A sobering reminder that we’re refugees

Several weeks ago laws in 31 states banned same-sex marriage.  It didn’t matter that some of those laws had been ballot initiatives voted on by majority of that state’s voters.  Or passed by the state’s voted-for representatives.  5 of the 9 Supreme Court justices still found a constitutional right in the 14th amendment for same-sex couples to marry in each of our 50 states.  It’s being painted as no big deal.  In yesterday’s local paper, a letter to the editor said, “Hey, if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex.”  But lawsuits against Christian bakers, florists, and others who have refused to endorse and participate in a sinful relationship, are ominous harbingers of what is to come.

As Molly Ball said in a recent Atlantic article reflecting on the Court’s lack of interest in a gay marriage case in 1972, “What changed,… wasn’t the Constitution—it was the country. And what changed the country was a movement.  Friday’s decision wasn’t solely or even primarily the work of the lawyers and plaintiffs who brought the case.  It was the product of the decades of activism that made the idea of gay marriage seem plausible, desirable, and right.”

“Right.”  There’s the rub.  What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark… (Isaiah 5:20).  The gay juggernaut not only insists that homosexual relationships are right and good, but all who differ are wrong; that they are judgmental and unloving–even ungodly.  I’ll not review what God has said in His autobiography about homosexual behavior–I’ve done that in previous posts.  I’m more concerned with how we who follow Jesus will now react, and how we’ll keep our footing.

By react, I mean how we will speak to and about those euphoric over the Court’s stunning decision/legislation?  Homosexual men and women tend to see themselves as a persecuted and much-maligned minority akin to black Americans (linkage that has successfully routed much principled opposition because no one wants to be called a racist).  When gay college student Matthew Shephard was killed in 1998, his death became a synecdoche for all rude or crude treatment gay people have endured.  Every snide comment by Uncle Ned at a family gathering, every rant on Fox News, and every time a Christian points out that God prohibits homosexuality, their victim status is cemented and bitterness grows.

We can’t change what the Bible says.  But gay jokes, gay jabs, any kind of mockery or unloving speech/behavior, is unchristian.  God sends us to love our neighbors–and the homosexual is my neighbor (at least I can agree with author Letha Scanzoni on that part).  It’s not enough to just bring this kind of speech to an end, we must repent of it.  I must repent of it.

By keeping our footing, I mean, how will we withstand the gay propaganda tidal wave that has been unleashed?  In March the pastor and elders of an evangelical megachurch in San Fran informed its members that active homosexuals can now be church members.  In the next 3 years, we will be stunned at the number of evangelical churches who will change their minds about the wrongness of homosexual practice and join them.

On the other hand, I’m afraid I can’t join those wringing their hands over the Court’s decision.  The church benefits from anything that makes the distinction between it and the world, clearer.  When you have two clear liquids side by side, a good way to tell that one is water and the other is poison is to slap a skull-and-crossbones label on the poison so that the similar appearance no longer misleads.

The pressure to capitulate on the biblical teaching on man and woman is going to intensify to the point of being unbearable.  First, individually.  I have a gay relative and most likely you do too.  We know more and more people who are same-sex attracted, and they are all aware that they can turn an opponent into an ally through life exposure.  Many parents change their minds after a son or daughter admits he/she’s gay (like the San Fran pastor).  It’s hard to care about people and still disagree with them.  And to be thought by them as out-of-touch (one disparaging  label used in the propaganda war), or ignorant (another), or a religious crackpot (yet another)?  Yet this is the inevitable life of a believer: we are in the world, but not of it.  And we are missionaries to it.

Second, it’s going to be unbearable in the church.  The church is going to have to steel itself against pressure to host same-sex weddings; and pastors, to officiate at them.  This will come, the only question is when.  Most likely a church’s tax-exempt status will be used as leverage.  At some point church staffing will be targeted.  In pondering where the gay agenda should go next, activist Eric Rosswood  writes, “It’s time to pass an inclusive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) without giving people the right to discriminate while hiding behind religious exemptions.  All people should have the right to work regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”  In other words, in the future a federal law (or Supreme Court decision) may forbid a church to just hire an applicant who agrees with their positions.  At our church recently an applicant threatened to get his lawyer involved because we would only hire employees with certain convictions and moral characteristics.

Will the church be stopped from trying to help those with same-sex attractions who want to become more heterosexual in their orientation?  Yes.  Recently the Restored Hope Network which seeks to do just that, held a local conference in our area.  In a letter to the LNP editor, a local LGBT spokesman complained that such attempts were based on “bogus science” and harm gay people.  California Rep. Ted Lieu agrees and in May introduced legislation in Congress making this kind of help illegal; it would become “consumer fraud” with appropriate penalties.

Pastors who now support same-sex relations like Rob Bell, Brian McClaren, Steve Chalke, Fred Harrell, and Stan Mitchell–were once prominent evangelicals and still have sizable public clout.  Their ranks will influence both other pastors and other Christians.  The more who capitulate, the greater the pressure will build.  No longer will churches just be divided by mainline or evangelical labels, but evangelical churches will be divided by progressive (pro-gay), and regressive (anti-gay) labels.  Poorly grounded or shallow disciples will jump on the noisiest and most crowded bandwagon.

How do we keep our footing with all this pressure?  One, remember that by its nature the gospel is unwelcome.  Jesus admitted that he …came not to bring peace, but a sword.  (Matthew 10:34).  They killed him because they didn’t like what he did or said.

Two, similarly remember that we are not “at home” here.  …Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.  So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore.  For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.  (Hebrews 13:12-14).  In America, Christians have enjoyed a season of popularity.  But that is an odd blip in an otherwise hostile 2000-year history.  Therefore we should be more nervous when “people speak well of us” than when they speak ill of us.  What’s normal for a believer is to be criticized and maligned.

Three, the only way to resist a false message that’s loud and shrill is to repeatedly slip off to listen to the sweet melody of God’s truth.  Absorb God’s autobiography.  There will be many who will fall away in the days ahead.  Some, because they love the crowd’s approval.  Some, because they have neglected the Word of God altogether–or just nibbled on what their pastor, favorite author, or popular teacher fed them second-hand.  That’s unnecessary.   You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others.  Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.  You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.  (Hebrews 5:12-14)  Time to spiritually bulk up.  It may mean the difference between surviving and being swept away.