In early 1521, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther stood in very deep trouble before the Catholic church. At the direction of the Emperor, Charles V, a council was convened at the town of Worms (pronounced “Vorms”) and Luther was called to answer for his crime of running afoul of the teaching of the Catholic church and Pope Leo X. When Luther’s writings were called into question and he was ordered to recant, he replied:
“Since your Imperial Majesty and Lordships demand a simple answer I will do so without horns or teeth as follows: Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Scripture or by evident reason – for I trust neither in popes nor in councils alone, since it is obvious that they have often erred and contradicted themselves – I am convicted by the Scripture which I have mentioned and my conscience is captive by the Word of God. Therefore I cannot and will not recant, since it is difficult, unprofitable and dangerous indeed to do anything against one’s conscience. God help me. Amen.” (source)
That day was an historic day because it helped to firmly cement the protestant reformation.
Today is an historic day too. Today the California Supreme court legalized marriage between gay and lesbian couples. I have not read the entirety of the 172-page decision (read it here), but the decision does have clear and destructive implications for our country and our calling as preachers of the gospel.
Eight years ago, in 2000, a majority of 61% of California voters voted to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Today, that law was overturned. The language of the California Supreme Court is especially troubling. They wrote:
“In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.” (source)
The troubling thing about this decision is that it equates homosexuality with race and gender. This firmly entrances sexual orientation in the same league as gender and race–constitutionally protected classes.
While watching The Fox News Channel, I heard their chief judicial analyst, Andrew Napolitano, say that this decision said that “marriage is a natural right, like thinking.” Napolitano also suggested that this was an absolute right so much so that if a pastor, on grounds of conscience or conviction, refused to marry a same-sex couple you could be charged and found guilty of discrimination against a constitutionally protected class of citizens.
This means that as a pastor who believes homosexuality to be a sin, you could be compelled to perform these gay marriages under penalty of civil lawsuit or criminal charges. I know, the scoffers are saying, “Certainly not!.” In response, I draw your attention to a recent lawsuit in New Mexico in which a photographer refused to take pictures of a same-sex civil union ceremony, because of religious conviction, and was sued for discrimination and lost! Read an article (here).
Let’s examine this. The photographer is a private citizen with a privately-owned business. Because of religious conviction, she refused to photograph a civil-union ceremony. As a private citizen with a privately-owned business she is entitled to enter into contract with anyone and she is entitled to not enter into contract with anyone. The state didn’t see it that way, however. The state tried to categorize her business (again, photography) as a public business to which anyone is entitled–like a public restaurant or a public store. So, she was ordered to pay $6,637 in damages (court costs and attorney’s fees, etc.).
So, if the photographer had said she couldn’t or wouldn’t photograph the ceremony because she had another engagement or was out of film or batteries for her camera, that would have been OK. But, because she voiced her religious views, she was hit with a lawsuit and eventually lost a large sum of money. Why did she lose? Because of her religious views, it is that simple. She was sued and punished for expressing and living by her religious convictions. (Read a good blog post about this here)
Back to California. Pastors could be forced to perform same-sex marriages or be punished (and criminally so) for not performing a same-sex marriage. This is further evidence of a growing anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian) sentiment in California and the rest of the country. But in reality, this has never been about “equal rights.” Why? Because California already had perhaps the most marriage-like domestic partner law in the nation (see here). About the only thing missing was the title “marriage.” Now that title is applied. And the reaction of people shows that this was about legitimacy, not equality.
The Dallas News reported the following scenes: (source)
- “Essentially, this boils down to love. We love each other. We now have equal rights under the law,” declared a jubilant Robin Tyler, a plaintiff in the case along with her partner.
- In the Castro, long the center of the gay community in San Francisco, Tim Oviatt wept as he watched the news on TV. “I’ve been waiting for this all my life. This is a life-affirming moment,” he said.
