|Reverend Martin Luther King
Mother Teresa of Calcutta; 1986
at a public pro-life meeting
in Bonn, Germany
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Of course, the motivating issue of our day is gay marriage. These arguments are a bald attempt to discredit views about gay marriage that are based in religion. Given that virtually all arguments against gay marriage come from religion, the campaign is designed to get people to reject or ignore religious messages on the topic of marriage, because once religious messages are removed from the discussion, there is only one side to the discussion. It should also be noted that if the proponents of gay marriage are confident in the rightness of their views, they shouldn’t be worried about the source of the arguments in opposition, rather they should welcome the discussion and the opportunity to enlighten the unenlightened, as they perceive them.
This campaign, however, ignores the broader history of religious voices in America. Where would we be without the historic voice of the Reverend Martin Luther King? Can you imagine the civil rights movement without his voice, his passion, his vision? Absent his leadership, we can assume that the rights of minorities in America would have been trampled for years to come before America would have come to the conclusions it reached (sufficiently late) specifically because of his passionate, religious leadership. If you remove religious voices from the public square, you’ll get a world without voices like his.
Think too, about Mother Teresa, whose biography I recently read. Although she won her Nobel Peace Prize for her service to the poorest of the poor in her adopted homeland of India and around the world, when she accepted the Nobel Prize—and in virtually every other forum in which she was handed a microphone (including, notably, President Clinton’s Annual Prayer Breakfast)—she spoke of one principle theme: her strong opposition to abortion. Her voice was tolerated even by those who disagreed with her simply because the good she did in the world was universally perceived to entitle her to express her opinions, even when they were unpopular.
So much of the non-profit work done in the world is led by faith-based organizations or by religious people that it seems that the same spirit of tolerance that applied to Mother Teresa must continue to be applied to religious leaders of our generation. If society at large wishes for churches and religious people to continue doing the good that they do in the world, tolerating their voices, especially on moral issues, is a fair price to pay.