About a month ago, Franklin Graham announced that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was moving all of its bank accounts from Wells Fargo to another bank because of a recent national television ad from the bank featuring a lesbian couple. Media outlets quickly pounced on the announcement of the replacement bank noting that a Miami branch of that replacement bank had hosted a local event last year which recognized long-term same-sex couples. One blogger asked the question if it is even possible anymore to do business strictly with companies that espouse traditional values. What this situation illustrates is that our culture is changing and that if the church is going to engage in the community and world around it, it will be confronted with these issues. If we isolate ourselves in a bubble, we fail our mission of going out to the world. If we stay silent on it, others will gladly speak in our place with their perspectives. They will not only advocate their position as the new normative one but also as the right one. We have a responsibility to go out into the world, to speak the truth of the Gospel, to love others, and to be His witness in it. What’s important is that we do not distort the Word of God nor twist it to fit whatever agenda as we engage the world around us. In regards to the bank switch, Graham wrote an article for USA Today explaining this switch and addressing the critics. He is fine with the new bank being “gay-friendly” but as surprising as it may seem, he also believes that every business and individual should be friendly to everyone even when we disagree with them. Wells Fargo had moved beyond friendly to becoming a public advocate. Graham adds that loving others does not necessitate accepting and endorsing anything that contradicts what Scripture teaches.
This ad points to a deeper issue as I have seen other large national companies launch similar ads advocating LGBT lifestyles even when it has nothing to do with their business or products. This change highlights the rapidly evolving public attitude towards homosexuality. One of the reasons for advertising is to attract people to your business. They are not trying to alienate potential customers. The fact is that they believe these ads will attract people to them by showing that they are progressive and caring. And this is problematic because it implies that those who don’t agree with them are the opposite: old fashioned and uncaring. I’ve heard this mistaken sentiment even in churches especially with youth on how culture has changed and we should just let people love each other however they want. What is clear in this perspective is that there is a rapidly changing cultural shift and within this shift a fundamental misunderstanding of Scripture (if not a complete ignoring of it) and a distorted view of love and of God that needs to be corrected.
Before I go any further let me say that I unapologetically and firmly believe in the biblical model of marriage with one man joined to one woman for life. In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, Franklin Graham wrote, “With all due respect to the court, it did not define marriage, and therefore is not entitled to re-define it.” All of the living presidents of our denomination elected since 1980 issued a joint statement declaring that we will stand upon the biblical truths concerning marriage and that, “The Scriptures’ teaching on marriage is not negotiable.” Chief Justice Roberts noted that this was an issue that should have been decided by public process and not by the courts stating that, “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law.” In his dissent to the ruling with judges taking on the role of activists, he said, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not a legal judgment.” You may celebrate this decision, but he warns, “Do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.” The court decision required a flimsy argument to reinterpret the 14th Amendment in a way in which it was never intended, and in doing so Justice Scalia notes that this decision is a threat to American democracy. Justice Thomas adds that this decision is a distortion of our Constitution that ignores its text. With such dissent even within the Supreme Court, it is of no surprise that this decision has evoked such sharp responses from the public.
And this brings us back to the original issue of the cultural shift occurring within this country. With this shift, how should the church respond, or more specifically, how should you respond as a believer? The Episcopal Church wasted no time at all and voted to allow religious weddings of same-sex couples. An AP article covering that decision highlighted a contrast by noting, “After the Supreme Court ruling last week, many conservative churches, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mormons, renewed their opposition to gay marriage.” I’m not sure if those two groups would ever be associated together otherwise, but it highlights a polarization that has taken place: either you support same-sex marriage or you are opposed to it. This polarization then extends within the two camps with those viewing the other side with a whole host of stereotypes. While the issue of same-sex marriage may draw a dividing line, it should not be our primary identifying characteristic. For outreach to be effective, our identifying trait must be Jesus. As we navigate the complexities that have become our present reality, our response is to love others as Christ loves.
Traditional marriage is not an old-fashioned or outdated concept. It would be naïve to think that homosexuality is a new issue. It is addressed in Scripture because it was also present in that time. Even though times may be changing, God is eternal and has remained constant. From the time of creation, Scripture tells us that a man and his wife shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:24). Jesus repeated this teaching in the New Testament (Matt. 19:4-6). This was not some culturally isolated idea, but one that is developed throughout Scripture as the central concept and definition of marriage being the union of a man and a woman. Chief Justice Roberts notes that this court ruling, “orders the transformation of a social institution that formed the basis of human society for millennia.” This cavalier attitude of redefining concepts such as marriage, liberty, and fundamental rights is a mark of remarkable hubris which will unravel to a number of unintended consequences. History has reinforced these long-established concepts, and we have no right to redefine them now to suit our own desires. As Jeff Iorg phrased it: “The Supreme Court has discovered ‘equal dignity’ in the Constitution. It was an amazing bit of detective work, uncovering something hidden for about 240 years.” This court ruling may become the precedence for further redefining of marriage and other aspects deemed to be a fundamental right. Roberts notes that, “It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.” Adapting age-old concepts to what fits the current situation is an extremely slippery slope. It certainly is not an issue of old-fashioned versus modern, but rather the need for a recognition that there are indeed some absolutes in life that withstand the test of time.
The church will have to face some serious challenges in the coming years. As believers, we need to be in prayer (1 Thes. 5:16-18 and Rom. 12:12). Pray for revival and spiritual awakening, for strength in the face of persecution, and for courage as we are His light and witness. We need to trust Christ (Prov. 3:5-6) and remember that He is victorious (Matt. 16:18). We need to represent Christ as His ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20) reflecting Christ in our speech, in our conduct, and with love. We need to talk to our children about these issues and teach them Biblical truth (Prov. 22:6). We need to read and obey God’s Word (Psalms 1). Do not distort or twist Scripture to fit your desires (2 Peter 3:14-18), and beware of false teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3, Rom. 16:17-18, and Matt. 7:15). And finally, we need to love one another. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).