It was inevitable that marriage equality would win out. Those who opposed it did so out of a spirit of delay rather than any hope of ceasing it. In fact, fighting the legality of gay marriage was never a battle over the territory of morals. It was about defending a bridge that gives access to attacks on more important issues of freedom and discipleship.
Before we explore this topic fully, let’s begin with a couple of disclaimers. We are all sinners. The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and that we are not to judge one another. The issue at hand is not about sin by individuals but about the consequences that Obergefell v. Hodges will have on society, the rights of Christians, and the corporate judgment of America. In other words, this has nothing to do with gay marriage as a practice. It’s about a very large step towards the falling away from faith.
The other disclaimer is understanding the difference between people who claim Christianity as their religion in America and true Christians. There is still technically a Christian majority. However, true Christianity is about living a life dedicated to Christ in worship of the Father that is guided by the Holy Spirit. One does not need a survey to tell them that the number of Americans living a life of discipleship has fallen below the halfway point. We are now a minority and probably have been for many decades.
Let’s now explore what the marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court means to true Christians, how the battlegrounds have shifted, and what we should do to continue the fight for the souls of our brethren and the stability of our nation.
Obergefell v. Hodges will go down in history as a catalyst similar to Roe v. Wade and Dred Scott v. Sandford. Had the Supreme Court known that over 600,000 soldiers would die in the Civil War and that their decision was one of the reasons that it happened, they may have ruled differently. Slavery was ended through bloodshed as a result of their ruling when it could have been ended sooner and without as much conflict had the Republicans gotten their way.
If the Supreme Court could have known that over 50,000,000 Americans would be killed in the forty years that followed their decision, the Justices who decided on Roe v. Wade may have chosen differently.
We only have a vague idea of the consequences of Obergefell v. Hodges, but some of it is already becoming evident. Businesses who perform services for weddings are being forced to decide between their religious convictions and the well-being of their business. There is already talk of stripping religious institutions of their coveted tax exemption if they do not change their practices. It may be hard to believe now, but it is very likely that this attack will extend to doctrine; if a church opposes gay marriage even in principle, they may at some point in the future be forced to change their stance or lose their privilege.
The most chilling aspect of this decision is not within the court’s ruling but the shift that it is assisting in the change of the mindset of society. We are already seeing those opposed to gay marriage being labeled as bigots. This decision is going to galvanize that view to the point that it will be commonplace. Those who do not support gay marriage will be seen in the same light as members of the Ku Klux Klan, the New Black Panthers, or Westboro Baptist Church. You probably don’t see this as possible today. You probably think that this is an alarmist perspective, that society cannot change that quickly. Considering there was a 20% shift in the views about gay marriage in a recent five-year-span, it would be naive to think that this trajectory is anything but one of radicalism of thought.
The sad part is that very few people will even notice the shift in their own thinking.
How the Battle was Lost
The reality is that losing the debate over gay marriage in America was our fault. While the vast majority of those opposed to gay marriage were not hateful of homosexuals or opposed to their legal rights as domestic partners, we did not do enough to stop the extreme perspective that promoted a message of hate. “Gay bashing” is unacceptable. We must love our brothers and sisters no matter what, which means that we must oppose hatred as a practice even if those practicing the hate share our doctrinal perspective on an issue.
As Rod Dreher astutely pointed out, the sexual revolution was the initial spark that created this situation. Many Christians fell for the concept of free love as a beautiful expression and decided to work it into their own personal doctrines. The result was a social liberalism that sent us down a road of switching the perspectives of hate. In other words, the acceptance of lust as a promotion of love made opposition of any variations of lust an obtuse paradigm. Christians joined forces with non-believers to oppose war, racism, and those who did not accept free sexual expression. We lumped in unrighteous causes with righteous causes and formulated a new doctrine around the idea that love is the most important thing for the human experience.
Many Christians who fought for peace in the world and who opposed racism since the 1960s also found themselves fighting for sexual freedoms in the name of love. They didn’t just allow themselves to be conned. They participated in conning themselves because it was a license to experience worldly pleasures without guilt.
