After Gay Marriage: No, The END Is NOT Near
Is this a moment of decision for the vocally anti-gay pastors and meetings in North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM?
On the one side, they could join the peals of panic and hysteria that are near full-throat since the Supreme Court’s marriage decision on June 26.
Or maybe they could take a deep breath, listen to some other voices, and consider a different option.
Here’s another way to put it: Will their template now be drawn from Dred Scott (civil war) and Roe v Wade (anti-abortion terrorism)?
Or will it be Loving v. Virginia, and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”?
(I’d like to think nobody could say no to “Loving.” But I’ve been wrong before.)
I realize that the apocalyptic chorus is closer at hand. One could fill many columns with their thunderings, starting with the Supreme Court dissents that invoked Dred and Appomattox.
In Texas, Preacher Rick Scarborough vowed a couple weeks ago that he would “burn” before accepting same sex marriage, and normally reasonable outlets like Christianity Today reported that as a vow to set himself aflame if the Court approved the practice.
And in Memphis,
members of the Coalition of African-American Pastors joined [other] Christian ministers . . . to warn the Obama administration to prepare for massive civil disobedience among pastors and clergy if state bans on gay marriage are deemed unconstitutional.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington declared that “With this ruling, the Supreme Court has set our government on a collision course with America’s cherished religious freedoms, explicitly guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
“Americans will not stop standing for transcendent truth, nor accept the legitimacy of this decision. . . .”
Bill Muehlenberg of “barbwire.com” went even further:
If ever a time the phrase “Now the end begins” meant something, it is now.… Judicial activism at its worst has once again struck America. Instead of allowing the American people to decide, five judges have decided for them, and have declared war on marriage, on God, on morality, on family, and on our children. …
This is a declaration of war by five judges who have spat in the face of their Creator, of marriage, of biology, and freedom. Now a major proper response for Christians and others is massive civil disobedience and defiance of this homo-fascist decision.”
Bryan Fischer, host of Focal Point, took the fascist meme and ran with it:
The homosexual lobby, the Gay Gestapo, has drawn an equivalency between support for natural marriage and racism. To oppose sexual deviancy is, in their twisted, contorted and devious thinking, no different than supporting slavery and segregation.
What this means, my fellow conservatives, is that on this day, we all became Bull Connor. It’s time to wake up and smell the napalm.
Glenn Beck had the same song sheet:
“When you get down to banning ideas, the next step is banning books,” Beck warned. “First step. They soften the ground, biblical views can get you fired, expressing the idea of merit is bad. What’s next? I will tell you: book burnings, and re-education, and death. That’s not something I’m predicting, that’s not something I’m projecting, that’s not something I’m cheering for, I’m not using hyperbole, I’m looking solely at history.”
“This court is endorsing sin. That’s what homosexuality is—a sin against God…I believe God could bring judgment upon America.”
Graham said Christians should prepare themselves for possible persecution following the Supreme Court’s decision.
“You better be ready and you better be prepared because it’s coming. There will be persecution of Christians for our stand,” he said.
Regardless of the ruling, Graham said he will refuse to marry any same-sex couple. “I will never recognise it in my heart because God gave marriage between a man and a woman and that’s what marriage is,” he said. “And I don’t think the court—since it never defined marriage—doesn’t have the right to redefine it. God gave us marriage. Period. And God doesn’t change his mind.”
And so on and so forth.
But is it really that bad?? I know I’m suspect as a same sex marriage supporter, but I want to modestly suggest that it is not.
And I have evidence.
Please, anti-SSM friends, take a minute to consider it before grabbing the pitchforks and slipping on the kevlar.
My main exhibit here on behalf of the non-apocalyptic option is:
Wait — hear me out! This won’t take long.
Same sex marriage first became legal up there in May 2004, eleven years ago and counting. And permit me to show you some of the impact this change has had on religions there which do not toe the SSM line.
(Don’t worry: no gory pictures; no need to hide the screen from the children)
First, if you can believe this, the Southern Baptist Convention (yes, SOUTHERN) has been planting churches like mad in the Bay State. Sure many haven’t lasted, but that’s true everywhere, right? And here’s the kicker: not one SBC missionary has yet ended up in a SSM -re-education concentration camp. None.
Neither have any of the church plants been raided and forced to perform same sex weddings. Not one. Zip.
