jasonbwatson

June 7, 2017

Let’s Keep “Parents” Around

Last August Joanna Schimizzi, a National Board Certified Teacher, wrote a blog for the “The Standard – The Official Blog of the National Board.” The blog post’s title was “Ban the word ‘Parents’.” Here’s how she started:

This school year, I want to challenge you to ban certain words from your vernacular. We each have our own set of words and phrases that are taboo in our classroom, like “stupid” or “I can’t”, but this year I want to challenge you to stop using the word “parents”.

What was the reason for this peculiar notion? Schimizzi wanted to challenge teachers “to realize that many of our students live in settings where ‘parents’ are not the only figures who are important to their success.”

That’s true of course. Dictionary.come defines “parent” as a father or mother or a protector or guardian. We usually have the former in mind when we think or say “parent” I am sure, and for years it has been common practice for many forms and communications to utilize “parent or guardian” due to the fact that so many children do not receive their primary care from a biological parent. The reality, however, is that there are more children living with two biological parents than most of us would guess. Last November 17 the U.S. Census Bureau, in Release Number: CB16-192, reported, “The majority of America’s 73.7 million children under age 18 live in families with two parents (69 percent), according to new statistics released today from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is compared to other types of living arrangements, such as living with grandparents or having a single parent.” According to that same report only 4% of U.S. children do not live with any parent.

Schimizzi said her position toward the word “parent” came when she was talking to a guidance counselor at her school about the low number of responses she received on a Parent Survey she sent home with students at the beginning of the year. “Her support helped me realize that many of my questions had implicit bias that placed value on certain experiences not applicable to all families,” Schimizzi wrote. “And one of her best suggestions was to change ‘Parent Survey’ to ‘Family Survey.'”

Of course family used to mean parents and the children they cared for. In fact, the leading portion of Dictionary.com’s definition of the word still says, “a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not.” It becomes immediately clear therefore that if Schmizzi and her guidance counselor colleague felt that “Family” would be more appropriate to the realities of students than “Parent” that they must both have agreed, whether consciously or not, that “family” no longer means what it used to mean. Therein lies a huge part of why this recommendation to abolish “parents” is so dangerous–but I will get back to that.

Continuing in her blog, Schimizzi mentioned Al Trautwig’s statement during the Olympics that gymnast Simone Biles “was raised by her grandfather and his wife and she calls them mom and dad.” Biles was, in fact, adopted by her grandparents when she was just a toddler. But when Trautwig was challenged on Twitter about his statement he retorted, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” After being ordered by NBC to apologize, according to The Associated Press, Trautwig issues a statement that said, in part, “To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.”

That situation, however, is a great example of why the word “parent” is so important–not grounds for banning the word. I think many people have long understood that there is an incredible difference between procreating and parenting. Whether by conscious choice to give up or abandon a child, by some kind of incapacitation or even by death, not everyone who contributes to the biological act of childbirth can or will fulfill the role of parent. The willingness of other people to step in and fill that role is to be celebrated and commended–and there is absolutely no need to differentiate their role by calling them anything other than parents. This is true when those voluntary parents are related to the child by blood, such as Biles’ grandparents, as well as when there is no genetic connection whatsoever.

Schimizzi wrote that when she distributes her now-revised survey she will “encourage… students to deliver it to whoever plays the biggest role in supporting them. It’s an interesting experience to watch students think about who in their lives offers them the most academic support.” That is a valid point and it is entirely possible (and sadly, in some instances, probable) that a child will receive greater support from someone other than their parent. That needs to be recognized as well but it is not grounds for abolishing the term “parent”–not by a long shot. Schimizzi ended her post by sharing examples from three classroom teachers for improving family engagement. All three of the ideas have merit but not one of them has anything to do with the definition or role of “parent.” Instead, they focus on language barriers, a parent’s own experience as a student and the failure of parents to do anything with information they receive from the school. Effective educators will look for ways to overcome each of those obstacles. Doing so, however, does not require banning a word.

Banning words is a big deal because words have meanings. We like to pretend they do not sometimes–especially when the word gets in the way of what we want to do–but that does not change the reality that they do have actual meanings. Homosexual activists did not like the idea that “marriage” was not permitted for homosexuals because it was restricted to a man and a woman. So what did they do? Get the courts to extra-legally change the definition. (Somehow extra-legal sounds less offensive than illegal, doesn’t it? The reality is they are the same thing. This is an example of how we also choose words carefully to make something sound other-than what it really is–but this does not change reality either). Once marriage was redefined to include homosexual unions the law began further redefinition. Just a few months ago, in March, a New York court granted three-way custody to what many have called a “throuple.” Slate‘s story on the ruling was headlined, “New York Court Affirms Poly Parenthood with Three-Way Custody Ruling.” Just that headline illustrates the point I am making; whoever heard of “poly parenthood”?

Interestingly, the same Slate article–which was very supportive of the decision, recognized that the ruling was simply a logical outgrowth of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The victory of Dawn Marano and her child could set solid legal precedent for future custody claims of parents in queer or polyamorous families, a necessary next step in a vision of parenthood and child-rearing that extends beyond the boundaries of monogamous marriage. Funnily enough, this is the exact future predicted by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent on the 2015 equal-marriage ruling Obergefell v. Hodges. While arguing that the slippery slope of same-sex marriage could lead to the total breakdown of social norms and family structures, he cited the important legal-theory volume “Married Lesbian Throuple Expecting First Child,” a New York Post article from 2014.

We cannot play fast and loose with our words. Words matter precisely because they mean something. Banning the word will not change that reality. The Supreme Court has demonstrated that it can effectively change the definition of a word, and the New York court has proven that it can follow that example by changing the legal basis of custody, but that is why we must be so diligent to protect the words and definitions that we have in place. When we carelessly cast them aside we are opening the door for something else to take their place–and we may have no idea what that something else will be.

Of course we will find out eventually. Or our children will. I am reminded of this quote from Ravi Zacharias: “Our society is walking through a maze of cultural land mines and the heaviest price is exacted as we send our children on ahead.”

January 18, 2017

Church Convictions

This Friday will be the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America. As always, inauguration day will include a number of festivities and many “big names” will be involve din various ways. One of those who will not be involved, however, is Charlotte Church.

Church is a Welsh singer who became well known at the young age for her incredible voice. Her first album was released the year Church turned 12. The album sold millions and made Church the youngest person to ever have a number one album on the British crossover charts. She released a “best of” album at the ripe old age of 16. I would think it would be fair to call Church the Jackie Evancho of the early 2000s. (That comparison is appropriate in another way too, as will be seen shortly). About a dozen years Church made it known that was transitioning to pop music and, to be honest, I do not remember the last time I head anything about her until last week. I own all of her early CDs and enjoy them. I was shocked to discover that she is now 30 years old! Apparently she has still been performing and recording since I lost track of her but, also apparently, not in a manner or style I would much care for.

