Left behind? Conservative Christians and the gay revolution

Ken Blevins AP Signs display messages about gay marriage in front of the Devon Park United Methodist Church polling site … Continued

Ken Blevins

AP

Signs display messages about gay marriage in front of the Devon Park United Methodist Church polling site on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

What a difference a decade makes. Just consider the fact that, just 10 years ago, a vast majority of Americans opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage. Now we are told that a slim majority of Americans is ready to make same-sex marriage legal. Homosexuality is now at the center of American life, and the full normalization of homosexual relationships seems just around the corner.

The pace of moral change has been breathtaking. Go back less than one year, and President Obama opposed same-sex marriage, even as he said he was “evolving” on the issue. Now, the president is a vocal advocate for same-sex marriage, even going so far as to call for full equality of gays and lesbians in his inaugural address, delivered last month.

In the run-up to the inauguration, an evangelical preacher had to withdraw from delivering a prayer at the ceremony when controversy broke out over a sermon on homosexuality he had delivered almost twenty years ago. This month, it is the Boy Scouts of America in the midst of this moral revolution. Within a few months, the Supreme Court is to take up two different cases, either of which could fundamentally alter the moral and legal landscape on same-sex marriage. This week, the British Parliament approved the legalization of same-sex marriage and the government of France is poised to do the same. Before you finish reading this column, another major development may well have taken place. The pace of this moral revolution is just that swift.

Where does this leave America’s conservative Christians? Just over eight years ago, the nation re-elected an openly evangelical president. This past November, America elected an avowed and determined advocate of the full normalization of homosexual conduct and relationships. Evangelicals watched as three states voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

In terms of the cultural tide, evangelical Christians have every reason to feel left behind. Thoughtful evangelicals must realize the depth of our predicament. Political parties have platforms, but Christians must be driven by biblical convictions. Platforms may change, but convictions remain. Evangelicals do not believe that homosexuality is sinful because it is part of our platform, but because it is a conviction drawn from Scripture.


View Photo Gallery: From same sex marriages to prohibitions on homosexual behavior, Christian churches range in their outreach to gay members.

Evangelicals cannot join the moral revolution on homosexuality, but it seems unlikely that we can stop it, either. The issue of homosexuality, by itself and in tandem with other moral issues, may well lead to the marginalization of evangelical Christians within the larger society. This is already the case in secular Europe and, increasingly, in Great Britain and Canada as well. Churches and other groups that cannot accept the full normalization of same-sex relationships will find themselves driven further and further from the cultural mainstream.

This is going to be particularly difficult for America’s evangelical Christians. We are accustomed to standing within the political and cultural mainstream, comfortable in an America that shared much of our moral worldview. Those days are over. Preaching a sermon on homosexuality – even twenty years ago – will get you thrown off of the inaugural platform. Conservative religious groups may sponsor the majority of Boy Scout troops, but the Boy Scouts of America appear to be moving in a very different direction. Conservative Christians are a bit shell-shocked.

Much has been made of the fact that evangelicals are losing political clout, but the much greater loss is measured in cultural influence. Furthermore, the reason for this loss of influence in the culture goes far beyond the issue of homosexuality. Evangelicals are increasingly out of step with the cultural creatives, Millennials and an electorate that is trending libertarian. We have shifted from pushing for legislation we supported to doing our best to protect religious liberty in the face of legislation and regulation we cannot stop.

Oddly enough, liberal Protestantism seems to be riding in the saddle again. They may have lost multiple millions of members, but the old Protestant mainline seems to stand in the cultural mainstream once again.

Evangelicals appear to be headed for some kind of marginalization, and this will hurt. Nevertheless, evangelical Christianity began on the margins of society and only in fairly recent decades moved into the mainstream. As it turns out, our cultural influence may wane and our options for recovering that influence may be both few and ineffectual.

Thrown back to a posture of working from the margins, evangelical Christians will find themselves in familiar territory. Our task will be to bear witness to the truth, to tell the Good News about Jesus Christ, to be faithful in our marriages, to raise our children and to reach out to a world filled with people –gay and straight — who desperately need our message of God’s redeeming love. We don’t need a slot on the inaugural platform in order to be faithful to Christ.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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  • nkri401

    “Evangelicals Can’t Stop the Gay Revolution” but God Wil.

    Is this the same God that let 6 and 7 year old bodies get riddled with bullets?

  • cricket44

    So much hatred in the name of God. Jesus weeps.

  • FYIColumbiaMD

    It’s always a challenge for conservative Christians. They were the last to accept the end of slavery and the last to accept the idea of women being entitlled to vote. They were the most vocally opposed to the civil rights movement – and the last to defend laws prohibiting interracial marriages.

    In each case, they claimed biblical support for their position.

