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#SCOTUSDecision #ChurchFreakOut

And a decree went out from SCOTUS on June 26, 2015, that couples of the same sex may receive marriage licenses that every state in the USA must recognize as legal.

And the church in America freaked out. 

Yes, perhaps the earth shifted a bit under our feet. But Chicken Little was still wrong about the sky. The true ruler of the world is still on the throne. This decision did not even usher in the last days, as one friend’s hashtag suggested. Indeed, we were already in the last days. I refer readers to 2 Timothy 3:3ff, which describes people in those days as follows: lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.“ When was the last time you saw #Obamagetsslandered #lastdays? We have our hierarchy of sins, and it does not always match God’s.

Numerous solid Christians in leadership have been talking behind the scenes about how they think differently from what they hear the most vocal Christians saying about the SCOTUS decision. These quieter folks do embrace the Genesis story and ask questions such as, “Isn’t male/female difference in families a beautiful thing? Could a male/male marriage picture the ultimate extreme of patriarchy, excluding women from the home? Isn’t diversity better?”

Yet these same concerned citizens still do not object greatly to the SCOTUS decision and in many cases even support it. Allow me, please, to share in public what I’m hearing in private from them—and again, they are mature Christians who embrace inerrancy and male/female marriage and celibacy for Christians with same-sex attraction.  

1.     Many, many, many, many people who say same-sex marriage is a sin have been or are themselves promiscuous. Many are serial monogamists. They engage in premarital relations. And they have contributed to an industry that objectifies human beings (i.e., porn). This is what the Bible calls hypocrisy and self-righteousness, and God hates it. 

2.     If we believe in a literal translation of what God does with people who engage in same-sex relationships (i.e., Romans 1:24), why would we expect a secular nation to be stricter than God? The father of the prodigal son let him go. By fighting this change, are we trying to force the younger brother to stay home?

3.     Most people in America do not self-identify as evangelicals. Should we tell them they have to abide by our religion’s standards? Would we want someone to impose their religious standards on us? One graduate from an evangelical seminary wrote, “I believe gays should be able to marry. And when they do and they find that life isn't happily ever after, wouldn't it be great if true believers could be around to point to Peace?”

4.     The USA never was a Christian country. There is no such thing as a Christian nation. Paul wrote to people who were proud to be Romans, and he reminded them “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). Only there will the government overtly rest on Messiah’s shoulders. The fact that Judas was going to have to wait for that kind of government is precisely what hacked him off. Indeed, it was his nationalism that made him miss the real King (and Judas had more reason than do Americans to think his country was God’s chosen nation). It was the German church’s nationalism that made them miss the danger of Hitler. To say that the USA has ever been a Christian nation is to deny (a) that it secured the freedom of all religions and required no specific religion of its citizens; (b) its Constitution as originally intended was completely unbiblical in its view of humanity (recall that women and blacks had fewer rights and/or were less fully human than white males); (c) the person credited with drafting the Declaration of Rebellion against England was a deist who impregnated his slave, literally cut Jesus’s miracles out of his Bible, and considered Trinitarianism misguided.

Baptists have insisted on separation of church and state from the beginning. Yes, Christians have enjoyed great favor in the secular USA. But Uncle Sam is not our spiritual father.

5.     Marriage is a good thing. People quote statistics about gays having multiple partners, but these same people stand in the way of gays making commitments. Is that fair? Is that right? In an ethics hierarchy, isn’t commitment better than uncommitment? Wouldn’t we want them to prefer commitment to promiscuity?

6.     We shouldn’t act so surprised. A seminary student wrote, “I see pastors conceding to the pressure or people expressing a chastising disappointment in America. I can’t get on board with this perspective because honestly I don’t have this expectation that our country should or will uphold our religious beliefs. That might be because I’m used to living in a country that doesn’t fully support me as a African-American woman or because I have grown up in an America has become less and less ‘Christian’ over the years.”

7. A lot of the church's response is embarrassing and a terrible testimony. (One seminary grad I know was especially repulsed by the preacher screaming at the little girl waving a rainbow flag.) 

That said, these thoughtful people also wonder….