So what brought Church into the news last week? She was invited to perform for the Trump inauguration–and she very publicly declined. On January 10 Church tweeted to Trump, “Your staff have asked me to sing at your inauguration, a simple Internet search would show I think you’re a tyrant. Bye.” The Huffington Post took Church’s suggestion and did a simple internet search. They found a December 2015 tweet saying calling Trump, “A Sith death eater…….and an amoeba. I really, really detest him.” On a British talk show in 2016 she said, “I don’t hate anybody, but I hate that man.”

Those remarks would actually make it seem rather odd that Church would even be invited by the Trump team.

Church, of course, is not the only performer to have said no to performing for the inauguration. According to a January 15 article in Business Insider these artists have also reportedly declined invitations: Elton John, Céline Dion, Garth Brooks, Kiss, Moby, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster and Rebecca Ferguson. Half of these names, by the way, beg the question of why someone who campaigned on the motto “Make American Great Again” would even invite them. Does the United States really not enough of its own musical talent that British, Canadian, Italian and Welsh performers need to be imported? Not that I have any objection to international talent, mind you, it just seems odd to invite them to sing at the inauguration of the U.S. president. I guess I have never thought about it before, but I do not picture U.S. artists being invited to perform for the inauguration or coronation of other nations’ leaders. (This is not unique to Trump, of course. Barack Obama’s inauguration included Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Gabriela Montero–a Chinese-American born in Paris, an Israeli-American and a Venezuelan now residing in Spain).

None of this is the point of the post anyway. The point is that Church and the others have exercised their right not to provide services on behalf or in celebration of a person they do not like and/or disagree with–strongly, it would appear. If I were Charlotte Church and I believed that Donald Trump was a tyrant then I would decline too. In fact, if nothing else, I respect Church and friends for standing by their convictions and not accepting an invitation to perform at a very visible and, I imagine, very well compensated event because of their stance regarding the individual being inaugurated. After all, performing at the inauguration would imply approval of Trump, or at least an acceptance. Her voice is Charlotte Church’s business, it is how she makes her living, it is, in a manner of speaking, the service she provides. Still, though, it is hers and she should have the right to decide when, where and for whom to sing, should she not? Besides, it is not like there are not other performers who can provide songs for the inauguration. Garth Brooks said no but Toby Keith said yes. Charlotte Church said no but Jackie Evancho said yes. And so it goes.

Here is the question though, and the real reason for this post: why is it okay for a musical artist to say no to a request from (or on behalf of) the president-elect of the United States, to perform at one of the most unique and meaningful events in our republic, but it is not okay for a baker to decline to make a cake or a hotel to decline to host an event or a printer to decline to print t-shirts?  We have all heard the accounts of individuals who did these things, and others, because their convictions are that homosexual marriage is wrong. Accordingly, they did not want to participate in or appear to approve of homosexual marriage ceremonies (or other events that violated their conscience and/or religious belief). It is not like there are not other bakers who can make cakes, florists who can provide flowers, hotels that can host events and printers that can print t-shirts or flyers or whatever, so why cannot those individuals who would have to violate their conscience in order to comply with the request act in accordance with their beliefs? Does someone have to rise to the level of celebrity to have these rights? Does there need to be a track record in the Twitter-sphere of one’s objections to a lifestyle or belief? Sadly, the truth is more along the lines of someone has to be opposing what is seen as acceptable and right by the liberal left, the collective of people who celebrate tolerance and inclusion but fail to practice the same when it comes to them being tolerant of those who not agree with them.

Aaron and Melissa Klein were bakers in Oregon who chose not to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding. The resulting publicity, fines and court cases cost them $135,000 and their business. What will their choice cost Charlotte Church, Elton John or Garth Brooks? I think it is safe to say it will cost them nothing. In fact, the media publicity for them has been positive, praising them for refusing to perform for Trump. (On the other hand, there has been media attention toward Evancho that is questionable and even negative in light of the fact that she has chosen to perform despite having a transgender “sister”).

An article in the December 31, 2016 issue of WORLD entitled “Fair of foul?” examines legislation targeted at including sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in non-discrimination policies and laws. According to the article there is a split among some evangelical leaders over whether such legislation should always be opposed or whether it should be supported so long as there is religious exemptions in the law. I come down on the side of it being always opposed. Religious exemptions, after all, usually only apply to businesses, not individuals, and even then usually only to businesses of a certain size. In a statement issued December 14, 2016 more than six dozen religious leaders expressed their opposition to SOGI laws of any kind. Why? “They argue that SOGI laws violate privacy rights and freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, and association….” Quite right.

So again, if the convictions of a Church (namely, Charlotte) can allow her to decline a invitation to sing for a presidential inauguration, why cannot the convictions someone learned at church (namely, Bible-believing and teaching churches) not also be respected? What do we gain from making something do something against their will after all? Nothing of value. Nothing we should really want to gain in the first place. If Charlotte, Andrea, Elton and Garth can act according to their convictions, Aaron and Melissa should be able to do the same thing. Anything else is simply intolerant.

September 9, 2015

These Things I Wonder

If you read this blog with any regularity then you know that I am not short on opinions. There are very few subjects on which I could not share some thoughts and which I do not have an opinion. Not that my opinions are necessarily right, but I usually do have one. One of my favorite graduate school professors would often say that he was “often wrong, but never in doubt.” Perhaps that fits me, too. Still, there are some subjects on which I have not been able to form an opinion. Within the past week, in fact, there have been three. That’s quite a few for such a short period of time, so I found myself somewhat frustrated by my inability to come to a conclusion one way or the other. So, I am going to share them with you, in the hope that (1) if you have opinions on these topics that you are willing to share you will do so, and (2) that if you have questions you wonder about too that you will share those as well. You can do either–or both–by leaving a comment.

First, I have been unable to decide whether Kim Davis was right or wrong in her refusal to issue marriage certificates because of her convictions that homosexuality is a sin. Herman Cain explained his opinion that elected officials have to obey the law whether they like it or not. To be honest, that was how I was leaning initially, even though I respected Davis’s willingness to take a stand and even go to jail for what she thought was right. As I read more, though–particularly Eugene Volokh’s piece in The Washington Post and Joe Carter’s article on The Gospel Coalition web site, I was feeling more inclined to say Davis was right. There are allowances made for religious convictions in many work environments, and there are laws designed to protect those convictions in the workplace. As Carter clearly pointed out, Kentucky should have made plans for how to deal with this issue before it came up. He also correctly points out, though, that part of the problem resulted when the Supreme Court–a branch of the federal government–interfered in a matter that is properly the domain of the states. The federal government then intervened in a state issue again when a federal judge ordered Davis jailed. It would certainly seem that there are reasonable and relatively simple ways to accommodate homosexual couples receiving a marriage license without Kim Davis having to put her name on them, so on this issue I think I may be close to having an opinion…certainly much closer than I was at the end of last week…but I am still not sure.

Second, I have been wondering about the expectations that there are, or should be, for pastors and other church leaders. It is biblical for them to be held to a higher standard, and there are clearly spelled out biblical expectations and qualifications for individuals holding the position of pastor and elder, so I am not questioning that. However, I am not sure I have a clear grasp of how high those standards need to be, or could realistically be. Last week Ligonier Ministries announced that it was suspending R.C. Sproul, Jr. until July 2016 because he visited Ashley Madison, the web site designed to facilitate discreet affairs. A recent hack of the Ashley Madison site has apparently resulted in a tremendous amount of information being released about users of the site. I would not even begin to defend the site itself. However, assuming Sproul’s admission was complete and what he has stated about his visit to the site is comprehensive, I was left wondering. Sproul said that he visited the site one time, in what he called a “moment of weakness, pain, and from an unhealthy curiosity.” He said he did leave an old e-mail address at the site, but he left it after that one visit and has never returned. He did not sign up to use the site’s service and he has not had any contact with any of the site’s clients. Was Sproul wrong to visit the site? Yes. Should a one-time visit to a site result in a suspension of nearly a year from the college and ministry where Sproul teaches? I am not sure. By no means do I want to downplay sin, and I certainly do not intend to suggest that we should lower the standards to which pastors and Bible teachers are held. At the same time, if Sproul’s explanation is entirely truthful, he erred but recognized his error and repented. He did not visit the site again. Sadly, I am sure that there are many pastors and Bible teachers who have had thoughts that they should not have had. I would like someone to show me an adult male who has not ever had moments of unhealthy curiosity. Grace is biblical, too. Grace does not mean letting someone off; there are still consequences to choices and actions. We must not allow a misunderstanding of grace to lead us into thinking that we can or should excuse away any sinful behavior. At the same time, we should not overreact to something or assign a harsher-than-necessary penalty in order to make someone an example, make a point, or demonstrate our attention to a current hot-button issue. I had hoped to find the thoughts of Christian leaders and teachers whom I respect on this matter, but thus far I am finding nothing. Tim Challies said on his site that he was “sickened and so sorrowful” to hear of Sproul’s actions and subsequent suspension, but that is all I have found to date. Yes, pastors and Bible teachers need to be held accountable, but is it possible to set the bar impossibly high? I am not sure.

Third, I am wrestling with whether or not there is such a thing as presuming upon God’s provision and the support of God’s people. My family recently received a support letter from a missionary family that is supported by the financial donations of individuals and churches. This family is currently expecting their tenth child. It is common sense that the more children someone has, the greater the amount of financial support they will require in order to be able to provide for their family. I have long said when people have criticized the Duggar family for having so many children that if (1) they have the financial wherewithal to care for those children, and (2) the children are receiving the love, care and attention they need, then how many children they have is really none of my business or anyone else’s. The Bible makes it clear that children are a gift from God and there are definite passages of Scripture that indicate that having many children can bring great joy. I have two children, and I am content. I do not feel any compulsion or obligation to have more. I know families with lots of children who are able to provide for them, and I think that’s great. If a family requires government aid in order to provide for their children, though, I do not think it is wise to have more children. I do not think it is good stewardship. I question whether it pleases God. Now I am certainly not suggesting that missionaries or other Christian workers in support-based positions are the equivalent of folks on welfare or other government assistance programs. However, these are people who are, for all intents and purposes, telling God and man, “I will work full time for God and trust Him to provide for my financial and material needs.” There are many scenarios and situations in which I do not have a problem with that. There are other times when I struggle with it. For example, should faculty members at Christian colleges have to raise their own support so that the school does not have to pay them, and therefore can keep the tuition low? My opinion is no. I think the students attending the college are receiving a service that has value and for which there is no reason they should not pay. It would make far more sense to have a reasonable tuition and to pay the faculty a reasonable salary so that they can devote their full time and attention to their ministry of teaching rather than scrimping and devoting time to asking for support. There are plenty of ways to provide financial assistance to deserving individuals who need it without keeping tuition artificially low across the board. At what point, though, does it become irresponsible and presumptuous for a family in a support-based position to keep having children, therefore creating a need for increased financial support? I am not sure.

August 11, 2015

Would you jump too?

You may have heard or read already about City Church in San Francisco announced this past March that the church would “no longer discriminate based on sexual orientation,” by which the church meant that sexually active gay and lesbian couples in homosexual marriages would be permitted to become members of the church. This was a reverse of position for the church, which had taught the church “was holding and would hold to the historic Christian view of homosexuality,” according to a report in the July 11, 2015 issue of WORLD. This change “shocked” church members and “surprised” a group of some 40 pastors who subsequently sent a letter to Fred Harrell, the pastor of City Church, questioning the process by which the decision was made as well as the decision itself. I have written enough here at other times on the biblical position on homosexuality that I need not elaborate on it here, and that is not the main point of this post. Rather, I want to consider one of the reasons cited in the WORLD report for the City Church position change.

Marvin Olasky reported that in October 2014 City Church elders met and a majority of them decided to accept a gay man as a member of the church without any requirement that he remain celibate. However, the individual did not join the church and, according to Olasky, “almost all church members remained unaware of the imminent change.” It was in January that Harrell pushed the elders to make that vote the church’s official position, and the five elders present at the meeting agreed. Here is where my concern heightened. Olasky reports that there were “two developments” in January that prompted some at City Church to believe the time had come for the church to change its position on homosexuality in general and homosexual church membership in particular. What were those developments?

First, “two big evangelical churches in other cities–GracePointe in Nashville and EastLake in Seattle–announced they would now admit non-celibate gays.” That is the extent of Olasky’s commentary on that motivator and I do not know anything further about the impact that may have had on the City Church position change, but this rationale smacks of the age-old parent-to-child question, “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” The decision by any church to compromise the teachings of Scripture should be an impetus for other churches to shore up their own position and ensure their own adherence to the Truth, not an excuse to join in and throw out the biblical instruction. This is why Paul instructed that believers need to test what they hear in church against the Bible, so that they are not misled by the “position of the moment” being espoused by any teacher or church when that position is contrary to Scripture. (This is also why, by the way, men literally gave their lives to see through the translation of the Bible into language the people could read for themselves–so that churches and church leaders could not mislead the people by ignoring parts of the Bible or claiming Scripture said something it does not say).

