Friday, April 30, 2010

Whose the Daddy?: From Biological Truth to Moral Ideology

The fuzziness of language continues in the West.  Recently a lesbian couple in the United Kingdom where able to sign their child's birth certificate as its parents.  The problem is that one of them is not the biological parent (being lesbians sperm was donated from a sperm bank) and the option for the biological father's name was absent.  Instead of the words "mother" and "father," the birth certificate simply read "parents" followed by a blank for the two lesbian women to sign.

The couple were able to take advantage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 which came into effect at the beginning of this month. The Act entitles people in same-sex relationships to both be treated as equal parents of a child. Until the law changed, homosexual couples could not put both of their names on a child conceived by a donor.

The normalization of homosexuality is virtually complete in England.  When both partners in a lesbians relationship can claim themselves as parents on the child's birth certificate, there is virtually nothing else for the homosexual movement to do.  On to the next sexual agenda I guess.

The problem with this should be obvious and many in secular England are pointing it out.  For one, it is simply a lie for anyone to designate themselves as the parent of a child on the birth certificate if they are not the child's biological parent.  Instead of having the actual father's name on the certificate, the law has made the birth certificate a farce.  One of the women in the relationship is not the biological parent of the child and that is one of the main purposes of the birth certificate.  This means that the birth certificate has become a political document not a scientific one.  The birth certificate is supposed to give the facts, not a political agenda.  Two lesbian women cannot reproduce.

But there is another clear problem with this new development:  what about the child?

Baroness Deech, the chairman of the Bar Standards Board, is an open critic of the rules allowing homosexual couples to sign birth certificates with no mention of the father. She said such a move could undermine the child’s right to understand its identity.

‘There is an issue of principle here, which is the truth,’ she said last month.

‘It puts the demands of the adults ahead of the rights of children to know and benefit from both sides of their genetic makeup. This is not a moral issue; it is about disguising true facts, and it is about confusing biological parenthood, legal and social parenthood.

The point is that thanks to the change in law, the child will never know who its real father is unless her "parents" decide to unveil that information which at this point seems unlikely.  Biology is important because it says a lot about who we are.  The Christian worldview embraces this message.  This does not mean we are slaves to our genes, but that who are parents are does affect many of our habits, looks, etc.  No matter how hard feminists and lesbians may try, their child will share genes with the biological father regardless of what a birth certificate may say.

This situation should show us the fantasy world that secularism wishes we lived in.  No matter how hard we might try, we can never change reality.  The madness that the homosexual door opens is simply stunning and all of this is predictable.  When we rob language of any meaning (less we offend someone) and try to replace nature with political and moral ideology we come to this sort of nonsense.

Whenever we begin to redefine marriage we immediately try to redefine the family and that task is a much more complicated.  Despite our efforts, we cannot have everything that we want.  This child may grow up with two moms, but in truth, she is the product of a mother and a father in whose genes she now shares.  A society built on homosexuality or sexual experimentation and abortion clinics will do all that it can to change this reality but their efforts are futile.

So at this point we must return where we must always return:  the definition of marriage as determined by the one who defined it.  Marriage is and must be only between one man and one woman.  This is the foundation for which a society is built and children are born and raised.  We can change birth certificates all we want to, but it will not change the truth.  God's laws have been set no matter how much we may want to change them.

Christian Telegraph - Terms 'Mother and Father' Removed From Birth Certificate in UK

For more:
Commentary - Do You Party A Take Party B:  California Redefines Redefinition

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What To Do With An Abortion Survivor: Italy, Infanticide, and Secular Moral Confusion

Officials in Italy have a mess on their hands regarding the issue of abortion.  A first-time mother chose to abort her baby 22 weeks into her pregnancy after scans diagnosed the child as handicap.  The problem with this "routine" abortion is that the child survived.  This is known as a botched abortion and doctors find themselves unsure what to do with a child that survives such a procedure.  According to Italian law, once a child has been born (in this case by exiting the womb alive in spite of the attempt to end its life) it is given the protective rights of citizenship.  The hopsital, however, simply left the baby in a room alone waiting for it to die.

The next day, however, the hospital chaplain Father Antonio Martello, found the baby still alive as he began to pray beside the body of the young child.  The baby had been wrapped in a sheet with its umbilical cord still attached.  The priest immediately notified the hospital staff who then delivered the baby to a specialist neo-natal unit in a neighboring hospital.  The baby, however, died two days later.

The law is having to step in and investigate the case as a homicide since infanticide is illegal in Italy.  This means that doctors must preserve the life of the infant once it has been born.  In this case, however, the hospital willingly practiced infanticide coldly waiting for the baby's life to pass alone in a room.  This certainly horrify us, but let us not forget that as a state senator, President Barack Obama refused to vote for a bill that would once and for all ban similar practices in the state of Illinois.

The moral confusion of this case should be obvious.  One must admit that the doctors who abandoned the child were at least consistent with their worldview in contrast to the Italian law.  How is it that the baby deservered to die when the mother entered the hospital, but that same child at the same stage of development in his mother's womb suddenly had rights?  By arbitrarily granting rights to an infant at birth raises serious moral issues.

Take a similar circumstance for example.  A pregnant woman is driving down the road on her way to have an abortion, but is hit by a drunk driver on the way and the baby dies.  The drunk is then charged with homicide for the death of the baby.  Interestingly, if the mother had gone through with the abortion the law would have protected her right to terminate the pregnancy, but prosecutes the drunk driver for doing what the abortion doctor was going to do that same day.

Here in Italy we have a case where the doctors understood that it was the wish of the mother to execute her child primarily due to its handicap status.  However, just because the child survived the procedure should not change the mothers mind.  The child was still at the same stage of development but since it had passed out of the womb it suddenly had rights.  Only in a morally confused society that places pleasure over life does this logic make sense.

We need to finally admit that life should be given rights at conception not at birth.  If the child had been given rights at conception (despite his "quality" of life) then this entire mess could have been avoided.  Instead, the Italian government has to rationalize its policy.  Rights granted at birth is an arbitrary moral position that is inconsistent with reality and America has the very same policy.  A mother can legally abort a child at any stage in her pregnancy up to its birth.  Once the child is born it suddenly has rights.

Once again we are reminded of the dangers of the secular moral mind.  Without a fundamental belief in God who has revealed His standards of morality, we are left drawing our morality out of a straw hat.  When morality is arbitrarily determined without any foundation we find ourselves in the sort of mess that many nations in the West currently find ourselves in.  America is not immune to similar cases that Italy finds itself in.  Similar "botched" abortions have happened here in America and abortionist are forced to make a decision inconsistent with logic.  Suddenly they must go from terminating a life to suddenly preserving it.

As our current policy stands, we are not far from allowing some forms of infanticide.  Once the culture re-evaluates its arbitrary morality, it will likely move farther away from rights at conception and closer to a Peter Singer ethic that allows the parents to decide when the child will have rights (even after it has been born).

Such cases should cause Christians to weep as we find ourselves in the midst of a confused society in desperate need of a clearer understanding of God's gift of life made in His image.  If rights originate with God then government has no right arbitrarily determining when one has rights.  Rather, we must embrace rights at conception or else we will continue to spiral down this rabbit hole of moral confusion.

Telegraph - Baby Boy Survives for Nearly Two Days After Abortion

The above picture is of my son who is now almost 2 years old.

