Let me begin by restating the title of this article - June twenty-sixth was different.
As a Christian and a History student, I want to offer a perspective on yesterday and I suppose, the future. This is my fourth year studying history, next year, I will have finished my bachelor's in History. I've taken classes on American, Californian, Western Civilization, Medieval and Renaissance History, as well as History of Religion in America, Christian Perspective, Theology, Old Testament and New Testament. Just to state my credentials. I also maintain above a 3.0 GPA.
I'm not just pulling this out of nowhere. This is my education at work.
If you didn't already know, yesterday, gay marriage, or more fondly termed, "marriage equality" was legalized across the United States. Many are cheering and other are thoroughly distressed over this decision. I would like to simply offer perspective.
Historically speaking, this movement is being compared to the Civil War, Women's and Civil Rights movements. But after having read many articles, I am noticing that the authors of these articles are not historians, on either side of the argument - I want to rectify that.
If you don't mind, I want to go back to the Civil War for a moment, and plan to reference the Biblical Text as it applies. We'll move through history from there.
African SlaveryClick Here for a Timeline of Slave History
African Slaves first arrived in the States in 1619, but take note that this was not a first. Slavery's beginning dates back centuries. And it was not limited to African slaves. Throughout world history, humans have warred and taken their neighbors as slaves, and on occasion, even sold each other (themselves and their children) into slavery. Sometimes for their own wellbeing, other times to repay debt and more sadly, as war prizes. With African slavery, it was a mixture of everything. Neighboring, waring tribes would sell one another to the white men and those traders would bring the slaves to Europe and the states. This dates back almost four hundred years.
The common consensus among the white people, was that those of different color, ethnicity and language were not as human as they were, and in some cases, not created in God's image and therefore, not entitled to the same rights. In fact, in 1787, while discussing population and statehood, it was decided that a slave counted as three-fifths of a person.
I cannot deny that churches throughout the United States were not uniformly appalled at this. Though there were cases in which the Christian church took a stance. Many Christians leading up to the Civil War took great issue with the lessening of their personhood. Many also feared for their financial situation and let that take sway over their faith.
So here is the real issue, Christians were divided about the issue of an African American's personhood. But what does the Bible have to say about this? Does someone of a different race have the same rights to personhood under God?
Let me start by stating that the Jews certainly aren't Aryan and yet they are God's chosen people.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16The book of Romans was written to both the Jews and Gentiles of Rome when there was a time of great division between them. The Jews were exercising a sort of authority over the Romans, believing that the Roman Gentiles had to, in a way, become Jewish, in order to be counted as true followers. But Paul wrote, explaining that they were under a new covenant, not the old covenant. The previous signs of "rightness with God," was not longer required because Jesus made a new BETTER way.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28And to speak frankly, we are all descendants, first of Adam, then of Noah's sons. Therefore, we are all God's creation, made in his image and have equal access to God through Christ. The Bible even touches on a specific case regarding the freedom of slaves. There's an entire book. Read it. It's called, Philemon. Paul sends a Runaway slave back to his master with a letter - asking for Onesimus' freedom.
What really amazes me about African slaves, is that upon their arrival in the States, and through their years of captivity, a good majority of them started to abandon tribal religion (though clinging to some traditions) and began practicing Christianity, though separate from the whites.
I very much loved Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, Uncle Tom's Cabin. A story written by a preacher's daughter in order to bright to light the plight of slavery. She placed great emphasis on Tom's piety, childlike love (Eva), the difficulty slaves face (even with a good master), and the cruelty of a heartless master. The character, Tom, shows great faith that God will be with him, even in his trails, even when many during that time doubted God's love for slaves.
Just remember this note about the faith of the African American community - still one of the most thriving in America.
Women's Rights Movement
Now, beginning in 1848, a movement began, calling for the equal treatment of men and women under the law. This included inheritance, land ownership, and suffrage (the right to vote). Prior to this, the man of the house, be it the father, brother or husband, had ultimate say. This was a difficult thing to swallow for many women, others simply called it "God's will." But let's not deny the fact that under the law, this privilege was greatly abused in many circumstances. It would be silly to deny that ALL men treated their wives courteously. Though it should also be noted that not all men were abusive, or else this might have become a larger issue earlier on.
The suffragist movement was also accompanied by 1920's Prohibition, a movement largely promoted by the wives of alcoholics, who advocated that drunkenness was the root of societal problems.
In the year 1920, on August 26th, women were granted the right to vote. While the issue began as a conflict within the church, as the a woman's place, be it in the home, or out in the world (responsible for herself) the conclusion became something rather Biblical.
