A faulty worldview

Mark HerringThe news recently broke that Virginia’s new Attorney General plans to ask a federal judge to declare the Commonwealth’s voter-passed constitutional amendment officially upholding the traditional understanding of marriage unconstitutional.  This move is entirely unsurprising even as it is deeply saddening.

It is entirely unsurprising because over the past few years the approach of liberal politicians to advancing the Democrat party’s official platform in favor of the full legalization of gay marriage is to ignore the voters they purport to represent and march straight to the courts to accomplish their political agenda.  The truth is that with three exceptions, every time voters have been given a chance to voice their opinion on the issue of gay marriage it has been voted down.  In the fourteen other states (and the District of Columbia) in which gay marriage has been declared legal, the change has come down from on high—either from the judiciary or the legislature—and often over the strenuous objections of individual citizens.  In California, for example, voters twice approved measures to formally commit the state to the traditional view of marriage.  When the second such measure was challenged in court, the state’s Attorney General refused to defend it, opening the door for its being overturned.  A federal judge recently twisted the Supreme Court’s reasoning and declared Oklahoma’s traditional marriage amendment, passed by over 70% of the state’s population, unconstitutional.  The decision by Attorney General Mark Herring to refuse to defend the Commonwealth constitution on this point falls fully in line with these and other similar moves.

It is deeply saddening because it reflects a growing reliance on a worldview whose core beliefs are incapable of maintaining the freedoms and commitments that have long made this country what it is.  In this case and others like it, the rule of law is being trumped by personal opinion.  When Attorney General Herring took his oath of office he swore to uphold and defend the Commonwealth’s constitution.  It seems, then, rather inconsistent with his oath that his first action as Attorney General is to pointedly, and politically, refuse to do that.  Furthermore, Herring announced his intentions by declaring that Virginia needs to be on the right side of the law and of history.  I wonder exactly which law and which history he has in mind?

As far as law goes, while the U. S. Supreme Court did overturn a narrow portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, it did not take the reckless approach à la Roe v Wade of overturning individual state laws on the matter.  Instead, it specifically left it up to the states to decide which definition of marriage they would accept.  And, when individual state voters have been given the opportunity, with but three exceptions, they have consistently opted for the traditional view.  Again, of exactly which law is the Commonwealth of Virginia currently on the wrong side?

As for history, in the whole history of the world there has been neither culture nor religion that viewed same-sex unions as on a moral or legal par with traditional marriage.  Even today, though, when there is much pop-culture agitating to equate the two different types of unions, the history is far from settled.  Furthermore, forty-one years ago another controversial social issue seemed to have the support of law, history, and even many in the church.  Today, however, its legal support is waning rapidly and the obvious misreading of the tide of history now appears to have come at the loss of some 55 million innocent lives.  It would seem declaring the Commonwealth of Virginia on the wrong side history is a bit premature a judgment.

While I disagree with their support for gay marriage, I agree with the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s editorial board that for supporters of gay marriage, Herring’s is the wrong approach.  This rejection of the rule of law in favor of currently popular political opinion will serve more to both harden and create new opponents of the redefinition of marriage than will it engender any good will.  In our current political system the Attorney General’s job is to defend the laws of the land.  His opinion on whether or not they are constitutional is absolutely irrelevant.

As Christians we should be deeply troubled by this for a couple of reasons.  First, as the vast majority of Christians throughout the world recognize, marriage is an intimate union between a man and a woman designed by God for the purpose of first, glorifying Him, and from there seeing us become fully who He designed us to be, creating the ideal context for the procreation and rearing of children who will carry on the faith of their parents, and of offering the world a picture of the kind of relationship He wants with us.  Modern attempts to cast this aside spawn in part from the deification of personal fulfillment which will, of course, never result in the satisfaction of its aims.

Second, the Christian worldview is very much pro-rule of law.  The whole idea of the rule of law is an explicitly Christian one.  Further, freedom of religion, which we so cherish in this nation, is utterly dependent upon the rule of law to be sustained.  What Attorney General Herring has expressed his intention to do is to ignore the rule of law and the expressed will of the people he now represents, taking it upon himself to determine which laws should be defended and which should not.  If he is not willing to do the job he swore an oath to perform in this situation how can we expect that he will be willing to do so when it comes to other constitutional amendments of the Commonwealth like, say, the 16th?  Perhaps you do not agree with me on the legality or the morality of same-sex marriage, but we must agree that this is not the right approach to determining the answer to those questions.

