Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt are doubling down on their argument that Christian business owners are morally wrong when they refuse to participate in same-sex wedding celebrations. In a co-written essay for The Daily Beast, they argue that Christian business owners are morally and legally obliged to participate in gay wedding ceremonies with their goods and services. Not to participate is tantamount to the kind of discrimination that whites in this country used to exhibit against blacks.
Let me just say first of all that I am grieved by this article. Not merely because it is a moral and constitutional mess, but also because of who has written it. Do Powers and Merritt realize that they ratify the arguments of Christianity’s fiercest opponents when they attribute our conscientious objections to animus and bigotry? There is a larger context here. The sexual revolutionaries have done a fine job over the last decade of demonizing Christians as purveyors of hate because of our commitment to what the Bible teaches about sex. Powers and Merritt are joining their voices with our opponents when they militate against conscience rights for Christians. And this all by itself grieves me. I would have hoped for more from them.
But what are we to make of their central argument? They contend that providing services for a gay wedding does not imply “participation” or “approval” of same-sex marriage. But we have to ask if this is really their place to judge as far as public policy is concerned. They suggest that “society” or “100 married couples” are the arbiters of what does and does not violate someone else’s conscience. This is absurd. Is this really how Powers and Merritt want to treat religious liberty in this country? Such that the majority might be able to dictate to the conscientious minority, “We don’t see any reason for you to be offended by this, so get over it.” What’s worse is that they favor an approach that would allow the government to make such a determination—as if the government is competent to define what should or should not offend religious consciences. Neither the government nor anyone else has the right to prohibit free exercise based on their opinion about what ought not offend the faithful—much less to impose coercive penalties upon Christians who do not want to participate in gay wedding.
But apart from constitutional and public policy concerns, what are we to make of their moral claim—that providing goods and services for a gay wedding is perfectly consistent with Christian faith? Powers and Merritt say that Christians are discriminating against gay people by giving a pass to unbiblical heterosexual weddings. Yet to make this argument, Powers and Merritt must assume a moral equivalence between gay marriage and conjugal marriage. And this is precisely the point. They are not equal.
Marriage—the covenant union of one man and one woman—is a creation ordinance that God intends to be the norm for all of humanity. When a man and a woman are joined together in matrimony, they really are married—even if their relationship proceeded from unbiblical grounds (such as prior divorce or being unequally yoked). On the contrary, gay marriage is different. It is a sinful fiction. A gay wedding ceremony celebrates what God abominates. There is no sanction or creation ordinance supporting the sexual union of two people of the same sex. As far as Christians are concerned, gay marriages are not really marriages.
The wedding of a man and a woman enters them into a holy estate. The wedding of two persons of the same sex does not. No one should be surprised that Christians would demur from participation in celebrating what God prohibits them from celebrating.
Finally, Powers and Merritt single out Russell Moore for special censure:
So, Moore–a sincere Christian and a leader we respect–is telling Christian vendors that it’s okay to do something “wrong” by providing services for a heterosexual wedding as long as they don’t know its unbiblical.
I don’t know what else to say except that this is a blatant misrepresentation of what Russell Moore has written on this subject. Nowhere does Moore say that it’s “okay” to do something that is “wrong.” But I encourage readers to read Moore in his own words. It will be plain to even the casual reader that Moore said no such thing. (UPDATE: Moore has just posted a must-read response to their charges here.)
Of course we do not expect society at large to understand the teachings of Christianity or why the Bible might prohibit Christians from participating in gay wedding celebrations. After all, it is not their consciences that are in view here. It’s ours. But I would have expected more from Powers and Merritt.