Christians in the US did not lose the culture war when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage – because Christians have never won any culture war. In fact, I dare say Christians are not even expected to, let alone commanded to, win culture wars. Let me explain.
For centuries, the “church” has enjoyed the privilege of being the moral majority. Some of the best forms of government, including the US, can trace their roots to the Christian values and principles of their founders. Now, these founders may not have been confessing Christians – that is, they may not have personally believed in and lived by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But they were cultural Christians. They were born and lived and were educated in a society that had Christian values deeply entrenched in its moral and cultural fabric.
But this is no longer the case. Christianity no longer holds that privileged and prominent position in many societies where it was once status quo. And this is a reality that Christians today, not just in the US but also the world over, have to come to terms with sooner or later. A massive shift is taking place in the cultural under-currents of the 21st century. The winning streak – if there ever was any – is over.
Yet, I have seen many of my brothers and sisters go into a panic over the tectonic shift that is happening. Many who never bothered to find out for themselves what the Bible teaches about homosexuality are now poring through their bibles with the desperation of a cornered mouse. And in the process, some have become convinced that there is really nothing wrong or unbiblical about homosexual relationships. I lament that conclusion by the way, but be that as it may.
Thankfully, many still hold to the traditional conservative view that homosexual relationships are against the order of creation and the will of God for marriage relationships. But even this view is getting weaker. Doubts are mounting. The wave of “tolerance” and “inclusivity” and “same love” is proving too strong to resist. Some are caving, and becoming closet supporters of gay relationships even as they visibly stand in solidarity with their tradition-bound brothers.
Personally, I am glad things turned out the way they did on that memorable Friday of July 26, 2015. I believe the universe is unfolding as it should. In fact, I believe the decision was inevitable sooner or later, and I believe that if Christians truly believe what the Bible says about the world, we should not have been surprised. Disappointed? Yes. Saddened? Of course! But shocked or surprised? Not really.
The US Supreme Court decision was a stark reminder for us Christians of our place in society. I will dare to say it is for our good that the tide turned on this gay marriage status quo. The truth is that many of us had gotten so used to being the moral majority in the world that we had started assuming that it is how things ought to be – that it was our right. Yet the truth is that we had never really “won” any of the cultural upper-hand we held for centuries (more on this in a few paragraphs).
We had become like that servant who works in his boss’s house for too long that he begins to believe that he owns the house. Perhaps the boss used to seek the advice of the servant on major decisions in the house, and he would even implement the opinions and views of the servant. This went on for so long that the servant started believing he was the boss. Then one day the boss starts going through a financial crunch and he decides to lay off some people, and when the servant realizes that he will be let go, he turns at the boss in anger and shouts: “You cannot do this! You need me. My ways and my ideas run this place!”
But we both know that’s not how it works. The boss will simply and calmly reply: “Actually, I can do this. I run this place.” He only needed the servant until the day the servant became a liability. The boss was the one pulling the strings all along. It is a question of authority. The Bible has always been clear on who runs this joint (hint: it is not God, read 2 Corinthians 4:4, John 12:31, 1 John 5:19, just to sample a few). And for that reason, any semblance of privilege or power or control Christians and Christianity may have on this world is at worst a compromise of our faith to “please” the world, or at best, the gracious act of God meant to prevent the world from self-imposed anarchy.
We must come to that place where we acknowledge that our influence, our privilege at this moment in history, is not needed — at least for now. We have never won the culture war because we were never meant to.
It took the conversion of a Roman Emperor (Constantine, 306 to 337) for the cultural (emphasis on cultural) tide to turn in favor of Christianity. You may call it a stroke of luck, or a glitch in the operating system of the world, or simply the providential hand of God, but it was never a right or a command from God. And surely not a victory won by Christians in the public arena of ideas.
This is why I am not particularly shocked by or appalled at the US Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. There is so much more I could say on what this means for how Christians should view their place and role in society. Perhaps, I hope, I will share my thoughts on this soon. But let’s keep the conversation going. These are, indeed, great (and trying) times for the faith. Whoever has eyes to see will see it and rejoice – I hope.
For the fame of His name,