jasonbwatson

March 27, 2014

Corrective Lenses

In case you have not heard, World Vision has announced that it is reversing its decision on hiring homosexuals in same-sex marriages. Apparently the decision was made at a World Vision board meeting held within a few hours of my last post (a few hours before I posted, I might add–I am not suggesting any correlation between the two events!) This decision marks a quick turnaround by the parachurch ministry since the announcement that it would allow such hirings came just two days earlier.

WORLD Magazine news editor Jamie Dean broke the story of the reversal on Wednesday afternoon, saying that Columbia Theological Seminary president Stephen Hayner, who is a World Vision board member, responded to an e-mail inquiry from WORLD with this statement: “The Board of World Vision is just concluding a meeting and will be releasing a statement shortly reversing the decision that was made. It was never the intention of the Board to undermine our firm commitment to the authority of the Scripture.”

Approximately an hour and a half later Dean posted an update on the story, including the World Vision statement. The statement, issued over the names of World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns and World Vision U.S. board chairman Jim Beré, begins this way:

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our national employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

It is encouraging to see that the board acted so quickly to reverse this decision and to acknowledge that a mistake was made. At the same time, it still troubles me that a board of such intelligent individuals would have made the decision in first place, somehow believing that the decision was not undermining Scripture.

The statement continues, “We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent.” Therein lies the problem. I repeat, how could this board of intelligent and accomplished individuals honestly believe that its decision was not a “reversal of a strong commitment to Biblical authority”? When a decision is made to allow accept something that the Bible clearly and unequivocally states is wrong there is no explanation for it other than a reversal.

“We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead,” the statement says. This, too, is encouraging, but begs yet another question; specifically, why was this “wise counsel” not sought before the decision was made? If somehow (and, in my opinion, inexplicably) the World Vision board truly was not sure how the announcement of the policy change would go over among the evangelical community why would they not have sought this insight and counsel before announcing their decision? The furor and backlash that poured forth in the few days between the announcement of the decision and its reversal could have been avoided completely. Yes, it is good to learn from one’s mistakes, but it is also good to avoid mistakes when common sense or, at the very least, a minimum amount of thoughtful reasoning would have prevented it in the first place. Stearns acknowledged as much according to a report from Religion News Service, stating, “We hadn’t vetted this issue with people who could’ve given us really valuable input at the beginning. In retrospect, I can see why this was so controversial for many of our supporters and partners around the country. If I could have a do over, it would’ve been that I would’ve done more consultation with Christian leaders.”

No doubt the possibility that contributions to World Vision would see a sudden drop was at least part of the reason why this decision was so quickly reversed. The Assemblies of God had already encouraged its members to consider dropping their support of World Vision and no doubt many other individuals and churches had or would have soon made similar recommendations. Ryan Reed tweeted on Wednesday, “My wife works for WV. In today’s staff meeting Stearns announced that so far 2,000 kids dropped.” If true, that figure would have equated a drop in World Vision donations of $840,000 since the monthly child sponsorships are $35. That was within two days of the announcement; no doubt the decrease would have ended up being considerably greater.

Richard Stearns did acknowledge in talking to reporters that the initial decision reflected poor judgement; “We believe we made a mistake. We’re asking them to forgive and understand our poor judgement in the original decision.” Still, Stearns also stated, “What we found was we created more division instead of more unity, and that was not the intent of the board or myself.” If that is an attempt to explain their poor judgment it really does not help since, I say again, it confounds understanding to imagine the World Vision board honestly believing that their decision would increase unity. In light of these events I believe that the World Vision U.S. board needs to seriously evaluate Stearns and itself in order to figure out how such an egregious lapse of responsibility could have happened in the first place; there may well need to be some changes made in order to prevent it happening again.

Russell Moore tweeted soon after the announcement, “World Vision has done the right thing. Now, let’s all work for a holistic gospel presence, addressing both temporal and eternal needs.” I think he speaks for many when he states that World Vision did the right thing. Jim Daly of Focus on the Family also released a statement. It says, in part, “I believe the Board of World Vision had the best of intentions when they cited a desire for ‘unity’ in making their original decision. But however well-intentioned, nothing is more important than adherence and faithfulness to the clear teachings of Christ. No matter how hard culture tugs, we cannot relinquish God’s truth.” Frankly, Daly gives the WV board more credit than I do; they may have had the best intentions in pursuing unity in some sense but it certainly was not, in my mind, a unity around biblical truth–and that should be preeminent.