    We find a similar case now with gay rights. My guess is that 50 years from now you will hear as many conservative Christians presenting biblical evidence against gay rights as you do conservative Christians presenting biblical evidence against interracial marriage today.

  • Carstonio

    “The issue of homosexuality, by itself and in tandem with other moral issues, may well lead to the marginalization of evangelical Christians within the larger society.” – No, that marginalization wouldn’t be forced on them if it happens, it would be their choice instead.

    Society is rightly recognizing that homosexuality is morally neutral just like heterosexuality. While one can’t choose one’s orientation, one can choose whether to express it through sexual relationships, and that should be an individual matter of no concern to others.

    No one is trying to make Mohler turn gay, or make himn approve to others’ gay and lesbian relationships. These aren’t for him to approve or disapprove in the first place. He could just simply refuse to be gay himself and take a position of benign indifference toward homosexuality in others. I’ve been straight all my life and I see no reason why I or Mohler should even care about others’ orientations.

    When Mohler talks about waning cultural influence, most likely he really means that society is telling the Mohlers to mind their own business and stop lecturing people on how they should live their private lives.

  • martykz

    Scripture is prejudice writ large.

  • martykz

    That’s your God. My God is a micromanager. He tells me which side of the bed to get out on in the morning and what not to have for breakfast and how to pray and what position to have sex in and who to vote for … I could go on …

  • larryclyons

    American Conservative Christianity – the sphincter clutching fear and anxiety that someone somewhere is having a good time.

  • SODDI

    Also in 50 years, you will hear most conservative christians saying, “No, we didn’t say that. If we did we didn’t mean that. And if we did anything like that, it was just a small minority. Anyway, everything is different now, so it’s OK..”

    Lying , trying to erase the past.

    The mormons are very efficient at that.

  • itsthedax

    Here’s a question: Why do christians care? How does the existance of homosexuality harm you, and why is it so important to you that homosexuals be denied the same rights as everyone else?

  • AgentFoxMulder

    I suspect that SOME Christians “care” because they are, for whatever reason, determined to try to get as many people as possible to think as they do. They are control freaks; the kind of people who have to have the last word in every conversation. This same mentality can be found in every interest group from right to left. I have encountered it very often among tech geeks, anti-theists, homosexual activists and scientists as well. I used to be this way when I was a young, green and very zealous NEW Christian. It is the same type of thinking that temporarily takes hold in young people when they go off to college and learn just enough to think they are now better than the people they left behind at home. Most people mature out of this mindset but some do not.

    I suspect that some Christians “care” because the take what the Bible says on the subject seriously and believe they have a responsibility to make sure that they sound a warning to anyone who is willing to listen, whether or not those hearing the warning end up in agreement. They recognize that the culture at large may disregard their views but they have grown to understand that their responsibility is to sound a warning. They are not responsible for how many people heed that warning or ignore it. (I now fall into this category).

  • Secular1

    Quite introspective of you, Agent.

  • sjgl8032

    A man who believes that;

    1) Women are subordinate to men;
    2) Modern science and evolution is heretical;
    3) A loving God, who knows the fate of ever human before they are even born, nonetheless damns the vast majority of them to eternal conscious torture and suffering for failure to use the rights words in worshiping Him,

    now wants to hold forth on LGBT rights? Yeah, no thanks.

    I shall be forever grateful to God that fundamentalists like Mr. Mohler do not hold power over us.

    Anytime of these sanctimonious types speaks it brings to mind both “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

  • itsthedax

    Thanks Mulder, but that can’t be all of it. There’s a big difference between “sounding a warning” and political activism. They’re not trying to have the last word in a conversation, they’re trying to prevent the conversation from taking place at all.

  • Catken1

    Now, put yourself in our shoes. How do you feel about people who repeatedly feel compelled to warn you that you will burn in Hell unless you embrace Islam? Do they make you consider Islam? Do they concern you? Do they make you rethink what they consider to be abominable sins? Or do they just annoy you?

  • Sadetec

    “This is already the case in secular Europe and, increasingly, in Great Britain and Canada as well.”

    Oh dear, somebody needs to go check a map.

    The shift in the moral climate need not worry Evangelical Christians; they can do what other conservative-leaning sects have done time and time again: start by fighting against change, then slowly embrace the change, then (after a couple of decades) take credit for the change.

  • Kelly Turney

    Well the “American Dream” isn’t God’s dream! I am ready to live in the world where as a christian I am not wanted, but I will still proclaim the gospel from the margins of culture to the main stream.

  • gnelsonsbts

    “Evangelicals appear to be headed for some kind of marginalization, and this will hurt. Nevertheless, evangelical Christianity began on the margins of society and only in fairly recent decades moved into the mainstream. As it turns out, our cultural influence may wane and our options for recovering that influence may be both few and ineffectual.”

