I've said before that when you're offending people on both sides of an argument then you're probably close to being right. I might be way off on my opinion here, but at least I'm assured to offend people on both sides of the political aisle, so I have that going for me, which is nice.
I suppose I should get this out of the way first; I lived in Oklahoma in 2004 when the (state) constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was on the ballot. I voted yes to ban it. If I had to do it over again, I would make the same vote. I absolutely believe God loves gay people and has a plan for them, and I believe the Church should be a place they are welcomed, but the Bible is clear that homosexuality is sinful and never God's best. (For a review of the seven Bible passages that discuss homosexuality and more on my thoughts on homosexuality click here to listen to a message I did on the topic in the fall of 2013). It's been disappointing to watch a few of my Christian friends celebrate and applaud last week's Supreme Court decision (and those in this category should definitely read this).
But as a pastor, I have much less to say on any one particular sin issue and much more to say regarding the Church's response to it. And this is ultimately my reason for writing.
I was away at camp when the decision came down last week so I'm sure I've missed some of the reactions, but what I have seen from Christians on social media has largely fallen into three buckets:
A. Celebration. "Love wins!" etc (this is the smallest bucket but is far from empty).
B. Silence (this is the bucket I usually prefer to be in on social media political issues).
C. Hysteria. "America is destined for judgement!" "How could God continue to bless America if he destroyed Sodom and Gommorah!" "Five Supreme Court justices just destroyed the fabric of our great nation!" etc.
It is Bucket C I would like to address. Bucket A is sadly off base, Bucket B is impossible to evaluate, and Bucket C is the most vocal (in my news feed anyway), and while they are sort of right, they are right for very wrong reasons. Hopefully I can unpack some of that.
In short, I agree that there is little good to be gained from the legalization of gay marriage in our country, and I sort of agree that things are going to get pretty bad from here (though I think it will take longer than your average apocalypse monger). Where I disagree ever so strongly is with the reasoning behind the impending disaster.
To further break down the average conservative Christian in Bucket C's opinions on this, here are three general premises they seem to accept:
1) Legalizing gay marriage is a terrible decision for our country.
2) "Liberals" are to blame for the legalization of gay marriage - liberal judges, liberal president, liberal media, liberal homosexual activists, Hollywood, etc
3) We must continue to fight against gay marriage no matter what the law says.
I agree with point 1, and mostly disagree with point 3 (I agree we shouldn't endorse or conduct gay weddings but I think the political fight is a waste of time, energy and finances and needs to end). But it's point 2 that I haven't seen anyone address.
Liberals are not to blame for the legalization of gay marriage. Supreme Court justices are not to blame for this. President Obama is not to blame for this. Sure, all of those individuals and groups have contributed to accelerating the process, but legalized gay marriage in the US has been inevitable for quite sometime. This decision just stopped delaying the inevitable.
The American people overwhelmingly want homosexuals to be allowed to marry. Per this poll earlier this year, 61% of Americans support gay marriage while only 35% oppose it. Other polls have found similar results. This has happened quickly, as just a decade ago it was 58% against to 39% support. When 61% of our nation supports a law, it's going to become the law one way or the other. We can debate the constitutionality of the Supreme Court making it the law, but I'm not writing this to address politics, I'm writing to address the Church.
So let's get to it. If liberals aren't to blame for this, who are?
Christians. And not just the ones who are celebrating the legalization of gay marriage. Hardcore, blood-bought, spirit-filled Christians who value the literal interpretation of the Word of God are to blame for the current state of our nation.
"But we fought against gay marriage harder than we've ever fought against anything!" "But we pounded on the the Word of God and shouted it's truths to anyone who would listen!" "But we gave our time, talent and treasure to organizations and political candidates who would stand up against gay marriage!" "How are we to blame for this?"
We are to blame for this because we've drastically missed the point.
Alexis de Tocqueville famously said that "in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve." And I can already hear my conservative friends protesting "we're not a democracy we're a republic!" but the point stands. Regardless what you think America should operate as, it has operated as a democracy for quite some time. And we, the Church, have gotten the government we deserve.
God has given the Church spiritual authority for our nation. As such, it is my opinion that gay marriage would never have become the law of our land unless we allowed it. How have we allowed it? Not by being too inactive politically. No, we've been plenty active politically. We've allowed it by being too inactive spiritually. And when I point that finger at the Church, I point it squarely at myself.
