jasonbwatson

November 7, 2015

The right thing to do

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was in the news yesterday after the announcement on Thursday that the church will now consider those in same-sex marriages to be apostates. The policy change also declared that children of same-sex parents will not be blessed as babies and cannot be baptized until they are 18 years old. Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the LDS church, was quoted in the Washington Post saying, “Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the church in many varied circumstances throughout the world. The church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages. While it respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership.”

The church had, according to the Post article, left the discipline of same-sex couples to local leaders prior to making the change on Thursday, a change the church decided was necessary because of the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage across the country. The article further clarified that the LDS church defines an apostate as “people who renounce their faith. If someone is believed to be acting in an apostate way, it triggers a disciplinary council, which can have different outcomes, from counseling to potential loss of membership.”

Interestingly, the new policy puts homosexual marriage into the same category as polygamy, which the LDS church officially renounced in 1890. I am on record as arguing long before last summer’s SCOTUS decision that redefining marriage to include homosexual unions would open the door to polygamous marriages, as well.

As of Friday afternoon there were more than 1,200 comments on the Post story. Not surprisingly, most of them were not supportive of the policy change. The daughters of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman said the church had gone too far. I wonder, though, of perhaps the real problem is that other faiths have not gone far enough. A number of Christian denominations have gone the other way, saying that they welcome homosexuals and believe that homosexual marriage is okay. This despite the fact, of course, that the Bible clearly states otherwise. If a church firmly believes that the Bible teaches that marriage is to be between one man and one woman, why wouldn’t that church consider those who reject that core tenet of their faith to have rejected the faith? If a church expects its members to accept and agree with its statement of faith, why would it allow members who directly contradict and oppose a fundamental element of that faith? Churches that practice infant baptism expect–require, I imagine–the parents of those infants to be members of their church and to profess faith consistent with the church’s teaching. Why then would the LDS church not hold that infants of same-sex couples will not be blessed? I do not know what the LDS position is on when an individual becomes old enough to become a member of the church, but the Post article says that children are typically baptized around age 8. While I do not know this for certain, of course, I cannot imagine there are many churches that would baptize an 8 year old without the consent of the child’s parents. The LDS position here is that even if the parents consented, the child is being raised in a home that by its very existence contradicts the teachings of the church. Accordingly, I do not consider the LDS position change to be too severe or even inappropriate. Instead, I see a church willing to take a clear, public and unambiguous stand for what it believes in the face of a culture that has decided it does not agree. That is not easy to do, it will not make the church popular and there is little to gain from doing it. Little, that is, except the one thing that really matters–standing firm on what that church believes is the truth. There is not much I agree with when it comes to Mormon faith or teaching. In fact, I do not even agree with all LDS teaching on marriage, given that the Mormon faith teaches that marriage is an element of salvation. On this issue, though, I both agree with and applaud the church for standing boldly and firmly for God’s design for marriage. I might handle some of the details differently or change some of the details of how the children of homosexuals are treated, but the details of my church practice and ordinance are different than the details of the LDS church.

My hope is that other churches, those churches that claim to hold to biblical inerrancy and authority, would likewise take an unequivocal stand for God’s Truth and His design for marriage. Homosexuals need to be treated with respect, need to be shown the love of God and need to be prayed for consistently. Homosexuals are loved by God, but God hates their choices when they engage in homosexuality and they defile His design for marriage. Softening the truth of God’s Word is not a loving act. Saying God condones something He clearly does not is not a loving act. Standing for unpopular truth will not win many friends, but it is the right thing to do.

August 9, 2012

Don’t Ignore God’s Design

I always find it interesting when scientific studies prove the validity of the Bible. I do not know whether the authors of such studies set out to provide or disprove the Bible, or whether the Bible ever even crosses their minds, but, without fail, accurate and legitimate scientific study consistently reaches a conclusion that is consistent with what the Bible has already established. As Solomon wrote, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV).

