Is morality limited to questions of direct harm? That question is not just a matter of moral theory — it also informs our most urgent political and cultural debates. Back in May, columnist Eric Zorn of The Chicago Tribune asserted: “To me, immoral conduct is that which harms others, period.”

That seems to be a straightforward statement, especially in light of its context. Zorn was writing a column in which he dismissed common arguments against same-sex marriage. In his concluding section he argued, “I will not debate the morality of various forms of private sexual conduct between consenting adults and neither should our lawmakers.” Since no one is harmed, Zorn argues, there is no real moral issue with respect to the sexual activities of consenting adults.

In truth, a good many people agree with him. His logic is encapsulated in the 2003 U. S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas that invalidated all laws against homosexuality. I am fairly confident that the vast majority of Americans would be tempted to accept Zorn’s argument, and younger Americans especially. My guess is that this would include many Christians, especially younger Christians….

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