Take note that when Jesus first rose from the dead, he appeared to women, who testified to his resurrection. Within Jewish culture, women were not the testimony of choice when trying to gain validity. But Jesus was a world shaker. He kept company with criminals (tax collectors), lepers (who had a contagious disease), and women. Jesus wasn't looking for perfect friends. Rather, he kept company with those who were drawn to him - the rejected, who needed him. Perfect people don't tend to need anyone.
I've already written an article about women's rights, for more information, you can read it: I Am Feminine.
But here's a quick summary - God made men and women in his likeness, different, but equal. God loves men and women.
To be really revolutionary on this whole concept of God loves women, there's this fairly controversial book that I happen to like, The Shack, that dares to portray God as a Black Woman. But there's more to the book than just defying stereotypes. The point Wm. Paul Young makes in the book, is that God knows his children and their needs. And God is able to be everything we need. Since were are created in God's likeness, men and women, then doesn't that suggest that God is both masculine and feminine? He is our strong father, a defender, as well as a caring, nurturing mother? Don't take this too far, I'm just trying to say that God is our all-powerful sufficiency. (And I still refer to God as a Him/He/Father).
Civil Rights Movement
Now on to more recent History. I'm sure you've seen movies/plays/books such as Hairspray and the Help. Many stories, such as these, venture into the lives of African Americans even following the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1, 1863, and more officially in 1865. A simple law stating their freedom didn't immediately mean true freedom. It takes years to change a mindset. In this case, though slavery ended in the 1860's, the Jim Crow, Segregated South, lasted for almost one hundred years, into the 1960's.
While the church, in some cases remained neutral on the position, many simply avoided the situation, while others became vocal, either in favor of or against integration. Even today, I know admitted Christians who can't bring themselves to cast aside derogatory language. They live, feeding off of stereotypes and failing to assume the best - seeing others through God's eyes.
But as History has proved, We can now say, that in my generation, across the United States, in most places, not all, but most, Women have been accepted as equals, and laws that divide the races have been repealed. Men, Women and those of all ethnicities can hold the same rights under the law. We've even seen our first colored president. We'll just have to wait and see about a female president, but the law permits it. Though, let it be said that there are several first ladies who've left their mark, and even taken the lead in their husband's stead.
In light of all this, America has see a precedent for equality, which is why these movements have been compared to yesterday. Many have been critical of the LBGT community and considered them subhuman. From their perspective, they have been denied basic rights. Understandably, there are some connections. Take note, that there are radicals and passive participants in any movement.
I took my position on the issue of marriage several posts ago, and I don't think personal stance has anything to do with what the law states. As a Bible believing Christian, I hold that we are called to honor our governing authorities, just as I am called to honor God, my elders, parents and peers. Every human I lay eyes on is a creation of God, made in his image.
Now this takes us to another historical issue that I have seen arising on facebook - and this has to do with government.
Many Christians are crying out - horrified at the direction of our country. Their battle cry is that we are losing our identity as a Christian Nation.
Now, I want to stop right there and draw attention to this claim that America is a Christian Nation. The root of this claim goes back to the founding fathers, and to a certain extent, the statement, "One Nation, Under God." And that little tagline on our money, "In God We Trust."
I won't deny that there are many Biblical references throughout American History in government. But most Americans are sadly misinformed about the history of religion in America.
To begin, many America began immigrating to the New World to escape the pressures of a very Catholic and Anglican Europe. The problem was the mixing of religion in Government. Rulers wanted a say in how the people practiced their faith and at times, what to believe. Consider the term, "State Sponsored Religion." This means that state money is given to one particular religion to encourage its growth, while other religions are neglected and even persecuted. In some cases the followers of other belief systems were even treated as criminals. This is what the early American colonists were fleeing.
It's a freedom of speech and religion issue.
As far as our founding fathers, when they began to assemble the government after the winning of war for Independence, they placed great emphasis on the concept of separation of powers and separation of church and state - so that the government wouldn't have supreme authority and wouldn't be able to dictate religion. The people would have say in how they were ruled, and the people could practice their beliefs without fear.
But realize, to be completely honest, many of our founding fathers were not Christians - They were Deists. This is largely the reason we see mention of God and not Jesus, in historical documents. We derive much of our governmental influence, yes from the ten commandments, but also from the Magna Carta (England) and from early Philosophers and Greek and Roman government.
America was founded on Freedom, though there is certainly Christian influence. Those early colonists were, for the most part, Christians trying to practice protestantism. And when you have a cluster of believers as the foundation of something, there is certain to be influence. But the founding fathers were not necessarily the most convicted Jesus trusting, transformed, Christians the world had to offer, they were deists. They believed in God.
