It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.
We are living in a day far beyond those when we heard the initial pleas for “tolerance” and “openness” with regard to sexual freedom. These voices have morphed. They now issue shrill and oppressive demands that, unfortunately, seem to be carrying the day. One such voice belongs to New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni. He believes that conversations about religious liberty should emphasize the need to liberate “religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”2 What “prejudices” does he want “religious people” to “jettison,” even if by force? Opposition to homosexuality would be at or near the top of his list.3
Hillary Clinton has expressed similar sentiments with regard to the issue of abortion. Speaking in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Clinton said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the possibility she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”4
While the talk against religious liberty has been around for a number of years (despite its initial façade of tolerance), the rhetoric recently has increased in both volume and intensity. Writing for the Christian Post, Wallace Henley states that if the United States Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage this June, Christians may be treated in the United States as the early Christians were treated in the Roman Empire during the 1st century.5
Rome was a society where worship of pagan gods was commonplace. The early Christians were misunderstood, vilified, persecuted, and killed because they wouldn’t worship the Roman gods, wouldn’t call Caesar Lord, and lived pure lives that stood out in the Roman culture. They also stood against these practices that were common in 1st century Rome: suicide; abortion; the killing of infants; abandonment of infants; homosexuality; the degrading of women; and patria potestas, which, simply put, made the father a dictator in the family.6,7 Yet despite the hostility and opposition the early Christians faced, the church grew!8
These lessons from history are important for us today as we await the upcoming ruling on marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court. Mario Diaz is a legal counsel for Concerned Women for America. Mr. Diaz warns that if the Justices decide to impose same-sex marriage nationwide by judicial decree,
they should…consider the ramifications of such a reckless decision. They will be effectively opening the door to the criminalization of Christianity. At the very least, they will be kicking the door wide open to the persecution of Christians (and other religious groups) who believe marriage to be an institution created by God, which they cannot re-define of their own accord. Christians simply have no choice in the matter.9
We already cited Wallace Henley’s observation that Christians are on the verge of being treated as were the Christians in 1st century Rome. Henley says Christians already are being vilified in American culture; they next may become criminals, he says, simply for living according to their cherished beliefs. In fact, a Supreme Court ruling adverse to natural marriage will bring America across the threshold of criminalizing the Faith that made America both strong and free.10 For example, churches that do not recognize the marital rights of same-sex couples should be prepared to lose their tax-exempt status. With justification, conservative journalist Ben Shapiro predicts,
Once non-profit status is revoked for churches on the basis of supposed discrimination against homosexuals, those churches become private institutions engaged in commerce. Which means that they are regulated as common businesses under anti-discrimination law. Which means they can be shut down or fined for failure to perform same-sex weddings. The left says this will never happen. Which means we are a few years away from it happening.11
Who would have dreamed even thirty years ago that we would face a day when Christianity would be outlawed? Yet this is a very real probability in the days ahead. The oral arguments established this. When asked by Justice Samuel Alito if Christian institutions that refused to recognize same-sex marriage would have their tax-exempt status revoked, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”12
This includes religious universities and schools, which also will be targeted13—and with the legal leverage given progressives by federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the liberal elites will have almost unlimited power to demand compliance from every entity that resists. We are seeing parallels to this already with state governments in cases like those of Elaine Huguenin and Robert and Cynthia Gifford, to name just two of many.14 Given this, we cannot expect even that homeschooling families will be exempt from a federal mandate to teach that gay and lesbian sex are normal expressions of human sexuality.
These and other repercussions of a Supreme Court decision adverse to traditional marriage underscore the importance of a united stand to defend it. Accordingly, a team of Christian leaders has forged and is promoting a statement of resolve that you can sign and share with others. The team includes Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk; Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel Action; and Rick Scarborough of Vision America. The Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage declares,
marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.”15
The pledge goes on to affirm that government has an obligation to support and promote natural marriage and has no authority to redefine it. If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to “marry,” it will have overstepped its authority because it will have violated a higher law. Marriage was designed and initiated by God (see Gen. 2:21-25). No human entity has the right to redefine it.
In conclusion, the pledge states:
Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we do not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with a higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.
We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.16
Advocates of same-sex marriage have many segments of society on their side—allies such as the media, business, and many government institutions.17 Moreover, many who personally oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to defend man-woman marriage because homosexual activists have bullied them into silence. Ultimately, it isn’t primarily institutions but individual hearts and minds that will need to be convinced of the truth about marriage. Wallace Henley writes that Christians and churches must begin to prepare now for what lies ahead: “Leaders should begin thinking about what will happen if non-profit status is lost. Christian institutions must embrace a Book of Acts strategy for corporate operation. Schools must train future church leaders in New Testament strategies.”18
How did the early church survive and even thrive in a hostile culture? Part of the answer is that they loved God above all else, and God blessed, sustained, and strengthened them. Alvin Schmidt observes, “The early Christians, during their first three hundred years of bloody persecutions, neither sought nor expected the government to support them in their religious activities. They only yearned for freedom to worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They differed remarkably from the pagan Romans for whom religion meant being linked to a particular city or state.”19 As the pressure to bow in compliance to government edicts regarding marriage and sexuality intensifies, may we as 21st century believers also stand out in our culture as different from those who acquiesce. As we remain faithful to the Lord, perhaps He will use us to transform America, just as he used the early Christians to transform the then-known world. Relying on Him for strength, resolve, and charity toward all, let us pray and work wholeheartedly toward this end.
Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
7Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 25,27.
For Further Reading:
‘We will not obey’: Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience if Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
Man on Admission: Verrilli Reveals Taxing Truth
Alito Asks the Right Questions Which The Left Doesn’t Want Asked
Don’t Silence the 50 Million Who Voted for One Man-One Woman Marriage