugnant, why not demand the resignation of Vice President Pence for his ugly views on homosexuality? And while they're at it, why not insist that Pence's wife Karen resign her position at a school that discriminates against gays and lesbians?”
Cohen makes a now familiar argument – he creates a moral parallel between the question of racism and anyone who believes that LGBTQ behaviors and relationships are sinful. He equates discrimination based on skin color with the moral agenda of gay rights.
Cohen tries to head off objections to his argument by writing, “The Pences are deeply religious, and their views on homosexuality are based on their religious convictions. To this I say, so what? The Bible was used to justify slavery. And in my own time, racists cited this or that biblical passage to assert that racial segregation was precisely what God intended.”
Cohen operates out of a secular, cosmopolitan perspective. In his view, the use of the Bible in modern moral debate is simply out of bounds. Citing the misuse of the Bible to defend American slavery, he argues that Christians are guilty of the same pattern now, but with reference to sexuality. Cohen is right when he alleges that some have used the Bible to defend slavery and segregation. Advocates of slavery relied upon a faulty hermeneutic and a wrongful approach to the Scriptures. In Cohen’s mind, given the Vice President’s beliefs concerning sexuality, he should be seen as disqualified to serve in high office. Cohen boldly says that appeal to religious conviction cannot serve as a haven for bigoted beliefs and behavior—not for racism and not for anti-LGBTQ positions. He just assumes that all right-minded people will agree that any belief that homosexuality is sinful is just another form of bigotry.
The misuse of the Bible on the matters of race in no way nullifies its clarity or its authority for Christians on sexual ethics. Justification for slavery relied upon a few verses, ripped out of their historical, literary, and theological context. But the Scriptures abound with texts, verses, and instructions regarding marriage and sexuality. The Bible presents a unified theme in all 66 books—a theme that declares marriage as an institution created by God that unites one man to one woman. Indeed, in Romans 1, Paul grounds marital and sexual ethics not only in the Old Testament but in the broader scope of creation. The structure of creation testifies to the goodness and orderliness of God’s design for humanity as male and female—from birth—and for marriage and the proper expression of sexuality.
But Cohen continues down his fallacious spiral and just declares that anyone who holds to a biblical view of homosexuality is nothing more than a bigot. By his own logic, Cohen has labeled every Orthodox Jew, Roman Catholic, Mormon, and Muslim who holds to the official teachings of their faith to be a bigot. But Cohen made his central attack upon the Pences and conservative evangelicals. How dare they hold to the doctrines and teachings that Christianity has affirmed for over 2,000 years?
In this insidious but extremely revealing article, Cohen does all he can to dismantle the idea that homosexuality could even be imagined as sinful and morally wrong. He proceeds to smear as a bigot anyone who would dare to even think of homosexuality as sinful.
Note clearly that Richard Cohen makes his own moral judgment abundantly clear. He states: “It is simply wrong to foster a belief that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are immoral.” So Cohen does believe in right and wrong, but measured by his own internal compass and prevailing elite opinion.
Richard Cohen has drawn a line in the sand. He has appointed himself as judge, jury, and executioner. Homosexuality is not wrong, so if you believe that anything in the LGBTQ array is sinful, you are bigoted. As such, you should be exiled from the public square, where there is no place for bigots.
Cohen’s article represents the inevitable collision between religious liberty and the newly defined sexual liberties. The cultural Left believes that any moral opposition to homosexuality exudes intolerance and hatred of the highest order. Cultural exile awaits those who will not get in line with modernity’s vision of sexuality. Opposition amounts to nothing less than the same hatred and bigoted sensibilities that marked the defenders of slavery. These are, by Cohen’s estimation, moral equivalents that must be eradicated.
Yet, despite all of this, the real issue at stake in this article revolves around objective morality—the truth that morality is fixed, finite, eternally true, and divinely revealed. The real antipathy Cohen directs at the Pences and to conservative Christians centers on our audacity to draw anything from the pages of Holy Scripture. We dare to say, “God said.” We dare to believe that God has spoken, that the Bible is his Word, that it bears divine authority and is without error. The secular mind cannot accept the audacious claim to believe that true morality flows from God’s revelation, that God has spoken and established an order to his creation. The secular elites believe that anyone who holds to a biblical morality is a bigot and anyone who believes in divine revelation must be an idiot. In the view of the secular culture, that’s where we stand.
Of course, the perennial question for the church comes down to this: Will we stand?
This article draws from the February 7th edition of The Briefing. To listen to the full episode, click here. To subscribe to The Briefing–Dr. Mohler’s daily podcast that serves as an analysis of news and events–click here.