We've fallen down on the job, Church.
In Acts 4 when Peter and John are arrested for healing the paralytic by the temple gate called Beautiful, they are brought before the Sanhedrin, flogged, and sternly warned not to speak anymore about Jesus. Then they are released. Upon their release, they return to their brothers and sisters in Christ, tell them what happened, and organize a political rally to stand up for their freedom of religion. No wait, that's not it. They invest in picket signs to campaign for free speech. Nope, not quite it either.
Oh yeah, they prayed!
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
And they went on to pray for God's protection from the authorities and God to raise up better authorities in the future....Except that's not it either. After giving glory to God and reminding Him of His past goodness to them, the early Church makes two simple request of God:
29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Instead of asking God to make their circumstances easy enough for them to bear, they asked God to give them strength equivalent to their circumstances. "Enable your servants to speak with great boldness." And then they asked God to do healings and miracles through them. Not once did they even speak to the political situation except to ask for boldness to not back down from the threats.
This, of course, is the opposite of how we react when our "rights" are violated. We organize a rally, we put together a committee, we form a Facebook group to stand up for our rights! And in the process we treat God like a last resort.
Again, I'm pointing the finger at myself here.
But I firmly believe prayer never would have been taken out of schools (to use another hot button issue for conservative Christians) if it hadn't first been taken out of the home. We get the government we deserve. And I believe that reinserting prayer in schools right now would be a colossal waste of time. God does not respond to the dead rituals of a people whose hearts are far from Him. He responds mightily to the fervent prayers of a people whose hearts are His.
And just as I believe this about prayer in schools, and abortion, and every other movement of our culture away from God's best, I believe it about gay marriage.
These issues and decisions are simply symptoms. They are not the disease.
The disease is not in the culture. The disease is in the Church. If the 25% of Americans who claim to be Christians who believe in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ would invest their energy spiritually half as much as they have politically we would run this nation again within 20 years (which is half the time abortion has already been legal). Why? Because if the 25% started seeking God's face and His will, we wouldn't just be 25% anymore.
What America needs is not more picket signs, nor more petitions, not more Facebook groups nor more political campaigns. It needs a blameless Church without spot or wrinkle that actually believes the God they claim to serve is worth seeking. It does not need more truth declared but much more truth demonstrated. It needs followers of Jesus to daily deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Jesus.
If this had been going on for the past 50 years in our nation, gay marriage wouldn't even be a debate in the culture let alone the law of the land. But because of the mediocre, lukewarm, Biblically illiterate Church (that I have firmly been a part of), we have arrived at this point.
Many serious Christians can quote to you 2 Chronicles 7:14, which lays out for us a prescription for God's healing on a nation.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Notice it says "if MY people" will do these things. Or as 1 Peter 4:17 says "Judgement begins in the house of God." While the Church is so worried about a culture that's turned from God, God is simply waiting for His Church to turn to Him. If HIS people do these things, He'll heal our land.
Well, what things? Pray. Seek his face. Turn from our wicked ways. We need ALL of that.
But I skipped one, and I think it might be the most important, simply because it's the one that allows us to do the rest.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves..."
It's time for the people of God to humble ourselves. To humble ourselves and acknowledge that our human efforts aren't getting the job done. To humble ourselves and acknowledge opening the Bible once a week isn't enough. To humble ourselves and begin to pray. To humble ourselves and begin to seek the face of God. To humble ourselves and turn from the wickedness in our own lives, the "practical atheism" that infects us all.
We must humble ourselves.
And we must humble ourselves and admit the mess that American culture has become is no one's fault but our own.
It's time to stop pointing fingers, and time to start hitting our knees. American culture is only going to get as bad as we allow it to. If Christians are bothered by the developments in our culture and political system, we must respond by humbling ourselves and owning it. Just as Daniel (who walked in far more purity than the American Church has) repented for the sins of His people, it is time for Christians to repent, first for our own junk, then for the junk in the Church, then for the junk in our nation.
It's not too late for America to return to God. But it is far too late for us to think that a better political plan is the solution. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds..." God never promised we would win when we fight with the weapons of this world. But He did promise we can do all things when we walk in His strength.
When it comes to the war for our nation we now have two options. Own it. Or give up.
The ball is in your court, Church. Let's show ourselves worthy to stand on the shoulders of the men and women of Acts 4. Let's turn to God with our whole hearts. He's still in the business of forgiving sin and healing lands.