Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “post-Christian culture.” Non-Christians use the phrase to support their argument that religious views are irrelevant in public policy determinations given the growing cultural trend of denying God’s existence. What I find particularly troubling is that some Christians refer to a “post-Christian” culture to justify their compromising on Biblical standards.It goes without saying that I do know some Christians who don’t use it in that fashion.
According to those Christians who use “post-Christian” culture to compromise on Biblical standards, our society is more religiously diverse than at the time of our founding — and certainly more openly hostile to Biblical values — so it is improper for Christians to try and implement Biblical principles in public policy. I have three brief responses to these folks.
First, to even suggest that Biblical standards are outdated or irrelevant because of the cultural condition is to deny that the Lord and Creator of the Universe has absolute sovereignty over all of His creation. Biblical standards are the only standards for right living. It is irrelevant whether people believe in God — the reality is that He is God over all.
Second, to suggest that the creature (humans) have the authority to compromise on Biblical standards set forth by our Creator is again to deny God’s sovereignty over all of his creation.
Third, to use the excuse that standing strong on Biblical values only serves to turn people away from Christ in a post-Christian culture is to second-guess God — as if He was not aware of how sinful our society would become. Of course he knew. Nevertheless, we are told to proclaim the Truth to others; we are to be light AND salt to the culture. I firmly believe that the message of tolerance and love WITHOUT a corresponding message of the truth of Biblical standards fails to be a message of either light or salt.
Let me wrap up with an example. Are we loving people who are trapped in a sinful lifestyle when we only deliver a message of acceptance without ensuring that the person knows the truth about their sin? In an effort to be loving to others, do we attempt to compromise on Biblical standards (e.g., civil unions for same-sex couples, or abortion as a choice even though “I don’t personally agree with abortion”) — as if we had authority to compromise on God’s perfect standards.
As Christians, we are called to stand strong and defend His Truth — even unto death. God does not tell us that when society turns its back on God we are supposed to help society in its sinful pursuits. No, we are to be the voice of Truth.
The outcome of the Prop 8 case boils down to the question of whether a majority of the Supreme Court will uphold the rule of law. Given that the phrase “rule of law” is not one that rolls off the tongues of most people in America (including, unfortunately most law students, lawyers, or judges), let me explain my point with excerpts from today’s Prop 8 oral arguments.
The first question Justice Roberts asked each attorney to address was whether the parties defending the law had “standing” to do so. If not, then there is no case for the court to hear. What does standing mean and why is it an issue in this case? Well, standing essentially asks the question of whether the party litigating the case has suffered a concrete injury such that he is the right party to be litigating the question before the court. Normally, when a law is challenged as unconstitutional, as the marriage law in California was challenged, the Attorney General of the State is charged with defending the law.
Well, what happens when the state officials also believe that the amendment passed by the people to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional and refuse to defend it? In Prop 8, some say that no one is permitted to defend the law and essentially the law is struck down as unconstitutional by default — no one is there to defend it. The California courts in this case said that someone should be able to defend the laws so when the government refuses to do its job, the people who put the question on the ballot and saw that it got passed have a sufficient interest in the case such that they should be allowed to litigate it. If the court were to decide that no one but the state has standing to defend the law, then the state could effectively veto any amendment passed by the people by simply refusing to defend it in court. Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Sclaiia seemed concerned about this possibility as it would seem to strip the people of their initiative power and vest too much power in the personal views of the state officials. Keep in mind that part of the reason the people put matters on the ballot through the initiative process is because state officials have refused to enact such legislation. The rule of law is undermined under these circumstances because the people, in whom all legislative powers not delegated to the state are reserved, properly enacted a constitutional amendment and a decision declaring that the people have no standing to defend the law allows the state to undermine the separation of powers in that state.
