As an American citizen, I’m very pleased about the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday that a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. As I’ve noted many times on this blog, marriage equality is a civil rights issue and there is no civil basis for preventing American citizens from enjoying the legal benefits of marriage. (For the same reasons, I’m very concerned about the ruling on the Voting Rights Act.)
As a progressive Christian pastor, I’m also pleased by this ruling because it is one more step in the right direction of our cultural and religious rethinking of marriage in light of our contemporary understandings of human sexuality. Like many Christians, I do not consider homosexuality a sinful abomination and I advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church. While marriage is not a sacrament in my tradition, I nonetheless believe that it is a blessing that should be open to all of God’s children.
We’ve already heard backlash from more conservative Christian voices and these will only grow louder as public opinion and church polities change. To this I can say that there are at least as many Christians pleased by these developments as there are those who are grieved by them. And while I can sympathize with my friends and colleagues for whom this seems like an abandonment of the gospel, we are all following our consciences and faithful attempts to hear God’s voice in today’s world. And, as Presbyterians say, God alone is lord of the conscience.
To once again invoke Diana Butler Bass’ important recent book, Christianity After Religion, the conservative voices of opposition that will increase in step with moves toward equality are nativist reactions to what Bass considers a fourth American Great Awakening, one in which a non-dogmatic, experiential, relational, environmentally conscientious, and pluralistic faith is emerging. For those of us happy to be a part of this emergence, yesterday was a step in the right direction, and the opposition we will hear is to be expected as the awakening unfolds. But these voices do not represent all of Christianity. There is indeed a new kind of Christianity coming to be.