Will Tennessee Be on the ‘Right Side of History’?

On April 28th, Tennessee will be in the spotlight nationally and maybe even globally. It will be referenced in one of the most prominent chapters that will ever be written about the history of the United States. On that day the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments concerning the constitutionality of Tennessee marriage law. Who in that courtroom will be on the “right side of history”?

The “right side of history” is an argument often heard these days against those of us who insist that marriage is a real thing, much like the “rules” for reasoning and speech are real things, real structures for thinking and communicating. And just like a real sentence requires a subject and a verb, marriage requires a man and a woman, real qualities rooted in the biology of x- and y-chromosomes that no surgery, style of apparel, or state of mind can alter.

Supposedly we who believe this way are on the wrong side of history. But that’s a bit of tricky rhetoric. When does “history” end such that we will know what it proves? History isn’t measured like a game in which each side’s points are finally tallied once the final buzzer sounds and the winner declared.

In our generation, in which the immediate present is seemingly all that matters, it may be that by the end of June, when the Supreme Court rules, those who believe as I do will be said to be on the wrong side of “history.”

However, Supreme Court rulings are not the “final buzzer” when it comes to whether one is on the right or wrong side of history. Even the decisions of the Supreme Court don’t often stand the test of time. For example, the Dred Scott decision put slavery on the right side of history, for a while. Plessy v. Ferguson put “separate but equal” on the right side of history, for a time.

What history shows us—even as in the case of the Supreme Court decisions cited—is that the right and wrong side of history is a matter of ethics, not chronology. Right and wrong, and the truth that measures them, are the things that stand the test of time. Truth always wins out and the wrong always gives way to the right, even though it may take hundreds of years for what’s true and therefore right to regain its rightful place in the minds of the people.

And therefore, for me at least, if I’m going to take seriously the various propositions set forth in the Bible, I can’t really be worried about the “right side of history” argument. I can’t worry about it, because I believe that the Creator God revealed in the Bible is the Author of history, and He unalterably moves it toward His appointed ends.

But in regard to those “ends,” Scripture tells me that the “end” of His creation—His intention for it—was that it reflect His glory, which means that what He created had to be consistent with who He is. Anything other than that would have fallen “short” of His glory; it would have been “beneath Him,” we might way.

In that regard, I’m told that God made the human race male and female, because together there is a complementariness to their coming together that reflects the completeness of who He is. Two people of the same sex coming together can never reflect this purpose of God, and, therefore, He “naturally” sees it as our rebellion against His intention.

The fearful thing is that He also has told us He will not allow us to rebel against Him in this (or in any other thing) forever. He could not be just if He did. Thankfully, He did provide a way for us to be made just, and that is why for centuries the cross was the marker by which we measured history. So, I believe that in time the truth about how God has made us and how He intended us to come together will prevail.

Of course, my view of marriage is the minority position these days; however, what today we call orthodox Christianity was also the “minority position” 2,000 years ago. And that’s enough historical proof for me to believe that I should not be too worried about the right side of history argument. History’s in the hands of Someone I can trust it to.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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