Commentary - "Badly Botched" Abortion:  Another Way of Saying Infanticide and Murder
Commentary - Are Ultrasounds Enough:  The Centeredness of the Sacredness of Life in the Abortion Debate
Commentary - The Threat of Trig Palin:  The Return of Life Worthy of Life

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jesus Is Into Offending People: Its Time For Christians to Admit the Obvious and Proclaim With Boldness

It is no secret and no longer news that Christian artist Jennifer Knapp is a practicing lesbian.  Anytime a prominent person in the Christian community openly comes out of the closet without shame or embarrassment is always a time for Christians to think seriously how to articulate the gospel in our confused world.  We must never forget that the conversation Christians are having about persons like Jennifer Knapp, Ted Haggard, and Ray Boltz are not limited to evangelical circles.  At all times the lost world around us is watching and if we are not careful (which most of the times we aren't) what the world hears is moralism or antinomianism.  Rarely does the world hear the gospel.

I recently went back and watched the entire Larry King Live interview with Jennifer Knapp along with Pastor Bob Botsford and Ted Haggard and a number of things struck me.  At the end of the show I couldn't help but notice how nothing has been accomplished in this debate.  The Pastor was presenting Biblical truth the best he could (and he did a fairly good job) while Knapp was simply using emotive arguments in favor of her sexuality.  All the while Larry was stuck on the sexual orientation argument in which (surprisingly) none of the contestants were interested in debating.  This is what the debate has been for years now.  Christians hold firmly to the Bible while others say that we are all on a journey and shouldn't judge other people, while others keep poking at the "God made me this way" fallacy, while others simply use emotive arguments that can only be articulated with tears in their eyes.

But the one thing that stood out to me was how over-the-top Christians go at not trying to appear offensive.  Of course I say this while writing on a blog and aren't sitting in front of the nation on Larry King Live.  But if Christians really want to minister like Jesus, then it is time for us to admit that the gospel message is offensive and Jesus (along with the apostles and the early church) offended a lot of people.

Everywhere you turn, Jesus offended people.  When he began His ministry in Nazareth (Luke 4) He offended so many people that they tried to kill Him.  When He preached the Sermon on the Mount He was attacking false ideology and theology; namely, the Pharisees.  That would have offended them as He was calling them out as hypocrites and far from the Kingdom of God.  In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount (which most turn into a sermon about love, rainbows, and picksy sticks), Jesus blatently says that on judgment day there will be many who claimed to be followers of Christ that Jesus will deny even knowing them. 

We could then point to the cleansing of the temple in which Jesus not only knocked over tables, but also was swinging a whip.  Today we would call that assault.  Furthermore, Jesus seemed to go out of His way to offend and keep people from following Him.  He purposely told the rich man to sell everything and follow Him knowing that He wouldn't.  He told another man not to bury his loved one.  And after feeding over 5,000 people told them that He wouldn't feed them again which led to a wholesale rejection and abandonment of Jesus.  Perhaps one of the more angry sermons Jesus preached is when He calls the religious leaders sons of vipers.  We have a similar phrase today that is considered cussing.  Needless to say, Jesus frequently offended people.

Jesus was hated because Jesus offended.

Is it not too elementary to say that Jesus was betrayed, delivered over, and crucified because He was so hated?  The religious establishment were eager to see Him dead.  And I don't think it was because the crowd loved Jesus that they called for Him to be crucified.  Jesus was a laughing stock on the cross and He was crucified because He offended a lot of people.

We could also discuss the frequent beatings, killings, mockings, and violent uprisings against the Christians that followed in the years after Jesus' ascension.  The New Testament details the early violence and hatred towards the Christians and the early Christians detail the rest.  It is clear that the gospel itself, as proclaimed by Christ, the apostles, and the early Christians was offensive to a whole lot of people and yet none of the Christian leaders cared.  They simply licked their wounds and went on offending people with an offensive message.

I think it is time for Christians to realize that if they want to proclaim the pure gospel, they must be willing to offend a lot of people.  Unfortunately, Christianity over the past 200 years has done all that it can to refrain from offending people.  We discuss God's love to the exclusion of His wrath thus making God a wimpy giant rather than a Holy and Righteous God.  We spend more time in our pulpits helping our congregations figure out how to balance our checkbooks, improve our self-esteem, and how to find the right person than we do warning sinners of hell, the unrepentant of judgment, and apostate believers of the cross.

In fact, we've turned the cross into a cosmic accident and the resurrection into a literal device to make the Gospels end on a happy note.  What we forget is that like Barabbas, Jesus died in our place.  We should have been the one's on the cross.  We've should have been the one's suffering the full wrath of God.

Without the bad news, there is no good news.  The bad news is that if God is God then He has the right and the obligation to destroy us.  Right here.  Right now.  We have rebelled against God, not our genes.  We stand condemned by our own actions and He will not allow us to use our upbringing as an excuse.  We stand guilty and God as Judge must punish us. 

That's the bad news and it is the sort of news that unless we proclaim we have no gospel.

We must be careful at this point not to foolishly believe that such a message isn't acceptable anymore unlike it used to be.  Many are aware of the images of Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon, "Sinners in the hands of an angry God."  Many have suggested that that sort of "fire and brimstone" preaching was affective back then but is outdated now.  Can we be more foolish?  Do you really think that Edwards' hearers really wanted to hear:

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock . . .

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

Do you really think those in the congregation were pleased to hear this message?  Of course not!  They were offended in the same way that we are today.  The offense of the gospel hasn't changed, its the thin-skinned preachers who proclaim a weak gospel that has changed.  Edwards is right.  Whether one is a homosexual, a liar, a drunk, or a gossiper, we all stand guilty before God deserving His full wrath.

But here's the good news.  God in His mercy, love, and grace has made it possible for His wrath to be appeased.  Jesus Christ bore on His body the iniquities of us all.  Jesus died so that our sin might be forgiven and was raised so that we might be granted His righteousness.  This means that whether one is a homosexual, a liar, a drunk, or a gossiper, there is still hope.  When one responds to the death and resurrection of Jesus in humility and repentance, God forgives and grants grace to the sinner.  But without acknowledge God's judgment over sin we have no good news.  We have no gospel.

So Christians aren't just against homosexuals.  They are also against the legalistic father who believes His perfectly good children are what it means to be godly.  They are also against the woman who offers her body for love and attention.  They also against the salesman who cheats people out of money just to fill their pockets, the politician that refuses to serve justly, the pastor too cowardly to preach the gospel, and the couple wishing to divorce out of convenience.  Christians, in other words, are against sin because God is.

But that is not all of the Christian message.  Christians wish to see God glorified through the repentance of sinners.  Whether or not sinners accept this message is not our greatest concern.  Our responsibility is to proclaim the message and let God handle the rest.  If people remain offended by this gospel then we are in good company.  We say much about homosexuality and rightly so, but let not only condemn homosexuality.  Let us indite the whole world and the people who walk in it.

If I offended you then you are close to the Kingdom of God.  Will you not take the next step and embrace the gospel and the God who offers you grace?

For more:
Denny Burk - Can You Be a Christian and Gay? (Burk offers the entire Larry King Live Interview)
Trevin Wax - Jennifer Knapp and Larry King:  Why We Almost Lose the Debate

Where the Gospel and Politics Collide: Should Christians Be Disengaged?

