Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hollingsworth v. Perry: Truth and Silence

Cordell Asbenson, a former Generation Joshua intern and current intern at the Family Research Council, had the privilege of sitting in on the Supreme Court's landmark hearing on gay marriage (Hollingsworth v. Perry). This is his story. *cue epic music*

Cordell with his pass for the Supreme Court
Two weekends ago, I was making plans to spend several days in line on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court waiting for the opportunity to be one of the 70 privileged members of the public allowed in to hear oral arguments. While every decision by the Supreme Court is important, the case I was hoping to hear was special. The oral argument was on a law passed in 2008 in California called Proposition 8 – a constitutional amendment in California that was passed by voters and defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The ruling in this case, no matter which way it goes, will be arguably in the ten most important Supreme Court decisions of all time. Needless to say I knew it would be historic for America. What I didn't know was that it would also change my life.

I got in line at the Supreme Court at 10 pm on Saturday and settled in for a long, cold, and overall unpleasant night of sleep. The next morning, something happened that I should have expected, but had not adequately prepared for: the other people in line. My friend and roommate, Lance, was asked questions by several gay men and activists on what he believed on the issue.  They began to talk to him about Scripture, and he answered their questions simply with, “where in the Bible does God talk about gay marriage in a positive light?” That defused their arguments and they changed the subject. This set the stage for what would turn into one of the most intense exercises in defending truth I have ever faced, even in my years of debating.

Lance and I were approached that day by several members of the media. We refused interviews to all of them because we are interns and did not want to say something that would put our organization in a difficult position with the media. On Sunday, however, after a night of sleeping in the snow, our internship director showed up and told us to take all the interviews we could get. By the end of the next two days, the group of interns and I were interviewed over 50 times by media outlets from around the United States: Fox, CNN, NPR, The Washington Post, The LA Times, and ABC, just to name a few. We also were interviewed by international media from Germany, England (the BBC), and Portugal. The reason we were popular wasn't hard to figure out – we were the only ones in line willing to talk about being in support of biblical marriage.

The week leading up to the Supreme Court decision, I was uncomfortable discussing gay marriage with people who disagreed with what God says. I felt as though I would be quickly shot down because my arguments, while true, were perceived as foolish to them. They would just say, “why not just let gay people have the blessing of marriage, it isn’t REALLY hurting anyone,” and then brush me off. Though their arguments are false and the implications of allowing gays and lesbians to marry are far reaching both morally and socially, I felt like speaking out was pointless. But truth is never useless.

Something God has been teaching me over the last few months is that the reactions I feared were exactly what I ought to expect from the world. Think of Noah, or the prophets, or even the disciples. They spoke the truth and the world hated them for it. But they did not care for what people believed about them, only what God had called them to and God blessed them for it. This hatred and mockery, however, should not come as a surprise to us. Jesus says in John 15:18-25:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.”
I came to the point in the week, before the oral arguments, where I realized that I would be considered foolish by the media, and most of the people in line, for speaking the truth. I would be attacked, I would be laughed at, I would be considered intolerant, and unloving. But I knew what God had called me to do. The interns and I were not there to make these people feel good, or comfortable, we were there to speak the truth, no matter what it cost.

It was not easy, especially at first. But soon we all realized the importance of what we were doing and took every interview we could. We talked to reporters from gay magazines, we spoke directly into cameras with lights shining in our faces and told the reporters we were Christians. We then said that same sex marriage is morally wrong and that socially, gay marriage would destroy marriage. In one interview, when I told the reporter I was a Christian, he asked that I stand next to a gay man and tell him on the record what I believed, so I did. But I did so in a way that was not attacking him but simply telling him that he was violating morality and that society would be hurt if he got what he wanted.

Truth is not relative. We do not get to choose to speak a message that is hedonistic, or tolerant. We have been given the truth by Christ and we are called to share it. We do not need to be afraid, however, Jesus tells His disciples in Luke that they don’t have to worry about what they will say when giving defense to the authorities of their time. How much more, are we to be bold when telling the truth to our neighbors, or our friends and family members? If we want society to change, we can no longer afford to keep silent about the truth. Although it can be hard, and sometimes uncomfortable, we must be bold and speak the truth in love.

But this is only what happened leading up to Tuesday. The day of the hearing would teach me one more lesson...

(Check out part 2 here!)

by Cordell Asbenson


  1. That is really good!! Thanks for sharing that story :) We must NOT be silent in the face of being hated. We need strong, calm, sanity!!

  2. Thank you for standing and sleeping in the cold for the truth about marriage, and especially for speaking your beliefs to anyone willing to hear them. You and the other interns are brave in all respects, and I salute you. Cathy Ruse, Senior Fellow for Legal Studies, Family Research Coucnil