July 1, 2020
The 4th of July holiday has lost a bit of its luster for me. As much as I love my country--and I do--I am very aware of where she is and where she is headed, barring a major movement of the gospel. A number of years ago, I mentioned in a message that our existence as a church as we have been accustomed to will be challenged socially and legally over the issue of homosexuality. After the message, someone accused me of being an alarmist and said that my comments were absurd because, after all, we have the constitution, and our rights our protected by the constitution. I said that the constitution was written by men and could be altered, ignored, or re-interpreted. This has been happening, and in a decision handed down by the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago, a major wrecking ball was legally hoisted to a legal crane that may become the mechanism for bringing the entire house down in the coming years.
In a case known as Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Supreme Court decided that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and what is known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) that provided for civil rights protections against sex discrimination now applies to LGBTQ persons. The reason why I think this decision is going to be so far-reaching is because of the important issue that we call hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics is the practice of interpretation. For example, let's say that I sent you a text that said, "I'll meet you at Coney Island." In order to know exactly what that means, you would have to know what I meant. If I meant the restaurant at 12 and Groesbeck, you would be misinterpreting me, misunderstanding me, and going on a wild goose chase if you looked for me at the residential and commercial neighborhood and entertainment area located on a peninsula in the southwestern part of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. If, years later, Supreme Court Justices read that text and concluded that they could redefine Coney Island to mean something now that it did not mean then, it may sound legal, but it would only add to the confusion. Foundational to understanding one another is understanding that a statement cannot mean something now that it did not mean when it was originally stated. If we are going to use language to understand one another, we have to practice authorial intent. In other words, what did the author mean when he or she wrote that or said that? This is what the Supreme Court so spectacularly mangled in their ruling.
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, the term "sex" meant male or female. In 1964, there was no category for transgender. Changing what WAS meant by sex then to what some in the culture want it to mean NOW is very bad hermeneutics, and it creates not only the flawed basis for a bad law, but sets a precedent to dismantle the constitution as we know it. Our form of government is based on the separation of powers that are supposed to work in harmony with one another. The legislative branch is to create the laws, the judicial branch is to interpret the laws, and the executive branch is to enforce the laws. In this case, the Supreme Court has re-written the law and enacted legislation, apart from the legislative branch. The results of this law will not only open the door for all sorts of problems for schools, seminaries, conservative organizations, and churches, but sets a precedent for no one to be able to depend upon a law to actually mean what it says. Now, we can make it mean whatever we choose.
Ironically, people have been trying to do this with the Bible. Perhaps you have heard people read a verse and say, "Well, this is what it means to me." Hold the phone! In order to properly understand and then apply the Bible, we have to know what it meant when it was written. What did the author mean by that? Do not ask the question, "What does this mean to you?" Ask the question, "What does this mean?" What it meant then is what it means now. Once we establish that, then we can apply it to now. Again, you hear people say, "Well, people interpret the Bible so many different ways." It is true that people do that, but that does not make all of the interpretations valid. In many cases, people interpret the Bible incorrectly, and the results give people the impression that they can believe whatever they choose.
That is what the Supreme Court has done with the law, and, unless it is corrected, I fear that it will create a lot of confusion at best and legalize laws against conservative churches at worst. But, even if it does, we know that no one can stop the church. Not even the gates of hell can prevail against her.
Grace and Peace,