Jonathan Waits

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Jonathan is the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Church Road, VA. He's the husband of one beautiful woman and the father of three active boys. A graduate of Denver Seminary, he loves connecting the dots between the Christian worldview and culture.

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  • Hugh1

    Connecting the dots between the world view and culture is not always an exercise in the drawing of straight lines. Pastor Waits, as you say, with the exception of three states, same sex marriage has been voted down in the rest. Let’s however review Virginia’s recent history. Most anti-miscegenation laws were voluntarily eliminated across the country between 1948 and 1967; however, the old Confederacy for the most part refused to end racial prohibitions on interracial marriage. In response, the Supreme Court of the United States intervened and overturned not just Virginia politicians’ majority position, but also the majority view of Virginia’s voters, as well as the majority position of many of the old Confederate states in its 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision. Pastor Waits, I know you acknowledge that the US Constitution is not majority rule – quite the opposite, it was written largely as a rejection of majority state religion, specifically that of the British Crown. The ‘majority rule’ argument is just not going anywhere and Attorney General Herring knows this. As for abortion, once someone figures out how to identify a potentially gay child, God help us all. All responsible religious leaders should immediately embrace their gay children as valued and equal participants in God’s plan. I’ll leave it at that. And as for Christians using Christ’s word to preach against homosexuality, the Old is not the New Testament. While Christ’s message can be sliced and diced – and it has been – there is little there to justify the extreme anti-gay stance of many conservative Christian preachers. Respectfully, I am not claiming that you have extremist views. Nevertheless, same-sex marriage will likely be the law of the land within out lifetimes. So what’s going to happen? To judge by the 17 states where gay marriage is now legal – not much. To judge by the US military – not much. In my view, being a Christian is hard work, requiring prayer and introspection. It helps give life perspective.

    • http://www.marketfaith.org Freddy Davis

      Perhaps connecting the dots between worldview and culture is not a straight line, but it is certainly straighter than the line Hugh1 has proposed. As Pastor Waits has said, the rule of law is the basis for the freedoms we enjoy in America. Take that away and no freedom we currently enjoy can stand. Hugh1’s cynical dismissal of biblical beliefs and conservative Christian positions is based on the anti rule of law. There is nothing to support his assertion beyond his own personal opinion (in opposition to the rule of law). If anyone is slicing and dicing the Christ’s message (not to mention the rule of law itself) it is Mr. Hugh1. He is obviously clueless.

  • coreyf_4

    Part of the function of the Constitution is to specify the areas of society in which the majority does not get its way; namely, civil rights. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, trumps any majority opinion that a certain minority group should be treated with inferiority. As Justice Sullivan wrote in the majority opinion of Westbrook v. Mihaly, “Constitutional rights may not be infringed simply because the majority of the people choose that they be.” At issue here is the word “marriage,” which government should not be involved in at all. But for now, since it is, you cannot deny rights to a certain group because of the majority’s religious views.

  • Jonathan Waits

    Hugh1, thanks so much for your thoughts. You touch on a number of different issues so I’ll try to respond succinctly. First, I totally agree that the lines connecting worldview and culture are not straight. They often follow hopelessly circuitous paths. But, it remains nonetheless true that worldview creates culture.

