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
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(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. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    'Brace' yourselves for something that is essentially none of your business... but be prepared to use your inalienable rights to crush somebody else's rights... It's what Jesus would have wanted (but failed to mention)

    May 28, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
  2. awanderingscot


    May 28, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
    • awanderingscot

      very poetic yet very sad..

      May 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
      • tallulah131

        So some guy wrote some uninformed, judgmental dross in the pretense that he is speaking for others. No wonder you find that poetic. Personally, I think the guy's a jerk, pining for the old days when it was okay to hate people because the bible tells you so.

        May 28, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          i don't care about your opinion

          May 28, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
        • tallulah131

          Yet you post on an open blog, then comment on your own post. You invite comment. Boo hoo for you if it's not what you want to hear.

          May 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
        • Doris

          Of course you don't care, snotty. why would a self-righteous jerk such as yourself care about anything a rational person has to say.

          May 28, 2014 at 2:20 pm |

    This is totally insane....WOW Evangelarry... it always boggle my mind when I come upon this kind of nothing useless crap.

    December 30, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • awanderingscot

      Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. – Romans 1:24-27, NKJV

      May 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
      • hotairace

        Therefore some alleged but never proven god allegedly gave. . .

        May 28, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
        (1 Corinthians 7:9)

        May 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
      • igaftr

        The truth is that you do not know if any of the bible is true.
        Much of it has been proven wrong, enough to cast doubts on the rest. NONE of the supernatural claims, including anything about "god" can be verified. THAT is the truth.

        May 28, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        i do and many others do as well. i don't care about your opinion

        May 28, 2014 at 2:17 pm |
        • Doris

          Polly want a communion wafer, dufus?

          May 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
        • Akira

          And the people finally achieving marriage equality are concerned about any of our opinions. They're just happy to finally be able to marry the person they love.

          May 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
        • igaftr

          There are a great many people who have convinced themselves the bible is true, but reality says it isn't, and that has been proven by science. The bible is the FALLIBLE word of men. No sign of any gods at all.

          The self delusion, ability to convince yourself of things is a well known phenomena, but you STILL refuse to see that is all your "knowing" really is. You WANT to believe, so you convince yourself it is true, without a single shred of evidence.
          Hilarious and sad at the same time.

          May 28, 2014 at 2:33 pm |

    Conservatives brace for `marriage revolution'...............

    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLLOLO....the conservatives are ALWAYS BRACING for something...... WHY?

    Because they are ALWAYS behind the curve.....conservative means to conserve which means staying where you are or going backwards....which they always do...that's why they make LOSER LEADERS....its impossible to lead from behind.

    December 30, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  5. Evangelarry

    Jesus said, the earth will once again be just as in the days of Noah and the days of Lot. And those days are slowly being fulfilled one nation and one state at a time that approves of sin. And when the days of Noah and the days of Lot are completely fulfilled, then Jesus will return.

    For the folks who don't believe in the Bible, let's use some common sense and look at the world right now to see if what Jesus is saying is true.

    Get a map of the world and color in red all of the Communist, Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic nations.
    Now color in red the 16 nations that approve of sin.
    Now color in red the 16 US states that approve of sin. And the latest poll has over 55% approval of sin.
    Now color in red the vast majority of Central and South America. Africa, Australia and Asia.

    And guess what, there are even more nations and over 20 US states that are also in legislation to approve of sin.

    Now, take another look at the world map. It is mostly covered in red, with the US being the last stronghold. And when the US is mostly covered in red, when sin overtakes the earth. The days of Noah and the days of Lot will be fulfilled, just as Jesus said that it would.

    And when those days are fulfilled, Jesus will return and 100's of millions of Christians will be raptured and it will be devastating on earth and to those who are left behind.

    Every day that goes by, the earth is slowly being overtaken by sin just as in the days in Noah and the days of Lot. Just keep coloring in red the nations and US states that will eventually approve of sin.

    And when the earth is covered mostly in red, then Jesus who cannot lie will return. Folks need to seek the Lord while He may be found before it is too late.

