On Wednesday the United States Supreme Court did what almost everyone in the country knew it was going to do and enshrined homosexual marriage as a constitutional right.
To be sure, the narrow majority stopped just short of making such an audacious claim. But since it provided a clear road map for how to bring about that result, we’re safe in making the assumption. This court has decided that since popular opinion has swung round in favor of homosexual marriage, it needs to come to heel as well.
Justice Antonin Scalia’s scathing dissent points out the obvious: a majority of the United States Supreme Court will do whatever it takes to in order to make homosexual marriage the law of the land.
In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated. It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle like this one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s Court can handle. Too bad. A reminder that disagreement over something so fundamental as marriage can still be politically legitimate would have been a fit task for what in earlier times was called the judicial temperament. We might have covered ourselves with honor today, by promising all sides of this debate that it was theirs to settle and that we would respect their resolution. We might have let the People decide. But that the majority will not do. Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many. But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better. I dissent.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s what happened yesterday. In two cases—one a New York plaintiff challenging a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act and the other the reversal of a California ballot initiative defining marriage as between a man and woman—the high court handed down rulings that essentially legalized homosexual marriage, at least in those states.
There’s still great confusion about how the rulings affect the thirty states that have passed laws defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. But one thing is certain: the national momentum in favor of homosexual marriage is such that its nationalization is almost inevitable. The day is almost here when voters in those thirty states will be ignored and the preferred policy will put into place by judicial fiat. Which is what just happened to California voters.
In the aftermath of yesterday’s rulings, Evan Wilson, founder of the homosexual marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry, said as much.
The strategy has always been to win a critical mass of states and a critical mass of public support, which together create the climate that enables the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution. That is the classic pattern of civil-rights advancement in America. At some point it will be clear to everyone, including the Supreme Court, that it is simply untenable for America to be a house divided.
Wilson is right. Homosexual marriage will shortly be legalized in all fifty states. Which leads us to the obvious question: how will this affect the church? How will we as believers in Jesus and people who draw our moral convictions not from public opinion but from God’s Word respond to homosexual marriage? Then the next question: How will the federal government enforce this new legal era on the church?
On this point we have assurance from President Obama himself, sort of. Yesterday, in his public remarks congratulating homosexuals on their victory, he also addressed the concerns of those of us whose consciences won’t permit us to embrace the new law.
On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision — which applies only to civil marriages — changes that.
This President has already run roughshod over the Catholic church in forcing their organizations to include Obamacare contraception provisions in their healthcare plans. His administration has apparently singled out conservative, Christian political groups for persecution through the Internal Revenue Service. But now he says to Christians and other faith groups who likewise refuse to go along with his program, “Don’t worry. We’ll still respect your religious convictions.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not reassured.
The first amendment’s declaration of religious freedom notwithstanding, it’s a safe bet that within a very few years churches that refuse to bend the knee to the federal social agenda will face serious retaliation.
The time when biblical values had any impact on national morality has ended. The day of “civil religion”—that quaint phrase coined by an earlier generation of the United States Supreme Court to allow for generic expressions of God in public discourse—is fast fading. The era when churches and the Christian faith had a central role in America’s social life is over. Instead, we’re entering a season where it’s going to cost us to follow Jesus.
The church is now in a place where the message of Jesus—still the only hope for the nation and the world—may only be proclaimed to America through our willingness to pay a high price for our faithfulness.
With all the angst over the Supreme Court’s decisions yesterday, they at least gave the church the gift of clarity. There’s no need to fool ourselves any longer about our place in America.