Now that Roman Catholics have a pope, attention has turned to Washington D.C. and arguments before the Supreme Court over the Defense of Marriage Act. A couple of posts by the Allies caught (all about) my eye. The first came from Joe Carter who went all in by tying Christian tolerance of gay marriage to idolatry (I haven’t even seen the Baylys try this one):
The idolatry of Christian same-sex marriage advocates takes two general forms. The first group still recognizes the authority of God’s Word, or at least still believes in the general concept of “sin.” They will freely admit that, like other types of fornication, same-gender sex is forbidden in the Bible, and even excluded by Jesus’ clear and concise definition of marriage. Yet despite this understanding they still choose to embrace same-sex marriage because they have made an idol of American libertarian freedom. They have replaced Jesus’ commandment—”You shall love your neighbor as yourself”—with the guiding motto of the neopagan religion of Wicca, “Do what you will, so long as it harms none.”
In endorsing laws based solely on the secular liberal-libertarian conception of freedom (at least those that produce no obvious self-harm), they are doing the very opposite of what Jesus called them to do: They are hating their neighbors, including their gay and lesbian neighbors. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God’s wrath (Psalm 5:4-5; Romans 1:18). As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).
The libertarian-freedom idol (LFI) has not been manufactured entirely by millennials, the generation of Protestants who seem most comfortable with laws that allow gay marriage. LFI was at least a factor in the baby-boomers implementation of worship forms that entirely capitulated to the aesthetics and impulses of music that these adolescents and young adults were listening to on the radio (music that was celebrating sex and drugs no less). In other words, Protestants outside the mainline churches (sometimes called evangelical) abandoned the restraints of Scripture when they turned to praise bands and 30 minutes of swaying and singing before the motivational speech (that used to be called a sermon). If they want the rest of the culture to resist the temptation of freedom, they might actually start to reflect such resistance in their own worship services, a branch of human activity that has much more to do with the first four commandments of the Decalogue than the seventh (sixth for Roman Catholics) that pertains directly to sex and marriage.
If readers think the parallels between P&W (for the charismatic challenged, Praise & Worship worship) tolerance of gay marriage are far fetched, they may want to consider Kevin DeYoung’s post which echoes Carter’s complaint. DeYoung expands the list of cultural factors that have made it impossible for Christians to oppose gay marriage meaningfully: “Gay marriage is the logical conclusion to a long argument, which means convincing people it’s a bad idea requires overturning some of our most cherished values and most powerful ideologies.”
DeYoung lists five such values:
1. It’s about progress. Linking the pro-gay agenda with civil rights and women’s rights was very intentional, and it was a masterstroke. To be against gay marriage, therefore, is to be against enlightenment and progress. . . .
2. It’s about love. When gay marriage is presented as nothing but the open embrace of human love, it’s hard to mount a defense. Who could possibly be against love? But hidden in this simple reasoning is the cultural assumption that sexual intercourse is necessarily the highest, and perhaps the only truly fulfilling, expression of love. It’s assumed that love is always self-affirming and never self-denying. . . .
3. It’s about rights. It’s not by accident the movement is called the gay rights movement. And I don’t deny that many gays and lesbians feel their fundamental human rights are at stake in the controversy over marriage. But the lofty talk of rights blurs an important distinction. Do consenting adults have the right to enter a contract of their choosing? It depends. Businesses don’t have a right to contract for collusion. Adults don’t have a right to enter into a contract that harms the public good. . . .
4. It’s about equality. Recently, I saw a prominent Christian blogger tweet that she was for gay marriage because part of loving our neighbor is desiring they get equal justice under the law. Few words in the American lexicon elicit such broad support as “equality.” No one wants to be for unequal treatment under the law. But the issue before the Supreme Court is not equality, but whether two laws–one voted in by the people of California and the other approved by our democratically elected officials–should be struck down. Equal treatment under the law means the law is applied the same to everyone. Gay marriage proponents desire to change the law so that marriage becomes something entirely different. Surveys often pose the question “Should it be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to marry?” That makes it sound like we are criminalizing people for commitments they make. The real issue, however, is whether the state has a vested interest in sanctioning, promoting, and privileging certain relational arrangements. . . .
5. It’s about tolerance. Increasingly, those who oppose gay marriage are not just considered wrong or mistaken or even benighted. They are anti-gay haters. As one minister put it, gay marriage will eventually triumph because love is stronger than hate. Another headline rang out that “discrimination is on trial” as the Supreme Court hears arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. The stark contrast is clear: either you support gay marriage or you are a bigot and a hater. It’s no wonder young people are tacking hard to left on this issue. They don’t want to be insensitive, close-minded, or intolerant. The notion that thoughtful, sincere, well-meaning, compassionate people might oppose gay marriage is a fleeting thought.
What is striking about this set of cultural assumptions is how much they were also part of the arguments for getting rid of “traditional” worship and ushering in the praise bands and worship leaders. With the exception of the notion of rights, contemporary worship was about updating the church (progress), reaching out to our children (love), a leveling of musical and aesthetic forms (equality, as in Shine Jesus Shine is as good as Of The Father’s Love Begotten), and making the church less elitist (tolerance). Even the notion of rights was evident in the arguments for contemporary worship even if the word did not show up in the sense that few critics of P&W argued that believers had no right to worship God contrary to Scripture or in ways that would harm the fellowship of Christians. Put another way, no one has a right to worship God irreverently, which is form of blasphemy. But whether contemporary worship triumphed or simply became a legitimate option along with older reverent forms, P&W opened up Protestants outside the mainline to levels of tolerance and related confusions that are also evident in the way that some Protestants make room for gay marriage.
DeYoung suggests several ways forward, though he rightly avoids the word solution. In effect, he says Christians need to be more thoughtful and less prone to employ ideas that dominate the culture. This is true. I suggest the way forward is to chant psalms. If Christians became accustomed to a different sensibility in worship on Sundays, if they saw a difference between what they do on the Lord’s Day and what they do during the rest of the week, if they got used to spiritually eating the religious equivalent of broccoli, they might have the stomach to resist trends in the wider culture. It won’t be effective before the Supreme Court rules, but it actually may be successful by 2040.
Postscript: Lest readers object that “traditional” worship was novel in its own right, they have a point. “Traditional” worship of the 1970s was largely the worship that prevailed from the 1920s. In other words, it was not the way that Calvin or Knox worshiped. But that so-called “traditional” worship did have a built-in sense that you didn’t not goof around in worship, and that frivolities of contemporary music and humor and this-worldiness were forbidden. Could that worship have been more biblical? Of course. Get rid of the choirs, the trumpets (which I sometimes played), and the observances of Mothers’ Day. But did those worshipers have a sense that they might offend God and should be careful not to? They did. That sense has vanished in most sectors of Protestantism in the U.S. thanks to contemporary worship.