(Photo: Reuters/James Lawler Duggan)
Public reaction from pastors to the United States Supreme Court's decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 was sparse and came slowly on Wednesday and did not include as many opinions as seen in the rapid-fire response by the general conservative Christian population.
Many conservative Christian leaders, who mostly do not represent specific churches, immediately denounced the decisions to strike down a key provision in DOMA that would allow legally married gay couples to receive the same tax, health and retirement benefits as other married couples, and also pave the way for gay marriage to resume in California.
"Today's ruling opens the door for inevitable intolerance towards people of faith who repudiate bigotry, defend the image of God in all human beings and also believe that marriage is a sacred union defined by Him," said Samuel Rodriguez, who is both a California pastor and president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference.
Speaking on behalf of Hispanic Evangelicals and reflecting the thoughts of many in the Christian community, he said that the support of the biblical definition of marriage is not a matter of politics, but rather a matter of faith.
"It is our faith that compels us to care for the poor and speak against injustice. It is our faith that prompts us to speak out against bullying and against the persecution of gays and lesbians in Third World countries," Rodriguez stated. "It is our Christian faith that requires us to uphold the biblical definition of marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman."
However, perhaps indicative of the current climate of churches in America taking a closer look at existing ministry work with homosexuality and relations to the gay community, reaction comments from pastors active on social media were minimal.
Pastor Ed Stetzer of Grace Church in Tennessee, who is the president of LifeWay Research, quickly posted a "Christian response" opinion column after the decisions. Perhaps his comments give an insight into the slow reaction from other pastors.
"Our typical response has been to post on blogs, write articles, and send tweets to shout about our opinion and speak out against those who differ," Stetzer wrote. "But, I'm not sure that is the best approach right now. Why? Because courts don't determine biblical morality, and regardless of what government does, churches shouldn't stop their mission."
When asked by The Christian Post to give his reaction to the Supreme Court's decisions, Stetzer answered in a way many pastors who use social media did on Wednesday – without specific reference to gay marriage, but pointing to biblical principles.
"We don't need to run from truth, but we also need to run to people – showing the love of Jesus to all kinds of people. We can do both. Jesus did both. Let's follow his example," Stetzer told CP via email.
Outspoken megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, who has more than 389,000 followers on Twitter, stuck to tweeting paraphrases from the Bible and promoting current Mars Hill Church sermons on Wednesday morning and afternoon. When contacted by CP, spokesperson Justin Dean said that the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church lead pastor would not be commenting on the Supreme Court decisions.
Christian radio talk show host, Frank Sontag, whose show "Intersection of Faith and Reason" is broadcast from one of the largest Christian stations (KKLA 99.5) in the nation, said the opportunity for all Christian leaders to preach on the subject of what the Bible says about government should not be missed.
"I'm not at all surprised by the rulings," Sontag said. "If there was ever a time to start teaching on theology of civil government, it's now. Time to wake the sleeping giant."