Haven't you heard that the very world is a boomerang?* From where it starts, it also returns. Go west and you'll be in the east eventually. The pursuit of happiness works itself into a prison because liberation at some point punches violation.
And this is the reality of America. Pockets of its citizenry really believe that the pursuit of happiness and the rights of liberty for all nullifies commonplace morality. Much of Europe has already experienced this perpetual whine from niche groups who need to express themselves without fear of taboos. And Europe fixed the legal codes to scratch their itching ears. Now America is on the same drug.
What can be said? An American believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Right? And this serves as a protective blanket for the homosexual when marriage is desired, since a marriage certificate is served up by the state. But the question is also defining marriage. Dictionaries will tell you that it's a social contract between a man and woman who decide to live as husband and wife. So, does the government adjust the definition to allow for social contracts that don't fit "marriage" but fulfill the primary ethic of the American culture? It depends on whether America is wants to abide by a legal code that is lined with Judeo-Christian morality or one that pillages this link.
Marriage is an interesting institution to test this on because it's one of the only contracts that is traditionally found inside a church or performed by a religious leader before it is "ratified" by the state. (The other ceremony might be funerals where it works in opposite fashion - the state says you're dead and then the church buries you.)
It is a gradual secularization of life and an isolation of Christianity (especially) to a designated corner, where its effect can be pomp and circumstance, but nothing more.
Why? Because Christianity holds a deep well of moral codes. Behavior carries a label. It can be wrong. And so, in a society that is growing more and more restless under the hold of rights and wrongs, Christianity becomes Piggy, thrown off the cliff to leave everyone else alone. It boils down to this: We want to do what we want to do. You have no right to tell us we can't.
And they have a point. What right does the Christian Church have to tell the American public it can't abort babies or homosexually can't define marriage or it's bad to legalize drugs or move pornography to the mainstream or to euthanize the elderly or make stem cells nothing more than science or anything else under sun? The old pat response is that Christians in America are also Americans. Are they? This was something that bothered the Romans early on. If Christians are loyal to Jesus, that means their ultimate loyalty is not to the Empire. Correct? Correct. And that meant for Rome, that the Christians could not be trusted as allies. When this rogue religion kept increasing, Rome regrouped around it for strategic political and societal advantages. In essence, Christianity became a tool and it was whored in Europe with the onset of Holy Roman Emperors, titled by the Pope and charged with protecting the papacy and the Church's parishes.
Sure, America had different beginnings. Many of the colonies were established under the hope of religion not tangled with the state. The New World offered a point of departure both from central religious leadership and a powerful monarchy. The budding country connected "of," "for," and "by" to "people," leveling its citizens by granting them freedoms stemmed from a Christian ideal, at least, that we are all equal.
However, history recalls some problems. For one, Indians, slaves, and women were not included in this leveled playing field. So, how Christian was the set-up of America from the get-go? Not very. In fact, I would argue that the usury of religion mimicked the ways it's been used in the past - to pad a government's justifications and provide a mandate to do as it pleases. Individuals with little theology sparred for their political and social gains to the detriment of Christian ethics.
In the end, my assessment is that Christianity has never worked as a system that enables a country effectively. It can assist in ways that may make sense to the government in power, but it must not align itself with anyone. If America is overrun by a foreign power, the church will still remain - not as an institution dedicated to democracy but as a people that serve a king who holds a kingdom elsewhere.
Even if the church buries itself in catacombs, Christianity will not perish.
The trigger for this article is the homosexual marriage debate in California. What we know as Christians is that homosexuality is wrong and homosexual marriage should never be pronounced inside the walls of a Christian church. The Scripture is not weak on defining normal relations of female to male, wife and husband. Anyone who haphazardly says that Jesus never addressed it, and, therefore it must not be critical, is not seeing the whole of Scripture or the moral weights carried inside the tradition.
What to do?
Centrally, the Christian concern is the call for homosexuality to be normalized in the church. But so many of us have been felt up by tolerance's groping hands that we begin to unbuckle the moral codes that accompany holy lives.
America was never a Christian nation, only a nation dense with too often dense Christian people.
America is boomeranging. And I'm not advocating ignorance or inactivity or pie-in-the-sky waiting, but I am advocating that enforcing a Christian code in a foreign land will miserably fail. You can't juryrig it - or, as I like to say, jimmyrig it (think Jim Dobson and Jim Wallis at two extreme extremes).
You can't fix the morality of a messed up world. The problem is rooted in the heart. The church carries a prophetic echo of God on earth and we know the end of the arguments but until then, let's pray with Bono -
Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city
If it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break**
*G.K. Chesterton, "The Rhetoric of Pacifism," The Illustrated London News, March 24, 1917.
** U2, "Yaweh," HTDAAB, 2004.