I think I have found—or rather been again reminded of—my exact polar opposite when it comes to people calling themselves followers of Jesus. A little history here is in order. Between January, 1990 and March, 1993, I was pastor of a small Southern Baptist church in High Point, NC. Students of church history will recognize this time period as perhaps the most contentious in Southern Baptist history. While it may not be accurate to say there was a formal split in the Convention, it felt like one, as so-called “moderates” removed themselves and aligned with other Baptist groups, including at least a couple groups formed specifically as alternatives to a Convention increasingly determined to go back to its theological roots. Of course, I wholeheartedly supported this return to Biblical orthodoxy, even if I did not always appreciate the manner in which the “fight” was carried out. It was during this time that I became aware of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, located in Raleigh. Pullen and my church were ostensibly part of the same movement, but we could not have been further apart. It was during my tenure at Brentwood, if memory serves, that Pullen Memorial was removed from membership in the local Baptist association, due to some radical stance the church had taken.
Fast-forward now some twenty years, and because liberalism is a progressive disease, a dysfunction lacking grounding in anything save for a willingness to embrace the newest and trendiest aberrations, the church has gone progressively further off the theological deep end. The pastor of Pullen Church, one Nancy Petty, had decided several months back to take a mirror-opposite position to mine with regard to “gay marriage”, the aberration that bestows on homosexuals the special right to radically redefine the institution of marriage in accord with their own proclivities. Ms. Petty had decided that, while she would continue to perform weddings of heterosexual couples as well as “weddings” of homosexual couples, she would no longer sign state-issue marriage licenses for anyone, as long as the state of North Carolina refused to belly up to the progressive bar and declare the two types of relationships “equal”. This past week, the congregation of Pullen Church decided unanimously to declare this the official policy of the church. This, of course, is their privilege and freedom as Americans; I suppose if there’s one thing upon which I and the good folks at Pullen can agree, it is that we both cherish religious freedom as Americans.
That’s likely where the similarity ends, of course. My position, and I’ve mentioned this before, is the polar opposite: I will not sign a state-issued marriage license in any state that so cheapens the meaning of marriage in this way, though like Ms. Petty, I would conduct the ceremony. Frankly, I would encourage any and every evangelical pastor to take this same position. Though I may at a later point post a more fully-orbed defense of my beliefs, suffice it to say that my rationale is pretty simple: I refuse to be in any way, shape, or form an accomplice to this aberration.
The folks at Pullen couch their decision in terms like “equal protection under the law” (“gay marriage” entails nothing of the sort), “discriminat(ion)” (perhaps this is accurate in one sense, of course; marriage is by definition, whether “inclusive” or “exclusive” of gay couples, an institution that discriminates, and no sane person would have it any other way), “denying (homosexuals) the rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual married couples” (Pullen here makes a typical liberal mistake, believing that rights accrue to particular groups rather than to individuals; I could write an entire post on this), and basing their position on the notion that “before God all people are equal”, which certainly is true, but which is thoroughly irrelevant to the conversation. Then again, such is the norm, generally, for liberal attempts to reason.
Liberal churches such as Pullen pride themselves (not too strong a word, judging by their website) on their genuineness, innovation, and cutting-edge positions on issues. Again, this is their prerogative. But make no mistake: when “churches” such as Pullen Memorial Baptist act in ways such as this, they are doing little more than boldly standing for the right to meekly cower before the spirit of the age.
Let’s call it “aggressive capitulation”.