Some Thoughts After the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage

Star Gazing

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:

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Sad State of Evangelicalism

Broken Cross

An excellent, “must read”, article by Mark Galli for Christianity Today:  The Troubled State of Christian Preaching.  This is a great example of a “I Wish I’d Said That”.  All of Galli’s insight resonate …

Here is the gist of Galli’s tought, set within the context of the Presidential Inauguration and Louie Giglio being put on the un-invite list:

Even when we try to make Jesus first, we end up inadvertently making ourselves first.   …Unfortunately, in a desire to reach the world for Christ, some inadvertently …make much about our ultimate significance. Jesus becomes merely the means by which we feel better about our place in the universe. Need purpose and meaning? Follow Jesus, that will do the trick. In this subtle shift, we become the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega.

Be Gentle With Me

I think it was Mark Galli who wrote:

The prophets of the Old Testament were concerned about one thing… and it was not people’s feelings.

I am encouraged by that insight.  Despite their directness and sometimes crassness, there can be no doubt they were called by God, and used by God for the advancement of God’s purpose.

Not only am I encouraged by this, I am comforted.  For among my many weaknesses, one of  the most apparent is an often seemingly too strong personality.  It is not intentional.  But more than a few people later told me that for some reason they at first wondered if I was approachable; that they initially felt intimidated.  (Obviously they got over it, else they would never have told me something like that!)  This is not the perception of everyone, probably not even most.  But over the years I have heard this refrain enough to take note.  It is not an image I want to project.

I pray that the fruit of gentleness would continually grow in me – and that it would somehow be more evident. While many who know me have encouraged me by commenting on my kindness, I want that kindness to be accompanied by gentleness.  I envy those folks who ooze gentleness and approachability.

I have wondered, though, about some who seem to be gifted with gentleness.  Some  whom I have encountered are indeed gentle in their demeanor – far more than I.  Yet beneath their surface something is missing. Deep down they may be self-absorbed and uncaring – at least not caring enough to put themselves out much.

What I have also wondered is about the difference between being gentle and being timid.  Some appear to be gentle when in fact they are merely timid.

Here is what I suspect may be the difference:

  • Gentleness is motivated by love for another.  It is sacrificial.
  • Timidity is generated by a love for self.   It is a fear of being rejected.  It is self-preservation.

I am not sure I can always tell the difference, but I think the difference is important. The appearance of gentleness, when it is really a mask for timidity, is not a spiritual fruit.  Given that understanding, I think I prefer being kind yet sometimes misunderstood, to being insecure yet credited as something else.  After all, the Lord searches the heart.

Still, I know that this distinction is no substitute for growing in the fruit of gentleness.  I am a work in progress.  I cling to the promise that “He who began a good work in you will see it through the end.”  (Philippians 1.6) This gives me hope that one day more people will perceive me to be gentle. In the mean time, perhaps I can take some solace from C.S. Lewis’ metaphorical portrayal of our gentle King in the form of Aslan:

Lucy: A lion?! I think I should be afraid to meet a lion. Is he safe?

Mr Tumnus:  Safe! Heavens no!  But he is good.