Reading RNS this morning I noticed an article talking about how the Catholic church is trying to 'soften' its approach to gays and the gay marriage issue. The author also talked about something we all know is here as well: a growing shift in public opinion. Often it is the pressure from the general population that forces change more than anything else, at least in the political realm. The president understands this well and has used the 'court of public opinion' to his advantage many times in battles with congress.
Yet the question on my mind is not whether gay marriage will be legal one day in all the states of the union. Like many I see this as inevitable. My question is also not how the church should respond. Those denominations that have capitulated on this issue did so long ago. Many conservative churches will remain opposed, although how they express that opposition may be a debated issue for the future. An article on Richochet noted that a key issue facing the church is whether our contrary views will be afforded the equal protection of free speech, or whether the church will be legally penalized for its opposition and refusal to perform gay marriages. I pray that this larger issue remains within the realm of the states and does not become a federal mandate. However, tax exempt status remains an Achilles heel for the church with regard to federal law. This, rightly observed, could disappear as a penalty for non-compliance. Now such rhetoric may seem 'over the top' for some who feel that in the end its all about 'live and let live.' That may be. Yet legal rights are often seen as constitutionally defined 'inalienable rights,' like "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," rights vague enough to elude definition and allow a host of others to be included. When the issue of collective bargaining was being debated hotly here at the Wisconsin capital, I remember well how these privileges were debated as inherent "rights" and not allowances.
The impact from today's discussions may seem years away, but as the Supreme Court now discusses it we are reminded that tomorrow is today. Coupled with the tide of public opinion the future now presents a far different picture, one we can't entirely bring into focus, but one that is vastly different than the one our forefathers envisioned. The Church should understand that Jesus himself reminded us that confessing the truth brings suffering and alienation. It happened to the early Christians as they faced the twin fronts of Rome and the Jewish opposition. Yet like our predecessors in the faith we must learn to bear our cross in love. Hate and anger will never proclaim the Gospel. May the Lord therefore make of his people one that embodies the care and mercy of God, while keeping us faithful to his Word.