What is the Christian role in politics?  That is one of the questions we have sought to answer in our series on Christianity and political involvement.  We have established the necessity of government in a fallen world and the inherent right of religious freedom meaning that government should stay out of the religious sector in spite of our cultures tendencies to try to keep religion out of the public sector.

But it is tempting at this point for Christians to simply pull away.  To say that government should refrain from meddling with religion because government will only corrupt religion suggests that perhaps religion should likewise refrain from meddling with government because religion will likewise corrupt government.  Though it is popular in today's culture, I do not hold to this view.

We earlier established that the world is depraved as a result of the Fall in Genesis 3 which led to the necessity of establishing governments who have the primary responsibility to to protect its citizens from an evil world from both inside dangers (crime, etc.) and outside threats (war, etc.).  Government serves to restrain the evil of men by passing laws.  Government can only regulate and try to control the external, not the internal.  The necessity of government in a fallen world implies that that anarchy is one of the worst forms of government as it allows depraved souls to freely indulged the flesh unchecked and unhindered.  Such a world would lead to moral and criminal chaos.

At the same time, we must understand that government itself is run by evil men with corrupt hearts.  Yes anarchy is bad, but so government can be too. This does not mean that everything that government does is evil or wrong, but that apart from the gospel everyone, including well-intentioned politicians, is a sinner.  This means that apart from a redemptive worldview, government will move away from God, justice, and the gospel rather than towards it.  Though the process may be slower through government (as compared with anarchy) the end result will remain the same.  Left to ourselves, we will articulate depravity better than righteousness even in the public sector.

Secular government will not lead to the sort of Utopia they try to feed us.  Apart from the gospel, a nation and the world will deteriorate into depravity.  One must wonder how apart from God, how does a nation determine what is right and wrong?  The Bible is clear that government has a responsibility of punishing evil and defending the good, but without a fundamental belief in God, how does a nation determine between right and wrong?  The answer:  they guess.  And being depraved, what was considered wrong yesterday, can be articulated as a good thing today.

This is why Christians must not run from government.  Certainly there are dangers of Christians caring more about policy than evangelism or politics than the gospel, but to simply ignore the government is just as foolish.  We are the ones who understand what is right and wrong, not depraved souls.  Depravity wants to increase its depravity, not sober it.  Therefore, Christians must be willing to be engaged in the public spector.  It is hypocritical for us to proclaim that we have direct revelation from God and then disengage from the culture telling the world "finders keepers, losers weepers."

Obviously there are dangers here that we must try to avoid.  One must not confuse public policy or social causes as gospel issues.  Defending the unborn is extremely important and an example of why Christian witness is important.  If Christians did not participate in their culture, then our culture would have increased its culture of death a long time ago going well beyond abortion and embracing euthanasia, infanticide, and other atrocities.  But for Christians to think that protesting against abortion is itself the gospel is extremely dangerous.  When the world thinks about Christians do they automatically go to our political causes or to the cross and resurrection?

What we want to do in society is to rightly understand the gospel and apply it to our everyday lives including our votes and public policy stances.  Certainly there is plenty of room to disagree (after all, government is an imperfect solution to an imperfect world).  But Christians must be focused primarily on reaching the lost with  the gospel rather than reaching the lost with our pro-life stance.

The Early Church understood this.  The New Testament never condemns slavery, but that does not mean that the Bible endorses it.  However, the first Christians understood that in order to change a society, they must first change the hearts of the citizens.  The way they (and we) changed hearts was through the spreading of the gospel.  When one thinks of the gospel and its implications, how can one own slaves?  Likewise, when one is redeemed by Christ, how can they support the mass murder of an entire generation?

Our focus must be on the gospel and our gospel-centered lives will affect our politics.  For the Christian to think that government will create Utopia stands against the gospel and the Biblical record, but to also think that government is too evil to be engaged with the Christian message is equally wrong.  We must be willing to lead the culture towards the gospel and towards the God of the gospel.  If we go silent, then the voice of reason will too.  If we put a lamp over our light, then the world will live in darkness.  Politics does not save; only the gospel can do that.  But Christians have a responsibility and it begins with the gospel.  Where the gospel and politics collide, Christians must be ready with a powerful message that can change the world.  To disengage is to miss the point.

For more:
Part 1 - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide: The Separation of State and Church 
Part 2 - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  Under God or Under Government?
Part 3 - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Necessity of Government in a Fallen World

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Even Environmentalists Need an Easter: What Christians Can Learn on Earth Day

Today marks the fortieth "celebration" of Earth Day.  Today millions of pe0pole around the world will pay closer attention to how they live and the affect of their actions on the planet we dwell on.  But only for today.  Let's be honest, every religion has its Easter.

A few weeks ago, Christians celebrated the most important event in human history:  the resurrection of Christ.  Many got up at the crack of dawn to celebrate via sunrise services.  Others put on their best outfits and dresses, gathered at their local church, worshiped their Savior who on this day was raised from the dead two thousand years ago.  They went home and had a big lunch, gathered hollow, plastic eggs and called it a day.  Yes Easter is the most important day in the life of the Christian.

But for most Christians, Easter is practically the only day that they actually think about the cross and resurrection.  Visit the typical church the following week and you will find empty pews and callous souls.  Easter is a one day event that most ignore the rest of the year (expect maybe Christmas of course).  On Easter, Christians around the world reflect and celebrate the resurrection of their Lord and the salvation of their souls, but on all of the other days, too many Christians couldn't care less.

Environmentalists are just the same.  Sure there are the environmental evangelists who preach the gospel of "Save Mother Earth" year around, but for most who reflect on their carbon footprint on this particular day will only think about how much plastic they use on this day.  Even environmentalists have their own Easter and today is their Easter.

The point is that at the end of the day most of us participate in a religion or a belief only when everyone else does and on the other days, we neglect it.  Many are riding the city bus today only to be driving their SUV's tomorrow.  If Christians were serious about their faith, we wouldn't need a day on the calender to remind us of our salvation.  Likewise, if millions across the globe seriously cared about the damage they are contributing to the planet, they wouldn't need a day on the calendar to remind them.

Too often holidays like today is nothing more than an opportunity for many around the world to feel good about themselves.  Christians feel good about themselves when they celebrate the risen Lord on Easter and the incarnation at Christmas, but their feel-goodism doesn't go much beyond that.  Likewise, many Earth-lovers feel good about themselves when they reflect on their affect on the planet on this particular day.  Nothing more and nothing less.  We all want to feel included and we all want to believe that we have contributed, but when our everyday actions don't match up with the once a year holiday attitude, we are only fooling ourselves.

So this Earth Day, though it is tempting to be more sarcastic about how far many have taken this day, perhaps Christians should re-evaluate the authenticity of their own faith.  Where were you on the first Sunday of this month?  Celebrating your risen Lord?  Then why are you living as if He is still dead?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alcohol Today, Marijuana Tomorrow: When Money Changes Our Values

In the small rural town where I live, the citizens recently voted to make it wet.  For city-folk, a dry county or city is a county where the selling of alcohol is banned.  A wet county or city is where alcohol can be bought and sold.  There were several arguments used by proponents for making the city wet.  Many wanted to move the town out of the Dark Ages.  Others wanted to simply buy beer closer to home (many would argue that it would decrease the changes of prolonged drinking and driving).

