JEFFERSON CITY – Decisions June 26 by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding California’s Proposition 8 and a key provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) do not sound the death knell for the marriage debate, according to John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
The Court let stand a lower court ruling setting aside Prop 8, which California voters enacted in 2008 barring same-sex unions. Prop 8 is similar to laws in more than 30 other states. The court also struck down a provision in DOMA that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. A bipartisan, overwhelming majority in Congress passed DOMA in 1996, and President Clinton signed it into law.
“The Court’s decisions do not surprise us, but they disappoint us for at least two reasons,” said Yeats. “First, the branches of our federal government continue to chisel away states’ rights to carry out the will of their people. Second, and more disturbing, they reflect the fact that a growing number of Americans increasingly embrace behaviors that violate natural law and biblical truth. The Supreme Court had the opportunity to uphold marriage and return authority for marriage policy to citizens and their elected officials but chose instead to legislate from the bench.”
Even so, the marriage debate continues, said Yeats. Instead of casting rocks at the Court or bemoaning the advances of the gay agenda, Christians should stand on Scripture and search their own souls. One reason Christians seem to be losing the debate is because our lives don’t show evidence that morality truly makes a difference.
“Our divorce rates, sexual immorality, and other worldly pursuits mirror those of society in general,” he said. “Our words about God’s power to transform lives ring hollow because too often our actions show we don’t really believe it. Our example should always be Jesus. He showed the deepest compassion for the greatest sinners, yet He never compromised on the truth of human sinfulness and the need for God’s forgiveness.”
Affirming biblical marriage
Don Hinkle, director of public policy for the MBC, said Missouri Baptists should remember that marriage is about the needs of children rather than the desires of adults. “Redefining marriage hurts children,” he said. “Decades of social science – including recent and thorough studies – show that children do better when raised by a married mom and dad. Redefining marriage puts a new principal into law – that marriage is whatever emotional bond the government says it is.”
Hinkle added that traditional marriage laws don’t ban anything; they define marriage for the good of society. “In all 50 states, two people of the same sex can choose to live together, or join a religious community that blesses their relationship, or choose a workplace offering them various benefits,” he said. “The issue is whether the government will recognize such relationships as marriages – and then coerce others to recognize and affirm same-sex relationships as marriages.”
Marriage is society’s best guarantee of a limited government that stays out of family life, Hinkle noted. In situations where families have broken up due to divorce, government involvement usually increases.
For those who argue that Jesus never addressed the issue of homosexuality, Hinkle disagrees. “Jesus affirmed God’s creation of male and female, along with God’s intent for one man and one woman to be joined in marriage for a lifetime,” he said, citing Matt. 19:4-6. “Anything outside of God’s design is sin – and that includes all forms of sexual immorality.”
Living as one pleases
Rob Phillips, director of communications for the MBC, said that while some people argue that they simply want to live as they please, no one is entirely free to do so. “Civil laws prohibit certain sexual expressions,” he said. “A man in love with two women is not permitted to marry them both. Adult sexual behaviors toward minors are not tolerated. The foundational laws respecting the sanctity of marriage are based on the conviction that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.”
Scripture teaches that marriage is the Creator’s design for enjoying intimacy and raising children, he said. “Changing the laws in this country – or anywhere else – does not make them right. God’s standards remain the same because He is a God of supreme holiness who knows what’s best for us. We may choose to rebel against His ways, but we do so at a high cost – and ultimately, rather than finding freedom we find ourselves enslaved to sin.”
As Christians speak out against homosexuality, they should speak out with equal conviction against adultery, premarital sexual activity, pornography, and other sexual sins that may ensnare anyone, Phillips added. “While some sins carry more severe human consequences, all sins grieve the heart of God and led Jesus to the cross, where He bore the penalty for our sins.”
A call to prayer
Yeats called on Missouri Baptists to pray for our leaders, who face incredible pressure to conform to the prevailing religion of secularism and the changing social mores that accommodate adherence to this system of belief.
“We also must pray for our our pastors and churches, that we would lovingly uphold the truth of Scripture and share the redeeming love of Jesus with all people.
“And then, we must pray for people held captive to the ideology and culture that embrace homosexual and lesbian behavior as normative – or even laudable – despite the revelation in God’s Word that such behavior grieves the heart of God.”
Yeats challenged Christians to keep in mind that while God may respond to unrepentant sinners by “deliver(ing) them over to degrading passions” (Rom. 1), He desires to transform them. In addition, His Word reminds believers delivered from sinful lifestyles: “Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).