Do you know someone who thinks legalizing same-sex marriage won’t change anything? Here’s how to help them understand: Buy them a flight to Canada. Why? Since same-sex marriage has been legal there for a decade, they’ll see, firsthand, how it’s changed the culture.
I got a taste of that change last month when I spent 10 days teaching in the province of Alberta. During my trip, I gave 24 presentations in 6 days, traveling approximately 700 miles. I spoke at churches and schools, to students and adults, and through sermons, lectures, and conference sessions. I delivered the keynote at a fundraiser for a Christian school and was also interviewed on a national call-in television show on the topic of homosexuality. It was the busiest week of my career.
I also got to experience how the legalization of same-sex marriage has impacted the freedoms of Canadian Christians. It turns out many believers are intimidated to express their faith in public. There are three examples that come to mind.
While teaching students at a Christian school tactics in sharing their convictions, I asked them to give me examples of challenges they face when sharing their faith. Everyone was silent. I asked again, reminding them I’m a friend who’s here to help them. Still nothing. “I guess I don’t really do that,” blurted out one student. That was the typical response I got in most classes.
At an evening church event, I taught about the importance of being an ambassador for Christ and gave specific techniques of communicating God’s message of reconciliation to non-believers. Afterwards, a couple approached me. “We are surprised by what you said. Our church teaches a lot about doctrine, but we never hear about how to share that with others.”
The night before I flew back home, I preached a Saturday evening sermon on Islam. After the service, I went out to dinner with some Canadian friends. We indicated to the waitress we were Christians to see if there was any interest in a religious conversation. Her silence on the subject suggested she was neither a believer, nor interested in talking about it. So, we asked more direct questions about whether she was raised in a religious tradition. Eventually, she admitted she was a Christian. In fact, she was an attendee of the church I spoke at earlier that evening.
Two things surprised me about our interaction with the waitress. First, even after it was established we were kindred spirits, she said nothing about being a Christian. It was as if the topic was off limits. Second, one of my Canadian friends at the table remarked, “I can’t believe we just had a conversation about our faith with the waitress.” It surprised her that we had talked to a stranger about Christianity in public.
Every idea has consequences. My Canadian friends tell me that since same-sex marriage was legalized, religious liberties have been reduced. Conservative Christians in Canada are the holdouts to adopt the new thinking on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The culture has used the force of law to bully believers so fewer of them share their faith. Instead, Christians are circling their wagons.
The United States is probably about 20 years behind Canada. Although Hollywood produces a steady stream of postmodernism, relativism, and a radical redefinition of family, Americans haven’t been as quick to adopt these ideas. Canadians, though, have embraced them.
With the imminent legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, intimidation of Christians may quickly have a silencing effect. It’s only a matter of time. We need to prepare for what’s coming.
Christianity has a history of surviving—even thriving—amidst persecution. For the first few hundred years after its inception, following Christ was illegal and believers were hunted, burned, and fed to lions. Despite the opposition, Christianity experienced explosive growth.
I fear that in the upcoming era of hostility, we won’t see growth. Instead, we’ll see decline through two means: cleansing and compromise. Nominal Christians—believers in name only—will abandon Christianity. Since they aren’t firmly rooted in the faith, it will be too costly for them to retain the title “Christian.” Instead, they’ll be cleansed from the Church (John 15:2).
Others will compromise. They’ll continue to claim Christ, but will abandon orthodoxy in favor of a more palatable and politically-correct Christianity. By approving of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, they’ll remove themselves as targets. As an example, the Presbyterian Church USA (different than the Presbyterian Church of America, but larger) officially affirmed same-sex marriage a few weeks ago.
Let it not be so with you.