The second question in the case is whether a state that has granted all the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, except the name of marriage, can deny same-sex marriage. Ted Oslon, counsel for those challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8, and the US Solicitor General’s arguments were as follows: the more rights a state gives, the more it must give; the fewer rights a state gives, the more rights it might have to give in the future in some other case! In other words, out of one side of their mouth those challenging Prop 8 are saying that because California has given so many rights it must give everything while separately arguing that those states that do not have domestic partnerships or civil unions might also have to allow same-sex marriage because to do otherwise is discriminatory. Again, for courts to step in and decide that marriage must be redefined is not declaring what the law IS, but what it should be. The legislature is delegated that task, not the judiciary.
Finally, the Q&A between Olson and Justice Scalia about the constitutionality of marriage between one man and one woman was quite revealing about the differing views on the role of the judiciary. Justice Scalia asked Mr. Olson to explain when marriage between one man and one woman became unconstitutional. Was it always unconstitutional or did it become unconstitutional at some point. If it became unconstitutional at some point in California’s history — when? Justice Scalia was trying to make the point that the role of the judiciary is to decide what the law IS — not what it should be.
For a court to declare marriage unconstitutional should mean that it was always unconstitutional. To rule otherwise would mean that the court is playing the role of the legislature in making a public policy determination of what marriage should be. Mr. Olson’s response was a perfect example of one who advocates for judicial activism — “There’s no specific date in time. This is an evolutionary cycle.” In other words, as people’s views change so too should the meaning of the words in the constitution. And the only arbiters of what those words mean over time are the Supreme Court justices. Well, if the meaning of words change and therefore change the guarantees of the constitution, then the justices have become legislators — making policy decisions. In fact, given that the case deals with what the US Constitution means, the judiciary would be ignoring the amendment process set forth in the constitution. The judiciary does not have the authority to redefine constitutional guarantees based on public opinion and evolving standards.
For me, this case boils down to two things: (i) when you compromise on the meaning of marriage as California has, you dig a hole that’s really hard to get out of; and (ii) will the judiciary remember that they are judges, not legislators.
Tomorrow we hear oral arguments in the case challenging the federal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. As in the Prop 8 case, we have a situation where the government officials charged with defending the law have refused to do so — here, the Executive Branch of the US Government — such that the House of Representatives had to hire outside counsel to do the job.
In a likely effort to generate controversy, and therefore attention, so as to increase sales of his newest book, Pastor Rob Bell proclaimed his support for same-sex marriage as he spoke at a church in San Francisco. I can’t say I am surprised that a pastor who questions the very existence of Hell and that salvation comes only through faith in Christ is now proclaiming that Christians who support the Biblical truth that marriage is the union for life of one man and one woman are part of a “subculture” that is “very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized” and “dying” a painful death.” Saddened, yes; surprised, no.
Rob Bell states that Christianity must “adapt” to survive. Adapt to what? Well, a “more loving, compassionate people.” His statement highlights three key points that Christians need to understand and act upon. First, he represents the mindset of too many Christians who believe they have authority to treat God’s word as a buffet — I can pick and choose what I like. They refuse to face the basic question every person must make: who is the ultimate authority in my life? A Christian is disobedient to God when the Christian refuses to make God sovereign over every area of that person’s life. We fail to make God sovereign when we tell God that He got some things wrong — that those Biblical Truths are irrelevant, outdated, or wrong. When we tell the creator of the universe before whom we will stand in judgment one day that He got it wrong, we cannot call ourselves followers of Christ. No — under those circumstances, we are followers of ourselves. We have made ourselves — not God — the highest authority in our life. We have made ourselves a false god — with a little “g.”