Next up, the Mormons. Now, maybe you don’t think much of Mormons, or at least Mormonism. But on this point, face it — you and they are as one: they do NOT like SSM, and they have a track record to prove it.
But guess what: they’re growing in Massachusetts too. And recently they even built one of their big, stairway-to-heaven temples, where a guy named Mitt Romney worships.
Yeah, Mitt lives in Massachusetts, follows the church’s no-SSM line, and hasn’t been arrested for it once.
Then there’s the Catholic church. It’s the biggest denomination in the state, still. And true, it has had some legal troubles over the past decade. But those problems had to do with priests who were pedophiles, or pedophile protectors. They weren’t victims of the Gay Gestapo. (Mainly because there is no such thing, though you may not believe that yet.) Despite all, the church’s anti-SSM stance is intact and vocal.
Furthermore, the churches, including its main Boston cathedral, are still open; the cathedral has masses every day, and several on Sunday.
Finally, let’s consider the Islamic Cultural Center in Boston, the area’s largest mosque. Muslims generally don’t like same sex marriage, or homosexuality. Yet the Center is open, and has prayers five times a day, per Islamic commandments.
Personally, I suspect the FBI is watching the center closely, to see if agents of ISIS are trying to work their way in. But no officials have bothered them about their opposition to SSM.
There are other Boston places of worship we could look at, but you get the idea. Or at least I hope you’re beginning to.
And you don’t have to believe me. Here’s the testimony of a certified anti-SSM writer and Lifeway researcher, Ed Stetzer, who just wrote in his blog for Christianity Today, about the state not far up the road from Massachusetts.:
The people of Maine voted on November 6, 2012 to legally recognize same-sex marriage. I had the privilege to preach in Maine the Sunday after that Tuesday at the largest church in the state—the Pathway Vineyard.
The sky did not fall, no churches were padlocked, and the church did what they did the week before when marriage was solely between a man and a woman. They showed and shared the love of Jesus.
They did not scream in anger or lash out in hate. They know what I have said before: you cannot hate a people and reach a people at the same time. They remained on mission.
And so should we.
Okay, so Stetzer stole my thunder. Because that is the other option I wanted to mention.
Yet before we get into it, think for a minute: what is this “mass civil disobedience” some have threatened going to be aimed at?
Your church meetings this past weekend were not raided by the “Gay Gestapo,” were they? And they won’t be. I suggest you cancel the orders for razor wire fencing; it won’t be needed.
Maybe you could blockade the 100 North Carolina county Register of Deeds offices, where marriage licenses come from? (But if you did, what do you bet they’ll just send them out by fax or email?)
What about occupying the legislature? (Oh, wait — they’re on your side; except it’s now out of their hands.)
Marching on the U.S. Supreme Court? Go ahead; it’s your right. Um, you know there are protests at the court practically every week, right? So just take a number, and get in line. And know that the justices have done their work, and will be moving on.
Frankly, no matter how “massive,” such protests won’t stop SSM. It doesn’t live there. Those look to me like blind alleys, dogs that won’t hunt anymore, and dead horses you can keep beating on if you must.
But you can also choose to ignore the Chorus of Hysteria, accept that the cultural and legal landscape has changed, and then do your ministry within it as the leaven in the loaf, the salt of the earth — just like The Man said to do.
Because here are a couple more data points about Massachusetts: First, only about four per cent of marriages in Massachusetts are same sex; heterosexual marriage is not fading away.
And secondly, SSM has become very widely accepted there. Starting from under 50% approval, support has risen steadily, to 71% in late 2014, with only 19% opposed. (Yes — ten percent had NO OPINION; imagine.)
How does that acceptance come about? Brainwashing? Church burnings? Coerced re-education camps?
Hardly. This cartoon sums it up in one image:
Yes, the SSM forces in Massachusetts and elsewhere have deployed a secret weapon that is proving irresistible. And it does not involve locking you up, burning your churches, banning your books and movies — none of that paranoid silliness.
Even so, it’s real, and it works. I’ve seen it in operation close up, and am ready to to spill the beans:
Legal same sex marriage expands the realm of day to day family life, with all its routines: juggling work & child care; homework, dentists, soccer, adolescence; fix the dinner and clean up that room. Plus the usual conflicts, which sometimes lead to divorce. Which is sad, but also NORMAL.
That’s what life is for legal same sex families. Flagrant, flamboyant, in-your-face NORMAL.
And over time, I haven’t seen anything that can beat it.
