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Not by moral correction

June 27, 2015

In 1981 I spent some time in a Caribbean nation working at a Christian radio station. Back then the Moral Majority was trying to drum up grassroots resistance to cultural changes that were markedly non-Christian. The group had come under attack by some Christians as well as non-Christians as a misguided way to effect change. When I voiced that opinion to a man at the station, he asked whether I’d rather live in a society which esteemed Christian values more than one that didn’t. I had to agree that I’d rather it reflect such values. I’d rather there be prohibitions against abortion whether or not the country were truly Christian (meaning a large population that was genuinely Christian).

That conversation came to mind after yesterday’s announcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges and the other related cases regarding same-sex marriage. I would rather there not be this new liberty because of the effects on the married couples and their children and on society as a whole (since this clearly isn’t a matter that is confined to the bedroom, as proponents sometimes claim), even if our society as a whole weren’t more Christian.

What I have to admit after this ruling is that I was hoping that moral correction would be a good potential means of returning America to a more Christian character. But given the basically deistic worldview of Western secularists (most believe in God but see him as distant and uninvolved until we need him to fix a problem), and more specifically the current view of marriage as being fundamentally a matter of love and commitment, what is there to object to about gay marriage? Even to Christians this “love and commitment” view is widely held because it has always been fitted into a view of marriage as consisting of one woman and one man. Now that marriage isn’t so limited (legally), that view has shown itself to be very weak (on this matter see the document “What Is Marriage?” here).

To many, the abortion issue was the major watershed issue in defining America’s values. I see the decision about same-sex marriage as a greater watershed, sealing the fact that American influence-makers have no interest in historic Christian values. There are some instances where abortion can be open for discussion even among pro-lifers (ectopic pregnancies and pregnancies where the mother has cancer the treatment for which could harm or kill the baby are two that come to mind). But I can’t think of any extenuating circumstances that would make same-sex marriage a viable option. Even nature argues against homosexual sex and marriage. So the playing field has now been clearly laid out.

So I see the decision as disastrous. However, I see it as corrective for Christians. It is clear now that America is not going to be “saved” by means of moral correction. We’ve tried our hardest (I’m including myself here), but we aren’t going to return America to a more Christian character that way. Even if through some kind of legal maneuvering the SCOTUS decision can be overturned, fundamental beliefs that underlie the apparently majority opinion on this matter–the current “social imaginary,” to use Charles Taylor’s term–are not going to be changed by legalities. Objectors say the Supreme Court overrode the states improperly, and maybe that’s so. But from what I’ve read, the majority of Americans are on the side of legalizing same-sex marriage. If we want to see a change in values here, we’re going to have to do it the biblical way. We’re going to have to depend on the gospel message itself which alone is able to change hearts, something which we should have been doing all along.

However, if only for the sake of Christians in our churches who have a confused understanding of this issue, we’ll need to keep talking about it, at least amongst ourselves. And we can continue to vote and employ proper democratic methods to let our voices be heard. But we shouldn’t expect too much from that. Changes of heart are needed. For that, the answer is the good news of Jesus.

  1. Paul Rutherford permalink

    Well said, Rick. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They are concise and insightful, as always! 😉

    Paul Rutherford

    2001 W. Plano Pkwy Ste. #2000 Plano, TX 75075 972.941.4569 – office direct 469.338.6322 – mobile

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