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Conservatives brace for `marriage revolution'
Conservative Christians say their churches have been unprepared for cultural shifts on same-sex marriage.
June 28th, 2013
06:19 PM ET

Conservatives brace for `marriage revolution'

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - With its ivy-covered entrance and Teddy Bear bouquets, Arlene’s Flowers seems an unlikely spot to trigger a culture-war skirmish.

Until recently, the Richland, Washington, shop was better known for its artistic arrangements than its stance on same-sex marriage.

But in March, Barronelle Stutzman, the shop’s 68-year-old proprietress, refused to provide wedding flowers for a longtime customer who was marrying his partner. Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in December.

An ardent evangelical, Stutzman said she agonized over the decision but couldn’t support a wedding that her faith forbids.

“I was not discriminating at all,” she said. “I never told him he couldn’t get married. I gave him recommendations for other flower shops.”

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson disagreed, and filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers. The ACLU also sued on behalf of the customer, Robert Ingersoll, who has said Stutzman’s refusal “really hurt, because it was someone I knew.”

Among conservative Christians, Stutzman has become a byword - part cautionary tale and part cause celebre.

Websites call her a freedom fighter. Tributes fill Arlene’s Facebook page. Donations to her legal defense fund pour in from as far away as Texas and Arkansas.

“For some reason, her case has made a lot of people of faith worry,” said Stutzman’s lawyer, Dale Schowengerdt of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group.

Those anxieties have only increased, conservative Christians say, since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and opened the door to gay marriage in California.

Taking a line from Justice Antonin Scalia's sharp dissent, Southern Baptist scholar Albert Mohler said it’s only a matter of time "before the other shoe drops" – and the high court legalizes same-sex marriage from coast to coast.

“Christians will have to think hard — and fast — about these issues and our proper response,” Mohler wrote on Wednesday.

“We will have to learn an entire new set of missional skills as we seek to remain faithful to Christ in this fast-changing culture.”

His fellow Southern Baptist Russell Moore put the matter more succinctly.

“Same-sex marriage is coming to your community.”

`The debate is over'

Well before the Supreme Court’s rulings, many conservative Christians said they saw the writing - or the poll numbers - on the wall.

Survey after survey shows increasing support for same-sex marriage, especially among young Americans. That includes many religious believers.

Most Catholics and mainline Protestants, not to mention many Jews, support same-sex relationships, according to surveys. The bells of Washington National Cathedral pealed in celebration on Thursday.

Even among those who oppose gay marriage, many think it’s a losing battle.

Seventy percent of white evangelicals believe that legal recognition for gay nuptials is inevitable, according to a June poll by the Pew Research Center, though just 22 percent favor it.

“The gay marriage debate is over,” said Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical writer on faith and culture. “Statistically, all the numbers move in one direction.”

Young Christians have grown up in a far more diverse culture than their forebears, Merritt noted, and many have befriended gays and lesbians.

Pew found that more than 90 percent of Americans overall personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, a 30 percent increase since 1993.

“It’s far easier to wage war against an agenda than it is to battle a friend,” Merritt said.

At the same time, many conservative young Christians say they’re weary of the culture wars, and of seeing their communities labeled “judgmental.”

When Christian researchers at the Barna Group asked Americans aged 16-29 what words best describe Christianity, the top response was “anti-homosexual.” That was true of more than 90 percent of non-Christians and 80 percent of churchgoers, according to Barna.

Tired of being told the country is slouching toward Gomorrah, many young Christians have simply tuned out the angry prophets of earlier generations, evangelical leaders say.

“The shrill angry voices of retrenchment are no longer getting a broad hearing either in the culture at large or in the evangelical community,” Merritt said.

But the battle over same-sex marriage is far from over, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

“I don’t believe most Christians are going to give up the fight,” said Brown, who is Catholic. He said his movement includes many young evangelical and Orthodox Christians.

“And they are more energized than ever.”

Love thy gay neighbors

Energized or not, conservative Christians must prepare for the moral dilemmas posed by the country’s growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, said Moore, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“Is Your Church Ready for the Marriage Revolution?” Moore asked, while promoting a special session on homosexuality at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston in June.

Many evangelical pastors have seen homosexuality as a distant culture-war battle that’s fought far from the doors of the churches, Moore said.