Further, even their conflicts don’t produce all that much divorce: Massachusetts has the LOWEST divorce rate of any state in the nation. Same sex marriage hasn’t changed that. In fact, as of last year, the states with same sex marriage consistently had lower average divorce rates than the most resistant ones (mainly in the South).
This record may not be a justification; but maybe it can be a consolation. Maybe it’s something you could learn from, and work with.
Why would it be better in NCYM-FUM to consider this other option?
For one thing, it would put the body in tune with reality. Then you could get ready to do your ministry in a setting where SSM is NORMAL.
Because, in fact, that’s pretty much the case in Carolina already. After all, SSM has been legal in here for most of a year. Charlotte officials issued 144 such marriage licenses in the first week. Durham County has issued 240 as of the end of May. And I personally watched several same sex couples collect their licenses at the courthouse in Fayetteville, without incident. I couldn’t find statewide statistics; but in most counties, it’s a done deal. Everyday; routine. Did I mention, NORMAL?
Sure there have been a few magistrates who balked. But when the courts made SSM legal in October 2014, public opinion in NC was almost evenly split, 43% for and 47% against; the fact is that across the state the wheels of government have absorbed the change and continue to turn at the same speed as before. They can’t fight Normal.
Ed Stetzer is right: the sky didn’t fall in Maine. It hasn’t fallen in Massachusetts. And it hasn’t fallen here in the Tar Heel state either. So all the pulpit bluster aside, I wouldn’t bet the ranch on any mass uprising here; in fact, I wouldn’t bet the ranch dressing on it.
Just the opposite: as happened in Maine, and Massachusetts and other states, I predict that over time more and more NC citizens will accept SSM, and move on.
Another very orthodox writer, Rod Dreher, blogging for The American Conservative, echoed this:
“Voting Republican and other failed culture war strategies are not going to save us now.”
Why not? Because, while they can win elections, they don’t beat NORMAL; it’s not on the ballot.
I’ll pass by the voting part. But I do commend attention to reconsidering the “culture war strategies,” particularly those in play in NCYM — the urge to purge the yearly meeting of all signs of openness on this issue, and some related doctrinal matters.
After all, Rick Scarborough has already rushed to explain that, heh heh, he didn’t really mean the part about setting himself on fire.
“We do not,” he said, “support any violence or physical harm.”
Right. Especially to himself.
Well, okay, Rick; I can relate. Glad to have that cleared up.
In North Carolina YM, the parallel purge plan isn’t working so well either. And even if the purge were to succeed, SSM would still be legal, all over NC and the country, and NCYM would be even more isolated and weakened, painting itself into an ever-shrinking corner.
What would this other, non-burning option look like inside NCYM? Here are a few hints, from a source that is supposedly highly-regarded:
“Bear one another’s burdens, for in that you fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
What’s the “burden” here? Simply the facts that
A. SSM is now a part of Carolina’s Normal; and
B. a significant portion of NCYM accepts and even approves of this.
And if you’re stuck on the conviction that living with this is intolerable heresy, consider this admonition:
“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.“ (Romans 14:1)
And here are two more reasons:
First is, The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares: let them grow together until the harvest, the Boss said, and then the Master of the Harvest will do such separating as needs doing; that’s His job, not Yours. And,
Because, maybe you’re right, and maybe you’re not. Whose faith is really strong, and whose is really weak? Who’s to decide that, and how? And in the process,
“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” (Galatians 5:15)
The track record of NCYM in recent times is a stark fulfillment of this last scripture.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
In sum: history strongly suggests that Dred and Roe are very unlikely models here: this new NORMAL does not involve buying and selling live persons at marketplaces in Wilmington, Fayetteville and elsewhere. Nor are there dead fetuses (or preborn babies, if you will) involved. No, in same sex families, children live and grow.
The situation is now much closer to Loving, in which the winning couple took their Supreme Court decision, went home to rural Virginia, and lived a quiet family life til death did them part.
It also resembles the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” which some overheated chaplains warned in 2010 would destroy the U.S. army, but which vanished without a trace and hardly a ripple. (I watched it happen at Fort Bragg; I know.)
Yes, life goes on. And ministry too, even with shared burdens.
If it could happen in the army, and for the Lovings, maybe it could even happen for NCYM-FUM.
Hey, to echo a recent visitor to a Charleston SC AME church, I believe in grace, even though we don’t deserve it.
In fact, grace can be amazing. If we’ll let it.