But there were more substantive arguments put forward.  One of those arguments was taxes.  If the town was wet, then the city government could increase its tax revenue.  This was perhaps one of the most common arguments proposed by proponents of the measure.  Money.

One of the things I have noticed over the years is how government seems to always need more, yet they waste all of it, and are willing to make compromises in order to get it.  Our little city became wet while the state of Kentucky is trying to legalize gambling.  Why?  Money.  The gambling industry has assured lawmakers that if gambling becomes legal the states tax revenue will sky rocket and finally it will get out of the red and take on new programs to make the lives of Kentucky citizens better.

But what do you do when every county is wet and gambling is legal?  Just ask California and 13 other states who are now debating legalizing "medical" marijuana.  What is one of the main motives behind legalizing it?  Money.  Taxes.  California is broke and it needs money.  By legalizing marijuana, the state will now have access to another source of revenue.

The movement to legalize marijuana is growing in America.  Fox News reports:

Americans are more accepting of medical marijuana. Sixty percent support the idea and 74 percent believe the drug has a real medical benefit for some people. Two-thirds of Democrats favor medical marijuana as do a slim majority of Republicans, 53 percent.

With state and local governments desperate for cash, some legalization proponents are pushing marijuana as a potential revenue stream. But only 14 percent of those surveyed who oppose legalization would change their mind if states were to tax the drug.

Has anyone noticed the trend?  Our town needs money now and so it loosens its laws in order to gets its money.  Whenever a government does that it assures us that the funds are necessary and without them teachers and firemen will lose their jobs (they never mention firing other politicians).  And so we give them the extra revenue and sure enough in a few short years the government finds itself in the red.  What does it do?  Not tighten its belt, but look for another source of income. 

Whether it be alcohol, raising taxes on cigarettes, legalizing prostitution, legalizing gambling, or legalizing marijuana, it always comes down to the same thing:  government wants to spend but needs money in order to spend. I am not concerned with what one thinks about alcohol, gambling, prostitution, or marijuana.  I am most concerned about the blind motive behind these initiatives.  Instead of telling the government to tighten its bloated belt as everyone else in America has too, we encourage our gluttonous politicians by giving them access to more of our food.

Money is very enticing and when politicians feel they need more they will do whatever it takes to get their hands on it.  A government as big as ours will never stop spending so long as the people allow them to take from its people.  People may want alcohol in our local town, but do they really want the bloated taxes placed on alcohol?  People may want to gamble, but do they really think that the state government needs more?  People may enjoy getting high and wasting their afternoons chasing unicorns, but do they really think that bigger government will make their life better?

My concern here is about the motivation behind these initiatives, not the initiatives themselves.  When money is our main motivator, perhaps we need to take a step back and demand a different direction.  If our governments need more money perhaps its because they wasted most of it.  Maybe instead of pushing for more liberal limits on the things of this world, perhaps we should ask our government to do what it has forced us to do:  tighten our belts and only spend the money that we have.

This is why the Bible frequently warns of becoming too materialistic.  As Christians, our treasure must be in heaven, not here on earth.  On Earth, material goods get old, get rusty, and waste away.  If what we own controls us we will compromise any and all values to keep what we have and gain what we lust for.  Let us instead stand firm in our faith and live in contentment free from the things of this world.

Now if only government will learn the same lesson.

Fox News - Medical Marijuana Support Grows, Polls Find

Christianity Without Christian Distinctives Based on Christian Doctrine is Not Christianity: The CLS and Our Fear of Discrimination

The nations highest court is hearing arguments from a Christians organization robbed of its distinctive rights to bar and accepts persons, officers, and leaders of the group solely based on their Christian faith and doctrine.  The Supreme Court is split on the case at this point.  Here is the situation:

he University of California's Hastings College of the Law refused to recognize the chapter of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) because it requires all of its officers and voting members to subscribe to its basic Christian beliefs. CLS says "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle" is inconsistent with the statement of faith its voting members are required to sign.

A gay student wishes to join the group and feels discriminated.  The University has a policy barring any form of discrimination based on one's sexual preference.  The case calls into question whether or not "nondiscrimination policies trump the rights of private organizations to determine who can -- and cannot -- belong."  Is it lawful to bar an individual based on religious beliefs and sexual preference while accepting government or university funds?

The Court is split on the question.

Those who favor the school's actions against the Christian group, like newely appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor, argue that to allow such discrimination in the name of Christianity opens the door for American to return to the days of racial and gender discrimination.  She argued:

Are you suggesting that if a group wanted to exclude all black people, all women, all handicapped persons, whatever other form of discrimination a group wants to practice, that a school has to accept that group and recognize it, give it funds and otherwise lend it space?

The defense countered by making a distinction between beliefs and status.  They argue that the university can bar such discrimination if it is based on status (i.e. race or gender), but not on beliefs.  This of course raises the question:  is sexual preference biological or moral?  In other words, are persons born gay or do they choose their sexuality?  The question is over morality and civil rights.  One does not choose their race or gender and if homosexuality is predestined, then it too is a status issue, not merely a belief.

Proponents of the Christian organization point out that to bar the Christian organization from allowing only Christians into its group will rob it of its distinctives.  In other words, to allow non-Christians into a Christian organization removes its status as a Christian organization.  Justice Antonin Scalia said:

'It is so weird to require the campus Republican Club to admit Democrats, not just to membership, but to officership . . . 'To require this Christian society to allow atheists not just to join, but to conduct Bible classes, right? That's crazy.

Likewise Justice Samuel Alito pointed out:

[Say] there is a small Muslim group; it has 10 students. If the group is required to accept anybody who applies for membership, and 50 students who hate Muslims show up and they want to take over that group, you say First Amendment allows that?

In other words, does the First Amendment protect the Muslim group from being forced to abandon its distinctives or does the First Amendment allow the university to rob the Muslim group of its distinctives?  One can apply this principle to any group:  Republican and Democrat (is it discriminatory to not allow a Democrat in a Republican club?), atheist, Islamic, Christian, women, etc.  If a university has authority over the limits such organizations like the CLS has set, then is the First Amendment being protected?

This is certainly an important case currently being debated before our nations highest court.  The implications are immense.  The main problem I see the CLS is facing regards its funding which comes from the university.  It makes sense that if the university (or the government or anyone else) is funding an organization (whether Christian or not) then the university should have some say in the policies that group sets.  However, the potential dangers of allowing the university to determine the distinctives of an organization like the CLS are very dangerous.  One can easily see how the actions taken by the university could lead the government from moderating the views and practices of churches and other organizations and beliefs.

As Christians we should notice another implication in this case.  In a postmodern, post-prejudice world, inherent distinctives are sinful (unless of course your discriminating against discrimination).  To limit the meaning of anything (in this case Christian theology and beliefs) is considered a form of hate.  It is wrong (it is sinful) in the eyes of our culture to predetermine what one must belief and how one must live and act before they can consider themselves a member of a particular group, faith, movement, or organization.  But the foolishness of this worldview should be apparent.  By barring the CLS to limit its members to those who affirm a certain set of beliefs is itself discriminatory.  So the real question in this case is, which form of discrimination is protected by the law?