I can remember back a number of years ago sitting in a large meeting room listening to one of the nation’s experts on the subject of dealing with troubled, aggressive and hostile youth, and hearing him state that the very best antidote for such behavior is “consistent, loving discipline over time.” The seminar was not hosted by a Christian group, and the speaker did not make any claim to be a Christian, but I thought to myself, “Hmmmm…interesting. That’s just what the Bible says.”

Well, another perfect example has emerged recently in a new study by Mark Regenerus, published in Social Science Journal. Regenerus, a sociologist and professor at The University of Texas, wanted to evaluate the validity of claims made by the American Psychological Association in 2005 that children are nor adversely affected by growing up in homosexual households. In 2010, social scientists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz claimed that lesbian households were actually better for children than heterosexual households. In Journal of Marriage and Family they suggested that, “Strengths typically associated with married mother-father families appear to the same extent in families with 2 mothers and potentially in those with 2 fathers” (article abstract). That article was entitled, “Does the Gender of Parents Matter?”

But back in 2001 Stacey and Biblarz wrote, in American Sociological Review, an article entitled “Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?” The abstract for that article asserts: “Opponents of lesbian and gay parental rights claim that children with lesbigay parents are at higher risk for a variety of negative outcomes. Yet most research in psychology concludes that there are no differences in developmental outcomes between children raised by lesbigay parents and those raised by heterosexual parents.” Stacey and Biblarz go so far as to state that “heterosexism has hampered intellectual progress in the field.” It was this heterosexism that that they claimed caused the 21 studies that they examined to downplay what could have been important findings regarding the gender and sexual preferences of children. In their conclusion Stacey and Biblarz write that “researchers must
overcome the hetero-normative presumption that interprets sexual differences as deficits, thereby inflicting some of the very disadvantages it claims to discover.” In other words, they claim, it is the homophobic bias of researchers that results in studies showing that “lesbigay” families disadvantage children, since it surely could not be the case that those families in fact do result in disadvantages.

So, what did Regenerus find? His article was titled “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” and was published in Social Science Research. First, he decided to test a far larger sample than other such studies have typically used, selecting at random more than 15,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 39. Of those 15,000 he found that 175 responded that their mothers had been in a lesbian relationship, and 73 indicated that their fathers had been in a gay relationship. Okay, so less than 2% of respondents were raised in a homosexual household; but what impact did that have on them? According to the research, those individuals were more likely than their peers raised in heterosexual families to report “being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed, more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, smoke more pot, had trouble with the law, report more male and female sex partners, more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things.”

Now, let me be clear. I am not suggesting, nor, do I believe was Regenerus, that every child who is raised by a homosexual couple will be more likely to lose a job, get depressed, smoke marijuana, cheat on a partner, etc. But I am suggesting that it is not surprising to me to see those kinds of results. When we break the rules, there are consequences. When we ignore God’s design for the family, there are consequences. Do heterosexual parents mess up in raising their children? Of course. in case by case instances there will always be cases when we can find children of heterosexual parents who are far worse off than children of homosexual parents. But in general, children will be disadvantaged when raised by homosexual parents, because they will be raised in an environment that is contrary to God’s design.

I should mention that the article by Regenerus, and the study, have come under incredible attack since publication. Not surprisingly, it has been called “flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound” by GLAAD, HRC, The Family Equality Council and Freedom to Marry. Those organizations, obviously, want to advance the idea that homosexuals, and homosexual families, are no different than heterosexual ones, so their thoughts on the study are not surprising. There has been so much negative attention directed at this study that there has been an audit of the research authorized by Social Science Journal, and I understand that those findings will be published in November. I hope that the results will indicate that the study was appropriately and accurately conducted. At the end of the day, though, even if the audit finds some errors or tries to put a different spin on this subject, the truth will always be the same: no one can ignore God’s design for the marriage and family and think everyone will be okay.

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