1.     What is the purpose of marriage? Isn’t it to picture Christ and the church? Does the church really model this and teach this? And should we expect unbelievers to embrace this ideal (see Eph. 5)?  

2.     Is the church perhaps too interconnected with the state? Why are we following the government in referring to marriage as an "institution"? Isn’t it a covenant?

3.     Why didn’t Paul rage against Rome’s unjust laws that prohibited slaves from marrying? Didn’t Christian slaves commit to each other anyway? Did Paul even look to the government to legitimize or have any say about a holy covenant?

4.     Does the law of the land change anything about the church’s teaching on marriage? If it does, woe to us.

I was reminded recently of something C.S. Lewis wrote more than sixty years ago in Mere Christianity. Speaking about how the divorce rate in his world was shooting up, he said, “My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christian and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”

Now then, we live in a country in which we still have free speech and in which the actual number of true believers is not dropping. We have the right as citizens to advocate for what we believe is best for all humans. But unfortunately we have done so disrespectfully. We have sometimes told the truth without love. We have sometimes distorted the truth. And we have certainly exaggerated the threat to true faith. We must do better!

  • We must be morally blameless.
  • We must be more honest and humble in our rhetoric.
  • We must not confuse good citizenship with unbiblical nationalism.
  • We must not expect unbelievers to hold to the standards God expects of believers.
  • We must pray for our leaders instead of slandering them.
  • We must speak the truth in love.
  • We must remember where our citizenship lies and, where necessary, redirect our thinking about our own security.
  • We must hold on to hope.

In the words of our Lord, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:4–7, 32). But it is not of this world.

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Sandra Glahn

Sandra Glahn, who holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a PhD in The Humanities—Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/Dallas, is a professor at DTS. This creator of the Coffee Cup Bible Series (AMG) based on the NET Bible is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books. She's the wife of one husband, mother of one daughter, and owner of two cats. Chocolate and travel make her smile. You can follow her on Twitter @sandraglahn ; on FB /Aspire2 ; and find her at her web site: aspire2.com.

8 Comments

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    Lee Dunham

    Supreme Court decision on marriage

    Sandi- this is so well written and so true. As Christians, why would we even expect the world to adhere to what the Bible says concerning this when they see "Christians" living lives so contradictory to what we say we believe?! And the most important issue, is how Christians are responding.  For the most part, it's certainly not in love!! How can we expect to draw people to Christ when we attack them for believing something that goes against what the Bible teaches while at the same time ignoring sin on our own lives?  We all need to do some serious soul searching and praying before we dare to start spouting off about how we live our lives!!

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    Tuula ross

    scotus decision #Churchfreakout

    I have always loved Mere Christianity. I also like Metamorality. Thank you for getting your point across in such a loving way.  

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    Emme

    Perfect

    You've managed to put into words so much of what I've been thinking but couldn't figure out how to say. I like your quote from C.S. Lewis. Is allowing legal marriage going to change behavior? If it was declared illegal would people suddenly end their relationships? I doubt it. We need to love. Love doesn't mean changing our beliefs on biblical principals, but it does mean we love. Seems like lately we've done a great job of loving to be right and loving to be heard, but a poor job of showing Christlike love.

    Excellent article!

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    Hakimoframalla

    Reply to your points.

    Many, many, many, many people who say same-sex marriage is a sin have been or are themselves promiscuous

    So two wrongs make a right? This is perhaps the worst argument I've heard, "Marriage is already ruined…". It's like saying "the water's poisoned, so let's add more!"

    If we believe in a literal translation of what God does with people who engage in same-sex relationships (i.e., Romans 1:24), why would we expect a secular nation to be stricter than God?

    Do we apply the same logic to murder, theft or other sins? If the secular nation decides that your property is up for grabs, are you going to say "why do we expect a secular nation to obey God's laws"?

    Most people in America do not self-identify as evangelicals. Should we tell them they have to abide by our religion’s standards?

    Again, how far are you willing to take that? Most people in America don't identify as Evangelicals, ergo we shouldn't protest when they make preaching the Gospel illegal… or the confiscation of Christian property legal.

    The USA never was a Christian country. There is no such thing as a Christian nation.

