nc-amendmentPersonally I hate the term “culture wars;”  I’m not at war with those whom I disagree.  I am not battling with those with opposing yard signs or who vote differently than I do.  I can resonate to a point with younger evangelicals’ tiredness of such rhetoric even if I don’t agree with their response.  I have said numerous times that culture won’t be changed through politics.  There is nothing that Washington, DC can do to reverse a moral decline.  Revival won’t start in Congress and it is unlikely that our President will lead us, as a nation, to collective repentance like what you saw in Ninevah after Jonah reluctantly shared the message God had burdened him with.

Not to say it can’t happen, because I don’t want to put God in a box.  He can do anything He desires to do.  Legislation, however, won’t change hearts and minds, just like the Old Testament law didn’t transform hearts and minds.  Old Testament law only condemned and it along with any legislation can only be preservative in nature.  Hearts and minds will only be transformed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  A marriage amendment won’t do it.  Striking down Roe v. Wade won’t do it either.

I say this however with an understanding that we do have a responsibility as the Church to be a prophetic voice.  Where we fail is that our voice often gets swallowed up in partisan rhetoric and party politics.  Matt Anderson responding to a post written by Rachel Held Evans made an astute point regarding our rhetoric.

It may be, in fact, prudent to simply avoid celebrating much altogether.  We ought to recognize, after all, that the overwhelming passage of traditional marriage amendments are not signs of our society’s health, but its disease–and we are all implicated in it.  Legislation ought to be the fruit of a long and careful discernment, what some have called “judgment” if we can get beyond the stereotypes for a moment.  That process costs us all something, for it demands reflection upon both the moral norms we ought to strive for and the society in which we live.   The attempt to close the gap, with legislation or some other effort, must be founded upon the recognition of failure.  It will not do to foist the burden of responsibility on others before moving on.  Not as Christians, anyway.  ”Weep with those who weep” is an exhortation given to the church, but it is for the world.  For as George MacDonald wrote somewhere, were it not for our tears the world would not be worth saving anyway.

Paraphrasing Anderson instead of being boastful of a victory that happened in North Carolina and 30 other states we should instead mourn the fact such amendments are necessary to begin with.  We should mourn that many in our society (and unfortunately in our churches as well) are calling what is wrong – right.

I know I have failed in numerous instances to speak on this issue from that perspective.  I know I’ve been guilty of being boastful when marriage amendments have been passed.  I’ve spoken uncharitably on numerous occasions that I wish I could have back.  Even in the midst of my failure I don’t believe I shouldn’t write about or not be concerned by culture issues such as abortion and marriage, but I know I must take care in how I write and how I express that concern.  (FYI – I want to point you to an excellent post by a J.D. Greear, a pastor in North Carolina, prior to the marriage amendment vote.)  However I do believe that being salt and light compels me to engage this and many other topics.  We must take care about how we speak, but we shouldn’t be silent whether the issue is marriage or some yet unforeseen issue in the future.

9 comments
  1. Although one must eventually come back to reality, and back to the ongoing contest of ideas, I would not “fine” the defenders of our values for “excessive celebration” over a battle fairly won.  Well done, North Carolina.  Yet the campaign is not over, and we ultimately “wrestle not against flesh and blood.”

    1. Not fining them, nor am I picking on anybody in particular.  It should grieve us that such an amendment is even necessary.  Also we should consider how “spiking the ball” impacts our personal witness.  The Gospel is offensive enough will our rhetoric put up a wall?  I am by no means saying we shouldn’t put forth an amendment, I think you read my stuff often enough to know I’m an avid defender of our values.  We just need to consider is there a right way and a wrong way to go about doing that?

  2. You keep referring to this as a marriage amendment in North Carolina when it was much more that that.  It was telling homosexuals that their relationships are utterly and totally worthless.  It was a mean-spirited attempt to hurt them and their families (yes, some homosexuals are raising children, but I guess those families don’t deserve any kind of societal support).

    1. I like how Pastor Greear described the amendment (link above in post):

      “I think it is crucial for us to speak up–again, as an act of love for our neighbors–for the preservation of this institution in our society. The loss of something so fundamental to human flourishing would yield devastating consequences: how we perceive God’s image; how we understand God-like love; how kids understand their own gender identity; the building block of society and statistically-proven healthiest environment for the rearing of children—all this would be affected by the loss of God’s design in marriage.

      Now, some of you won’t hear this as love. You might even hear it as bigotry. I hope you’ll understand our heart more than that, and, if you can, give us the benefit of the doubt. Nobody is arguing that homosexuals are lesser people or ought to be ostracized in our society, or that they ought not to enjoy the same freedoms or protections that the rest of us enjoy. The point is simply that you don’t rewrite the nature of God’s designs based on contemporary cultural mores. Again, marriage was not invented by government; it was merely recognized by the government. God is the designer, and God established it as the union of a man and woman in an exclusive, life-long covenant.”

      1. Again, same-sex marriage was not legal in North Carolina, so this amendment went far beyond “preserving” marriage.  Even if same-sex marriage was one day approved, it would not change the fact the opposite-sex couples would still be able to marry and would still be able to continue what they see as God’s plan. 

        Some say marriage illustrates the relationship between Christ and his Church.  Should that mean we deny marriage to non-Christians, since they can’t fully understand the nature of marriage (as Christians see it)?  When are Christians going to get serious about protecting marriage from divorced people, as Jesus commanded (well, there’s a little ambiguity depending on which Gospel you’re reading)?  You yourself said marriage is an exclusive, live-long covenant, yet we are not enforcing that.

        Sorry, Shane, but it don’t think it’s our government’s job to enforce your religious precepts.

  3. Here via Mere-O and Matt’s FB: I would add, in addition to mourning  because the amendments are necessary, we mourn because they’re difficult for homosexuals. 

    @ Baltimatt: Man, you’re so right – the amendment does hurt! As Evans’ wrote in her post: “…like hell”. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a healthy amendment for society. A really, really hard one, yes, but maybe healthy too. 

    Also, wouldn’t it be great if the social support was a separate issue from the marriage one? I wish the tax breaks could be for any deemed competent to raise a kid. Helping parents to raise kids seems to be a legitimate gov’t role; at least more so than defining marriage. 

    1. I mourn as well that homosexuals are involved in a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s design and the consequences that come with it.  My hope is that they would find their identity in Christ through a relationship with him instead of wrapping it up in who they are sexually attracted to.

      1. Shane–

        Would you say Muslims, Jews, atheists, and other non-Christians are living a lifestyle contrary to God’s design?  If so, should we use the power of the state to set them straight?

    2. Brittany–

      That’s one of the things marriage is for:  the nurturing of children.

      If marriage is to be something one does to follow God’s plan, that is something done through one’s church or other religious institution.  As far as state-issued marriage licenses, that should have no religious requirement.

      Don’t marry same-sex couples in your church if that’s what you believe, but I see no reason to apply religious restrictions to the broader population.

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