There is unexpected good news for Christians in the US Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. Our society has been forced to decide where we each stand…and why. The consequences are far-reaching. Could life as a Christian actually be better in a post-Christian, secular society? Furthermore, should we actually accelerate this process, rather than resist it?
Let’s begin with understanding specifically what the Supreme Court ruled. Gay couples are now entitled to the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. To my knowledge, it does not specifically address sexual behaviour. Thus, the ruling creates a new civil union that brings understandably desirable benefits such as life insurance, wills, citizenship, health care and pension claims. There is no Biblical reason to object to gay couples or anyone else living together to receive financial and legal benefits.
However, it is the use of the word “marriage” that has traditional religious groups upset. This is because the Bible specifically forbids homosexual behaviour, along with adultery and fornication to name two other forbidden sexual activities.
When you think about it, it is the Christian Bible that defined traditional marriage in our society. However, we are rapidly becoming a non-Christian society in North America. The Bible means nothing to unbelievers. However, they have been forced to live by rules created by our Christian forefathers. These are now being tossed aside like ancient history.
Thus the separation of religion from the laws of the land is coming into full force. It began in the 1970s with the wide-open legalizing of divorce for any reason, not just adultery. It continued with the legalizing of abortion. Sunday shopping put an end to the idea of the “Lord’s Day” – a day of rest and worship for all. Along the way, laws against homosexual activity have also been struck down, some only as recently as ten years ago. Now we have legal gay marriage.
I believe that Christians should not only embrace this trend but even push for its advancement. Our faith is intertwined in the culture in ways that has caused Christianity as a way of life to become diluted and even invisible.
Christmas is the most obvious example. In reality, December 25th has become Santa Claus day. It is about giving presents. In the Netherlands, gift giving day is December 6th, reserving December 25th to celebrate the birth of Christ. (This hasn’t stopped their secularization, I must add). I suspect we would have to move the Christ-Mass to another day since our society has co-opted the 25th for itself. For committed Christians, the day would have meaning and be noticeable for its worshipful celebration, without presents.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday are national holidays. Why? This makes as much sense today as making Rosh Hashanah or the start of Ramadan a national holiday. We need a set of civil statutory holidays combined with flex-holidays for those celebrating their religious feasts. Since we work 7 days a week anyway, this would not compromise the workforce.
Churches themselves need to look hard in the mirror. We won’t marry a gay couple but we will marry a couple who has been living together. We will also remarry a divorced person. How far do we go to enforce Biblical teachings? My parents were married twice in the Netherlands in the 1950s – once at city hall and then a second time a few days later at the church. The first marriage meant nothing spiritually. No marriage was consummated until after the second marriage. We need to return to having two marriages, giving the legal part of the ceremony back to the state.
The Christian walk is extremely demanding and all of us fall short of the mark. We are sinners who believe we are only saved by Grace – the love of God sent to us through his son Jesus who opened the gates of heaven for us. If we don’t draw clear lines for our own behaviour, then how will anyone know what it means to be a Christ-follower?
The time has come when we must walk our talk. To do so, we are best to welcome our exit from mainstream culture. Christianity is a sinner’s club for whom all are welcome. But to join, you have to be willing to admit you are a sinner who needs a saviour. Then the church needs to support you in what is a life-long, stumbling spiritual journey towards fully surrendering one’s life to Christ.
The big unknown is what the loss of Christian values and behavioural norms will mean for our society over the long run. I read recently that a Chinese official attributed the success of the ‘West’ over the centuries to its Christian values. Will God himself intervene in our society as Christian values fade away? I shudder to think of how ‘dictator’ and ‘atheist’ are often one and the same, which is not to label all atheists by any means. Certainly, Christians are justified to fear that society will now seek to impose its values on us by making some of our core beliefs a ‘crime.’
In the end, each of us is individually accountable for our eternal destiny. “By your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned,” said Jesus. (Matthew 12:37). For those who stay the course, Jesus promised, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” (John 8:51)