However much we who love Jesus may want to, we don’t get to redefine the words of Scripture to make them more palatable. We don’t get to embrace various ideologies that lead to a view of the person that destroys and then throws it away. We can’t take our own ideas of goodness and impose them over what God has already said is good. We can’t do that because we will have to answer to our Sovereign on the last day when he returns again in power and great glory. While Christians in the West may enjoy the benefits of a pluralistic society that grants them the freedom to worship without fear, they are nevertheless constrained by the True Shepherd to the painful wilderness of obedience.
The Church Year is drawing to a swift close and the final Sunday, Christ the King, is upon us. Besides being a moment to sing some glorious hymns, it is also a fitting hour to make a most essential declaration–that Christ is the ruler over the world, over time, over nations and kingdoms, but most of all over every plan and inclination of every person.
It is a most comforting certainty for Christians that, if Christ is King, while of course it matters what the governments of the world do, it also doesn’t matter. Twitter may fall to the dust, Trump may get his account back, the price of gas may go up even higher, Congress may enact any kind of law, but none of it unthrones the Lord nor nullifies the truth that the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Lest we become too comfortable, however, because Christ is King, it absolutely does matter what Christians do and say. It is the Church—not the world—whose concerns and anxieties are shaped by Christ being King. If you’re scrolling for depressing signs of dark times, look at what Christians are saying and doing.
Which makes this particular piece by David French—a person I have studiously avoided on the internet for fear of failing in winsomeness—all the more bad. It is titled, “Pluralism Has Life Left in It Yet: The Respect for Marriage Act, and the harmony between religious liberty and LGBTQ rights.” After discussing what happened before and after Obergefell and what it all means, French writes this:
The bill doesn’t give either side everything, but it still contains crucial provisions that can comfort (almost) everyone. First, it states that “no person acting under color of State law” can deny “full faith and credit to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State pertaining to a marriage between 2 individuals, on the basis of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals.” In plain English, that means if your marriage was legal in the state where you’re married, then government officials from other states and localities can’t refuse to recognize the validity of that marriage on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin. And what of religious freedom? The bill does two important things. First, it declares that “[n]othing in this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, shall be construed to diminish or abrogate a religious liberty or conscience protection otherwise available to an individual or organization under the Constitution of the United States or Federal law.” This is an important provision and distinctly different from the Democratic approach to the Equality Act, which limited the reach of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In other words, the bill explicitly diminished religious-freedom protections under federal law. The Respect for Marriage Act does no such thing.
I wandered around Twitter, looking for what other people think about the new law, and found this long fact check that paints a much gloomier picture for religious people. What impresses me about the piece by French, however, isn’t so much what he says about the law, but the sort of desultory tone with which he says it. After six years of moral teaching online about the failures of Christians here is nary an indication that what we might be facing is not a petty quarrel between two morally neutral sides. It is as if, to quote almost everyone on Twitter, French doesn’t know what time it is. It is as if the tenseness with which people across the ideological divide are warily considering each other has entirely escaped his notice. Thus, amazingly, he concludes the piece this way:
The magic of the American republic is that it can create space for people who possess deeply different world views to live together, work together, and thrive together, even as they stay true to their different religious faiths and moral convictions. The Senate’s Respect for Marriage Act doesn’t solve every issue in America’s culture war (much less every issue related to marriage), but it’s a bipartisan step in the right direction. It demonstrates that compromise still works, and that pluralism has life left in it yet.
As so many people online said in various pithy ways, tell that to that cake baker, or to all the people who lost their Twitter accounts for noticing that some people pretending to be women are actually men. Or rather, look at the way that denominations are splitting apart. Open your eyes to the ways that gender ideology eats up and destroys not only individual people, but communities and families.
If I hadn’t just spent the last three months going back through the archives imbibing an immense amount of Auron MacIntyre’s content I would have maybe—minus the bit about calling the American republic “magic,” an astonishing claim, given the last six years—taken hope from French’s idea that “pluralism has life left in it yet.” What was I supposed to do? Believe my lying eyes?