By Will Hall, Baptist Message Editor
ALEXANDRIA, La. – Already, leaders have made public calls for prayer, and more than one has mentioned possible civil disobedience, too.
Churches are phoning their denominations and contacting faith-based organizations for answers about what the ruling means regarding weddings, hiring staff and whether it affects what they can teach and preach on the subjects of marriage and homosexuality.
Certainly prayer is a must.
Civil disobedience might be in order, too — but who, what, when and where?
Until the ruling is applied, it’s hard to know how to marshal such an effort.
To be sure, despite Justice Kennedy’s assurances that those with religious convictions “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned,” Christians already have seen the many ways governments can force compliance, or else.
President Obama’s executive order regarding government contractors means Christians can hold their beliefs about the sanctity of marriage, but Christian-run businesses and faith-based groups need not apply if they don’t hire homosexuals.
Likewise, states like Washington, Oregon and New Mexico contain constitutional protections for religious beliefs, but if you’re a baker, florist or photographer, you can’t exercise those beliefs in the course of serving the public.
As always, the devil is in the details.
But there are some public policies we can push and some ministry efforts we can make that can help us possibly change the culture, especially with regard to the climbing approval for gay marriage that largely began with the Millennial Generation.
According to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatherlessness is prolific in America: about one-third of Anglo babies are born to unwed mothers, just more than half of Hispanic babies’ moms aren’t married and almost three-quarters of African American babies are welcomed into this world by a single mom.
Gay marriage did not cause fatherlessness in America.
But it’s hard to argue that a broken home—a fatherless childhood—doesn’t impact a child’s perspective about the sacredness of marriage.
It’s also difficult to convince a person about the importance of marriage when it didn’t matter in their own home. Why should they think a father is important, when their mother raised them “just fine” without one?
Christians should work tirelessly to minister to fatherless children. But they should also champion public policies that are written to keep marriages intact and families whole.
Naysayers may argue it’s better to have no father at all than to have a bad one in the home.
But let’s get fathers back with families AND help them be better dads, too.
On top of the challenges created by fatherlessness, children in the Internet age have been barraged with pornography at levels like no other generation.
Surveys indicate 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls have been exposed to pornography during adolescence, and the material they’re seeing is not just images of naked bodies.
Moreover, the age of first exposure has dropped from 13 years old just a few years ago to nearly 10 years old now.
Hard core images are damaging young minds with devastating effects.
Young men exposed to pornography are more prone to objectify girls, and, are susceptible to developing a preference for viewing these images over having a human relationship. On top of that, researchers from Indiana University and the University of Arizona found that as heterosexual men consume more pornography, the more supportive they become of same-sex marriage.
Surprisingly, liberal Iceland has considered implementing a total censorship policy because of the documented harm pornography causes women and children. It already forbids printing and distribution of pornography, but as recently as 2013, leaders discussed plans to block all access to pornographic websites, and to make it impossible to use Icelandic credit cards on X-rated sites.
But even if liberals and libertarians in the United States dug their heels in against a total ban, no one should argue against making it more difficult for anyone under the age of 18 to access or be exposed to the toxic content of pornography. We should put filters in place and regulate the porn industry to the point that it is impossible for young eyes to catch even a glimpse of this filth.
It’s one thing to make a conscious decision as an adult to look at such content.
It’s altogether another thing to allow purveyors of pornography to snare young children and teens as they are growing and learning about the proper role of affection in relationships.
Ultimately, marriage is a spiritual institution and so a spiritual response is needed.
After the Supreme Court announcement, Franklin Graham posted a Facebook comment, saying, “With all due respect to the court, it did not define marriage, and therefore is not entitled to re-define it.”
And he’s right.
God designed marriage, not man, and we should resist society’s attempts to reshape it.
But what else?
II Peter 3:11-18 provides an enduring framework for how to respond to such a seismic shift as this. Knowing what we know about God’s plan for eternity, we should:
— Live holy lives. Acts 2:47 tells us being Christ-like has a good spiritual effect on others: “And having found favor with all the people, the Lord added to their numbers daily.” The people of Jerusalem saw an authenticity in the lives of the growing number of followers of the Way—and looking in from the outside, these people wanted to be changed, too. We can live likewise and win others to Him despite the cultural changes going on all around us.
— Be optimistic. A new heaven and a new earth are coming. So, no matter what we endure now, a better life awaits, and people should see we have hope.
— Be at peace. It’s a messianic message as well as an note of encouragement. Christ is the Peacemaker and through Him we can know the peace that salvation brings.
— “Count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation.” Remember the Lord is not slow about His promises. His delay is an opportunity for others to come to repentance. People act lost—and “lost” is the best way to describe this court decision—because they are lost. Let’s share the Gospel and help them be “found.”
— Grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Not only is it a time to share the Good News with others, it’s time for us to work on our respective relationships with Him. We are going to need His strength and wisdom as we deal with the fallout of how the Supreme Court has ruled.