    Mohler clearly believes the so-called “Moral Majority” is no more. He is saying so because nothing in Scripture calls for Christians to have a policital majority. The task the Bible gives Christians is to bear witness to the gospel message that while we were sinners Christ died for us. While many of you may find this odd, stupid, anti-whatever, it simply is what the Bible demands. Most of the comments are clearly anti-Christian, which seems strange to me. If evangelical Christianity is becoming marginalized, according to one of its most prominent spokespersons, shouldn’t all of you feel you job has been done, or must it be stomped out utterly before you’ll feel content? Why do you even care, if it’s all such a bunch of hogwash, anyway? Especially in light of its waning influence? Is it remotely possible you are concerned that it’s just possible it might be true and, if so, you’re in big trouble? Paschal identified this in his famous “wager” which, paraphrased, says, if you’re right, then neither of us are any better off in the end; if I’m right, and the Bible is true, then you’re going to be in deep trouble in the end. Even if you think the odds of Christians being correct are low, the consequences of being on the wrong side of this equation are severe.

  • lehiwayman

    Last to accept the end of slavery? Have you ever heard of William Wilberforce? Do you know who were at the vanguard of the abolitionist movement in this country?

    C’mon, you know the drill! It’s the Christians who are supposed to be the ignorant ones with the preconceived ideas, not enlightened folks like you…

  • lehiwayman

    “Society is rightly recognizing that homosexuality is morally neutral just like heterosexuality.”

    What a beautifully bizzare statement. How do you argue something is “right” on the basis of moral “neutrality”? Where do you get your idea of what is right or wrong? I’d like to know.

  • lehiwayman

    Why do they care? Here’s one reason: Maybe because their kids go to the same schools as yours do, and they don’t want them to have this philosophy shoved down their throats in the classroom. They may be “public” schools, but the glorification of homosexuality is becoming the new catechism that all socially acceptable children will be expected to master.

  • David Jones

    Situational ethics is all the rage. This allow one to change what is perceived to be ‘right’ to accommodate their life choice de jour.
    To break it down, deny truth and therefore proclaim a new truth.

    Gal 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

    First, it must be determine what we will believe to be truth.

  • Reformedrider

    The God of Self……The God of Me…..

  • itsthedax

    So, lehi, what do schools have to do with ensuring that homosexuals are afforded the same legal status and protections as heterosexuals?

  • AndrewMagnus

    I care because thus saith the Lord.
    Marriage, the union of a man and a woman, is a picture of Christ’s union with the church. We are Christ’s bride, He is our groom. Christ’s role is to lead us (through his word the Bible) to provide for us (He provides for our daily needs), and to protect us(He protects us from God’s own wrath, he does this by paying our sin-debt on the cross). Our role is to love Him (we love him because he first loved us), follow Him (by reading and applying His Word), support Him (we are the hands and feet of Jesus on earth), to Submit (Thy will be done, not mine). Similarly we as men and women in marriage have different roles. The role of the groom is to lead, protect and provide for his wife, the role of the wife is to love, follow, support, and submit to her husband. When two people marry they present this picture to the world, they say “In the way that we are united is the same way in which Christ and His church are united,” this is why fidelity is so important, this is also where we get gender roles in marriage. Same sex “marriage”, on the other hand messes with Christian theology, without both genders, this picture falls apart.

    Additionally, the authority to marry was not given to any civil authority until after the Protestant Reformation, as a by-product of Magisterial Reformation. Marriage has always been an institution of the church. It should be ours, not yours to do as you please.

  • Carstonio

    Lehiwayman, the morality of an action is whether it helps or harms others. Morally neutral means that one’s sexual orientation has no direct effect on others. It’s morally right for society to stay out of individuals’ orientations because those are fundamentally private matters.

    And David, your argument is sectarian and has no relevance for people who don’t subscribe to that doctrine. Millions of Christians disagree with your particular reading of scripture, and it’s not my place to say which one is accurate, but it is my place to say that no religion’s doctrine should be a basis for secular law.

  • itsthedax

    Wrong. You’re confusing weddings and marriage. A wedding is a ceremony, sometimes performed in a church or synagogue, sometimes performed in a registrars office or on a ship. A marriage is a legal status.

    Marriages have happened throughout human history. In Rome, for example, marriages were nothing more than a contractual relationship.

  • Jason Shoots

    Women aren’t subordinate to men. A man should love his wife, and in response she loves him back. He takes of her needs, and she takes care of his. It’s a a response of gratitude in her attitude towards her husband, who is one with her husband. She is his body, in a figurative saying. But, I wouldn’t expect a non-believer to understand this, or you are just unsure of what scripture teaches?

  • AndrewMagnus

    You’re right, I am mixing the two terms, I’m talking about both, however, have you every heard of a marriage without a wedding? even if it is just as simple as signing some papers at a courthouse, it’s still a wedding.

