jasonbwatson

November 7, 2015

The right thing to do

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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