Daly goes on to say that World Vision ought not suffer from this blunder. “I pray that Christians will now respond likewise with a spirit of grace and humility. World Vision does not deserve to be harmed by this incident. The security and fate of too many children are at stake to hold a grudge and punish them by withholding support.” He’s right about the children who are served by World Vision. They had no say in the decision of the World Vision board and they will be the ones who suffer if the World Vision contributions take a hit–and they should not be victims of poor decision making by the board. At the same time, there are many ways to help disadvantaged children around the world and sponsorship through World Vision is but one such way. My belief is that it would only be prudent for Christians who desire to help children in poverty to evaluate their options are to take the position and history of the organization into consideration when deciding where and how to give–and that consideration needs to include this decision and reversal by World Vision.

Of course the outcry that resulted after Monday’s announcement will now reverberate from the other side of the spectrum as World Vision will receive condemnation from those on the political and evangelical left who believe that support for the ministry should now be questioned because they have reversed their decision to embrace those in homosexual marriages. Read through the comments on the story of the reversal on the NPR web site and you will find plenty of comments like this one: “‘World Vision has a yearly operating budget of about $1 billion.’ According to Charity Navigator, $174 million comes from government grants. We should put a stop to that nonsense. … Why should any government be supporting organizations that discriminate?” It’s a no-win situation for World Vision–but one of their own making.

Bottom line, I am thrilled that World Vision has acted swiftly to reverse their decision. They recognized that their vision was blurred and they applied the corrective lenses of Scripture. I am still troubled by the poor judgment that the initial decision reflects and I would personally think carefully and give prayerful consideration to supporting World Vision financially. But I would absolutely continue to find ways to support children in need around the world if that was what I felt the Lord leading me to do.

Blurred Vision

On March 24 Christianity Today ran an article in which World Vision made clear that it is now hiring homosexual Christians in legal gay marriages. Interestingly, the charity’s policy against sex outside of marriage is still a rule.

World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns granted CT an exclusive interview in which he explained the policy change. According to the article, “Stearns asserts that the ‘very narrow policy change’ should be viewed by others as ‘symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.’ He even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.”

Before I go any further I need to stop right here and state that very few things I have read or heard recently trouble me so much as someone simultaneously stating that abandoning a long-standing policy that is consistent with the Bible is a “very narrow policy change” and that this change is “symbolic…of [Christian] unity.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This “narrow policy change” rests on the belief that what the Bible makes clear about homosexuality and marriage is not correct or, at the very least, has been traditionally misunderstood. It is not possible to pursue Christian unity by redefining the Bible.

Franklin Graham, in a statement on the World Vision decision, said, “World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church – which I find offensive – as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church.” Graham is exactly right; you cannot unify the church by embracing sin!

The CT article continues, “In short, World Vision hopes to dodge the division currently ‘tearing churches apart’ over same-sex relationships by solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.” I read that to mean that Stearns hopes that Christians will ignore World Vision’s trampling of one part of Scripture in order to join forces in adhering to another part of it. The reality is, of course, that that makes no sense. After all, if what the Bible teaches about homosexuality or marriage need not be adhered to why should its teachings on caring for the poor stir me to action?

Stearns stated that the policy change is nothing more than that. “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.” Actions speak louder than words, Mr. Stearns. A decision to hire and accept individuals who are living a life that is contrary to what the Bible teaches absolutely is an affirmation of that choice–whether you say it is or not.

Because of World Vision’s size–it had revenue of more than $1 billion last year–and the scope of its ministries, “other Christian organizations look to World Vision for leadership on defending faith hiring practices,” Christianity Today reported. That is true…and scary. When one of the largest Christian charities in the world accepts this kind of compromise it will surely lead other ministries to consider doing the same.

For that reason it is imperative that churches, parachurch organizations and other ministries, as well as individual believers, take a stand for biblical truth and against the compromise of World Vision. Franklin Graham is but one evangelical leader who was quick to denounce the decision. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission issued a statement that included this observation:

But here’s what’s at stake. This isn’t, as the World Vision statement (incredibly!) puts it, the equivalent of a big tent on baptism, church polity, and so forth.

At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.

