Tag Archives: Same-sex marriage

Whose Opinion Counts Most?

Yesterday I heard a report that stated that Mississippi had enacted an “anti-gay” law. Before that I heard that North Carolina was “restricting the rights of homosexual and transgender citizens.” Both of these items claimed to be “news,” a tag which suggests that it was written by a “journalist,” or that it adhered to standards for “journalism.” To call such wording in such contexts “journalism” is an affront to everyone’s intelligence. It is the obvious expression of an opinion by word choice that projects inferences not supported by the facts.

In both instances, states have acted in response to both overreach by the federal government and cultural hysteria. Citizens in North Carolina, Continue reading Whose Opinion Counts Most?

Advertisements

Can Christians Speak Truth to the Culture?

Q. What happens when human society abandons the idea that a human ought to relate personally to a god who has authority over him?
A. The society becomes secular.
Q. Then how do we ever know what is right and what is wrong?
A. Who cares?

In the newly-released book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right and wrong, R. Albert Mohler chronicles what has happened in US culture over the past sixty years, leading to the decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and the questions and answers above sum up the change he describes. Mohler compares the impact of the changes in the culture to the aftermath of a direct hurricane hit. I was reminded of recent photos from Long Island in the Bahamas after Hurricane Joaquin; among those images I saw an interisland supply vessel grounded a half mile from the ocean. That hopeless image might represent confessing Christians and their churches in the aftermath of a morality revolution.

Mohler attributes the moral and ethical upheaval to the rise of secularism, which is all about rejecting any notion of God, let alone belief in him. It is also very much about demolishing any evidence that anyone ever accepted a non-human authority in human  affairs. A moral revolution parallels a sexual revolution that has brought about the normalization of abortion and homosexuality as well as a rejection of monogamy as a standard for any sexual relationships. This moral and ethical juggernaut has cut a broad swath in the culture, crushing and reshaping all notions of human gender, sexual orientation, family, and marriage.

If you feel utterly blindsided by the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, if you can’t figure out how churches can simultaneously refuse to conduct same-sex weddings and invite homosexuals into the congregation, if you don’t know what to tell your children when they come home with instructions to ask people their preferred gender pronoun before addressing them, this book will help you. You won’t necessarily be comforted, and you may even be jolted by some of the author’s recommendations. If you believe that the Bible is true and that the plain meaning of Scripture is its true meaning, you will feel confirmed in that understanding, but the author may not build on that foundation in a way that feels good to you.

I recommend this book for confessing Christians who struggle to understand what happened to the world they knew a mere ten years ago, especially if they want to find a Christlike way to deal with those changes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

What Makes You Think You Have a Right to say that Something is Wrong?

When was the last time you heard anyone use the word chastened? This word is obviously related to chaste, which is a most unpopular word in today’s daily vocabulary. If you take the time to research all the related words, you will learn some interesting facts. The word chaste means “pure, virtuous,” and most particularly, “never taking part in immoral sexual intercourse.” Thus a young girl, a virgin, would be chaste if she had never engaged in sexual intercourse, while a married woman would be chaste if she only engaged in sexual intercourse with her husband. When that word was in common use, it had a meaning, and the meaning was based on teachings that some sexual behavior was good and some was not.

It is the factors of self-discipline and purity that lead to the related word chastened which opened this conversation. Someone needs to be chastened if that person is unable to discipline self and protect personal purity without assistance. To chasten a person is to apply the pressure, verbally or physically, that will restrain the individual from doing something wrong. When someone does something terribly wrong, or does a wrong thing over and over, it might be appropriate to castigate that person, which is severe scolding or harsh criticism. When someone is castigated his feelings might be hurt, but no physical pain is inflicted. However, if someone is chastised, there might well be a spanking, whipping, lashing or beating involved, and the process is likely repeated often. Verbal chastisement is a little less severe in the heat index for punishments than castigation, but the word chastise is not actually limited to verbal punishment. The use of these words, and their commonly understood meanings grew out of the existence of a cultural acceptance of some standards for behavior that is good and behavior that is evil. At the base, there was broad general agreement that sex outside marriage, lies, murder and theft were all morally wrong.

In every form of the word, there is an element that attempts to restrain bad behavior, and it is that element that shaped the word castrate, a procedure designed to restrain, or actually to prevent, a wayward male from fathering children. This extreme procedure was intended to protect women from behavior that the whole culture of the day believed to be morally unacceptable. Some deeds were good and some were evil.