    I do not deny that marriages have happened throughout human history, it happened in the Garden of Eden,and spread from there, but regardless of a person’s spiritual belief, or it has always been a gift of the God of the Bible to all cultures of humanity. I would also say that these gender roles in marriage have always existed, even in Ancient Rome.

    Who are we to redefine this gift that God has given us?

  • pedalingparson

    Dude, you must have read a different article because Mohler didn’t say anything about your number 1 thru 3. I doubt you even know what what Mohler believes on these issues you cite. You might actually last 30 seconds in a debate with Mohler before you were buried in the avalanch of your own ignorance.

  • itsthedax

    I’m glad that you agree that marriages take place outside of religion, and have nothing to do with personal beliefs.

    Therefore, your own religious beliefs would have no bearing on the ability of others to marry the person of their choice.

    And you are overlooking a simple fact: You are the one attempting to redefine marriage by having laws coded to restrict other peoples rights to get married.

  • Catken1

    “Do you know who were at the vanguard of the abolitionist movement in this country? ”

    Christians were at the vanguard of both sides, because Christians were a huge majority in the country at the time. There were plenty of Christians who found religious justification for slavery and for bans on interracial marriage, and who screamed that their religion was being attacked when both were taken away.

    I will say that the agnostic Darwin and his liberal Unitarian family were also fierce abolitionists as well, and well known for it.

  • AgentFoxMulder

    @areyousaying: People of all stripes, not just “neochristians” cherry-pick the Bible to their own ends. The homosexual activists are certainly guilty of this.

    One think is certain, if you read the Bible, nay study it in depth, from cover to cover, you will conclude that God considers homosexual sex to be a sin.

    So I’m with you. Let’s not cherry pick the Bible. Let’s all study it very carefully.

  • AgentFoxMulder

    Correction: “One THING is certain…”

  • haveaheart

    “One think is certain, if you read the Bible, nay study it in depth, from cover to cover, you will conclude that God considers homosexual sex to be a sin.”

    No, if you read the bible from cover to cover, you can conclude only that the men who wrote it considered homosexual sex to be a sin.

  • bikebsk

    Demographics. Look around the church pews and see how many over 45 year olds there are but so few teens. The church has lost the young and politicians like Barak Obama know it, expolt it and win the day.

  • Joel Hardman

    This article seems to be saying that society no longer accepts Christian bigotry simply because it’s Biblical. I agree, but I see this as a good thing, not a bad thing.

    I often hear that the teachings of Christianity are Biblical and therefore unchanging. I disagree. What are current evangelical teachings on slavery? The Bible is pretty pro-slavery, but evangelicals aren’t.

  • itsthedax

    Here’s a question: Should the US government identify a minority group of citizens, and selectively strip civil rights away from that group?

    Put it another way, should the government strip rights away from a minority of citizens if a majority of citizens says it should?

  • larryclyons

    Karma suck doesn’t it. Given the sort of intolerance displayed by the evangelicals to gay, immigrants, and science, and the forcing of their minority beliefs on a very unwilling majority, the conservative christian movement deserves to be marginalized. Better yet left in the dustbin of history.

  • larryclyons

    and appropriately ignored. You preach hatred, you deserve to be marginalized.

  • tivince

    Working from the margins is no new thing for evangelicals and history tells us that God moves and reestablishes his redeeming activities amongst the faithful few (remnant), not the unfaithful majority.

  • scottycowboy

    Disagreeing about what is considered moral behavior is not preaching or teaching hatred. Every person and society has some standard of moral right and wrong to which they subscribe. The question being argued about with homosexuality is whether it is morally right in God’s eyes and the bible or is some other standard ( e.g.- people’s individual interpretation) going to be enforced . Society is rapidly shifting in its’ moral view of this and the aritcle was simply spelling out how this shift is occuring and how evangelicals should adapt to this shifting culture.

  • David Jones

    Carstonio, you speaks a great deal with regard to morality though your definition is skewed to your perception. Morals are based upon a standard. If the standard has changed then there is now no standard. No foundation, so to speak, for society to rely on. This is a dangerous precipice with which to balance laws. A fluid standard?

    As to my argument being sectarian, I will concede that you are correct. But I must point out that ‘my’ argument is God the creator’s ‘argument’. Just because some do not understand or refuse to believe in something is no proof that the something is wrong.
    Many claim the name’Christian” without any commitment to scriptural doctrine.
    If we, as a nation, choose to enact laws that are not based on standards, then what is to be the basis for our laws? What seems right to a man or groups of men today may very well seem too restrictive or even absurd tomorrow. If this is the case then we have no law and therefore no moral restraint nor do we have a society.

  • larryclyons

    that is assuming of course that your god exists.

  • larryclyons

    that’s what the fundies want.

  • itsthedax

    So, the fundamentalist fringe of american christians wish to have the government endorse their prejudices, and destroy the essential fabric of this country.