Now, it’s as close as their front pews.

“I think it’s not so much that churches haven’t wanted to talk about it,” he said, “but they haven’t recognized how much the culture has changed around them.”

The first step, said Moore, is learning to defend traditional marriage without demonizing gays and lesbians.

Walking through Washington’s Union Station last Thursday, Moore said he saw several lesbian couples kissing in celebration of the Supreme Court rulings.

“If we can’t empathize with what’s going on in their hearts and minds, we’re not going to be able to love and respect them.”

Then come a host of secondary questions: How should conservative pastors minister to same-sex couples? Should Christians attend same-sex weddings? Should florists like Barronelle Stutzman's agree to work with gay couples?

`Don't give in' 

Florist Barronelle Stutzman.

In the 17 years she’s owned Arlene’s Flowers, Stutzman said, she’s worked with a number of gay colleagues.

“It really didn’t matter if they were gay, or blue or green, if they were creative and could do the job,” she said.

Stutzman suspects that some of her eight children privately don’t agree with her on homosexuality, even as they publicly support her decision.

Online, Stutzman has been called a bigot, and worse.

She said she’s lost at least two weddings because of her refusal to provide services for the same-sex marriage.

Conservative activists say her case is the first of what will surely be many more, as gay marriage spreads across the country.

As she gets ready to face a judge, the silver-haired florist offered some advice for fellow evangelicals.

“Don’t give in. If you have to go down for Christ, what better person to go down for?”

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Discrimination • Faith • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Politics • Religious liberty • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (5,210 Responses)
  1. smort

    No Blacks allowed. Ring a bell, (your image of) Christ followers? Ain't no gods, not yours or anyone else's. We live and die just like all other things. Here, then gone. Face up to it.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Elliot – I hold 2 college degrees, and own my own home. I agree with the poster, 100%. So now what?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  2. FloydZepp

    When Christian researchers at the Barna Group asked Americans aged 16-29 what words best describe Christianity, the top response was “anti-h0ms3xual.” That was true of more than 90 percent of non-Christians and 80 percent of churchgoers, according to Barna.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  3. Cambridge Ray

    FAR CONSERVATIVE == IMMORAL

    June 30, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  4. Joe

    Wow, this subject has some heated views. To me it's very simple to understand. I live my life the way I beleive I should. I don't try to run the lives of others. I believe that Yahshua is my savior NO one else. NOT Jesus, Allah, Budda or, Chrisna. Now you have a choice to believe me or not. I can not and will not try to force you to believe me. Neither could you trying to force me to change my mind. You have the right to say what you feel. You may think I'm right or not. In most cases people will not investigate to see if I'm right. Instead jump to what they know to be true say that I'm wrong and attach me. That's the problem, we don't want to let people live their lives.

    You can tell them how you feel about it but leave it there. If it doesn't effect you then why should it bother you? Let them live their lives the way they want to. And you live your life the way you see fit.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • lol??

      What if I'm from the Orient and can't pronounce "Yahshua"??

      June 30, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Gene

      So, if we know the truth we should hide it from others? I don't think so. I'd like to see as many of you in Heaven as possible.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • MarylandBill

      If you believe in Jesus (or as your pretentious denomination likes to call him, Yashuha... even though they are simply different forms of the same Name), then you should also realize that we have an obligation as Christians to spread the Gospel. That is true whether you are Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, etc.

      And mind you, this isn't just about Christians telling others how to live their lives, this is about the others telling the Christians how to live their lives (i.e., you must take certain types of business).

      June 30, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Marc

      I'll bet you think your "God" is the only God - somehow they all do too.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Alias

      @marlandbill
      Telling someone to follow the rules of business is NOT telling them how to live their lives.
      You can't refuse to serve black people either.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Joey

      I'm pretty sure everyone alive in America has heard of Jesus, so if you want to spread his gospel you should try another country because at this point is just annoying.

      July 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  5. Jerry Hoefen

    This will be end of church ,people who beleive in god will loose faith . Marrage will come to end then family as we know will scease to exist all because of some judges who taken the word freedom out context an ruin entire nation under god

    June 30, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • MalcomR

      moron.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Observer

      Jerry,

      lol. Get serious.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Julie

      Sorry Jerry, but mathematicians have calculated that religion as we know it will have only a very small minority of followers with in 100 years. You can stop intellectual progress.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • lol??