All these words derive from a single root, castus, meaning “pure,” and some combine with the verb agere meaning “to do.” All these words are about a communal moral concept of purity and the disciplinary words and actions required to sustain the purity or punish the loss of it. Purity and discipline are not popular topics in cultural conversations. In fact, many voices in the culture reprimand parents and churches who express moral standards for children and teens. Those voices declare that it is unreasonable and unfair to expect children and teens to have moral standards, and it is unacceptable for children to be punished when they do wrong.

When biblical teaching is thrown into the mix, the frenzy heightens. The Bible is denigrated, along with everyone who believes it is truth. This is the secular answer to the problem of sin. Secular articles of faith deny that there is such a thing as sin, and because sin does not exist, then children and teens have no obligation to frowzy parents who still live in the Stone Age and chastise children who breach the moral standards of that bygone era. Secular thinkers are busily working toward an era in which the secular state will have ultimate authority over children. Parents will be held back, prevented from teaching and enforcing teachings from the “wrong side of history.”

What becomes of a culture that has no moral standards? When the Supreme Court issued the decision popularly known as Obergfell, the moral standards for sexual behavior were undercut so severely that no further decisions will be required in order to legitimize sodomy, incest, pedophilia or bestiality. In that mix, polygamy pales to insignificance by comparison. As long as the standard is that nobody should feel lonely or hurt, and that any sexual union which ameliorates the loneliness is and ought to be legally recognized as a marriage, what can possibly be considered to be immoral?. In fact, since Obergfell is based on no moral standard whatsoever, murder, theft, vandalism, embezzlement, and business fraud should all be legitimized as well. No standard can be shown to apply when the standard interferes with people and hurts their feelings.

When was the last time you felt chastened? When was the last time you chastened a child or a student. If you can remember that moment, hang on to it. There might never be another one.

The Book Every Christian Should Read

When you read my title, you probably think I am going to say that every Christian should read the Bible. Instead I am saying that every Christian should read How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps. Every Christian must read the Bible, because the Bible is our bread of life. The Bible is God’s Word, and Jesus said that our natural food is every word out of the mouth of God. However, Satan is becoming increasingly aggressive against all of us, and the best way to learn how he plans to attack is to read How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps. Every Christian should read it.

The subtitle is “a toolkit for secular activists,” and the method proposed by the author Ryan T. Cragun is clearly outlined in the Table of Contents:

  1. Promote and Defend Secular Education
  2. Empower Gender, Sexual, and Racial Minorities
  3. Provide “This Life” Security
  4. Encourage Sexual Liberation for Everyone
  5. Stop Subsidizing Religion and Deregulate It
  6. Encourage Regulated Capitalism
  7. Support Education, Art, and Science
  8. Syncretize Holidays and Rituals
  9. Change Society to Value Critical Thinking and Scientific Inquiry
  10. Teach Humanist Ethics in School

If you think that most of these elements of the “toolkit” sound innocuous, you need to recognize a fundamental element of the battle being launched by secular activism: redefinition. The battle for the life of humankind is being fought on the battleground of Truth, and a universal weapon against Truth is redefinition of words. Think, for example, about the word equality. Until recently, every American citizen would have said that the statement “all men are created equal” meant that each of us has equal standing in the law of the land and equal opportunity to thrive. The limits to our accomplishment and happiness are whatever limits we set on ourselves. We all are born equal in God’s eyes, and we are all equally loved by God.

The word equality took on a new meaning, however, when secular activists, the individuals who are the target audience for How to Defeat Religion, appropriated the word and coupled it with the word marriage. The first time I heard the phrase marriage equality, I could not imagine what the phrase could possibly mean. Who couldn’t get married? The answer: homosexuals. Why? Because everyone in the world understood that marriage was the union of a man and a woman. Whether people looked in the Bible for guidance or they simply looked at world history, one thing was obvious: humankind considered the union of a man and a woman to be a marriage. No other union of humans was considered a marriage. LGBTQ activists created the phrase marriage equality in order to avoid the discussion of the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Activists leaped past that definition by coupling the word marriage with the word equality. In so doing, they embarked on a discussion that did not even make sense unless the definition of marriage was scrapped. By forcing the discussion to the word equality  they avoided needing to argue for a redefinition of marriage. They successfully pushed the discussion past the definition of marriage and made it about a redefined concept of equality. The cultural whiplash dumbfounded many persons who wanted to keep the argument on the real subject, but activists acted as if marriage had always been a civil right protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and that is the argument that was successfully sold to the Supreme Court. The court did not address whether it is legitimate to call a union of two men or two women a marriage. The court simply said that nobody could be denied the “right” to marry. Any definition of the word marriage ceased to exist.

