PERKINS: Chris Christie Goes Downstream from Courage
No one has ever accused Chris Christie of being a bastion of social conservatism. But when the former New Jersey governor announced last Thursday that he’d embraced same-sex marriage, the shift was noteworthy — not because of what it says about politicians, but what it reveals about the church.
The self-described Catholic, who made the declaration at a presidential townhall event, talked about his evolution as “a process.” Christie explained that he first had to change his thinking about how he’d been raised on marriage “from a religious perspective and … what my church taught me to believe.” Now, after years of standing on the side of truth, the 2024 candidate is ready to shed those convictions. “I don’t have any objection to it any longer,” he said of same-sex marriage. “In the end, I think I’ve been convinced.”
Christie tried to rationalize the change as part of being “a thinking, breathing human being.” “My hope is that you can hold certain opinions at one time — and hold them genuinely. And I did,” he said, before pointing at the Catholic Church’s mixed messaging as justification for abandoning truth. “Look, this past week or two, Pope Francis is now allowing blessings of same-sex couples. Even the church is changing.”
As weak as Chris Christie has been on core values, his rationale should be a wake-up call. For starters, he stated, “My opinion is changing.” But the definition of marriage isn’t rooted in opinion; it’s rooted in the Word of God. So frankly, our views shouldn’t factor into any of these issues. Instead, we rely on God’s stated, revealed truth — and it’s authoritative. As a follower of Christ, we can either embrace His Word or reject it. There’s no third option, where our opinion can contradict God and somehow co-exist with His truth.
That’s the unfortunate reality for Christie and so many others who’ve fallen into this dangerous trap of believing that they can claim Christ while joining society’s open rebellion against God and His word. Humans change, the world changes, but Scripture never does. And yet, as my good friend Dr. Albert Mohler pointed out on “Washington Watch,” “How will people in our culture recognize this if this is not clearly preached from the pulpits?”
We’re living in a day and age when the church isn’t providing the moral clarity our confused world needs. The governor himself leaned on the pope’s muddled statement on the blessing of same-sex couples as an excuse for walking away from God’s design on marriage. But how can the church possibly bless something that’s sin? As Dr. Mohler told me, it can’t — “not without sinning itself and becoming complicit in sin.” In this instance, he said, “the pope himself is to blame for the muddle in the Roman Catholic Church on this issue. But Chris Christie has been evolving on this long before the pope. The pope was a very convenient hook for him to hang his most recent politically correct position.”
When the church stops declaring and defending God’s truth on sexuality, it isn’t just the divine creation of marriage that pastors are destroying but also, Mohler warns, “the picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.” “You haven’t just messed up a cultural institution. You’re messing up a picture of the gospel. And people need to be very alert to what’s going on here.”
Politics is downstream from the culture, and culture is downstream from the church. So when pastors don’t want to talk about these issues because they “just want to preach the gospel,” they need to realize that this is a part of preaching the gospel! It’s the full counsel of God. And if the church vacillates on the truth or goes silent, where will society turn? When the world has tried everything else and looks for real answers, are they going to turn back to the place that was afraid to speak truth to them? Almost certainly not.
That’s not to say there aren’t faithful pastors in churches across the nation standing on God’s Word. There are, and we ought to encourage them in their boldness. But very often, when I go to the Hill to meet with elected officials, they want to know, “Why do preachers want us to vote on issues and discuss issues on TV that they won’t speak about from the pulpit?”
It’s a fair question. We need pastors of courage and conviction faithfully declaring and defending God’s truth. The church should not be swimming in the water downstream from culture. Unless we start standing on something unchanging, we’re all going to end up like Chris Christie: adrift. Because once we surrender on marriage, once we’ve pierced that veil of denying the truth of God, there’s no telling how deep the stain of compromise will go.
Tony Perkins is president of Family Research Council and executive editor of The Washington Stand.