      Nah, the Beast won't give up its dominion over marriage without a war. However, after Martial Law is declared, I doubt it will care about ANY kinds of rights.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • JR

      Maybe you should move to Iran.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Alias

      We can only hope that your churches will finally die off.
      If your church teaches prejudice and intollerance, maybe you should think about changing churches.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Hope

      Funny Julie how the bible says the same thing will happen.

      June 30, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      It *sort of* resembles English, but I wouldn't swear to it......

      July 1, 2013 at 5:05 am |
  6. Liz Rumpz

    Jule, please let me know your business or address and I will never go to it.
    This is what it's going to come to. It's not enough that the gay community is able to marry. Businesses should have the right to refuse to serve people based on their religious beliefs. I can see it coming. The gay community will be soon fighting for the right to marry in a Catholic or otherwise Christian Church. I say to them, go form your own church and set up your own flowershop. You can ban all Christians because non of us will want to visit anyway.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • GTA

      Good advice regarding setting up one's own church. You'll be able to collect money, influence political issues from the pulpit and pay absolutely no taxes.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  7. Bilbo

    Moral dilemma? What's changed? If your morals change because of politics you never had morals to begin with.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Alias

      THIS! I agree 100%

      June 30, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  8. TexasTexasTexas

    The mental illness is Christianity. Judgemental idiots. Meanest, most vile people I know. Truly, It's no different than high school kids holding in to believing in Santa Claus.

    It's not anyones business what other people do in their bedroom or who they do it with. And it's not my business who other other people marry. My business is my own marriage.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • JJ

      It's because Talibangelicals are basically bullies and are always obsessed with spreading their virus onto others and how others live.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • MalcomR

      amen

      June 30, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Bilbo

      "The mental illness is Christianity. Judgemental idiots"

      Hypocrite.

      ." Meanest, most vile people I know. Truly, It's no different than high school kids holding in to believing in Santa Claus. "

      Unless you can explain how everything that is came to be, you must place high faith in yourself to deny that their may be something superior and beyond your understanding.

      "It's not anyones business what other people do in their bedroom or who they do it with. And it's not my business who other other people marry. My business is my own marriage."

      When you begin to influence the children of others then it becomes their business.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Gene

      Maybe if they left their bedroom business in the bedroom it wouldn't be such a public issue.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Terry

      Wow...hate much yourself there???? 82% of America believes in God in one form or another and over half of them claim to be Christian including myself. Christian has become a hateful term when in fact most Christians are doing their best to help people out and if it was not for churches and the very Christians you hate most hunger programs and treatment programs would dry up. Get a clue before you lump everyone into one.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • tak07

      I'm tired of this whole GBLT crap. As long as this does not lead to churches "being forced to marry GBLT" – then fine. I use to support GBLT rights I mean completely behind it (no pun intended) – but not any more. The next gay dude that checks me out – I'm going to do the exact same thing a lesbian does to me 90% of the time. I'm Christian and apparently I'm vile and hateful, and don't understand science. Oh I'm also a minority so – I am dependent on your income. And no I did not vote for Obama.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  9. bajadelmar

    What CONservatives have is an intelligence dilemma. Couple that with their pathological lying ways to promote their beliefs and this is they're left with. A failing party with most of the country moving away from their fringe teabagger rhetoric.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Gene

      Your comment lacks truth.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  10. Skeeve

    It is always amusing to observe conservatives to have what they think are "moral" dilemmas. Very entertaining !

    June 30, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Guess we could all be libs and not have any morals.....

      June 30, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • bajadelmar

      Or you could be a pathological lying CONservative and continually claim to be soooo moral when you're not remotely close. People like you seem to think if you say something enough times it becomes the truth.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Elliott, tell your morals to evangelicals that get multiple divorces and spit in Jesus' face.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  11. Gant

    You religious bashers need to tone it down. These religious drones serve their assigned role.
    Atheists are expensive and cite OSHA regulations.