John Piper said this: “This is a tragic development for the cause of Christ, because it trivializes perdition – and therefore, the cross – and because it sets a trajectory for the demise of true compassion for the poor.” Piper goes on to highlight the idiocy of the stated position of World Vision:

When World Vision says, “We cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue,” here is the side they do, in fact, jump onto: We forbid fornication and adultery as acceptable lifestyles among our employees (which they do), but we will not forbid the regular practice of homosexual intercourse. To presume that this position is not “jumping into the fight on one side or the other” is fanciful.

There are no doubt many other individuals and groups that have issued and will issue similar statements affirming the biblical position on marriage and challenging the foolishness of the World Vision position. When they do we must echo a hearty “Amen!” and join in their willingness to stand on the wall to defend the truth.

Russell Moore concluded his statement by suggesting that a refusal to stand firm for the Scripture, a refusal to call sin sin and to also share the Bible’s message of forgiveness is nothing more than “empowering darkness.” May we never be guilty of empowering darkness. May we, instead, follow the exhortation of Paul to the church at Ephesus when he wrote, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11, ESV).

March 26, 2014

“It just happened this way”

On the heels of a post about women attempting to become human Barbie dolls I suppose it should not surprise me–or you–that as I was reading more about those two women I also encountered a story about yet another woman attempting to auction off her virginity. I have to confess I sometimes forget what I have and have not addressed in this space before but it seems to me that this very subject has been the target of my commentary in the past.

I think what may have caught my attention about this particular situation, and prompted me to address it, is that this young woman claims that money is not really a motivating factor.

The woman in question is a 27-year-old medical student in the United States who is using the name Elizabeth Raine. I have no idea if that is her real name or not. She says she is a student at one of the country’s top medical schools and in order to circumvent prostitution laws in the United States she is using an agent in Australia.

Raine told EliteDaily.com, “Money is my motivation, but by no means do I need the money. I’m pretty safe and secure financially.” Why is she doing it then? “Many women are raised believing that they should hold on to their virginity and that it’s something that’s important for their marriage, for their relationship. It is a measure of how good they are as a person. I never believed that and I never even intentionally tried to stay a virgin. It just really happened this way.” In other words, Raine wants to confront the value of virginity, which she seems to think she can do simply by selling hers.

According to Raine the winning bidder will receive “a sensual 12-hour date” that will take her “from virgin to literal whore.” Oh, and she will donate 35% of her winnings to a charity that provides education from women in developing countries. That could be a considerable amount of money, I suppose, since Raine seems to have her sights set on a winning bid of at least $400,000.

Yesterday’s post brought more questions than answers as I–and we–wrestle with the idea of what beauty is, and is not, and what bizarre attempts people will make to achieve whatever they believe beauty to be. I think that discussion may be more fluid than this one. Raine says that many women are raised to hold on to their virginity because it is important to their marriage and is a measure of who they are as a person. At the risk of this being taken the wrong way, I do not think that virginity itself is what is so important to the marriage. What is important is the recognition that one’s virginity can only be given one time and the act of saving it for one’s spouse is an act of love, of respect and of commitment to the person one will ultimately give herself or himself to. I do not think I would go so far as to say that it is a measure of who anyone is as a person; I have no doubt that there are people who did not save themselves for marriage who are “better people” (whatever that means) than some people who did. Again, it is not the virginity itself that is the issue; it is but the evidence of a deeper conviction, the result of choices made after, hopefully, careful consideration. Of course sometimes one’s virginity is stolen, not given, and there is no diminishing of one’s value as a result of being a victim of such a crime.

On the contrary, I think that Raine’s choice reveals much more about herself than it does about anyone’s ideas about the value of virginity or the meaningfulness of it. She thinks that virginity is not something to be valued and yet she has quite literally put a value on it; apparently $400,000 is her idea of a fair market value. She thinks that virginity is not worth preserving for just the right person yet she “just happened” to preserve hers until her late twenties. Regardless of Raine’s flippant explanation of how she maintained her virginity until age 27 that does not “just happen.” According to the National Center for Health Statistics 85% of Americans have had sex by age 21 and only 11% of unmarried adults are virgins. So I don’t think Raine’s virginity “just happened.”

A far more realistic commentary on virginity came from Olympic athlete Lolo Jones several years ago. “It’s just something, a gift that I want to give to my husband. But please understand this journey has been hard. If there’s virgins out there, I just want to let them know, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating from college, has been to stay a virgin before marriage.” That is the reality. In a culture that glorifies sexuality and celebrates sexual experimentation and encourages “exploration” one does not “happen” to maintain virginity to age 27…certainly not when one is attractive, intelligent and successful, as both Raine and Jones appear to be.

