Since you probably don’t know a thing about me, let me toss a few factoids at you, so you’ll at least know a bit about where I’m coming from on this and future issues.
I’m in my late 50s, am a third-generation American with Chinese ancestors, and I’m the senior pastor of an American (as opposed to a Southern or Conservative) Baptist church in the sprawling suburban valley just east of downtown Los Angeles.
As most of the world knows, President Obama has now given his blessing to same-sex marriages, the first sitting POTUS to do so.
If he manages to get re-elected now, even though he’s probably lost whatever chances he had of winning any of the Bible Belt states, then he probably won’t be the last POTUS to do this.
If he loses in November and if it’s clear that his affirmation was a major source of his downfall, then it might be years before a presidential incumbent or candidate follows suit.
So I wonder how the Amish are taking his announcement?
While the progressive wing of Protestantism is celebrating, most of the conservatives are already reacting negatively.
Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, declared that the president has just slapped God in the face, and countless others from this side of the aisle are gnashing their teeth and draping themselves in sack cloth and ashes.
Surely, America is headed straight to hell in the fast lane. “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and rescue Your righteous few!”
Even assuming the American Amish Christians don’t use the Internet, I’m guessing that these “backwards” brethren of ours have learned of the president’s change of heart on this divisive issue.
If they’ve already rejected electricity, internal combustion engines, shopping for clothes at Macy’s and shaving their beards, I’m pretty sure that they must have immediately rejected same-sex marriages.
Even if there have always been gay or lesbian members of their communities, I seriously doubt that they were ever embraced in the past.
And just because the president and vice president have endorsed same-sex marriages, I don’t think the Amish will be performing any of those weddings. Ever.
Throughout the centuries, even as the majority of Christians in America have learned to “go with the flow” of our culture’s shifting tides, the Amish have gone on pursuing their lives in accordance with the strict Amish-Christian beliefs, values and traditions.
Unlike many other American Protestants, I’m guessing that they have chosen not to tolerate divorce, remarriage, out-of-wedlock children, cohabitation outside of marriage, premarital sex and so on.
The entire world around them might turn inside out and upside down, but the Amish persevere in choosing to live the way they believe is most pleasing to God Almighty.
What a stark contrast they are to the rest of us American Protestants.
So many of us are sounding the klaxons today, freaked out to the core that the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (and his wife and daughters) believes that all Americans should be afforded the same protection under the U.S. Constitution.
“Is this the tipping point for us to commit civil disobedience?” “How in God’s holy name are we going to be able to protect our churches and our children from being infected and affected by this unholy stand?” “If there was ever a time to homeschool all our children, this would be that time.” “We clearly are living in the Last Days.”
So why are so many of us so bent out of shape over what the president and vice president have just said?
It’s clear that many Christians vehemently disagree with their position on gay marriage, but what’s not as clear is the apparent presumption that is fueling much of the fear and outrage. What is it?
My take is that too many American Christians – especially of the conservative variety – presume that American society as a whole is supposed to line up with a conservative Christian reading of the Bible and the value systems that arise from that.
The Amish, on the other hand, don’t appear to make that presumption at all. In fact, historically, they seem to presume that the world around them is not going to match their Christian values and views.
Their attitude has always been to stay committed to what matters most to them, regardless of what the world is doing. Even if they’re completely surrounded by that world.
No matter which way the world decides to go, the Amish are determined to make choices that are rooted in their Christian convictions. So I seriously doubt that they feel threatened in the least by this latest development.
It’s not like, up until yesterday, America’s values and laws lined up almost perfectly with what most Christians deem to be God-pleasing ways to live.
Prostitution has been legal in some states for years. Due to the Internet, porn is more accessible today than ever before. Cigarettes are sold everywhere, and so is alcohol.
And even though the gospel of Christ calls us to live at peace with everyone, America is still teeming with racists, sexists and bigots. Some even think of themselves as serious Christ-followers, too.
My point is that America might have plenty of self-described “Christians” living here, but it was never meant to be a theocratic, Christian nation.
Somewhere along the way, many American Christians seem to have lost sight of the fact that Jesus has called us to be like strangers and aliens wherever we are.
To be in the world yet not of the world. To be surrounded by a world that doesn’t reinforce most of what we believe, but we faithfully practice our beliefs anyway.
So even if the Amish are upset about the POTUS’ endorsement of same-sex marriages, they don’t for a second feel that their way of living as Christians in America is threatened at all. If you’re Amish, nothing’s changed.