Macklemore’s “Same Love” and the Incoherence of Postmodern Morality

A song touting the merits of homosexuality?

In the end, Macklemore’s song is the perfect example of the postmodern approach to morality.  It is heavy on rhetoric, but short on substance.  When probed, his arguments prove to be problematic at almost every point.  Only God can provide a basis for absolute morality. And one can only appeal to God if they have a credible claim to have divine revelation.

 

Over the last several years, we have witnessed an all out media campaign to portray homosexuality as normative and good.  Whether it’s through network TV (Modern Family), or through the demonization of anyone who disagrees (Chick-Fil-A controversy), or through endless legal challenges (the recent Supreme Court decision), the message has been consistent:  homosexuality should not just be allowed, but should be celebrated as upright and moral.

Indeed, the message is even more than this.  Not only is homosexuality portrayed as moral, anyone who opposes it is declared to be immoral (not to mention evil and wicked).   Incredibly, and in an almost unprecedented fashion, the argument for homosexuality is being made on moral grounds. I dealt with this issue at length in a prior post here.

Of course, one is free to make a moral argument for just about any behavior.  But at least it ought to be a coherent and rational one.  Unfortunately, the argument for the morality of homosexuality is neither of these things.  It survives because it makes misleading emotional appeals that (unfortunately) the average person is unable to recognize.

I was particular struck by this reality the other day when I was scanning through radio stations and came across a song touting the merits of homosexuality.  I had never heard the song before (I am not that up on pop culture!), but later I discovered it was the song Same Love by the rapper Macklemore.

The song embodied the modern (or should I say, postmodern) argument for homosexuality perfectly. And it was also utterly incoherent as an argument.  Let me go through a number of the lyrics and point out the problems.

1. The right-wing conservatives think it’s a decision, And you can be cured with some treatment and religion

Here Macklemore appeals to the claim that homosexuality is genetically predetermined.  While this is a dubious scientific claim, let’s grant for the sake of argument that people are genetically disposed to certain behaviors, including homosexuality.  The problem is that genetic disposition has zero implications for the morality of a behavior.

We might be convinced that pedophiles are born with a predisposition towards sex with children, but few would want to claim that therefore it was moral, right, and good.   Alcoholics might be born with a predisposition to drink, but I have never heard an AA meeting proclaim alcoholism to be a moral activity on these grounds.

In each of these cases, the reality is the opposite of what is suggested by Macklemore.  Just because certain behavior is difficult for someone to avoid is hardly grounds for declaring that someone should abandon their efforts.

Imagine  giving that message to the youth of the day: “Please choose the right moral behavior.  But, if you discover something is really attractive to you, and if you discover that is difficult to avoid, then it must be OK.  The only behaviors that are really immoral are the ones that you feel no inclination to follow.”

2. And “God loves all his children” is somehow forgotten, But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five hundred years ago

Here is something interesting.  In order to defend the morality of homosexuality, Macklemore appeals to God.  That is a rather curious course of action given that the worlds three major theistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), with thousands and thousands of years of history, all agree that God regards homosexuality as immoral behavior.  This should quickly dispel the myth that only “right-wing conservatives” hold such views.

But, his appeal to God raises a bigger and more fundamental question.  How would Macklemoreknow what God thinks about this issue?  On what grounds could he declare that God is for one behavior or against another?  Does he receive private revelation from God?

He attempts to answer this question by appealing to a principle he puts in quotes: “God loves all his children.”  Presumably he is quoting something here, but he doesn’t tell us what.  It couldn’t be the Bible because he clearly rejects it is as a book 3500 years old and irrelevant .  So, where does this mysterious maxim come from that tells him what God is like?

Of course, Macklemore doesn’t have an answer to these questions.  He thinks a vague appeal to God will suffice as an argument.  But, he has no basis whatsoever for thinking he knows what God would have to say about such things.  In the end, all we are left with is Macklemore’s private opinion about God.  But, this is not an argument.

If he is going to make an argument on the basis of God, then what he really needs is a credible divine revelation.  But he has just thrown that under the bus.

