Peter Wehner, a conservative who has written thoughtfully again and again on the intersection of politics and Christianity, is out with a must-read piece looking at gay rights and Christian theology.

The annual Rally and March for Life in Washington (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

He reaches a refreshingly new conclusion:

Precisely where one lands on the matter of the appropriate societal stance toward homosexuality and same sex marriage isn’t dependent on Biblical literacy. Faithful Christians can hold different views on when and how to apply a Biblical view on a range of sexual matters, as well as the spirit that animates their position.

What I think this comes down to, as so many things in life come down to, is discretion, prudence, and wisdom. Some of us are drawn to certain issues and rhetoric that we believe honor the righteousness of God; others of us are drawn to certain issues and rhetoric that we believe honor the grace of God. Would Jesus, if He were here today, be speaking out against gays and their political agenda based on what might be called a theological anthropology? Or would He be more inclined to warn critics of homosexuality against stridency, judgmentalism and blindness to many other matters (like acquisitiveness) that we so easily ignore? Or would He be challenging everyone, in different ways, based on their particular challenges and needs and the state of their hearts?

It is well worth reading in full, but I want to take the opportunity to contrast that with the abortion debate.

There are a great number of conservatives, many young ones, who put themselves in the pro-gay marriage, pro-life camp. It is becoming increasingly apparent that whereas the conservative movement’s opposition to gay rights and to gay marriage is fragmenting, the opposition remains staunch to abortion on demand (anytime, anyplace, for any reason).

Modernity has eroded opposition to gay marriage (and, as Wehner points out, to divorce even though “Jesus spoke in negative terms about divorce because it fractures the marital ideal. And divorce itself has done far more damage to children and society than homosexuality ever has.”).

In contrast, modern breakthroughs in neonatal medicine, treatment of premature babies, ultrasounds and efforts aimed at entertaining and teaching an unborn child have intensified the emotional connection with the unborn child. By doing so and through incidents like the Kermit Gosnell trial it becomes unavoidably obvious that this is a child.

And for the faithful there is little equivocation over the applicable Biblical precept (“Thou shall not murder”). Unlike homosexuality, those who rely on scripture to guide their lives know this admonition is front and center in both versions of the Ten Commandments (Exodus and Deuteronomy) and, before that, in the seven Noahide Laws. It is obviously not tied to what Wehner calls “God’s unique (and non-transferable) relationship with ancient Israel.”

Whatever your level of belief, and however it infuses your political beliefs, it is important to understand from a policy standpoint why values voters may reach different conclusions on the two issues. It explains in part why the pro-life movement has more staying power, if you will. And it explain why many libertarians distinguish between freedom to marry (considered to be a realm in which government has no place) and abortion (which involves another life).

This realization should also inform the efforts of social conservatives that all its allies on opposition to abortion don’t share the same antipathy toward gay marriage. Successful movements, as the pro-life movement has been (as measured in public opinion and in small but significant legislative gains), require tolerance for partial alliances and outreach to those who don’t share one’s entire agenda. That, after all, is the nature of representative democracy.