Today’s post is by a guest blogger, W. Todd Weedman. He’s writing to fellow conservative Christians about why it’s our own fault that gay marriage will be legalized. You can contact him at w.todd.weedman [at] gmail [dot] com.
Do not be misled. It really is our own fault.
Yesterday’s announcement that President Obama has officially changed his position (1) on the definition of marriage really is a milestone for the cause of the LGBT movement. Though the decision itself is a “personal decision” for the president and therefore does not change anything legally, it does seem to change something about the argument. This is the first time that a sitting president has expressed such a position, and that grants a new level of authority to the cause of gay marriage.
As the states gradually continue to assent to the legalization of gay marriage, it is going to be very easy for the church to point the finger of blame at the politicians, but ultimately this perversion of the institution of marriage is on our heads.
In the 1980’s Robert E. Webber and Rodney Clapp produced a rather helpful book (2), which indicted the church in the U.S. with having abandoned her true King and sold her soul to American politicians; first the liberal church to the democratic party in the 1960’s and later the conservative church to Ronald Reagan’s new GOP. It was a bold claim, but, at some level, we must acknowledge its truth.
My father has always told me that perception is 99.9% of reality. Well, that may be an over-simplification of epistemology, but not entirely unhelpful. Perception is actually 100% of an individual’s subjective reality, and if enough individuals perceive the same subjective reality, it will become a cultural reality. And one can hardly deny that our cultural reality is that the church, indeed, has sold herself out to a lesser master.
A few years ago, the Barna Group conducted a study among Americans aged 16-29, asking about their perception of “Christianity.” According to the offical release (3) of the study in 2007, “The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) – representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians.” In addition (and particularly relevant to the events of the week), the study found that 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say Christianity is appropriately described as “anti-homosexual.”
Why on earth would this emerging generation have such a perception of the church? Perhaps we’ve earned it. How many local churches can truly say that they have loved homosexuals in the true sense? I’m not speaking of the popular definition of love, which is synonymous with unfettered acceptance of an active homosexual lifestyle (which is clearly contrary to the Christian lifestyle). I’m speaking of the kind of love that welcomes sinners into a community of sinners, all desperately in need of the Gospel, all growing in grace, all mutually accountable and mutually encouraging as we all flee from sin. Further, perhaps, after decades of preferring dictation of our moral values via legislation to the inculcation of Christian morality via observance of the great commission we’ve presented ourselves as an American political entity, rather than the bearers of the words of life. In this we have committed a terrible sin. Laws do not change people, the Gospel does – and we’ve settled for the former.
As to the matter of homosexual marriage, we’ve none else to blame but ourselves.. At one time, we held the high ground on this issue, but we surrendered it long ago. After all, marriage is an institution of the church – it has been since creation, when God ordained the first marriage between one man and one woman in Genesis 2. We’re the ones that gave the state authority over marriage. Though we would like to blame the government for crossing the line of the separation of church and state, history sufficiently displays that we were the first offenders.
The truth that many of us do not want to face is that we have given our express permission for the government to exercise authority over the church’s institution. We did it when we chose to make marriage a matter of government authority, pushing legislations and constitutional amendments to define marriage as “a union existing between one man and one woman.” The fact is that governments do not have any right to define, redefine, sanction, dissolve or even consecrate marriage – but we have told our government precisely the opposite.
Would that we had heeded the teaching of our forebears, such as Robert Lewis Dabney and James Henley Thornwell. Had we stood steadfast upon our God-given (and constitutional) right to bifurcate the authority of the church court and the civil magistrate, we would likely find ourselves in a very different cultural climate today. Rather, our most prominent leaders over the past 30 years, preachers worthy of varying levels of appreciation, the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Adrian Rogers, and D. James Kennedy (to name a few), led the church head-first into the halls of government to legislate the law of God, and now we are on what currently appears to be the losing end of a battle that ought never have been fought among politicians.
Clearly this isn’t the end of the story. Even if “marriage” according to the U.S. government becomes something other than actual marriage, we know that a King is coming to make all things right. In the meantime, however, I wonder what might happen if the church stopped attempting to redeem culture via legislation and started attempting to redeem culture by the work of the great commission (making disciples in word and in deed), leaning upon the Holy Spirit, who alone can change the hearts of a people.
