As the story of last week’s Supreme Court decision unfolded it became apparent that this was a watershed moment for America, as it was with the rulings for Roe v Wade or Brown v the Board of Education. By watershed I mean that things after the decision will be significantly different than before.
I don’t share the sense of panic and impending doom expressed by some people of faith for several reasons.
First, Christianity has always been countercultural. In the Old Testament, followers of God were called to be distinct. Distinct in their practice of Sabbath, distinct in the way they treated widows, orphans and foreigners, and distinct in the way that we love our neighbors. In the New Testament, care for the poor, the intentional removal of ethnic barriers, and greater respect for slaves and women set Christianity apart from prevailing cultural norms. Christianity doesn’t need the blessing of culture in order to thrive; in fact it often grows fasted in areas where it is oppressed.
Second, this decision provides an opportunity to stand out positively. A coach once told me that the most important moments in his career where when he lost big games because all eyes were on him to observe his reaction. This is that kind of moment for conservative Christianity. Hating gay people and accusing them of wanting to destroy America is not a helpful response. Such a response will cause scores of young people, both gay and straight, to turn away from Christian faith. Recent events in Charleston, S.C. demonstrate that Christianity shines when it clothes itself in grace. Grace in defeat is a beautiful thing.
Here are my suggestions to fellow Christians in my community.
Let’s heed Jesus’ instructions to pray for our adversaries, to greet strangers (in this case that might be the gay couple next door), and to be peacemakers. Let’s go the extra mile to bring a civil and reasonable tone to this discussion. Extreme rhetoric adds lots of heat, but very little light to the debate. We are most persuasive when we listen first and then speak carefully, resisting the temptation to settle for inflammatory sound bites.
Second, let’s buckle down on biblical teaching with regard to families and sexuality, not in a hateful or defensive way, but in a manner that recognizes that the greatest threats to Christian families come from within. We’ve lost a great deal of moral authority due to the fact that our own track record in these areas is less than stellar. Our message on biblical sexuality will be stronger if it is backed up by the example of loving and stable families.
Finally, we need to continue to advocate for religious liberty. The freedom to worship as we see fit is an important national distinctive. Losing this right would be a tragedy for America. Churches and faith-based organizations must retain the freedom, not only to advocate for our faith, but also to exercise it.
I don’t panic because before Obergefell v Hodges, God was in control, heaven was our hope, and Jesus was our example. Those things haven’t changed.
Dr. Carl Ruby, Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church in Springfield, Ohio. Published by Cox Newspapers