What has changed dramatically in the last fifty years is the concept of meaning and truth in our culture. Once it was the responsibility of historical scholars and judges and preachers to find the fixed meaning of a text (an essay, the Constitution, the Bible) and justify it with grammatical and historical arguments, and then explain it. Meaning in texts was not created by scholars and judges and preachers. It was found, because the authors put it there. Authors had intentions. And it was a matter of integrity to find what a writer intended—that was the meaning of the essay, the Constitution, the Bible. Everybody knew that if a person wrote “no” and someone else creatively interpreted it to mean “yes,” something fraudulent had happened.
But we have fallen a long way from that integrity. In historical scholarship and in constitutional law and in biblical interpretation, it is common today to say that meaning is whatever you see, not what the author said or intended. To get right to the point, today the Constitution is being “amended,” whether we like it or not. That is, courts are finding there what never was there in any of the authors’ minds, namely, a right to marriage between two men or two women. This kind of so-called interpretation creates out of nothing a definition of marriage that has never existed. In other words, the question is not whether the Constitution will be amended concerning the meaning of marriage and the rights of homosexual people to marry; the question is simply how it will be amended. Will it be by the means established by the Constitution itself? Or will it be by the Supreme Court creating a meaning for the Constitution which was never there in the authors’ farthest imaginations?
We do not smirk at the misery or the merrymaking of immoral culture. We weep. Being pilgrims does not mean being cynical. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. And where it can’t, it weeps.
Being Christian pilgrims in American culture does not end our influence, it takes the swagger out of it. We don’t get cranky when evil triumphs for a season. We don’t whine when things don’t go our way. We are not hardened with anger. We understand. What’s happening is not new. The early Christians were profoundly out of step with their culture. The Imperial words of Christ were ringing in their ears: “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).