O Happy Day!
The United States Supreme Court paved the way today for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
What a glorious day!
Well, not for the reason you might think I would say that. I am not a supporter of gay marriage and I am one of those archaic, backward people who still thinks that homosexuality is a sin (however, that never excuses the hatred and bigotry that far too many Christians exhibit when discussing the topic and it is my sincere hope that our churches can be safe places for people who are struggling with their same-sex attractions and, frankly, may never be able to leave those behind).
I greet this as a glorious day because maybe we Christians can finally realize that a national government — whether in America, Canada, France or most anywhere else — will almost never be an ally to the Church. History is littered with failed attempts to make it so. The American Church is famous for hoping so, but it simply cannot be. The founding fathers of this country — religious though many of them were — built a strong wall between Church and State. America is famous for the freedom it gives religious people, and as a religious resident I am immensely thankful for that liberty. Twenty-four years ago I decided to make this country my home and I do not regret that decision at all. But the creators of this fine country finessed a majestic charter that ensures that America remains an non-religious country. With this in mind, was there ever a doubt that same-sex marriage would be legalized in some form? After today Christians simply cannot live with the pretensions that we will somehow continue to enjoy the favor and protections of this country.
Personally I think this is a good thing. In what or whom do we trust? To whom or what do we look for protection? Where is our hope? To whom or what do we owe and swear our allegiance? For too long it has been too easy to let America be the answer to these questions. And when you live in such a powerful, generally upstanding country with a past that includes so many great men and women and movements of God it is no wonder we so easily carry our Bibles and wrap ourselves in the Stars and Stripes.
But we as Christians have to see our identity and citizenship for what it truly is post-baptism. Our citizenship is in heaven. We pledge allegiance to a lamb. We are aliens and strangers in this world in which we now live. We die for the gospel of Jesus. Our freedom is found in Christ. This world is not our home — whether we live in Topeka, Kandahar, or Brussels. And if today helps us realize our foreignness in this world, then we are blessed for the realization.
I have a deeper reason for rejoicing as well. Maybe now we as Christians will stop looking to the State to do what the Church should be doing. Are we troubled today because we wanted the government to preserve a biblical view of family and sexuality? Why had we abdicated our culture-shaping role as a Church to the State? Because it was easier and safer? While that might have worked during the time of the Moral Majority of the 1980s and 90s, this is a very different America now. It is our job as Christians to be the light on a hill. The Church is supposed to be the alternative community. It is in us that the world is supposed to find an attractive option not found in our wider culture. We are blessed if today makes us get serious about that again and start to forge a truly counterculture to the American norm.
Do governments shape and influence people? Sure, more of the former than the later, I suspect. But the converse is definitely true. People shape and influence the government. It is no surprise that the Court made this decision at a time when majority opinion had swung toward an acceptance of same-sex relationships. The Court is rarely a trendsetter. If Christians want the culture in which they live — in America, Canada, or Iraq — to be more in line with Christianity than less needs to be done in the halls of Washington and more needs to be done across the back fence in Cincinnati, at little league games in Sacramento, and at the lunch table in Cheyenne. Our way is the way of Jesus. He never went to Rome. He ended up in Jerusalem more by destiny than by desire. He went mute in front of the governor. Jesus built a kingdom in the small towns of Galilee. He engaged undesirables in conversation in Samaria. His best friends lived in Bethany, not Caesarea.
If today makes us get back to the business of changing people’s hearts not pouring millions of dollars into changing policy, I for one think that is a very good thing.
I am sympathetic to the sadness many in the Christian community are feeling today. But I wonder if people are sad today because there are now more people who will feel validated in their decision to ignore God so that He gives them over to the unnatural lusts of their heart and the hurt that comes with that tragic decision (Romans 1). Or are people sad because they have come to realize that their country is not really their country? Are we sad because we lost an ally we thought we had but maybe never did have? Are we sad because we realize that a line has been drawn in America and we are on the outside?
I am not so sure that is a bad place to be.