Response to the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has been all over the map, to say the least. We have seen some amazing celebrations and all the expected denunciations from many Christians. At First Baptist Church in Dallas the pulpit was adorned with red, white and blue last weekend. The pastor called the ruling “an affront in the face of Almighty God.” Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Dallas, said the court had acted in a way that represented “depravity, degradation and what the Bible calls sexual perversion.” The White House, in contrast, was bathed in the rainbow colors of the LGBT movement. Many other churches, mostly Protestant mainline congregations, called attention to the decision with prayer and joy.
The pastor at First Baptist in Dallas said he was not discouraged at all. He added, “We are not going to be silenced. This is a great opportunity for our church to share the truth and love of Jesus Christ and we are going to do it.” Now, if ever there was a line I personally agreed with this has to be it. My question though is simple: “Does condemnation of the court’s decision, and opposition to same-sex marriage, equal the love of Christ?” Ah, but this is the really, really hard question. On both sides people argue, with little evidence of the love Jesus taught us about in John 13:34-35, that they (alone) are speaking with love. I have friends who argue from both sides. They all insist they are acting with love. Most of them see the other side as intolerant and bigoted. My problem is that I deeply wonder how this can all be true?
Judge Roy Moore (yes, the same judge who wanted the Ten Commandments in his courtroom in Alabama) preached from his home church in Kimberly, Alabama, last Sunday. The judge said, “Welcome to the new world. It’s just changed for you Christians. You are going to be persecuted.” Hmmm, again I profoundly wonder if I live in the same world.
I later spoke to a Christian leader in Canada. I asked him, “How long has same-sex marriage been the law across Canada?” He answered, “About ten years I think.” I then asked him, “How do LGBT people, and the government in general, treat Christians who do not agree with them and will not support them openly?” He said there was little or no legal problem at all. The church, being much smaller and not so engaged in cultural war rhetoric, simply continued to do its mission and the state left it alone. That is an idea that crosses few minds in America, left or right. We are a nation defined by battles and litigation. It is rooted in our DNA. Think: Civil War, two parties since Jefferson and Hamilton, etc. We are badly divided and have been for my entire lifetime. The Vietnam War tore us apart more than anything in my lifetime and we have never enjoyed a deeply appreciated unity since.
For whatever it is worth here are some thoughts that I have formed over the years and now apply to this recent ruling:
- 1976 was proclaimed by TIME to be “The Year of the Evangelicals.” Our influence and importance has declined every year since! Could we have become impressed with our churches and leaders? Are we filled with ourselves? Is the problem really us?
- Culture wars have not won and will not win in the public arena. They are rear-guard battles that only make our work of “making disciple” and “loving our neighbors” far more difficult.
- Morality is not our task in the culture. Our task is to be “salt and light.” We do not have to condemn everything that we disagree with to effectively bear witness to Christ in public. Do you not think the world already knows what we believe?
- Our message should be “good news” to all if we preach and live it well. We will suffer persecution but that is happening, at least broadly speaking. We are being attacked for the way we are pressing our moral views on the broader culture, a culture that does not know Christ and could care less what we believe morally. (Our numbers show we do not live what we preach, which makes things even worse.)
- If we are serious about the moral law maybe we should apply it within the church to our own members first? You talk about a hard job, if done well pastorally. Yet few will even try. It is so much easier to preach to those outside, whoever they are. (In this case the Gays!!!)
- Ministers should opt out of civil marriage and let the state do what the state is determined to do in this area. Marriage should be treated in a more sacramental fashion by Protestants, thus preserving it for truly Christian consecration and celebration.
- We should get to know our neighbors, including our LGBT neighbors. Once we know and love our neighbors we can then know how to more effectively share the love of Christ with them. But until we know our neighbors as real people we are not sharing Christ’s love at all, only our public views about them.
I could say much more but this is where I am after a week-plus that was truly transforming in our present culture. The question Christians should now face is this: “What have we done to make this shift take shape so dramatically?” Could the problem be us more than those who are outside the church?