Don’t Panic

Where and when did the homosexual revolution begin in America? It’s a worthwhile question. We learn much when we seek the origins of things. Some say it began in the 1960s with the Hippies and their demand that sex be freed from the chafing confinements of monogamous, life-long marriage. Others would pin the current movement to the article written in 1987 by Marshall Kirk, “The Overhauling of Straight America.” Naturally, depending on whom we ask, we get a variety of answers.

Since I am just a half-century old, I will start with what I remember. I recall the overtly homosexual character, Marty Morrison, appearing in the 1970’s sit-com “Barney Miller.” He was effeminate, attracted to men and teased by the other characters. Nevertheless, his presence (and the presence of many characters like him in television shows back then) normalized homosexuality as a feature of mainstream culture.  

In the 1980s, the central question was this: are homosexual inclinations genetically determined? While the scientific community researched furiously and came to no consensus, the culture concluded that people were born gay.  

It does seem a social threshold has been crossed and that a series of further thresholds now emerge along the trail yonder.

The concept of homophobia entered the cultural conversation in the 1990s. Was it possible that Americans who balked at public homosexual expression were actually “homophobic”? Perhaps the real moral problem was not in homosexual behavior, but something in those who had a problem with the behavior. Consequently, all the neurotic fear and mental instability associated with other phobias were gradually assumed to be features of Christian thinking.  

Then, in the early 2000s, the homosexual movement reached its most effective stage by identifying closely with the civil rights movement of the 20th century. Despite the wide essential differences between the two movements, as that campaign grew an idea began to form in the minds of many Americans: perhaps people who resist gay marriage and gay rights are exactly like those who oppressed black people in the ‘50s. Steadily, dissent from homosexuality became the new racism.  

Most recently, with growing support from Hollywood, myriad media sources, the President, countless senators, federal judges, and the CEO’s of influential corporations, the homosexual movement achieved its great victory in June of 2015 with the Supreme Court’s watershed decision. Today, we live in a culture where same-sex marriage is law.

There is another way to look at the very significant social changes that have occurred in American culture recently.

Is the sky falling?

It does seem a social threshold has been crossed and that a series of further thresholds now emerge along the trail yonder. It would be hard to argue that our culture is chugging along brightly. It would be hard to argue that there are rosy days ahead for America, at least in a moral or social sense. Some consider this situation a sufficient reason for panic.  We could panic if we wished. Plenty of Christians are. However, while the moral darkness did get a shade darker last summer, I am not convinced that panic would glorify God or prepare us to love God and love people, which is (regardless of the state of our culture) our noble, persisting mission.  

There is another way to look at the very significant social changes that have occurred in American culture recently. The words that God gave to Paul in his Letter to the Romans are clues to an alternate, brighter view.  

. . . while the moral darkness did get a shade darker last summer, I am not convinced that panic would glorify God or prepare us to love God and love people . . .

First, in chapter one of Romans, Paul tells us why cultures suffer decay:  the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them . . . even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God . . . (Romans 1:18, 19, 21, NASB).

Then, Paul teaches us one cultural effect of God’s wrath against those who suppress truth: For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another . . . (vv. 26-27).

Shouldn’t we find it remarkable that the very thing happening in our society now is precisely the thing Paul said God allows in cultures that do not honor Him? If this were mere coincidence, it would be super-spooky.  But we know it is not coincidence. Our culture has certainly worked hard in the last half-century to remove honor toward God from the public square. And now, the very consequence the Scriptures say follows such a choice is truly happening in our own society. This is actually quite encouraging. The Scriptures are not only true; they are prophetic.

God has not abandoned us. On the contrary, the social upheavals we witness are symptoms of His active, faithful, righteous work.

If we are going to panic, it means we have concluded that God is far, far away and that American culture is on an uncontrolled spin into some unknown abyss. Obviously, this is not the biblical case. God is not absent.  He is not distant. He is not uninvolved. Can we see that the very thing that tempts panic is actually a blatant sign of God’s persistent control over our society and His very present activity? Granted, the homosexual revolution then is an expression of God’s wrath upon our culture, but His wrath is the backside of grace.  

What if our American fascination with homosexual practice is actually a direct sign of God’s active involvement with our culture? What if the Obergefell decision means He loves us enough to judge us and to express His good wrath upon us? What if God is still in full control of America?

Viewed this way, Paul helps us—as Gabriel did for Mary—turn a social scandal into a reason to trust the goodness of God. God has not abandoned us. On the contrary, the social upheavals we witness are symptoms of His active, faithful, righteous work. He is here. He is the Judge. He is loving our wayward culture by bringing our sin back upon us, by giving us over to what will humble us, by demonstrating the goodness of His ways in making us hungry for them—while we munch on the cardboard substitutes we have fashioned for ourselves. He is here and He is not silent. Therefore, let us love Him and the people He sends us to love. Instead of panic, let us rejoice.

The Illegal Trouble with Obergefell – worldview.org

Can Christians Change the World After Obergefell? – thegospelcoalition.org

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After Obergefell: Our Dilemma – worldview.org

Matthew Turnbull
Matthew Turnbull is a teaching elder at Cornerstone Bible Church in Leavenworth, Washington, a tutor of Great Books courses for homeschoolers with Alexandria Tutorials, and an author of a book-in-progress on our changing culture.

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