Christianity Today asks three contributors whether Christians should shut down their social service programs when the state commands them to act against Christian belief. In line with my advice in response to Obama’s gay marriage announcement, Ryan T. Anderson offers a stirring “no”:
Christians should not stop their adoption and foster-care programs, but neither should they comply with laws that would force them to place children with same-sex couples. Christians should continue operating their charitable organizations according to their principles, and they should continue serving the least among us until the state coercively shuts them down.
But why should Christians take a stand here? It is not as though authorities won’t allow us to celebrate the sacraments:
When Jesus commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and care for the widow and orphan, he meant it. He meant it when he said we should love our neighbor, but he didn’t mean that we love them according to secularist liberal values or the dictates of the state. We should love them as Christ loves them. [ . . . ]
The truth of the matter is that long before the state of Massachusetts or Illinois existed, long before the United States existed, Christ’s church was ministering to the poor. Christians should continue to stand on biblical principles in the face of laws that unjustly usurp the authority of voluntary charities and grant government power to regulate their activity even when they cause no harm.
This is an usurpation of the authority and privileges of the Church, which are prior to those of the state. Of course, Christians must practice (to borrow a phrase) charity in truth. We cannot put our desire to conform to the prevailing culture over the real needs of brothers and sisters. It is better by far to be kind than to seem nice:
Two people of the same sex are not the equivalent of a married mother and father. Any law that says that they are gets the family wrong. This does a great disservice to children, and the church should oppose this injustice to children.
Now that is social justice. Contrast this to the response to the Christianity Today symposium by Paul Shrier, “a professor of practical theology at Azusa Pacific University” and, we find, a practitioner of situation ethics. Shrier first dissembles about the data showing problems with same-sex parenting, ignoring, among other issues, that same-sex unions are much more unstable than opposite-sex ones , with one major study showing that 82 percent of men in relationships with men had sex with someone other than their main parter as opposed to 26 percent of men in relationships with women. He then scoots around the Christian teaching on marriage, telling his reader to just “pray and see what God has to say about your individual situation.”
It pains me to see Evangelicals turn away from their commitment to biblical truth. It was my introduction to Christ in the Evangelical community that later allowed me to receive him in the Eucharist in the fullness of faith as a Catholic. Yet even as some try to relaunch the liberal Protestant project from within Evangelicalism, I take hope in people like Lynn Marie Kohm whose response to the same symposium suggests that few Evangelical will be inclined to go down Shrier’s dead-end path.