For convenience, I will reproduce the brief “Archbishop’s Statement on the Supreme Court Decision on the Definition of Marriage” here:
An extremely divided court reflects an extremely divided nation. Equal rights under the law is a bedrock commitment of the United States of America and can often be accomplished by creative legislation. Nevertheless, the definition of marriage long pre-dates the United States and is a given of the created order. The motto of the United States is “One Nation under God.” The Christian Church has followed a Lord who meets people where they are, and who loves them regardless of their challenges. The Church has countered the culture throughout most of its history. We find ourselves, both sadly and increasingly, in this position in a nation once seen as a “light upon a hill,” and a “hope of all the earth.”I want to comment on this statement line-by-line.
An extremely divided court reflects an extremely divided nation.The nation is indeed divided on the matter of same-sex marriage, but it is rapidly becoming less so. The trend is toward greater acceptance of same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court is divided, with the majority on the court generally representing minority opinion in the country at large. The 5–4 opinion in United States v. Windsor is about par for the course these days.
Equal rights under the law is a bedrock commitment of the United States of America and can often be accomplished by creative legislation.This odd statement is a transition to a justification for unequal rights. Presumably, the archbishop thought DOMA creative and proper, not discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.
Nevertheless, the definition of marriage long pre-dates the United States and is a given of the created order.As did the Roman Catholic bishops, Duncan appeals to the view that marriage has been defined by God and cannot legitimately be altered by humans. He alludes to this argument without actually making it because he is writing for his committed followers, not for the world at large.
The motto of the United States is “One Nation under God.”This is another allusion, rather than an argument. Moreover, it is a non sequitur disconnected from what came before and what follows. Duncan refers to the belief that the United States of America was founded as a “Christian nation.” Not only is this not true, but it is not even plausible. The founders wanted nothing to do with a king, and they surely were unsympathetic to an established church that was an extension of the crown. The motto of the United States, by the way, is “In God we trust,” which was adopted in 1956, at the height of the Cold War. A better motto in every way is “E pluribus unum,” which is found on the Great Seal of the United States but which was never officially declared our national motto. (See “A Matter of Mottos.”)
The Christian Church has followed a Lord who meets people where they are, and who loves them regardless of their challenges.This is a kind of love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin statement that, in any case, seems to be moving far afield from comment on the decision of the Supreme Court. The first part of the sentence is fair enough, but the notion of “a Lord … who loves [people] regardless of their challenges” is very odd. Jesus did make a point of loving people dealing with illness, possession (mental illness?), or even death. One might call such problems challenges, but that is unconventional usage. Duncan seems reluctant to suggest that gay people are sinful and therefore refers to them as “challenged.” Mostly, of course, they are challenged by the malice of Christian bigots.
The Church has countered the culture throughout most of its historyLacking any real criticism of the Supreme Court—did any clear-thinking American believe DOMA was constitutional?—Duncan asserts the Church’s virtue. The Church’s mission is not to “counter” culture, however, but to represent justice and mercy as best it understands it. Culture is not always wrong, and the Church is not always right. Duncan’s sentence here is not transparently true, and I suspect that many historians would consider it false.
We find ourselves, both sadly and increasingly, in this position in a nation once seen as a “light upon a hill,” and a “hope of all the earth.”I’m not sure exactly what Duncan means by “countering” the culture—I thought that was what the sixties hippies did—but I suppose he means holding a different view from the generally accepted one and making that view known. As long as ACNA’s doctrine is considered to be unchanging truth, it is indeed likely to be progressively more out-of-step with modern society, with the most enlightened aspects of it, in any case. The suggestion that the nation was “once seen as a ‘light upon a hill,’ and a ‘hope of all the earth’” suggests that Duncan, at one time, didn’t feel quite so much need for countering. The “light upon a hill” alludes to John Winthrop’s famous sermon and has become a common assertion of American exceptionalism. “Hope of all the earth”, however, is very curious. Duncan uses it to refer to the United States, but I have always seen it applied to Jesus. Perhaps this causes no cognitive dissidence if one buys into the America-founded-as-a-Christian-country myth.
On reflection, the Duncan statement may not be on the ACNA Web site because it does not even rise to ACNA’s standard of coherence. Certainly, the archbishop succeeds in making the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops look good by comparison.