By Russell E. Saltzman, First Things
This was the suggestion of His Eminence, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, delivered at the Erasmus Lecture in New York last Monday evening. This, he indicated, would be in response to the daunting prospect that clergy may eventually be required by the state to conduct same-sex marriage rites.
I do hate to crow, but I already said this a year ago:
The non-Gnostic churches should stage a strategic retreat from a disenchanted public square and voluntarily return many of secular society’s gifts to Christendom. Stop being registrars for state marriages, surrender property tax exemptions, give up the double-dip tax privilege that grants clergy a non-taxable housing allowance while letting them also claim a mortgage deduction, drop military ranks for chaplains in the armed forces.
I suppose I should unpack that term, “Non-Gnostic.” These are churches that refuse to lurch around the secular landscape seeking the next big thing progressive Christianity might pluck from the culture or invent on its own. The Gnostic churches have been the first to consent to the social redefinition of marriage and family. They have consented to more than that (like clergy medical plans treating abortion as a reimbursable expense), but marriage and family is pretty much an end game. Among the new Gnostics, the confession of faith might go “We like Jesus and he lets us do anything we like.” (The codicil might read, “And you are a bigot if you disagree.”)
During my sabbatical at First Things in 2009, I suggested during one editorial meeting that Christians may have to take a step or two back from the public square, specifically citing the use of clergy as state marriage registrars. I wanted to know what that might look like if it happened, and if anyone would notice afterward if it did.