Barbara Underwood’s letter May 25 cautioning readers not to assume God’s thoughts put me in mind of a low point in church history. Roman emperor Constantine issued his Fourth Century Edict of Tolerance. Persecuted church leaders suddenly found their hands unexpectedly on the levers of authority.

The persecuted church soon became the persecuting church, righteously suppressing opposition. Enjoying politics, a co-opted church lost some of its spiritual purpose.

Underwood reminds critics of gay marriage that “the choice to perform same sex marriage or disallow it is still their right.” She acknowledges that a pastor “still” has the choice to refuse to conduct a gay marriage on moral grounds. Her parting thought, however, makes me wonder how long that choice will remain intact.

That parting thought? “Churches that do not agree with the laws of the land should forfeit their tax exempt status.”

How far gays have come — from closeted persecution and disdain to social tolerance and acceptance to legal protection and sanction to … to … what? Suddenly sitting with their culture’s power brokers, their hands unexpectedly on the levers of authority, feeling the righteous need to suppress opposition and wondering if they really need to rein in that impulse. 

Christians who cannot sing their hymns in the key of gay may find the likes of Underwood’s musings turned into laws. Under such conditions, a persecuted Christianity may recover the depth of faith that once animated and anchored its worship and served as its enduring purpose.

Leonard Hoy, Greenwood


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