On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on what may be the most important case in our lifetimes. It will consider whether to change the legal definition of marriage for the entire country with a ruling expected in June.
It is hard to overstate the magnitude of this case. As the title of my latest book indicates, As Goes the Family, So Goes the Nation. Well, as goes marriage, so goes the family. If the court decides to change the definition of marriage, it will have unforeseen and far-reaching consequences, and they will not be happy ones for our nation.
So I urge you to set aside significant time between now and Tuesday to pray. Please consider inviting others in your family and church to pray as well. Pray specifically for Justice Anthony Kennedy, as his will likely be the swing vote either for or against this momentous change.
Why is This Important?
God Himself created marriage. He established it before the Fall (Gen. 2:15-25), and Jesus affirmed it (Mark 10:5-9). He defined marriage as the life-long union of one man and one woman as husband and wife, in order to provide a stable and nurturing environment for any children produced though their comprehensive union.
What God has defined, we redefine at our peril. As Cecil B. DeMille wisely warned: “We cannot break [God’s laws]. We can only break ourselves against them.” If we redefine marriage in our laws, we will inevitably pay a high price of brokenness and pain; particularly, our children will pay the price. David Blakenhorn asks some very important questions:
Do you think that every child deserves his mother and father, with adoption available for those children whose natural parents cannot care for them? Do you suspect that fathers and mothers are different from one another? Do you imagine that biological ties matter to children?
He goes on:
Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and a father, accountable to the child and to each other … For healthy development, what a child needs more than anything else is the mother and father who together made the child, who love the child and love each other.
Why is this important? Maggie Gallagher answers directly: “Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies deserve mothers and fathers.”
God’s laws are not arbitrary. They exist for our good—for the health and flourishing of all peoples and all communities, and particularly for the most vulnerable.
The new, secularized definition of marriage that may well be enshrined as the law of the land in June has no concern for children or future generations. In fact, it is devoid of procreation altogether. According to the new definition, marriage is a relationship characterized by strong emotional feelings and sexual desire along with an intention to live together, enjoying the same government-granted recognition and privileges that have historically accompanied traditional marriage.
If the Supreme Court redefines marriage along these lines, we must assume that any relationship that more or less fits this new definition can claim a “right” to marriage. To withhold this right from any claimant will be viewed as unequal treatment and a violation of basic human rights. At the moment, the focus is on same-sex couples, but once redefined, there will be no legal basis for why it should stop there, and it won’t.
How Did We Get Here?
The redefinition of marriage is something I’ve written on before. It is a fruit of a long process of secularization within our culture—the logical result of a society that has largely chosen to ignore God, or believe that He doesn’t exist. Jeremy Rifkin defined the spirit of our age very powerfully:
We no longer feel ourselves to be guests in someone else’s home and therefore obliged to make our behavior conform with a set of preexisting cosmic rules. It is our creation now. We make the rules. We establish the parameters of reality. We create the world, and because we do, we no longer feel beholden to outside forces. We no longer have to justify our behavior, for we are now the architects of the universe. We are responsible for nothing outside ourselves, for we are the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. (Jeremy Rifkin, Algeny: A New Word—A New World, New York: Viking Press, 1983, 244).
If this is your starting point, you will inevitably redefine everything that was formerly defined within the framework of a Biblical worldview—including freedom, human dignity, sexuality, gender, marriage, and much else besides. This is where we find ourselves. These concepts have already largely been redefined within a secular framework. This secular worldview is now dominant in our most important cultural institutions: the media, government, business, and academia. It has divided the church, and it is now becoming dominant among everyday Americans at an alarming speed.
It’s hard now to believe, but between 1998 and 2012, 31 states passed laws (many were citizen initiatives) protecting the historic one-man, one-woman definition of marriage in their state constitutions. 26 of these state laws were later deemed unconstitutional on appeal. In response, states appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which will hear arguments on Tuesday.
Make no mistake, if the Supreme Court agrees to change the definition of marriage for the entire country, it will be by judicial fiat, effectively overruling the citizens in a majority of our states.
The law is a powerful teacher. If changed, the new definition of marriage will be taught as good, right and true in countless ways. Those who resist by upholding the historic, biblical definition of marriage will face an uncertain future. We’ve already witnessed an alarming campaign to strip legal protection from those who dissent on religious grounds, with states compelling Christian businesses to provide services to same-sex wedding ceremonies under threat of crippling lawsuits. Speak up, or act on your archaic beliefs about marriage in the workplace, and you may find yourself out of a job, as Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla discovered. You may even be forced to shut down your business due to mob harassment and death threats, as the owners of Memories Pizza discovered.
So let us pray. God is on the throne. We have no reason for despair. Let us do all we can to build strong marriages and strong families. Let us love our neighbors—especially those who have set themselves to oppose us. Let us continue to speak up for God’s definition of marriage, and for why it matters, particularly to our children, and for the good of our communities.
In the memorable words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
– Scott Allen