Judging from the popular media narrative, reactions to Friday’s SCOTUS decision divide along religious lines: most Catholic, Evangelical, and some Mainline Protestant Christians are opposed to the ruling, while everyone else is awash in rainbow light. The truth, however, is that there are differing opinions about SCOTUS within religious communities.
As I watched my facebook feed explode with reactions all weekend, I observed some of the most polarized reactions from fellow believers, whose varying views on issues like Biblical hermeneutics, the role of the church in government, the role of federal government in American lives, and the purpose of marriage and family produced equally varying views on Friday’s Supreme Court Ruling. Even within my tiny Southern Baptist Church are those who support SCOTUS for political reasons while opposing gay marriage for religious reasons, those who support gay marriage in principle but dislike the SCOTUS ruling for political reasons, and those who oppose or support both gay marriage in general and SCOTUS in particular for a combination of political and religious reasons.
My point? Someone in the pew next to yours disagrees with you about SCOTUS, and the way we react to one another could make the difference between a unified, loving church and a divided, bitter one.
Here are 3 ways I think people in the church can work for unity when we disagree about SCOTUS:
1. Give each other the benefit of the doubt
While there are those on either side of this debate who have come to their opinions through prejudice, fear, or blind allegiance to a side, there are many others who have come to their views through prayer, thoughtful study of Scripture, and wise council. Not all Christians who oppose gay marriage do so out of fear of the unknown; not all who support it do so because they have capitulated to the whims of culture. Remembering that people on both sides of the issue have good reasons for their beliefs can help us to respect each other instead of just writing the other side off as stupid or unfaithful. Let’s give one another the benefit of the doubt while still encouraging prayer and thoughtful study where it is lacking.
2. Have a conversation, seeking understanding
One side-effect of mutual prayer and study of these issues is often discussion, and that discussion can be a healthy way for iron to sharpen iron as we lovingly engage with each other’s viewpoints. If we block or unfriend everyone who disagrees with us on social media — or if churches splinter and form new denominations instead of seeking reconciliation, we will shut down the conversation and lose a vital opportunity to connect with, learn from, and love one another.
3. Pray “Thy Kingdom Come,” not “My Agenda Come”
The Lord’s prayer is a text that unites all believers; most of us can agree that we want Christ’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. If I’m honest, though, I often pray those words with a very specific vision of what that kingdom ought to look like. For some this weekend, “Thy kingdom” meant “equal rights for all” or “states’ rights” or “traditional family structures,” or “democratic republic,” or “gay marriage reflecting Christ’s love,” or “heterosexual marriages reflecting Christ and the church.” (I could go on, of course).
The thing that’s difficult for me about praying “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” is that I don’t always fully mean it. I want God’s will and God’s kingdom on my terms, following my agenda, when I should be praying for God’s will no matter what; God’s will, even if I find myself in the minority; God’s will even when it’s uncomfortable; God’s will when it’s too dark to see how God might be building His kingdom here, now, with a broken people.
As we open ourselves, in loving humility, to this wild kingdom of unfathomable grace, we can begin to open to each other, too.