Andrew T. Walker
Five Theses on the First Anniversary of the Obergefell Decision
The Obergefell decision remains a travesty and assault on democracy.
The first anniversary of Obergefell will no doubt be celebrated throughout the media as a reminder of the universe’s long march toward (social) justice.
Whatever one may call the anniversary of Obergefell, the Christian can never allow the defacing and revision of a holy, conjugal estate such as marriage to be considered a victory for truth.
Five Philosopher-Kings’ views on marriage are no better than the views of hundreds of millions of other equally situated citizens. Let me repeat: The silence of the Constitution on marriage means that marriage must be left to the states. By refusing to hew to the Constitution’s bounds, the Supreme Court has once again overstepped its authority and is on the wrong side of the Constitution. Furthermore, by refusing to hew to the natural laws of God, the Supreme Court is once again on the wrong side of truth.
Obergefell’s fall-out is worse than Obergefell.
The #LoveisLove and #LoveWins campaign is showing that it will never be content with its victory until it settles every score.
Citizens were told that “marriage equality” was simply about treating all citizens equally. That is decidedly not the outcome thus far of Obergefell. In instances too numerous to list, LGBT activists colluding with government and cultural cronies are showing that the path to equality is paved over liberty. The gay rights movement, not dedicated to protecting any viewpoint other than its own, is currently demonstrating the lack of magnanimity that many have long feared.
The Christian response has been successfully measured.
Christians, for the most part, have responded admirably to the disaster that is Obergefell. One particular response, the ERLC’s “Here I Stand” Declaration was a massive attempt to demonstrate that Christians will dissent from a bad ruling while simultaneously working democratically to continue testifying to the truth of marriage.
Same-Sex Marriage continues to not exist (because it can’t).
Same-sex marriages aren’t actual marriages. To some, this will sound unnecessarily harsh and insensitive. But what is truth worth if it can’t be spoken when unpopular?
Under the pretentious usurpation made possible by raw judicial will, same-sex couples are awarded marriage certificates today in America. That certificates of marriage are distributed does not actually signify that a marriage has taken place. The government is as impotent at declaring squares to be circles as it is to tell citizens that marriages between same-sex persons are actual marriages. This is conceit, and as such, it will not be able to permanently suppress the truth. While it will take an untold number of years to undue Obergefell, it is impossible—in the long run—for the truth not to win.
God’s kindness still leads to repentance.
The Apostle Paul implores his audience in Romans to remember that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). That ought to be the presiding ethic and ethos of evangelical Christians in America. While we speak truth about the conceits of Obergefell, if we’re going to do so as Christians, it will mean that we close every statement of concern with a call to those whose consciences know that everything isn’t okay.
The refugees of the sexual revolution only continue to grow. Same-sex marriage continues the revolution by rendering incoherent the grounds and intelligibility of actual marriage. What will result is the continued culture of marriage dissolution, the atomization of society into units organized around sexual coupling or throupling, and an understanding of family life not centered around the natural family.
So what this means is continued mission in the face of mounting opposition. But if the church isn’t there to stand in the gap and tell those around them of a better way, why bother telling them that anything is wrong in the first place?
Looking Back: We Are All Activists Now
The moral revolution in American culture of June 2015 has changed our society. Laws shape mores, and so we expect that the revolution will continue apace.
Here is what stands out to me one year later: in the age when homosexual marriage passed into law, Christians have a tremendous opportunity to show their neighbors what marriage truly is. We should energetically engage the public discussion, but we should also recognize that our activism takes no greater shape than in our marriages and our homes. Every Christlike husband and every churchlike wife is a shining, shimmering glimpse of cosmically covenantal love. Every happy family ordered according to Scripture and nature presents the world with a tangible, visible argument for the goodness of God’s wisdom. In our marriages, in our homes, we are all activists.
We American evangelicals might feel restless in considering these words. We like effecting change in D.C. We like influencing policy through voting. We like winning directly and decisively in the public square. We are firmly convinced of the rightness of our views—as well we should be—and we want them supported in law. But now we have entered a different moment, when the law is against us. This is not an easy reality. We are living in an age that, with few exceptions, defies Scripture and nature in unprecedented degree. Never has the plain truth been more opposed in public than this. Marriage, we hear, is malleable, not what it has to be for the survival of humanity; identity, we are informed, is subjective, not what our bodies tell us it is. In the age of ascendant atheistic science, nothing is more anti-science than these ideas.
In such an age, our challenge is this: to recommit ourselves to happy marriages, happy families, happy churches, happy lives. When the gospel creates this way of life, we are offering the world the most powerful living apologetic we can. There is nothing so important in natural terms as a father and mother united in love. This is the cornerstone of society, and it is the gateway to security and flourishing for children. We can and must make these arguments today; but it is of equal importance to live these arguments, to show the world that our worldview yields impossible joy.
There is nothing fancy about this. We must remember, in Christ, that we are all activists. We must pray and work to be good fathers. We must pray and work to be good mothers. We must invest in our children and choose to prioritize them, over and over again. We must cultivate our marriages, laughing and dancing and repenting and cherishing every moment together. We must show the world that singleness does not depend on sexual activity for fulfillment, but on the Spirit.
It is natural today to feel profoundly discouraged about our country. The light, to paraphrase Tolkien, seems to be going down in the West. Goodness seems overshadowed. What are we to do? We need to remember what the early church knew well. If they could speak to us, their faces wizened by suffering, their bodies creaking from aches and pains caused by Roman torture-racks, they would not tell us to flee for the hills. They would urge us to plunge back into the city of man.
They would remind us that the law was against them, dead-set against them. They would tell us that they were hated and despised. They would assure us that they felt powerless, and in truth were politically powerless until Constantine reversed their fortunes. But they, holy men and women alike, would look us in the eye and remind us that by God, they turned the world upside down. They made history. They outlasted Rome. They were salt and light in a world that wanted neither, but loves its decay, its rebellion, and the darkness in which it hides its evil deeds.
Their example calls us to see afresh that the world can hate you, the state can rule against you, but that if God is with you, no human hand can hold you back. The early church was an activist church, and this activism took shape not only in public advocacy, but especially in love, kindness, fortitude, and the demonstration of godliness.
So it is with us. Obergefell has changed America. But we have a force stronger still: the gospel of grace, which has changed the world, and has changed us, and will change many who now hate and oppose us.
Owen Strachan is author of The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World (Thomas Nelson). He is Associate Professor of Christian Theology and director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary