By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
On May 22, voters in the country of Ireland made a decision that will forever impact their nation.
Ireland became the first country to hold a public vote amending its constitution to allow gay marriage (see story “Ireland Votes to Allow Gay Marriage”).
With 62.1 percent of the vote, Ireland became the 20th country in the world to approve gay marriage. According to official results announced May 23, votes in favor of the change totaled 1,201,607, while 734,300 voted against it.
The vote didn’t go the way I would have preferred but at least the voters had a say.
The United States of America is on the verge of becoming the 21st country to approve gay marriage. But instead of an entire country having a say in how marriage will be defined, it comes down to the votes of nine Supreme Court justices. Some will say it’s a matter of time. After all, 37 states already have approved gay marriages.
Each state should have the right to decide. Tennesseans already have made that decision but it could be overturned by one single vote of the nine-member Supreme Court.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court must decide whether states can make that decision or whether it will be made the law of the land. Their decision is expected to be made public later this month or in early July.
Just “suppose” for a minute.
If Americans today, this minute, could vote for or against gay marriage, how would we vote.
Twenty-five years ago or even 15 years ago, it would have been a no-brainer. Actually, we never would have had to vote back then. It was not the hot button issue it has become in today’s culture.
Times, indeed, have changed.
A Pew Research Center survey released in mid-May revealed that 70.6 percent of Americans say they are Christian. While down nearly 8 percentage points from 2007 totals, it still represents a sizeable majority of Americans.
Yet, on the other side of the spectrum, I have seen recent polls ranging from as many as 55 percent to 64 percent of Americans who believe gay couples should be able to marry.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, does not believe that Christianity is dying but he did note in a recent Baptist Press article that Christianity is becoming “less nominal, more defined, and more outside the mainstream of American culture.” Stetzer also wrote in a recent blog, “For example, the cultural cost of calling yourself ‘Christian’ is starting to outweigh the cultural benefit, so those who do not identify as ‘Christian’ according to their convictions are starting to identify as ‘nones’ because it’s more culturally savvy.”
We are living in a day and age where Christians are afraid to speak up and stand boldly for their convictions. Christians are caving to culture. And, we are paying the price.
So, back to the primary question.
If Americans, like the residents of Ireland, could vote for or against gay marriage, how would we vote?
With 70 percent of the population claiming to be Christian, one would think it wouldn’t be close. Gay marriage would lose.
But that’s not the case. There are Christians who would vote in favor of gay marriage. It boils down to culture versus the Bible.
More people, particularly the younger generation, are siding with culture instead of God’s Holy Word. Many of these young adult Christians have seen friends they grew up with “come out of the closet.” They were taught that homosexuality is a sin but they have loosened their standards because it is now personal for them.
Personal or not, homosexuality is as much a sin today as it was when they were children and even in biblical times when the Old Testament writer called it an “abomination.” Read Leviticus 18:22 as a reminder.
Christian men and women are showing a total disregard for Scripture. Because of that, I fear we would do what Ireland voters did —turn our backs on God.
Continue to pray for our Supreme Court judges as they consider the impact of whatever decision they come up with regarding gay marriage.
Pray they will not make a decision that could ultimately lead to God’s judgment on our nation.
But, regardless of the decision, we as Tennessee Baptists and Christians, must get out of the pews and into the marketplace.
We must live our faith so people see a difference in our lives. We must also be willing to build relationships with those who do not know Christ so we can earn the right to share the gospel.
Before we succumb to a doom and gloom mentality, remember the words of Jesus in John 16:33: “Fear not, I have overcome the world.” For that, we can offer praise no matter what happens.