Second, Rob Bell’s statement, which is echoed by so many others who proclaim to be Christians, is a modern-day example of Romans 1:18-32. Although God’s word has been made plain to us, we have rejected and suppressed His Truth. We have done this by condoning in our own lives and in the Church conduct we know to be sinful. We have rejected the Biblical standard of marriage as a union of one man and one woman for life, we have rejected the truth that abortion is the wrongful taking of a life, we have rejected the truth that living inconsistently with God’s word means we are in defiance of God, and we have failed to fulfill the most basic obligation to train up the next generation to know and understand God’s word. To what result? As stated in Romans 1 — we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the created by putting ourselves as the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. We shouldn’t now be surprised that God has done what he did in Paul’s time — He has turned us over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
Finally, Rob Bell’s statement reveals the cultural high-jacking by “tolerance” proclaiming people of the biblical concepts of “love” and “compassion.” A key component of those who seek to fundamentally redefine and destroy the Biblical concept of marriage is that those who hold such a “narrow” view of marriage ignore the fact that God is a God of love and compassion. Well, as with any debate, whoever defines the terms controls the debate. The politically correct, but biblically incorrect, view of love and compassion is that stated by Rob Bell — God wants us to “affirm people wherever they are.” Really, is that God’s view of love and compassion?
Would anyone consider it loving and compassionate to refuse to help a friend overcome alcohol or drug addiction, to refuse to tell someone that cutting oneself to deal with the realities of life is destructive, or to refuse to grab the gun out of the hand of the person who is about to take his life? No one would say refusing to intervene in those circumstances is loving and compassionate. Yet, when we intervene to tell someone that engaging in homosexual conduct is harmful, destructive, and not part of God’s best plan for your life — suddenly it’s unloving and hateful.
True love is willing to tell the truth. As a Christian, I know that my creator has given me a user’s manual — the Bible — to help me know how He designed me, how I am supposed to function, and how I can choose to live my life to honor and glorify Him. His standards aren’t stifling — they offer a path to true freedom and happiness. Am I loving when I refuse to share that Truth with someone I know is blinded to that Truth? I am so thankful that those who shared the Truth of the Bible with me in college, letting me know why I was a sinner, weren’t Rob Bell’s kind of loving and compassionate people.
I have to admit, I am very concerned about the failure of the Church to instill in our younger generation the need to live a consistent Christian life. We’ve failed because the Church failed to instill the importance of this in people of my generation – making it very difficult to train the younger generation.
This fact has appeared in many news articles in the past year. For example, a March 2012 USA Today article proclaims that “Millenials aren’t amoral, adrift,” but rather, they gravitate away from “hard-edged politics” and have “different morals” that are focused on tolerance, peace, and social justice issues; an April 7, 2012 New York Times article points out how the nation (and this presidential election) is divided by God, emphasizing the “disappearance of a Christian center and the decline of institutional religion” and the growth of the “unchurched Christian bloc, consisting of Americans who accept some tenets of Christian faith without participating in any specific religious community;” an April 13, 2012 Yahoo News article discusses the “rise of atheism in America,” stating that “if growth continues at the current rate, one in four Americans will profess no religious faith within 20 years;” and an April 2011 Time Magazine cover story features Pastor Rob Bell’s book questioning whether hell even exists – stating that “the prospect of a place of eternal torment seems irreconcilable with the God of love.”
The decline in Biblical literacy and corresponding rise in God is love mentality has resulted in a a nation of idol worshipers – men and women who worship themselves – they decide what is right and wrong, they create their own version of Christianity, and they are the arbiters of truth – if there is such a thing as truth. Stated differently, Christians are challenging the authority of Scripture over their life. They couch it different ways, but all boil down to challenges concerning the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. We’ve all heard these allegations: the Bible was written by men so of course it’s full of errors; the Bible contains inconsistencies so it shouldn’t be followed; times have changed and the Bible doesn’t have answers to so many things we face today. This way of thinking has serious consequences not only for the individuals who have turned their backs on God (without even knowing they have turned their back on God) but also for our Nation. In particular, it is this group of Christians who often can do the most harm to the advancement of Truth because they don’t just remain silent (and let sin and evil run rampant) but often they join forces with the voices of those who seek to mock our Lord and Savior.
That leads me to the story that prompted this blog post. On April 12, 2012, a group of twenty-somethings who call themselves young Christian evangelical leaders held an impromptu poll during the conference asking how the Church can address the horrible problem of abortion in the church. The answer: the Church should urge the single, twenty-somethings to use contraceptives.
Let me state that at least I can applaud their desire to decrease the slaughter of our unborn among those who call themselves Christians. However, the way to do that is NOT for the Church to encourage forniction. Why? Well, the Bible plainly calls fornication a sin. Thus, while I understand that the younger generation has issues with the idea of absolute truth and that it seems intolerant to state that some things are right and others are wrong, there are not two sides to this issue.
To suggest that single Christians should use contraceptives to reduce abortions is to deny the Lordship and authority of Christ in their lives. They are placing themselves in the place of Christ and telling the creator of the universe that they have a better plan on how things should be done. If this is the future of Christianity in America, we have reason to fall on our knees in sincere prayer for forgiveness in our failure to train up the next generation.
Here’s a link to a Christianity Today article about the conference: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/aprilweb-only/churches-contraception.html?start=1
As I finished my tax returns, and sent a check to the federal government, I couldn’t help but think about all the articles I had looked through to help me maximize my “tax breaks.” Of course, the software I used ensured that I got them all. And then it really hit me — why in the world do we call them tax breaks? To do so actually concedes that our federal government is rightfully entitled to the monies and it is kindly letting me get some of it back. This, as in so many other areas, reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of a key feature of our Constitution — the federal government is one of limited, enumerated powers.
The Constitution lays out specific, delegated powers for each branch of government. Congress, which controls the purse strings, is specifically delegated approximately 18 powers in Article I of the Constitution. Congress’ authority to tax us is supposed to be tied directly to appropriating funds in order to pay for those few matters over which Congress has authority. Instead, as the federal government has grown incredibly larger and Congress oversteps its authority with almost every step it takes, we continue to pay taxes to fund things for which our federal government has no authority.
Let me give just a few examples: taxpayers fund public education, social security, and medicare even though nothing in the Constitution gives Congress authority to legislate over these matters. Of course, unless the Supreme Court properly strikes down Obama Care, we’ll soon be funding abortions as well.
So, let me close this short post with the following thought as millions rush to file their taxes tomorrow: if a thief came to my house and demanded all my belongings, yet let me keep my wedding ring because I successfully pleaded my case — would we say the thief kindly gave me a break? No, he’s a thief and deserves to go to jail! So why in the world do we say the government is giving us a tax break when it allows us to keep some of our money — almost none of which the government is entitled to in the first place? The government is the thief — when will we rein it in and, as necessary, replace it with a government that understands its proper role?
Yesterday, a federal judge from the Northern District of California declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Yet again, I am amazed at the judge’s brazen abuse of judicial authority. Significantly, the judge acknowledged that there was binding case law from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that required him to reach a different result on the pivotal issue (whether sexual orientation should be treated as a suspect class, like race and alienage), but the judge concluded it was not bound to follow that precedent. After all, why should a lower court follow the decisions of an appellate court? (for all the non-attorneys reading this, that question definitely contains a bit of sarcasm).
Here are the basic facts of the case:
Two women married in California; one of them works for the federal court system and wants to add her partner on her health care plan; Section 3 of DOMA precludes treating the same-sex marriage as valid; she sues. (There is a bit more procedural history involved here, but it’s not relevant for my discussion today).
DOMA has two key provisions, only one of which was at issue in this case. Section 3 (the one involved in this case) states for purposes of all federal laws and regulations marriage shall be construed as between one man and one woman. There are several cases pending across the country presently challenging Section 3. You probably recall that these were the various cases that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have refused to defend, leaving the House of Representatives with the responsibility of finding outside counsel to handle all those cases. Section 2 (which is not involved in this case) is the one that expressly states that each State can decide whether to give full faith and credit to a same-sex relationship treated as marriage.
The pivotal determination in the decision was whether sexual orientation should be treated as a suspect classification. If a law discriminates based on a suspect classification (such as race or alienage), then the government has a very difficult hurdle to overcome in demonstrating that it has a compelling justification for its discriminatory law. Even then, the law has to be crafted in the narrowest manner possible (least restrictive means) to achieve that compelling justification. To put things in perspective, sex discrimination does not even qualify for strict scrutiny; instead, it receives something called intermediate scrutiny (where the government must show it has an important, but not compelling, justification for the law). All other laws are subject to rational basis review, where the person challenging the law must show that there is no legitimate reason for passing the law. Obviously, the plaintiffs challenging DOMA, and all those who have challenged the marriage laws, ask that sexual orientation be treated as a suspect classification.
The test for whether something qualifies for suspect classification is a four part test: (i) whether there has been a long history of invidious discrimination against the class of people; (ii) whether the characteristics that distinguish the class are relevant to the member’s ability to contribute to society; (iii) whether the distinguishing characteristics are immutable; and (iv) whether the class is politically powerless. Ninth Circuit precedent had already established that sexual orientation does NOT satisfy the four part test.
This court, however, decided that the prior, binding precedent was “outdated” and therefore no longer binding on it. So much for chain of command!
Here are a few highlights on how the court concluded that sexual orientation is a suspect classification. First, the court found that homosexuals have “experienced a long history of discrimination.” Well, frankly, so have the “ugly,” overweight, short in stature, and eye-glass wearing people. Lots of people have historically faced discrimination. That is not the kind of history the prong relates to. Instead, it refers to the history of invidious discrimination that African Americans suffered in our nation as a result of slavery: our nation shamefully relegated our fellow man to the status of property or animals, treating them worse than we treat our animals. To equate same-sex sexual conduct with the discrimination suffered by African Americans is shameful and, frankly, disgusting. Nevertheless, the court concluded that this prong was met.
Second, the court concluded in one sentence that sexual orientation has no relevance to a person’s ability to contribute to society. Well, honestly, just 34 years ago we did uniformly conclude the OPPOSITE insofar as the American Psychological Association had up until that point defined it as a mental health condition.
Third, the court concluded that sexual orientation was an immutable characteristic. It did not reassure me that a key piece of “evidence” relied upon by the court to make that conclusion was a national, popular survey of gay and lesbian women. Ignoring all evidence of those who have successfully “overcome” their same-sex attractions, the court concluded that a person cannot change. For any Christian reading this, you should realize this as a direct assault on Christ himself — through Christ all things are possible. Our God is in the business of changing lives and this court uniformly concludes such change is impossible.
Fourth, and most laughable, the court concludes that “gay men and lesbians” are politically powerless. Okay, just take a moment or two and ponder this: a tiny percentage of the population has actively, and radically changed our culture in a very short period of time. One state after another is redefining marriage to include same-sex couples (please understand that I do not believe a state actually has the authority to redefine marriage in this fashion, but that’s another issue for another day). For today’s purposes, I mention it as further proof that “gays and lesbians” are anything but politically powerless.
As it finally reaches it decision to declare DOMA unconstitutional, the court concludes that there is no rational basis for DOMA and that the law was passed purely to harm those involved in same-sex sexual conduct. In a twist of irony, the court states that DOMA is the “imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority upon a minority . . . .” Well, yet again, I must take issue. Defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is based on the only OBJECTIVE standard of morality that exists in the entire universe — the Bible. It is the minority here that seeks to impose its subjective values on society through legalization of conduct the Bible calls sin.
I hate to make this political, but it is. This decision should motivate you to get involved in this year’s elections. Significantly, it is the President who appoints federal judges like the one who just declared DOMA unconstitutional. And President Obama already has told us how he feels about marriage and DOMA — he refused to enforce DOMA even though it was validly enacted by Congress. He has no respect for marriage, our Constitution, or the God of the Bible.
So, apparently some people (myself included) are unhappy that JC Penney has chosen Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson. Sandy Rios wrote a nice piece summarizing many reasons why I (and many others) disagree with JC Penney’s decision. Her piece is linked below. I believe the national discussion taking place over the propriety of a woman who is married to her same-sex partner and rather outspoken for rights based on homosexual conduct highlights the erosion of America’s moral fabric.
Please know that I fully believe that JC Penney has the right to decide who its company spokesperson should be. Similarly, I have the right to take my business elsewhere (as I did this weekend when I went shopping for a pair of jeans for my eldest child). Of course, I also had to forego shopping at Macy’s given its stance on firing employees who have the audacity to insist that men should not be permitted to use the ladies’ changing rooms. Hmm, better start firing up the sewing machine — I might be making more clothes of my own if this trend keeps up.
I have two brief comments to make on this JC Penney issue. For all those who believe this is a good decision, the issue demonstrates one of two things: you have become an idol worshiper to the false god of tolerance, sacrificing at its altar standards of moral decency; or you believe our nation should have no standards of right and wrong on the topic of sexuality. There really is no other explanation for your position if you support this decision. If you think I’m wrong, please stop for at least a minute and seriously consider what other alternative could exist.
Second, the JC Penney issue demonstrates that we have lost the meaning of a role model. There was a time when being a role model meant that the person embodied all that was good (as best as a sinful human can). We held the role models out for our children to emulate – which meant we would be happy to see our children grow up to be just like “so and so.” Again, if you deny the truth of scripture, it is possible that you believe Ellen is the perfect role model for your children and everyone in this nation. Let me be clear, however. To say Ellen that is a good choice as a national spokesperson, you have to set aside God’s standard of right and wrong. She is “married” to her same-sex partner. She openly talks about her homosexual lifestyle as a good lifestyle. God tells us exactly the opposite. At a time when large-scale efforts are taking place to convince all of America that God’s standard for sexuality should be ignored, I see JC Penney’s choice as one that intentionally places itself in opposition to Biblical standards.
Yesterday, I discussed the Ninth Circuit’s decision in the California same-sex marriage saga. In that post, I explained how the Ninth Circuit’s decision is excellent proof that compromise is not an option in the battle over marriage. Christians may think the best approach is to compromise by settling for same-sex civil unions, but as the Ninth Circuit explains, when you treat same-sex relations as the equivalent to marriage in every respect — except the name marriage — it’s really hard to come up with a legitimate argument for denying the name. After all, if your state laws put the stamp of approval on same-sex relationships, how in the world can you legitimately tell a court that there’s a good reason for denying just the name?
In yesterday’s post, I reserved for today’s discussion a response to something I hear quite often from Christians: that the government should just get out the marriage “business” altogether. I think people make this argument for two reasons: first, as Christians we know that God is the creator of marriage and therefore it is wrong to suggest, through state involvement, that the state should play any role in creating marriage; and second, because our country seems headed down the path to legalization of same-sex relationships, perhaps we can best protect religious liberties of pastors and churches by stripping government of any role in marriage. Thus, each church is left to marry couples.
While it has some facial appeal, in order to accept that argument, you have to buy into the mentality that people can do whatever they want privately without it impacting the greater society in which they live. In other words, allowing two people (or three, or four) to marry has no positive or negative impact on society. The trouble is that we should know better. Just stop and ask yourself about the parent-child relationship. Children learn by watching adults — they learn what is right and wrong by what adults do and don’t do. Actions of those around us set normative standards and send a message to others as to what is deemed acceptable. If parents don’t proactively influence their children on an issue, we know that others will fill the void and provide our children with a wealth of information that may or may not be the message we would have liked for them to receive.
Why do we expect it to be any different on the societal level? The only role that government should properly play with respect to marriage is to provide incentives to citizens to enter into relationships that have proven to benefit society. Government isn’t involved in marriage to throw benefits to and fro simply to make everyone feel affirmed in their lifestyle choice. Thus, not every marriage should be encouraged. And when the marriage is based on a lifestyle that Christians know is sinful, it should not be encouraged.
So, that still doesn’t answer the million dollar question — why not just remove government from the equation? Well, if governments is not involved in encouraging people to enter into good relationships, then that void will be filled by something: it will be filled by all those who deny God’s standard for marriage, and it will be filled with the lie that sinful relationships are good relationships. Rather than preserving God’s standard for marriage, removing government’s role will only move us more quickly down the path our nation presently seems intent on pursuing — perverting God’s standard for marriage and family.
Society will not remain neutral on the issue of marriage (because it can’t remain neutral on anything). If we remove the prevailing governmental voice that affirms traditional marriage, we will create a gaping hole for satan to fill with his lies. We are called to fight this battle — not to waive the white flag.
Although not a surprise to anyone who has followed the case, today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that California’s marriage amendment is unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, Judge Reinhardt, who is no friend to traditional values and is the most reversed judge in the country, authored the opinion. Thankfully, the opinion is more limited in scope than I am sure most of the homosexual activist organizations would have hoped for. The opinion also provides the clearest answer to all Christians who say we should compromise in the battle over marriage: the answer is you absolutely cannot. The foundational holding in the opinion is that because California compromised on God’s standard for marriage over the years, by incrementally treating same-sex relationships and same-sex parenting as the equivalent of marriage, California has no rational reason to deny the name of marriage. Honestly, I can see the logic (if you can call it that). Let me back up a bit, explain what happened, and hopefully convince Christians that there is no wiggle room for us to compromise on God’s standard for marriage and family.
Often, I hear Christians state that the only way to prevent legalization of same-sex marriage across the country is to compromise with those who are seeking to redefine marriage. Some say the compromise should be domestic partnerships, others that it should be civil unions, while others suggest government should not be involved at all in licensing marriages. California is the perfect example of why we cannot compromise. First, it’s a non-starter to suggest that the homosexual activist organizations would compromise on a domestic partner registry. They have domestic partner registries in many places across the country and clearly they do not consider that a compromise option. Second, California offered absolutely everything to same-sex couples except the name of marriage and that too wasn’t good enough for those bent on undermining God’s standard for marriage. After the California Supreme Court affirmed the people’s decision to amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the battle moved to federal courts where the question was whether the US Constitution required California to legally sanction same-sex marriage because it otherwise treated same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples.
The Court today answered that question directly: denying “the official designation of ‘marriage’ for the relationships of committed same-sex couples send[s] a message that gays and lesbians are of lesser worth as a class – that they enjoy a lesser societal status.” As a result, the Court held that California’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman was unconstitutional.
Another important, and interesting, aspect of the decision was that the Court relied heavily on the fact that a few months prior to the constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the California Supreme Court had “found” the right to same-sex marriage in the California constitution. Thus, the Ninth Circuit viewed the constitutional amendment as one that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry insofar as the California Supreme Court had, a few months prior to the amendment’s passage, declared such a right to exist. The Ninth Circuit held that stripping same-sex couples of that right to marry demonstrated animus (hatred) toward homosexuals.
At the end of the day, the decision is very limited. The Court expressly stated that it did not decide whether the US Constitution requires every state to legalize same-sex marriage. Rather, it was limited to specific situation of California, where (i) the state Supreme Court had extra-judicially conferred the “right” to same-sex marriage and the people responded to that improper power grab by passing a constitutional amendment to keep marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and (ii) the state had, over the years, treated same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples in all respects except for the name of marriage.
As I stated earlier, I can see the “logic” of the opinion. In an effort to appease those bent on living a lifestyle of sin, society often makes “compromises” to show respect or tolerance for those who believe differently. Thus, states no longer punish the adulterer or fornicator (regardless of whether they are engaging in same-sex or opposite-sex sexual behavior) despite the fact the Bible plainly calls it sinful. Some will immediately state that government shouldn’t be punishing conduct simply because the Bible calls it sinful. Well, can you identify a better, objective standard of right and wrong than the Bible? As a Christian, can you point me to the verse in the Bible where God put me in charge of deciding that what He calls sin I can call anything other than a sin? As a Christian, entitled to advocate for laws that I believe are “good” for society, how can I make those decisions on anything other than God’s standards for good and bad? And, if I compromise on God’s standards, should I expect anything other than the type of decision we received today? (No!). The battle over marriage, as with so many other issues today, is really a battle over Truth and over God’s sovereignty over every area of life. Show me someone willing to compromise on God’s standard for marriage and I’m fairly confident there will be other areas of life where they compromise as well.
Check back tomorrow for my discussion of why the proper response is not that government should get out of marriage licensing altogether.
For today, we should count our blessings that the opinion is as limited in scope that it is. And we should fall on our knees, begging for God’s mercy that he hasn’t yet released his much deserved wrath on us for our willingness to deny his sovereignty over all that exists. He is Truth; as Christians we are called to proclaim His Truth, not to deny it or attempt to alter it.
In the category of real life is stranger than fiction, the federal district court in San Francisco provides us with the topic for this Veteran’s Day: American flag on student t-shirts can be banned because others might respond violently to seeing the flag.
Before I point out why this court decision stands the First Amendment on its head, let me provide a brief factual background. More details can be found in the news article discussing the recent decision and the actual decision itself — both of which are linked below.
A few students decided to wear t-shirts bearing the US flag on Cinco de Mayo. According to the court decision, there has been a history of some gang violence at the school. However, the school did not have a dress code policy that prohibited the wearing of t-shirts with symbols on them. Nor did the school have a policy of prohibiting either the US flag or the Mexican flag.
In this case, the school maintains that some students approached administration stating that they were concerned for the safety of the boys wearing the US flag — that some perceived it as hostility to those celebrating Cinco de Mayo. In response, the school told the boys to turn their shirts inside. When the boys refused, they were told to leave school. According to the court decision, students wearing the colors of the Mexican flag were not required to turn their shirts inside out or to leave school. So, clearly, the boys wearing the shirts with the US flag were treated differently than those wearing the colors of the Mexican flag. These are usually the type of facts that make for avery nice First Amendment case against the school. Unless, of course, you are in San Francisco and the group treated differently has anything to do with affirming US patriotism.
So, how is it that the court upheld the school’s decision to send the boys home for wearing the US flag? This seems like precisely the type of discrimination that the First Amendment should prevent. Well, here’s where the school administrators — or, at least their attorneys — got creative and where the US District Court in San Francisco found a way to further erode the principles upon which this nation was founded.
The school argued that it didn’t discriminate. Rather, it treated the same all those students who were the subject of possible violence. In this case, only those wearing US flags were possible targets for violence and therefore only those boys were asked to remove their shirts. Hmm, it doesn’t take a constitutional scholar to realize that this argument can be summarized as follows: the bully wins. So, if I want to silence your opinion, I need to be sure to threaten violence against you: I won’t be punished for my violent tendencies and you will be censored because the administration needs to protect you from big, bad me.
In First Amendment terms, we call that the Heckler’s Veto. The heckler causes trouble and yet the subject of the heckling is the one who is punished. Years ago, the Supreme Court explained that our First Amendment does not tolerate the Heckler’s Veto. I have the right to speak my mind — if you don’t like it, leave or act civilly and listen to it. What you don’t have the right to do is silence my opinion because I somehow offended you.
In a culture that is so concerned with bullying and, even more to the point, in a city that is supposedly all about tolerance (mind you, having witnessed San Francisco first-hand, I don’t think for a second that San Francisco is a tolerant city), how could a court possibly accept the novel and absolutely ridiculous argument that the US flag can be censored because someone might get mad and assualt those who wear the US flag.
Frankly, if the US flag offends you that much, you are blessed in America with many freedoms, including the freedom to leave our country.