On DOMA, Prop 8, and Being Faithful
Today the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down a landmark decision regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Couched in language that moves this decision from a financial benefits issue to redefining marriage, Justice Kennedy writes in the court opinion that the decision handed down is about giving dignity to homosexual unions. Additionally, the court’s decision to dismiss the appeal on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, and thus upholding a lower court’s decision, in essence allows state recognized same-sex marriages in California.
What’s the big deal, you may ask? How does this really affect me? The answer is one that is both simple and complex. While neither of these decisions will have an immediate or direct effect on each state’s decision whether or not to recognize same-sex marriages, it is one more step down a slope that is becoming more slippery by the moment. The thing about slippery slopes is sometimes you start going down them so fast you can’t stop and end up going much further than you ever intended unless you put your feet down to stop the slide.
The SCOTUS decisions today serve as another marker for the church that public opinion continues to change and what was once thought to be the ideological foundation our country was founded upon is now in the minority. It’s never been tougher to hold to biblical convictions on gender and marriage in this nation. But, we’ve never before had such an opportunity to proclaim God’s purpose for gender and marriage either. As we learn more of the DOMA ruling implications in the coming days, we’re reminded of these truths:
No government can overrule conviction.
What makes today’s ruling so sad is that our government was created to avoid rulings like it, where convictions are legislated apart from the people (check out Justice Scalia’s dissent for more on this). Religious liberty unhindered by government laws, along with the freedom to express it in worship, is a core American value that today’s ruling threatens. But as disappointing as that is, no court ruling can alter the fact that God created gender, sexuality, and marriage and that only He has the authority to define it (Gen 2:18-25).
The Christian Church thrives under these conditions.
Don’t forget that the 1st century church exploded with growth despite a government that actively opposed them. Throughout history, when the cultural squeeze is put on believers, the message spreads. As one fearless, persecuted pastor from the Ukraine once said, “With persecution, comes growth.” While our churches and families have enjoyed the social protection of religious freedom in generations past, Jesus’ promise that we would be hated by the world has always been true (John 15:18-21). Also, remember our brothers and sisters in Europe, Africa and Asia, who are daily experiencing exponentially more opposition, abuse and persecution than we have ever endured. This is not the time to quietly whisper the truth with a wavering voice, but to unashamedly proclaim the Gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16-17).
Until we are pure, we will not be heard.
Within the American Church at large, we’ve lost our credibility. When adultery, pre-marital sex, cohabitation, and divorce are winked at or brushed aside within the Church, it’s little wonder that pointing to the Bible’s words on homosexuality, marriage, and gender falls on deaf ears. We can no longer be selective in our convictions. Strong social arguments, important as they are, will not speak as strongly as set-apart lives (1 Pet. 2:13-15). To those Christians struggling with same-sex attraction, the power of the Holy Spirit in you will enable you to live an overcoming life of holiness and purity (Rom 6-8). We know you’re among us, we know you’re hurting, and we love you. Whether you have homosexual or heterosexual attraction, no matter what you’re past failures or present struggles, if we follow Jesus, we’re called to purity (1 Thess. 4:1-7).
Unpopular? Yes. Alone? No.
While today’s rulings may represent a sweeping precedent in future same-sex marriage laws, those opposing homosexual marriage are very much out there; and not all for religious reasons either. For instance, a secular organization in France is fighting against legalized same-sex marriage, stating that every child should have the equal right to a father and a mother. Marriage between a man and a woman may no longer be the popular view in Western culture, but the defeat of DOMA hardly represents the beliefs of all people.
We’re not done yet.
Being faithful has never been so out of fashion. But don’t lose heart. There’s never been a greater opportunity to proclaim our gender differences and biblical marriage as a display of the gospel (Eph 5:22-33). We’ve never before been so confronted with the chance to articulate why gender isn’t just a biological reality, but a spiritual identity. If God created gender and marriage to reveal Himself, then re-defining it only distorts what was designed to point lost humanity to the saving God. This isn’t about tradition. This isn’t solely about society. It’s about the gospel.
Today’s historic Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 has many of us wondering whether we’re still in the country we lived in just a few years ago. Yes, this marks a new season in our nation. Yes, its implications for religious freedom are enormous. But don’t be discouraged. You were born into this culture, into these circumstances, for a specific purpose: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a nation that is increasingly working to shut Him out. As we face the reality that we live in a world that is increasingly against Christ, we must not compromise and we must not give up. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jesus, John 16:33)