It’s been a year of bad news, and for conservative Christians the Supreme Court brought more bad news on Monday. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the legal definition of “sex” includes “sexual orientation and gender identity.” While it is still possible for religious liberty exemptions to be carved out by Congress, the ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County will have far-reaching consequences, including, Princeton’s Robert George says, “the eventual destruction of all-women’s sports.” Without explicit legal protections, religious institutions with traditional (read: what has been believed for most of Western history) convictions around homosexuality and transgenderism will likely face a torrent of litigation in the years ahead.
To add insult to injury for many conservatives, the majority opinion was written by Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s celebrated SCOTUS appointee (and note: many Republican Senators are backing the surprise ruling as well). The prospect of a Gorsuch-type justice was the reason many Christians voted for Trump. Many of those voters went to bed on Monday feeling disappointed and disillusioned. I am not making an argument whether it was right or wrong for Christians to vote for Trump in 2016 or whether they should or shouldn’t vote for him in 2020. My point is simply to remind evangelicals that politics and politicians will almost always disappoint. It’s always been a mistake to think we are one president or one Supreme Court justice away from a resounding victory in the culture war. Maybe there are more important ways to promote Christian virtue and preserve Christian orthodoxy in our world.
Some people take Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option to mean a wholesale retreat from the public square. That’s not the way of faithfulness. We must continue to make the case for Christian convictions and continue to be involved in politics, in higher education, in the media, and wherever else we can be a “faithful presence.” But retreat is not really the point of the Benedict Option. Dreher’s point has always been that we must recommit ourselves to strengthening alternative institutions, investing in counter-cultural church communities, and catechizing our own children.
Let me underscore the last item.
I am grateful for serious Christians involved in the political arena. What happens in D.C. matters. Elections have consequences. But families have more. To marshal our energies as if political victories were more important than strengthening the family is a decidedly un-conservative position. I’m not calling for abandoning politics, but I am asking the question, “What does it profit a man if he gets textualists on the Supreme Court but loses his own children?”
Here’s a culture war strategy conservative Christians should get behind: have more children and disciple them like crazy. Strongly consider having more children than you think you can handle. You don’t have to be a fertility maximalist to recognize that children are always lauded as a blessing in the Bible. Maybe on another occasion I’ll write about the triumph of birth control in the 20th century and how it happened with little theological reflection from the church, but for now let me at least nudge you in the direction of John Frame: “It seems to me that birth control is permissible in many situations, but it bears a high burden of proof. It can be a responsible choice, but is probably overused” (786).
As I’ve said before, in the not-too-distant future, the only couples replacing themselves in America will be religious couples. Although there are many good reasons to have a baby, at the end of the day, as Jonathan Last maintains, “there’s only one good reason to go through the trouble a second time: Because you believe, in some sense, that God wants you to” (170). The basic reason countries stop having children is because they’ve come to see offspring as a liability rather than a source of hope. As Christians, we know better.
Do you want to rebel against the status quo? Do you want people to ask you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)? Tote your brood of children through Target. There is almost nothing more counter-cultural than having more children. And once we have those children, there is almost nothing more important than catechizing them in the faith, developing their moral framework, and preparing them to be deeply compassionate lovers of God and lovers of people and relentlessly biblical lovers of truth.
I understand that being a good parent does not guarantee believing children. I understand that many couples will be unable to have all the children they want to have. We have to allow for God to work in mysterious ways that we would not have planned. And yet, in so far as we are able, let us welcome new life and give our children that best opportunity for new birth. Presidents and Supreme Court justices will come and go. A child’s soul will last forever.
The future belongs to the fecund. It’s time for happy warriors who seek to “renew the city” and “win the culture war” by investing in their local church, focusing on the family, and bringing the kingdom to bear on the world, one baby at a time.