Vail Daily column: Life, liberty and the pursuit of equal rights
After the Supreme Court’s landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage, spotlights bathed the White House in rainbow colors. Such a specter made Republican presidential aspirant and Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee see red. He regards rainbow hues reflection of cultural rot.
President Barack Obama, in his eulogy for slain Charleston pastor Clementa Pinckney, endorses extending marriage rights to gays. God’s grace is leading our nation to “thoughtful introspection and self-examination” about how scriptural morality supports or clashes with societal shifts.
In his eulogy, the president spoke with evangelical Christian passion about God’s grace. “According to Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather grace is the free and benevolent favor of God,” declared President Obama, confirming his traditional take on the Gospel’s core.
“God has visited grace upon us, for He has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind,” confessed the president. “He’s given us the chance where we’ve been lost to find our best selves. We may not have earned this grace with our rancor and complacency and short-sightedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same.”
God funnels grace through us in, resulting in more gracious, accepting lives. Grace opens new possibilities in human relationships. It heals old wounds. It breathes fresh insight into stuffy sacred texts. It expands personal liberties by guaranteeing equal rights to homosexuals.
After the murder spree in Charleston, white banners hung from buildings with quotations from the Psalms on themes of receptivity toward people different from the majority. Draping the Sustainability Institute’s facade, a building across from the church where the murderous rampage took place, a banner hangs with the caption, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
Mike Huckabee fears his right to officiate only at traditional marriages will be censored, like what’s happened to “Dukes of Hazzard,” which aired on TV from 1979-1985. Reruns have been cancelled because a Confederate battle flag was displayed on the roof of the Dukes’ hot orange car, dubbed the “General Lee.” The car’s owner said he will paint the Stars and Stripes over the Confederate Stars and Bars.
Huckabee finds it impossible to grant gays equal rights to marry. He joins GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas senator Ted Cruz and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal in protecting traditional marriage. They fear precious liberties taught in traditional Christian homes are compromised when same-sex marriage is allowed.
Huckabee uses the Bible as a plumb line to measure why same-sex marriage isn’t morally appropriate. Republican presidential candidates aligned with Huckabee stir up fears among supporters. They worry the IRS will deny tax-exempt status to churches that support traditional marriage.
Huckabee believes same-sex marriage distorts God’s laws of nature God intended for a husband and wife. Rejecting biblical teaching on marriage, he claims, is like baking a cake with unmeasured amounts of salt, flour and sugar. “You’re going to have a disaster on your hands,” he warns.
How biblical morality influences personal liberties pre-dates the Revolutionary War. On March 22, 1775, Edmund Burke pleaded on the floor of the British Parliament that England should strike an accord with rebellious Americans. Patriots’ devotion to liberty would not die, he emphasized. These patriots were mainly Protestant Christians “of the kind, which is most adverse to all implicit submission of mind and opinion,” Burke declared. Their Christian faith did more than tip its hat to liberty; it was “built upon it.”
Such contested battles over liberty arose three decades prior to the Revolutionary War. In the 1730s-40s, great waves of spiritual revival swept through stuffy traditional Christianity. Protestant evangelists substituted fields for sanctuaries and preached to thousands in the open air. They ditched churchy language and frowned on traditional liturgy.
Charles Chauncy (1705-1787), junior pastor of Boston’s traditional First Church, sounded like Mike Huckabee. He blamed Satan for instigating itinerant preachers to give sermons out in the open. Converts misread their overwrought passions for Christ as God’s work in them, judged Chauncy. They must re-attach themselves to traditional faith’s roots.
Chauncy denounced progressive Christianity’s evangelists who preached about liberty to grandparents of patriots in the Revolutionary War. In the 1730s-40s, revivals called the Great Awakening conferred God’s dignity on every person. Three decades later, ripples of this liberty grew into pounding waves of protest against King George III’s heavy taxes. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in 1927 described patriots. “Those who won our revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.”
Currently, 18th century tensions resurface. Culture wars flare up as traditional faith clashes with emerging social convictions regarding same-sex marriage. Antony M. Kennedy, who wrote the Supreme Court’s majority opinion on gay marriage, based his judgment on the 14th Amendment, the right of equal protection. Just as traditional Christians hotly contested giving women the right to vote and resisted abolishing slavery, they came to see these issues as matters of equal rights, as same-sex marriage is today.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.