I’ve got some thoughts over at Christianity Today on the proper response for evangelicals to the recent ruling on Proposition 8:

Practically, I think we have relied too heavily on the will of the majority as our foundation for our legal actions. While political orders must on some level be representative of the people to be legitimate, our founding fathers set up a representative democracy for a reason. Without rejecting efforts like Proposition 8, politically conservative evangelicals should shift their focus toward equipping the next generation of leaders with the philosophical and theological training they need to affect society and government from the “top-down.” Majorities are unstable, and while traditional marriage has the upper hand now, it may not in 20 years.

In other words, for every dollar you send to ACLJ–and this is no insult to them or the work they do–you should send two to the bright kids in your church to help them get a decent education.  If you want some kids to support, send me an email.  I can list a dozen very bright students right who struggle to fund the sort of education that they need to make a dent.

That’s the long-term tactical solution.  In the short term, we need to recognize the gravity of the decision without being co-opted by despair or discouragement. America may be slouching toward Gomorrah, but that only means we should be singing as we walk the other way.

It’s a spiritual point as much as a tactical one.  Hand-wringing might fire up the troops, it rarely wins converts.

On Friday, I suggested that T.S. Eliot’s exhortation is appropriate for those disappointed by the ruling:  “”Teach us to care and not to care.”  Regardless of how it seems at any given moment, Jesus is still Lord, and as long as he is, the children will be alright.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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  1. Walking Away from Gomorrah with a Song: http://bit.ly/9yiHeg //Love to get your feedback.

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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  2. Matt: Well said! I agree with your call for “top-down” leadership, which reminds me of James Davison Hunter’s argument: cultural change mostly comes from the elites, not the masses. Was Hunter lurking in the background of your response to Proposition 8? Your full-throttled affirmation of divine sovereignty in the last paragraph prompted me to sing!

    I understand why we should prioritize a decent education for Christian youth (Go Wheaton College!). Isn’t ACLJ an admirable example of our best and brightest––evangelical elites––making a difference? When I listen to Hugh Hewitt praise ACLJ, I’m aware that they’re fighting in the trenches, quietly––and sometimes not quietly––winning the battles with superior legal and moral argumentation.

    I hope it’s permissible for me to quote from the CT article that you mentioned in the post. My two favorite responses are below because the first one emphasizes the importance of biblical teaching in the church and the second one emphasizes the importance of counter-cultural witness-bearing or “faithful presence,” as Hunter would put it.

    Andreas J. Köstenberger: “The ruling shows that as Christians, we should not look for a political solution to the crisis surrounding marriage and the family in our culture. The only true and lasting solution is found in a return to our spiritual foundations. The Bible makes clear that marriage is God’s idea rather than a social contract that we are free to renegotiate based on changing social trends. But we can’t expect the unbelieving world or any government or judicial system to understand or reinforce that. For this reason we should focus our efforts not on swaying political opinion but on teaching people what the Bible says about God’s plan for marriage and the family.”

    Scot McKnight: “I wish Christians would cease using so much money and time to establish our Christian ethic through legal processes. Instead we need to witness by word and deed to an alternative reality in our churches. We need to tell a better story through our families. Whether our laws change or not, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

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  3. It has been argued, and I think rightly, that though the abortion rights movement has won the political upper hand, they have lost the hearts and minds of the majority, and especially the young. We have gone from arguments framed around the canard that a fetus is merely a lump of tissue to the unwilling recognition on the left that what grows in the womb is a genetically unique, early stage human life. So now the discussion has shifted to arguments about when personhood occurs. There are a number of reasons for this shift, including the improvements in ultrasound technology, but chief among them has been the consistent and dogged work of educating men and women about the biological realities of pregnancy.

    So I think we have some hope that in this matter of marriage, education and persuasion might do more than legislation. It will be a slower process, of course.

    In the long run, I’m less optimistic about winning the marriage argument than I am about abortion. I have never heard an evangelical support abortion as a public right. I have heard a surprising number of evangelicals support a right to gay marriage because of a political commitment to libertarianism and because they see gay marriage as a matter of basic fairness and justice within a pluralistic society.

    In this case, I think the GLBT lobby has done the better job on the educational front, framing the argument in terms of fairness, equal rights, love, family, tolerance, and so on. To which Christians have replied with the word sin, which carries little weight.

    I heartily agree that in general, Christians need to put more effort into raising a generation of young leaders who are committed to a biblical moral world view. If we don’t, we’ll be in danger of losing the whole Christian ethical framework America is built on. But I have doubts that anything we do at this point will hold off gay marriage. And I think this landmark ruling on Prop 8 will have a domino effect in the blue states. I hope and pray that I’m wrong.

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  4. >> It has been argued, and I think rightly, that though the abortion rights movement has won the political upper hand, they have lost the hearts and minds of the majority, and especially the young.

    Rightly so? Not quite -you’ve got it exactly backwards. The hearts and minds are being won, though the political upper hand is now (and always has been) delivered by judicial fiat. What evidence do you have back up the statement that hearts and minds of the young are lost? It sounds like mere defeatism. I think all the reliable statistics show that young people are far more likely to be pro-life than their parents and increasingly so. What statistics are you looking at? The public debate is being won, and we have even pro-abortion folks claiming they are really pro-life or at least that it should be “rare”, unlike you had a decade ago. If the debate is lost why is that? I think there is a lot of defeatism in the ranks. Though it is easy to be discouraged by the continuing barbarity, I do think the pro-life move has been successful and will someday in my lifetime successfully win the public policy debate.

