Question 6 may be the most important issue in the upcoming Maryland election. Its passage would be the first victory on referendum for same sex marriage in the country. An electorate’s support of the legislation would mean a swell in the tide against traditional marriage for our nation. All other institutions in Maryland would be radically harmed too, for the family affects all structures in society.
In an effort to help to the passage of Question 6 find more success this season than the hometown baseball team, Julian Bond has stepped in as designated hitter. The well-known activist is playing Civil Rights Leader-in-Chief on the issue, framing the question as just another of the many rights issues to which he has given his whole life to fighting. While there are moral problems associated with framing same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, it is not immoral for a rights activist to side with a platform generically framed as a rights issue.
It is hypocritical, however, for a member of the clergy to side with such an issue, because this issue conflicts with the tenants of the Christian faith. The role of the cleric is to follow sacred Scripture, regardless of how disparate its teachings are with societal norms. Differing with societal norms is the nature of sacred Scripture, as it beholds the norms of what Augustine termed, “The City of God.”
Historically, the one called to proclaim the word of the Lord often found himself in jeopardy by being at odds with the general population and heads of states. The Hebrew prophets Moses and Jeremiah were among those who preached against oppression and other moral evils at the threat of their lives. The evangelist John the Baptist lost his head for not looking the other way at King Herod’s adulterous act. Many other preachers have encountered imprisonment, even martyrdom, for preaching the truth when society at large needed a moral corrective. The Twenty First Century preacher’s task has not changed, even when most of society has sought to broaden the definition of marriage beyond Scripture’s “male and female.”
In recent TV commercials, Maryland pastors Delman Coates and Donté Hickman indicate that their support for Question 6 concerns the equal and fair treatment of all by the State. “I wouldn’t want someone denying my rights based on their religious views, [therefore] I shouldn’t deny others’ based on mine,” these ministers say. They also erroneously propose that Question 6 is about “protecting religious freedom.”
The men and women who make up the General Assembly have religious views that contribute to their decision-making processes. The current prevailing view on Question 6 is that government and religion should remain in separate spheres. In general, religion should have no contribution to public policy, and religious views are simply value-based judgments. Those holding this view do not take into consideration the grounding of many Christian beliefs in historical facts, and that Christianity’s arguments for truth have held up to intellectual and academic scrutiny for many centuries prior to the signing of the first law in Maryland until now. The moral codes of the church are therefore being dismissed and denied by Maryland officials based on the majority’s preference to keep religion away from the legislative conclusions of the General Assembly.
By Hickman and Coates’ reasoning, this is not fair to Marylanders. Support of Question 6 undermines any religious freedom supposedly protected by this law. In voicing their support of this Question, the two clergymen saw off the moral and civil branches on which we all sit.
Moreover, contemporary society has no need for members of the clergy to sanction popular opinion. A plethora of professional pundits, bloggers, comedians, scholars, and politicians fulfill that role. Rather, the City of Man needs members of the clergy to be the voice of God within a culture. If the public square is not the appropriate place to discuss moral matters from a religiously exclusivist perspective, and the parish pulpit continues to acquiesce to this postmodern philosophy, soon there will be no place to voice an alternate moral view. Thoughtful Marylanders, and all Americans, should see how this too would be neither fair nor right.
Related resource: D. A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Crossway).