    I would also agree that Virginia has a checkered past (along with the rest of the old Confederacy) when it comes to things like anti-miscegenation laws. I would argue that such laws were unjust and rooted in a worldview that was unbiblical. In spite of many attempts to justify it exegetically, the Bible simply doesn’t support the idea that people of two different colors are existentially different from one another. Those laws, however, were about prohibiting heterosexual unions that the culture at the time deemed unacceptable. It certainly was a majority position, but the majority, you and I agree, were in the wrong. Thankfully, as you point out, the Constitution was never about majority rule. The difference between those laws
    and current laws in favor of heterosexual unions is that a person’s skin color and sexual orientation are not comparable. One is solely determined by genetics and the other isn’t. There may yet be a genetic link discovered, but the very fact that people have changed their orientation suggests powerfully that genetics isn’t the only determinative factor. The anti-miscegenation laws were rooted in racism. While some folks oppose
    homosexual marriage on the basis of what is increasingly being labeled
    heterosexism, many oppose it because of a fundamental disagreement on the nature and purpose of marriage. People on opposite sides of the anti-miscegenation laws defined “person” differently. People on opposites sides
    of marriage laws define “marriage” differently. See the difference? In the rush to legalize gay marriage, the definition of the word has been changed in such a way that there are no longer adequate philosophical or theological grounds to oppose polygamy or relationships between adults and children. Indeed, the star of TLC’s “Sister Wives” is suing for legal recognition of polygamy using some of the exact same legal arguments that gay marriage advocates have used in their cases. So, the majority
    opinion on a particular law is certainly not the sole factor determining if it
    is just or not, but in this case, majority opinion aside, the law seems to have a pretty good historical and cultural (prior to the last ten years) pedigree validating its assumptions.

    You mention abortion next. I agree that it will be a scary day should a genetic test be discovered that can determine whether or not a child will be gay. It will be interesting then to watch the pro-abortion crowd (which is often mostly pro-homosexuality) squirm as they realize the dramatically contradictory implications of their worldview. All responsible religious leaders who have children who are gay should absolutely embrace their children as valued and equal participants in God’s plan. But, embracing them, does not mean embracing their lifestyles. The two are different. As Christians we are called to follow our Lord in loving people while simultaneously hating their sin. When Jesus spoke to the woman caught in the act of adultery—a social catastrophe on par with what homosexuality used to be—He refused to condemn her, but He also instructed her to go and sin no more. He loves, He refuses to condemn, but His standards are clear all the same. Christians would do well to follow in His example in this.

    The question becomes: is it sin to engage in sexual relations with someone who is not your husband or wife? The answer the authors who contributed to the Bible consistently offer from start to finish is that, regardless of the form the sexual relations take, if you are a man and it is not your wife or you are a woman and it is not your husband, yes, they are sinful. (There is no disparity between the Old and New Testaments as some allege.) There’s simply no getting around the fact that, all creative eisegesis to the contrary, the stance of the Biblical authors on homosexual sexual relations is clear. I agree that there is not simply little, but in fact nothing, to justify the hatefully anti-gay behavior that some in the church (and many outside the church who nonetheless ride on its coattails) employ. But, to suggest that “many conservative Christian preachers” are extreme in their anti-gay rhetoric is baseless. There are many conservative Christian preachers (including myself, although I am grateful that you do not unfairly categorize
    me so) who believe that homosexual sexual relations are sinful. This, however, makes us neither anti-gay nor extreme.

    I do agree with you, however, that both politics and culture have shifted enough in the last ten years that same-sex marriage will be the law of the land within our lifetimes. Activists in the federal government’s employ are seeing to this whether or not the states or individuals citizens agree (cf. several recent federal court decisions that directly contradict SCOTUS’ rather explicitly leaving the matter to the individual states to decide).
    You rhetorically ask what the results of this change will be and quickly
    answer with reference to the U.S. military, “not much.” I would disagree. Since DADT’s repeal there has been a rather aggressive movement in the military against the religious liberty of both conservative chaplains and individual soldiers who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds.
    The situation has actually reversed itself from being unacceptable to be
    openly gay in the military to being unacceptable to openly oppose
    homosexuality. DADT seems to still be the policy of the U. S. military, but instead of being focused on homosexuals, it is now focused on Christians. My own prediction is that as same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, religious freedom will quickly be subordinated to tolerance for homosexuality. At that point the seeds will be sown to undo the freedoms which have been foundational for our nation and the fruits, when they come to bear, will be bitter.

    Until that time and even after, believers must work hard at practicing our faith with a great deal of prayer and introspection. We should show unconditional love to those who identify themselves as homosexuals, whether they are struggling against it or traveling merrily along with it. But,
    we should also be clear as to what the Bible’s standards for living are and encourage an unequivocal embrace of these with both our words and our best stories. We must also trust in the fact that our God is bigger than our culture and that His kingdom requires no cultural cooperation to advance. Our worldview is objectively right and better than anything our culture has to offer. We should hold to this fact with humility, but also with boldness. This will give us the perspective we need to live our faith rightly.