Christian Leaders Respond to Obergevell v. Hodges: A Colson Center Symposium

Thinking through the Supreme Court ruling on marriage.

By John Stonestreet Published on June 26, 2015

JOHN STONESTREET — This symposium consists of both statements sent directly to the Colson Center, and excerpts of articles published elsewhere. Keep checking back for updates, as we will be adding more statements over the next few days!

Ryan T. Anderson, The Daily Signal:

“We must work to restore the constitutional authority of citizens and their elected officials to make marriage policy that reflects the truth about marriage. We the people must explain what marriage is, why marriage matters, and why redefining marriage is bad for society.”

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation; co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, and author of the forthcoming Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom.


The Rev. Donald Armstrong
St. George’s Anglican Church

Of course this is no surprise — the activist court has been developing a divine sense of itself to re-image creation and godly order for well over a hundred years.

The church has always stood apart from culture and state to speak truth to both … and we will continue to do so.

But will Christians be granted the protections to continue to speak and act according to their faith, or will Christian teaching become hate speech, Christian practice become discrimination? Will the cross become the next Confederate flag?

What sort of rule of government will we have? Charles Murray tells this story in American Exceptionalism: “As Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall on the final day of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked him, ‘Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?’ Franklin replied, ‘A republic, if we can keep it.”

The emotional terrorism of the left has already made our positions dangerous to even contemplate. FOX News was relieved to focus on Justice Roberts’ conflicting judicial argument for Obamacare and against same-sex marriage, instead of talking about the implications of the ruling.

The risk to keeping the balance that makes America exceptional is high. Will we keep the balance that allows for religious freedom and freedom of speech … or will religious institutions face sanctions, denied the very rights and benefits same-sex couples have just won?

The Rev. Donald Armstrong is rector of St. George’s Anglican Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Hunter Baker
Union University

The Supreme Court has now ruled on gay marriage. They have proved zealous in their protection of a particular view of liberty. I can only pray that they will now prove equally zealous in protecting the religious liberty that will likely be severely endangered in consequence. As I looked for glimmers of hope in the majority opinion, this passage stood out to me:

“Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.”

I also take some solace in the fact that the opinion was 5-4 with the Chief Justice in dissent. He has been raked over the coals as some kind of fake conservative. Whatever one might say about him, he took his stand on maybe the biggest decision since Roe v. Wade. He flatly stated something that I think has needed to be heard by all during the last decade:

“And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational.”

The war over gay marriage appears to have been won. What remains is to see how far the consequences extend. I hope that Christian institutions will retain their convictions and that they will be permitted to continue to participate on an equal footing in American society. Liberal nostrums about the value of dissent are likely to be much tested in coming years.

Hunter Baker, J.D, Ph.D., is an associate provost at Union University and author, most recently, of The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life.


Robert P. George, First Thoughts, First Things:

“… The Republican Party, the Republican Congress, and a future Republican President should regard and treat the decision just as the Republican Party, the Republican Congress, and the Republican President — Abraham Lincoln — regarded and treated the Dred Scott decision. They should, in other words, treat it as an anti-constitutional and illegitimate ruling in which the judiciary has attempted to usurp the authority of the people and their elected representatives. They should refuse to treat and regard it as a binding and settled matter. They should challenge it legislatively and give the Supreme Court every opportunity to reverse itself — especially as new justices fill vacancies. And they should work to fill vacancies on federal courts at all levels with jurists who reject judicial usurpation and can be counted on to respect the scope and limits of their own constitutionally specified authority.”

Robert P. George, Ph.D., is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, and recipient of the 2015 Wilberforce Award.


Sean McDowell
Biola University

Two points stand out in response to the SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage. First, while this raises serious religious liberty concerns, we should see this as an opportunity for the gospel. Jesus is still risen. The world is not ending. God is still sovereign. We have an opportunity to respond with grace and truth to a culture increasingly confused about sexual issues. Second, we have the opportunity to show the world real love. As a church we must love each other, and our world, unlike ever before. Jesus said they will know us by our love. Whether by modeling marriage in our families, by how we love and incorporate singles into the church, or by how we love outsiders, we must show the world what true love looks like as a body of Christ. This may be easier said than done, but it must be our goal. If we do this, we have an opportunity for the gospel to shine.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University and co-author with John Stonestreet of Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage.


Russell Moore, Acts of Faith, The Washington Post:

“This gives the church an opportunity to do what Jesus called us to do with our marriages in the first place: to serve as a light in a dark place. Permanent, stable marriages with families with both a mother and a father may well make us seem freakish in 21st-century culture.

