The head scratching you see over Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed nondiscrimination ordinance (see the cover story) is but one more example of Christian negligence in civic duty.
What more could be deduced when only 13 percent of eligible voters turned out last November to re-elect, for a third term, the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city, who was intent on liberalizing her city’s social policies? One could support, theoretically, a lesbian conservative who didn’t have an ax to grind, provided she was the best available choice. But this was different.
Houston’s Union Association has 500-plus churches, some of the largest of which have thousands of members living in Houston proper. And I’m not including other theologically conservative congregations outside our fold. Where’s the electoral beef?
In San Antonio, with 1.4 million people, only 29,454 votes were cast last May in an election that gave a third term to Mayor Julian Castro, who championed a LGBT-tilted nondiscrimination ordinance passed last summer despite the courageous efforts of a few Christian leaders.
Houston’s Parker, taking a cue from Castro, must have been emboldened. Rumors flew last fall that such an ordinance, which expands existing civil rights protections covering all Americans to include new categories of sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status, would be coming soon.
The Houston Area Pastor Council tried to get the word and the vote out, but to little success.
So untethered to political consequences in her third term, Parker quickly moved to issue a directive to the city’s human resources director a few weeks after the last election that “same-sex spouses of employees who have been legally married in another jurisdiction be afforded the same benefits as spouses of a heterosexual marriage”—a move that violates the Texas Constitution and is on hold pending a lawsuit.
All this while federal politicians try to deal with the gummy mess known as Obamacare that is now stuck to our proverbial shoe. That gummy mess—if left as is—will force Christian parachurch ministries to provide contraceptive coverage that includes abortion-causing drugs or at least subsidizes those plans, remember? Private businesses, which have less of a legal leg to stand on, might have a steeper hill to climb regarding the HHS mandate. Just ask the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of more than 500 arts and crafts stores, if staying home on election day has deleterious consequences.
The turnout in the 2012 presidential election was figured at 58.2 percent of eligible voters, with 2008 around 62 percent. How many of the 40 or so percent of eligible voters who stayed home in those elections are in your church pews?
The meaningful abortion-restricting measure that pro-life legislators and Gov. Perry last summer pushed across the finish line was a poignant reminder that civic duty beckons and is worthwhile.
Across the board, Texas is still a mostly conservative state despite efforts to turn it blue. But righteous laws don’t just happen because good intentions outweigh bad ones in the hearts and minds of citizens. Couch potatoes lose; those who choose “The Voice” over just 10 minutes of daily news are amusing all of us to death.
Scripture puts it simply: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
It requires practicing our civic duty in this truly exceptional republican democracy. America is still the last best hope for man on earth as far as human devices go. Until Christ rules as king here, God has blessed us with an unusual ability to have a say in our society.
Romans 13, set in a less generous civic context than what we have, applies also in a government by the people and for the people. We are subjects to the governing laws and those who execute them, but the governing authorities are subject to us. What a blessed irony, if we only took the time to be informed and act accordingly.
One of the graces of America is radical religious liberty. From here, we can speak freely, share our stories, our convictions, our hope in Jesus, and preach his Word unfettered by censors. We stand to win the lost if we choose to work in the harvest as Christ commanded.
Also from here, we can launch missionaries and missions enterprises the world over—all because we operate from a position of strength, to wit, our freedom and our prosperity.
But shame on us if we squander that freedom and prosperity.
Some local elections are scheduled for May 10, with primary runoff elections May 27. Get informed and vote.