In the light of that experience, a Christian should read the book How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps with a wary eye. The author is writing for secular activists, not for Christians. He uses words as defined in the worldview of secular activism. The historic usage and definitions of words must be set aside when reading How to Defeat Religion in order for the reality of its plan of action to be clear. For example, in the title of chapter 9 you see the words, “Change Society to Value Critical Thinking and Scientific Inquiry.” You understand those words in their historic, common sense definitions, and you wonder what could be the problem this “change” would solve. However, if you read the chapter attentively, you will see that in the hands of secular activists, those words have very different meanings, and a serious problem emerges from the redefinitions.

Why should a Christian read such a book? The answer is simple. It is the old adage, “Know thine enemy.” Luke, writing in the gospel that bears his name, says that after Jesus rejected all of Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, Satan backed away and waited for a more opportune moment. When Satan saw the empty character of Judas, he entered in and engineered Christ’s crucifixion. Even though Christ’s death and resurrection actually worked the defeat of Satan in eternity, the Evil One still lurks in time and space waiting for opportunities in the hearts of human beings who have the same emptiness of character as Judas. The book How to Defeat Religion tells us some of the lines of attack Satan uses to invade humans, even many who claim the name of Christ.

When I reviewed the book on Amazon, I gave it five stars, because this book does exactly what it promises to do, but in my review, I point out that this strategy will only work if religion is what the book says it is: the will to believe a myth as if it were reality.

The thinly disguised fact underlying the book is that its target is not religion in general. I did not see any real evidence that the writer had a problem with Hinduism or Buddhism or Shinto. It seemed quite clear that the target is Christianity. That is fine with me, because Hinduism, Buddhism and Shinto, like all the other religions, are not about Truth. They are, in fact, myths, and many of their adherents do not have a problem with treating their religions as myths. Cragun, however, is not battling windmills; he is battling Christ. We who claim the name of Christ are not battling windmills, either. We are battling “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The author of How to Defeat Religion reveals where we will fight many of the battles that make up this war.

The power that will defeat those who follow the path outlined in How to Defeat Religion works in the life of a person who lives in an active relationship with Christ. Cragun’s strategy will work only if there is nothing beyond the time/space continuum. Inside that limited universe, Satan runs rampant. The only force that can resist and defeat him is a life fully committed to Christ. The strategies outlined in How to Defeat Religion are powerless against a life traveled on The Way, filled with The Truth, and energized by The Life that never ends. We in whom the Holy Spirit dwells carry around in our bodies living temples that the strategies in this book cannot touch. No matter how many churches are regulated out of existence, Christ’s church will thrive in the lives of his followers. No matter how many homosexuals marry, or how many new genders are discovered, Christ’s followers will live in obedience to Christ, filled with joy according to Christ’s Truth revealed in the Bible.

We need to know what secular activists are doing if we are to be salt and light in the culture. Hiding from the reality of their agenda will only make it harder for us to shine our light in the world around us. Satan has sensed an opportune time to attack Christ and his followers. We must know our enemy and act in the power of Christ to defeat his assaults. How convenient that the Enemy’s current strategy is so clearly outlined in How to Defeat Religion.

 

What is the big deal about the Supreme Court and marriage?

Last Friday night, the White House in Washington, DC, was bathed in the colors of the rainbow as the President of the USA expressed his delight with the decision of the Supreme Court in Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al. The decision ends with these words:

The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

The words “that right” refer to the alleged right of homosexuals to marriage, a right carved out of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The word them refers to the plaintiffs in the case, all of whom desire to be granted marriage licenses or the recognition of marriage licenses authorizing a union of homosexuals to be called a legal marriage. The judgment that is reversed is an appeals court’s determination that no such right existed.

The lights on the White House and the nationwide frenzy that followed the announcement of the decision celebrate the belief of many that this decision compels every state in the union to recognize and license a union of two gays as if it were a marriage.

Many activists who advocated for this outcome belittled those who pushed back against the whole idea that any union other than that of a man and a woman could be a marriage. Activists scornfully accused Christians of trying to force Christian views on other people when the Christians simply declined to be part of wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. LGBTQ activists, many of whom are atheists, produced complex theological arguments to prove that Christian refusal to participate in a wedding ceremony for a gay couple was hate-powered unwillingness to be loving and Christlike. Blog posts and op-eds tried to equate sexual attraction with Christlike love which, they argued, was all they wanted. In the final paragraph of the decision, Justice Kennedy joined their mournful complaints, saying, “[The hope of the plaintiffs] is not to be con­demned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civiliza­tion’s oldest institutions.”