1. Interview with the President, ABC News.
2. Webber, Robert, and Rodney Clapp. People of the Truth: The Power of the Worshiping Community in the Modern World. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Pub, 2001.
3. A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity.
While I agree to this is some respects, whether the conservative Christian right pushed for legislation defining marriage or not, I still think government would have interveined whether they made it an issue or not.
Secondly, while in many aspect the church does not help there image, I think has history has shown, we will be detested either way. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work on our image. We definitely need to work on hypocrisy, and being judgemental, loving other sinners; but we are all sinners as it is, and I think that will be a problem from now until Christ comes. Heck, even Paul had to write a ton of letters addressing some of these same concerns, and that was nearly 2000 years ago!
And forgive my typos…
I’m agnostic and heterosexual, so I don’t even have a dog in this fight, but props on doing your homework!!!
Reblogged this on A Catholic's Journey and commented:
Alex Haiken said:
Same-Sex Marriage: Why Christians Need to Think Again
President Obama told ABC News yesterday that he believes same-sex couples should be able to marry. Needless to say, the president’s support for gay marriage is being met with a mixed reaction around the world. Some Christians insist there is a biblical ban on any expression of homosexuality and on homosexual relationships that is so unconditional, so unambiguous and so central to the Christian faith that it should be defended as strenuously as the doctrine of the incarnation. But a steadily growing number of evangelicals, Bible scholars and others assert the issue is not so cut and dried. Do Christians need to think again about gay marriage? And if so, why? Click the link below and find out.
“Fault”, “Blame”, “Actual Marriage”? Since when are equal rights for all citizens, in the eyes of the law, to be considered and discussed with these pejorative and loaded terms? I find this rather disheartening and sad, to be honest. To attempt to force others to continue to live under theocratic law and legislation when their belief systems do not include such limiting concepts is nothing short of tyranny.
That’s great rhetoric, but curbing the desires of people is one of the functions of law, period. You dislike this curbing, and understandably so…but if desire implies ought as the main standard for law-writing, then we’ll have a huge problem later on. There is nothing tyrannical about providing limits and this has nothing to do with being or not being a theocracy. You complained about pejorative, loaded terms, but then used them in your own comment.
When the amendment came up in Missouri, I voted against it because of conscience. I can’t vote FOR something that, as a Christian, I’d have to ask someone to give up when they became a Christian in my church. I don’t like the idea of theocracy, but as a citizen in America, I can vote my conscience. And because my conscience is (often) governed by God’s law laid down in Scripture, I’m naturally going to vote against gay marriage.
So citizens being treated as equal under the law is NOT a part of what you see as a free society or liberty and justice for all. I get it though I find it very sad, especially coming from someone who professes to be open minded. Continue asking others to live by your beliefs. It seems to be one of the sole tenets of your religion, just or unjust.
Josh Goeke said:
I just wanted to let you know I’ve been thinking about you a lot this week and I’ve been praying for you.
I also just wanted to say how much I admire your courage to say true things that no one wants to hear, and that make you a target for both sides of a culture war, kind of like this guy I read about in the New Testament a couple of times… what was his name? Starts with a “J” I think?
Anyway, I love you, man.
Anthony Baker said:
I can sympathize with the above article, but I do differ on the issue of what the government does. The government should not be the definer of truth, but it has the responsibility to uphold truth. Our government has every right to protect the institution of marriage if it sees that the fabric of society could be at risk.
What is the role of government? What can the government say and what can’t the government say? That, to me, is the primary question in “legalization” of anything. It seems fruitless, to me, to have a conversation on which groups’ view will be the winner until we determine if government has the right to pick any side in this fight.
Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. But the fact that the government DOES decide what constitute marriage for tax purposes muddies the issue. Unless the government removes all incentive toward marriage, the change in definition will hurt those who have a narrower definition of marriage for religious reasons. And I’m sorry, but the “well, it’s time the tables were turned!” rhetoric just doesn’t work. The solution is not to oppress the oppressors (real or perceived), ever.
Amen to that! I’ve thought for a long time now that if Christians would forget about trying to impose their beliefs onto everyone through politics, they’d reach far more people. Force never works. People always end up rejecting that. But if we actually got back to Christ’s model, we would actually win more people to His ideas.
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