All eyes are on the Supreme Court this week as we await the historic decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Seven cases remain on their docket. The justices will be issuing rulings tomorrow and Friday and possibly again on Monday. It’s impossible for us to know exactly when the decision will be announced, but this much is certain:
By this time next week we’ll know whether or not five or more justices have found a constitutional right to same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states.
Should the court officially redefine marriage across the country, what can we expect, and, perhaps even more importantly, how should we respond?
Although America was clearly founded upon Christian principles, the country is divided on the morality and acceptability of same-sex marriage. And so, in a pluralistic society, is it possible for both sides to peacefully co-exist?
In short, in the march towards the growing acceptance of homosexuality is it reasonable for those of us who adhere to a biblical understanding of sexuality to be accepted, too?
Is it possible to avoid in America what has already occurred in Canada, a country that legalized same-sex marriage?
A recent article examined the consequences our northern neighbors have encountered since 2005, when their country became the fourth in the world to legalize homosexual unions. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
In Canada, freedoms of speech, press, religion, and association have suffered greatly due to government pressure. The debate over same-sex marriage that is taking place in the United States could not legally exist in Canada today. Because of legal restrictions on speech, if you say or write anything considered “homophobic” (including, by definition, anything questioning same-sex marriage), you could face discipline, termination of employment, or prosecution by the government.
… Parents can expect state interference when it comes to moral values, parenting, and education—and not just in school. The state has access into your home to supervise you as the parent, to judge your suitability. And if the state doesn’t like what you are teaching your children, the state will attempt to remove them from your home.
Consequences of the changes to marriage laws have been felt in Europe. Pastors in England and Sweden were targeted for preaching on verses from the Bible. A British couple was also prevented from serving as foster parents because their Christian faith conflicts with the state view of homosexuality.
Clearly this isn’t what fairness should look like.
The impact is already being felt right here in the United States.
After Massachusetts recognized same-sex “marriage,” it wasn’t too long before children in public schools were taught about same-sex relationships. Kindergartener Jacob Parker and second grader Joey Wirthlin were among those who were read pro-homosexual books in class. Both sets of parents asked their schools to give them advance notice when these teachings would take place, since they violated the families’ religious beliefs. The cases eventually landed in court, where judges ruled against both families – even denying them the right to opt their kids out of the lessons. (Watch the Wirthlins share their story.)
Our friend, Michael Lindsay, who is president of Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts school, recently signed an open letter to President Obama that landed the institution in hot water. Various churches and other groups were concerned about an upcoming executive order related to government contracting and homosexuality and were requesting a hiring exemption for religious organizations.
Dr. Lindsay’s signature drew attention to the school’s code of conduct, which forbids homosexual practice. That led to the school nearly losing its accreditation – the lifeblood of an institution of higher learning.
Various Christian ministries are losing their official campus status along with their access for refusing to allow non-Christians to hold leadership positions. Basically, state universities are now allowed to “restrict organizations from requiring belief.”
I was sitting in on the Supreme Court hearing last month on marriage when the lawyers arguing for a new constitutional right to same-sex marriage acknowledged the danger to religious liberty if marriage is redefined. “It’s going to be an issue,” answered Solicitor General Donald Verrili to a question by Justice Antonin Scalia on the tax-exempt status that currently benefits religious institutions.
“The loss of tax-exempt status would put countless churches and religious institutions out of business,” Dr. Al Mohler explained, “simply because the burden of property taxes and loss of charitable support would cripple their ability to sustain their mission.
A few years ago I was sitting with two reporters from The New York Times when I expressed concern that business owners were being forced to violate their conscience by performing service for same-sex weddings. The reporters were incredulous and unaware of the example I cited. Fast-forward to today and the plight of these individuals is now front-page news.
From the Washington florist to the Oregon bakers and the New Mexico wedding photographer, Christian merchants are increasingly being punished for living out their faith. These good men and women are being fined large amounts and some are being forced out of businesses.
Is it reasonable to require an individual to violate their conscience – especially when plenty of other florists, bakers and photographers are available to provide the requested services?
As an aside, a friend of mine who is a well-known pastor recently remarked that in his city, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus, among others, out of courtesy and respect of cultural differences in their neighborhoods, do not expect vendors of other faiths to provide services for their sacred events. “They’re not comfortable making others uncomfortable just to make a point,” he said.
Likewise, isn’t it reasonable to extend similar courtesies to one another when it comes to the matter of same-sex wedding services?
In the end, we believe marriage is the fundamental building block for all of human civilization. It’s also the life-giving foundation that created and sustains our civilization. Whatever the outcome in the coming days, it won’t be time to panic. Instead, it’ll be time to rededicate ourselves to creating a thriving marriage culture. We need to work in alliance with people who believe in the social, economic, and spiritual significance of strong families.
At the same time, as Christians, we should remember that we can handle whatever comes our way. The consequences to a cultural revolution can be significant but the Lord is in the middle of every change and challenge. In fact, I was recently rereading Alvin Schmidt’s excellent book, “How Christianity Changed the World.” In it, Mr. Schmidt reminds of what historian Kenneth Latourette said: “persecutions in the early centuries had a positive effect on the church in that it purged many of its lukewarm members. Evidently, when lulls in persecution occurred, some joined the church who had not been transformed by Christ’s Gospel. These members were known as ‘Bread Christians’ – adherents of convenience rather than conviction.”
Is your faith born of convenience or conviction?
I believe the coming days may very well afford us an opportunity to answer that question.