I know the church well. My father is a minister; my grandparents were gospel singers until they were too old to sing. I was a poster child for our denomination at a young age, preaching by the time I was 16. It is this past and my love for my family that makes me worry about the future freedoms of the Christian church.

I have a fearful respect for the power of religion, and for the power of a well-spoken message to people who honestly want to please God. I will spare you personal details of my sick feeling when I realized how terribly wrong I had been, as if I had been given the cure for cancer only to find that the active ingredient was long taken out and replaced with a disgusting version of self-righteousness.

Instead, I will tell you why it would be wise for the portions of the Christian faith that are insistent on combating same-sex marriage to vote "no" on the marriage amendment. Not for the right reasons, not out of the love that they claim to be built upon -- but for reasons of self-preservation.

Whether you believe it or not, public opinion within the traditional Christian church is changing. You may disagree. You may refuse to accept it. But it is happening. Your numbers are down, way down. We could talk about how political leaders over the past 40 years used your desire for righteousness, for God's will, for the saving grace of the nation, for their own political agenda. We could discuss how it is really them that you should be mad at -- how they twisted your vision and made you forget your purpose.

Regardless, the church was set up for failure. Who would have thought that nobody wanted to be forced to believe something? That nobody wanted to be forced to live the way that their neighbors down the street lived -- neighbors who believe in a god that they don't believe in, neighbors they have no desire to be like, neighbors who have nothing the rest of us want.

And the scariest part? You are aging. Your average attendee will draw Social Security in the next 15 years. Your kids don't want to attend, and your college students are not coming back. The traditional church is like a modern day Samson, waking up to fight a deadly battle, completely oblivious that his strength has been taken from him while he slept, distracted from all that he really should have been doing.

Yes, this fight is going to cripple you. If you succeed, your victory soon will be overturned. Why? Because it should be. Nobody should be forced to live at the mercy of someone else's religious beliefs. This country was founded on that principle -- the principle that you should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Sometimes the majority gets it wrong, and the victims have to wait until social conscience figures it out. That is why we have separation of church and state. That is why we don't allow freedoms to be restricted by the majority.

In a few years, as your numbers continue to decline and homosexuals gain the sympathy of the majority, you will be the new target. The backlash will fall on those who led the fight against every gay man and woman, and the church will be the new victim of the majority. Of course, the term "victim" is used in as sympathetic a way possible for a group that has led a massive assault on the freedoms of others who do not believe as they do.

You are Americans. You have the right to hate. You have the right to speak out according to your beliefs. And if that right is ever taken away from you -- after the tide turns and speaking against homosexuality is deemed "hate speech," after everyone jumps to the other side, desperately trying to right your wrongs by wrongly taking away your freedoms -- then you will wish that our Constitution still honored the separation of church and state.

However, that line will have been crossed. By you. This year. Trying to pass a law to force people to follow you because your influence no longer carries weight.


Eric Stuberg lives in Maple Grove.