Deconstructionism has robbed language of any meaning.  As a result one can be a Christian and still practice Islam or even reject the existence of God.  Therefore one used to be able to determine the meaning of something, but now such meaning has been lost.  Beliefs aren't as rigid as they used to be.  One can say that their a Christian and yet deny all of the distinctive doctrines of the faith.  Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong, for example, has abandoned every Christian doctrine and yet portrays himself as a Christian.  Instead of finding this odd, this sort of lunacy makes sense in a culture that would rather turn belief into a melting pot rather than celebrate the differences in each other.

It can be tempting to play this game in our culture.  Many Christians try to look so much like the culture that oftentimes the culture fails to see the Christ in us.  But the gospel expects the opposite.  Anyone who tries to befriend the culture makes themselves an enemy of God.  Likewise, Christ calls for us to be salt (a preservative) and light of the world.  In other words, if we look like the dark world, no one will ever know of the hope that only the gospel offers.

Christians must not strip away the faith in order to make it more popular and less offensive.  In a world that hates exclusivity and limitations, we will inevitably be hated.  But who cares?  Are we trying to please God or men?  The Apostle Paul unashamedly answered the question affirming his desire to please God and he had the scars to show it.  Christians must, embrace the distinctives doctrines of the faith without compromise.  This means that we always have open arms to those who embrace the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) while at the same time realize that narrow is the road that leads to eternal life; broad is the road that leads to destruction. 

New York Times - Court Splits Sharply on Campus Christian Argument
OneNewsNow - Law School Policy Befuddles Justices

Monday, April 19, 2010

Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand: Turning Jesus' Love into a Licence to Sin

In a recent Huffington Post article, columnist Frank Fredericks asks the question, "Who Would Jesus Hate?"  His answer isn't surprising.  He begins by pointing out all of the popular evangelical "crazies."  At the top of everyone's list is Pat Robertson whose recent comment that Haiti was destroyed by an earthquake due to their "pact with the devil" is only the latest of a history of outlandish comments.  Fredericks then picks on radio and Fox News host Glenn Beck who recently told his listeners to abandon and avoid any church that promotes Marxism in the name of social justice.

But these are only two recent examples.  Evangelicals have the reputation of hating homosexuals and liberals; at least that's how Fredericks and others like him has seen them.  But after a "careful" look at the Gospels, Fredericks was surprised by what he saw:  the people Evangelicals are blamed for hating the most, Jesus loved the most and the people that Evangelicals love the most, Jesus condemned.

The column focuses in on two particular stories of Jesus that appear in the Gospel of John. In John 8 Jesus is confronted with a woman caught in adultery and her accusers expect Jesus to condemn the sexual sinner by encouraging those present to stone the woman (which was Jewish Law).  Instead, as we all remember the story, Jesus tells the accusers that he who is absent of sin may cast the first stone.  Since everyone was guilty of sin and everyone knew it, they all dropped their stones and walked away.  That is where Fredericks ends the story.  He writes:

Thus, in an opportunity of condemnation, Jesus chose to love. His expression of love occurs while acknowledging her wrongdoing but choosing forgiveness.

 The second story is taken from John 4 regarding the Samaritan woman at the well.  Not only were Samaritans outcasts (Jews at this time would normally avoid even walking through Samaria), but this woman was guilty of multiple sexual sins.  She had multiple partners and had divorced at least one man and currently living with another.  She is without a doubt what the Bible would call an adulterer and a fornicator.  But what was Jesus' response to her?  He loved her and never condemned her.  And that is where Fredericks ends the story.

His point is obvious:  Jesus showed love, forgiveness, and compassion to the sort of sexual sinners that many Christians condemned, close out, and hate today.  Application:  we should love the sexual sinners of our day including gays, transgendered individuals, adulterers, divorcees, etc.

So we know whom Jesus loved (those who Evangelicals hate the most) but who did Jesus "hate" the most?  Fredericks offers two persons:  religious leaders who were hypocrites, and those who profited off the sacred.

Fredericks has the Pharisees and the other religious leaders who repeatedly stood against Jesus and His ministry in mind here.  He writes:

Jesus really had it out for the Pharisees, whom he admonished for judging others, giving false teachings, and acting in pride. He reserved such phrases for them as "hypocrites," and "den of vipers"! Pretty strong language for the Prince of Peace. Jesus also grew furious at the sight of the money changers at the Temple for their attempt to profit off of the religious observance of others.

Fredericks is right.  The one's in whom Jesus condemned in righteous anger the most were the Pharisees who were self-righteous, hypocritical, and stood against God and the gospel more than the sinners that Jesus willingly shared meals with.  But the application that he draws from this is simply mistaken.  He argues:

So who are the Pharisees today, and who are the moneychangers? I would argue that religious leaders who abuse their pulpits for political propaganda, promote violence, or push a hateful agenda fit the Pharisee profile. Also, those who take the cross as a sign of salvation and cash it in as a merchandising opportunity are our contemporary moneychangers. Our concern should be with forked tongues of false teachers like Robertson, and our conflict with Christian consumerism, trading prophets for profits.

Is this really who the Pharisees were?  If one is to make an application from the Biblical text, they might want to try to understand the Biblical text first.  The Pharisees were legalists first and foremost.  They believed that so long as they were good enough and followed the Mosaic Law and the Oral Law perfectly they would earn salvation.  They condemned sinners out of self-righteousness believing that they themselves were without sin.  This is what makes the story of the woman caught in adultery so important.  Jesus calls out the accusers bluff.  The self-righteous know inwardly that they are sinners but too prideful to admit it publicly.

So what does Jesus demand of the Pharisees and other self-righteous legalists?  Repentence.  In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  The Pharisee stands in the temple and prays looking up to heaven thanking God for his self-righteousness.  He reminds God that he tithes all that he has and hasn't committed any serious sin.  Also in the temple is a tax collector (one of the worse of sinners at this time) who refused to look towards God and instead beat his chest saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"

Jesus then adds that the tax collector went home justified before God, not the Pharisee.  Such a parable would have been outrageous to Jesus' hearers.  Everyone knows that tax collectors are awful sinners and Pharisees are righteous saints.  Right?  In these two character Jesus reminds us that legalism doesn't save because salvation based on legalism demands perfection and none of us are perfect.  Therefore, the legalists needs to repent.

The same is true of the tax collector.  The reason he went home justified (saved, forgiven, etc.) is because he repented of his sins.  Both men are guilty of sin.  The only different between the two men the is that one repents and the other lives in a hypocritical self-righteousness.  The gospel of Christ demands repentance and what Fredericks is missing in his article is this crucial message of Jesus.  Those who enter the Kingdom of God have submitted themselves to the King by repenting of their many sins trusting in the death and resurrection of Christ as the means for their salvation.

This is really the point of the two stories of the sexual sinners that Fredericks mentions.  Fredericks makes a big deal about the woman caught in adultery.  Yes Jesus told her accusers that if they are without sin they can cast the first stone (which implies that the One that is perfect; i.e. God; has the right to cast the first stone).  However, Fredericks convientely left out the rest of the story.  When the accusers left, Jesus looked at the woman and commanded her, "Go and sin no more."  In other words, repent and never sin again.

Here is the real patter that Fredericks and so many in our culture today miss:  what unites the teachings of Jesus isn't His love for the outcast and sinners and condemnation of the religious of His day.  What united the teachings and ministry of Jesus was His call on men everywhere to repent.  The Pharisees are guilty of legalism, but the women in John 4 and 8 and the tax collector in Luke 18 are guilty of libertarianism; the belief that one can live however they want too free from condemnation.

