Truth be told, I don’t think I had ever heard of Chick-fil-A restaurants until the ruckus stirred up last month over the food-chain president Dan Cathy’s comment that he is opposed to same-sex marriage. The story of Cathy’s convictions went viral, as we say, and Chick-fil-A became the focus of a national conversation. Indeed, Mr. Cathy’s words during a radio interview were incendiary:
I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, “We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage…” I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is about.
So the grand inquisition began. The LGBT community immediately called for a boycott of the restaurants even as crowds lined up by the hundreds to express their support for Cathy’s comments by buying a sandwich. Mayors from Boston to San Francisco declared all things Chick-fil-A unclean and promised to banish the food chain from their fiefdoms. Even the Goleta Architectural Board of Review got into a food fight with the city when several members abstained from voting over a minor change proposed for the Chik-fil-A that is soon to open on upper State Street. Resignations followed. Wowski!
Yes, July/August are slow months for news, and the timing of Cathy’s radio interview was pregnant with possibility. But the uproar revealed a truth about our times that is so obvious that it’s easy to miss. That truth? Simply put, we are experiencing an exceedingly rapid shift in the tectonic moral plates of our society. Our public sexual mores are changing at a breathtaking rate of speed.
• Behaviors that were unmentionable in public discourse when I was in college are staunchly defended by many of our cultural gatekeepers in 2012.
• It wasn’t too long ago that same-sex attraction was understood by the American Psychological Association to be amental illness. That designation was removed in 1975.
• It wasn’t too long ago that anti-sodomy laws were on the books of many states and sometimes enforced. But in 2002, Lawrence vs. Texas made same-sex practice legal in all states.
In other words, in our not-too-distant past, certain behaviors were thought to be simply wrong and certain desires were thought to be abnormal. Moral categories were applied to heterosexual as well as homosexual behavior between consenting adults. Imagine! But, as we say, that was then, and this is now….
• Then police were known to raid gay bars. Now we have a president who has expressed his support of same-sex marriage.
And this rapid rate of change has increased in even the past decade—and especially in the last year. Consider, for example, what has happened in our military:
• In 1993 the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy was instituted in the US military. DADT allowed men and women to serve regardless of their sexual preferences. The policy was thought to be revolutionary at the time.
• In September 2011, DADT was repealed, and those with homosexual orientation are now allowed to serve openly in the military.
• Less than a year later, in June 2012, the Pentagon hosted a Gay Pride Month for members of the military, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta posted a YouTube video praising the repeal of DADT and thanking homosexual members of the military for their service.
• In July 2012, for the first time—and with the approval of the Defense Department—members of the military wore their uniforms while marching in a gay pride parade in San Diego.
• Finally, in August, Tammy Smith became the first openly gay general in US history. About a year earlier Ms. Smithmarried her partner, Miss Tracy Hepner, in Washington, DC after dating for nine years. Newspaper writers struggled with what to call Miss Hepner who was honored at the promotion ceremony. Sometimes Hepner was referred to as General Smith’s wife, and other times she was Smith’s partner.
So, you ask, what is your point, Reed? Why talk about this in Community News? The point is that we, as believers, need to think clearly about our Christian convictions and how those convictions run totally counter to our increasingly secularized society. We need to understand our times and intercede for a culture that is chasing God out of the public square. To this end I offer three proposals:
1. Let us love all people, regardless of their desires and practices, because all people are created in God’s image. Let us repent of any homo-hatred we might find in our hearts. We ourselves need to hear—not just preach—the truth of the gospel: Jesus died for sinners, and we are all among that number. Were it not for God’s grace, all of us would be hopelessly lost.
2. Let us cherish God’s gift of marriage. We do this by valuing marriage above individualism and by treasuring our spouse more than our career. Parents show that they cherish marriage when they love each other until death separates them. They also show the greatness of matrimony by talking to their children about marriage more often than they talk about what college Junior needs to get in to. Lisa and I wanted our three children to know that marriage is a covenant capable of moving heaven and earth. Two people enter into a bond, which gives definitive shape to the rest of their lives. Therefore we encouraged them from a very early age to prepare for marriage.
3. Let us patiently nudge our society toward celebrating this example of what theologians call common grace. God gave the gift of marriage to all people, to Christians, Muslims, Mormons, and secularists. Consider, too, that all cultures throughout all history have understood marriage to be about begetting and raising children. Therefore, marriage was reserved for couples whose body parts fit together by design and who, in all likelihood, would soon produce children. Hence, marriage has always been a restricted institution.
In our society, for example, most states prohibit first cousins from marrying. All states prohibit brothers from marrying their sisters and sons marrying their mothers, etc. And all states prohibit people from marrying more than one person. In other words, as Adam Kolasinski points out, Homosexuals, therefore, are not the only people to be denied the right to marry the person of their choosing. What is behind these limitations on whom someone might choose to marry? Is it not to encourage the bearing of children and provide for their upbringing? Again, hear what Kolasinski says:
When a state recognizes a marriage, it bestows upon the couple certain benefits which are costly to both the state and other individuals. Collecting a deceased spouse’s social security, claiming an extra tax exemption for a spouse, and having the right to be covered under a spouse’s health insurance policy are just a few examples of the costly benefits associated with marriage. In a sense, a married couple receives a subsidy. Why? Because a marriage between two unrelated heterosexuals is likely to result in a family with children, and propagation of society is a compelling state interest. For this reason, states have, in varying degrees, restricted from marriage couples unlikely to produce children.
Marriage is in trouble in our society, and the Chick-fil-A inquisition is simply the most recent testimony to this tempest. Sailing through life without a moral compass, we as a culture are lost, and, worse, we don’t even know we are lost. The church must speak to this sorry state of affairs. We need to say, lovingly and patiently, that for a thousand reasons it is not a good idea for Mike to marry Mark. Their union can never be generative, and to pretend otherwise is, well, to pretend. We Christians need to say, with our lives and with our words, that lifelong heterosexual marriage is a gift worth preserving. We need to explain to our friends, coworkers, and neighbors that sex is designed for more than personal gratification. We need to contend, tenderly, that the laws of our land should respect the wisdom of the ages. May God help us.