7/2/2015 5:00:00 PM
Even many people who believe same-sex marriage is a good idea – and I’m not among them – scratch their head over the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges
ruling. You don’t have to be a legal scholar to realize the majority is guilty of a classic example of judicial activism, devoid of sound reasoning. The members of the court’s majority – the liberal wing of Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, joined by moderate Anthony Kennedy – didn’t have a valid constitutional argument to validate same-sex marriage, so they simply made one up. It’s a power play, pure and simple, and you have every right to be angry about that.
Every instance of judicial activism reaps adverse consequences that can’t be adequately estimated at the time it’s committed. The Roe v. Wade
decision, which invented a right to abortion in 1973 and made it legal throughout of pregnancy, has resulted in an estimated 50 million lives lost in the past 42 years. So what happens when five judges, accountable to nobody, invent a right to same-sex marriage that can’t be found in the Constitution? There’s no way to know today what ill effects we’ll experience as a result of Obergefell v. Hodges
. We can only surmise that in 40 years the state of the family and the nation will be vastly different than it is today, and not for the better.
So what are we, meaning the Church, to do in the face of such a grievous decision? I think the answer lies in the words grace
. We must balance both while overemphasizing neither in the days and weeks ahead. Our challenge is to find a way to champion orthodox Christian belief without ruining our witness.
My biggest concern with this ruling is that the court has set up a collision course with the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty. Justice Kennedy attempted to set these concerns aside in the majority opinion by writing, “(I)t must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate
with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach
the principles that are so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered” (emphasis mine).
That sounds good on its face. But the First Amendment freedom of religion goes far beyond the right to advocate and teach our faith. It includes the right to express
our faith in every action of our lives, inside and outside the walls of a house of worship – something that’s already under assault through the Left’s recent hysterical reaction to state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) laws.
Chief Justice John Roberts noted as much in his dissent: “Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing same-sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however the freedom to ‘exercise
’ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses. Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage – when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couple, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. . .There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today” (emphasis in original).
I believe that a storm is coming for Bible-believing Christians, and that it will be rooted in an attempt by the secular Left’s to punish us for preventing same-sex couples from marrying everywhere in the United States before June 26, 2015.
Already I’ve seen columns advocating for the stripping of tax exemptions from churches that continue to advocate exclusively for natural marriage – and one prominent piece, in Time magazine, that seeks to use the decision to end all tax exemptions for churches. The idea is that opposing a fundamental right is grounds for losing not-for-profit status. I’m not terribly worried about that, mainly because I’ve never heard anyone suggest doing the same for groups that favor gun control or abortion.
I’ve also heard the issue of financial reparations for homosexual couples who had been denied the financial benefits of marriage before last week, though that sounds as much like a desperate attempt to create a new market niche for trial lawyers than anything else. Clearly our rights are under assault today and that is unlikely to change in the immediate future. How do we respond?
I do believe churches need to be assertive in affirming that we have no intention in abandoning our First Amendment rights. There’s a bill in Congress already that clearly permits every house of worship, business and individual that wishes to opt out of participating in any wedding for any reason. In our home state of Ohio, a representative has promised to introduce a similar bill protecting pastors. Both are excellent ideas and I’ll be proud to support them. I’ll also expect the politicians who are condescendingly telling us to “move on” today to support them as well.
But I’m also concerned about how we, the portion of the Church that believes what the Bible says about marriage and human sexuality, respond to the culture. It matters a great deal how we represent God’s Word to the portion of the Church that has misinterpreted Scripture to support same-sex marriage. We need to oppose same-sex marriage because it is incompatible with biblical truth. But also we need to do so in love, because that’s how Jesus approached those who were far from God. I don’t think we’ll change any minds if we stay angry about the Supreme Court’s egregious decision.
Paul admonishes us, “Rather, speaking the truth in love
, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV, emphasis added). But in practice, I find that we often get that instruction half right. We either are loving to the exclusion of the truth, or truthful to the exclusion of love. Our goal needs to be a perfect balance between the two. We dare not criticize someone who is apparently out of balance to the exclusion of truth until we are sure that we are not out of balance to the exclusion of love.
We live in interesting times as Christians. Can we become as the waiting Father whose prodigal son is not only living or supporting a lie but actively seeking to discredit the Truth? The Father in Jesus’s parable didn’t write off the prodigal and go back in the house to plot his next move. He prayed that his son would repent and return. We must do no less.
Chances are you love and respect people who are sincerely wrong on this issue. Our challenge is to right the Church and the culture with humility, so that those people may not be permanently lost to the Kingdom, while staying faithful to what we know to be true. It won’t be easy and it will likely be frustrating. But our own eternal future depends on whether we stay faithful in the face of the challenges to come, or implode like cowards at the first attempts to silence us.
- July 3, 2015