Both sins of legalism and libertarianism is appalling in Jesus' eyes.  He calls everyone guilty of these heinous sins to repent.  This means that both self-righteous religious folk today need to repent if they actually believe that their works are good enough to enter the Kingdom of God.  They are fools.  Likewise, those who live in sin and those who support such sinners must also repent if they wish to enter the Kingdom of God.

Here's the truth:  God hates sin and reserves His wrath for unrepentent sinners including homosexuals, those who defend and promote the homosexual lifestyle, self-righteous legalists who feel that they are too holy to even need Christ, and every sinner in-between.

Fredericks is looking for a way to utilize Jesus to excuse sin and yet when properly read and understood such a goal is impossible to reach.  Jesus never excused, overlooked, ignored, or promoted sin.  Jesus demanded repentance from content sinners and self-righteous saints alike.  Though many have tried and will continue to try, it is impossible to turn Jesus into a lover of sinners who remain content in their sins.  So if you are gay.  Repent.  If you promote and defend homosexuals.  Repent.  If you refuse to embrace the cross because you think your works will get you into heaven.  Repent.  If you have lied.  Repent. If you have committed lust.  Repent.  If you have misrepresented the Jesus and gospel.  Repent.  If you refuse to call sin, sin and seek to rationalize rebellion against God.  Repent.

That is the real message of Jesus:  Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! (Matthew 4:17)  Will we humbly do as Jesus commands, or will we rationalize our way around the parts we do not like?

Frank Fredericks - Who Would Jesus Hate?

For more:
Commentary - What Did the Cross Accomplish:  External Hope or Internal Reformation?
Commentary - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?:  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Commentary - The Illegitimate Birth of Jesus:  Another Wild Claim Falling on Deaf Ears 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blessed Are the Bombmakers: Turning Jesus' Gospel Into a Political Cause

Would Jesus have dropped the bomb onto Nagasaki in 1945?  What Jesus drop any bomb in any war, skirmish, or battle for that matter?  That's the question recently posed and rejected by a number of moderate Evangelicals including Tony Campolo and Greg Boyd.  The point of the video is to show a number of evangelicals standing against our corrupt world that is in love with war.  They make their argument based on Jesus' teachings of love, forgiveness, and nonviolence.

I should make it clear that I firmly believe that Jesus is loving, merciful, and compassionate, but to apply these things to war is a bit of a stretch.  Jesus was not against using violence in the context of righteous anger.  Perhaps twice (depends on how one interprets John 2) Jesus used violence to clean the temple of profiting legalism.  In John 2 Jesus is seen using a whip driving out sellers and venders knocking over tables in the process.  If Jesus was completely against using violence, then please explain the clearing of the temple.

But my concern is how easily we take selective teachings of Jesus out of their context and apply them to areas like politics.  Would Jesus have dropped a bomb in a time of war?  We cannot say for sure because Jesus never addressed the issue.  Jesus didn't come to debate the military efforts of Rome, but to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Jesus didn't speak regarding the federal governments budget and its spending on the military because He was busy preaching the gospel and the Kingdom of God.

It is dangerous for us to make such a leap and apply the Sermon on the Mount to issues of war.  Traditionally Christians have not been against war, but have supported the Just War theory as developed by theologians like Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.  The reason such a theory was developed is because the Bible, at least in the New Testament, never really addresses the issue of how Christians are to respond to issues of war and the military.  The early Christians did not join the military because to do so would require them to pay homage to Caesar and to worship the pagan gods.  However, once those pagan requirements were ended, many Christians joined the army and still do.  That doesn't make it right, but it does set an interesting precedent.

So how does the New Testament deal with soldiers?  In Matthew 8 and Luke 7, Jesus performs a miracle in behalf of a military leaders never addressing or condoning his acts as a soldier.  In Luke 3 soldiers approached John the Baptist seeking repentance and instead of asking them to leave the military, John tells them to simply "not [to] extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).  Furthermore, throughout the New Testament the language of being a soldier of Christ is frequent.  In Philippians 2:25, Epaphraditus is described as a faithful soldier of Christ (see also Philemon 2).  2Timothy 2:3 exhorts Christians to "share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus."  

The point of this is to show that the New Testament does not always paint the military in an evil way but in fact uses the picture of the soldier to illustrate how to live as a Christian.  Furthermore, when the New Testament deals with persons in the military they never tell them to abandon the army, but to rather repent.

This is the message that is so often missing from many evangelicals and Jesus-loving-people.  We take Jesus out of context and apply it to things He was never addressing.  Yes Jesus wants us to love our neighbors including our military enemies, but that does not mean one cannot join the army.  At the same time that does not mean that one must join the army.  Jesus never ran for political office or boycotted a particular policy.  He never treated Pontus Pilate or King Herod with disrespect.  Instead He preached the gospel.

The reason for this seemingly lack of concern for the politics of the day should be obvious.  Politics and civil law can only control the outside, it cannot change the inside.  Certainly politics and government have an important role, but it alone cannot turn people into loving citizens.  We need the gospel to do that.  Jesus and the early Christians cared more about spreading the gospel to the ends of the Roman Empire and beyond in order to change hearts, not voting habits.

Whenever Christians raise questions like, "would Jesus drop a bomb?" we must remember that such a question misses the point.  Instead of spending all of our energy on political policy, perhaps we should spend more time preaching the good news of the Kingdom.  Let us spend our time, efforts, and money on calling on men everywhere to repent just like Jesus and the apostles did.  This does not mean that we can't debate issues of war or military tactics, but it does mean that our priorities need to be set straight.  The gospel is what will bring real hope and change, not the Whitehouse or public policy.

So would Jesus drop a bomb is the wrong question.  How did He preach the gospel?  Now that is the right question.

Jonathan Brink - Would Jesus Drop a Bomb? 

For more:
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide: The Separation of State and Church  (Part 1)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  Under God or Under Government? (Part 2)
Commentary - Where the Gospel and Politics Collide:  The Necessity of Government in a Fallen World (Part 3)
Commentary - What would Jesus Vote?:  Jesus, Health Care, and the Gospel
Commentary - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?:  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pornography for the Blind: Our Continuing Fantasy With What Is Not Real

Technology can at times be bitter sweet.  Cars are fast, but they also wreck.  The Internet has opened the world to new opportunities and has advanced technology in amazing ways.  However, just like everything else, what is primarily a good thing oftentimes gets turned into an evil thing.

This should surprise us.  The things that existed in the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall were all good:  work, marriage, pride, jealousy, and sex.  It wasn't until man turned inward did these things begin to take a negative turn.  Work, which was a pleasant experience, became hard, difficult, and back-breaking.  Marriage was an astablished institution without any confusion or conflict, now, however, marriage is undermined, ignored, put off, redefined, and destroyed through lawsuits and divorces.  And is it too obvious that sex has become abused since the Fall?  Since Genesis 3 humans in every culture have practiced and explored a sexuality that is shocking and grotesque.  Not just homosexuality, but also polygamy, polyamory, bestiality, and necrophilia.

