It seems to me rather odd that in the middle of this national debate on same-sex marriage, there has not yet been a word put in on the issue by one of the members of this staff–though perhaps it should be taken as a warning to tread lightly here. To be honest, I’ve become somewhat inured to the issue, and I suppose like a good many Christians, fatigued by the endless bickering of Christians on the issue, so much so that it scarcely seems worth it to argue over. I don’t intend, if the question here arises, to begin any sort of blog war over the issue, but hopefully, to leave here such thoughts as might be relevant to the issues at hand.

I do not, intend here to argue whether not the bible is for or against homosexuality or whether that means Christians should be for or against homosexuality. My own opinion, since I believe the reader has a right to know, is strongly pro-gay, and I should like to think one would have to be able to twist his mind into a first-century pretzel to think otherwise. In any case, the question which at present concerns me, rather, is this: why so much attention, why so much energy, and fear, and importance attached to this issue, as if it is the single most important theological issue to solve? This, moreover, when the God whom this religion ostensibly follows conspicuously says nothing about homosexuality when it might have been expected (when, for example, he speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah), and more generally, very little about sexuality at all.

The question formulated thus in my mind very clearly when we the staff was discussing the theme of the next issue: rebellion. After a bit of observation, I gathered that what his term meant for a good portion of Christians is ‘radical’ obedience to some sort of metaphysical order–as if this is what God most desires of us. It was all too redolent of a sentiment, rather commonly heard in pop-Christianity, and perhaps most eloquently stated by C.S. Lewis, who, always wrong, is always wrong eloquently. He writes–eloquently–“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” This, I have gathered, is what is meant in a great mant of sincere Christians’ sentiments as they seek to express the radical nature of their rebellion, the strangeness of the cruciform word which they bring to bear upon a sinful world–or so they see it. This is all fine and good, since we know the cross is supposed to confront us in its strangeness, offend us even.

It’s just that for many Christians like Lewis, this rebellion, this radical non-conformity means, instead of rendering suffering visible and challenging systems of power, such courageous acts of rebellion as abstaining from drink, fornication, lusty thoughts, and–goodness forbid–swearing. In short, not being a college student. How our churches love to instruct people in the way of the Lord! Rebellion in this bourgeois outfit means going to church and hanging out with your Christian friends and being abstinent and reading your bible and sometimes fasting and listening to Christian radio music and acknowledging God when you score touchdowns (because God took the time of day to care about your touchdown when children around the world were starving).

But it is precisely this that the bible, and nearly the whole of the biblical tradition, challenges. Isaiah 1 is most characteristic in this regard, which criticizes religious ritual not only as vain, but even abominable so long as there is suffering and injustice, violence and oppression.

And yet the question for me persists: why do Christians care about the trifling, the symbolic, the metaphysical, when there is real, corporeal suffering before our eyes everyday: poverty, hunger, oppression. I am inclined to believe it has something to do with the thoroughly commodified nature of Christianity today. It has been so thoroughly assimilated into ideological superstructure that even its forms of rebellion can only reinforce this ideology more strongly. And this is a grand irony, for commodification is a mere form of reification, which is, in short, nothing other than conformity, a reduction to the ideological, precisely what Saint Paul instructs us to avoid. In postmodernity, where Baudrillard is perhaps the most insightful, the real has given way to the hyperreal and the substantive to the symbolic (Baudrillard, little does he know, subtly replaces Marx’s base-superstructure with his substance-symbol bifurcation). It is only in this way–as a symbolic function–that thoroughly commodified Christianity can rebel against modernity. It attacks its culture: its sexual promiscuity, its spiritual emptiness, its social atomization, etc.–and this is called rebellion, and it is supposed to be radical. But in truth, this is not radical at all. To be radical means to go to the roots of things, and this only scratches at the surfaces. To be radical would be to challenge the very systems which engender this spiritual malnutrition, the great evils of unfettered capitalist theology.

In at least this sense, even conservative Christianity is very little from secular “liberalism”, the kind fo cheap liberalism which likewise opts for the symbolic. When Obama proposed raising the minimum wage, his liberal sycophants waxed elegiac about the noble duty we have to be humane to workers (and surely, the minimum wage is a good thing). These liberals were rapturous in their applause. But let us suppose our society were an individual: do we consider it progress when a canibal starts eating with a fork? The liberals love reform, a touch of social engineering here and there–raise the minimum wage here, increase health beenfits there, pinch the military budget there–and we’re steadily marching onwards and upwards toward some heavenly paradise. The liberals, to be sure, almost fainted with glee when Obama proposed raising the minimum wage so that workers could have at least a shred of dignity–but of course, no more–but the thought would never enter their mind to challenge the wage system altogether, which was considered officious to a good many Americans in our oblivion-consigned history, so officious that it was at the time of Lincoln, the official position of the Republican party.

Capitalism, this system of servitude, where a small group of elits leeches the wealth generated by the many, has been so thoroughly inhaled, that even our forms of rebellion and reform can only be imagined within capitalist parameters. And, to be sure, both secular liberalism and Christian conservatism fall squarely within these boundaries. These ostensibly opposing camps might even disagree on a range of issues, if only to more powerfully reinforce their common assumptions–unquestionable, unalterable, sacred. But isn’t this idolatry?

Perhaps Christians today attach such momentous importance to their anti-homosexuality (since they prefer to avoid the term homophobia)–and to securing some delusional metaphysical order upon the world because, feigning symbolic rebellion because actually radical rebellion comes with too high a price. Perhaps we tend to the minutae of the bible because we cannot heed the call of its moral imperative: seek justice, defend the poor, feed the hungry.