3. And I can’t change, Even if I tried, Even if I wanted to

Once again, imagine these words being said by the alcoholic: “I can’t change, even if I tried.”  Wonder what his AA sponsor would say?   Or can you imagine a serial adulterer saying these words: “I can’t change, even if I tried.”   Wonder what his wife would say?

In the end, the “I can’t change” argument is not an argument.  Whether someone feels inclined towards a behavior or even trapped by a behavior has nothing to do with whether it is a moral behavior.

4. Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment.The same fight that led people to walk-outs and sit-ins, It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference

Here is the standard appeal to the issue of equality, and a comparison to racism.  But this argument, although ubiquitous, simply does not work.  First, there is nothing moral or immoral about one’s skin color.  But, one’s sexual behavior can be moral or immoral.  Thus, the homosexuality-is-the-same-as-being-black argument confuses behavior with an external, visual characteristic.  There is nothing “discriminatory” about telling someone that what they are doing is wrong.

Second, and even more fundamentally, homosexuals are not being treated unequally under the current marriage laws.  Everyone (regardless of sexual orientation) has to follow the same exact laws.  For example, a man cannot marry his daughter.  A sister cannot marry her brother.  People cannot have multiple spouses.  These are all laws about marriage that apply to everyone equally.  Thus, homosexuals have no grounds to claim they are being treated unequally.

For homosexuals, the real complaint behind the complaint is as follows: “I am not being allowed to define marriage for myself. I am not being allowed to make marriage whatever I want it to be.”  But, that has never been true for anyone.  No one is allowed to define marriage entirely on their own.

So, the appeal to legalize homosexual marriage is not about equality or civil rights.  Ironically, it is about the opposite.  It is really about one group getting special treatment.  It is really about one group being allowed to redefine the institution according to their own personal preference (while, incidentally, other groups are not allowed to redefine the institution according to theirs, e.g., polygamists).

5. When I was in church they taught me something else, If you preach hate at the service, those words aren’t anointed, That Holy Water that you soak in has been poisoned

Here Macklemore takes the moral high ground once again, making sweeping claims about who is a “hater” and who has been “poisoned” and whose words are really “anointed.”  That would be all good and well if we could trust his ability to discern absolute moral norms.

But, as we observed in a prior point, there is no reason to think that he has access to the absolute moral norms of the universe. It’s pretty arrogant to claim that one knows who the haters are, and who is poisoned, when one has no grounds for making such claims. Is Macklemore God?

Of course, Christians make absolute moral claims all the time.  But, they do so on the basis of God’s revealed word in the Bible.  Although some will say that they don’t accept the Bible as God’s word, they are missing the point.  At least Christians have a rational basis for making absolute moral claims (namely divine revelation) whereas Macklemore has none.

Put simply, if I have to choose between the credibility of the moral claims of an apostle who knew Jesus or the moral claims of a modern hip-hop artist, I am going with the former.

6. Love is patient love is kind.

Amazingly, Macklemore concludes his song with a quotation from the Bible!  I don’t think he realizes it, but he is quoting the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 13:4).  Of course, this is inconsistent with his prior claims that the Bible is out of date and irrelevant.

Moreover, he would have done well to observe what Paul had to say elsewhere in the very same letter.  For instance, 1 Cor 6:9: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…will inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Paul helps us realize and important truth that Macklemore, and most of our modern culture, miss entirely, namely that God is not just love.  Yes, he is love, but he is more than that.  He is also holy.  And his holiness makes him entirely intolerant of sin.

So intolerant, in fact, that he required the death of his very own son to pay for the sins of his people.  The cross is the perfect example of God’s character.  He is both loving (so that he was willing to give up his only son), and he is holy (so much so that he could not leave sin unpunished).

In the end, Macklemore’s song is the perfect example of the postmodern approach to morality.  It is heavy on rhetoric, but short on substance.  When probed, his arguments prove to be problematic at almost every point.  Only God can provide a basis for absolute morality. And one can only appeal to God if they have a credible claim to have divine revelation.

Dr. Michael Kruger is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and President of RTS Charlotte where he also serves as a Professor of New Testament. This article first appeared in his blog, Canon Fodder, and is used with permission.