Over the last few weeks, my social media feeds have been filled with plenty of Christians trying to discern how the church will “respond” to the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.
Most of the responses are based on fear.
Most of the responses belie an “attack and defend” concept of the church.
There are plenty of Christians who think the American church is on the ropes, that we are very close to becoming a persecuted minority. Soon, pastors will be forced to perform weddings they do not agree with, churches will lose their tax exemptions, and perhaps even worse consequences will occur. Cultural influencers publicly cry that there are thousands of pastors willing to “die” for this cause.
And you know what I can now conclusively say?
All of these responses, based on fear, defensively postured, conceptualized as “attack and defend” are kind of pathetic.
And if your church is responding this way, it’s kind of pathetic too.
Follow the Money
One of the most widely circulating fears is that churches who are not pro-gay marriage will eventually lose their tax exemptions. It is true, there are groups that are gunning for this.
But I wonder why money is one of the first fears we entertain. Does it say something about us?
Churches have existed where they were rich, powerful cultural influencers, and they exist where they are penniless. Your fear of losing money makes me wonder a few things:
Is your church so worldly that it cannot survive without the state providing tax exemptions? Is there no supernatural foundation on which your church is built – it’s just money?
Are you afraid that people will stop contributing generously if they don’t get a tax credit? If so, what does it say about your church, the people, or the teaching that happens every Sunday that the people are so shallow and tight-fisted?
What is your church doing right now with your financial resources that is so great, other than perpetuating itself? As far as charities go, churches are some of the most financially inefficient institutions ever imagined, as far as I can tell. Create a church that gives itself away rather than builds itself up and you won’t have any problems.
If your church’s primary concern in all of this is money, then your church is kind of pathetic.
I Tell You Do Not Worry About Tomorrow
My second cause of alarm has to do with all of the, well, alarms that are being sounded. What cable “news” has done to us is keep us whipped up in a perpetual state of fear of what has not happened yet. Guys like Glenn Beck use constant language about how we are looking over the “precipice” and “teetering on the edge,” but he never explains what that means, and he never tells us what is going to happen when we fall over the edge. It’s just intended to keep people afraid.
Churches, didn’t Jesus tell you to not worry about tomorrow? Or are you so worldly that you cannot help it? We are not one step away from pastors being coerced into performing marriages (pastors still have the right of refusal on any wedding request that comes to them.) There are so many steps that have to take place for your apocalyptic vision of the future to take place, it is ridiculous and pathetic to try to anticipate it.
On that note, pastors, now that you are stomping your feet and asserting your right to refuse to do weddings, just how discerning have you been over the last several decades? It seems to me that there were a heck of a lot of you who were asleep at the wheel, performing weddings for people who should never have been married, perhaps just to collect the honorarium. Why the sudden interest in refusing a paycheck?
Churches that live in fear are not engaged with the culture. They are hunkering down in a fortress as if they are under siege. It reveals that we are trying to hang onto some concept of power that we used to have, and it’s pathetic.
What Did We Do With The Power We Had?
I wonder, churches, what you make of what has happened. Suddenly, you find yourselves outside of public influence.
I ask you what did you do when you held the throne of public influence, when the Jerry Falwells of the world helped elect presidents? Did you steward it well? Do you think you created a positive culture that welcomed people into your circle? Because as far as I can tell, many of you did not.
For decades, even centuries, Christians held the title of dominate cultural influence. And yet…
Many of you have spent your energy over the last several decades marginalizing people.
Before our generation, many Christians worked to preserve the marginalization of African Americans, a tradition that goes back to our nation’s very roots.
Protestants have worked, from our nation’s very origins, to marginalize Catholics. Look up the origins of the Maryland colony. Likewise, Christians have aligned themselves wholeheartedly with deceptive party politics to keep themselves in power.
As far as I can tell, the church has a really spotty record when it comes to doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly. Our churches, our leaders have built walls to keep the invaders out. We have institutionalized racism and xenophobia against virtually all non-WASP people. Many of our churches are nothing but commercial enterprises with the gloss of gospel promises for the hungry consumers.
We have held the promise of Jesus tightly in our hands. We have tried to make America a theocracy, an institutional hierarchy that keeps the strong in power and the weak out of power.
And after all this, church,
whatever the consequences down the road,
I have to say, I think you deserve exactly what you have coming to you.