Technology and the Internet aren't any different.  Technology is good, but it is oftentimes abused.  During World War 2, many of Albert Einstein's close academic friends turned their areas of expertise and knowledge to develop weapons for the Nazi military.  Einstein was appalled.  In every way, governments and militaries see to "improve" their weapons capabilities by advancing in technology.

Likewise, in a world of high speed Internet and 3G on our cell phones, the sexually obsessed and pornographic culture has taken over.  The majority of sites and search engines are dedicated to sex:  professional, amateur, etc.  One can easily satisfy their desires with the age of the Internet.  The Internet has allowed pornography to become a private matter apart from its very public reality in the past.  One used to have to go to the store, find a magazine or movie, and purchase it at the counter.  Now one can buy online, simply surf the web, or participate in sexting.  We certainly are living in a different world.

One of the ways that the porn industry has grown is by reaching every person, personality, wants, and desires.  Whether one is homosexual or heterosexual, one can find pornography to suit them.  Whether one prefers a certain look, nationality, race, or forbidden temptation, one can easily find pornography to suit them.  The ease of access and the increasing amount of what is available has only added to the problem.

But there seems to be one group left out:  the blind.  Being unable to see images, the blind has oftentimes been ignored.  During the 1970s and 1980, Playboy Magazine began to publish braille magazines in which the blind could read.  The only problem is that no one buys a Playboy magazine for the stories and articles, but for the sexually explicit images.  Others have provided the blind (primarily through the Internet) with audio recordings of sexual acts.  But even then, there are no pictures.

But all of that is about to change.  A Canadian woman has now published a book including 17 images of sexual material raised like braille for the blind to enjoy.  The creator and author of the book, Lisa Murphey, created the book some time ago and did so by hand.  Each page is hand crafted and suited to fulfill the fantasies of the blind.  She says she came up with the idea when she realized that the "blind have been left out in a culture saturated with sexual images."  In another interview she adds, "Everyone needs outlets to use their imagination, whether they are sighted or not."

What I find most interesting about all of this is what the pictures themselves are.  The creator/author and the news outlets that report on the book are very clear that the images that the blind are enjoying are not real.  In fact, they are made of clay and depict sexual themes.  The author tried to fashion perfect persons; both male and female.  They are depictions of what is real, but they are not real.  The author took the freedom to take the images she took of real people to improve on them in order to better satisfy her audience.

But one must wonder, how is this any different than traditional photography? Most of what is being produced in the smut industry is fake.  Fake bodies performing in fake situations portraying a fake reality of fake love.  One of the many dangers of pornography is how it convinces its viewers that the world they are indulging themselves in are exactly like that.  As a result, women become more objectified expected to act, talk, and perform like the "professional" pornographic star.  This destroys marriage as the pornography viewer tries to reconcile the world of pornography with reality.

We live in a sexually confused world that wishes to live in a fake world than in reality.  We have become so inward and selfish that we would rather live in a world that does not exist than in the one that does.  Marriages are falling apart because spouses refuse to live in the real world.  Relationships struggle because each party enters the relationship expecting to live in their world of fantasy.  Men oftentimes complain of the sex (or the lack there-of) as it does not equal that of the fantasy world.  Likewise, women expect men to be like the guy in the chick-flick both in looks and romantic lifestyle.  Such a world does not exist.

In other words:  there are no perfect people in the world.  When we enter relationships expecting our partners to be perfect and made in our own image, then we only hurt ourselves.  One can easily pull off the "perfect person" persona at the beginning of the relationship, but it quickly fades.  One can remain that perfect partner long enough for each person to get emotionally attached, and then the warts begin to show.  Once imperfection enters the relationship, it becomes too unbearable for too many.

This is why relationships fail, marriages divorce, and people get hurt.  We live in a world of fantasy.  Are we any different than the blind who may purchase this book?  Our only hope is to live in the world of reality and remain in the standards set by God.  Our society has been seeking liberation and contentment through its sexuality and it has only brought more disease, more heartache, more divorces, more broken homes, and more discontentment.  Maybe God knew what He was doing all along.

So we have one of two options:  continue to live in a world of fantasy and try to make it real or to live in the real world and find contentment in it.  Even though the world is imperfect, that does not mean that we cannot be in satisfying relationships.  In order to do so, we must uncover the true meaning of love and relationships.  Instead of turning inward, let us turn towards each other.  That is a real world that can bring satisfaction.  Let us leave the world of fantasy behind us leaving the imagination to children.

For more:
Telegraph - Pornographic Magazine For the Blind Launched
NY Daily News - Porn You Can Touch:  Sexy New Book Targets the Blind and Visually Impaired
ABC Australia - Canadian Publishes Porn for Blind

Monday, April 12, 2010

Is What is Natural Equal Moral?: Homosexuality and the Animal Kingdom - Part 1

Are animals gay?  That's the question raised in a recent New York Times Magazine cover story.  One does not need to think too hard about why this question is so important to our secular society.  Though Christians may be scratching their head as to why anyone would care, our culture is intrigued.  After all, if this wasn't a serious article with serious implications then it would have never appeared on the front of the New York Times Magazine in the first place.

In a world dominated by Darwinian evolution, this question makes sense.  That being the case, many homosexual defenders seek to find an ally in naturalism.  If the gay gene fails, perhaps it is still possible to make a natural argument for homosexuality. At the end of the day, the purpose of such studies are to validate the homosexual lifestyle as natural.  In a 2006 article, MSNBC reported:

The argument that a homosexual way of living cannot be accepted because it is against the "laws of nature" can now be rejected scientifically, said Geir Soli, project leader for the exhibition. "A main target for this project was to get museums involved in current debate; to show that museums are more than just a gallery for the past."

The point is clear, if animals practice homosexuality and consider a moral lifestyle and if we are animals just like them, then it is not immoral for humans to practice homosexuality.  Furthermore, as the above article suggests, if natural practices homosexuality, then homosexuality is natural.  The connection between what is natural and what is moral is made. The argument assumes that whatever is natural must be moral.  However, one should not miss the apparent confusion that such an argument creates.

First, if homosexuality is natural among animals does that mean it should be normative for humans?  In other words, should our morality be based on the "lifestyles" of animals or merely on nature?  Does nature determine morality?  If so, then why stop at homosexuality?  Studies have shown that some animals practice polygamy and polyamory like the wood mouse in which one male will mate with multiple females.  Any dog owner will also be able to testify how their pet seems comfortable mating with multiple partners without any hint of moral regret.  There are no dog priests in whom they can confess to.

Let us not also forget other sexual issues like incest, rape, sexual cannibalism (where the female consumes the male after copulation), and necrophilia (sex with the dead) which are also common in the animal kingdom.  If a wide variety of animals practice such things, then can we conclude that they are natural?  And by using the argument, natural = moral, then should we conclude that polygamy, polyamory, incest, rape and any other "natural" sexual lifestyle is therefore moral?  If so, then let us empty our prisons of child molestors and rapists and seek their forgiveness for we misunderstood their act as a crime when in reality, they were only satisfying their natural instincts.  

But this issues goes well beyond sex.  When defining moral boundaries, one must go beyond sexual ethics.  If other acts are "natural" in the animal kingdom, then should we declare them to be moral?  What about murder, infanticide, or even suicide; all of which are common among animals(not to mention theft, violence, relieving themselves in public, and exhibitionism just to name a few).  Anyone who watches the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, gone fishing with live bait, or have raised hunting dogs have witnessed animals killing other animals.  Furthermore, monkeys, birds, lions, and many other creatures (both males and females) will murder their young for various reasons, thus making infanticide as natural as murder.  Let us not also forget that one of the primary targets for predators are the young and the firm.

