Congress’s repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (H.R. 8404) threatens Christian culture above and beyond Roe’s reign of terror. In response to Roe’s usurpation of legislative power, Congress held on for five decades, refusing to match federal law to the Court’s illegitimate ruling. Not only that, but through the Hyde and Church amendments, as well as President Reagan’s Mexico City policy, both the legislative and executive branches shielded taxpayers and medical professionals from participating in the carnage.
But now, less than two decades since Lawrence (2003) began the collapse of marriage jurisprudence, Congress has codified the rubble left by Windsor (2013), Obergefell (2015), and Bostock (2020). It did not, however, codify a new definition of marriage after revoking God’s. Federal law now offers no boundaries whatsoever on what in the future may be deemed marriage. Even the number of persons involved is up for negotiation.
This vagueness is deliberate. H.R. 8404 ensures that any person or institution that “may deny…full faith and credit” to any state’s current or future redefinition of marriage will face crippling lawfare. Its “Private Right of Action” allows any activist to bring civil suit against those withholding approval from the latest lie that worships the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Justice can bring limitless investigational power and legal resources to the fight without any obligation to apply the law evenhandedly.
This powerful financial cudgel can bankrupt those with the temerity to contradict the sexual state—even should they prevail in court. Like the Johnson Amendment (1954), H.R. 8404 is intended to mute the voice of God in the public square. Unlike the Johnson Amendment, it demands not only silence, but a false confession. How many Lutheran businessmen, students, and government workers will approve same-sex marriage by word or deed to avoid costly litigation from trolling activists and a weaponized Department of Justice?
Misguided politicians bartered away God’s definition of marriage in return for institutional protections, but not individual protections. In so doing, they agreed to label dissenters as discriminators. Even legislators who “know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die” made a political calculation to “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). In so doing, they set an ungodly example that myriads more Christians will likely follow.
Satan is behind all of this. He has always thus offered favors to those who will fall down at his feet (Mt. 4:9). This murder of souls—not the economic harms—is the demonic intent of H.R. 8404. How ought Christians to respond?
First, we must warn all Christians against soul-destroying bargains with the devil. “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe” (Luther). No matter what the financial or political cost, Christians are called to give the good confession. We must withhold approval from every ungodly practice—including any word or deed that legitimizes same-sex “marriage.”
Just as Christians in the first centuries of the Church refused to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar, we must discipline ourselves and teach others that living out God’s Word is inseparable from any obedience we owe to the state. Public declarations of our religious opinions are meaningless to fellow Christians or to pagan neighbors if they are contradicted by our public actions.
Therefore, preachers and teachers must begin with self-examination. Says the Lord: “[Y]ou, son of man, I have made a watchman…Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If…you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand” (Eze. 33:7-8). Just as prophets from Elijah to Obadiah addressed pagan nations with the same authority as they addressed God’s people, preachers are called to address both Church and world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was simply confessing the words of Ezekiel when he said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” The false dichotomy that leads legislators to make public law against their personal convictions and entices corporate climbers to seek promotion by parroting falsehoods infects us all. It is the same dichotomy that constricts the proclamation of God’s will for marriage and for the sanctity of life to vanishingly narrower confines.
The true Church on earth will never concede the public square to the pluralism that posits coexisting realms of “truth.” But deep confusion has been sown by the false doctrine of “separation between Church and state.” Perverting the scriptural doctrine of the two kingdoms, the old, evil Foe lied about a godless, secular realm unworthy of the Church’s attention. There never was such a realm. Where we were promised a religion-less public square, we found in its place an ever-growing list of topics deemed “political” and off-limits.
Against this, the Church must reassert the seamless interconnection of public and private life. This will come at a cost. Decades of deferred payments will come due. Faithful confession from the pulpit and pew will be subject to the financial cudgel now signed into federal law. Church institutions that are deemed not religious enough will be besieged by lawfare. Christian professionals and businessmen will face fines, loss of clientele, even loss of license for refusing to live a lie.
Praise God! God Himself has brought us to this place and time. As the days grow darker, the truth about marriage shines ever brighter. As love grows cold, the warmth of hearth and home becomes ever more inviting. As the loneliness of social media enslaves, the ties that bind set us free. Unlike any time in human history, the simple act of human marriage is both the unspoken longing of every human heart, and a distinctly Christian confession.
Praise God that He allows us both to live in holy matrimony and to confess it to our sad and lonely neighbors. While Satan vainly seeks to stamp out true joy and laughter, God has given us to laugh and, through this joyous confession, to lead sad souls into the feast. The dour mobs that outlaw happiness are to be pitied more than feared.
This beautiful Christian vision of marriage (Eph. 5) has been preserved for us to cherish and to proclaim—no matter the financial, legal, or societal costs. In fact, God means for good even the evil intended by H.R. 8404 (Gen. 50:20). Fellow Christians who are robbed, beaten, and labeled as hostes humani generis (haters of the human race), will be comforted, embraced and financially supported by congregations that value the simple act of telling the truth.
In this blessed environment, we will relearn the unity of sacred and secular, and the generosity of the first Christians (Acts 2:44-45). “And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; the Kingdom ours remaineth” (TLH 262:4).