A recent spike in hateful verbal and physical conduct directed at minority groups has led many institutions to introduce speech codes to prohibit language considered offensive to any group based on religious, ethnic or sexual orientation. These attempts are well-meaning and reflect the broader utilitarian goal of helping us huddle together as a society.
But what happens when our religious teachings intersect with our speech codes?
Case in point: The Bible defines marriage only in terms of men and women and explicitly denounces homosexuality as a sin. I refuse to believe that God was merely being whimsical when he offered up this social guideline.
After all, the union between man and woman has endured as the oldest and most fundamental social institution precisely because it is the very embryo of our society. From this union springs the single greatest act of creation of which a human is capable--the creation of our youth. The function of marriage between man and woman then is not only central to the religious tradition but also to society itself.
As such it is the duty of our Christian leaders to stress the importance of a loving union between man and wife, under God. Sadly, any preacher who explains to his congregation that homosexuality is a sin will have hell to pay from the gay mafia and the liberal media. They will be accused of toting hate speech and fanning the flames of discrimination. Already some can attest to this:
**Controversial radio pundit Laura Schlesinger was recently dubbed a hatemonger for verbalizing her disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle.
**In Indiana, Liz Anderson was ordered to stop wishing her co-workers a "blessed day" because it was deemed offensive.
**In Florida, a Christian group was ordered to remove publicly posted ads for a seminar about "addressing, understanding and preventing homosexuality in youth."
Will there come a time when our priests and spiritual advisers must avoid discussing the Bible's take on homosexuality for fear of being branded a hatemonger? Apparently that time may have already come in Canada, where Jerry Falwell reports that he must censor any remarks about homosexuality and partial-birth abortion on the Canadian broadcast of his Old Time Gospel Hour.
Despite recent rulings in American courts that strike down hate-speech codes as unconstitutional barriers to the free flow of ideas in our culture, these codes continue to replicate in college campuses and corporate settings across the country. Often, these codes are so sufficiently vague that they can be used to punish anyone who violates the tenets of political correctness.
In effect, no longer can our professors freely express their ideas on campus or our spiritual leaders quote verses from the Bible without having hell to pay from the political-correctness police. Our speech codes are telling us what to think and say in conformity with political correctness. Truly this is alarming.
Now don't get me wrong. I am deeply sensible when it comes to the perils of discrimination. But I do not believe political correctness should keep us from supporting what is right.
Shall we continue to promote what is politically correct even though we know it undermines our social and religious conventions? Shall we redefine marriage so that it encompasses several partners joined together?
Plainly, some things should not be relative.
This is particularly true at our churches, whose mission is to facilitate enlightenment through studying the Bible. Biblical passages should never be compromised by speech codes. They must be considered sacrosanct if they are to have any meaning whatsoever.
After all, religion derives much of its meaning from its ability to provide us with an absolute moral point of reference that helps us discern between right and wrong. Without this foundation, we are condemned to formless lives. It is this absolute moral point that allows us to move beyond a strictly social (or relative) frame of reference to open the door to authentic spiritual discovery.
Get it? Practicing religion ought not to be about cultural statements in general or gay rights specifically; it ought to be about striving for the spiritual promise that the Bible holds out for us. This promise represents a sacred covenant between man and God and should not be censored just to make a social statement about homosexual rights.
Those who argue otherwise should be mindful that we lose our religion not in great battles but in small acts of compromise.
Armstrong Williams was called "one of the most recognized conservative voices in America" by The Washington Post. He is a regular contributor to CNN and FOX News and host of The Right Side With Armstrong Williams. His daily TV show and radio broadcast are aired around the country.