Australia recently legalized same-sex marriage (SSM). Many Australian believers, who opposed the new legislation, were met with angry attitudes and nasty name-calling leading up to the vote. They tried to share their convictions in a civil manner but were often met with hostility. Then the legislation passed, SSM became law, and they were faced with a new cultural landscape.
I just returned from Victoria, Australia a few weeks ago. I was invited partly because of the national debate over SSM. Many believers were eager to get equipped to understand the subject, the rational arguments for and against their view, and the art of persuasive - yet civil - dialogue with people who disagree with them. I spent eight days teaching theology and apologetics on numerous subjects but also addressed the public policy concerns with SSM.
One question I was asked was, Now that same-sex marriage has become legal, what do we do? Many Americans asked a similar question after SSM was legalized in the United States in 2015. My answer is that we should do the same thing Christians did when abortion became legal.
It’s true that many pro-life Christians were despondent after Roe v. Wade. But they didn’t just sulk in their misery. They regrouped, prayed for wisdom, and put together a strategy to save unborn lives and support women facing crisis pregnancies. Despite abortion remaining legal, pro-lifers started numerous pro-life organizations that are committed to training people to persuasively yet graciously make a case that abortion kills innocent human beings. They have speakers, video curriculums, workbooks, textbooks, and hands-on training that equip believers to change minds on abortion. By changing minds, they can change public opinion. By changing public opinion, they can change public policy.
Realizing that changing laws can also save lives, pro-lifers invested in legal and legislative groups that fight against abortion rights. They put their money where their mouth was and petitioned to pass parental notification and fetal pain laws, institute waiting periods before abortions, and ban grisly abortion procedures. Of course, making elective abortion illegal would be a great legislative victory, but in the meantime, they knew they could still save lives with other legislation.
Finally, pro-lifers didn’t only care about unborn people. They decided to also care about born people - vulnerable women considering abortion. To accomplish that end, pregnancy resource centers (AKA crisis pregnancy centers) began popping up across the country. These facilities provide counseling, medical services, diapers, clothing, and other support to pregnant women who have nowhere to turn. Some of these centers even find housing for women if they need it during their pregnancy. Today there are around 3,000 centers in the USA that care for women, far more than the 1,000 or so abortion clinics that would kill their unborn children.
Notice how after abortion became legal, Christians sought to change minds through rational arguments, change laws through legislation, and care for women who are, or potentially are, abortion-minded. Today, the pro-life movement is surging, and despite the current legal landscape, there is hope that more unborn lives can be saved each year.
Australians (and Americans) faced with legalized SSM can take a cue from the pro-life movement. Despite the political loss, Christians can still serve, minister to, and love people who identify as LGBT or who are married to a same-sex person. And they can make headway in the same categories that the pro-life movement did.
Believers can learn how to make a persuasive case against SSM by not only understanding the biblical arguments against it (to address Christians who support SSM) but also the secular arguments (to address secular individuals). Furthermore, even though the legislative process is in its infancy, there is still a legitimate case to be made against SSM that draws upon many public policy concerns with the law. Finally, believers can reach out to friends and family who identify as gay or lesbian and show them the love of God. Whether these men and women are married to a same-sex partner or not, the Gospel can reach any heart. In fact, we’ve seen people in a committed same-sex relationship accept Christ, become convicted of their sin, end their relationship, and pursue God with every fiber of their being. Whether SSM is legal or not, believers can still make a huge impact in the lives of people in the gay community.
That’s not only the message I gave to Australians; it’s the message I offer to anyone who’s lost hope because a political process or legislation didn’t go their way. The Gospel isn’t hindered by human laws. The government can’t shut down the work of the Holy Spirit. No matter the political landscape, individual believers can reach out to those who don’t know Christ.