Richard John Neuhaus once defined Neuhaus’ Law as “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”
Some otherwise bright people have indicated their puzzlement with that axiom but it seems to me, well, axiomatic. Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy’s good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that this or that is normative for others.
A prime example of this law in action can be found at the Crystal Cathedral church in Garden Grove, California. The L.A. Times has a story about the “controversy” over choir members being asked to sign a statement that—are you sitting down?—God intends sex only for married heterosexuals. The shocking paragraph from the Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant reads:
Crystal Cathedral ministries believes that it is important to teach and model the biblical view. I understand that Crystal Cathedral Ministries teaches that sexual intimacy is intended by God to only be within the bonds of marriage, between one man and one woman.
Initially, I thought that this was a faux-controversy ginned up by a secular press that doesn’t understand that this has been the Christian position for over two millennia. But no, it turns out that the outrage is coming from both church members and the founding pastor. Robert Schuller (who is also the father of the current senior pastor, Sheila Schuller Coleman) says the statement “goes against what he has built his church upon.”(!)
“I have a reputation worldwide of being tolerant of all people and their views,” he told the Orange County Register. “I’m too well-educated to criticize a certain religion or group of people for what they believe in. It’s called freedom.”
I’ve heard the purveyor of positive thinking called many things but “too well-educated” is not one of them. But in fairness to Schuller, his education may not have included reading the Bible.
Many other church members (former and current) are also intolerant of orthodox doctrine. The former choir director, Don Neuen, said, “”In my opinion, I keep thinking that they’ve made as many mistakes as they can make and they’ve sank as low as they can sink — and behold, they sink lower.” Neuen resigned after the programming director said she was going to make sure each person was “spiritually and emotionally fit.” Neuen told the L.A. Times he believed that “meant excluding those who were gay as well as heterosexuals living together out of wedlock.”
“I think it’s absolutely horrible,” said Neuen, “It’s the antithesis of what Christianity should be.”
Like many people in the church, Neuen prefers that Christianity conform to his cutting-edge libertine agenda rather than some old musty book that claims to be God’s Word. After all, if God wasn’t cool with the sexual revolution, then why did he give us the 1960s?
I have to confess that the most shocking aspect of the story is that the leadership of the Crystal Cathedral was willing to commit an “intolerable violation of the etiquette” by advocating a biblical view of sexuality. Good for them. I wish them well in their search for new employment, which I suspect will be needed when their “church” boots them out for failing to proscribe the orthodoxy of unfettered genital freedom.