I intended to post this second part more than a week ago. Unfortunately, I got busy, and lost a weekend to a continuing education session from which, at age 55, I can now sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel. A lot of things happened in that period of time, the background check bill proposal and failure, the Boston bombing, income tax day coming and going, and it was hard to get focused on writing on this topic again. But, I’m back, so here goes…
Beyond the indoctrination that is provided courtesy of the public school system, there are some things that Christians have done to themselves which have limited their effectiveness in swaying public opinion on this issue.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.” 2 Timothy 3:1-9, ESV (emphasis mine)
” For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV
We’re back on education again.
It is a natural tendency, coming straight out of the sinful nature of humanity, to re-define Biblical principles that don’t fit with our own philosophy of life. Even if we’ve experienced a conversion by coming to the cross and receiving the atonement of Jesus for our own sin, at the same time receiving the Holy Spirit in our own spirit which sanctifies us and gives us the means to live in holiness, the natural tendency is to soft-petal sinful behavior, and justify ourselves rather than depending on God to do it. In American Christianity, we do this through our ivory tower academics. We have accumulated a nice collection of colleges and universities to sift through the Bible and determine for us which parts of it to take seriously, and which parts of it to ignore because it is just a reflection of ancient culture and is no longer relevant. Frankly, many Christians are just to lazy to try to figure things out with the tools that God has given them, including that indwelling Holy Spirit. The academic faith that we have developed is embarassed by references to spiritual mindedness.
So it is that the ivory tower academics have determined that true Christianity doesn’t need to rely on “ancient, sacred stories” to determine or define sin, but rather, to rely on feelings that reflect the loving side of God’s nature. So how does that affect public opinion on the issue of gay marriage?
Well, it shows the world a divided church. The loudest, most visible voices which tend to get a public media platform are generally those who accept the humanist version of Christianity, and proclaim that there is nothing wrong with two people of the same gender entering into a God-initiated relationship of marriage. To them, God’s perspective on the matter, because it is only reflected in ancient cultural expression, is simply not valid. Their claim, that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, and therefore there is nothing wrong with it, is as bogus as the thought that the Bible really doesn’t define marriage because there is such a wide variety of marriage represented in the Bible, including plural marriages. Neither of those statements reflects an accurate interpretation of the scripture, which, in fact, is God’s perspective on the matter. The Old Testament clearly defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, in the early part of Genesis. Jesus cites this passage as being authoritative, and Paul also cites it. Jesus clearly teaches us that following the law doesn’t lead to salvation, but that the law does indeed define sin, and he endorses all of it, including the passage in Leviticus that declares homosexuality to be sinful.
The other problems stem from the behavior of conservative, Evangelical Christians. They’ve depended on a political party to deliver a political solution that reflects their perspective, but they’ve failed to hold the politicians accountable for their failure to deliver the solution. Instead, they’ve provided support for all of the other partisan political issues that their party has asked of them, and in so doing, painted themselves into a corner from which they cannot now escape. Whether it is an accurate depiction or not, conservative evangelicals are castigated as supporters of, and shills for the corporate elite and the wealthiest 1%. That weakens their moral argument, because it looks like they don’t really have a problem with the sinfulness of the greed and selfishness that is supported by right wing politicians. Isn’t one sin supposed to be just as bad as another?
And the bottom line is that the numbers are no longer there. Christianity in America is now centered in the older generation. The churches are aging and declining. The young people in the churches themselves are leaving, in droves, at around age 20 or 21, and less than a third of them will make an attempt to go back, with only a fourth of them succeeding. That doesn’t account for a whole segment of the almost 90% of the generation under 30 that has never been part of the church at all, and most likely never will be. The idea that “if we can just get all Christians to get behind this issue, think the same way, and vote that way” will not lead to success, simply because if all Christians did unite, they would not have enough votes to make a difference. And it now appears that the secular side of the political party they have made their home is not going to side with them to put enough votes together to change public opinion, or government practice. We can’t stop it by using purely political means.
The only path that is now open to making a difference on this issue is the path that should have been the one we’ve taken consistently. You can’t change someone’s behavior if they haven’t had a change of heart brought about by Jesus blood and righteousness. Passing a law isn’t going to stop sin. Only God can do that through his Holy Spirit. The church is going to have to stop investing gigantic resources in politics, and start investing in evangelism again. Until that happens, we’re not going to see what we want to see.