Raine suggests that virginity is seen as a measure of how good someone is as a person. What then does selling one’s virginity say about a person? There’s an old, oft-repeated story about a man who asked a woman if she would sleep with him for a million dollars. She considered briefly and said yes. “Would you sleep with me for $10?” he asked. “What do you think I am?” she asked, aghast. “We’ve already established what you are,” came his reply, “now we’re just haggling over price.”

What Ms. Raine seems not to recognize is that there is nothing commendable about auctioning her virginity on the internet. Not even if she does give tens of thousands of dollars of the proceeds to support education for women in developing countries. After all, Raine’s own actions make clear that education doesn’t necessarily make someone smart.

March 25, 2014

Human Barbie

Last Saturday I was at the local public library with my wife and children. We’re there fairly regularly and we each go our separate ways, usually. I knew I would not be checking out any books because I already had a stack at home to get through so I headed for the periodicals. Sometimes I flip through the various newspapers and usually I will find a news magazine with an article or two of interest. As I was perusing the magazine offerings a story title on the cover of O, The Oprah Magazine magazine caught my attention. It was something along the lines of “When Is It Okay to Lie?” Unfortunately the mailing label obscured the page number of the article and nothing in the contents seemed to fit so I found myself flipping through the magazine looking for the article. This was a first for me; I had never picked up O before. Just flipping through was enlightening, I can tell you. Lots of interesting worldviews being presented! In the course of my perusal, however, I came across a snippet about a woman who is trying to become a human Barbie doll. I read through it and then the rest of my family was ready to go, but it stuck with me as great blog material.

So today, not remembering the specifics of the situation, I googled “human barbie” and, much to my surprise, there are at least two women in the world who fall into this category. The one that was in O is named Blondie Bennett. (She has legally changed her name). According to a February article in Huffington Post Bennett says she is Barbie-obsessed. She has had multiple cosmetic surgeries as part of her effort to achieve her goal, including five breast augmentation surgeries and chin liposuction to contour her face more like Barbie’s. “I don’t like being human, if that makes sense… Natural is boring… I would love to be like, completely plastic,” the article quotes her as saying. Frankly, Ms. Bennett, it doesn’t make sense. The concept of wanting to be plastic is something I simply cannot wrap my mind around.

Apparently the pursuit of physical similarities to the iconic Barbie doll is not sufficient, though. Now Bennett is undergoing hypnotherapy in hopes that it will decrease her IQ. She actually wants to be brainless. “I’ve had 20 sessions and I’m already starting to feel ditzy and confused all the time,” she was quoted as telling the Daily Mail. Somehow, though, this does not come as a surprise; I cannot help but think that anyone who thinks it would be great to be plastic and brainless was experiencing feelings of ditziness long before she began hypnotherapy.

As evidence for the effectiveness of her hypnotherapy sessions, which Bennett has up to three times a week, she says she recently got lost on the way to her mother’s house–the home she grew up in–and, when picking up a friend from the airport, forgot if she was supposed to go to departures or arrivals.

Bennett is currently unemployed, though she apparently is able to make enough money to fund her surgeries and hypnotherapy. She has spent over $40,000 on the breast augmentation operations alone. India.com suggests that her income comes from men who pay her for skimpy pictures. Her pursuit of Barbie-dom began in her late teens when she was paid by toy stores to appear as Barbie. Her obsession magnified as she contemplated a life devoted to the “pursuit of looking pretty all the time and doing nothing but shopping and making oneself look more pretty,” according to India.com. She told Metro, another UK site, “I was forced to live a double life until about eight years ago when I decided to become Barbie for real and ignore what other people said.” How terrible that must have been, to have to live the life of a human being!

The other human seeking to become a human Barbie is taking a different approach. Valeria Lukyanova is a Ukrainian model. According to New York’s Daily News her goal is “to become a ‘Breatharian’ who survives off nothing but light and air.” She claims that has stopped eating and drinking water and survives only on “cosmic micro-food.” She told International Business Times, “In recent weeks I have not been hungry at all; I’m hoping it’s the final stage before I can subsist on air and light alone.”

According to the Daily News article Lukyanova first made headlines in 2012 when she underwent extensive plastic surgery to make herself look more like Barbie. At that time she reportedly stated that her goal was to become “the most perfect woman on the Internet.” Various reports state that her waist size is 20 inches or less. Lukyanova also claims that she is from another planet, that she can communicate with aliens through light and that she can accomplish time travel. Lukyanova is also married to a construction worker, who supports her “pursuits.”

Many things about Bennett and Lukyanova scream out for attention. It is difficult to suggest that the unrealistically-proportioned Barbie doll has no impact on the self images of the millions of children who play with them but it is equally difficult to suggest that the dolls are responsible for the crazy behavior of Bennett and Lukyanova.

There are a lot of questions that come to mind as I reflect on these two women. For example, what does it say about our world in general, about our stereotyped portrayals of what makes a woman beautiful, if Lukyanova believes that by abusing her body through surgeries and deprivation of food that she is somehow getting closer to becoming “the perfect woman”? What does it say about Lukyanova’s husband that he apparently encourages and supports her choices? What does it say about the plastic surgeons who have become accomplices to the ridiculous goals of these two women? Is there any limit as to what someone should be allowed to do to his or her body? (I am not suggesting that there is, but it is an interesting question to ponder). What does it say about the “therapist” that Bennett found who is willing to accept payment in exchange for helping her to become “brainless”? How could anyone truly feel that they are helping someone by aiding in such a pursuit? Doesn’t there come a point when someone–whether parent, sibling, spouse, coworker, therapist, surgeon or random blogger–needs to tell these women that what they are doing is not beautiful? Or is that even true? After all, if it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder then at the very least these two women think that what they are doing, pursuing and becoming is beautiful.

I think I am asking more questions than I am answering. That’s because everything about what these two women are doing seems wrong to me. At the same time I am not sure I am convinced that they don’t have every right to keep pursuing their own ideas of happiness and beauty–however twisted and convoluted they may be. After all, last time I checked, stupidity is still not a crime.

March 18, 2014

Going Distracted

I am just recently returned from spring break, thus the gap in posts. Thanks for sticking around and coming back to see what’s new!

During the break I finished reading Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last. I do not agree with everything in the book, but he made some good points and had some meaningful insights. Toward the end of the book he has a chapter entitled The Abstract Generation. In it he makes this observation: “Generation Y thinks that, because they have grown up with all these technologies, they are better at multitasking. I would venture to argue they are not better at multitasking. What they are better at is being distracted.”

This observation, in my opinion, is right on target. Far too many of today’s young people think that they need to stimulated all the time. There is no appreciation for silence, there is no time set aside for quiet. They seem to be listening to iPods while surfing the Internet on their iPhones or iPads, simultaneously “watching” the television and probably–allegedly–also working on homework. In reality they are not doing any of these things well, and it’s no wonder, since none of them have their full attention. Unless there happens to be an entire generation of Edgars from David Baldacci’s King and Maxwell series it simply is not possible that that level of over-stimulation is doing anyone any good at all, much less making anyone more proficient at multitasking. Rather than multitasking they are actually semi-tasking–giving semi-attention to a variety of things at once.

There are plenty of studies out there on the impact that this level of stimulation has on the development of the human brain. The brain is impacted not only by this bombardment of stimuli, however, but also by the things that are not happening while the “multitasking” is going on. In their book Deep Brain Learning Larry Brendtro, Martin Mitchell and Herman McCall write about the impact of the society in which we live on our young people. The book’s first chapter is entitled Cultures of Discord, and it begins like this: “Modern society mass produces disconnected children.” They report that today’s teenagers spend approximately 5% of their time with their parents and 2% of their time with other adults, with the remainder of their time spent “with peers, on electronic media, or in isolation.” I might suggest that many teenagers are simultaneously doing all three. It never ceases to amaze me how many times I will see a group of young people, seemingly interacting with each other, but all of them scrolling through the latest status updates on their smartphone or texting madly, thumbs flying every which way. These young people are with their peers physically, but that’s about it. They share an occasional picture or joke or tweet, but they are more likely to text message someone three feet away from them than to engage in real and meaningful relationships with each other. So they are with peers and on electronic media but in reality they are isolated. Their electronic walls are like the shields on the U.S.S. Enterprise, invisible to the naked eye but perfectly capable of repelling an “attack” by someone trying to actually talk to them. What is the result? As Brendtro, et.al. write, “The thinking, values, and identity of many modern youth are being shaped by the subculture of the immature.” (And, sadly, that immaturity is progressively becoming more and more of the mainstream culture!)

