The Road Ahead
If you did little more than read headlines, this week welcomed same-sex marriage into the mainstream of our culture.
A closer reading – and understanding – is more nuanced. The decisions by the Supreme Court gave almost necessary renderings of various legal issues related to the federal relationship with state decisions, and then did everything it could to wash its hands of the matter and turn it back over to the states to sort out further.
But make no mistake; we have welcomed same-sex marriage into the mainstream of our culture. I won’t inundate you with the polls of those who favor it, those who don’t favor it but know it’s inevitable, and those who are bored by the entire affair.
But get used to it. Same-sex marriage may not be the law of the land, but it is its affirmation.
I already sense two dominant “sides” taking shape. One is an increasingly hardened, politicized faction that wants to turn all things same-sex into the next Roe v. Wade. The other seems inclined to let culture dictate a bit of theology, and turn a blind eye to this aspect of orthodoxy.
Neither is the way ahead.
So let’s consider a third approach: a winsome and compelling vision of the Christian faith to a post-Christian culture. This vision would involve several key dynamics:
*no one sin, including sexual, is worse than another
*a vision of family values would not single out the LGBT community any more than it would those who have been wrongfully divorced
*there should be vocal support for full religious freedom in our culture, such as for those who oppose same-sex marriage, so that acceptance does not morph into a mandated affirmation
*the first question for anyone exploring Christ is not moral, but relational: “Will you follow me?” After that is answered, then the relational can begin speaking to the moral
*a biblical vision of sex and marriage, family and holiness that does not condemn, but seduces
*active cultivation of relationship with those in the LGBT community with the express purpose of expressing the love, acceptance and grace of Christ
*and, of course, full biblical fidelity, no matter how much it may place us outside of the cultural mainstream…and yes, that means one man, one woman, one marriage, one lifetime
All to say, this is not a culture war.
It is a fight, to be sure, but of a very different kind. And against a very different kind of enemy.
As Eugene Peterson paraphrases Ephesians 6:12, “This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.”
That is the road ahead.
It always has been.
James Emery White
“High court poised for a week of high-stakes rulings,” Bill Mears, CNN, June 23, 2013, read online.
“At Supreme Court, victories for gay marriage,” Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, June 26, 2013, read online.
“After high court rulings, what will religious conservatives do?,” David Gibson, Religion News Service, June 26, 2013, read online.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.