Maybe evangelicals haven’t thrown in the towel on same-sex marriage, but they’re beating a strategic retreat. Last Friday, Christianity Today showcased church-state experts arguing that rather than fight the legalization of SSM, opponents should be working for robust religious exemptions from having to aid, abet, or otherwise have anything to do with it.
“Too many folks see this as an all-or-nothing matter, University of St. Thomas law professor Thomas Berg told the magazine. “If religious liberty is tied to defeating same-sex marriage altogether, religious liberty is going to lose.” To be sure, there are those who want to continue to struggle against the SSM tide — or at least who say they do.
“I think it would be a mistake to abandon the fight for the definition of marriage,” asserted Russell Moore, the new head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “So while we’re fighting for religious liberty, we’re articulating why we believe marriage is significant and important. And while we’re fighting for marriage, we’re articulating why the religious liberty concerns that inevitably come from these discussions are significant. We do both, and we don’t abandon or marginalize either plank.”
Really? Go to the ERLC website and click on “Issues.” You’ll find everything from Pro-Life to Hunger and Immigration but nary a word about SSM. Meanwhile, in Indiana, where Republican state legislators are struggling to get a constitutional amendment against SSM through committee, evangelical leaders are sitting on their hands.
What gives? I’d say it’s not just that fighting SSM looks more and more like a losing cause. It’s that the issue is increasingly a loser with the younger generation of evangelicals. And evangelical churches like the Southern Baptist Convention are finding it harder and harder to hold on to this generation. Liberty, religious or otherwise, is a lot easier sell.
Correction: Yesterday I somehow managed to overlook “Marriage” in the array of issues on the the ERLC website. What has shifted at the Commission since Russell Moore took over from Richard Land last year is the tone rather than the substance. Moore speaks of “convictional kindness” and pledges not to demonize the other side. As for Land, here’s how he responded to last June’s Supreme Court SSM decisions:
“Today is a devastating day for traditional marriage and religious freedom.
“In spite of the blow to this sacred union, we must always remember that marriage is precious, a biblical gift, and one that should not have been tainted by redefining it in a way that is counter to God’s plan for families and for America. Defining marriage for the American people is way above the Supreme Court’s pay grade. God created marriage, and He has defined its parameters, regardless of what the majority of Supreme Court justices might think.”
I’ll stand by my position on the next generation.