NASHVILLE—Christians believe marriage is defined by God and recognized by government. But many today believe marriage is defined by government and must be recognized by all.
For this reason, I’m not optimistic about the trends concerning marriage and family in the United States after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage rulings on June 26. Neither am I sure of what all this means for those who, in good conscience, stand against the tide.
But I am optimistic about the church of Jesus Christ.
We’ve been through societal transformations before, and we’re sure to go through them again.
The conversion of Constantine to Christianity in 313 A.D., for example, was certainly good for the church. (We didn’t have to worry about being fed to the lions in the Coliseum anymore.) But many aspects of the church/state marriage turned out to be bad for the church. (True Christianity suffered under the weight of the state’s corrupting power.)
Some see the positive aspects of that fourth-century societal transformation as far outweighing the bad (author/theologian Peter Leithart, for example), while others see the bad far outweighing the good (theologian/ethicist Stanley Hauerwas). The truth is, Constantine’s conversion was both good and bad for the church.
Now, let’s turn to our society’s redefinition of marriage.
If we truly believe Romans 8:28, that somehow, in some way, God is working all things for the good of those who love Him, then even when the culture swerves in an opposing direction, we ought to expect both benefits and challenges.
1. The loss of a culture of marriage.
Riding on a bus last week, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He told me he worked for the government, was in his early 20s, and his wife was finishing her last year of college. Right away, I thought to myself: They must be Christians. Further conversation proved my hunch was right.
How did I know? Easy.
Few people get married when they’re in their early 20s and still in school. Couples either live together or postpone marriage until they’ve settled into a career. A 22-year-old with a ring on his finger might as well have been carrying a Bible.
Not long ago, a friend who lives in D.C. told me that whenever he sees a young father and mother pushing a stroller with a couple of kids, he immediately thinks they must be Christians. Why? “There just aren’t a lot of intact families in our area. When you see one, you just assume they’re religious.”