    December 18, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • WASP

      prove "sin".

      i simply see humans trying to live in peace.

      December 18, 2013 at 7:16 am |
      • Evangelarry

        The days of Noah was filled with godless people. People who sought pleasure rather than seek God.
        The days of Lot was filled with haughty people. Folks who were too proud to repent and proud of their sin.

        And the earth is slowly being overtaken by both, just as Jesus said that it would.

        December 18, 2013 at 7:35 am |
        • Watch the best moments from gay day


          December 18, 2013 at 7:47 am |
        • WASP

          which god? the jewish war-god yahweh? odin? ra?

          preachers and the like enjoy stupid people like you because you believe in the end is near and are willing to give hand over fist all your money to "show your devotion" to your god.
          yet your own book speaks against that very thing.

          December 18, 2013 at 7:57 am |
        • Faithful christian

          Dear God, my lord Jesus,

          You have taught us to love each other. You have taught us to love not only the one who we want to love but our enemies as well.
          Please forgive those christians who uses YOUR NAME to defame, grief, and call others sinners.

          "He who is without sin among you, let him {be the} first to throw a stone" –John 8:7
          Dear lord, please forgive those who doesn't know who they are to judge others.

          Deuteronomy 22:22 "If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die."
          Dear lord, please forgive those who doesn't know that not only gay people but all other people are subjects to death according to bible.

          Luke 16:18 "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
          Dear lord, please forgive us that almost 50% of Americans goes thru divorce and they think they should happily blame other people.

          Lord please, let me help you make the world better, as I forgive those christians who uses your name in such way, please forgive them.

          December 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
        • Evangelarry

          Jesus also commanded His followers to preach His gospel to all nations. And His gospel is repentance of sins unto salvation that leads to eternal life. Jesus said, No one will enter the kingdom of God unless they are "born again."

          Jesus said, many will say to Him on their day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, did we not do this or do that in your name etc etc. Jesus will say to these false Christians, depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you.

          Jesus will say this because these folks never repented of their sins and did not ask Him into their hearts to be their Savior and Lord. And they do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. They are not "born again."

          There are many false Christians, prophets and teachers in the world today. It is easy to spot them for they stand up for the approval of sin and they preach a false gospel of acceptance of sins.

          December 25, 2013 at 7:43 am |
        • NebbyMan

          This. This right here is why I left the church. Because I have personal beliefs. Beliefs that humans are generally good, that all people have the right to whatever faith or belief system that they choose, and that people should be able to choose their religion on their own. Christianity likes to do the exact opposite. Christianity says that all humans are sinners and generally bad, that anybody who isn't Christian will be punished eternally, and that the word of God must be taught (forced upon) the world.

          January 6, 2014 at 12:45 am |

      What you and many others fail to realize is that there NEVER was a person named Jesus...that is not even a name from the middle east.....there has been absolutely NO evidence of this person in the 1800 years people have believed him to have existed...NO eyewitnesses...NO ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE.....of any kind...yet people continue to believe because they think they'll go to a heaven that in 1800 years NO ONE has ever been able to explain where it is....why is that?????

      December 30, 2013 at 11:01 am |
      • outspoken91

        That is ridiculous. There are many accounts that Jesus was a real person.
        I sense you are a Troll.

        January 10, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
    • idiotusmaximus


      April 28, 2014 at 10:36 am |
    • Keith

      Anybody that waits 2000 years on someone is an id/ot

      August 20, 2014 at 10:39 pm |
  6. Maximus Anglicanus: The Old High Churchman

    Out-right discrimination is called for. This means a repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    December 1, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  7. Same

    Se-x marriages are legal starting Monday Dec 2nd 2013. in Hawaii.

    December 1, 2013 at 10:52 am |
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  10. 15th

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    • ckeev


      March 5, 2014 at 10:54 pm |
      • observernow


        Get used to it. Mindless bigotry like against blacks and women got beat by education and the same is OBVIOUSLY happening with bigotry against gays. The HYPOCRISY by many Christians is ending.

        March 5, 2014 at 11:00 pm |
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About this blog

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.