Monday, March 27, 2006

Conservative Anglicans are missing an opportunity

The White House is set to welcome him and Human Rights Watch has prepared their message for him.

But there's still no word from conservative Anglicans on whether they think a potentially major human rights violation, against professed Christians (who just happen to be gay), is worth speaking up about.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo visits the White House on Wednesday. The Presidents will discuss, among other things, "continuing cooperation in the areas of Darfur, regional security, energy security, fighting corruption, strengthening democratic institutions, and the need to bring Charles Taylor to justice."

Given Secretary Rice's vigorous lobbying for the release of Afghan Christian convert Abdul Rahman last week, and her numerous Sunday morning talk show appearances discussing that topic, I'm sure that she and leaders in the Anglican Communion will be eager to voice their concern that the same arguments applied toward the release of Rahman also be applied toward pressuring President Obasanjo to withdraw the so-called "Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006" (pdf), legislation that was endorsed by the head of the Anglican Church of Nigeria (the largest Anglican province in the world), Archbishop Peter Akinola.

I have argued previously that, given the coming schism within the Anglican Communion over the ordination of non-celibate gay priests and bishops, it is unlikely conservative Anglicans will attempt any kind of effort to pressure Akinola to withdraw his endorsement, or similiarly pressure the White House to get Obasanjo to withdraw the legislation (despite State Department condemnation). Akinola is too powerful an ally in the American conservative movement's desire to fight homosexuality here at home, and Obasanjo is too important for the US's national energy strategy for a President who is already weak on civil rights to insist too vigorously.

But this may be their only chance to take a stand on the side of those rights. If they let it go by, conservative Anglicans will have lost all credibility as a group with any interest in protecting democratic institutions (something Bush lost long ago). By association, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), which has provided at least in kind support to conservative Anglicans through the American Anglican Council, which has received considerable support from major Republican donors, and which has recently impeached its own self-declared mission to protect the human rights of oppressed Christians by prioritizing the human rights of some Christians over others, or of Christians over non-Christians, will have come to the point where it should seriously think about removing "Democracy" from its name.

IRD's new president is James Tonkowich, the former managing editor of BreakPoint, the newsletter of Chuck Colson's Prison Felloship. Now, I won't hold Tonkowich to Colson's words, but here's what Colson said in October, 2004, in Christianity Today (Hat tip Andrew Sullivan):

Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America's decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers.

One vital goal of the war in Iraq, and the war against terrorism, is to bring democracy to the heart of the Islamic world. Our hope is to make freedom so attractive that other Muslim countries will follow suit. But when radical Islamists see American women abusing Muslim men, as they did in the Abu Ghraib prison, and when they see news coverage of same-sex couples being "married" in U.S. towns, we make our kind of freedom abhorrent—the kind they see as a blot on Allah's creation.

Preserving traditional marriage in order to protect children is a crucially important goal by itself. But it's also about protecting the United States from those who would use our depravity to destroy us. We must not give up simply because the Senate voted down the FMA. It took William Wilberforce and his allies 20 years to shut down Britain's slave trade; it will take years to win the battle for traditional marriage.

By Colson's logic, the more vocal and violent Islamic extremists become, the more rights we must curtail here at home, especially if those rights are offensive to Islam.


I should point out that, in some sense, this is the same argument used by many conservative Anglicans to defend Akinola's endorsement of the legislation: David Virtue, the Rev. Martyn Minns (board member of the AAC), Faith McDonnell (Director of IRD's Religious Liberty Program), and the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan (Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh and moderator of the Anglican Communion Network). And, of course, it's exactly the opposite argument used to advocate for the quick release of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan.

Was Chane right? Was he wandering into the realm of "conspiracy theory," as Faith McDonnell put it, when he said "what we see in Nigeria today may well be on the agenda of the Christian right tomorrow"?

Maybe. Maybe not. But we'll know them by their deeds.


Craig Goodrich said...

By Colson's logic, the more vocal and violent Islamic extremists become, the more rights we must curtail here at home, especially if those rights are offensive to Islam.

Non sequitur. You are assuming that marriage is a "right," which is simply absurd.

No society anywhere in human history, and no ethical philosopher anywhere in human history, has ever recognized the right of marriage without strict limits. Where on earth did you get the notion that it was a human right to marry anyone you want?

Matt said...


True, the right to marry is not enumerated by any human rights organization, by the State Department, or by the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

But I was not arguing that it was. I suggest a more careful read of my post.

I also suggest that you read the legislation. You'll see that, in addition to banning gay marriage (even in private, non-civil ceremonies), it also calls for curtailment of the right of speech, assembly, and religion.

Anglican conservatives in the US and Africa are making the argument -- whether they realize it or not -- that when threatened by radical Islam, we should let basic civil rights slide. Are you among them?