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.

Which would you expect to be true?

On July 29 the Christian News Network reported on a psychology class being taught at Ohio State University. According to the report, the school’s Psychology 1100 class included an online quiz which contained this question:

Theo has an IQ of 100 and Aine has an IQ of 125. Which of the following statements would you expect to be true?

* Aine is an atheist, while Theo is a Christian.
* Aine earns less money than Theo.
* Theo is more liberal than Aine.
* Theo is an atheist, while Aine is a Christian.

The report states that, according to the school, the correct answer is the first one. It is not difficult to decipher the implications of this question/answer–Christians have a lower IQ.

An anonymous student told Campus Reform about this quiz item and he was also quoted in the Christian News Network story saying, “Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity. If colleges really want to give everyone a fair shot, they should stay away from making comments about any religion.” That, of course, would be what neutrality means, right? Not judging or belittling or promoting any one religion over another would be what one would expect in an environment that promotes tolerance and understanding, right?

Now, OSU does have a policy that prevents discrimination on the basis of religion, amongst a variety of other things including “gender identity or expression [and] genetic information….” (See the previous four posts for my comments on this issue). And I am certainly not suggesting that this quiz item was part of some nefarious scheme by anyone at OSU to insult Christians or Christianity. Having said that, can you imagine the uproar had this question used Democrats and Republicans instead of Atheists and Christians? How about homosexuals and heterosexuals? Pro-choice versus pro-life? African-American and Caucasian? What if it had said Atheists and Muslims? I don’t think it takes a whole lot of creativity or mental gymnastics to conclude that the reaction would have been swift and severe. Had any group other than Christians been the group insulted by this question there may well have been someone fired over the incident.

Hemant Mehta, in a blog post on Friendly Atheist, wrote of the question, “it just strikes me as a horribly written, too-simplified-to-be-useful question.” Mehta quotes Kaitlyn Schallhorn of Campus Reform stating, accurately, that the question may have been created by a teaching assistant rather than a professor. No doubt. The problem is, Mehta has zoomed in the fact that it is a lousy question, one that would never be permitted in legitimate psychological study while neglecting the content of the question. He is right about the question but, again, had the question been reversed and Aine-the-Atheist been the one with the lower IQ I doubt Mehta would quite so dismissive of the question.

Mehta suggests what he calls a “simpler solution” rather than getting worked up over the question: “Toss the question and have a discussion in class about how to properly interpret studies.” That would be wise, yes. It may also be a good idea, particularly given that this is a psychology class we are talking about, to have a discussion over why the question is so poorly worded and what impact such an assertion could have on the group being maligned by the implication as well as anyone who believed it to be true. Mehta ended his post with this statement: “There’s no reason to jump to the conclusion that it’s somehow evidence of anti-Christian discrimination.” Maybe not, but it is certainly evidence of the double standard that exists in so many places in the United States when it comes to tolerance and respect for Christianity as opposed to tolerance and respect for almost any other belief or position.

Perhaps more concerning than the fact that a teaching assistant (probably) created this question and it made it into the hands of students taking the course is the statement made by an unnamed Ohio State administrator. This individual, according to The Daily Caller, said that the quizzes are created by graduate assistants and are “typically fashioned based on textbook material” (emphasis mine). See all of the “imagine if it was…” examples above and try imagining any college or university utilizing a textbook which asserted such a thing. Imagine any textbook publisher even publishing such a thing!

All told, this incident will soon be forgotten, and it probably should be. But do not forget that the reality is this: the tolerance so loudly championed by most in this country seldom extends to Christians or Christianity. They want you to believe they are tolerant, but don’t expect it to be true.

Tolerance (again)

Perhaps the trouble with taking a week-plus off from blogging is that when I get back to it there are so many different things I want to blog about that I don’t know where to start!

The recent media frenzy over Chick-fil-A–specifically the company’s support of “traditional marriage”–and the resulting cries on the one side for boycotts and on the other for increased business and shows of support has served to bring a glaring spotlight once again onto the subject of tolerance.

As I have discussed here before, it is amazing how our country, or at least the majority of the mass media market and professional mouthpieces, seem to love talking about tolerance when doing so means supporting liberal, non-traditional, and even rebellious speech, beliefs or positions, yet those same folks seem to lose all sense of “tolerance” and even respect for the first amendment when the position being taken is in support of conservative, traditional, or so-called “fundamentalist religious” beliefs.