    I think many of the founders would disagree… After all who was the "Creator" that granted rights to humans (Declaration of Independence)? What religion was John Adams referring to when he said that "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

    the person credited with drafting the Declaration of Rebellion against England was a deist who impregnated his slave

    Rebellion? Your bias is showing!

    Still none of that has anything to do with whether or not our nation should enforce objective moral principles and choose it's laws based on logic, reason and objective morality.

    Marriage is a good thing. People quote statistics about gays having multiple partners, but these same people stand in the way of gays making commitments. Is that fair?… Wouldn’t we want them to prefer commitment to promiscuity?

    This argument can extend to any sexual minority. Marriage is defined by Scripture, and has been defined by the government of the United States, until 15 years ago, as between a man and a woman. Only the radical redefinition of the term can extend it to include your nebulous concept.

    We shouldn’t act so surprised… Honestly I don’t have this expectation that our country should or will uphold our religious beliefs.

    See #1 & #2 – not sure if this is an argument though.

    A lot of the church's response is embarrassing and a terrible testimony. (One seminary grad I know was especially repulsed by the preacher screaming at the little girl waving a rainbow flag.)

    "The church" as you express it is not a unified body in this matter. Individuals make poor decisions and arguments, as you have here. If we were to base whether this decision should stand on the basis of the actions of it's proponents, I think we'd have a fair case.

    What is the purpose of marriage? Isn’t it to picture Christ and the church? Does the church really model this and teach this?

    It is not the only purpose of marriage. Christ defines marriage as a "man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh". It's a moral concept that even the pagan nations emulated… until about 15 years ago.

    Is the church perhaps too interconnected with the state? Why are we following the government in referring to marriage as an "institution"? Isn’t it a covenant?

    We're not all anabaptists, and regardless, the moral law isn't negotiable. If next week the court rules that consent is no longer a basis for sexual contact, (as insane as that sounds) how will you argue? "That's immoral!"? Says who?

    Why didn’t Paul rage against Rome’s unjust laws that prohibited slaves from marrying?

    Because that was also the law of Israel, that is, that slaves could only marry once they were free or on the allowance of the master. Of course Biblical slavery was nothing like that of modern memory.

    Does the law of the land change anything about the church’s teaching on marriage? If it does, woe to us.

    Does/could the law of the land change anything about the church's ability to proselytize or obey God in other ways? If the law suddenly demands (as many are now arguing and now is the case in some countries) that Christian churches perform gay marriage or be sued, disbanded, or otherwise penalized, will you throw up your hands?

    therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives.

    C S Lewis was a witty fellow, but a purveyor of excellent theology he was not. Christians, like their fellow pagans, are sinners and "cannot be expected to live Christian lives" apart from the law, and grace of God. C S Lewis lived in a time when logic and rational argumentation could still win the day. We do not.

    We must be morally blameless.

    Read the Bible much?

    We must speak the truth in love.

    I'm not sure you and I have the same "truth" or understand "love" in the same way.

    We must hold on to hope.

    If we abandon our country to anarchy and a subjective morality, hope is all we'll have.

    But it is not of this world.

    Rev 11:5 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

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      Sandra Glahn

      To clarify…

      Thanks for taking the time to express your concerns. You’ve given me the opportunity to clarify a few points.

      First off, when I said,  “Many, many, many, many people who say same-sex marriage is a sin have been or are themselves promiscuous” I was most definitely not saying two wrongs make a right. I was not making that observation to argue we should rationalize gay marriage because we all sin. Rather, as someone said on my FB page, “The expectation that gay people be celibate is a huge sacrifice to ask of people. When it is asked by a Christian culture that is not living radically sacrificial lives, it seems off.”  Hence my first application at the end: Clean it up, church. To me, that is the starting point. We need to look to the log before excising the speck.   

      You asked, “Do we apply the same logic to murder, theft or other sins? If the secular nation decides that your property is up for grabs, are you going to say ‘why do we expect a secular nation to obey God's laws’?”

      Good question. We do not. At the core of the difference between the SCOTUS decision and murder or theft is consent. An action that involves only two consenting adults differs radically from one consenting adult and victim(s). That is why in this country, premarital sex between consenting adults is legal, but rape is not. That is not to say God smiles on the former. But the latter is much more of a threat to the public good, and a greater violation of someone’s autonomy. Thus law. Make no mistake about it: The law is not the ideal.

