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What the Donald Sterling Situation Means for Christians

The Wages of Liberalism AP Photo Mark J Terrill

AP Photo/Mark J Terrill

John V. Gerardi - published on 05/05/14 - updated on 06/07/17

Racism is evil and deserving of condemnation. But remember that liberals think traditional marriage is, too.

Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, has imposed a $2.5 million fine and a lifetime ban from any involvement with the NBA upon Donald Sterling, the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. This followed racist statements the Southern California real estate billionaire made in a private conversation with his girlfriend, a conversation that was surreptitiously recorded and then leaked. Per the NBA’s bylaws, it is almost certain that the other 29 NBA owners will vote to force Sterling, himself the longest-tenured owner in the NBA, to sell the team he acquired in 1981.  

The ouster of Sterling is setting an interesting, and potentially troubling precedent: that those who privately or publicly hold generally disfavored views should be generally prohibited from engaging in certain business enterprises, whether or not such views affect the manner in which one’s business is run (though there were definite allegations that Mr. Sterling’s racism did negatively affect how he ran his various business ventures).

Specifically, my concern is focused on the fear that those who oppose gay marriage, more and more a minority viewpoint in our country, will be utterly ostracized from the broader culture, a problem we are already beginning to see. The firing of Brendan Eich from Mozilla solely due to a donation in support of California’s 2008 ballot measure Proposition 8 was in some ways an opening salvo in the campaign of the “dictatorship of relativism” to characterize any opposition to the gay agenda as bigoted hate speech.  Already in NBA circles, sabers are rattling to strip Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway, of his ownership of the Orlando Magic basketball team for his support of political candidates who favor traditional marriage.  

The Wages of Liberalism

Perhaps, though, the societal exclusion of people like Brendan Eich who hold traditional moral stances is a near-inevitable result within our social and political culture, since that culture is rooted in the principles of political liberalism.

Political life in America is centered around individuals self-defining their own conceptions of “the good,” and rights-centered guarantees for individuals to pursue their own definition of the good without external restrictions. Essentially, we may do what we will, unless and until we infringe on the freedom of others.

The Christian conception of the good necessarily views itself as universally applicable, based in moral decrees that God imposes on all mankind. Even a moral viewpoint based in natural law reasoning, and not purely on Christian revelation, holds that man has a certain nature that is common to all persons, and that there are discoverable moral norms that order us towards a single conception of the good of human flourishing. These ideas of human nature are hard to reconcile with the commonly-held liberal idea that governments are established to secure man’s pursuit of happiness, however he defines it, without undue governmental or private interference.

Thus, those who wish to uphold morally restrictive viewpoints as matters of public policy (against homosexual acts, against premarital sex, against contraception, even against abortion) are not necessarily doomed to fail, but they are certainly fighting an uphill battle from the start. If our society will not accept a single conception of the good, but rather agrees to let everyone pursue their own viewpoints, the only real villains are those who would hinder others from pursuing their own conception of the good. Invariably in our modern cultural debates, those people are Christians who believe in absolute moral norms.

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