The Court that is Not Supreme in God's Sight

Posted by Bishop Bill Atwood on 07/02/2015

The Court that is Not Supreme in God's Sight

not supreme court

The tumultuous Supreme Court decision last Friday mandating same-sex marriage all across the USA creatively and tragically articulated a departure not only from more than two hundred years of American understanding, but it also overturned 7000 years of civilization’s understanding of marriage, without even a cursory nod to the consequences that might flow—especially unintended consequences. Of course, unintended consequences are difficult to see because they are unintended, but there does not even appear to be any concern for what might flow from this dramatic change in societal direction. The only focus and celebration is for the moment.

Court cases used to be decided in concert with legal precedent. In other words, courts looked to what previous courts had said in order to make a current decision. Occasionally, however, some of the members of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) take LSD and go off in an entirely new direction that has no relationship with law, history, or the Constitution. This latest decision by a bare 5 to 4 majority, trumps legal precedent, and it establishes new concepts of “luv” and “self-expression” as the unstable foundation of the new social order. Without a common foundation, society is like the house built on sand that Jesus described. The problems with their decision are legion, so we should sort out some preliminary things to get started.

Years ago, I was called to a parish in Lakeland, Florida. For my entire life, I had heard of “Black Swans,” but I knew them to be mythical creatures. I was certain, and would have replied under oath or polygraph that, “all swans are white.” I suppose I held the possibility that there might be albino swans, but they would be white too, wouldn’t they? In sum, all swans are white—or so I thought.

When we arrived in Lakeland, what should I find placidly swimming around the circular lake in the middle of town, but Black Swans! My response, consistent with my world-view was, “Who painted the swans?”

The answer to my inquiry required a complete paradigm shift concerning things of “swanery.” It seems for some anniversary or other, Her Majesty the Queen of England sent the black swans to the City of Lakeland as a present. It turns out that they were neither mythical nor painted—leaving me with the uncomfortable realization that I was w…w…wr…wrong. (Perish the thought—not easy to say!) There were/are black swans.

The kind of truth represented by this realization is called Ontological Truth. That is truth that is not dependent on opinion or belief. It is truth that actually is, or conversely, is not.  Ontological truth is vastly different from what currently passes as “truth” in contemporary culture. “Truth” in society today, is really opinion. The sole test that is applied to something to determine whether or not it is “Truth” is whether or not it “works” for someone.

Take, for example, this conversation:

(Other person to me) “So… who is Bill Atwood? What makes you tick?”

“I am a Christian,” I replied, “a Child of God. A husband, a father, and a grandfather. Let me tell you about my relationship with Jesus Christ.”

“Oh,” they replied, “…So you are religious. Whatever works for you.”

It is not, however a question of “what works for me.” I remember hearing someone talk about his 12-step program in which everyone submits to a “higher power.” In His case, his “higher power” was… a Coke Machine. He imputed to the Coke Machine the powers of divinity that were helping guide him through sobriety. However sincerely he held the position that the Coke Machine was advocating for him, the ontological truth is that it wasn’t.

Sincere belief in something does not make it true. Truth actually stands whether or not someone believes in it. What is different about Christianity is that it is not just a set of concepts articulated by people: it is truth that is revealed by God. How that process works is more than I have time for today, but for millennia, God’s revelations have been received with confidence.

The five majority Justices of the Supreme Court were not concerned with either legal precedents of history or Truth. What they sought was lofty sounding language that caters to the sexual whims of a very, very vocal minority—a very tiny minority—to whom they wanted to appeal. Recent statistics indicate that less than 1.7% of the population of the USA engaged in same-sex sexual intimacy in the last year, though some studies say it is more like 5%. Looking at the media reports, though, one would think it is a huge portion of the population.

When we talk with people about this situation, we are going to have to recognize their mindsets and their world-views if we are going to be able to communicate with them at all. Sadly, today’s environment classifies any disagreement as “hate” speech or “homophobia.”

Here’s what “hate” actually is:

Hate is: verb (used with object), hated, hating.

1. to dislike intensely or passionately;feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: to hate the enemy; to hate bigotry.

2. to be unwilling; dislike:  I hate to do it.

In fact, it is not hate that causes God to proscribe same-sex intimacy; rather, it is His knowledge of what happens when people pursue it. Along the same lines, the word homophobia refers to something based in fear (phobia) but is popularly used to dismiss any argument, not on its merits but with the judgment that it must be rejected because it cannot be reasoned. It is not reasonable because it does not conform to contemporary culture. This means if we want to make a difference, we must strive to act and speak with a gracious and gentle affect, especially when presenting challenging information.

Popularly, any disagreement is dismissed as “hate” by the current culture. In order to get around that, we must be much more winsome than the Church had to be in previous generations.

Next week, I’ll share some talking points—things that can shape the way you can speak with people about same-sex issues and Biblical authority, without catching their hair on fire, but for today, the most important takeaway is this: We have to win the right to have a hearing in today’s culture. That means we have to demonstrate care for people first if we want to have our comments have traction in peoples’ lives. That must begin with actually loving them!

The current culture claims love as their motive, but it is a very superficial definition of love. It is one that only concerns itself with the moment and overlooks consequences. It is a cheap trade-off that affirms what people “feel” at the moment, ignoring the harvest they will eventually reap.

It is not impossible to have an impact from a “chance” encounter for a moment, but there is much more probability that you can make a difference if you pray first, and then cultivate relationship. Once you have a relationship, then you will have a much better chance of being heard.

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