“Those complaining about marriage being re-defined need to realize that marriage was ‘re-defined’ the moment the US defined marriage as ‘having a valid marriage certificate signed by two citizen witnesses issued by a valid US state or territory.'” Anonymous
I don’t like commenting on current events, at least not on my blog. I like to let things breathe and wait for them to stop trending before I say my piece, but today please forgive me for breaking my own unspoken rule.1
I try to give a nuanced view of my Christian faith, in a world where the most vocal forms of Christianity are either extremist fundamentalist, or extremist liberal.
Today, June 26, 2015, was a long awaited victory for some, and a nightmare come true for others. Emotions are raw, and more people have probably unfriended each other today, than at any other day since Barack Obama was elected in 2008.
“You there, holster that unfriend button!”
If there’s one thing human history has taught me, it’s that everybody overreaches.
Alexander the Great would have pushed to the end of Asia if not for the mutiny of his own men. Napoleon attacked Russia in the winter. If Adolf Hitler didn’t attack Russia, all of Europe would be speaking German right now. Even the LGBT community is beginning to experience the intoxication of power as it begins to overreach (or at least we fear they will) into aspects of religious freedom.2
Today we like to think that the division among Christians when it comes to politics (not theology) is about the issue itself. The person with the keen eye will find that it’s about a schism that goes back to the interpretation of the bible: whether we are called to sway non-christians by the sword (laws), or by persuasion (the Gospel).
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36
Some of us – maybe you recall the term “Reformed Hipsters” – believe that nations can’t be Christian; that it’s an impossibility.
Nations commit genocide at a whim. Nations enslave entire groups of people. Nations go to war with other nations. Nations firebomb cities full of innocent civilians and use atomic weapons. Nations use drones to accidentally kill a wedding party mistaken for terrorists.
Imagine going before God and saying, “Oh, those 14 people I killed at that wedding in Yemen was just an accident. We’re still cool, right?”
Does that sound like repentance to you?
Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:23
If a nation could be Christian, it would turn the other cheek, and when was the last time you saw a nation do that?3
There was once a young Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was rather lonely for him all day, so he thought upon a plan by which he could get a little company and some excitement. He rushed down towards the village calling out “Wolf, Wolf,” and the villagers came out to meet him, and some of them stopped with him for a considerable time. This pleased the boy so much that a few days afterwards he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. But shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest, and began to worry the sheep, and the boy of course cried out “Wolf, Wolf,” still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again deceiving them, and nobody stirred to come to his help. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy’s flock, and when the boy complained, the wise man of the village said:
“A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.” Aesop, Aesop’s Fables (1867)
We pretend that we aren’t this little boy, but we are.
“If we prove that domestic slavery is, in the general, a natural and necessary institution, we remove the greatest stumbling block to belief in the Bible; for whilst texts, detached and torn from their context, may be found for any other purpose, none can be found that even militates against slavery. The distorted and forced construction of certain passages, for this purpose, by abolitionists, if employed as a common rule of construction, would reduce the Bible to a mere allegory, to be interpreted to suit every vicious taste and wicked purpose.” George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! Or Slaves without Masters (Richmond, VA, 1857)
“The worst foes of the black race are those who have intermeddled on their behalf. We know better than others that every attribute of their character fits them for dependence and servitude. By nature the most affectionate and loyal of all races beneath the sun, they are also the most helpless; and no calamity can befall them greater than the loss of that protection they enjoy under this patriarchal system.” Minister Benjamin Morgan Palmer, Thanksgiving Sermon, First Presbyterian Church (New Orleans, 1860)
Benjamin Palmer’s obituary said this of him:
Dr. Palmer served God and his generation as a symbol of the immutability of the great essentials of our religion. His faithful witness to Jesus Christ in the word of his preaching and the example of his ministry gave him such power in New Orleans as few of the Lord’s ambassadors have ever wielded in any age of the church. By all consent he was acknowledged for years to be the most influential man in that city, and he was so brave and outspoken that he made for righteousness not only in the private lives of men but in the civic life of the community. The Interior (1902)
There were Christians on both sides of the slavery issue. We insist that those that were for slavery were just interpreting their bibles incorrectly.
“Yes, I am opposed to Woman Suffrage, believing as I do that it is unscriptural, injurious to women, hurtful to men, damaging to children, unfriendly to the home and harmful to the State. At best it is an unnecessary and dangerous experiment and in the South it is especially undesirable in view of the race question, which it would surely complicate further.” Warren A. Candler, Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South (1919)
Oh, it wasn’t just the “South” it was the North too.
“We invite your attention to the dangers which at present seem to threaten the female character with wide-spread and permanent injury…when she assumes the place and tone of man as a public reformer, our care and protection of her seem unnecessary; we put ourselves in self-defence against her; she yields the power which God has given her for protection, and her character becomes unnatural. If the vine, whose strength and beauty is to lean upon the trellis-work and half conceal its clusters, thinks to assume the independence and the overshadowing nature of the elm, it will not only cease to bear fruit, but fall in shame and dishonor into the dust.
We cannot, therefore, but regret the mistaken conduct of those who encourage females to bear an obtrusive and ostentatious part in measures of reform, and countenance any of that sex who so far forget themselves as to itinerate in the character of public lecturers and teachers.” Massachusetts Congregationalist Clergy (August 1837)
It wasn’t just American Christians. England had similar views:
“The husband and wife are one person in law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage or at least is incorprated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs every thing.” Judge William Blackstone
When suffrage was being debated, there were Christians on both sides of the issue. Today, we pretend that all Christians were for women’s suffrage, and anyone against it was “not really a Christian.”
“We have a greater struggle ahead than we have yet encountered. We are now in the greatest struggle since the Civil War for the effectuation of Democracy. We have gone beyond the question as to what we think about the liquor traffic or about prohibition. We are face to face with the problem as to whether, when through the proper uses of all the legislative processes known to our republic we have acheived a signal victory over a great evil, we are to be deterred from the employment of that victory by an unscrupulous minority whose one slogan is, ‘you can’t enforce that law.’
It is the greatest test of the validity of our republic’s institutions. It should stir every drop of blood in the veins of every patriot. It should challenge the Christian Church to such an effort as it has never before made in its history.” Bishop Nicholson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Don’t Unwittingly Join the Enemy’s Forces (Chicago, Il. Feb 10, 1927)
“The Federal Council gratefully recognizes the splendid service which has been rendered by the agencies especially authorized by the Churches which, for many decades, have labored persistently and effectively to secure the adoption and the maintenance of prohibition.” Ernest H. Cherrington, Answers to Favorite Wet Arguments, American Issue Press (Westerville, Ohio, 1928)
I went to Christian private school, and I was taught in U.S. History that Prohibition was a “horrible idea” and that it was obvious that the bible supported the drinking of alcohol in moderation. What changed in those many years?
“All orthodox, Bible-believing Christians agree on one thing; and that is, that whatever the Bible says is so…In recent years there has been a subtle, Satanic effort to undermine people’s faith in the Bible; and the devil has elf the race along until men have put their own opinion above the Word of God. You will find that practically all the troubles we are having today have come out of the fact that men in many instances have ceased to believe in an authoritative Bible…God Almighty did not make of the human race one race in the sense that He did not fix the bounds of their habitation. That is perfectly clear. It is no accident that most Chinese are in China…Well, away back yonder our forefathers went over to Africa and brought the colored people back and sold them into slavery. That was wrong. But God overruled…Wherever we have the races mixed up in large numbers, we have trouble. They have trouble in New York. They have trouble in San Francisco. They have had trouble all over California…Do not let these religious liberals blowing their bubbles of nothing over your head get you upset and disturbed. Let’s get back to the Word of God and be sensible…” Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Easter Sunday (April 17, 1960)4
“There is a conspiracy afoot to destroy the South. The members of this conspiracy are of various backgrounds. Their basic aim, knowingly or unknowingly, is to destroy the social and cultural life of the South and the white race by amalgamation of the races. Component elements of this conspiracy to destroy the South are the Communist Party, the NAACP, the United Nations, the National Council of Churches, the leadership in many denominations of the Christian Church, elements of the TV networks, elements of the movie industry, a number of leading magazines with nationwide circulation, elements in the Republican and Democratic Parties, and, to a large extent, the Press … Large foundations reportedly are putting large sums of money into the integration program all over the country. Many others are pushing integration: The YMCA, religious liberals, various dubbed dogooders, etc., and many sincere and good ministers of the Gospel. They have succumbed to and been traduced by the integration propaganda of the Communist Party, the NAACP, and various liberal and unorthodox theologians bleating their shibboleths of ‘Justice’ and ‘Freedom.’ In the interest of their unnatural religious and social philosophy, they are working to destroy the races that God has created, crying ‘oneworld brotherhood’ and ‘racial equality,’ neither of which conceptions have any substantiation whatsoever in the Scripture or in the study of mankind anthropology, psychology, etc. … The Supreme Court has violated, in my opinion, … the Constitution which they have sworn to uphold, and they should be impeached. Strong sentiment is arising all over our nation to restrict the Court; but when you have such a Court as the one we have now, the only practical remedy is to kick them out and put new men in … This conspiracy to effect the submersion of the white race under a Negro society must not prevail. We are forced to take a stand.” Rev. James P. Dees, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Conspiracy Is Afoot to Destroy the Social and Cultural Life of the South, The Southern Conservative (Statesville, North Carolina, 1958?)
Notice how as the years go by, the rhetoric is getting softer and softer. Now slavery was obviously wrong, and we’re all of one blood, etc.
“Yes, the Bible is a discriminating Book, both as to race and creed. Beware of the cliche “no discrimination.” Unless, of course, you want to join hands with international schemers in destroying the Christian heritage which guarantees your freedom.
The race of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph now the kindred AngloSaxonCeltic Christian peoples of the United States, the British Company of Nations, and Western Europe cannot commit to other races the supreme place which God has assigned to that race alone. The exalted position of the Bible’s Covenant Race carries with it worldwide moral and spiritual responsibilities, which no other race has the Godgiven ability to perform. This Divine commission demands of us the spirit of humility and love.” C.R. Dickey, The Bible and Segregation, 1958
“[S]uch laws [banning interracial marriage] have been in effect in this country since before our national independence and in this state since our first legislative session. They have never been declared unconstitutional by any court in the land although frequently they have been under attack. It is difficult to see why such laws, valid when enacted and constitutionally enforceable in this state for nearly one hundred years and elsewhere for a much longer period of time, are now unconstitutional under the same constitution.” Perez v. Lippold, 198 P.2d at 35 (Shenk, J. dissenting)
“In reply to inquiries regarding the advisability of intermarriage between Christian young people of the white and black races, I will say that in my earlier experience this question was brought before me, and the light given me of the Lord was that this step should not be taken; for it is sure to create controversy and confusion. I have always had the same counsel to give. No encouragement to marriages of this character should be given among our people. Let the colored brother enter into marriage with a colored sister who is worthy, one who loves God, and keeps His commandments. Let the white sister who contemplates uniting in marriage with the colored brother refuse to take this step, for the Lord is not leading in this direction.” Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Book 2, pg, 344
So let’s pretend that this time – finally this time – we’re really right, that gay marriage is a sin5, and shouldn’t be recognized by governments. Why on Earth would anyone listen to us?! How many times have we cried wolf?
“But those weren’t real Christians! The bible doesn’t teach that! They mis-interpreted the bible!”
Ya, keep thinking that actually means anything to anyone outside your tiny bubble.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17
Today, we reap an America we sowed by Christian hands. Clap for yourself.
The greatest Christian joke in the last decade is that gays would be judged for getting married to the same sex, and you would not be judged for abusing the sword of government.
We’re all going to be judged.
For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:30-31
A prediction or two
American Christianity is going to be less moderate going forward. It will split between extremist conservative, and extremist liberal, as the varying groups engage in “mergers and acquisitions”.
Dispensational Evangelical Fundamentalism made promises to millions of conservatives that it couldn’t deliver (including many failed end of the world and rapture prophecies) and they’ll be looking for a new voice to rally behind. Christian Reconstructionism6 will be waiting nearby to swallow up defectors, as will Liberal Christianity. I think Reconstructionists are in a bit better position to grow, because when threatened, people tend to batten down the hatches, rather than introspectively rethink their position.
Moderate Christians like myself will shrink in size relative to the other groups. People will be more divisive and willing to label anyone who doesn’t believe exactly the way they do, a heretic.
Part of being a black moderate Christian, like myself, is believing that some Southern slave owners actually did go to heaven. Jesus died for imperfect people, and though I don’t advocate agnosticism, none of us will have completely perfect Christian doctrine in this life. We can only try our best.
You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:23-25
I believe marriage is an institution of God, between one man and one woman. I believe that only God can define marriage, not men, and not governments. Yet for 200 years of American history, we pretended that governments had a right to define marriage. We were perfectly fine with that status quo. You didn’t hear a peep from us. Now that government has a new definition, even though God’s definition never changed, we’re up in arms saying, “You can’t do that! We’re…we’re Libertarians now, government should never have had a role in marriage!”
“Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!”
Too late, little boy. No one’s listening.
This is the second time this month, actually. I need to cool it.↩
Time will tell if they’ll be more gracious to us than we were to them.↩
That wasn’t coerced by mutually assured destruction…or just plain “assured destruction.”↩
Dr. Bob Jones Sr. is the founder of Bob Jones University, the same university that banned interracial dating until the year 2000. In 1983, they were even willing to give up their tax exempt status and pay close to 1 million dollars in back-taxes in order to keep their interracial dating ban. That’s conviction!↩
I actually do believe it’s a sin. I’m just making a point here.↩
What I like to call “Calvinist Presuppositional Young Earth Postmillennial Theonomy”↩