Originally posted on Sightings at the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

True to our title-metaphor “Sightings,” we regularly write about seeing, seeking, squinting, and finding evidences of religion in public life. The month of June provided many opportunities (some of them almost blinding!) to recognize religion’s role in a putatively secular and religion-blind society. One of these opportunities, the furor over “same-sex” marriage, was called “epic” and “epochal” by some who favored such marriage as well as by those who opposed it. Other opportunities included highly significant stories about the Supreme Court and the Voting Rights Act, Immigration, and many more. The religiously-grounded and –laden concept of “justice” figured in most of them.

Those who (this columnist included) are at home with ironic and paradoxical views of history cannot see the victories or defeats of partisans this month as topics to be addressed simply. They will need sorting as the years pass. But some instant reactions were helpful.

This headline in The Christian Post was tantalizing: “Pastors Hesitant to Comment on SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling.” Alex Murashko, a reporter for The Christian Post, was not alone in noticing that “public reaction from pastors . . . was sparse and came slowly on Wednesday and did not include as many opinions as seen in the rapid-fire response by the general conservative population.”

The leaders of non-congregation-based organizations were ready with strong reactions unlike some pastors of churches, Murashko noted. He chose, as an example, Pastor Ed Steltzer of Grace Church in Tennessee who wondered whether the best approach was “to shout about our opinion and speak out against those who differ.” Steltzer went on “without specific reference to gay marriage, but pointing to biblical principles,” eventually concluding that  “we . . . need to run to people—showing the love of Jesus to all kinds of people.”

Pastors and congregations may have influenced the sudden change in the public acceptance of gay marriage and the decline in stridency of opponents noted by many commentators. Pastors are too close to families where differing approaches to the issue are vivid and pressing.

Paul Louis Metzger wrote in “Uncommon God, Common Good,” a blog picked up by The Christian Post: “One of the fears I have as Evangelicals address the issue . . . is that we might win a battle on shooting down gay marriage and lose a war of building caring relationships with gay people.” Should evangelicals, he asks, try to influence morality by enforcing their “overarching view on marriage” or by “embodying [their] ethic of marriage and family in a way that demonstrates loyal love and self-sacrifice?”

Providing an opening for “enforcing the overarching view” was yet another Christian Post contributor, Eric Metaxas. In an early morning posting on June 26, Metaxas challenged the “false narrative of Gay Marriage” as being “inevitable.” His illustration of a base for the “false narrative” was what he called the “new blackout—out of Illinois;” the legislature of this, the “bluest of the blue states,” has not [yet?] passed a gay marriage.  Why did it not pass? Because of the practices, witness and influence of black pastors, most of whom opposed same-sex marriage.

Metaxas concluded, “in this battle, the Church matters. All of the Church. What happened in Illinois was the result of African American pastors taking the lead.” In other states, leadership of Latino ministers might matter. “What matters is that all of God’s people ‘stand tall for the truth of marriage.’”

Less than two hours after Metaxas posted his opinion piece, the Supreme Court made public its judgment that a 1996 law denying federal benefits to legally married, same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The Court also announced its judgment that opponents of same-sex marriage in California lack standing in their challenge to a lower court’s ruling that overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

More false narratives ahead?

References:

Metaxas, Eric. “The False Narrative of Gay Marriage: It Is Not Inevitable.” The Christian Post, June 26, 2013. http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-false-narrative-of-gay-marriage-it-is-not-inevitable-98836/.

Murashko, Alex. “Pastors Hesitant to Comment on SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling.” The Christian Post, June 27, 2013. http://www.christianpost.com/news/megachurch-pastors-hesitant-to-comment-on-scotus-gay-marriage-ruling-98908/.

Metzger, Paul Louis. “Evangelicalism: Reframing a Fragmented Movement.” Uncommon God, Common Good (blog), June 27, 2013. Accessed June 30, 2013. http://blogs.christianpost.com/uncommon-God-common-good/.

Originally posted on Sightings at the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Categories: Beliefs

Martin E. Marty

Martin E. Marty

"Marty" is one of the most prominent interpreters of religion and culture today. Author of more than 50 books, he is also a speaker, columnist, pastor, and teacher, having been a professor of religious history for 35 years at the University of Chicago.

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