On top of that, the Obama administration, which two years prior chose to stop upholding DOMA, decided to argue against the law before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Many of these people had been staunch defenders of traditional marriage for years. Even Barack Obama, as recently as 2008, told Pastor Rick Warren, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman . . . for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union.”
The winds of culture
The barrage of turnarounds comes at a time when nearly every poll shows that same-sex “marriage” enjoys a comfortable margin of public support with overwhelming approval among younger voters. Given that politics is a product, rather than a producer, of culture, it is no surprise that these about-faces follow the winds of popular opinion. What is surprising is the candor of the flip-floppers in revealing just how important those winds were.
In explanation of his reversal, Ron Portman pointed to the support of gay “marriage” by 1) the British Prime Minister, 2) nine U.S. states, 3) the District of Columbia, and 4) “the overwhelming majority of young people.”
President Obama, in his much-anticipated “coming out” interview, explained how his thinking “evolved” through conversations with friends, staff members, and college students (!). He went on to mention the influence of his daughters’ feelings on the matter, much as Jimmy Carter spoke, decades earlier, about how eight-year old Amy helped him think through U.S. nuclear policy.
Steve Schmidt, former advisor to John McCain and one of the Republican signers to the “marriage equality” brief, stated, “The die is cast on this issue when you look at the percentage of younger voters who support gay marriage.” His not-so subtle warning is, if Republicans don’t want to become extinct, they had better get on board with same-sex “marriage.” It is a growing sentiment in the party leadership and rank-and-file.
But it is not only political leaders who are taking their moral cues from the culture. Some religious leaders are as well—like hipster pastor Rob Bell.
A mad, mad, mad, mad world
During a San Francisco church service, Bell announced his support of same-sex “marriage,” explaining, “I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs . . . to affirm people wherever they are.”
Like Steve Schmidt, Pastor Bell suggests that unless the church books passage on the homosexual “love boat,” it will lose its share in the spiritual marketplace and become irrelevant.
Had Bell been so inclined, he would have only had to look far as the Episcopal Church (TEC) to see where that ship sails. TEC boarded that vessel some time ago, adapting itself to the cultural winds. Since then, 23 percent of its members have jumped overboard and scores of Episcopal churches have closed their doors. So much for being hip and relevant.
And yet, Rob Bell, is only one of a number of influential Christians who now support same-sex “marriage.” Another, poet and essayist Wendell Berry, reversed his position on gay “marriage,” and went as far as insinuating that fellow Christians who didn’t share his conviction were guilty of “Christian blood thirst.”
It brings to mind what Abba Anthony, a Desert Father, once presaged: “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”
Considering the rancor directed at those who dare defend the intrinsic, and blatantly obvious, design of marriage, it is hard to deny that we now live in a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
From slouch to gallop
The pace at which all this has happened has been nothing short of revolutionary. In a mere wisp of time, our “slouch” to Gomorrah has broken into a full gallop, as religious convictions and the public census have been upended.
It is an impressive testimony to the industry and indefatigability of a fringe people-group (yes, fringe, as according to the CDC, and contrary to popular perception, same-sex orientation affects only 1.4 percent of the population!). A House of Representatives brief to the Supreme Court framed it well:
Gays and lesbians are one of the most influential, best-connected, best-funded, and best-organized interest groups in modern politics, and have attained more legislative victories, political power, and popular favor in less time than virtually any other group in American history.
There is a certain feeling of inevitability in this. Indeed, in the minds of many folks, the debate is over and same-sex “marriage” is a done deal. But is it? Not if we draw on the synergistic power of truth and love.
The dinner table
Change begins, as Ronald Reagan once said, around the dinner table. As we sit with our spouses and children, sharing meals and conversation, ideas are tested, opinions shaped, beliefs molded, arguments formulated, and confidence gained in communication and articulation.
From there, change propagates to the dinner party, to the church atrium, to the company breakroom, to the Hollywood set, to the art gallery, to the halls of Congress, and to the chambers of the Court. Change can even spread to the fever swamps of opposition.
Consider Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride.
You may recall that Windmeyer and Campus Pride were behind the boycott of Chick-fil-A last year for comments made by Dan Cathy supporting traditional marriage. What you may not know, and what was not commonly known, was that during the height of the controversy, Dan Cathy reached out to Shane, initiating a conversation that led to an unlikely friendship.
In a different kind of “coming out” story, Windmeyer discloses that, after months of telephone conversations, e-mails, texts and face-to-face meetings, “I have come to know [Dan Cathy] and Chick-fil-A in ways that I would not have thought possible.”
To those skeptical of Cathy’s motives, Windmeyer makes clear, “Never once did Dan or anyone from Chick-fil-A ask for Campus Pride to stop protesting Chick-fil-A. On the contrary, Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country. . . . Dan sought first to understand, not to be understood.”
Windmeyer went on to say, “Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being ‘a follower of Christ’ more than a ‘Christian.’ Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-a—but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.”
Although the LGBT activist says that neither he nor Cathy could, or would, change their views, it is clear that at least three significant changes have already occurred.
The first change was, in the words of Windmeyer, from seeing each other as “opposing people” to “people with opposing views.” The second change—one that Windmeyer admits being nervous to reveal—is friendship with a committed Christian who stands against everything he and his organization stand for. The third change, and perhaps the most important, was learning that Dan Cathy’s opposition to gay “marriage” is not driven by hate, bigotry, or homophobia, but by “his desire to minister to others.”
By holding to the truth and expressing it in the bond of friendship, rather than in a war of sound bites and legal threats, Dan Cathy helped change the way one person saw Christians, Christianity, and, possibly, Christian teaching. So affected was Shane Windmeyer that he shared his experience in a widely read blog post.
No doubt, Windmeyer’s story will be the seed for more change, or at least pause, as others realize that Christian arguments for traditional marriage cannot be blithely dismissed as products of animus. It has made me wish I were more like Dan Cathy.
* DOMA defines “marriage,” for federal purposes, as the legal union between one man and one woman. It was passed under the Clinton Administration with wide bipartisan support in 1996.
Image courtesy of Vaughn-Martel Law.
Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.