The point is that this laid the groundwork for a slow transition that has accelerated in the last decade, a shift in our country’s worldview that put rights equality over Biblical doctrine. As a country, we have accepted secularism as a way of life and relegated Christianity to being a pastime that cannot be allowed to get in the way of progress. We have divided the teachings of the Bible into two categories: the acceptable things that can benefit us such as Grace and the unacceptable things that “hold us back” such as laws and decrees.
22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.Genesis 2:22-24 (KJV)
Marriage in the Bible is between a man and a woman, but as a nation we have chosen to declare that our modern sensibilities are more advanced than God’s.
Opening the Door to Unrighteous Attacks
As mentioned earlier, this wasn’t a battleground over morals. Those battles are for individuals. We are at a point on the world’s timeline when fighting for large-scale morality is impossible. This was a fight to protect a bridge across which the secular world can attack the foundation of churches and Christians.
The Body of Christ has had to fight many battles over the last few decades because of fallacies in the actions of individuals. Corrupt pastors, pedophile priests, false doctrines, false prophets – there has been no shortage of righteous reasons to attack churches and Christians and it has been the role of the Body of Christ to differentiate the real message that we promote from the failings of those who have stained churches from the inside. In fact, the actions of many allegedly religious people can account for a great deal of the falling away that is taking place.
As strange as it may sound, it was pretty easy to defend the teachings of the Bible because those who were corrupting the image of the church were doing so against doctrine and in opposition to true Christianity. The law did not go contrary to the teachings of the Bible.
This is different. The attacks that are coming due to the Supreme Court’s ruling will be unrighteous. The victims of the attacks will not be people who deserve it. We will have to stand against the general sentiment of society in defense of those who are guided by the Bible. In essence, we will be cornered by our faith from a worldly perspective rather than given freedom through it to maintain the moral high ground. Since the country’s morality has shifted to sexual and legal equality, those who believe fully in the Bible are at risk of being labeled as bigots.
The United States of America is establishing laws that go against the Bible. This is a dangerous time for our country.
Learning to Fight from the Trenches
As Christians, we can do one of two things that can reconcile our faith and the changing landscape of the country. Option one was mentioned by Rod Dreher as the Benedict Option.
It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue,the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict.”
Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.
I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time.
Some might see this as a retreat, a cowardly act that basically encourages people to run away from the growing chaos and to continue to worship as they see fit without interference from an increasingly oppressive government and a secular population. It may very well be that, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an option. Retreat in hopes of helping to rebuild if the country falls apart is righteous and may be required if all else fails.
The other option is to fight. Keep in mind that we would not be fighting against marriage equality. That is done. The chances of being able to overturn it are next to nil because of the general sentiment of the land. The fight that I’m describing is one that defends the rights of religious freedom and expression. There are two components to this fight and both will happen from the political trenches.
First, business owners and employees must decide whether they are willing to be the targets of attacks. For example, a photographer who does not want to work at a gay wedding will become the target of attacks the first time they are asked to do so. There was a time when religious freedom protected a photographer’s right to decline, but those days are coming to an end regardless of the little reassurance the Supreme Court Justices wrote in their ruling. If you are unwilling to be a target, there’s no shame in that, but it means that you must start making changes to your business or employment that will keep you out of the line of fire. The law of the land is not an excuse to betray the teachings of the Bible. If you are faithful but unwilling to be a target, then change your business or job so that you won’t have to make the wrong choice. An example of this would be to hang a sign at your bakery that says you do not make wedding cakes. It will hurt your income but it will prevent you from having to choose between betrayal or repercussions.
Second, Christians must be willing to stand by businesses who defend their religious rights. Just as the opposition has used and will use the power of commerce to force businesses to either comply or die, so too must we use the same power in the opposite direction. That means supporting those who fight for their faith. It also means opposing those who do not.
The world is putting up obstacles for those who believe fully in the teachings of the Bible. We were told by Yeshua that we would face tribulation. It is becoming very evident that the trials of the faithful are starting to take shape in America.