There has been no end of Christian punditry directed against the recent Supreme Court ruling concerning marriage. We’ve heard disputes about definitions (“whatever else it is, it’s not a marriage”), bald citations of the appropriate Biblical texts, commentary on anti-Christian agendas, tirades against “legislating from the bench,” opposition to federalizing a state matter, tradition, values, faith, etc. And each of these critique strategies doubtless contains an element of truth.
However, they fall short in addressing the actual root of the matter. And this deficiency is manifest in this one fact: that the precipitating cause for this catastrophe would remain untouched if the ruling were to be rolled back.
This situation evolved out of the church’s antinomian attitude toward justice and economics. This needs to be unpacked to properly understand how we arrived at this juncture.
Three distinct steps had to be taken for the humanists to reverse the tables on the Christian consensus, and we Christians were, as a group, suckered into the whole thing. We made ourselves a prey for our enemies to fall upon and devour. We were the authors of our own worldview’s collapse.
The first step was to push up the tax burdens over time, as the state took upon itself more and more social financing in the wake of Christian retreat from such things as the poor tithe, etc. Of course, the explosion of government spending spreads over many domains that were formerly free of its suffocating hand. The point at issue was that taxation had become a burden: in this, the government (following its perennial pattern) created a problem that it would later “solve.”
The second step involved the government “solving” this problem by extending tax breaks to families. Politicians promoted this action as pro-family (“we’re doing this to benefit America’s families”). Christians accepted these tax breaks, never considering that this fundamentally violated the Biblical principle forbidding “respect of persons.” Justice under God’s law is impartial. The civil tax of Scripture is the precise same amount for everyone: the original flat tax of one-half shekel per male twenty years and older per year. Everyone stood equal under God’s governance.
When Christians rejected the concept of “no respect of persons” and accepted the benefits from a tax system now premised on partiality (not merely a progressive tax system a la Marxism, but one that dispensed “respect of persons” vis-à-vis marital status), they had swallowed the fatal hook. This acceptance of the benefit constituted official repudiation of God’s law and its premise of “no respect of persons.” Christians to whom “the marvelous things of God’s law … were esteemed a strange thing” (Hos. 8:12) didn’t know to reject this benefit. Their leaders were too busy preaching against the law, or delivering sermons on countless distractions from the disaster bubbling up in the midst of our culture.
The third step was when the government turned the tables on the Christians who had failed to hold the line on respect of persons: it was the government’s turn to take up the cause of “no respect of persons,” showing up the Christians as the advocates for favoritism, cronyism, of being, in effect, “partial in the law” (Mal. 2:9). The government now wiped out “respect of persons” by extending the benefits to civil unions. At this point, the legal principle had been yielded and thousands of years of precedent were destined to crumble into dust. The Christians were on the wrong side of this issue. They’d been seduced into trampling God’s law underfoot, and now they were being trampled underfoot by the very principle they’d thrown to the wind.
The Christians, who should have been the ones to promote “no respect of persons” when the tax benefits were being meted out, went greedily to the trough. They were being led as sheep to the slaughter. Do you know of any Christian who protested against the “marriage benefits” when they were offered? There were protests against “marriage penalties” when they appeared, but that reflected hypocritical awareness of one’s own ox being gored, nothing more.
No, the Christians missed their chance to promote godliness. In their hands, “the law was slacked” (Hab. 1:4). But God’s enemies didn’t miss their chance. They played the card we Christians should have played decades earlier. In so doing, our defeat was assured. As Micah 6:14 warned, “thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee”—the implosion proceeds from the inside out.
This three-step gambit completed the runway upon which the Obergefell decision was able to take off. When Christians had lost their way concerning respect of persons, and the state subsequently took upon itself the mantle of impartiality in a newly-forged secular setting, the final result was assured.
The invidious nature of this gambit is evident in the fact that virtually no one has pinpointed it as the underlying basis for the decision. This is most obvious in the dissenting opinions prepared by the Court, which have been echoed in the churches across the land. A little bit of leaven did indeed leaven the whole lump, but that initial leaven has, by and large, been entirely misidentified.
We would never have arrived at this juncture had the churches of America walked according to the law of God in respect to economics and justice decades earlier. The fact that nobody is even addressing the root of this issue means the church will continue to have its inheritance pillaged and its thunder stolen by the counterfeit church of secularism: the power-state. And all the pro-marriage rhetoric being projected from the nation’s pulpits is meaningless. It’s certainly pointless to close the barn door after the horse has bolted—but to leave the barn door wide open for cows and chickens to escape next is antinomian insanity.
Until we work for justice and impartiality in our tax code, we will remain ripe for future raids upon our fading moral capital. And until we take those steps, God will find our pro-marriage words to be not only hollow but offensive to Him.
While true that this court decision exposes the need to take marriage out of the state’s hands entirely (which will likely be the next major revolution to follow the homeschool revolution), that development must not build on today’s prevailing sand. We must return to the Rock for such reconstruction to weather the storms of life. We must never again give our enemies rope with which to hang us.
“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it” (Prov. 10:22). However, the blessing of the state, it maketh rich, but the state addeth much sorrow with it. Refusing the blessings of the state will allow us to seek the blessings of God. Upholding His standards for justice and impartiality will prevent His enemies from taking that banner out of our hands to wave it over their sins.
God’s people were guilty of many sins worthy of deportation to Babylon, but the Scripture pinpoints the failure to observe the annual land Sabbaths as the root cause precipitating their exile. Likewise, there are sins aplenty for which the unregenerate will answer to Him, but if we fail to see our own antinomian complicity in the Obergefell debacle, we will fall even farther as we preach on all the topics except the ones that will actually determine our future.
- Martin G. Selbrede
Martin is the senior researcher for Chalcedon’s ongoing work of Christian scholarship, along with being the senior editor for Chalcedon’s publications, Arise & Build and The Chalcedon Report. He is considered a foremost expert in the thinking of R.J. Rushdoony. A sought-after speaker, Martin travels extensively and lectures on behalf of Christian Reconstruction and the Chalcedon Foundation. He is also an accomplished musician and composer.