DEFEATIST ABDICATION ISN’T OUR ONLY OPTION.
Though not surprised I am saddened, and ashamed, by the majority decision of our Supreme Court. I am saddened and ashamed for several reasons. One is that it seems to me to be “bad law.” What I mean by that is that it is a reading into the Constitution and not a reading from it. The Constitution is a problem document because at times what could be read “from” it was bad, i.e., the Dred Scott decision, and what has been read into it, i.e., Roe vs. Wade, has been bad. The way to correct what was in it was to write a constitutional amendment, which we did, and now to correct what has been read into it we probably need a few more amendments.
I am aware that amendments are politically determined, and that is usually culturally determined, and that is another thing that saddens me. The cultural revolution that came out of the turmoil of the Second World War, by the “Greatest Generation,” continues to put the nation into moral decline. Springing from the unraveling of much of our traditional American culture, and our traditional morality, came a huge sexual revolution. Parts of that revolution were the sexual emancipation of women, the weariness of condemning premarital sex, the Playboy titillation of popular culture, no fault divorce, the welfare support of promiscuity, birth control, abortion on demand, the proliferation of legal pornography, the ending of sodomy laws, the support of gay rights, and now the legalization of homosexual marriage.
If you think about it that is quite a cultural ride in a very short time. The constant reality of sex is not new, nor is sexual temptation, nor is same sex desire, only the onus we have historically, and now have not, put on these things. Many of the reasons there was an onus on those behaviors had to do with some very concrete and valid concerns, let alone that of religious proscription. Technology has given many the feeling that culture can now be changed because birth control is possible, abortion is safer (for the mother), there are medicines for sexually transmitted diseases, and sophistication about relationships and gender roles should deliver us from masculine and paternalistic possessiveness, i.e., violence.
This of course is a delusion, and one fueled by the idea that “screwed up” sex doesn’t screw people up. It is as if we as a nation have become sociopathic when it comes to sexual relationships; as if connection, disloyalty, abandonment, meaning, guilt, and shame can be dispensed with either by technology, identity movements, or court decisions.
This essay is not about my views on the practice of homosexuality, same sex attraction, nor how we ought to treat those involved in homosexual lifestyles, and now what will pose as marriage. It is rather about how this affects Christians in their understanding of political conflict.
I am saddened by this decision because as some of the justices who wrote in the minority have predicted this sets the nation on the course for lots of conflict over the freedom of religion. The worst fear I have is that this will inevitably lead to violence by and from some who think that since this was one of the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for it will be worth fighting and dying for it once again. We will certainly see civil disobedience at various levels. I am saddened that there is a naiveté that this decision will somehow change the opinions of religious conservatives over their religious values concerning homosexuality. Religious liberals (and it should be pointed out once again that Christian Liberalism is a different religion than Christianity) have standards they refuse to change, but a commitment to Biblical absolutes is not one of them. That is not true for Evangelical religious conservatives, who make up a fairly large segment of our population.
I am saddened because the will of the people in many states has been overthrown by this court, and this will lead to cynicism about the political process, and probably more extreme partisanship in the playing of political games to frustrate the goals of the “other” party. If there could be a straightforward way to impeach such judges for misreading and misusing the constitution that might be helpful. Again that is a political decision based on the cultural commitments of the populace, so I doubt that will happen.
I am saddened because religious conservatives are not united as to a working theology of how to deal with politics, government, or bad law. There is a wide spectrum of opinion about these matters among Christians. Religious people don’t always have a conscious awareness in themselves of the theology from which they are operating as to political events, and some are very conscious albeit mistaken in their understanding of Biblical imperatives and American historical reality. I speak here specifically of those who have responded to this decision with a pietistic love and Gospel rhetoric that seeks to be non-offensive to people who not only live an immoral lifestyle and have now made it legal, but made it legal in such a way as to force Christians to accept it and support it in various economic and social forms.
It is popular to dismiss cultural Christianity and civic religion as a distraction from the true Gospel. It is fairly common to hear criticisms of an attempt to get back to the “faith of our fathers” especially due to what was a sordid mixture of racism and cultural hegemony which justified and supported slavery and genocide of native populations. There is distaste for the flavor and trappings of the “Moral Majority” movement and the integration of political conservatism with Christianity, as if gun rights and more money for defense expenditures was Biblical. I admit that I pretty much agree with these criticisms of Christian cultural movements.
However what I fear I am hearing and seeing is an abdication of civic responsibility by Evangelicals. As if this nation was not formed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” There seems to be an acquiescence to cultural depravity and evil, and an apologetic that the best thing we can do is be a minority and have a witness of love no matter how unjust or immoral the laws might be. This political surrender is as if to say if we have no voice or say in those laws and that is neither true nor safe for us.
A vigorous and prophetic call for justice is not incompatible with the Gospel call. The articulation of sin and judgment is not the same as being judgmental and self-righteous nor should be. We are a nation where the people define morality and legislate it, as the recent court decision so aptly reveals. Our cultural movements lead to political movements which lead to Presidents who pick the judges who reveal their commitments to the cultural movement which brought them to power. Why are we walking away, and justifying to ourselves that it is okay for wickedness to own our country?
Our choice is not the Gospel or politics, not in this country, not yet. We don’t have to be the church of the catacombs or the house church movement of China, no matter how romantic that sounds. If you wish to discard all the righteous cultural impact the Church has made for goodness in society you can be blind if you choose to be, but why would you want to deny what the presence of salt and light has given to the world since the Roman Empire? If we remain silent and accept defeat, and even wallow in an idea that we should be defeated because it is better for our witness, I don’t think we understand the Word of God or American democracy. If you are cheering on evil because you think it will hurry up the rapture I don’t think you will find any encouragement from Scripture for that posture.
We don’t have to be demagogues, we don’t have to take to the hills and be freedom fighters. We can and ought to be lovers of all people, self-confessing as to our own weaknesses, humble and willing to listen and discuss yet determined in our commitments to the absolutes of God. We should be determined to press for righteousness at all levels of government, in its application of laws and especially in their formulation. We obviously will suffer some defeats, this doesn’t mean we are wrong in our convictions, nor even in our involvement in the legal and political process. The other side has certainly believed in political organization and expenditure.
There is a way to be loving, kind, and righteous in our relationships with both allies and enemies, especially enemies. This is one place where some have failed in their ability to reconcile the issues of justice and morality with a Gospel witness.
I am saddened, and I am ashamed, as other believers must have been when they heard the pronouncement of the Dred Scott decision. What a long suffering they endured, and a war, to correct it. God forbid it should come to that, but may God give us the tenacity to care for our nation and the souls who live in it as they did.