During my spring break travels my family and I visited several national parks in Utah and Arizona. As we stood at the Needles Overlook (part of Canyonlands National Park in Utah) we were impressed both by the desolate beauty of the canyon spread before us and the incredible stillness and silence that surrounded us. The Needles Overlook is some twenty-five miles off of the main road and is not widely promoted; indeed, I only ended up there because a colleague who knew where we were headed recommended we check it out. As a result, there were only two other people that we saw while we were out there, and we never spoke to or otherwise interacted with them. We could see for miles and miles in every direction and other than the four in my family and the two others we saw we had no idea who else, if anyone, was anywhere nearby. I cannot imagine what being out there at night would be like. There was no breeze, no air traffic, nothing but the occasional comment from one of us. It struck me how few of us have ever really experienced silence.

The other thing that I am reminded of as I write this is that when we travel we do not have DVD players in the car, my children do not have laptops or tablets or phones. My own phone isn’t even “smart”! We drove more than three thousand miles on our spring break adventure. Sure, we listened to CDs with music and radio dramas but that was it. Other than that we–including my two children–had only the scenery, each other or books to occupy the attention; or, in my case, watching the road! (And, as anyone who has traveled with me knows, “each other” doesn’t amount to much on the stimulation front when one of the “each other” is me. I can go hundreds of miles without saying a word!) Are my children somehow deprived? Not at all. They are learning to appreciate ways of entertaining and occupying themselves other than with all of the “multitasking” options Sinek wrote about. They are learning to take in the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. They are even learning to enjoy silence once in a while!

So I’m with Simon Sinek on this one; the suggestion that Generation Y is better at multitasking because of all of the technology literally at their fingertips is about as accurate as suggesting that they are among the most physically fit generations to ever come along because of the incredible dexterity of their thumbs as a result of texting and video gaming! They’ve mastered the “art” of being distracted. The problem is they have no idea what to do when all of the distractions are taken away. Maybe it’s time we all take a moment to remember Psalm 46:10.

March 6, 2014

Not the least bit helpful

Abortion is an emotional issue for many people on both sides of the debate. That is just the way it is, and there is no changing it. However, it is an issue that is emotional enough, contentious enough, without adding any unnecessary fuel to the fire. That is just what Alabama state congressman Alvin Holmes did on Tuesday, however.

The Alabama state legislature was debating a bill that would ban abortions in Alabama after a fetal heart beat can be detected. Holmes, a Democrat, proceed to make abortion a racial issue by claiming that white lawmakers–specifically white Republican lawmakers–would make their daughters get an abortion if they became pregnant by a black man.

The Independent Journal Review quoted Holmes from an audio recording of his speech it obtained from AL.com. Here is an excerpt:

If you ask the people in here now to raise their hands for those who are against abortion, 99% of all of the white people in here gonna raise their hands that they’re against abortion. On the other hand, 99% of the whites that are sitting in here now, if they’re daughter got pregnant by a black man, they’re gonna make their daughter have an abortion. They ain’t gonna let her have the baby.

You ain’t gonna have no black baby – if she got two other white children, and she gonna have a black baby – running around there in the living room, in the den with the rest of them. They’re not gonna let that happen – you know that and I know that. You will never admit it – you know that and I know that. All this stuff about abortion and this and that – that’s just a con game. That’s for whites, ain’t for blacks.

Holmes went so far as to ask a white woman in the chamber if she would allow her daughter to give birth to a mixed-race baby. When the woman replied that she would, Holmes said, “Well, I need to commend you, then. There wouldn’t be one out of 100,000 who would do that.” Really? Does Mr. Holmes truly believe that 0.00001 percent of whites would support their daughter and encourage her to give birth to her child if she became pregnant by an African American? I do not know if he believes it or not or if it is purely hyperbole, but his position is incendiary, offensive and not the least bit helpful.

The IJReview asks, “Why must Democrats resort to race baiting in order to try to win an argument?” Why, indeed? The issue of abortion is not a racial issue. Unlike homosexual marriage and other gay rights controversies the issue of abortion truly is a civil rights issue. If Mr. Holmes and others would allow themselves to debate the merits of an issue rather than tainting the matter by accusing those of another race of holding a position solely because of the color of their skin there would no doubt be much more beneficial discussion. If Mr. Holmes chooses to continue to support abortion on demand then I can take issue with him on that and he can take issue with me on my position that there is no constitutional right to abortion and that it is a practice that should be severely restricted. That he is black and I am white really doesn’t matter at all.