    Cave-ins, scaffolding collapses and equipment mishaps are all deemed "God's will" by the
    Christards and keep the costs down. Praise Jesus!! Remember, Jesus was a contractor
    before he started the Messiah trade.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  12. FloydZepp

    Tired of being told the country is slouching toward Gomorrah, many young Christians have simply tuned out the angry prophets of earlier generations, evangelical leaders say.
    ---
    So true.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  13. No way Atheists!!

    So now these ldiots will demand for flower shops to support their marriage?? FREAK'N lDIOTS!!

    June 30, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Observer

      No way,

      Speaking of idiots, she is breaking a law.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • AGeek

      So, you're saying she'd be equally within her rights to refuse service to a "person of color" or perhaps anyone over the age of 65? You'd best learn the law, lest you find yourself on the very expensive losing end of discrimination.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Breaking a law?

      We'll all assume then you support the deportation of all illegal aliens.

      Didn't think so....

      June 30, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  14. JJ

    What hypocrisy. Your "bible" says some horrible things, like women being stoned to death if they are not virgins when they get married. You pick and choose what you like and discard the rest, as if anyone would buy such an idiotic philosophy. That's why no one respects you chumps.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      You don't seem to understand the difference between moral and ceremonial law. OLD vs NEW testaments...law/grace..
      that's why no one respects you secularist chumps when you spew ignorance about anything Scriptural.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • FloydZepp

      And Elliott, Jesus NEVER made any rulings on H0m0s3xuality. So if you reject the OT then there are no rulings. You don't even know your own Bible.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • bajadelmar

      @Elliott Carlin Oh yes it's US that don't understand. LOL Do you dolts understand just who makes up the scientific community in this country zippy??? I guess not with that pea-sized brain of yours chump.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Melissa Smith

      You obviously don't know the Bible if you think we pick and choose. It is a complex history with a story, not a book of rules from which we pick and choose. I have a college degree, my pastor husband has several, including two doctorates from respected universities. Our beliefs are not happenstance or bias. The only thing I hate is ignorance from bigoted liberals who judge what I believe because I disagree with them. The only people who have limited freedom in this country anymore are Christians and you only hate us because you are allowing a few hateful loudmouths to represent all of us. I don't hate anyone whose lifestyle is different than mine. Most Christians I know are loving to everyone, have friends who are not Christians and work among people who they don't agree with but still like and respect them. Get to know a few more people before you develop a prejudice based on how the liberal media represents us.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  15. to each their own

    the sad thing is, people won't let people they do not agree with have their own opinion or beliefs. I am not religious, but I do not condemn someone who is unless they push their beliefs onto me. I'm sorry but our government needs to stop using religion in it's decisions. It makes things that much more difficult. The magic man you all believe in would want happiness for you people, not all this finger pointing and fighting over whom is correct. It's so sad.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  16. ls

    The fact that you would compare gays to white supremicists shows the height ignorance and bigotry.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  17. Melinda

    Well she had no moral issues with taking the"longtime customer" money in the past.
    How nice that she refrained from telling him not to marry that was the "christian" in her!

    June 30, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Uh, she sounds much more courteous than you.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  18. Team chaos

    There are democrats that do not approve why write a story and attack one side or the other just because someone is a democrat doesn't mean they agree with this.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • FloydZepp

      No mention of politics in the article.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • to each their own

      thank you!!! It's such a mess these days. No one is allowed to have an opinion it seems. Only if one agrees with them. This world would be so much better if people weren't so scared of everything. Good grief!

      June 30, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  19. Pinkontheinside

    An incorrect assumption to think there are no Christian or Jewish democrats. This article is obviously biased and written by CNN's typical sensationalist robots..

    June 30, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      The majority of the bigots are on the extreme right. Sure Dems have some bigots as well, but they are small compared to the right wing extremists.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  20. Joan

    Since weddings and funerals are the biggest time for flowers, if she is that much against gays, she should not do any flowers for funerals either. As a christian with a gay son, God made him in His image, therefore hate and prejudice is not accceptable anytime. It does not matter if I agree or disagree with gay marriage, but it does matter that as the Bible says, I love everyone one, love the sinner and hate the sin. I hope she reads more of the Bible and sees that using God to be discrimitive is not what God intended.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Andrew

      I'm afraid that the word "hate" does not apply in this context. The shop-owner states that it was a difficult decision for her.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.