      In response to my saying, “The USA never was a Christian country. There is no such thing as a Christian nation,” you said, “I think many of the founders would disagree… After all who was the "Creator" that granted rights to humans (Declaration of Independence)? And you refer to John Adams. 

      You are absolutely right that John Adams was a Christian. He is one of my heroes. But the Creator to whom Jefferson referred was not the three-personed God. True, Christianity has been the majority religion in the USA. And Christians have enjoyed a favored status. And many of our founding fathers were Christians. (Paine, Jefferson, Franklin, etc., not so much.) But from the start the USA has always been a pluralistic society, not a theocracy. Jewish people live here and enjoy freedoms. Muslims live here and enjoy freedoms. Atheists live here and enjoy freedoms. That is part of what makes this nation great. If I guarantee the rights of a Jewish person to celebrate Hanukkah, that helps guarantee my right to celebrate Christmas.

      I agree with you that marriage is defined by Scripture.  

      I said, “A lot of the church's response is embarrassing and a terrible testimony, to which you replied, “‘The church’ as you express it is not a unified body in this matter. Individuals make poor decisions and arguments, as you have here. If we were to base whether this decision should stand on the basis of the actions of it's proponents, I think we'd have a fair case.”

      I completely agree. The reason I brought it up is that the part of the church that is NOT screaming at children must publicly condemn such acts. We have a moral responsibility to say when those who speak in the name of Christ are wrong. That is part of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.  

      Thanks for giving me a chance to clarify a few things. 

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    ThePaul

    Almost agree

    I agree pretty well with the things that you've said, but I think that you should reconsider point 5.

     

    One problem I have with your statement is that it promotes divorce if ever a person joined in such a union is saved. I don't know a good answer to that problem, but I do know that Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10 suggests that a marriage relationship that exists before salvation is still a valid marriage.

     

    When you say "Wouldn’t we want them to prefer commitment to promiscuity?" you make an argument that one is better than the other, which seems to be buying into our culture's pressure to accept a sinful relationship as a good thing. In doing so, not only do you elevate one sin over another in the non-christian realm, but it also suggests that the same could be true for a believer. That is, one could use your statement to suggest that a believer would do better in a stable, committed, homosexual marriage than to struggle all the way into the kingdom.

     

    Maybe I'm nitpicking a bit here, but that point did stick out to me as dangerous while the rest I could agree to. I really feel like the church has not done a good job handling this issue and I hope that we can do better going forward.

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    Sandra Glahn

    Thanks for the dialogue

    First of all, I want to make clear that I am not ARGUING/making a case in favor of same-sex marriage. I am asking questions we need to talk about. That is why I asked questions rather than making statements. I'm not saying I KNOW. 

    One system of ethics involves ranking greater or worse good/evil in a hierarchy. For example, in OT law (Deut 22:28–9), a rapist had to marry his victirm and could never divorce her. In that context, a pregnant woman had no one to feed her, so marrying a rapist was a greater good than starving to death. Requiring him to take responsibility guaranteed her protection. But that in no way made marriage to a rapist a good thing!

    In a world in which women do not necessarily depend on men for their very existence, such laws are unnecessary as we move up the ladder of greater good.

    So I'm echoing what I've heard good people asking…isn't commitment better than non-commitment in this world of hierarchical ethics. Here is what prompted that question:

    A seminary grad living in Europe wrote to me over the weekend and told how she went to Paris last week and men—who were strangers to each other—were having sex behind bushes at the Louvre, which is apparently a place where men who don't want to pay for sex go to find free partners. And she asked me: Is it right to lump together those wanting to commit with those who practice such horrendous practices?

    I was echoling that question. Again, my point is that good people are wrestling with these questions. And it's not right to say only liberal Christians ponder these things. Such rhetoric shuts down important conversations, driving many folks to hide their thoughts for fear of getting labeled. I received a private message today from someone saying she had wrestled with the questions raised, but she was afraid to say so publicly. Something is wrong when good, Bible-believing, Bible-trained, sincere Christ-loving people are afraid to ask such questions for fear of getting stomped. 

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