Second, Olasky reports, “An article in The Guardian on hip Bay Area churches focused on new entries: Reality, Epic, C3, and The Table. City Church didn’t receive even a mention.” Sadly, this too is an incredibly childish motivation. This reads like one child seeing that another was getting more attention than he, so he decided to throw a tantrum or do something outrageous in order to ensure that all attention shifted back his way. Churches that concern themselves with being labeled “hip” by any publication, much less a secular one that tends to lean to the left, are clearly churches whose priorities are in the wrong place. I do not know how much connection there is between the article and the church decision, but it troubles me deeply to think of any church suddenly embracing any position that contradicts Scripture even in small part in order to attract media attention or improve some kind of hip-ness rating. Jesus said that the world will hate His followers because the world hated Him first. Peter said that followers of Christ are blessed when they are insulted or persecuted for the name of Christ. I am unable to find anyplace in Scripture that commands, encourages or even suggests that Christians are to seek out the approval of the world.

City Church was not the first church to flip-flop on the issue of homosexual marriage or homosexual church membership and it certainly will not be the last. Anytime a church, a pastor or teacher or any individual Christian, for that matter, does a 180-degree change on any position to which he held previously there needs to be careful evaluation and examination of why the position or conviction was changed and whether or not that change was truly informed by Scripture–and a proper interpretation and understanding of Scripture, at that. Sometimes there may be legitimate reasons and sometimes the change will be one that needed to be made. When the change results in a new position that is clearly contradicted in Scripture, though, Christians need to take a stand and call the position change what it is–error, false teaching, heresy. When the change is motivated by a desire to follow the crowd or get back into the in-group, not only should the position change be questioned, so to should the very church making the change. Any church that changes a foundational position of the church’s faith for such shallow and temporal reasons will surely have other, far deeper problems.

August 3, 2015

Impossible to Dismiss

On June 8, Eastern University professor and well-known Christian speaker Tony Campolo released a statement in which he urged the church “to be more welcoming.” That is a very nice-sounding euphemism for what he really did, which is “call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.” Campolo is no stranger to more liberal positions within the church, but this endorsement contradicts what Campolo himself has written in the past and is based on, well, nothing really other than Campolo’s stance that holding to the biblical position on homosexuality is not effective and does not demonstrate the love of Christ. He said that his position change came about after “countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil.” I am in no position to doubt or question the sincerity of that statement. I am, however, willing to question what Campolo was studying and/or praying–and with whom he was conversing–that his “countless hours” brought him to this conclusion.

In 1988 Campolo wrote a book entitled 20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid to Touch. I am not sure how well it sold, but I happened to have a copy of it on my bookshelf, so I took a look. I suspected that even in 1988 the issue of homosexuality would have been one of the hot potatoes, and I was right; the ninth chapter of the book is called “Does Christianity have any good news for homosexuals?” In that chapter Campolo calls for believers to get over their homophobia and reach out to the gay community in love. I cannot disagree that Christians are to show love to homosexuals. Campolo also wrote, “I am not asking that Christian people gloss over biblical teachings or ignore their convictions that homosexual acts are sin.” Even in 1988 Campolo was insisting that some homosexuals are born with their homosexual inclinations and that it is not a choice they are making. (Interestingly enough he stated that this was much more likely true for homosexual males than females, that the research into homosexual female behavior was “much more confusing” and that female homosexual activity was much more likely to be the result of “sociological/psychological causes”). Still though, despite making a number of claims that would tend to take a relaxed stance on homosexuality, Campolo ultimately came down on the side of Scripture and its clear teaching that homosexual behavior is a sin. For example, Campolo wrote:

[P]ersonally I hold to a belief that homosexual behavior is wrong, regardless of what motivates it. I hold to this position not only because I disagree with my homosexual friends about this particular scripture [Romans 1:26-27], but also because for centuries the consensus of church leaders and theologians has been that homosexual behavior is against the will of God. I believe that our contemporary reading of Scripture should be informed by the traditions of Christendom. The traditional interpretations of Scripture should not be considered infallible (else there would have been no Protestant Reformation) but they should be taken seriously.

Campolo then went on to explore the position that Paul was writing, in I Corinthians 6 and I Timothy 1 about pederasty, not about a mutually and consensually chosen relationship. Yet, he still followed that up with this statement: “Please remember that I do think that homosexual behavior is contrary to the will of God.” In his nest Tevye-esque attempt to explore what might be “on the other hand,” though, he next posits that the New Testament does not give nearly as much attention to homosexual behavior as it does to other sins like neglecting the poor, that Jesus never taught on homosexuality, and that “the fact that homosexuality has become such an overriding concern for many contemporary preachers may be more a reflection of the homophobia of the church than it is the result of the emphasis of Scripture.”

Shifting back to “the other hand”, Campolo speculates on the possibility of homosexuals living in celibate covenants, suggesting that such relationships would be possible. He wrote that he refrained from calling them marriages, though, because, by his way of thinking, marriage “implies a sexually consummated relationship” while a covenant “connotes a lifelong commitment of mutual obligation which does not necessitate sexual intercourse.” Just a paragraph later, then, Campolo writes, “On the one hand, our obedience to the teachings of the Bible and the traditions of the church necessitate that we withhold approval of homosexual intercourse. Even if the New Testament case against homosexual intercourse is not as pronounced as some people think it is, there are still passages in the Old Testament that speak directly to the issue which I find impossible to dismiss (see Lev. 18:22, 20:13).” Finally, Campolo wraps up the chapter with a proposal for some sort of homosexual Christian communities in which homosexuals could live together, be honest about their orientation and make special efforts to encourage one another to live lives that glorified Christ, all while simultaneously “holding in check” through “loving and prayerful support” the “temptation to consummate sexual urges”.

If, after reading that, you’re thinking Campolo may have some kind of philosophical/theological version of bipolar disorder, you’re not far off. Quite simply, in his 1988 writings, Campolo wanted badly to affirm homosexuals. He believed that homosexuals needed to be shown the love of Christ and be treated with love by Christians, and that is correct. However, it is clear that he was trying to find every possible way to affirm homosexuals and provide explanations for homosexuality as well as opportunities for living a life that celebrated homosexuality while remaining chaste. (His homosexual communities is an incredibly bizarre notion, in my opinion; try, for example, putting a bunch of males and females together in a community and ask them to affirm the fact that they are sexually attracted to each other and then also encourage each other not to have sex. Let me know how that works out….) Still, despite his clear desire to affirm homosexuality, Campolo in 1988 was not willing to ignore the clear biblical teaching that homosexual behavior is sin. Now, though, 27 years later, he has changed his mind and yielded to what I suspect he wanted to do back then–said that, despite the biblical teaching, we should celebrate, embrace and welcome sexually active homosexuals who have married.

So how does Campolo justify this new position without simply saying, “The Bible is wrong?”

First of all, he re-defines marriage. He acknowledged in his June 8 statement that many Christians agree with Augustine that the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, which would “negate the legitimacy of same-sex unions.” Others, though, including Campolo himself, believe there is “a more spiritual dimension of marriage.” This dimension is of greater importance than procreation, indeed is of “supreme importance” and includes the belief “that God intends married partners to help actualize in each other the ‘fruits of the spirit,’ which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, often citing the Apostle Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ’s sanctifying relationship with the Church.” Marriage, Campolo said, should always be “primarily about spiritual growth.”

Should marriage promote spiritual growth? Of course. Husbands and wives should encourage each other, support each other, pray for each other, even lovingly rebuke each other at times. However, that cannot be the primary purpose of marriage because that could be the primary purpose of any number of relationships. Indeed, it is the primary purpose of the church and the relationships between believers within the body of Christ. Procreation and the raising of children is what sets marriage apart from any other relationship. Remember, in 1988 Campolo said that marriage “implies a sexually consummated relationship.” God designed the male and female to fit together in the physical act of sex and to enjoy sex within the marriage relationship. Redefining marriage as Campolo suggests not only diminishes the importance of procreation and parenting but it necessarily eliminates the biblical teaching that sex is to be limited to marriage. Campolo may suggest that is not what he said, but it is the logical outcome of what he said. If the chief thing that sets marriage apart from any other relationship is no longer the biblically-approved sexual relationship then how do we confine sex at all? Does sex not then become just a physical activity that can be enjoyed between any two individuals who so desire to engage in consensual sexual activity?

Second, Campolo, like so many others who have flipped their position on homosexual activity, was swayed by seeing “so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way” as the relationship Campolo has with his wife. In other words, because there are homosexual couples who seem to love, support, encourage and aid each other, it must be okay for them to marry.

To his credit, Campolo acknowledges that he might be wrong: ” Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.” He concludes his statement, though, by suggesting that this issue of homosexuality is much like previous positions held by sincere believers who claimed biblical support for keeping women out of teaching roles in the church, prohibited divorced and remarried individuals from being part of a church fellowship and even the practice of slavery. This, of course, hints at some of the ways in which Campolo disagrees with some believers, since there are still plenty of Christians who do not believe the Bible permits women to be in positions of leadership within the church, including the office of pastor or elder. I am one of those individuals. There are still plenty of believers who believe that divorced and remarried individuals are welcome to be part of a church but cannot hold leadership positions if the divorce took place after becoming a Christian and for any reason other than those that are biblically permissible. I am one of those individuals. Most importantly, however, Campolo seems to ignore the fact that while there were some individuals who used Scripture to support the practice of slavery, there is nowhere where the Bible explicitly states that slavery is okay. Indeed, it was belief in the biblical teaching that all humans have dignity and worth, that all humans are created in the image of God, that lead so many of those who opposed slavery to fight for its abolition. The Bible does, though, explicitly state that homosexual behavior is an abomination and a sin. It does not matter how many nice, loving homosexual couples Campolo knows, and it does not matter how he or anyone else wants to redefine marriage–there is simply no way to change that fact. Indeed, I will end by quoting the 1988 Tony Campolo in opposition to the 2015 version: “There are still passages in the Old Testament that speak directly to the issue which I find impossible to dismiss.” Me too.

June 29, 2015

Love Wins

Unless you live under a rock you have been already been inundated by news stories, blog posts, Facebook status updates and tweets about the Supreme Court’s decision last Friday making homosexual marriage legal in the United States.I could comment at length on the decision itself, and perhaps at some point I will. In reality, most of what I would say has already been shared in this space before in my warnings about the slippery slope we are on and where that will lead once we step onto it. With Friday’s ruling I believe we have stepped fully onto that slope–not gingerly or cautiously, but jumped on with both feet. As we slide down that slope we will pick up momentum and there is, sadly, no telling what kind of condition we will be in when we come to a crashing stop at the bottom.

Perhaps the most common hashtag over the past few days has been this one: #LoveWins. I have no idea how many times it has been tweeted or otherwise posted around social media but I suspect it would be in the millions. President Obama and Vice President Biden both tweeted it. Hillary Clinton tweeted it with instructions on how to get a free bumper sticker from her presidential campaign that features the word HISTORY in the ubiquitous rainbow color scheme of the homosexual movement. Above the bumper sticker was the headline “All love is equal.” STOP-Homophobia.com tweeted “It’s only a matter of time before #LoveWins worldwide.” Coca-Cola was one of many companies quick to embrace the ruling and be sure everyone knows that they celebrate the decision, and Facebook made it possible for uses to place a rainbow-colored overlay over their profile pictures in a show of support.

The problems here are almost innumerable, so I am not going to get into many of them. Let me just say this briefly. The definition of marriage, and the redefinition of marriage by SCOTUS, has nothing to do really with love. Love is both an emotion and a decision, and it is something that many people feel and have toward many other people. Whether or not someone loves someone else is not the only necessary ingredient for marriage. (Indeed, one could argue whether or not it even is a necessary ingredient, but that is a completely different conversation). That “love” seems to be what everyone is celebrating with this decision is part of that momentum with which we are hurtling down the slippery slope toward a high velocity collision at the bottom. If marriage will be based and defined solely on whether or not people love each other than we have–as I have warned repeatedly before–obliterated any grounds on which we could now restrict marriage to a man and a woman, two men or two women. How could we now say that if a man and three women love each other they cannot be married? How can we say that if an adult and child love each other they cannot be married? If someone claimed to be in love with a dog, how could we not allow that person to marry that dog? Anyway, enough on that; it is not really my point here today.

What troubles me most of all about the #LoveWins mess is that it distorts what love really is. I will not delve too deeply into that right now either, though. Instead, I want to focus on the fact the love won a long, long time ago. Actually, Love won, and God is Love. In the beginning, God created humans with a free will. If I were God, I would have seriously considered nixing that idea I think, particularly since God’s omniscience means He was well aware of what we would do with that free will. That free will led to Eve yielding to Satan’s temptation, Adam following her lead, and the sin nature that each of us is now born with. That free will God gave us paved the way for every sin we have ever committed, every decision we (collectively) have made to reject God completely or to reject His instructions and guidelines periodically or consistently. It was because God loves us that He gave us a free will; He would rather be loved by those who have chosen to love and follow Him than by legions of human robots who have no choice but to love and obey.

More importantly, God’s love is so great that when sin did separate us from Him He decided to send His only Son to pay a penalty we could never pay–a perfect, sinless blood sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. When Jesus Christ was crucified, paying for your sins and mine, when He was buried and rose again, conquering sin, death, hell and Satan, love won. Satan cannot win. He still fights on with dogged determination but even knows how the story ends. Our understanding of love from a human perspective is distorted, perverted and skewed by selfish desires and the pursuit of pleasure and happiness. God IS Love, and His love is unfathomable. We can understand it enough to appreciate it and accept it, but the realities of its scope and depth and breadth are incredible. I have addressed this here before as well, and it would be easier for to you just read God’s Love Is than for me to restate what I think has already been well articulated. What I want to leave with here is this: Yes, Love Won, but not on Friday when five people in black robes decided to redefine marriage. Love Won over two thousand years ago when Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again. Love Won from the moment God spoke the universe into existence. The approval of a redefinition of marriage to allow homosexuals to marry is not evidence of love; rather, it is evidence of the workings of Satan and of man’s desire to remake truth to fit his own wants and whims. Despite our best efforts to ignore, change or destroy His Truth, God’s Truth and God’s Love are the same today as they have always been and as they will always be. Not because of the SCOTUS decision, but in spite of it, Love Wins.

February 11, 2015

Discernment and caution

In the last post, I described why it so important for churches to exercise discernment and caution when deciding who will become a member. Though not referenced explicitly in that post, it is just as crucial for individual believers to exercise discernment and caution when selecting a church to join, or when weighing a decision to stay in a church.

The extreme dangers of both are exemplified in an article in the January 26 issue of TIME entitled “A Change of Heart.” The article provides an overview of the varying positions on homosexual marriage within evangelicalism. The church that is spotlighted in the story is Seattle-area EastLake Community Church. The article’s lead paragraph describes all of the ways that the church “looks like a lot of other evangelical megachurches,” but is really praising the trendiness of the church. And before I address that church’s stance on homosexual marriage let me address this trendiness issue. The TIME article says that EastLake “boasts 13 weekly services at six locations…; the head pastor is a bearded hipster; and the main campus is a warehouse turned sanctuary where greeters serve coffee, a tattooed band rocks out beneath colored lights and attendance swells whenever the Seahawks are not playing.”

That these are the characteristics considered common among evangelical megachurches does not speak well for evangelical megachurches! None of those descriptors amount to a thing when it comes to faithfulness to Scripture. God is far more concerned that a pastor is a Bible-proclaimer than a bearded hipster. His desire is that church members actually serve each other and their communities; I suspect He could not care less whether or not the greeters serve coffee. (Actually, if the coffee becomes a focal point or a distraction, I suspect He does care, and He is not in favor). I feel equally confident that God is far more concerned with the lyrics of the songs and the hearts of the singers than He is with the bodily adornment or the colored lights. And if the church’s attendance fluctuates considerably (which “swells” would imply) based on whether or not the local NFL team is playing, I think God would have a question or two about the level of commitment to Him that would be found in the members/attendees of the church. See, I may be wrong, but the notion of church attendance swelling when the Seahawks are not playing makes me think that going to church is the next-best thing to do on a Sunday morning in Seattle for those whose presence “swells” the attendance at EastLake. If the church is a trendy, fun or “hip” place to hang out when there’s no football, there is a problem. (See also: my many previous references to the need for church to be uncomfortable).

All of that aside, the real point of the introductory paragraph of the TIME article is this conclusion: “It [all of the happenings of the church described above] is almost enough to make you miss what is really going on at EastLake this winter: the congregation is quietly coming out as one of the first openly LGBT-affirming evangelical churches in the U.S.”

I will go ahead and say it, and the fact that many will disagree with me or call me intolerant, biased, opinionated or discriminatory matters to me not one bit: “LGBT-affirming evangelical church” is a contradiction. It is something that cannot be. Once a church becomes “LGBT-affirming” it ceases to be evangelical. If “evangelical” means affirming the teachings of the gospels and the authority of Scripture, as I believe most definitions suggest, then affirming homosexuality is simultaneously ceasing to be evangelical, since the Bible is quite clear on the fact that homosexuality is a sin. In other words, one cannot both affirm homosexuality and affirm Scripture. One cannot be both LGBT-affirming and evangelical. That is, of course, unless and until one embraces the relativism of our age, when there is no real meaning to anything and one can pick and choose any combination of things and put them together, ignoring the fact that they are mutually exclusive. We are not talking about toe-may-toe versus toe-mah-toe here; these are not matters of preference or opinion.

TIME goes on to explain that the transition to being “LGBT-affirming” happened slowly for EastLake. “For the past six months, the church has played a short welcome video at the start of every service that includes the line “Gay or straight here, there’s no hate here.” Ignoring the fact that the line is incredibly cheesy, I would agree that there should not be any hate found within the church toward people. The sinful choices of people, however, should be of concern. No church can be faithfully teaching Scripture and be making homosexuals feel welcome at the same time. Beyond the saccharine tag line, the church’s other efforts at welcoming and affirming homosexuals include the facts that the church’s first gay wedding took place in December, and that “one of the pastors now sends a wedding gift on behalf of the church every time she hears that gay congregants are getting married.” (Therein, too, the TIME author unwittingly provided further evidence of the fact that the church is not really evangelical; just as clear as the Scripture’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin and marriage is between a man and a woman is the teaching that women are not to be pastors).

Ryan Meeks, the pastor of EastLake, says that a “turning-point” for him came when he learned that “one of his staffers had been afraid to tell him she was dating a woman.” Says Meeks, “I refuse to go to a church where my friends who are gay are excluded from Communion or a marriage covenant or the beauty of Christian community. It is a move of integrity for me–the message of Jesus was a message of wide inclusivity.” Sadly, there is no integrity in the “move” at all, since it denies the authority and teaching of the very Scripture it purports to support and uphold. The message of Jesus was widely inclusive in one way–that salvation is a free gift for anyone who believes. At the same time it is incredibly narrow and intolerant in all other ways. After all, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” There are five resounding statements of intolerance there; Jesus said He is the only way.

