Former SBC President Dr. Frank Page allowed me the honor of serving on the 2008 Southern Baptist Resolutions Committee. The work was hard and the hours long but the reward of working with some of the finest, most articulate leaders in the Convention made the experience one I will remember for a lifetime. All in all, the committee spent about thirty hours meticulously reading all of the resolutions submitted for consideration pairing the final number down to nine. From the defense of the term "Christmas" against the encroachment of a secular culture to recognizing Israel's sixty years of survival in the face of tenacious enemies dedicated to her destruction, the committee attempted to address some of the pressing social issues of our day.
One such issue was the California Supreme Court decision to overturn the will of the people and allow homosexual couples to marry. On March 7, 2000, the people of California voted overwhelmingly (61.4%) in favor of Proposition 22 which affirmed, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." On May 15 of this year, a sharply divided Court (4 to 3) overturned the will of the people setting the stage for same-sex marriages to begin. On June 16th, state officials began issuing marriage licenses at approximately 5pm local time.
This is not the first time the Southern Baptist Convention has passed a resolution condemning homosexual marriage. Southern Baptists have addressed this issue many times in the last few years with the first resolution affirming the traditional family passing in 1980. The Convention spoke directly to the issue of same-sex marriage in 2003, resolving to "continue to oppose steadfastly all efforts by any court or state legislature to validate or legalize same-sex marriage or other equivalent unions." Since Southern Baptists have spoken definitively and consistently (ten times in the past seventeen years) expressing the collective will of the messengers concerning same-sex marriage, why speak again in 2008?
The answer can be expressed in one word….portability. Massachusetts same-sex marriage law requires that all persons applying for a same-sex marriage license must be a resident of the state. California has no such law. Beginning June 16th, unless the court intervenes to suspend the law until California voters have their say in November defining marriage constitutionally, homosexual couples from any state in the union can travel to California, "marry," return to their home state and challenge that states marriage laws under the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. The result will be chaos in the courts and confusion in the home as our cultural and biblical understanding of the family rapidly discentegrates.
To fight this latest attempt of an activist court to force its liberal will on an unwilling electorate the messengers of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana resolved to "encourage all Christian pastors in California and in every other state to speak strongly and prophetically concerning the sinful nature of homosexuality and the urgent need to protect biblical marriage in accordance with God's Word." We also called on believers everywhere to "pray for the people of California as they seek to right this terrible wrong that has been forced upon them," and to "pray for the people of every state where biblical marriage in under attack." It should be obvious now to even the most ardent state's rights adherent that the only way we are going to ultimately protect the biblical, cultural, and foundational institution of marriage is with a national marriage amendment.
While resolving to stand with the people of California to protect traditional marriage, the messengers refused to allow the much proposed school exit strategy to be added to the resolution. For the past four years, those who believe the way to win the battle to stop the advance of secularism in public schools is to withdraw from the battlefield have strongly suggested that we must demand that all Christians remove their children from the public school system. School exit proponents are right to decry the moral chaos that is being sanctioned by the California public school system. In October, the California Legislature passed and Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law SB 777, which now bans in both school texts and activities any discriminatory bias against those who have chosen alternative sexual lifestyles.
But calling for an exodus from the public school is not the answer. The solution is not retreat but a recommitment to retake the public schools for Christ. Our willingness to allow the encroachment of pure secularism, especially in the schools, has pushed the system to brink of collapse. We should repent for allowing our children's minds to be inculcated with immoral ideas born from the unholy union of humanism and moral relativism. Jesus Christ has called us to engage the culture, specifically to be "in but not of the world." In His prayer to the Father before being betrayed, Jesus, speaking of His disciples said, "I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." He went on to clarify that our mission is to go into the world saying, "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." Certainly we shouldn't simply send our children out into a hostile world alone. We should go with them and become the light that counters the darkness of the message they hear. We should be the salt and we should shine the light of God's truth, knowing that darkness cannot overpower the light.
Whether standing for marriage for fighting for our children's future we must stay in the fight bringing the transforming power of the Gospel to bear in every arena.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.