It is not news that Truett Cathy is a Christian, that his son and current Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy is a Christian, or that they built the Chick-fil-A business endeavoring to be true to biblical principles. It is not news that the Cathys support the biblical definition of marriage and family. It is not news that they therefore also oppose the movement to legalize homosexual marriage.

Not too long ago Chick-fil-A was receiving a lot of negative media attention for providing free food to a conference that supported the biblical definitions of marriage and family. That was ridiculous enough. Now, the uproar has resumes because Dan Cathy, in an interview with Baptist Press, reiterated that position. In his words, Chick-fil-A is, “guilty as charged.” Cathy went on to say that, “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

I for one am thankful for the Cathy’s consistent adherence to biblical principles and their willingness to take a public stand in defense of them.

Thanks to the freedoms that we have in this country, any person can believe as he or she wishes and can share his or her beliefs or positions freely. That is a huge part of what makes America America. I have the right to disagree with you, and you have the right to disagree with me. How sad that we cannot have respectful public discourse about such disagreements!

This atmosphere of toxic language is evident in the media, in politics, in entertainment… And I am well aware of the fact that it is not exclusively one-sided. While the media at large definitely has a tilt toward the left, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and others are plenty guilty of using over-the-top, insulting and ridiculous language at times in their attacks on the left/support of the right. I suppose hoping for rational, respectful, well-reasoned debates is asking a bit much. After all, looking back at American history reveals that propaganda and extreme rhetoric has been part of our culture from the very beginning.

In an article in the Washington Post, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (a group that supports homosexual marriage), said of Chick-fil-A, “While they may have been in neutral, kicking this fight into overdrive now allows fair-minded consumers to make up their own minds whether they want to support an openly discriminatory company. As the country moves toward inclusion, Chick-fil-A has staked out a decidedly stuck-in-the-past mentality.”

I disagree with Mr. Griffin politically and morally, but I appreciate his statement in that he clearly enunciates his position, explains that consumers have a choice of whether or not to support/eat at Chick-fil-A. That’s all quite true. The same is true regarding Target, JC Penney, General Mills, of the Muppets–all open supporters of homosexual marriage. I have a choice as to whether or not I wish to patronize those companies. I may disagree with their position on this issue (I do), but I do not see any good coming from calling them names. Mr. Griffin strayed a bit further than I would prefer; his use of the terms “openly discriminatory” and “stuck-in-the-past” are clearly intended to be condescending. But the truth is, we all discriminate. That word has a very negative connotation, for sure, but the act of discriminating is really nothing more than deciding between two things. When I had breakfast this morning, I discriminated against the orange juice and in favor of the coffee, against the cereal, in favor of the waffles. And I suspect that Chick-fil-A is more than happy to be “stuck in the past” when that means adherence to biblical principles and traditional definitions of marriage and family.

What troubles me more than anything is the outrageous name calling, threats, and wishes for harm. No surprise here, but Roseanne Barr has (once again) provided a clear example of the kind of rhetoric that adds absolutely nothing to the debate and serves, really, only to highlight her own bigotry and hatred for those who believe differently than she does. Yesterday Barr tweeted, “anyone who eats S— Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ.” In a follow-up, after her comment received plenty of attention, Barr said, “christian liars: i never wished cancer on you at all-jesus will punish u 4 ur deceit-I said processed foods cause cancer- #chickfilA.” Did she say that the “antibiotic filled tortured chickens” cause cancer? Yes. She did not say that she wishes that Christians will get cancer. But the implication is also clear in her tweet that she thinks eating at Chick-fil-A will result in cancer, and she has no qualms about Christians getting cancer because they eat there. Her implication about cancer, and her insulting twist of the company’s name, not to mention her follow-up attack on Christians as liars, are unhelpful, silly, and, quite frankly, stupid. The debate has not been enhanced by her contribution.

Chick-fil-A issued a statement after the hoopla began, saying, “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.” There you have it, and I am sure that is true. I have never heard any mention of a Chick-fil-A refusing to serve anyone. Thus, the uproar is all about Truett and Dan Cathy having an opinion and a belief. (And Chick-fil-A is a privately-owned company, by the way!)

So here’s a thought, for Roseanne, for Rush, and for everyone in between: how about exercising some real tolerance? Why not have a fair and objective attitude “toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own”? Do I think we should all agree? No way. Do I think we should keep our opinions and beliefs to ourselves? Nope. But it would be pretty neat to see us all try to speak respectfully to and about those with whom we disagree. An intelligent, well-reasoned, and articulately-stated position might even prompt someone on the other side of the issue to…gasp!…listen to what we have to say. I think that’s what they used to call “civil discourse.”