Christianity,  Homosexuality

Public Opinion and the Christian Conscience

Last week, I predicted on social media that if the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” ever makes it to the floor of the Senate for an up or down vote, there will be more than enough GOP support for the measure to pass. The fact is that a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, including a majority of those who identify as Republicans. The base of the Republican party is still largely against same-sex marriage, but everyone else is pretty much for it.

That puts GOP senators in between a rock and a hard place. Should they vote to affirm gay marriage and offend their base? Or should they vote against gay marriage and offend the majority of the rest of the country and even of Republican voters?

I’m certain that there are many senators who will on principle vote against any measure that promotes same-sex marriage. But there are many others who aren’t so much concerned about the sanctity of marriage but about making it through the next election. There are others who wish to enhance their prospects to have a prosperous career elsewhere after they leave the Senate. They understand that opposing gay marriage is a political and a professional loser, and they will vote accordingly.

That is why Pamela Paul urges the Majority Leader Schumer to double down on the gay-marriage affirming “Respect for Marriage Act.” She writes:

This is exactly the moment to hold Republicans’ feet to the fire. It’s the moment for those Republicans who are in favor of gay marriage to stand up for what has become a clear majority position in the country, or to cave spectacularly to the prejudices of their base. As Senator Elizabeth Warren put it: “Every single member of Congress should be willing to go on the record. And if there are Republicans who don’t want to vote on that before the election, I assume it is because they are on the wrong side of history.”

Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t. They could be true believers, or they could simply be selling their souls in the interest of staying in office. But those who do support gay marriage need to act. Particularly given the ominous words of Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which many interpreted as a threat to revisit the landmark 2015 decision establishing the right to same-sex marriage.

If that right is no longer settled law, as had previously been assumed, it’s certainly a settled moral principle. Over the past seven short years and following the course of many long ones, same-sex marriage has reached the status of a basic and bedrock civil right. Currently 71 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. This not only includes the vast majority of Democrats, but as of 2021, 55 percent of Republicans according to Gallup. That is the definition of bipartisan consensus.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the coming weeks with respect to this gay-marriage bill. Nevertheless, I do know that it is important for Christians to be on the alert against unbiblical moral reasoning. Many politicians are simply going to chart their course by putting their finger to the wind to see which way popular opinion is blowing. But that is not an option for those of us who are followers of Christ.

Contrary to Pamela Paul’s argument, we don’t determine the truth about marriage by public polling. It doesn’t matter that same-sex marriage has become “a clear majority position in the country.” That kind of public support does not in fact make gay marriage a “settled moral principle.” Indeed, public opinion is not and never has been an unassailable authority on what is right and what is wrong. God’s word alone is the unassailable authority on “settled moral principle,” no matter what public opinion polls say.

If you had taken a public opinion poll on Jeremiah’s prophecy right before the Babylonians descended upon Jerusalem, you can be sure that clear majorities would have been against what he was preaching (Jer. 6:13; 8:10). And yet Jeremiah was the one speaking for God. Jeremiah’s message was unpopular, but its unpopularity didn’t make it any less true. Nor did its unpopularity make it any less the word of God.

The same is true in our own day when it comes to the Christian message about marriage. Clear majorities reject what God’s word says about the sanctity of marriage. Clear majorities reject what God’s word says about the sinfulness of gay sex. God’s word is simply not very popular right now, but that doesn’t make it any less God’s word. Nor does it make it any less the truth about human good and flourishing. Nor does it diminish one iota the standard by which God will judge the nations when it all comes down.

If you are prone to taking your cues from public opinion polls and popular opinion, you will not be able to follow Christ. You have to choose between Christ and the praise of men. Ultimately, you cannot have both. You must choose. Therefore, beware of being bullied by “wrong side of history” arguments like the one evinced by Elizabeth Warren above. Make no mistake. The wrong side of history is on the left side of Jesus: “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels'” (Matt. 25:41). The right side of history is on the right side of Jesus: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'” (Matt. 25:34).

Sometimes being on the right side of history puts you at odds with the world. And that’s okay. Jesus told us it would be this way (John 15:18-21). In fact, it is a necessary and normal part of Christian discipleship. Don’t let the politicians or columnists lead you to believe otherwise.