Written by: Rev. Nathan Hill
Were you shocked? I, for one, was not.
Were you shocked by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision last week? Many were—were you among them? As my title suggests, I for one was not shocked. I first learned of this landmark decision during a telephone call with a student—who shared his shock with me—and then I heard it a second time when I arrived home from the office and Mandy asked if I had heard. My answer, perhaps to her shock, was a very nonchalant, “Oh yeah, I heard that.”
If you would like to know what does shock me, I am shocked that the margin for passing was so slim, and I am shocked that it took so long to get there—10 years longer than my own country! And, I am shocked by the polarizing outrage and celebration that has ensued—ok, maybe I’m not shocked by the polarization.
When I think about such things, in my own country and in others, I wonder what we all expected would happen. Did we have any inkling that the secular authorities of our day would legislate a version of Christian morality? Did we hope to return to a Constantinian era of Christianity where our faith was mandated and supported by the federal government? Most Protestants would think that the last time that happened it did not go so well (just google Constantinianism to get the back story)—hence the Reformation. The separation of church/faith and state has a long and rich history—like it or not—and so what we are experiencing today is just one more milestone down that road.
The early church existed within the margins of society and never aspired nor achieved political greatness in their day. The noblest prize they possessed was Paul’s claim to Roman citizenship, and even then it was only used as a trump card in a handful of sticky situations. Rather, they lived their lives as an underground sub-culture, and people flocked to them. As the Sanhedrin stated in Acts 4, when the people of God focus on being just that, there is nothing anyone can do to destroy their witness (Acts 4: 16). Have we grown up, or just walked away from this founding paradigm?
It is indeed a funny world that we live in. Some nations are doing what we might say is the “right thing,” but for very wrong reasons whereas others are doing what we might say is the “wrong thing,” but with their heart in the right place—wanting to avoid discrimination and oppression. I am sure there are many version of reality between these two extremes—but I am not shocked, and I am not going to mount an outrage. Remember Ephesians 6:12? Fight the real battle on the real front lines, and then watch lives—not governments—fall into place. If you change enough lives you may impact a nation, after all this is a good motivational speech, but don’t forget that even Jesus did not overthrow the Roman government in his day. In the end they destroyed him best they could…but it wasn’t enough. Lets adopt a similar paradigm for our faith today.
I think what our culture is experiencing is a mood. We are like five-year-olds fighting over something we saw, insisting we are both right. If one of us would just stop fighting the pointless he said/she said battle then maybe the whole thing would stop being such a media fanfare and public relations nightmare. Instead, we have used this as a litmus test for true faith, and in doing so have poured gasoline on the blazing inferno.
Here is my prediction: when my kids and my kids’ kids are adults, no one is going to care about this any longer. People may still occasionally debate and make sly comments in the media, but in the grand scheme of life people are going to follow whatever path they want and we are going to be very bored hearing about it on CBC news. If I am right, we had better pass on a faith that is founded on something more solid than being opposed to something, otherwise when the culture is finished with its mood, we will find we have little drive and cause left to our faith.
Of course, if I am wrong, you can tell me. And that’s ok, I have thick skin and you wouldn’t be the first?