Barack Obama has been both praised and criticised a day after he became the first sitting US president to publicly support gay marriage. Social conservatives and religious leaders condemned his remarks. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign attacked Republican Mitt Romney, who restated his opposition to same-sex marriage, as out of touch on the issue. Mr Obama travelled to the West Coast on Thursday for fundraisers in Seattle and Los Angeles likely to raise millions.
One fundraiser, to be held at the home of George Clooney, is expected on its own to raise $15m (£9.3m), partially from a general raffle offering members of the public the chance to meet the Hollywood actor. In the wake of his interview with ABC News, gay advocates applauded Mr Obama’s remarks. Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said that the president’s comments would “inspire thousands more conversations around kitchen tables and in church pews”.
But Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, labelled Mr Obama’s remarks “deeply saddening”. “We cannot be silent in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society,” he said in a statement. “The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better.”
Very few people enjoy controversy. We would rather live in harmony with those around us. Christian tradition has taught us to respect the views of others and their right to hold such views. Love is tolerant and kind. Bigotry, on the other hand, along with blind prejudice and blatant rejection of the opinion of others goes right against the spirit of patient understanding shown by Christ.
Jesus demonstrated infinite patience, understanding, grace and tolerance throughout his life and ministry. He always had time for people, caring for them in their problems and was compassionate in all His dealings with others. On the cross, He argued on behalf of His enemies, choosing to bless rather than to curse. “Father, forgive them,” He said, “They don’t know what they are doing.”
A politically incorrect Christ
But this didn’t mean that Jesus had an “anything goes’ mentality. He didn’t accept every action as right or every opinion as equally true and valid. He spoke the truth, He lived the truth and He was the Truth. This meant that a clash with the culture of His day was inevitable. Don’t forget that if Jesus had kept His head down, turned a blind eye to injustice and ignored the errors of His day, He would never have been crucified!
Rejecting the well-trodden course of political correctness, He chose rather the path of highest resistance to the culture of His day. Jesus called the hedonistic Herod a fox, challenged the relativist Pilate with the truth and castigated the empty religion of His day as He fearlessly contradicted the Scribes and Pharisees.
Love speaks up for the downtrodden, rejects the lies of the arrogant and cuts at the roots of cultural complacency. Love confronts evil and is not intimidated by it. Today, we are told by our society that you cannot really know truth and that every opinion is equally valid. You cannot claim that you have the truth, that your book is the truth or that there is only one way to God. You are reminded that there are many “truths’ and many “ways’ out there – many rival claims to revelation and many “realities’ to choose from.
In a world of so-called tolerance, it seems as if the Christian gospel is the only truth not to be tolerated. Increasingly, pressure is coming to us from our culture to keep quiet about our faith. Our rights to proclaim the gospel are being resisted.
Countering non-Christian culture
As Christians committed to truth, we must contradict the lies of our culture and resist the pressure to be politically correct. It is time to speak out. Error is error, no matter how sincerely held. You can be sincere and wrong! People have the right to choose to believe what they want to believe, but that doesn’t mean that what they choose to believe is right.
We must not assume that any of this is new. The Church throughout the ages has had to speak out against sin, false beliefs and evil practices. It is part of our purpose in the world. I remember a quotation from a professor of Church history who wrote of the early Church as it first emerged into the world:
“The Church didn’t step onto an empty stage but into an arena of warring sects and rival faiths.”
The same is true today. We are surrounded by claims, counter claims and contradictory voices clamouring for attention. But amid the cattle market of opinions, values and religious beliefs stands one whose age-old declaration rings out loudly through the centuries, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
This is the truth that we proclaim and follow. It’s truth-in-action, a life-style not a speech. God is raising us up to confront our culture with the love of Christ. Our words and actions must work together to present a bold and credible witness to Christ in the confused world of today.