Engaging the Odd Couple: Same-Sex Marriage and Evangelicalism in the Public Square

30 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 255 (2008-2009)

33 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2016

Date Written: 2009


Great cultural shifts are underway in the United States. In May of 2008, leaders of the emerging moderate wing of the evangelical movement declared that they are no longer tied to any issue or political party and asserted an intent to take their place as full participants in the civil public square. Eight days later, the same-sex marriage movement was re-invigorated by the decision of the California Supreme Court affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry.

In Engaging the Odd Couple: Same-Sex Marriage and Evangelicalism in the Public Square, I propose that the two phenomena are not unrelated. A “kinder, gentler” strand of evangelicals seems to be making peace with American culture and with the momentous shifts that are reconfiguring marriage and family life. At the same time, however, I observe that proponents of same-sex marriage and conservative evangelical supporters of traditional marriage are separated by a chasm of ineradicable beliefs.

In this article, I explore principles of engagement to negotiate the paradox of conflictual consensus in a pluralist democracy. To support this heretical enterprise, I examine the political philosophical traditions of liberal individualism and civic republicanism underlying civil society. In this examination, I show that the oppositions between liberal and republican thought are dissolving, rearranging, and allowing for new discourse on ethico-political principles in the public square.

For example, in liberal theory, the key principle of individual autonomy is the lifeblood of gay and lesbian civil rights as well as the basis for the cultural surge of evangelicalism, including evangelical megachurches. In addition, in republican theory, marriage is the chief social good and “seedbed of virtue” that is endorsed by evangelicals and same-sex couples alike on principles of unitivity and procreativity. Consequently, although same-sex couples and evangelicals may be adversaries in postmodern agonistic discourse in the public square, they are also “odd bedfellows” who share values borne of cultural elaboration on a common philosophical heritage.

Table of contents

I. Introduction II. History of American Evangelicalism A. The Protestant Reformation B. The Great Awakening C. National Wars and Theological Battles: The Rise of Liberal Theology and Christian Fundamentalism D. Unity and Division: The National Association of Evangelicals, the Moral Majority, and the Emergence of Political Evangelicalism III. Liberal Pluralism and Civic Republicanism: Historical Joustings A. Liberal, Republican, and a Working Misunderstanding B. Cultural Shifts and Agonistic Conflict IV. Principles of Agonistic Engagement for Same-Sex Marriage and Evangelicalism A. Democratic Principle: Ensuring Liberty and Equality for All B. Liberal Principle: Supporting Individual Autonomy C. Republican Principle: Promoting Public Good(s) Through the Social and Theo-Ethical Goods of Marriage V. Conclusion

Keywords: Proposition 8, Gay, Lesbian, homosexual, LGBT, GLBT, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, evangelical, California, Constitution, unconstitutional, gay rights, Moral Majority, Evangelical Manifesto, Great Awakening

Suggested Citation

Koons, Judith E., Engaging the Odd Couple: Same-Sex Marriage and Evangelicalism in the Public Square (2009). 30 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 255 (2008-2009), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2743858

Judith E. Koons (Contact Author)

Barry University School of Law ( email )

6441 E. Colonial Dr.
Orlando, FL 32807
United States

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