I respectfully submit that lonely homosexuals are not the only people who suffer loneliness and the desire to cure it with a bizarre sexual union. While we were all treated after the decision to photographs of ecstatic brides kissing brides or grooms kissing grooms, other people whose sexual orientation or gender struggles have not been included in the nationwide conversation were still all alone. If loneliness is the problem, and marriage is the solution, then it must be noted that there are many lonely people besides homosexuals. The trans community. Pedophiles. Polygamists, or wannabe polygamists. A father dating his eighteen-year-old daughter. All of these people are lonely, and every one of them believes that one or more companions in some relationship they want to call a “marriage” would rescue them from loneliness.

Writing the decision of the majority, Justice Kennedy pretends to throw the Constitution a bone carved out of the Fourteenth Amendment, but dissenting opinions by Justices Roberts and Scalia reveal the deceitfulness of that claim. Justice Roberts says:

Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the oppor­tunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.

Justice Scalia says:

When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so.

Scalia later says:

They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amend­ment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.

Keep your eyes open. Blog posts and news reports already are airing complaints that this new cure for loneliness and new right to same-sex marriage is being applied too exclusively. The cry is simply, “If marriage is for homosexuals, why not for me?” How can you blame them? Where in the 33 pages of the court’s decision do you find any logical justification for denying marriage to any of these people, or to anyone else, for that matter? If marriage is by court decree the cure for loneliness, how can any lonely person be denied that consolation, in whatever form he finds most consoling at the moment?

What is the big deal about the Supreme Court and marriage? The big deal is that redefining marriage sends shock waves into every part of the culture. This decision will shred the fabric of the culture in a thousand different ways. It is hard to imagine anything that will not be touched by redefining the foundation of families.

For Christians, the problem lies in the way the culture perceives religions. The secular view is that a religion is about dealing with concepts labelled “religious” or “spiritual,” all of which secular thinkers confine to defined worship spaces. Christians do not confine their faith inside a church building. They live their faith all day every day wherever they are. For Christians, words and deeds are testimonies to their obedience to Christ. They rely on the Bible for guidance in word and deed. If the Bible tells them that something is a sin, they make diligent efforts to avoid it. Even though no human being is ever sinless, Christians believe that we all have an obligation to Christ to reject sin in our lives.

The big deal is that Christians believe the Bible is their guide for faith and life—life, daily life, not just church service. They read in the Bible that God ordained marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They read that the Bible calls homosexuality a sin. The Christian’s call to be Christlike mandates that a Christian not instigate or participate in a union of homosexuals. A Christian who believes and lives by the Bible cannot call a union of homosexuals a marriage.

When Christians are asked to participate in any respect in the formation of such a union, they must decline because of their deeply held religious convictions. Among the things that constitute participation are things like providing flowers or music or wedding cakes or art or other elements that celebrate that union. When Christians decline to take part in a wedding ceremony for homosexuals, they are not trying to prevent the couple from marrying; they are simply declining to be part of that ceremony. They are exercising their faith, living by the principles of their faith, when they take this position. Many people act as if by declining, Christians are attempting to force the couple to join the Christian religion. That misconception creates serious problems with the refusal of Christians to participate in something that the court calls a right established by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Fourteenth Amendment was written to give former slaves all the rights of citizenship. Nothing in that amendment suggests that the Supreme Court is authorized to redefine the social structures of human society. Every citizen has the same privileges and immunities, the same right to due process and equal protection of the laws, according to that amendment. That amendment nowhere redefines marriage. When that amendment was passed, people all over the world agreed that marriage was the union of one man and one woman, and neither the authors of the amendment nor those who ratified it had any notion that within its words lay a new definition of marriage.

There is a huge threat inherent in the decision that extracts a right for homosexuals to marry from the rights in the Fourteenth Amendment. The rights in the Fourteenth Amendment are rights generally classified as Civil Rights. The threat is that while the First Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to protect citizens from state oppression when they act on their convictions, actions that limit or deny Civil Rights have been exempted from First Amendment protection in the past. By redefining marriage within the boundaries of the Fourteenth Amendment, the court’s decision threatens, rather than protects, the right of Christians to live by their faith principles—that is, to exercise their faith. John Roberts in his dissent says:

The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. Ante, at 27. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.

If the omission of the word “exercise” alarms John Roberts, it certainly alarms me.

The redefinition of marriage by the act of five justices on a court is cause for alarm. The potential changes now implied by the new definition will likely shock even the most avid advocate for same-sex marriage and will certainly horrify many citizens. The implied threat to people who have long held the religious conviction that the unions authorized by this court decision are immoral and sinful is seriously alarming.

That is the big deal about the Supreme Court and marriage.