“We should not fear that. We believe stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is alive, and will show up in the Eastern skies on a horse. We believe that the gospel can forgive sinners like us and make us sons and daughters. Let’s embrace the sort of freakishness that saves.

Russell Moore, Ph.D., is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.


Jennifer Roback Morse
The Ruth Institute

Today’s decision undermines the natural right of every child to know the identity of his or her own parents, and as far as possible, to be in a relationship with and to be raised by both his or her mother and father.

No amount of legal mumbo-jumbo or cultural happy-talk can fully compensate for this fundamental structural injustice.

Forty-two years after Roe v. Wade, the majority of the country opposes abortion — the ultimate structural injustice to children. Future generations will come to their senses and realize the injustice that a genderless marriage institution inflicts on children. But when those people of the future overturn today’s ruling, not a single child born motherless or fatherless in a gender-neutral marriage will get his or her missing parent back. The structural injustice to children will be deep and permanent.

The thin disguise of “marriage equality” will not fool anyone. Nor will it atone for the wrong done this day.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, which brings hope and healing to the victims and survivors of the sexual revolution.


Jay Richards, The Stream:

“It’s tempting to give into fear and intimidation, to abandon our posts and to retreat into our private ghettos and enclaves, but these are temporary rear-guard actions. The best defense in this case is a good offense. Besides, we have a responsibility to our culture and to our fellow Americans, even if at the moment they hate us for it! It’s time for a counter-offensive. Real love in this case means that we must stand. We must suffer. We must fight for the truth, for the real good of our fellow citizens, for real marriage, and for real freedom. We must be willing to stand up to the mob, the media, the big corporations and the state. And we must do it together.”

Jay Richards, Ph.D., is executive editor of The Stream, an assistant research professor in the School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America, and co-author of The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that J. R. R. Tolkien Got and the West Forgot.


Rob Schwarzwalder
Family Research Council

The great challenge for leaders of the believing church is to recognize that the threat to our religious liberty is not something looming in a distant future — it’s now. Pastors need to assume a more prophetic stance, teaching their people that the truths of Scripture regarding human sexuality are not malleable and that neither the rulings of a court nor the pressure of secular culture should sway their allegiance to clear and authoritative biblical instruction on men, women, family and marriage.

The most immediate political priority is defending the tax-exempt status of houses of worship and religious schools and colleges that will not accede to the legal implications of a finding that there is a constitutional “right” to same-sex unions. The loss of such status would cripple Christian ministries and schools across the country. Congress needs to pass the First Amendment Defense Act, which would protect “those individuals and institutions who promote traditional marriage from government retaliation.”

Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president for the Family Research Council.


Glenn Sunshine
Central Connecticut State University

The SCOTUS decision doesn’t so much redefine marriage as abolish it. In every culture throughout history, the single unifying characteristic of marriage has been that it is ultimately about connecting fathers and mothers to each other and to their children, so that children can be brought into the world and raised in a stable environment. Because it performs such an essential role for the survival of society, marriage has always been given a privileged position. It is not just about the couple, or the government would have no role in regulating what would amount to be a private relationship between two people. In effect, SCOTUS has preserved the name of marriage but has abolished the institution with this decision. We are now in uncharted waters, and the decision will have both foreseen consequences for religious liberty, and a host of unforeseen and unforeseeable consequences for society as a whole.

Glenn Sunshine, Ph.D., is professor of early European modern history at Central Connecticut State University and author of Why You Think the Way You Do: A History of Western Worldviews from Rome to Home.


Eric Teetsel
Manhattan Declaration

Exactly two years to the day after ruling against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court has ruled that the constitution requires every state to license same-sex marriage. It is the wrong decision: an act of judicial activism that curtails the legitimate democratic process with no basis in the Constitution. Chief Justice Roberts succinctly offered the most appropriate response to the ruling in his dissent, asking of those who would toss out an understanding of marriage that has existed in every society throughout human history, “Just who do we think we are?”

How should Christians respond? Though we must not mitigate the consequences of this decision, ours is a long-term view. The church has persisted through unjust kings and courts before, and will until Christ returns once and for all. In the meantime, we have a job to do. The Manhattan Declaration describes it well:

“To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.”

Eric Teetsel is executive director of the Manhattan Declaration and co-author of Marriage Is: How Marriage Transforms Society and Cultivates Human Flourishing.



John Stonestreet is co-host of BreakPoint Radio and host of The Point Radio. He is co-author with Sean McDowell of Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage. (Baker, 2014.)

Article republished with permission of our friends at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.


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