AFTER OBERGEFELL

The New Post-Homophobic Christianity

Most Christians are going to adapt to the new America just fine.

07.05.15 4:01 AM ET

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized marriage equality in America, some conservative Christians have been downright apoplectic. In a ridiculously offensive analogy, right wing anti-equality zealot Bryan Fischer tweeted:

Channeling a similar anger, though in a more commonly heard form, Fox News commentator Todd Starnes tweeted:

Meanwhile, Rod Dreher of the American Conservative has, in his own words, a more sober analysis of the decision on Time’s website:

“[W]e have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist. To be frank, the court majority may impose on the rest of the nation a view widely shared by elites, but it is also a view shared by a majority of Americans. There will be no widespread popular resistance to Obergefell. This is the new normal.”

To which the vast majority of Americans say, “Hallelujah!” Dreher is correct—the idea of equal treatment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans (if not its full realization yet) is indeed the new normal in America. Even before the court’s decision, 6 in 10 Americans supported the right of same-sex couples to marry—and over half of Americans said they would be less likely to support any 2016 presidential candidate who opposed marriage equality.

Yet some conservatives have tried to paint this cultural evolution—or even revolution—as fundamentally at odds with Christianity. That’s where they’re wrong.

The Episcopalian Church embraced gay marriage last week. Earlier this year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) affirmed its support for marriage equality, joining many other major Christian denominations that officially endorse LGBT rights. And according to an April 2015 poll, majorities of congregants within many Christian faith traditions support marriage equality—including 60 percent of all Catholics, 52 percent of all orthodox Christians and 62 percent of white mainline Protestants. They’re joined by 94 percent of Unitarian Universalists and 77 percent of all Jews. 

Perhaps most strikingly, 64 percent of self-identified Millennial evangelicals support same-sex marriage. As the literal future of orthodox Christianity, it would be hard to paint their views as at odds with such orthodoxy. Rather, they are a portrait of that future—not of a post-Christian America, but a post-homophobic Christianity. That is the “new normal” that Obergefall does not singularly usher in but merely reflects. The world has changed. Christians and Christianity has changed, too. And again, I say, “Hallelujah!”

Will anti-gay Christians be politically and socially ostracized? I sure hope so. Just as those orthodox Christians who still believe in strict, traditional gender roles have been increasingly mocked as absurd. Once upon a time, marriage constituted property—the wife was the literal property of the husband, and could not legally let alone culturally own anything of her own. The governing cultural norm was that women should be barefoot, pregnant and subservient.

Those norms were reinforced by religion, but our interpretation of religion, like the Constitution, is obviously influenced by contemporary conditions. We apply the Constitution to Internet regulations, even though the Founding Fathers definitely didn’t foresee such technological evolutions. And we demand our faith traditions stretch and grow as well. 

There are, of course, still congregations that haven’t caught up with the times. But churches have always been able to use their discretion to decide whom to marry or turn away, and the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell specifically noted such First Amendment protections for religious institutions.

As for everyone else, including florists and county clerks, yes, you will now have to provide the same services to straight couples that you provide to gay couples. Don’t like it? Find a new job. The law also requires that clerks issue birth certificates to the children of single mothers and that florists provide flowers for interracial weddings, regardless of the religious beliefs that have definitely been cited now and throughout history to condemn these families as well. Still, that doesn’t mean the law is trouncing on religion. It means the law is prioritizing equal treatment for all, as it should.

In 1992, Pat Buchanan gave a speech to the Republican National Convention, known as “The Culture War Speech.” In it, he spoke for those like himself who felt their traditional values under attack: “There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America.”

Well, wars are won and lost. Liberty, freedom and the ever-bending arc toward equality have won. Intolerance and hate have lost. But this was not a war of liberty versus religion; the war itself took place within religion, including within Christianity itself. And Christianity is ultimately taking the side of equality and liberty, too.

To those who remain in the fringe minority stubbornly mired in hatred and the dark rationalizations of the past, please try to lose gracefully. You are not being exiled. The world is simply moving on without you.