- “It’s about human dignity. It’s about human rights. It’s about time in California,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, pumping his fist in the air, told a roaring crowd at City Hall. “As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It’s inevitable. This door’s wide open now. It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not.” (emphasis mine)
Apparently, it is about legitimacy, not equality because equality was already there in all but name. It cannot be about love because same-sex couples were not prohibited from expressing love to one another in their own houses and they were not prohibited from “coming out” to anyone. Seeking life-affirmation in a court decision to tell you that your choice of lifestyle is OK is nothing more than seeking legitimacy to quiet the conscience. If it was only about life-affirmation, homosexuals would not feel the need to fight their battles in the courts and they would not be militant against those who suggest they are wrong. It cannot be about human dignity, for humanity cannot be defined by marriage. If it were about human dignity, single people would be, by definition, excluded–since marriage is now seen as an inalienable right. Human dignity is not related to marital status.
Now, there is much to consider–and this is very important in dealing with faith, freedom, and a free public square.
The right for anyone to freely practice their faith in the public square is now greatly threatened. When you consider the New Mexico lawsuit and the California ruling equating sexual orientation with race and gender a very frightening picture emerges.
Consider, for a moment, the percentage of the American population that is gay. The gaydemographics.org website claims that 1.16% of the American population is gay (source). Even if their numbers are wrong (and I intentionally used a “gay” source for these numbers) and the actual percentage is around 10%, gay and lesbian persons are still in the vast minority.
One of the so-called pillars of democracy is the concept of majority rule with minority rights (see here). Even former president Bill Clinton in his ill-fated interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday suggested the exact same thing (transcript here). Clinton said:
Democracy is about way more than majority rule. Democracy is about minority rights, individual rights, restraints on power. And there’s more than one way to advance democracy.
In the instance of gay marriage this principle is turned upside-down. Note again San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s words: “As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It’s inevitable. This door’s wide open now. It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not.” And, let’s remember–in 2000 61% of California voters voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman. So it isn’t about human dignity, or voter’s rights, or the will of the people, is it, Mr. Newsom?
Of course it isn’t. The homosexual people of California already had been given their “minority rights” by the domestic-partner law signed into law by former Governor Gray Davis. This is quite simply the pushing of an agenda, pure and simple. And, it is an agenda absolutely intolerant of any dissenting point of view.
This is not about democracy or equality. If a vast minority can work in such a way to effectively limit or prevent the free speech of another group, like religious persons who do not and cannot agree with same-sex marriages on the ground of their religious convictions, it is nothing more than the tyranny of the minority.
Many people today like to affirm the validity of all view points (liberals especially). They say every viewpoint is true because truth is not objective (not related to an outside standard). So what is true for you and what is true for me are both true, regardless if the two viewpoints are diametrically opposed to each other. So for the homosexual to view gay marriage as a good and acceptable thing and for an evangelical Christian to view gay marriage as an abhorrent practice are both true. Of course this is absolutely silly. Two plus two cannot simultaneously be four and five.
The evangelical Christian appeals to the outside objective standard of the truth–the Bible. The homosexual appeals to the subjective truth of their own experience. Both cannot be right. Because of the nature of subject experience, the liberal, post-modern homosexual thinker must affirm the validity of every viewpoint, even the evangelical position calling his or her position evil.
So, here we have a situation which is quite Orwellian. In Orwell’s Animal Farm we find that a certain class of animals, the pigs, taking over the farm. They insist all animals are equal, but some animals, namely themselves, are more equal than others (which of course is in-equality).
Today, the adherents to the radical homosexual agenda are not content with equality, they are after legitimacy and, because of their status as a vast minority by every estimation, their willingness to seek lawsuits against persons who disagree with them, and because of their absolute intolerance of other opinions on the matter of homosexual marriage, it is clear they are saying, “All viewpoints are equal, but ours is more equal than yours.”
The radical homosexual agenda is not about equal rights because it clearly includes the destruction or silencing of all dissenters. In other words, there is no room for equality for people who don’t share their position. If it were about equality, homosexuals would be happy having their rights to marriage or domestic partnerships and, at the same time, affirm the rights of others to disagree. But, that is clearly not the case. Anyone refusing to agree with homosexual marriage or unions is punished (just ask the New Mexico photographer).
So as evangelical Christians we will soon meet our own Diet of Worms. We will be called upon or compelled to do things that violate the Scripture and our Scripture-based conscience. We will soon see who the real Christians are. I pray that we (especially myself) will be able to point to the Bible and the God of the Bible and say with Luther, “Here, I stand. I can do nothing else. God help me. Amen.” May He help us indeed.