June 29, 2015

Dear church: Get your deep and sincerely held beliefs in line

From U.S. President Obama's speech in the Rose Garden on the occasion of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex "marriage" in all 50 states:

I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long. But compared to so many issues, America's shift has been so quick. I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today's news should be mindful of that fact, recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom. But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them. Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone.

Talk about speaking out of both sides of your mouth. For all the talk about "separation of church and state" that you hear from the illiberal Left, it's actually a one-way street. On the one hand, those of religious conviction have no business trying to "impose" their values on society.

On the other hand, it's apparently quite fine for the President to call for those same religious people to amend their "sincere and deeply held beliefs" if they conflict with the values of the current Zeitgeist, and for those same secular Leftists to make a call "to abolish, or greatly diminish, [churches'] tax-exempt statuses" if they won't pile on the gay-rights bandwagon.

These people want a comfortable, inoffensive church that won't rock the boat or tell them that what they are doing might be wrong. The majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges says, "The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths." But the First Amendment doesn't ensure the right merely to "teach" one's religious principles; it ensures the right to exercise them. A conviction held is nothing, if it is not a conviction lived out. That means that all those beleaguered Christian bakers, photographers and florists actually have a constitutional right to act on their convictions and to opt out of taking business that would require them to participate in a ceremony they believe is wrong.

Charles Colson once wrote, "[The church] does not settle into a comfortable niche, taking its place alongside the Rotary, the Elks, and the country club. Rather, the church is to make society uncomfortable."[1] The present animus toward the Christian faith is evidence that, however halfheartedly, we are making society uncomfortable. And the principalities and powers don't like that, one bit.


1. Charles Colson, Loving God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 176.