In reading about how we got into this mess, I came across a very interesting couple of paragraphs that I think the church could learn from if we are going to counter the Obergefell ruling. Prior to 2009, same sex “marriage” had gone to the ballot box thirty-one times in the United States and lost every single time. The American people proved again and again they did not want it. Conservatism proved to be pretty stubborn.
The most stunning loss came in California in 2008, and it forced the gay rights movement to take an unprecedented step:
“One of the top goals set out in the document seemed achievable: winning a vote in California in 2008. But when Proposition 8, as the state’s referendum to ban gay marriage was known, went up for a vote, it passed, shocking advocates and causing a fresh round of soul-searching. If gay marriage couldn’t win a vote in liberal California—in the same election that powered Barack Obama to a historic victory—could it win anywhere?
“Part of the problem, movement leaders knew, was the lack of a well-organized political campaign. Multiple groups were trying multiple approaches with no centralized strategy, fundraising, or message. To figure out what needed to change, eight organizations, led by Freedom to Marry, formed a secret collaboration that they called the Marriage Research Consortium. They pooled their resources and held a monthly teleconference to share polling, insights, and ideas in real time. (The consortium’s existence has not been previously reported.) It was an unprecedented level of cooperation, by groups that were often rivals for money or credit.”
After this “unprecedented level of cooperation” began, the gay rights movement began scoring victories in both legislatures and the ballot box. In other words, these gay rights groups practiced a kind of counterfeit catholicity. Their various “denominations” came together and in good Tower of Babel style, found they could accomplish just about anything they wanted. Unity led to effectiveness in mission (ala John 17:20-26). Love – a certain kind of love, the wrong kind of love – won.
Sure, the Obergefell decision is still an example of “social transformation without representation,” as Justice Scalia put it. The ruling still short circuited the democratic process (for whatever that’s worth). But there’s no question the fighters for gay “marriage” were very much on their way to turning the tide of public and legislative opinion in their favor. That turning of the tide greatly accelerated over the last five or so years, as soon as they began to practice “unprecedented cooperation” amongst their various groups.
Let’s give our antagonists in this matter credit for taking a page out what should have been our playbook: They put aside petty differences and rivalries, they united and organized, and they got results. They consolidated power, their leaders pooled knowledge and resources, they worked together across organizational lines, and suddenly progress on their unholy tower to the heavens took off.
I think we should learn the lesson here. There is always power in unity – even in evil unity, but especially in righteous unity. Catholicity of spirit makes the church strong. Divided, we are sure to keep falling; united we will stand firm. The church in America has lost her influence for many reasons, but near the top of the list is our infighting, our bickering, our separating, our spirit of sectarianism.
If ever there was a time to “stand fast in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27), today is that day. Unless we are willing to put aside (or relativize) differences over secondary and tertiary matters not central to the gospel and the essence of the church, we will continue to lose influence and face increasing persecution. Unless we enter into a time of “unprecedented cooperation” amongst faithful churches and ministries, we will have no chance to stand strong on the field of battle against the army that Obergefell has unleashed against us.
Rich Lusk is Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
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