Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Gay or Glum? Valuing this Wedding's Groom
Does gay marriage represent how much our world is changing?
Or how much it has already changed?
In other words, with the Supreme Court's unexpected rejection yesterday of seven petitions regarding gay marriage, was it a new day for the United States, or simply a perfunctory legal detail for what American society has pretty much already decided is a non-issue?
Among political conservatives, it's only the evangelical Protestants who continue to protest the morality of gay marriage. Among political liberals, it's only traditional Jewish sects and pious Roman Catholics who step aside from their support of the Democratic Party's platform to champion heterosexual marriage.
Otherwise, both Republicans and Democrats shrug their shoulders. Libertarians figure gender-based marriage infringes too closely on personal freedoms. Although half of the country supports heterosexual marriage exclusively, it has already become increasingly clear that it's not an issue over which many folks are willing to obsess.
Having the Supreme Court decline to hear a case doesn't have the same effect on the American populace as when SCOTUS issues a ruling one way or another in a particular case. So yesterday's news from the SCOTUS bench didn't garner the bold attention seven decisions against traditional marriage would have had. But nearly all of the pundits and SCOTUS-watchers agree that the court actually did make a decision - by deciding not to hear any of the seven petitions.
And that decision, at least for now, was in favor of gay marriage, since it allows seven more states to move ahead with recognizing gay unions. Making matters worse for social conservatives, six of these seven states tend to be reliable supporters of traditionalism: Wyoming, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Kansas.
For the record, Colorado is the sixth state, but it's long been the home of "Rocky Mountain high" in more ways than one.
So, do we orthodox Christ-followers simply throw up our hands in defeat, and insulate ourselves further within our evangelical ghetto?
No, of course not. We pray for God's truth to be revealed among the world at large, and even amongst those of us who confess Christ Jesus as our Lord.
For example, what is the extent to which we evangelicals have become complicit in our society's dumbing-down of marriage? How many television shows and movies depicting malfunctioning marriages do we count among our entertainment options? Sure, we've done a pretty good job of using the guise of legalism to shame moral do-gooders into silence on the marriage purity thing, so we can continue to enjoy the "liberties" of the morally-liberated, but in the process, have we jaded ourselves into accepting a standard for marriage that is more convenience than covenant?
And what about that covenant stuff, anyway? Marriage models the covenant God has made between Christ and His Church, right? Yet how infatuated have we become with the Church, instead of Christ, the Church's "Bridegroom?"
Particularly here in North America, we evangelicals spend a lot of time, money, and energy building our worship castles, fighting over our music preferences for corporate worship, and marketing ourselves to poach members from churches that are smaller, older, or supposedly less innovative than ours. Churches split for all sorts of reasons, and some of them have little to do with orthodox doctrine. Churches celebrate their charismatic leaders, and listen to these choice preachers for their advice. Transience between churches is epidemic, while the tenacity to grit one's spiritual teeth and abide through difficult congregational issues is rare.
Alternatively, among pastors, long tenure in one congregation is rare, while burnout is epidemic. Congregations demand ever so much more from their leaders, expecting them to single-handedly juggle a variety of responsibilities. As churches grow, congregations simply hire more pastors so the membership doesn't have to get any more involved in ministry than they absolutely have to. No church is perfect, of course, just as no marriage is perfect. But the razor-thin margins of grace and the Fruit of the Spirit upon which most churches operate today can only sustain so much conflict before scandal bursts onto the scene.
It's become popular today to describe God's grace as "scandalous," but that's not accurate, is it? "Scandalous" is simply a word intended to leverage our society's lust for titillation, and thirst for schadenfreude. Meanwhile, the real scandals are those things that the world sees going on within Christ's Kingdom on Earth and knows we're not supposed to be doing.
And we're frustrated that the heathen society around us is now on a different page when it comes to what marriage is supposed to look like.
We American evangelicals have taken a lot for granted for a long time. Hopefully it's not too late to begin modeling Biblical marriage in a society that now sees matrimony as simply another nostalgic institution. Marriage may signify a certain type of commitment, but apparently it's little more of a commitment than many of us Christ-followers display to Him as our Bridegroom.
Funny how gay people still want to get married, isn't it? Sure, getting the right to marry represents a major social coup when it comes to legitimizing homosexuality in the eyes of their heterosexual peers. Yet for gays to desire marriage sometimes seems like maybe they value the institution more than some of us evangelicals who've actually been taking it for granted.
Maybe now the ones who are being denied the right to view marriage exclusively through a heterosexual lens will be the ones learning to value it more.