SBC Life Articles

A Supreme Wake-Up Call

I hate wake-up calls. The ear-piercing ring of the phone only occurs when I'm away from home in some strange hotel room. They never awaken me to a day of relaxation (how often do you arrange a wake-up call while on vacation?) but to mostly unpleasant responsibilities. Wake-up calls aren't fun … but they are necessary. Neglecting them can lead to severe consequences.

The Supreme Court decision striking down Texas' anti-sodomy law has received a lot of ink and airtime in the last few months. Many in favor of the Court's landmark ruling believe that it represents the beginning of a new era of tolerance for homosexuals. Others who are opposed to the Court's action believe it represents the end of modern civilization. I tended to fall into the second category — until recently.

The passing of a few months has changed my attitude toward the Court's decision. Although I am still opposed to the Court's ruling, I believe Christians should view the Supreme Court's action (as well as its inaction in the Alabama Ten Commandments controversy) as a "gift" from God — a needed wake up-call for churches that have been lulled into complacency. Specifically, the Lawrence decision should awaken Christians to the effect it will have in at least three critical areas.

The Attack on Morality

Remember as a child lining up dominoes in a long row, pushing over the first domino, and then watching as the others quickly collapsed? The Lawrence decision represents the beginning of a moral chain reaction of collapsing values. The first "domino" to fall is obviously the anti-sodomy laws in thirteen states that prohibit oral and anal sex between consenting adults. While there are some practical reasons for such "silly" laws (as Judge Clarence Thomas termed the Texas statute), it is the Supreme Court's reasoning behind the Lawrence decision that promises to reverberate with moral repercussions for decades to come.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority of justices, claims that anti-sodomy laws violate the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits government from depriving any person of "life, liberty, or property without due process of law." Ignoring the "without due process of law" clause that clearly grants government the right to limit individual freedom, Kennedy instead focused on the individual's right to purse life and liberty, wherever such a pursuit might lead him.

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life …. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring," Kennedy opined. In other words, the right to engage in sodomy is a fundamental liberty protected by the Constitution. Any attempt by government to limit a gay couple's expression of their sexuality is to interfere with their fundamental right to life and liberty.

If that is true, then it is not hard to identify the next "domino" about to fall: laws banning homosexual marriages. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the three dissenting judges in the Lawrence case, predicts "This [the majority opinion in the Lawrence case] leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples." Until recently, the Supreme Court saw the protection of marriage as a legitimate state interest. But political correctness has once again trumped common sense.

The inevitable redefinition of marriage may be the most obvious consequence of the Lawrence decision, but it is far from the only one. The Court's ruling not only "leaves on pretty shaky grounds" laws restricting gay marriages, but the rights of churches and Christian groups to refrain from hiring homosexuals. After all, if full expression of one's sexuality is a fully protected freedom, as Justice Kennedy claims, why should any organization be allowed to discriminate against hiring homosexuals? If I am a homosexual teacher or business administrator who desires to work in a Christian school, a Jewish synagogue, or a fundamentalist church, what right does any organization — public or private — have to deny me that freedom solely due to my sexual preferences which, the Supreme Court says, is the essence of my "concept of existence."

The Attack on the Constitution

The Lawrence decision is just one more example of a long-term trend of judicial activism in which judges view the Constitution as an "organic" document that is always changing. One observer says, "It's as if the Founders wrote it on a blackboard and gave [judges] an eraser and chalk." The result of such of such an expansionist view of the Constitution is that the judiciary is granting imaginary rights to some individuals while depriving other individuals of very real rights.

The majority of Supreme Court justices, with chalk and eraser firmly in hand, have managed to do both in the Lawrence case. They have effectively added to the Constitution the right to engage in homosexual conduct, even though as my friend Kelly Shackelford notes, "There is no constitutional right to engage in homosexual sodomy. Read the Constitution as many times as you'd like. It's not there."

By reading into the fourteenth amendment the imaginary right to engage in sodomy, the Supreme Court has usurped the clear constitutional right of individual communities and states to formulate laws through their elected officials. In doing so, the Court is not only discarding the Texas statue, but the often overlooked tenth amendment of the Constitution, which severely limits the federal government's power.

The Abolition of Absolute Truth

Of course, no human institution can actually abolish absolute truth, but it can ignore it or even deny its existence as Justice Kennedy has done in the Lawrence case. Speaking for the majority, Kennedy defended the Supreme Court's sudden U-turn in reversing its prior decision to uphold Georgia's anti-sodomy law just seventeen years earlier. The framers of the Constitution "knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress," Kennedy writes. Justice Kennedy seems on the verge of breaking out in song — "I once was blind, but now I see" — as he testifies to his and society's "emerging awareness" that homosexual behavior should no longer be stigmatized. Thus, the reason the judiciary must be actively involved in the formulation of laws is because truth is always changing.

Now that the judiciary has freed society from the anchor of immutable moral truth that has led to oppressive laws such as the anti-sodomy statute, from where do we receive our moral guidance? One gay activist is happy for the Supreme Court to lead us through the sea of ever-changing truth. "The public has looked to the Supreme Court as a source of moral guidance" one law professor said in a recent interview with USA Today. Of course, such a statement begs the question, "From what compass does the Court receive its guidance?" Obviously, not the Bible since its narrow teachings lead to oppression. And not the Constitution since, as hard as we might try, we cannot find the right to engage in sodomy. When all else fails, try Europe — which is exactly what Justice Kennedy did.

Most Christians (as well as a growing number of unbelievers) understand that the Supreme Court is an unreliable guide for consistent, much less correct, moral guidance. It never has been — just remember the Dred Scott case in which the high court upheld slavery and negated the rights of Negroes. Only Christians possess the necessary Compass to provide society with clear moral direction in uncertain times. That is why the Lawrence decision should reawaken the church to its responsibility to be that guide by declaring without apology in our schools, churches, businesses, and personal relationships the unchanging, moral truths of God's Word. Homosexuality is a perversion of our Creator's design. Marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman. God does bless a nation that reveres Him and judges a nation that ignores Him. Period.

As Christ-followers in this world, we are on a "business trip" far away from our home. That is why we occasionally need wake-up calls like the Lawrence decision to remind us of our responsibilities while we are still on assignment. Our decision is whether we will get up and get to work — or roll over and continue our slumber.

    About the Author

  • Robert Jeffress