Today is (or should be) the feast day of Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes, Augustinian monks who were burned at the stake on July 1, 1523 for teaching that faith alone justifies. Esch and Voes were the very first martyrs of the Reformation, and their deaths inspired Martin Luther to write his very first hymn.
Here is the version of Luther's hymn most often sung in English.
In an age of doctrinal indifference and superficial, emotionalized religion, the deaths of Esch and Voes provide a much-needed witness to our day. May the fire they lit in Brussels almost five hundred years ago never die out. Maybe in view of the events of this past week, the anniversary is more important this year than most.
This post from Pastor Mark Surburg's blog not only answers a common dodge from the LGTB community, but also addresses a point Americans generally seem to have trouble with- a point that's central to the Christian faith.
I disagree emphatically with both. A Church that does not confess- especially when truth is under attack- is salt that has lost its savor. And a Republican party that does not stand for Federalism, the rule of law, and the integrity of the Constitution has no reason to exist.
We are where we are at least in part because social conservatives both inside and outside the Church and the Republican party have allowed ourselves to be intimidated into silence by the liberal media and the popular culture. Slavery was not defeated by making nice-nice with the slaveholders, and the Church did not triumph over paganism by meekly burning incense to the Emperor.
Some time ago, Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg mused that perhaps the Court erred in handing down its decision in Roe v. Wade. Perhaps, she thought, it would have been better to have waited until public sentiment caught up with the Court instead of ensuring that the issue of abortion would remain controversial by ruling prematurely.
Well, guess what, Madam Justice? You guys have done it again. Your ruling on same-sex "marriage" does not- despite the wishful suggestions of many on the Left- "settle the issue," except at least for the moment in a legal sense. Marriage re-definition has now joined abortion as an issue in which the public remains deeply divided, people's deepest moral and religious beliefs are unavoidably engaged- and recourse to the democratic process is illegitimately closed.
It's happened before, of course, In Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Supreme Court ruled that black people were "so far inferior" to white folks that they had no constitutional rights. The ruling did not prevent the civil war, and it certainly didn't settle the matter.
My favorite parallel to the "marriage" ruling, though, is Nix v. Hedden. in it, the Court held that- contrary to botanical science- the tomato is a vegetable rather than a fruit.
Which does not, of course, make it any the less a fruit (having as it does multiple seeds). No more does Roe make the killing of one's unborn offspring a constitutional right. No more does Dred Scott make African-Americans sub-human and lacking in constitutional rights.
And no more does the Court's ruling redefining marriage make it possible for a man to marry another man, or a woman another woman.
Even the Supreme Court lacks the authority to overrule nature- or re-define a pre-political institution that existed long before there were such things as courts.
No, the matter is not "settled." Nor will it ever be.
Remember the early days of the movement to redefine marriage, when we were assured that those advocating a change would "never" move to limit the right of churches to follow their own teachings with regard to the nature of marriage and sexual ethics?
Thanks to Gene Veith for pointing out this article by Rod Dreher pointing out what I've been saying for some time now: that orthodox Christians are living in a pagan, post-Christian society- and that if we're going to be any use to God or to that society, we'd better wake up, recognize that fact, and start acting accordingly.
Dr. Veith also reports that at least one newspaper- the Harrisburg, Pa. Patriot-News- has made explicit what has in fact been the unofficial editorial policy of countless newspapers all over the country (including Cityview here in Des Moines: it will not print letters to the editor critical of gay "marriage," or which claim that homosexual behavior is abnormal, unnatural, or immoral.
Perhaps the Patriot-News- and Cityview for that matter, and all those other successers of Pravda and the Völkischer Beobachter- should reconsider their claim journalistic objectivity- a claim even more laughable in their case than in most others in this country.
The legendary National Lampoon magazine once featured a hilarious article by Henry Beard (available in book form) called "The Law of the Jungle." In essence, it presented itself as a scholarly article on the common law and legal precidents of the Animal Kingdom, using the same style, format and language that American and British legal textbooks and law journal articles use.
It was wonderful satire. If you know a lawyer, get it for him or for her. It will be appreciated.
Anyway, the article pointed out that there was, in fact, no separate legal code for marine animals. Rather, the Law of the Air applied to the oceans and the creatures therein, who were said by a legal fiction to "fly in the salten sky."
It occurred to me last night as I was thinking about yesterday's Supreme Court abomination redefining marriage and setting aside two thousand years of precedent and established legal reasoning that it, too, is a legal fiction. Marriage, after all, is a pre-political institution. There was marriage long, long before there were governments- and governments therefore lack the authority to redefine it.
Theologically, of course, marriage is a divine institution. It is clearly defined as being between a man and a woman by both Testaments. So the same conclusion applies theologically: the Supreme Court- or any other human authority- simply lacks the power to redefine it.
Same-sex "marriage-" whether or not blessed by SCOTUS- is a legal fiction. If gays and lesbians want to pretend to be married, and if the courts and the government want to pretend that men can marry men and women can marry women, that's up to them.
But we don't have to go along. As Christians- or even simply as people of common sense- we simply need to recognize the fact that the Supreme Court has exceeded its authority here. Neither nature nor divine institutions are subject to judicial review, Marbury v. Madison or not.
