Before I leave behind the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage — leave it for a long, peaceful respite, I hope — I want to call your attention to three developments that didn't get as much press as they should have.
Two are very good. One is very bad.
■ For evangelicals such as yours truly, by far the best thing I've read on how churches should respond to gay marriage came from, of all places, a pastor in Canada, where gay marriage has been legal for a decade.
Carey Nieuwhof, a theologically conservative evangelical, blogged about his experiences in a national culture that is, if anything, more secular than ours. It's a great essay, to which I can't do justice in this space. Here are his five main points, though:
1. The church has always been counter-cultural. Quit whining about the mainstream culture misunderstanding and mistreating you. Christianity actually is more productive when it's rubbing against the grain of a larger society. "If your views are cultural, you're probably not reading the scriptures closely enough," Nieuwhof says.
2. It's strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values. Christians sometimes act shocked that their neighbors have gay sex, smoke weed, live together before marriage or swear. But if they're not Christians, Nieuwhof asks, why shouldn't they do those things? "Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans," he notes.
3. We've been dealing with sex outside of traditional marriage for a long time. "Be honest," Nieuwhof says, "pretty much every unmarried person in your church is having sex (yes, even the Christians). ... If you believe gay marriage is not God's design, you're really dealing with the same issue you've been dealing with all along—sex outside of its God-given context."
4. The early church never looked to the government for guidance. "Jesus spent about zero time asking the government to change during his ministry," Nieuwhof writes. "In fact, people asked him to become the government, and he replied that his Kingdom is not of this world."
5. Our judgment of gay people is destroying any potential relationship with them. "Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don't line up to be judged. Instead they flee. If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them. ... (Instead), take a deep breath. You were saved by grace. Your sins are simply different ... And honestly, in many respects, they are the same."
■ In Montgomery County, County Clerk Chris Cockrell (how's that for alliteration?) temporarily quit issuing marriage licenses in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision.
He might not want anyone to know this, but I consider Chris a friend.
His subsequent explanation of his actions to county residents, which he posted on Facebook, hit a perfect tone for how officials ought to reconcile their private beliefs with their public duties. He wrote:
"I want to thank all those that have been patient as I have sought to make sure that our offices were indeed conducting ourselves in a legal manner. As you can imagine there were and are wording on documents that will have to be revised. Here is my official stance: Our office will uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Initially there were concerns with the legalities of the forms which were revised periodically throughout the day and also the wording in the Kentucky statutes that will have to be modified to fit the new law. This led to a temporary suspension on all marriage licenses so that we would not be discriminatory while we looked for clarification. I personally don't define marriage as the U.S. Supreme Court does but because of my beliefs I have been instructed to love the Lord and also love my neighbor as myself and not to judge. My goal is to be an example of this in every area of my life including my work life."
Amen and atta boy.
■ The troubling news comes from Oregon, among the more beautiful states in the union. According to the Huffington Post and other media outlets, the owners of a bakery, Aaron and Melissa Klein, must pay $135,000 in damages for declining to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian agreed with an earlier ruling that the Kleins' bakery discriminated against a Portland couple in 2013 by turning down their request based on their sexual orientation.
$135,000? Over a wedding cake?
Fairness ordinances are one thing. But this is a mom-and-pop store. A fine that size isn't designed to merely rebuke the owners, but to pummel them, to silence dissent. It's an economic death penalty. It's hatred, ironically enough, in the name of fairness.
It's the kind of reverse extremism I warned against in last week's column.
Oregon, you want to send a message to the Kleins? Let the fairness enforcers hit them for $200. Let their critics take to Twitter. Let potential customers indignantly take their trade elsewhere. But don't use the government to abuse them. That's far more oppressive than anything the Kleins did.
Couldn't we all, on every side of this issue, just display a tad of common sense, proportionality and civility? Come on.