In a few months, the Supreme Court will likely conclude that same-sex civil marriage is a constitutional right. That will mean increased liberty for gays and lesbians who wish to marry; it will also lead to increased pressures on religious organizations and individuals who believe that marriage is fundamentally between a man and a woman. We will see more challenges to the florists, the bakers, and the pizza-crust makers.
We will also see more challenges to religious student groups, religious universities, and religious social-service organizations. Christians and other believers with traditional views on marriage should be concerned about the coming challenges. And they should work to ensure meaningful legal protections for the ability of religious organizations to live and act according to their religious purposes.
But it would be a mistake to let our concern over these challenges lead to resentment or unkind words toward our neighbors, gay or straight, who will celebrate the Court’s marriage ruling. Legal and political battles—as important as they are—have real-world consequences not only for us but also for our friends and neighbors. It would be a mistake to forget that our words and actions continue to matter regardless of the legal and cultural environment.
There will be times to stand in defense of Christian witness. But let’s not mistake a greater awareness of the pluralism that actually exists in our society as the immediate threat. We might see it instead as an opportunity—an opportunity to offer a more credible witness to the world as we find it. As Hauerwas reminds us, “the church does not exist to provide an ethos for democracy or any other form of social organization, but stands as a political alternative to every nation, witnessing to the kinds of social life possible for those that have been formed by the story of Christ.” Those forms of social life play out in how we honor marriage and singleness within the church, and how we show love of neighbor to those outside of the church. The coming months and years will give us plenty of opportunity for both.