Marriage in the United States remains today exactly what it was two days ago: the lifelong union of one man and one woman. And it always will, no matter what kind of make-believe games Anthony Kennedy et al want to play.
There is a saying among those on the Left to the effect that we have a "living Constitution." By that they mean that it evolves with time. But the term has another, and more poignant meaning, made clear by today's arrogant and lawless ruling forbidding states to restrict marriage to the only people Anglo-Saxon law has ever considered capable of it: couples consisting of one man and one woman.
But today's absurd and outrageous ruling on same-sex "marriage" by the Supreme Court not only completely ignores two millennia of precedent, tradition and legal reasoning in order to impose a requirement on the states in no way justified by the Constitution (the purpose of marriage has always been for the begetting and raising of children, while allowed as a matter of courtesy and convenience also to heterosexual couples incapable of reproducing), there is also a second sense in which it can no longer be doubted that we do, indeed, have a "living Constitution." But it has nothing to do with the document Madison and the Founders wrote.
Our living constitution is named Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Anthony Kennedy. They, and (in fairness) the four dissenting justices who still have some respect for the rule of law, constitute as a practical matter something the Founders never contemplated: a standing and unelected constitutional convention, empowered at a whim to nullify any constitutional guarantee or- as in Roe v. Wade or today's ruling- to create new and unheard of rights out of thin air.
All that is required as that five of them think that it's a good idea. The much-vaunted Separation of Powers we all learned in school was such a stroke of genius on the part of the Founders is a dead letter. The Judicial Branch reigns supreme and unstoppable, short of a mass impeachment of power-abusing, lawless justices which- while it would be fully justified- simply isn't going to happen.
In principle, the decision could be reversed. In practice, it won't be. Never mind that only a tiny minority of gays (especially gay men, whose culture is virtually defined by promiscuity) "marry." Never mind that whatever "discrimination" existed against gays and lesbians under the old laws was a matter of behavior other than orientation (nothing prevented gay men from marrying women, or lesbians from marrying men). Never mind that the objects of today's ruling could have been achieved by granting the same privileges to gay and lesbian couples under the law that married couples enjoy without redefining the foundational institution of Western civilization in a way likely to doom it. Never mind that both lesbians and gay men are shown by the best studies to divorce at a spectacularly higher rate than do heterosexual couples. Never mind that long-term monogamous relationships between gay men are practically unheard of. The genie is out of the bottle- or closet, or whatever- and isn't going to be put back. No future Supreme Court will reverse today's ruling, and given the effective embargo the totalitarian tactics of the Left and the ideological biases of the media have created on dissenting views or arguments that today's ruling might not be such a good idea after all, we will never reach a time when sufficient political muscle to even threaten to get a pro-marriage amendment to the Constitution adopted.
Already voices are being raised advocating the legality of plural marriage. Somewhere down the line some future Supreme Court is going to force states to recognize those, too. Laws against incest are far from secure. Today's ruling in effect marks the death of traditional marriage as an institution in the United States, as it has already died in Canada and in much of Europe.
So where do we go from here, now that monogamy has already been effectively dropped by the State as a fundamental element of marriage and we wait for the other shoe to drop? Marriage is not, and never has been, a human institution. It was instituted by God. The State certainly can call any relationship it wants "marriage." But no court, no legislature, and no other human institution has the authority to redefine it.
Where do we go? What do we do? We render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. We respect the legal rights today's ruling grants gay and lesbian couples. But we refuse to recognize them, either in principle or in practice, as married.
We refuse to use the unaccompanied words "husband" and "wife" in describing those they are partnered with in such relationships (count on it: they will raise holy havoc and claim that they are being oppressed by this. Tough). We can call them "partners." Or maybe- I'm still thinking this through- "civil spouses" or maybe even "civil husband" or "civil wife" Maybe even that latter is conceding too much. Christians and others who, on grounds of conscience, cannot accept today's ruling as changing the true nature of marriage will no doubt come up with a standard terminology. Hopefully, we'll do it more quickly and with more urgency than we came up with the more accurate "marriage redefinition" as an alternative to the propagandistic "marriage equality."
Secondly, to be blunt, its time the clergy grew a pair. If couples are known to be engaging in ANY sexual behavior forbidden by Scripture, they need to be placed on church discipline until and unless they repent and change their ways. If the sin is public, the excommunication should also be. This is nothing less than St. Paul instructs the Corinthians to do in his first letter.
Thirdly, congregations need to have the conviction and the guts to insist that they do so, to back them up when they do- and to refuse to associate with or recognize clergy and congregations which do not.
As Luther put it, if we confess the Faith at every point except the one point which the devil happens to be attacking at the moment, we deny the faith (a Reformed pastor gives a good explanation of how the concept applies to the current case here).
And this is a moment of confession. Today's decision marks the moment at which the Church needs to give up all pretense of being "the Establishment," or of being "winsome" or "diplomatic" with a culture which has in fact rejected and is actively hostile to what it teaches.
This is a time to confess. Like the early Christians who refused to burn incense to the Emperor, or the early Lutherans during the Interims, or Bonhoeffer and Niemoeller during the Third Reich, refusing to go along with the government is not simply an option or a strategy.
It is a duty- and to fail to do so is to deny the Faith.