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: