jasonbwatson

January 4, 2016

The 800-pound gorilla

At the end of November WORLD published an article that includes lots of contributors. Marvin and Susan Olasky got the byline, but the piece included contributions from Katlyn Babyak, Onize Ohikere, Abby Reese, Jae Wasson and Evan Wilt. The article took up six full pages of the November 28 issue and was also the inspiration for the cover, featuring a plump Uncle Sam in an apron offering broccoli to a young man who seemed less than thrilled. The cover headline was “Fat Chance: What Happens When Washington Says ‘Eat Your Vegetables?'” The article title was “Fat of the Land: How a healthy idea became a bloated bureaucracy.” What was all this about then? About the obesity epidemic in America in general, about the child obesity rate particularly and about Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign and resulting overhaul of federal guidelines for student lunches.

The article highlighted some unique programs around the country that teach children how to eat healthy, that teach children to grow vegetables, that help overweight children (and adults) shed pounds and more. Some of the programs are impressive, while others sound almost too good to be true. After all, I struggle to imagine any environment in which a bunch of young elementary school students actually enjoy (or even actually eat) a lunch of steamed edamame, beef and brown rice pilaf, and oranges. At least half of the article though was devoted to Mrs. Obama’s crusade. The article touted good things she has done, including her willingness to do whatever necessary to promote healthy eating and exercise. She has, the article states, “danced and push-upped her way across television talk shows. She charmed kids by making a video in which she boogied with a turnip. She donned gardening gloves and tilled the White House kitchen garden.” All of those things are indeed impressive. Given that Mrs. Obama is the youngest First Lady the U.S. has had since Jacqueline Kennedy, it has been encouraging to see her engage in activities other First Ladies could not have done. (For the record, Hillary Clinton was only 83 days older than Michelle Obama when her tenure as First Lady began, but I do not think I am alone when I say that I cannot really imagine Mrs. Clinton doing anything mentioned above for public view).

The article does a good job of also highlighting the downside to Mrs. Obama’s crusade, including the resulting public school lunches that most students do not enjoy or even eat, the bureaucratic growth stimulated by so many new federal guidelines ans recommendations and the government overreach that comes when the government institutes a goal of average fruit consumption among students reaching 100% of the recommended level by 2030. Of course, trying to find ways to reach unobtainable goals calls for some creativity and guideline restructuring, such as the USDA’s decision in July to allow vegetables in smoothies to count toward the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s mandate a 150% increase in fruits and vegetables in school meals. Somehow I suspect I am not the first one to think of the ballyhooed inclusion of ketchup as a vegetable in the 1980s (even though pickle relish is what was actually recommended, not ketchup). Another part of the problem, of course, is the waste that results when students are served foods they won’t eat. I do not disagree that children need to be fed healthy foods and that they need to learn to eat and enjoy them in order to have a balanced diet, but I question the wisdom of making that the responsibility of the government.

That leads to the 800-pound gorilla in the title, which is alluded to in the article’s conclusion and is the real inspiration for this post. After referencing the many studies that attempt to diagnose why there are so many obese individuals in the United States the article states the following: “[A]mong the outpouring of papers and studies on why some adults and even some kids weigh more than 300 pounds, no one seems to be scrutinizing the 800-pound gorilla in the room: fewer families with married moms and dads in the home, and more families with mothers who come home from full-time work exhausted. Few things are more politically incorrect than to speculate on the connection between family and fat, yet until we do that we’re driving blind.” This is crucial–and I extend kudos to Olasky, et. al. for addressing it in their article. Of course there are plenty of two-parent families that do not eat well, but single-parent and two-working-parent families are more likely to eat processed, packaged and unhealthy foods I would bet. I dare say, too, that two-parent families with children whose schedules are slammed with school, practice, rehearsal, club and whatever-else, constantly scurrying from one activity to another, are more likely than children with well-balanced schedules to eat unbalanced meals.

To his credit, Mike Huckabee has raised the issue (healthy eating and its connectedness to many of the other problems and potential problems facing our country) in both his current presidential campaign and his unsuccessful 2008 run. Few journalists seem to take notice, few debate moderators seem to care and few other politicians seem to have any interest in the subject. That’s fine, I suppose, because there are myriad other important issues for presidential candidates to address and, as I mentioned above, solving this problem is not the bailiwick of the federal government. What is important though, and the point that Olasky is making, is that there are many ramifications and repercussions to family disintegration that we do not think about when we get used to no-fault divorces, single-parent families and other iterations of the family that vary from the way family was intended to function. Likewise important, and the point that Huckabee is making, is that when we do not consume a healthy diet, it is more than our waistlines that suffer. The law of unintended consequences is alive and well and we can find prime examples of it every day if we just look around. As we enter the thick of campaign season this is good to keep in mind as we listen to the promises and claims of those vying to get our votes.

It is also, of course, a great reminder that it would behoove us all to eat a good meal tonight–a home-cooked one, ideally without any processed food and with the entire family sitting around the table.

April 7, 2014

Speaking Out

Back in January WORLD Magazine published its annual issue focused on right to life issues. One of the articles in that issue was titled “Still-silent shepherds.” The article, by Joe Maxwell and Stephen Hall, begins with this editor’s note: “In 1994, WORLD published “Silence of the shepherds,” an article addressing the reticence of many evangelical pastors to preach on abortion. Two decades later, a WORLD survey shows that many are still silent.”

Just that caveat by itself should be enough to spark outrage among anyone who believes that the Bible is absolutely clear on the subject of the sanctity of life. The article begins by explaining that John Piper did not preach on the subject of abortion until the late 1980s. A change came over him then, though: “It was a combination of seeing other people taking it seriously and then beginning to check my own soul, and God just mercifully taking away some blind spots, showing me in the Scriptures all kinds of reasons for standing up and defending these little ones,” Piper said. Since that time Piper has preached more than twenty sermons on the subject of abortion and has become so active in defending life that he was arrested in a sit-in. “I don’t regret it,” he said. The article goes on to quote Piper saying that pastors need to take abortion seriously and they need to address it biblically, including from the pulpit.

Shortly thereafter, however, the article provides a perspective from the other side. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, does not address abortion from the pulpit and that is by design. The article quotes an article Keller wrote for Leadership Journal in 1999: “Pushing moral behaviors before we lift up Christ is religion. …Jesus himself warned us to be wary of it, and not to mistake a call for virtue for the good news of God’s salvation.” The WORLD article includes the story of a woman who was approached several years ago by a woman who thanked him for not addressing abortion from his pulpit, saying, “If I had seen any literature or reference to the ‘pro-life’ movement, I would not have stayed through the first service.” Later she accepted Christ and asked Keller if he thought abortion was wrong. He said yes, and the woman–who has had three abortions–said that she was coming to see that perhaps it is wrong.

I think that’s a great story and a good example of the transformation that occurs when someone accepts Christ — the “renewing of the mind.” However, it is not, in my opinion, a justification for not addressing the issue of abortion in church and from the pulpit. Abortion is, plain and simple, the murder of a human being, albeit one that has not yet been born. Would any pastor argue that churches should avoid speaking out against murder? Of course not. Why, then, allow the culture’s pervasive efforts to define abortion as something other than murder to influence our willingness to stand firmly on the Scripture and state unequivocally that abortion is wrong? Billy Graham apparently once told Larry King, “I don’t get into these things like abortion,” suggesting that doing so might interfere with his main message of salvation. Of course salvation is the main message, and of course salvation will, hopefully, bring the renewing of the mind that caused the woman in Keller’s story to reexamine her previous beliefs about abortion, but that does not mean that we keep mum on the subject until after salvation. Franklin Roosevelt was unwilling to take a stand on civil rights issues during his presidency because he feared it would undermine the support he needed for his economic policies. Was that a reasonable justification for keeping silent on the discrimination that African Americans were facing? I think not.

WORLD‘s article reports that it conducted a random survey of forty pastors from seven different denominations within the National Association of Evangelicals. Interestingly, all forty said that life begins at conception and that pastors should preach against abortion. Despite that unanimous response, eighteen of the forty pastors had not preached on abortion in the past year and five more had never done so! Many of the pastors surveyed indicated that their churches work with or fund crisis pregnancy centers, provide pro-life information within their churches, participate in Right to Life marches or even–in 10% of the churches–picket abortion providers. That is all well and good but it is no substitute for addressing abortion from the pulpit.

One reason suggested within the WORLD article for the reluctance of pastors to address abortion is the impact it may have on giving within their churches. Another reason is the possibility of offending influential church members. Might I respectfully point out that the Bible itself is offensive? R.C. Sproul recounts creating materials to help pastors and churches address abortion several years ago. The response Sproul received was overwhelmingly consistent, he says. “It was like a broken record. Pastors said, ‘I can’t use this material. It will split our church.'”

Interestingly, those pastors who refuse to address abortion from their pulpits are ignoring a subject that an overwhelming number of Americans already believe is immoral. According to an August 2013 Pew study 85% of Americans believe that abortion is immoral. So why would pastors shy away from addressing it? The reasons WORLD received could be divided into four categories according to the article: (1) it might make some church members uncomfortable or “hurt women in congregations who’ve had abortions”; (2) addressing abortion should not be handled in an issue-specific manner, especially if expository preaching is the church’s focus; (3) addressing abortion might politicize the pastor or the pulpit and could scare off seekers; and (4) speaking out on abortion might be “uncool or anti-intellectual.”

If I may, I’d like to state in no uncertain terms that I find those four reasons ridiculous. There are very few subjects in the Bible that will not make someone in the church uncomfortable. When churches refuse to address those topics they cease to become biblical churches and instead become feel-good gatherings and support groups. There is no reason that abortion can not be addressed in a way that also extends forgiveness, love and support to women who have experienced abortions. Given that abortion is explicitly addressed in the Bible I disagree that it could politicize the pastor or the church. If it did, though, I would consider that a cost worth paying for taking a stand. If any pastor fears being uncool he better get out of the ministry now, because the Bible was never intended to be cool. In this increasingly hostile world there will never be a time when preaching the truth of God’s Word will be “cool.” The only one of the four reasons that even comes close to being legitimate in my mind is the second one, but even that is a stretch and is, in my opinion, a flimsy excuse for ducking the issue.

Mike Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor and Republican presidential candidate, provides some of the best comments on the issue of abortion being addressed in the church that I have seen. As to the possibility of addressing abortion being divisive, Huckabee asks, “How can you claim to proclaim a gospel that turns its back on the slaughter of innocent babies?” He accurately addresses the concern about hurting women who have had abortions, too: “We need to be careful and offer grace to people who’ve made bad decisions and give the gospel to them, while at the same time drawing a line in the sand and saying, ‘This is not something that can be acceptable.’ It’s forgivable, but not morally acceptable.”

To that I say simply, “Amen.” If your pastor speaks out against abortion from the pulpit, thank him. If he does not, ask him why, and challenge him to step up and defend life. There is simply no excuse to not do so.

December 19, 2012

“We can’t tolerate this anymore”

If you were watching Sunday night football this past Sunday you were taken from the game to President Obama speaking at a prayer vigil for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That is the only way I happened to see it. I am sure, though, that other channels too showed the speech, and the full text of the address is available on washingtonpost.com (as well as many other sites I am sure). If you pay much attention to politics in America than you were probably as surprised as my wife and I were to hear how frequently and apparently-sincerely the President quoted Scripture and referred to God and even Jesus. Indeed right off the bat, immediately after the obligatory nod to the governor, the families, the first responders and guests, Mr. Obama quoted 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. In their entirety. He did not provide the reference, but he did say, “Scripture tells us” before reciting them.

Shortly thereafter Mr. Obama said, “Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation.” After outlining the brave actions of teachers and students alike, naming the teachers who lost their lives and even sharing what the simultaneously touching and funny account of one student offering to lead the way out because he knows karate, and commending the town for their the President said, “This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.”

Mr. Obama was wise to draw from Scripture during such a time of intense grief and inexplicable tragedy. After all, when confronted with the reality of man’s inhumanity to man, where else is there to go for comfort? Relativism offers nothing even remotely comforting. Saying, “that’s just part of life” is not a good way to win friends and influence people. The truth is that when tragedies like the one in Newtown take place humans everywhere shift their attention to God. Some look to Him in anger, some with genuine perplexity, and many with sorrow that is seeking consolation. There is a part of every human that knows that God is there, and that only is He is big enough to wrap His arms around these situations and provide, if not easy-to-understand answers, at least a refuge and a safe place.

Unfortunately Mr. Obama strayed some as his comments continued. He said, “We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.” I agree; absolutely. Immediately thereafter, though, he said, “We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.” I agree as well that there are many times when it is difficult to discern God’s plans, individually and corporately. It is difficult even for those who diligently seek Him. But in the middle of this conversation Mr. Obama used these as examples of what we humans strive for: “wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort.” Sadly, he is not off the mark. Is it any wonder, though, that we have trouble discerning God’s plan when we spend our time focused on making more money, accumulating more toys and/or building a following for ourselves?

It is then that Mr. Obama misses the target completely, though. After citing Scripture and making reference to God’s plans, the President said, “There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other.” At least he did not go so far as to say that there is nothing that we can be sure of. But if the love of a parent for a child is the only thing that we can be sure of, we are in trouble. What hope can we have in that? After all, I doubt a day goes by that we cannot find a story of a parent committing horrible offenses against a child. I do not doubt for one moment that the parents of the children who died in Newtown loved their children and will miss them terribly. I cannot imagine the pain they are experiencing. I cannot, though, find comfort in the statement that the only thing we can be sure of is a parent’s love.

Taken as a whole, I thought that the President’s comments were heartfelt and appropriate. For most of the speech he spoke as a father far more than he did as a politician. And I do not want to use Newtown as an instrument for any agenda. But the President’s remarks serve only to reinforce the fact that Mike Huckabee was right; we cannot expect to teach morality and accountability and responsibility without God any more than we can hope to comfort those who grieve without God. Why is the latter okay but the former is a violation of religious freedom?

Mr. Obama wants to put an end to these tragedies. “We can’t tolerate this anymore,” he said. “These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

He is right. It will not happen though until we realize, collectively, that we will have to continually comfort grieving hearts if we never try to reach the hearts of those who would commit horrific acts…and attempts to do that without God will continue to be futile. Bringing God and His morality back into the discussion…that is the change we need.

December 15, 2012

“This is a heart issue”

Yesterday’s shooting in an elementary school in Colorado is a tragedy, and there is absolutely no other word for it. I have addressed here before the question of why God would allow such things to happen (see my September 27 post, “Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering?”) but that question is on many lips and in many minds again now. I do not, at the moment, have anything new to add to the answers I provided on that question three months ago. I do, however, want to chime in on the answers given in response to that very question by Mike Huckabee on FOX News on Friday evening. His comments have already generated a fire storm of online commentary, mostly against. But I think what Mr. Huckabee said has considerable merit.

First, what exactly did he say? When asked about the shooting, and why God would allow such a thing, Huckabee said, “When we ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools, should we be so surprised that schools have become a place for carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, responsibility, accountability?”

Elliot Friar, on Policymic.com, took Huckabee to task for these comments (he did the same in response to comments Huckabee made after the shooting in the Colorado theater last summer). Friar writes, “What makes you so sure that your God is the answer to all evils? Over and over you say that people kill people, guns don’t. Well, we supply the people that kill people with guns that do, in fact, kill people. Between 2006 and 2010, a staggering 47,856 people were killed by firearms in the U.S. More than any other way of killing. Guns do kill, and they kill a lot. … How dare you blame their deaths on the absence of religion in our schools and in their lives. Even God himself, any God, could not prevent the easy purchase of multiple assault rifles to murder elementary school students.”

Well Mr. Friar, first of all, God Himself could prevent the easy purchase of guns if He wanted to. That gets into the questions I addressed in September, so I won’t elaborate on that here. But you’re also missing Huckabee’s point. He is not denying that the bullets and the guns do the actual killing. He is denying that it is the guns themselves that are the problem. If somehow the United States eliminated all privately owned guns with the snap of a finger, the thoughts and desires that lead people to kills dozens of innocent people, whether adults or children, in a theater or a school, would not also disappear. There was another tragedy in a school yesterday too; a man in China stabbed 22 children. Should China ban knives, Mr. Friar?

Mr. Huckabee’s point is that when we make everything relative, when we refuse to teach children that there are such things as absolutes, when we make excuses for wrongs rather than holding wrongdoers accountable…that is how we “set the stage” for these kinds of tragedies. No one thinks about the possible consequences of taking ideas to their extremes. Instead, we think about lovely it would be to eliminate the rules and let everyone do whatever they want. After all, why should any one person, group of people, or even God, have the right to tell me or anyone else what I can and cannot do? That sounds dandy in theory. But in reality, when boundaries are eliminated and right and wrong cease to exist, chaos results. Anarchy is an incredibly frightening thing. If there are no rules, no absolutes, how can we say that the perpetrator in Connecticut was wrong? He was, of course, but I can only say that because I believe in right and wrong. Interestingly, everyone seems to believe in right and wrong moments after a tragedy. But then it’s too late…the damage has been done.

Prior to make the statements cited above, Mr. Huckabee said, “Ultimately, you can take away every gun in America and somebody will use a gun. When somebody has an intent to do incredible damage, they’re going to find a way to do it.
People will want to pass new laws…. This is a heart issue — laws don’t change this kind of thing.” At the conclusion of his remarks Huckabee said of God, “Maybe we oughta let him in on the front and we wouldn’t have to call him when it’s all said and done on the back end.”

That’s the irony, I’m afraid. As Huckabee suggested, America has been engaged in a systematic effort to remove God from the public square for decades; all efforts at insisting on and teaching morality are met with cries of Puritanism or extreme right wing religious zealotry. Why, then, when our culture wants nothing to do with God, seldom even bothering to acknowledge His existence, is the first instinct to look at Him and ask why He would let this happen? God is a God of love…but we cannot ignore Him all the time and then blame Him when things don’t work out. The law of the harvest still exists…we will reap what we sow.

September 13, 2012

Lessons We Can Learn

I strive to avoid being overtly political in this blog, but that is not for lack of political opinions or positions. Rather, it is the result of my desire that this space be used for thought-provoking dialogue and not become another political blog that will only be read by people who agree with me.

That said, I have a few comments relating to the handling of the attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East, and then some thoughts on what lessons can be taken from these events and applied to the Christian life.

First, I have to join with Mitt Romney, Charles Krauthammer, Mike Huckabee and others and say that I find the statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Egypt to be spineless and inappropriate. While I have not seen the movie, or the trailer for the movie, in question, there is no excuse for the United States, in any way, shape or form to apologize for the freedoms upon which our nation is built. According to the New York Times, the embassy issued the statement before the attack on the embassies in Egypt and Libya occurred. Be that as it may, the statement, which begins with, “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims”–sounds like the result of a politically correct sensitivity seminar. Does the United States really need to apologize that the actions of an individual–actions that are protected by free speech–hurt peoples’ feelings? If the U.S. government is going to assume the role of apologizing every time free speech results in someone’s feelings getting hurt, I have news for you: the government will do nothing else, as this will become a more-than-full-time job in and of itself. There are plenty of people who make comments on a regular basis that I find offensive (yes, Bill Maher, Howard Stern and Roseanne Barr, I am talking to you). I find many of their comments offensive to my sense of decency and politeness, to my Christian beliefs, and to my conservative political tendencies. Yet, never have I received an apology from the government (at any level) for the idiotic statements they make with such regularity, nor do I ever expect to. Why? Because one of the great things about the United States is the freedom that we have to speak our minds without fear of reprisal. I am exercising free speech right now by expressing my dissatisfaction with the actions of the U.S. government. I do not want the government telling me what I can and cannot say, but that means I must also accept that that freedom necessarily allows others to say things that I may find offensive. What should I do about it? Turn it off, ignore it, or, when I feel the need, respond to it, but I would not suggest that the three individuals mentioned above should lose the right to say what they think and I certainly would not expect the government to apology to Christians around the world when those individuals “hurt the religious feelings” of Christians.

(Just to be equitable, by the way, I find plenty of things that Rush Limbaugh, et. al, Ann Coulter and Pat Robertson say to be offensive, too).

The embassy statement ends with, “Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” Here’s the thing: religious freedom is a cornerstone of American democracy, yes, but no more and no less a cornerstone than freedom of speech–even when that speech “hurt[s] the religious beliefs of others.”

I do not agree with some of the attacks that I have seen directed at President Obama’s statement made Wednesday morning. I do not see in that statement an apology for America. At the same time, Mr. President, you do not have the liberty to say that the statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Egypt does not reflect the U.S. government’s position, because it does, whether you want it to or not. Every U.S. embassy is the U.S. government to the people in those countries, for all intents and purposes, and whether authorized or not, any statement those embassies may issue becomes–even if only temporarily–the position of the U.S. government. What I do find disturbing is that President Obama’s statement does not unequivocally state that the U.S. will punish those who attacked our embassies. A U.S. embassy is sovereign U.S. soil, and an attack on one of our embassies should be treated no differently than an attack on Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center. Do I want another war? No. But these attacks must not be allowed to pass quietly into yesterday’s news.

So, what lessons are there in this for Christians? First of all, just another clear example of the difference between Christianity and other religions–most strikingly, Islam. Christians do not respond with violence when their faith is mocked, ridiculed or even threatened. Historically, Christians respond in civil disobedience, and they suffer whatever consequences come their way as a result of doing so. Most Muslims are unapologetic about their desire to destroy Christianity…yet Christians do not respond with violence.

Second, we see, through the attack on the U.S., a reminder that what Christians believe and stand for is an offense to some people. Even though no one has suggested that the film that supposedly launched these attacks on U.S. embassies is a product of the U.S. government, the government represents America, and the actions of Americans are reflected on the government. Similarly, Christians will sometimes suffer persecution simply because of what they believe, whether they have taken any offensive actions toward another or not. And, as with the situation described here, Christians must always remember that the actions of anyone claiming the name of Christ will reflect on all others claiming the name of Christ–all the more reason for Christians to demonstrate Christ’s love in all interactions with others.

August 2, 2012

“A Culture of Hate”?

Unless you live in a remote location with no access to television or Internet (which you obviously do not, since you are reading this!) you surely knew that yesterday was proclaimed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” by former Arkansas governor, GOP presidential candidate and current FOX News contributor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee launched the idea after the media circus surrounding Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy’s comments confirming that he and his (privately held) company support the biblical definition of marriage, and thereby do not support homosexual marriage. I addressed this issue already in a previous post [see “Tolerance (Again)”] so I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about Chick-fil-A directly. Rather, I have to address another example of intolerance and, in fact, ignorance, announced to the world today on The Huffington Post.

Noah Michelson, editor of HuffPost Gay Voices, posted a column today entitled “Chick-fil-A: This Is Not a First Amendment Issue.” Now, I want to begin by saying that, given his position, it will not come as a surprise to you that Mr. Michelson and I disagree on the topic of gay marriage. However, I am not even going to address that, specifically. Instead, I need to address several specific comments Michelson makes in his post.

Note first of all that he states early on, “I fully support [Dan] Cathy’s right to say whatever he wants (and, in fact, so does the ACLU).” On this, we–Mr. Michelson, the ACLU, and I–agree. I support Mr. Cathy’s right to say that he supports the biblical definition of marriage, and I support Mr. Michelson’s right to say that he does not. As I have stated in this space before, the right to state our opinions, whether or not they are popular, whether or not many others will agree, and, indeed, whether or not they are even correct, is a large part of what makes America great. And the freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment.