March 4, 2014

The beauty and wonder of marriage

In light of all of the attention the push for homosexual marriage has been getting of late it is not a bad idea to focus a bit on “traditional” marriage–marriage between a man and a woman, as God designed it. A month or so ago Joel Belz wrote about this in his regular WORLD Magazine column. After attending a wedding at the start of the year he realized that as important as taking a stand against homosexual marriage may be, even more important is taking a stand for marriage. “With all the media and political emphasis on legalizing homosexual marriages, it’s way too easy to get diverted by that grisly debate and to forget that the top challenge for Christians is to nurture and then display the wonders of marriage the way God made it to be.”

Yesterday I learned that a colleague of mine was engaged over the weekend. She was excited to tell everyone, to show off her ring…to announce to the world that she has found the one person she wants to spend the rest of her life with. This fascination, excitement and wonder is what the God-designed marriage relationship is all about; this is the attitude we should demonstrate when we get engaged, when we celebrate a year of marriage and when we celebrate fifty years of marriage.

Belz’s point is an excellent reminder–because I suspect most of us do not often consciously think about encouraging and exhibiting a godly marriage as being a Christian responsibility. Sure, we hear it preached and when we do attend weddings we no doubt think about the future and our hopes for the new couple, but like Belz I suspect that most of us think more about opposing gay marriage than modeling godly marriage.

Belz writes that he offered some advice to the newlyweds whose ceremony prompted him thinking. He says he told them that “conventional wisdom” of the past generations has taught that while “marriage is OK” it has also taught that no would should “expect too much from it.” That’s sad but true. The culture in which we live in the United States has bred a certain amount of casualness toward marriage. On the one hand its fine to enjoy what used to be reserved for marriage–living together, sexual relations, even having children together–without getting married. On the other hand, if you do get married and later find it just doesn’t work, just get a divorce. Marriage doesn’t need to be a drudgery and it doesn’t need to be difficult. If the going gets tough just go your separate ways and get going.

The reality, of course, is that marriage is tough. There are times when things do not go as planned. There are conflicts that emerge when two people spend most of their time together and interweave every aspect of their lives. There are physical changes that were not envisioned, there are interests and hobbies that change, there are extended family issues, there are money problems…I could go on and on. None of that “on and on” however is reason to not get married and none of it is reason to get “unmarried.”

“Sometimes…there’s so much emphasis on the grim side of things,” Belz writes, “that we’ve lost seeing marriage in the glorious context God intended it. … In our grown-up desire to ‘get real,’ we’ve let Satan so disfigure and discolor our ideal picture of marriage that we’ve come to settle for way too little.” Marriage was ordained by God. He designed it beautifully and it is a beautiful relationship. So beautiful is it, in fact, that the Bible uses the marriage of a man and woman as an illustration of the relationship between God and the church. In other words, when God wanted to communicate to human beings how much He loves them and the kind of relationship He desires to have with believers and the Church, there was no better example He could give than the marriage relationship as He designed it.

If we take to heart this idea of marriage it will fundamentally transform our approach to marriage. It will change the way married individuals relate to each other, it will change the way other people view our marriages, it will restore the wonder of marriage that little children experience when attending marriages in their childhood. In other words, it will restore the idea that marriage is a truly magnificent relationship designed by God as a gift for His most significant creation, His only creation created in His own image.

Marriage is not easy–not by any means. Indeed, Belz writes, marriage is “an expression of the gospel itself, where both partners constantly and willingly die for each other.” A marriage as God designed it “involves daily dying to ourselves so that we can live generously toward our mate.” These are not concepts embraced by the culture in which we live. The world teaches living for self, doing whatever makes you happy. The Bible doesn’t teach that. Die to self is as opposite from “just do it” as you can get. The fact that marriage is not easy, though, makes it all the more beautiful. After all, the growing and daily-dying process of a godly marriage “enhances intimacy” Belz says, and indeed it does.

Like Belz, I want to adopt the “word and deed approach to teaching the art of marriage,” both “modeling and explaining” how beautiful marriage is and how it works. If enough of us are willing to adopt this approach we just might succeed in presenting a concept of marriage that the world might actually aspire to, in restoring the wonder and beauty of marriage as God designed it.

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