May 8, 2012 was a disappointing day. Amendment One – the constitutional amendment banning all legal recognition of same-sex relationships – passed in North Carolina. And passed by a healthy margin. I had recently been involved – albeit in a small way – in the campaign against Amendment One. While not surprised that the amendment passed, seeing the official result made my stomach sink just a little bit.
As I watched CNN that Tuesday night, I was simultaneously saddened and frustrated. The Facebook posts from my North Carolina friends opposed to Amendment One made me especially sad. I grieved for my gay best friend and her fabulous partner who will not, for the foreseeable future, be able to experience the same equality that my wife and I enjoy.
I was angered by the triumphalism coming from some Southern Baptists on Twitter. To rejoice over a political action stripping current rights and benefits away and removing the possibility of equal rights just rubbed me the wrong way. Or, as my late WMUer grandma would say, it chapped my hide.
I grieved and moved on. Well, I tried at least.
But then I came across this column titled “Why I disagree with President Obama” from Dr. Jim Denison. Denison is a former Texas Baptist pastor familiar here to many at ABP. He writes a daily cultural commentary on his personal website. Promoting a similar column authored by his wife, Denison tweeted: “What do you tell your children when their president teaches them a different lesson than their Bible?”
The obvious message from Denison’s column is that a commitment to “biblical authority” demands that Christians oppose legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Denison implies that “Paul’s opposition to homosexuality” mandates this particular political position. He suggests that the nation must be governed according to “God’s standards” and that laws must not be changed “on the basis of personal experience or preferences.”
Speaking of personal preferences, we thankfully have Dr. Denison to let us know what “God’s standards” look like in the political arena!
I strongly believe that we pervert actual “biblical authority” when we misuse that deeply theological idea to mean that “you must believe like me” and “you must vote like me” if you really believe the Bible. Instead, we should band together to protect traditional “biblical authority” from the revisionists in our midst!
Carl F. Henry, the renowned conservative evangelical theologian (fellow Baptist too) famously said many years ago: “There is no direct line from the Bible to the ballot box.”
Amen a thousand times.
While Henry is no hero of mine, here’s a great word from Rev. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for a Religious Liberty, a Baptist that I do greatly admire: “People of faith…can come to different conclusions about what policies to support and for whom to vote.”
A simple truth indeed.
As I wrote in a recent Baptist Studies Bulletin column, “I do not see how it is ever helpful to use faith in a way which conveys that in order to be a ‘good Baptist’ that I have to support this or oppose that.”
Glad to get that off my chest.