by Rod D. Martin
August 27, 2015
Much ink has been spilled on the dangers to religious liberty contained in the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling. But the decision also presents some valuable opportunities.
1. The chance to stop lying.
Oh, Christians (and especially pastors) don’t mean to lie. But they do lie, constantly, to each other, to the culture, and from their pulpits to their congregations. The results are devastating.
You may ask, “why Rod, whatever do you mean?” I’ll tell you.
In the month Obergefell was decided, Gallup found – consistent with previous years’s results – that Americans believe homosexuals make up almost 25% of the population. Women and younger people believe the number is over 30%.
Would knowing the truth make a difference in the debate? Probably.
Let’s take another one. In the month before Obergefell, Gallup found that for the first time in history a majority of Americans believed that people are born gay or lesbian. This is in spite of the fact that no fewer than eight major studies from around the world have found homosexuality is not a genetic condition.
This may seem academic, even pedantic. But it’s essential. If everyone is gay, and no one can help it, then the only reasonable conclusion for most is that homosexuality is not a behavior but a race: it is exactly like skin color. That is certainly the relentless message of the culture, perhaps best expressed in shows like Will and Grace and in pop songs like “Same Love,” the key lyric of which is “I can’t change…even if I wanted to” and which goes on to teach pantheism and explicitly attack the church.
One almost has to ask: Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby seem to have trouble changing their predilections also, but does that make either of them Martin Luther King?
Even so, you’d never have to get to questions like that one if the lie hadn’t first been presumed true.
One more. How many times have you heard a pastor say that Christians get divorced as often – or even more often – than people outside the church?
It’s a lie. In fact, studies find that committed Christians are 35% less likely to divorce than non-Christians. Yet the lie gets repeated over and over and over again.
It is an especially ugly deceit. It may make the pastor feel good about his hair shirt, but it is ruinous to his hearers. Imagine a young mother in a struggling marriage. She’s not very religious, her husband is increasingly distant if not hostile, her kids are running around like wild beasts. Her friends keep telling her that “Christ makes all the difference.” So one Sunday, she summons up her courage and drags her little family kicking and screaming to church, hoping desperately her friends might be right.
And when she gets there, a minister of Jesus Christ tells her from the pulpit that all her effort was in vain.
When pastors (and Christians generally) let the flock believe the Enemy’s propaganda, we all get the Enemy’s desired results. Do our pastors mean to lie about these things? I’ve never met one who did. But in an age when any statistic can be Googled, there’s really no excuse. A lie is a lie is a lie.
2. The chance to come at the debate over family and sexuality from a more Biblical, persuasive direction.
As I have just implied by linking lies about homosexuality with lies about the church and marriage, the church’s approach has been a big part of the problem. Though the left’s permanent assault on religious liberty now finds enormous opportunity in the gay agenda’s success, singling out homosexuality as an issue distinct from sexuality broadly has been a mistake, not to mention an enormous failure.
The real issue is much simpler. God created human sexuality, and pronounced it good within certain specific boundaries. He opposes breaching those boundaries like General Motors opposes putting water in your gas tank.
Obergefell provides a chance to reboot. Stigmatizing homosexuals is and always was pointless, because they are just one more class of people out of control, among whom are adulterers and teenagers having sex after prom and guys watching anime porn. All of this is the same: the only difference is in detail and degree.
And all of it is wrong not merely because God says so (though that would be enough) but because it is harmful. The sexualization of everything requires the objectification of everyone. It is the opposite of liberty, the destruction of intimacy. It eliminates all safe zones, wipes out all ethics. It makes us all nothing but meat, and beasts; and when we get a wrinkle, or add a pound too many, we are cast off, abandoned. It is primal in the worst sense: the exaltation of self through a culture dominated by the strong. And everyone’s clock is ticking.
It is time to teach that. It is time to present the world with God’s life-affirming, other-exalting better way. The battle over same-sex marriage is lost, at least for now. But just as homosexuality and abortion were rampant in Roman times and the church ultimately prevailed – for 1,800 long years – a deliberate, widespread modeling of and exhortation to God’s comprehensive view of sexuality can prevail again. And it will.
3. The chance to see the world comprehensively.
It’s not just sexuality. The church was beaten in the realm of politics. Why do people blessed not only with religious liberty but with self-government refuse to take the responsibilities those blessings require?
Likewise, the defeat was only possible because of the declining number of Americans who’ve heard the Gospel and been transformed by it. Why do people blessed by Christ’s shed blood think so little of His grace that they allow cities like Miami, and neighborhoods like their own, to go unevangelized?
As this article alone implies, Christians are needed in every field, from art and culture to genetic research to media to business to politics to church planting. Other Christians need to support them, fervently and self-consciously. And above virtually all other needs is the need for more Christians. That’s something we can and should all work toward.
All this requires an end to compartmentalization, a rigorous effort on the part of each believer and each pastor toward a globe-girdling Christian worldview. Everything really does affect everything. The left understands this perfectly, and despite being a minority, wins. But we serve the God and Creator of all that is. Victory is in our grasp, if only we’d quit treating our “faith” (I use the term as loosely as Christians often live it) as a Sunday morning thing.
The knives are out. There is blood in the water. But there is not so much as when Peter was crucified upside down, or when Christians were being thrown to the lions. Obergefell presents an opportunity. We should seize it.
This article was originally published as part of my Beyond the Church Door series in the Florida Baptist Witness.