Following the declaration that marriage is a Constitutional right for homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, Bob Ellis declares that America is drowning in a “tide of evil” unleashed by “black-robed tyrants.” Gordon Howie exhorts despairing Christians to keep fighting “wickedness.” Pat Powers, who hasn’t said anything original or thoughtful on the Supreme Court’s ruling, clips an AP article and says polygamists are coming. A clerk at the Minnehaha County Courthouse blurts on office hours that she might as well marry her dog (and then has the gall to tell her boss Treasurer Pam Nelson that she wasn’t talking about the Obergefell v. Hodges but just saying how much she loves her dog).
My Madison friend Michael Hope gets out his Bible and tells his fellow believers to make like Jesus and chill out:
The point is, Jesus didn’t mention homosexuality at all. Love one another. That is what Jesus told us. Most reasonable Christians know this already.
The reason for this letter is to celebrate the courage of the people that fought for these rights and to remind people of our state’s leaders’ perspective on these and other issues. According to the Supreme Court, South Dakota’s stated position on these two issues is wrong and has now been corrected on a federal level [Michael Hope, letter to the editor, Madison Daily Leader, 2015.06.30].
Hope says the exclusivist freak-out of folks like Ellis and Howie and that dog-loving clerk hurts South Dakota’s interests:
South Dakotans by nature are a reserved group, and speaking out can be a challenge. There are MANY in this state that feel like I do, and many more that have moved away so they could live in a more accepting climate. You shouldn’t have to move out of our state to be free, valued and equal. Our state needs diversity, so just chasing out or oppressing others is not conducive to the long-term health of our communities [Hope, 2015.06.30].
Hope challenges us to turn off the bullies and turn on liberty and justice for all Americans:
I challenge people that agree with these more compassionate positions to please find the courage in your heart to work past the fear and speak out for justice. I also thank those who do speak out for these principles. These issues are not about political parties; they are about the fundamentals of core American values. Too many have fought for our right to live free to have it oppressed by the hurtful rhetoric of a very vocal, short-sided, bullying few.
As we continue to grow as a state and country, I pray we are mindful of the needs of all and truly treat others as we would like to be treated.
God bless our state, our country and ALL who live here. Congratulations to those affected by these rulings for your newfound liberty and justice. May we all find the liberty and justice we crave and deserve [Hope, 2015.06.30].
It does me good to hear other South Dakotans speaking like that in the face of the angry, fearful rhetoric from those who would undermine the Court and the Constitution. It does me good to hear South Dakota Christians capable of recognizing that America is not the exclusivist theocracy that some angry, power-hungry pastors think it was and want it to be:
GJELTEN: In fact, the Supreme Court said ministers who do not approve of same-sex marriages can’t be forced to perform them. The court decision applies only to government functions, not religious ceremonies. But many of those who are now criticizing the court decision don’t recognize that distinction.
DAVID LANE: I don’t think there’s any such thing as a separation of church and state.
GJELTEN: David Lane is the founder of the American Renewal Project now bringing conservative pastors together into a political movement.
LANE: This was not established as a secular nation, and anybody that says that it is, they’re not reading American history. This was established by Christians for the advancement of the Christian faith. My goal is to return – to restore a biblically based culture and a Judeo-Christian heritage.
GJELTEN: Lane made that comment at a political training session for pastors held earlier this month in South Carolina. Reached today, Lane predicted that Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage will, if anything, strengthened his renewal movement.
LANE: I think that this outrageous decision that was made last week just puts and engine on what we’re doing because I think that Christians in America are going to return to the public square with our values. Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme – our values or militant homosexual’s values [Tom Gjelten, “Conservative Pastors Deliver Sharp Criticism of Same-Sex Marriage,” NPR: All Things Considered, 2015.06.29].
Michael Hope’s God doesn’t need to clutch the sceptre of secular power to keep his faith. If I had to hang around a God, Hope’s God would be my kind of God. It’s also the God of the Constitution, which says, Believe what you will, but in the eyes of the state, all citizens deserve equal rights.
Related: The Episcopal Church voted yesterday at its General Convention in Salt Lake City (?!?) to allow its pastors to conduct same-sex marriages. The convention also voted to allow its pastors to decline to perform such ceremonies and to allow bishops to refuse to allow such ceremonies in their diocese. See? The Episcopalians understand that the Supreme Court is not taking away their freedom of religion.