Why then, does Michelson argue that this is not a First Amendment issue? He feels so strongly that it is not that he began his column saying that if he heard one more person state that the Chick-fil-A brouhaha was a First Amendment issue, “I’m going to jump out of one of the Huffington Post’s fifth-floor windows and swan dive into oncoming traffic.”

So how does Michelson go about suggesting that Cathy’s statement, Chick-fil-A’s position, and Huckabee’s day of support is not a First Amendment issue? By suggesting that all of the above is actually hate speech. Immediately after stating that he supports Cathy’s right to say whatever he wants, Michelson writes, “But just because someone can say something doesn’t mean they should — or that we should celebrate him or her for doing so, especially when what they’re saying is, at its core, promoting a culture of hate against a group of people.”

Wow! Promoting a culture of hate? By openly and unashamedly stating that he supports the biblical definition of marriage–meaning that marriage is between one man and one woman–Dan Cathy is promoting a culture of hate? Against whom? Apparently, according to Michelson, against any gay, lesbian, bi or transgendered individual. Apparently it is promoting hate to say that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but it is not promoting hate to say that marriage–as it has been defined for the entirety of human history–should be redefined so that men can marry men, women can marry women, or any one of however many other combinations there may be within the LGBT community.

Unfortunately, though, Mr. Michelson does not stop there. He continues, and in doing so he plunges headlong into the uninformed and in-no-way-accurate suggestion that homosexuality is the equivalent of race, or that the denial of the right for homosexuals to marry is the equivalent of supporting female slavery. Find that hard to believe? Read his column for yourself. Furthermore, Michelson claims that Cathy’s and Chick-fil-A’s financial support of organizations that support traditional marriage is the equivalent of donating “millions of dollars to white supremacist organizations.”

Again, I have argued here before that sexual preference is in no way equivalent to race. Our race is genetic; we cannot change it. And while I do not agree that sexual preference is in one’s DNA, even if I were to grant, for sake of argument, that it is, sexual activity is still a choice; the color of one’s skin is not.

Michelson isn’t finished yet, though. He continues by stating that those of us (and I say “us” because I am in the category of people to whom he is referring) who support the biblical definition of marriage, ” still thinks [sic] that it’s OK to treat us like we are, at best, just not quite as worthy to have all the rights afforded straight or cis-gendered people or, at worst, just plain evil.” Now, I don’t even know what “cis-gendered” means, and neither does dictionary.com, so maybe it is a typo in Michelson’s post, or perhaps it is some sort of slang I have never seen, but it is safe to state that it somehow refers to those in the LGBT community. And the truth is, Mr. Michelson, I think you are every bit as “worthy” of the right to marry as I am, or as anyone else is–just so long as you do it within the legally defined limits of marriage. And as for evil, that’s just not true. I cannot speak for everyone, of course, but I certainly do not consider homosexuals, or those who support the redefinition of marriage, to be evil. I consider them to be misguided, yes, and even wrong. But they are no more evil than I am. After all, Scripture makes it quite clear that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that little word “all” includes me, too. It may be cliche, but I hate the sin, not the sinner.

Oh, and speaking of Scripture, that is the next target in Michelson’s piece: “Many of these statements are bolstered by religious arguments using the Bible as ammunition, but, as it’s been pointed out time and again, the Bible demands we do or don’t do a lot of things that we no longer do or don’t do (like that we should own slaves and we shouldn’t eat popcorn shrimp), and Jesus himself never uttered a single word about being queer (and if he wanted us all to be “traditionally married” so badly, you’d think the guy himself would have gotten married).”

Okay, one step at a time here. The Bible, specifically in the Old Testament, does contain a lot of instructions that the Israelites were commanded to follow that we no longer need to, both because we are no longer under the Law, and because of improvements in preparing food that make laws against eating popcorn shrimp no longer necessary. Next, Jesus never explicitly referenced homosexuality, but He did say, in Matthew 19:4, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?'” That’s a pretty clear embrace of God’s design for marriage. Furthermore, the Bible is explicitly clear in several places that homosexuality is a sin (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:26-27 among others) and Jesus never refuted that; everything He ever said was consistent with every other portion of Scripture.

Michelson continues by saying, “When you buy food from Chick-fil-A, you’re basically saying, “Here, take this money and see to it that queer people can not only not get married, but that they also can’t adopt, can be fired simply for their sexuality and/or gender identity and continue to live in a society where they are regularly terrorized, mutilated, murdered and driven to suicide.” Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. First of all, it’s not as if every penny that Chick-fil-A makes goes to groups that support traditional marriage and/or oppose gay marriage. Second, supporting traditional marriage is not the equivalent of supporting terror, mutilation, or murder. I suspect Mr. Michelson would be hard pressed to find a single group that Chick-fil-A supports that explicitly or even discreetly supports or in any way does anything but oppose violence, harassment or intimidation of homosexuals.

So, sorry to say Mr. Michelson, but you’re wrong–there’s just no other way to say it. Supporting traditional marriage and advocating violence toward homosexuals are not the same thing. Opposing gay marriage and hating gay people is not the same thing. Eating at Chick-fil-A or contributing financially to groups that support traditional marriage and supporting or rejoicing over violence toward homosexuals such as you suggest at the end of your article is not the same thing.

So just how is, exactly, that those who hold a position different from yours are promoting a culture of hate? That’s a bold and dangerous accusation to make, and I’d like an apology.

June 28, 2012

Decorum Expected

Earlier this week Mike Huckabee’s “Huckabee Report” addressed the behavior of guests at President Obama’s recent reception for Gay Pride Month. The report reads, in part, “Two visitors showed their gratitude by posing for photos giving obscene hand gestures in front of the official portrait of President Reagan. The photos appeared online in Philadelphia magazine. One of the men, Matty Hart, linked his Facebook page to them, adding obscene comments about Reagan.”

This saddens me on several levels. One, it should be common sense that a certain level or decorum is expected in the White House. Regardless of what anyone may think about the sitting president or any of his predecessors, there is no excuse for such immature and disrespectful behavior. The White House itself is a symbol, representing the office of the president, as well as a wealth of history and the peaceful transitions of power that have marked our nation for more than two hundred years.

While we have a tremendous privilege in America to speak freely about our opinions, and publicly express disagreement with, and even disapproval of, our elected leaders, there is no reason for such discourse to sink to the level of adolescent insults and name-calling. The tenor of political campaigns today does not help, of course, but the amount of mudslinging contained in campaign commercials and other attack ads does not justify the kind of behavior referenced in the Huckabee Report. A White House spokesperson apologized for the behavior, and said that that kind of behavior does not belong anywhere, let alone the White House. Agreed; but the reality is, there will need to be a seismic shift in the level of public decency expected in our country–and modeled by our elected leaders and other public figures–before this kind of thing is likely to become rare.

By the way, Mr. Hart is the national director for public engagement for a group called “Solutions for Progress.” According to their web site, Solutions for Progress is a “public policy and technology company.” Their homepage includes this headline: “An organization like no other. Changing reality on the ground by using policy research and technology to fight poverty; assisting people to obtain supports in an easy and dignified manner and governments to deliver
services more effectively.”

Now, I don’t know anything about the organization than that; until I Googled it after reading the Huckabee Report I had never heard of it. But I find it interesting to say the least that the headline on their web site touts their efforts to assist people in a “dignified manner.” It seems quite clear that there was nothing dignified about Mr. Hart’s behavior–and apparently he does not care. According to Huckabee Report, Hart “was unrepentant and says he doesn’t care if he’s not invited back to the White House.”

Referring to the name of Mr. hart’s organization–Solutions for Progress–Mike Huckabee commented, “Sounds like he doesn’t know much about either of those things. I really hope tasteless, vulgar people like that don’t even attempt to pretend to be for diversity or civility or tolerance.” I have to agree. And while it may make little difference in the overwhelming flood of indecency and lack of respect so prominent in America today, I would call on Solutions for Progress to demonstrate to their constituents and the entire population of the United States that while Mr. Hart may not care, they do, and such behavior will not be tolerated. There is really only one appropriate response for their organization to make: Mr. Hart should be dismissed immediately.

Blog at WordPress.com.