I could say plenty more about the contents of the TIME article, and at some point I may. (I have, after all, addressed only the article’s first two paragraphs!). I believe, however, that I have made my point: churches need to be careful about who can become a member, because the members determine the direction of the church. Believers need to be careful about the churches they join, too, so that they do not unknowingly join themselves with a body that does not affirm and teach the Bible. (Encouragingly, the TIME article does point out that EastLake has lost 22% of its income and 800 attendees in the last year and a half, signaling that at least some of its members were unwilling to remain part of a church that no longer taught the Bible). Discernment and caution are imperative.

January 22, 2015

The Weakest Link

On Tuesday, President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address to Congress and the nation. As presidents (almost always) do, Obama proclaimed the state of our union to be strong. However, his address, regardless of whatever else you may think of it, also proved a prime example of the proverb about the weakest link: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it says. If that is true–and I think we have all seen ample evidence in our lives that it is–then the state of our union is actually quite fragile. Let me tell you why.

President Obama, as he has done repeatedly throughout his administration, championed the rights of all “people groups” in his SOTU address. The “last pillar of our leadership,” Obama said, is “the example of our values.” What do those values include, according to Mr. Obama? Respecting human dignity, speaking out against “deplporable anti-Semitism,” “rejecting offensive stereotypes of Muslims,” defending free speech and advocating for political prisoners. It also includes “comdemn[ing] the persecution of women or religious minorities or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.” And why do we do these things? “We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do but because, ultimately, they make us safer.”

Really? In many cases, I would say that’s true, but there is a glaring exception to Mr. Obama’s position.

He went on to state that, “As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice.” For that reason, he said, it is time to shut down the terrorist prison on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Keep in mind, of course, that the detainees at Gitmo are suspected or convicted terrorists.

Several paragraphs later, President Obama stated that Americans “live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper.” Then, a few lines later, “[A] better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.”

What we do not see in any of this rhetoric is any acknowledgement of the unborn. We respect human dignity, the president said, but apparently not the dignity of the unborn. We deplore anti-Semitism and reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims (as we should), but evidently we neither deplore nor reject the notion that a woman has the right to kill an unborn child in her womb. We condemn the persecution of women or religious minorities or homosexuals, but we allow and even champion the “right” of a woman to dispose of another human being if that human being’s birth or temporary occupation of a uterus is inconvenient. We are committed to justice, yet somehow that means closing a prison that houses dangerous terrorists while permitting the murder of unborn children. We are the keepers of our brothers and sisters, but evidently only after they have left the womb; until then, they’re out of luck. Our “basic decency” does not include defending the right to life.

The President’s only mention of abortion was when he said this: “We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely, we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows….” Of course we can agree that is a good thing! Yet the fact that those numbers are at all-time lows (if they are; I have not checked the numbers) does not, by any means, negate or excuse the fact that we still murder a million unborn children every year. According to the Guttmacher Institute’s July 2014 fact sheet on abortion, “Half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion” and “Twenty-one percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.” This is not okay!

Just a few paragraphs from the end of his address, President Obama said, “I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your own life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances, as committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids.” In fact, Mr. Obama is not committed to improving the life chances of children at all. He may be committed to improving the chances they have in life, and he may desire to see today’s children have wonderful opportunities during their lives, but his commitment does not begin until the child leaves the womb.

As long as abortion is legal in the United States–as long as we are willing to, as a nation, defend and embrace the “right” of a woman to kill her unborn child–the state of our union will never truly be strong. When we refuse to defend the sanctity of life, we undermine everything else we claim to stand for. The United States’ position on abortion is truly its weakest link.

November 13, 2014

Good news for marriage

Believe it or not, there may be some good news for those of us who believe in defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In late October, United States District Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez upheld the Puerto Rican law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled, 2-1, that measures in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee limiting marriage to one man and one woman were constitutional. In both instances, the decisions held that the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, allows for states to define marriage.

Perez-Gimenez stated in his decision, “The Windsor opinion did not create a fundamental right to same gender marriage nor did it establish that state opposite-gender marriage regulations are amenable to federal constitutional challenges. If anything, Windsor stands for the opposite proposition: it reaffirms the State’s authority over marriage, buttressing Baker‘s conclusion that marriage is simply not a federal question.”

Baker v. Nelson, the other decision cited above, was a 1972 case in Minnesota in which the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a Minnesota law limiting marriage to a man and a woman did not violate the Constitution. Baker appealed, but the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) dismissed the appeal “for want of a substantial federal question.” Because of the way in which Supreme Court cases work, the Baker case went to the Supreme Court by way of mandatory appellate review. The refusal of SCOTUS to hear the case therefore became precedent because the refusal to hear the case was considered a decision on the merits of the case. This is important, because Perez-Gimenez explained that the Windsor case did not overturn Baker but rather complements it. “Windsor and Baker work in tandem to emphasize the States’ ‘historic and essential authority to define the marital relation’ free from ‘federal intrusion.'”

The Sixth Circuit decision came after a refusal by SCOTUS on October 6 to hear appeals from states that have had their traditional marriage laws struck down by courts, making it an important decision and one that has received considerable attention and no doubt will continue to do so.

Perhaps even more encouraging to defenders of traditional marriage than either decision in and of themselves, though, is the fact that both decisions take aim at the position of those who argue that homosexual marriage is a constitutional right. Perez-Gimenez wrote, “It takes inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance–this Court does not venture an answer here–to interpret Windsor‘s endorsement of the state control of marriage as eliminating the state control of marriage.”

Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton wrote the majority decision in the Sixth Circuit case. He stated early in his decision that recent decisions are mostly ignoring a very, very long history of defining marriage as between a man and a woman. “For better, for worse, or for more of the same, marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world,” Sutton wrote. Sutton also wrote that it is not the place of the judges of the Sixth Circuit to make policy decisions for the citizens living in its circuit; rather, its purpose is to interpret laws vis-a-vis the existing laws and precedents, of which Baker still is one. This is a breath of fresh air coming from a federal bench, especially since so many courts seem more than happy to assume the role of making, rather than interpreting, laws. Sutton went on to write, “A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States.”

This element of Sutton’s decision is a unique perspective on the issue, as far as I know, and I think it is going to prove to be a very important component of future cases dealing with the definition of marriage:

What we are left with is this: By creating a status (marriage) and by subsidizing it (e.g. with tax-filing privileges and deductions), the States created an incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring. This does not convict the States of irrationality, only of awareness of the biological reality that couples of the same sex do not have children in the same way as couples of opposite sexes and that couples of the same sex do not run the risk of unintended offspring. This explanation, still relevant today, suffices to allow the States to retain authority over an issue they have regulated from the beginning.

The reason why this is so important is that is establishes that states do have a compelling interest in defining marriage as between a man and a woman–something that others have argued is not the case. If states have no compelling interest to define marriage as between a man and a woman, the argument goes, then states have no reason or justification for restricting marriage to a man and a woman other than legalized discrimination. So keep an eye on this rationale, because it is going to be extremely important.

Sutton went on to reinforce his point by writing this: “If it is constitutionally irrational to stand by the man-woman definition of marriage, it must be constitutionally irrational to stand by the monogamous definition of marriage.” This is, of course, one of the keystone elements of the argument I have been making against homosexual marriage all along; if we change the definition of marriage to be other than between a man and a woman we eliminate any justification for prohibiting any definition of marriage, whether male-male, female-female, adult-child, human-animal, multiple spouses, etc. Albert Mohler included this observation in his blog post on the Sixth Circuit decision: “He [Sutton] also recorded that in the oral arguments the attorneys arguing for same-sex marriage had been unable to answer his question [as to why marriage should be defined in terms of monogamy]. They could not, he stated, because the only argument they could advance was moral tradition. They could not cite moral tradition as the authority for monogamy because they argued that moral tradition was not a rational basis for law when it came to limiting marriage to a man-woman union.”

Perez-Gimenez stated in his decision, “The people and their elected representatives should debate the wisdom of redefining marriage. Judges should not.” Similarly, Sutton wrote, “The theory of the living constitution rests on the premise that every generation has the right to govern itself. If that premise prevents judges from insisting on principles that society has moved past, so too should it prevent judges from anticipating principles that society has yet to embrace.” In other words, both judges are taking a stand for courts restricting themselves to interpreting law and letting the people make the decision about how marriage is defined. Interestingly, this is exactly what the Windsor decision meant, as well.

Mohler closed his blog with this statement: “Sometimes the right argument just has to be made, even if it does not win at any given hour. The truth will stand the test of time, and Judge Sutton deserves our gratitude and respect for making an argument in defense of both marriage and the Constitution–and for making it so well.” I echo his sentiment, and would add Judge Perez-Gimenez to that, too. In the words of Galatians 6:9, let us not grow weary in doing what is good–and in this situation, it means continuing to take a stand for marriage as God defined it, and praying for those judges who are courageous enough to defend the right of the people to make that determination.

July 22, 2014

“The biggest obstacle”

I do not really want to address the topic of the transgender movement in the United States but it appears I do not have much choice because it is an issue that is not going away. According to studies by the Public Religion Research Institute only 9% of Americans say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender. And that number may even be a bit high, because other studies indicate that only 0.5% of the American population is transgender. And yet, the issue of accepting the choices of transgender individuals and granting them special privileges and “rights” in accordance with those choices is potentially going to impact us all.

In South Dakota, where I live, the state’s high school activities association just last month approved a policy whereby students shall have the opportunity to participate in the association’s activities “in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s records.” Therein, of course, we find the root of the problem. For millennia human beings have identified, within moments of birth, the gender of the baby just born. Ever since the advent of birth certificates that information has been recorded officially. And rarely, if ever, has there been any question as to whether that identification was up for debate. Now, apparently, it is.

The June 9, 2014 issue of TIME featured a cover image of a transgender individual who stars on the television show Orange Is the New Black and a feature article entitled “America’s Transition.” This individual, Laverne Cox, has become, according to the piece, “a public face of the transgender movement.” I am going to elaborate later on why the entire notion of transgender is a problem. First, though, I want to touch on a statement Katy Steinmetz includes in the second paragraph of her TIME article. Here it is…

Almost one year after the Supreme Court ruled that Americans were free to marry the person they loved, no matter their sex, another civil rights movement is poised to challenge long-held cultural norms and beliefs. Transgender people–those who identify with a gender other than the sex they were “assigned at birth,” to use the preferred phrase among trans activists–are emerging from the margins to fight for an equal place in society. This new transparency is improving the lives of a long misunderstood minority and beginning to yield new policies, as trans activists and their supporters push for change in schools, hospitals, workplaces, prisons and the military.

There are an incredible number of problems contained right there in those few sentences. First of all, the Supreme Court did not, in fact, rule that Americans are free to marry whomever they love, but I’ll get way off track if I follow that tangent, so let’s just leave that one there. Secondly, as I have argued repeatedly in the past, homosexual “marriage” is not a civil rights issue. Neither are transgender rights. In fact, as I will argue later, the entire notion of transgender individuals being entitled to any special privileges or treatment at all based on their “gender identity” is ridiculous. Third, the paragraph above does accurately link the tremendous strides made by homosexual activists to achieve “rights” for homosexuals to the now-burgeoning movement among transgender activists. Again, as I have argued before, once we redefine what has been accepted for the entirety of human history as marriage we are, for all intents and purposes, jumping onto a slippery slope that will result in all kinds of redefinitions and changes.

Fourth, the notion that gender is “assigned” is a very clever and subtle choice of wording that is designed to convince us that gender and body parts are in no way connected. More on that later, too. Fifth, Steinmetz states that transgender individuals are emerging in order to “fight for an equal place in society.” This is clever wording, too, because who would not be in favor of someone receiving equal treatment and an equal place? After all, equality is a major part of what our nation was founded on, right? Transgender individuals, however, do not want an equal place in society. Instead, they want a special place. They want to receive unique and privileged treatment based on their personal choices. Sixth, and finally, whether or not this “new transparency” is really yielding any improvement in the lives of transgender individuals is debatable, but the policies being adopted to cater to transgender folks are indeed going to touch us all eventually.

A few paragraphs later Steinmetz writes that “the biggest obstacle” faced by transgender individuals is that they “live in a world largely built on a fixed and binary definition of gender.” Very subtle, and intentional, wording there, too–notice that the “binary definition” by which mankind has lived since God created Adam and Eve is an “obstacle” to these individuals living life the way they want to live it. Guess what? There are plenty of obstacles that prevent every one of us from doing things we would like to do on a regular basis. For example, I would like to be able to jump off of the roof of a building a fly–or at the very least enjoy a relaxing downward descent and a soft landing. The “obstacle” of gravity seems to prevent that, though. I would prefer to drive to town doing 100 miles an hour. The road is straight and flat and there is seldom any traffic, but the “SPEED LIMIT 65” signs that stand along the road are obstacles to me doing what I want. I would prefer to have a Porsche in my garage without the cost of buying, insuring or driving one, but life simply doesn’t work that way. Maybe those are silly examples but I challenge you to take a moment and think about all of the “obstacles” that you have to live within each and every day. Take me up on that and I suspect you will literally find dozens of them.

This is a discussion that I am, sadly, just beginning. The next several posts will address this topic, so stay tuned.

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