One of my favorite TV scenes from childhood is when the Whos in Whoville gather on Christmas morning to sing, despite the Grinch allegedly stealing their Christmas. I know it's cheesy, but I think Dr. Seuss' story has become a Christmas classic because it expresses a meaningful truth. Yes, the Grinch could take the Whos tree, their toys and their trimmings. But, he could not steal something in their hearts: he could not steal Christmas.
I couldn't help but think of that classic scene this past Sunday, when our church family gathered for worship. Like the Whos, we Christians last week lost something very dear to us – something far more precious than Christmas decorations and presents. We lost the state's recognition of a fundamental building block of our society. We lost the privilege of making the rules. We lost the security that our religious freedoms will be protected – that we'll be able to live and work according to our convictions without being ostracized or even jailed.
Yet, like the Whos in Whoville, we sang with the same joy, the same hope and the same exuberance that we do every Sunday. Truthfully, just like the Grinch could not steal Christmas, the Supreme Court cannot steal marriage, nor what it represents. Christian husbands and wives remain united to each other by a sacred bond. The church remains the Bride of Christ. And, Christians continue to anticipate, perhaps even more intensely, the return of our beloved Bridegroom – Jesus Christ.
So yes, American Christians have suffered a serious blow. But, we do not lose hope because our hope was never centered in a so-called "Christian" nation. And, though we may be on the "wrong side of history" now, we know we will not be on the wrong side when Christ returns. Plus, this ruling doesn't hinder our ability to share Christ. In fact, it may actually increase it.
You see, just like the Grinch thought that all the Whos cared about was their stuff, our cynical world thinks all Christians care about is their money and their power. (Sadly, many Millennials, who were raised in the church, feel the same way.) They expect us to rant and to rage and to claw for lost power. But this is our chance to shine – to show them where our treasure truly lies. Like the Apostle Paul, we have the opportunity to "delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties." We have led from strength; but now, as the church has historically done, we must lead from weakness.
Faithfully leading as an increasingly disenfranchised minority requires a different mode of operating, though. We cannot continue to do things the way we did when culture reflected our beliefs and values. We also cannot ignore the needs of the sexually broken who, given the court's decision, will certainly multiply exponentially. We need to respond to this new challenge thoughtfully and compassionately.
This starts with repentance. As Owen Strachan of the Biblical Council for Manhood and Womanhood wrote, "Let's allow this decision to shock us back into taking stock of the log in our own eye." Let's be honest. American Christians began desecrating marriage long before gay activists did. We've divorced and hooked up and nurtured addictions to porn. If we truly want to restore the sanctity of marriage, we need to recommit to our own marriages and families.
We also need to understand the purpose of marriage. It's not ultimately about our personal fulfillment, but about sacrificing ourselves for the good of others and reflecting the love of God. As Elisabeth Elliott once said, "The reason the church had vows was that people need to publicly declare the course they intend to follow, not the feelings they expect to experience. To get divorced because the marriage isn't working anymore is a total misunderstanding of marriage."
Retreat and Regroup
Clearly, the Supreme Court decision showed that Christian values and American values are at odds. Some, like Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, suggest that despite our losses, Christians should aggressively engage in the public square. Just like pro-life activists changed public opinion after Roe v. Wade, so pro-marriage activists can change public opinion following this latest setback. Instead of retreating, Anderson argues, we should advance.
Others, like conservative writer Rod Dreher, argue that Christians need to take a cue from the monastics of the Middle Ages. Like the monks retreated to monasteries to preserve the Christian Way in a hostile environment, so Christians today should establish counter-cultural communities to avoid obliteration.
So, which should Christians do? Should we advance or should we retreat?
I suggest we do both. As long as we live in a representative democracy, Christians have an obligation to participate in the political process and to engage in the public square. But, let's be realistic. Politics follows culture – and we've lost the culture. It will take decades to reverse the losses we've sustained. And, any significant cultural change won't be won by political engagement or argumentation. It will happen as the world sees Christians faithfully living Christianity before it. And frankly, to do this, we need to retreat.
I know this goes against the grain of our evangelical activist nature. We want to change the world for Christ – and over the past two centuries, we have. But unfortunately, we evangelicals are losing our saltiness (Luke 14:34) – and our children. If we do not disengage from culture at least somewhat, this assimilation and attrition will only continue. So, let's unplug the TV and computers as much as possible; invest in Christian community; and yes – and I know I'm stepping on toes here – remove our kids from public schools.
Make no mistake, the teacher trainers in most colleges and now many teachers follow the strategy espoused by the late American philosopher and educator, Richard Rorty, http://blog.speakupmovement.org/university/thought-reform/we-hate-you-now-give-us-your-kids-so-that-we-can-turn-them-against-you/. Like he boldly said, they are "trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable." The Judeo-Christian worldview, which once undergirded public education, has now been completely jettisoned. And, replacing it is the same worldview that guided the recent Supreme Court decision. Parents are kidding themselves if they think they can surrender their children to that prevailing worldview for 12 of their most formative years and still produce kids who think Christianly.
Resist and Redeem
Christians also need to resist the false classification of LGBTQ and to believe in the power of God to redeem sexuality. Make no mistake, this latest manifestation of the sexual revolution will produce casualties. And, as Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore recently said, the church needs to be ready to receive these casualties. However, we can't help them if we embrace the world's view of their sexuality – if we believe same-sex attraction is fundamental to their identity, as opposed to merely being sin. Tragically, though, many Christians today are doing just that.
Even the "Evangelical Declaration on Marriage," which nearly 100 Christian leaders signed, includes a line affirming that "all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God." I understand we don't want to offend a community that identifies according to their sexual feelings, but what are we saying? Yes, all people are created in the image of God. But, did He create them gay?
I have spent years ministering and living among people who, at some point, have struggled with same-sex attraction. Trust me, what the person with same-sex attraction does not need to hear is, "I'm so sorry you're gay. I still love you." This just confirms his or her worst fear – that society is right and he or she is a fundamentally different kind of person. Instead, this person needs to hear, "If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation – and your new creation is not gay. I love you and will walk alongside you as you become the person God designed you to be." I am not advocating reparative therapy, which is rooted in psychotherapy; I am advocating true Christian healing, which is rooted in the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Sexually broken people do not need our sympathy; they need our help. While it's true we can't promise immediate or full deliverance from temptation, we can promise that over time, God will bring healing to their souls and mold them increasingly into His image. The church must begin ministering, instead of merely handwringing or declaring. If a church doesn't know how to minister, there are numerous organizations like the Restored Hope Network or Redeemed Lives, which are available to help.
Finally, we must rejoice in the Lord. The early church considered suffering for Christ a privilege and so should we. "Consider it pure joy," James says, "whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." Yes, we face difficult days ahead, but they aren't necessarily dark. Because of the hope we have, we can sing in church – and like Paul and Silas, we can sing in prison. The circumstances may change, but thank God, His truth and the reality of our glorious relationship with Him does not.