    Goerge Wiegle said ““The courageous tenacity of the pro-life movement has been the great untold story of American public life for three decades.” Indeed more people by far have entered politics because of the pro-life cause than any other reason by far. By reasonable standards it is the most forcefully sustained political effort in the history of the republic. Two-thirds of all abortion clinics in the US have closed since 1991. The only abortion clinics that are opening are funded by government dollars (Planned Parenthood), and over 70% of the population thinks this shouldn’t be done.

    I think that abortion survives mostly only on secrecy and silence. We get our cues from movies and tv about it all. Most people don’t know the half of it -the selling of fetal body parts and the big money behind it and such. Yes, that’s right -they don’t know. We all think we know all we need to know. But we don’t and that’s part of the problem.

    We need to read books by people who can teach us what those who’ve lost heart can’t see.
    http://www.amazon.com/John-Paul-II-Confronting-Empowering/dp/1932589449

    We should have an answer to the bleating that “abortion is not itself an isolated evil, but a deeper symptom”. No kidding? Well isn’t everything a deeper symptom? Wasn’t child labor? Wasn’t slavery? Wasn’t civil rights? Isn’t littering? Damn straight -everything is. We should have an answer to the frequent expression that “it would be better if no law were needed but people knew that it was wrong”. Would it be “better” if there were no law for animal cruelty, murder, or even speeding or littering? If it would be “better”, then let’s start repealing these laws so it will be “better”. Why is it that I would get no sympathy whatever (in law or otherwise) if I claimed I didn’t know it was wrong to kill you, or to abuse an animal, or to litter? And these answers are given by people who *oppose* abortion. They just feel powerless. So the problem, so the story goes, is that not enough people know it’s wrong, but the people who do think there is nothing they can do. Got that? Bad thinking empowers the culture of death even for those who oppose it -this is just part of social reality.

    I wish to be counted as one of the courageously tenacious -whether I will be we’ll see – but getting educated on the topic is the first step. Just this week I’ve taken steps to engage myself on this issue and seek God’s wisdom and grace in how he wishes me to act (prayer is also an act). We need to examine whether the old cliches are true and if we know as much as we think we do … and whether we want to strive to be counted among the “courageously tenacious”. Perseverence is a virtue.

    I hope you’ll excuse the forceful tone. It isn’t directed against you. I’ve just heard too many defeatist tropes and back-biting lately by the Christian community against those who are doing something and maybe I’m a little grouchy right now. Nothing personal.

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    1. Yes, we agree, Mark. You misunderstood my first sentence. You’re right, too, to connect abortion politics to a whole group of sanctity of life issues. It’s crucial that Christians continue to fight this fight.

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  5. Mark, go back andread your quote from Charlie and I think you’ll see that you actually agree with him. He said that the pro-abrtion movement has lost the support of the majortiy, particularly the young.

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  6. Matt – Been thinking about this post a lot and trying to figure out what I think of it.

    First off, I love the argument that Christians ought to happily and joyfully embrace an alternative way of living in the world. And that seems to be the main thrust of your argument. (And, admittedly, you don’t have a ton of space so this isn’t the sort of post that allows for nuance.)

    That said, at what point does the pursuit of an alternative Christian counter culture become escapism?

    I say this as a graduate of a public college (and public high-school) who loved them and as someone who spent two years in private Christian education and left without a single good thing to say about the experience. So I’m not the most objective observer. But, when do we start talking about the responsibility we have to walk into Gomorrah with a song? I see the structural problems with the public education system and I understand that some will need to leave and start their own institutions. But isn’t there also a place for some of us to walk into Gomorrah with a song, to speak the language of the locals, and live amongst them? I’m just leery that if we pump up Christian education too much we’re just repeating the error of megachurches – where we have to have separate institutions for everything and never become redemptive members of the institutions that already exist.

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  7. I am perplexed on how saying the pro-abrtion movement has “lost the support of the majortiy, particularly the young” means something I agree with. So you too think that statement is false Charlie? I don’t get it. I don’t doubt that we agree on everything else though.

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  8. Mark, you say this:

    “What evidence do you have back up the statement that hearts and minds of the young are lost? It sounds like mere defeatism. I think all the reliable statistics show that young people are far more likely to be pro-life than their parents and increasingly so.”

    which sounds a lot like agreeing with charlie saying:

    “the abortion rights movement has won the political upper hand, they have lost the hearts and minds of the majority, and especially the young.”

    I don’t see any disagreement here. You both agree that the public, especially the young, are becoming more pro-life

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  9. I guess I need to get some sleep. I was seeing “abortion rights movement” but thinking it said “pro-life movement” even after looking at it again. Apologies Charlie. I took what seemed to be a minor point to rant on others (as I think I indicated) who do claim the pro-life cause is on the losing side. But sorry for the gaffe.

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    1. No apology necessary, Mark. Get some sleep. :)

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