Actually, it was a very common belief in early America that the world was much like a spinning top, that God set it into motion, and then sat back to watch. Not many were overly convicted about his active intervention in their lives. Most were very self-sufficient - they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps.
So no, I don't think we have ventured that far from our "Christian Heritage." However, I would say that I am concerned that our freedom of speech has very much been compromised by the press. Though, the whale that rises to the surface gets harpooned. So, if you voice your opinion, be prepared to get attacked by those who disagree.
Now, back to the current issue.
The church has always had a response to governmental issues. They've had an opinion. They did back in the early 1800s about slavery, but I would like to be very clear, that the Bible's stance on slavery is very easy to discern. The real issue, is taking the Bible out of context and interpreting it through personal bias. Through history, many Christians have done just that. But as before mentioned, the gospel is for all, and we've all been created in God's image.
Concerning the women's suffrage movement, look at this:
...wives, be subject to your own husbands. 1 Peter 3:1
It's easy to read this verse out of context and think that God devalues women. But if you see the entire passage, he's talking about wives being kind to their husbands so that their husbands will respect them, and potentially, come to Christ because of them. And he also addresses husbands.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7
You can't piecemeal the Bible. Keeping what you like and casting aside what you don't. (And just for the record, "weaker vessel" isn't an insult. The concept of women being just as strong as any man is a rather new concept. And honestly, women have a higher pain tolerance than men. The idea of weaker vessel suggests that men care for and protect women since testosterone lends them a natural advantage of strength). But listen, this is cool: if men don't treat their wives right, their relationship with God is out of whack. Get right with your wife, be at peace with God.
Anyways - the Bible is VERY clear. There's no misunderstanding about how God feels about people of other ethnicities and both genders.
If the church took a bigoted stance towards other ethnicities or genders - they wouldn't have a leg to stand on. During the Women's and Civil Rights Movements, the stool got kicked out from under them. They had to change. They had to take into consideration what the Bible says about those issues.
However, I must challenge my world with the concept that this new movement is difficult to support Biblically, and in fact, you'll have to do some pretty fancy piecemealing to find a way for Biblical support. Rather, if you read the Bible plainly, it's easy to find support for women and ethnic equality, but impossible to find plain support for homosexuality.
And so, as we look to the future, I see a very interesting road ahead. We've seen a change in church perspective in other issues because of Biblical evidence, but I don't see the church coming around to this without chopping up the very word we've founded our beliefs on.
For this reason, I've noticed something distinctly different about the Equality Movement. While those of other ethnicities and women have clung to God as their hope through their search for equality, you simply don't see that in the LGBT community. Their leaders and voices are typically of another religious persuasion. For those who teeter on the edge, they find themselves at war with themselves, not able to reconcile their feelings and faith. And so, the movement and the church have diverged, rather than converged, as it has in the past. I think this creates a difficult comparison for this new movement and past movements.
But - this does not mean that God has abandoned us. Nor, does it meal we have to move to Canada (which, actually supports marriage equality, so there goes that plan), or drop off the map. God has not called us to live in a little Christian bubble. We are to be in the world (not of it, but in it). Click Here to read more. We're not a bunch of Anabaptists (Amish, German Baptist) isolating ourselves. How on earth can we share God's love by running away from those who need it most?
However, we are called to speak truth in Love. It's God's place to judge, not ours. Have integrity and don't change what the Bible says to suit the government's decision. But don't hate the government either. Respect the ruling authorities. Live at peace with your neighbors. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. And share the hope that we have received through Christ with everyone you meet, so that they too might believe and have eternity with Christ.
History was made yesterday, and I would certainly say that a new precedent has been set. Up until yesterday, the church often reconciled government decisions with the Bible, but now, the two have gone in different directions. I would even venture to say that God has used the government to enlighten the church.
But the government was never the upholder of Christian religion.
The government isn't God's image bearer.
We are his image bearers.
So love one another as Christ first loved you. For as much grace has been shown to you, share with others. We're all sinners in need of a savior. We're imperfect and flawed. No one of us is in "less" need of saving. You're not on a pedestal, nor is someone else in a pit.
God is love. When he's on the throne of our hearts, he transforms lives. So let Christ transform you. Let him speak through you. And just remember, you can't hold God's standards to people without his blood covering them.
So keep on. Live as Christ's representatives here on earth. But let him be in control. HE IS IN CONTROL. He's never out of control. Trust God, and love his people. Have integrity. Live what you believe so that your witness won't be compromised. Becoming a hypocrite never helped anyone. Unkind people aren't respected.
Whatever the future holds, why are you afraid? Just live for Christ.