With a landmark decision, and a monumental example of judicial overreach, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning announced their decision regarding same-sex-Marriage. By the awesome power vested in just five people, marriage has been redefined in our land. This decision will continue to shake our cultural landscape for years to come, with the aftershocks of both unintended consequences (by some) and intentional-but-hidden agendas (of others).
While some who know me, or who read this blog, may assume my chagrin is in the validation of same-sex-marriage, it is actually far greater regarding the other implications related to this decision. I am opposed to same-sex-marriage, on the grounds that it is clearly not in line with the design and decree of the Lord of Heaven and Earth. So I am disappointed, though not surprised, by this decision. But if this is the law of the land where I live, I can live with it being the law – as long as I am not compelled to comply. It is no greater difficulty than the first century apostles, and other Christians, faced in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and other ancient pagan territories. What concerns me more is that I now live in a land where we officially believe that “Rights” are not endowed by our Creator, but rather bestowed by the government. This is a very treacherous problem – especially in this case where it was not even by a democratic process; and where there is no court of appeal.
Think about it for a moment. In Nazi Germany the government decided that those who were Jewish had no rights, and that the government had the right to exterminate them simply because they were Jews. In the Antebellum South, those of African decent had no rights – with relative few exceptions – and were thus allowed to be held enslaved. Some may argue that this example, especially the latter one, illustrates why the court decision this morning is a corrective, granting freedom to a group of people to marry who were previously denied that “right”. But look at the root. Both illustrations are similar to the court ruling, all assuming that “rights” are bestowed by the government. Yet if this is correct, that rights do come from the government, then why would one argue that the institution of slavery was so reprehensible? Was it not the law of the land? Government dictating who had rights an who did not? If one argues that the government has the inherent authority to determine rights, then what makes it appropriate to decry the decisions they make about who has rights and who has not? If a government has the authority to determine who has rights and who does not, then what makes it morally wrong for a government to decide to eradicate some group it determines undesirable?
No, I have no sympathy for the institution of slavery, nor do I support any practice of genocide. My point is not that the government should not be the protector of rights, but rather that it is not government that is the originator of any rights. All good governments must protect the rights of all its citizens! But what a “right” is is not ultimately determined by the government. As Jefferson (with help from Franklin) wisely assessed and asserted, “rights are endowed by the Creator”, not by the throne of government.
In April, Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to grasp the weightiness:
“This definition [of marriage] has been with us for millennia, and it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Well, we know better’”.
In the end Kennedy must not have found it all that difficult. By siding with the majority, Kennedy essentially declares: “Well, we do know better.”
In response to the decision, in his published dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts writes:
If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.
While there is a sense that I appreciate these words, it still leaves me – and others like me – with a practical dilemma: How should those of us who disagree with this decision – whether on its own merits, or because of the ripple effects that it will engender in days ahead, or both – how should we respond? Especially as a Christian, how ought I respond? Roberts’ words are merely philosophical and political. They offer nothing practical to the question: So What Now?
My sincere hope is that I will, now and eventually, act faithfully to God, and lovingly to my neighbors (whether I am in agreement with them or not). In short, I hope in time to gain both perspective and wisdom – and wise perspective. One thing I keep reminding myself is that God is still in control. And while I mull over the realities of the day, I am also finding some food for thought in the counsel of some others:
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church offers some good thoughts in an Op/Ed in the Washington Post, Why The Church Should Neither Cave Nor Panic:
Some Christians will be tempted to anger, lashing out at the world around us with a narrative of decline. That temptation is wrong.
We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. We must hold to our views and love those who hate us for them. We must not only speak Christian truths; we must speak with a Christian accent. We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life.
And perhaps the words I appreciated most from Moore in this article was what he rightly reminds Church Leaders:
There are two sorts of churches that will not be able to reach the sexual revolution’s refugees. A church that has given up on the truth of the Scriptures, including on marriage and sexuality, and has nothing to say to a fallen world. And a church that screams with outrage at those who disagree will have nothing to say to those who are looking for a new birth.
Ed Stetzer, of LifeWay Research Offers these three suggestions in his blog post, Same Sex Marriage is Now the Law of the [U.S.} Land: What Now for Christians?:
- Pray for Guidance
- Love Your Neighbors
- Show & Share the Love of Jesus
Mark Galli, of Christianity Today, suggests Six Things to Do After The Supreme Court Ruling on Gay Marriage:
- Rejoice. “Not in the decision, of course, but ‘Rejoice in the Lord always,'”
- Repent. “Without denying the reality of “principalities and powers” (Eph. 6:12), we do well to ponder this: What actions and attitudes have we imbibed that contribute to our culture’s dismissing our ethics?”
- Rethink. What does love look like in this circumstance – in this new reality?
- Re-engage. “As it stands, our rights and liberties prevail here as nearly nowhere else in the world. Let’s make use of them for the common good – becoming peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) as best we can as we re-engage at all levels.”
- Reach out. “Now that the issue of gay marriage is decided, we may find that we have a greater opportunity than ever to build fruitful relationships with those in the LGBT community…”
- Rejoice. “Again with Paul we say, rejoice. In particular, we rejoice because of God’s call for us at this critical juncture of history. Just as the 4th-century church was given the responsibility to think through the nature of Christ, and the 16th-century church had the task of pondering afresh the relationship of faith and works, so we in our time are called to think through and respond to a host of issues surrounding human sexuality. What we teach and what we do in our time will shape the church’s thought and life for generations to come.”
And John Freeman, from Harvest USA, drafted a post, Gay Marriage: What the Church and God’s People Need to Do Now:
- We should not lash out in anger or be afraid
- We need to remind ourselves that God is still on the throne . . . neither slumbering nor sleeping
- Boldly and gently proclaim the ultimate destructiveness of ungodly actions
- We must not avoid our calling: to engage the culture and all people with the truth and mercy of the gospel.
- We must begin relevant and effective preaching and teaching about why God’s design for sexuality is best.
- “Keep calm and carry on” as God’s people and his church.
In summary, today I am deeply disappointed. I would not be truthful if I did not admit some feelings of apprehension. After all, my status changed this morning, even though I hold the same views I held when I went to bed last night. Though my views are consistent with almost every culture in the world, through almost every generation in history, regarding marriage being between one man and one woman; and though my views are the same as espoused by President Obama only months ago – to get elected; today, because of the decision by five people, my views qualify me as a bigot – at least by definition of the judicial fiat. And if my status can change because someone else changes the definition, then what else can also be changed? But I do trust God is in control. And I will continually remind myself of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. (Philippians 2.12-16)
It is said: “stars shine brightest when the sky seems darkest”. May Christ shine through his Church – and through me.