Some further thoughts on the Supreme Court Ruling
While on vacation, I had the privilege of listening to Pastor Larry’s powerful sermon from last week about how the Holy Spirit is on the move. Specifically, he addressed how we ought to respond to the recent Supreme Court ruling which determined that same-gender marriage is a constitutionally protected right. Larry reminded me that though we may feel hopeless and on the defensive, we are in fact called to the Christ-like response of prayer and love.
This has been helpful to me as I, too, have been trying to sort out how to respond to this momentous decision. I have been reading, praying and thinking about it a great deal and wanted to share some further thoughts with you on the heels of Larry’s anointed sermon. (I would add that some of my thoughts were informed by a very helpful article I read on-line... and I cannot find it again in order to cite it properly. I apologize to the author.)
Here, then, are eight further reflections on this matter:
- Marriage is and only can be defined by its creator. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible reveals clearly that marriage was intended to be between one man and woman for life. In Genesis, God gives Eve to lonely Adam and commands them to delight in a relationship so intimate it is like being “one flesh.” Jesus reaffirmed that relationship in his teaching. Paul used the intimacy of marriage to describe the relationship between Christ and His Church. And Revelation speaks of the great marriage feast of the Lamb, a glorious celebration of the final and eternal reunion between Jesus and his beloved Bride, the Church. In every instance marriage is described in the Bible, it is always a relationship between man and woman. Because five justices say otherwise does not make it so; it was not their invention to redefine.
- This act of judicial overreach not only conflicts with millennia of religious teaching, it overturns the wisdom of thousands of years of cultures from around the world. Even if you agree with the SCOTUS decision, consider the hubris that emboldens us to believe that a ten-year social trend in America offers enough weight for us to declare to the vast majority of world cultures from all time, “You are wrong. All these millennia, your commitment to one man-one woman marriage as the core and essential unit of society was mistaken.” Even today, the worldwide non-American Church is nearly universal in its condemnation of this Western innovation. We should blush at our cultural arrogance.
- We have forgotten the kids. The central societal interest in protecting traditional marriage has always been the care and nurture of children. The sociological data could not be clearer: children do best when they are raised in a home where their biological mother and father are present. It is beside the point whether same-gender parents or mixed marriages can provide loving environments for children. They certainly can. But the very best environment in which to raise healthy children has now lost its rightfully and uniquely protected status in American society. This is not best for our children.
- We “heteros” are the biggest threat to marriage. It remains to be seen how this ruling will impact marriage going forward, but I doubt that it can do more damage than what we who enjoyed the legal rights of marriage have done to this institution over the last fifty years. The combination of two devastating trends—no-fault divorce and shameless non-marital cohabitation—have done way more damage to the institution of marriage than this ruling ever will. Most couples, including nominally Christian couples, live together before getting married, ignoring the clear statistical evidence that this increases significantly the likelihood of divorce. And even within the Church, divorce has become the go-to solution for marital strife, often without any serious effort at Christian counseling and in complete abandonment of our marriage vows, “for better or for worse.” The most important thing we Christians could do to strengthen marriage in our country would be to keep our marriage covenants and thrive in our love and commitment to each other so that the world longs to have what we possess.
- Disagreement and bigotry are not the same thing. Because I do not believe that the constitution does or should redefine marriage to include same-gender relationships, does not mean that I am a bigot. Bigotry by definition is hateful. It is irrational and hysterical to insist that, because I do not agree with this decision, then I must be a hater. Jesus taught that it is possible to love even those who hate us... in fact, he required it of us. To bully me with accusations of “hate” because I continue to agree with the vast majority of historical opinion regarding the nature of marriage hardly seems to argue for the diversity and tolerance so many on the other side of this issue claim to hold dear. Some advocating for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights have become the new fundamentalists, a graceless rigidity that is equally repellant coming from either end of the social-political spectrum.
- Our religious rights may not be secure. Those who claim that this is a constitutional right and that justice has finally been done cannot be expected to remain quiet when the voices of religious conscience speak in opposition to their hard-won victory. Canada, which passed similar legislation a decade ago, is already producing accounts of ministers who are persecuted because they preach against same-gender relationships out of their biblical convictions. I expect we will see increasing cultural, financial and even legal pressure being brought to bear against ministers and churches in years to come.
- Regardless of the mounting social pressures, we must have the courage to stand for biblical truth...but do it in the way of Jesus. Jesus never hesitated to confront sin of any sort. He was most critical of religious bullies, which should serve as a severe warning about how we speak or proceed in these matters. But when he encountered sexual behavior that was not in accord with God’s intent—the promiscuous woman at the well in John 4, e.g.—he spoke both truth and grace into their lives. Because we know ourselves to be sinners, utterly lost without the grace of Christ, we never approach any prophetic role in society with anything other than absolute humility. Still, regardless of public opinion at the moment, we are obliged to speak truth... especially regarding a matter of such societal importance.
- We must redefine—and live into—what it means to be an “open and affirming church.” This phrase—“open and affirming”— is used by churches to indicate their endorsement of the LGBT rights movement. I, too, want us to be an open and affirming church but in a different way. Because the Church is and always has been a gathering of broken people, we must always be open to anyone who longs for the restoration that only Christ can bring. And because every single person, including our LGBT friends and family members, is created in the image of God, we will always affirm that every single person is precious to Him. May God help us to be this kind of open and affirming Church full of the grace and the truth and the love of Jesus Christ. And, as Larry reminded us, may we go to our knees in prayer that the Holy Spirit will be at work in and through us in this challenging and exciting time.