So we must ask ourselves: is this the direction we really want to go?  If we rationalize sexual behavior based on the acts of animals, then can we not rationalize cannibalism, sexual promiscuity, polygamy, cannibalism, murder, bestiality, and sex with the dead?  Are homosexual activists so desperate that we are forced to open this door?  I hope not.  Whether or not animals practice homosexuality should be irrelevant to our understanding of ethics and morality.  Just because an animal thought it moral to jump off a cliff, does that mean we have too?

What is natural, is not always moral.

Secondly, evolution is forced to make such arguments.  Evolution implies that we are merely animals.  Being a homosaphien does not separate us from the animal kingdom even though we humans are having this conversation and other living creatures aren't.  Evolution demands that we see other animals as equal to us.  It is not a far jump to make moral arguments based on the animal kingdom from an evolutionary worldview.

But this is what evolution does to the status of humans.  Rather than elevate humanity separate from the depraved animal world, it is forced to demote us to mere simple, blood-crazed animals.  Naturalism wants us to not see a dog as a pet, but as one of us.  This demands that we stop looking at one another with dignity, but as mere biological accidents whose only purpose in life is to survive and reproduce so that the next generation might further the process of evolution eventually leading to a better society free of disease and poverty.

But this connection evolution makes between humans and animals has another advantage.  It frees us from traditional morality.  Certainly depraved humanity wants to be free from any moral restraints in order to indulge his desires for more depravity.  Jude rightly describes such individuals as "unreasoning animals" (Jude 10) for they have adopted the moral code (or lack there-of) of the animal kingdom.  It is a sad commentary on the state of the human race when it wants to demote itself to mere animals unable and unwilling to control itself so as to rationalize immoral activity.  Are we this desperate to live in debauchery?

Interesting, however, all humans understand that some things are inherently wrong.  Animals do not have this sort of insight, thus continuing this line of separation between animals and humans.  We want to make an argument for homosexuality looking at the animal kingdom, but few will do the same when it comes to cannibalism or the many other "decisions" made by animals that we would consider immoral and criminal.

So we must say clearly that what is natural does not mean that it is moral.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Morality stands against what seems natural, for it what was natural was moral we wouldn't debate morality.  Those who commit immoral acts do so as part of their nature, not in spite of it.  Men are addicted to pornography, not because it goes against their nature, but because it is a part of their nature.  Women seduce men, not because it goes against their nature, but because it is part of their nature.  Morality stands against nature, not with it.  This is why many run from morality (especially traditional morality) because it prevents them from doing what they naturally want to do.  We all want unrestrained sex.  We all want revenge when we are wronged.  These things are natural, but they are not always moral. 

So at the end of the day, proponents who argue that since some animals practice homosexuality therefore it must be natural, are not taking the argument as far as they should.  In a secular world freed from God's Divine Revelation, man is left to determine morality out of a straw hat.  Without the Author of morality, man is forced to make moral and ethical laws based on the immoral and lawless animal kingdom.  And to determine morality by nature is to have no morality at all.

So though it is tempting to write such an article off as nonsensical and laughable, Christians ought not be so easily dismissive.  If evolution is true and homosexuality is found to be a common practice among animals, then yes one can make a logical argument in favor of homosexuality.  After all, aren't we just animals like they?  If they don't have a moral problem with it, then why should we.  But, with that said, one must also make the same case for all other immoral acts that animals perform as natural and therefore legal and moral.  And that is something that our morally inherent race is unwilling to do.  The reason we are so hesitant to do so is because God made us in His image, in His likeness, and with a moral code that originates with Him.

Christians must be careful not to fall for this trap.  The gospel is rejected, not because it is too difficult to understand, but because it stands against what is natural.  None of us want a God who will hold us accountable for our decision and actions.  Therefore we reject His existence, or at best fashion a God made in our own image.  Such idolatry is natural and Christians must be aware of this new way of defending homosexuality.  And once again, the argument falls flat on its face.

So does the sex lives of animals matter?  Not unless we are one.

New York Times Magazine - Can Animals Be Gay?

For more:
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. - Can Animals Be Gay?
MSNBC - Gay Animals Out of the Closet? (This is an old article from 2006)
Commentary - The Piling Evidence: Homosexuality Is A Choice
Commentary -The Missing Gene and Ray Boltz: The Theistic Argument, Did God Make Him This Way? 
Commentary - The Missing Gene: The Failed Search For the Gay Gene
Commentary - The Slippery Slope: From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 1
Commentary - The Slippery Slope: From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 2
Commentary - The Slippery Slope:  From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 3  
Commentary - The Next Step: Is Polyamory the Next Sexual Movement?
Commentary - Where Does The Madness End? The Dire Destination Of The Homosexual Agenda - Part 1

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tea and Political Philosophy: Christianity and the Tea Party Movement

A recent article written by Prison Fellowship leader and conservative Christian, Charles Colson, co-written  with Catherine Larson presents some of the problems with the grassroots Tea Party movement taking the political world by storm from a Christian perspective.  The Tea Party represents one of the largest, most energized political grassroots movements American politics has seen.  It is, without a doubt, the greatest threat the President and his party faces in the upcoming 2010 and 2012 elections.

The Tea Party, at its core, is a revolt against big (and getting bigger) government.  It wants lower taxes, smaller government, and more freedom.  They rightly understand that with every new regulation or entitlement, personal liberties are stripped away.  Critics accuse such an idea as narcissism saying that just because the US government owes most of a car company or has passed a bill that insures millions more Americans, it doesn't mean that we have lost our liberties.  What conservatives, libertarians, and tea partiers point out is that many Americans, for the past one hundred years, have surrendered their liberties to a soft tyranny; a tyranny that slowly takes away personal freedoms from individuals that though seem small at first, begin to add up.  Through heavy taxation, regulations, unnecessary laws, and a shrinking private sector, the government is slowly replacing freedom.

For example, tea partiers argue that government has no right to force anyone to buy anything including health care.  One should be free to shop for their own health care if they so choose to have it.  The recently passed health care bill forces every American to have health insurance by 2014 or be fined by the US government.  Through decades of soft tyrannies, government has taken a new step robbing individuals of the personal freedom and choice regarding their health; not to mention the new entitlement it adds accompanied with new taxes in the midst of a struggling economy.

Charles Colson's article has been commented on in USA Today suggesting that Colson is against the Tea Party movement because to him the movement simply distrusts the government and offers no political philosophy to replace the current one.  What Colson calls for a reformed, smart government that returns to the founding principles that protects personal liberties, and yet rules justly.  One evangelical moderate has seen this as an important development in a counter-tea party movement being led by Christians.  Colson is very influential among Evangelicals and his concern with the Tea Party is significant.  I agree with Colson in how he defines the role of government, but I fear that he misunderstands the movement.

Colson begins by arguing that over the past several decades less people trust their government.  He points to Hurricane Katrina where the local, state, and federal government and its agencies clearly failed the people of the south hit by the catastrophic natural disaster.  Furthermore, Colson points out how a Nigerian terrorists (the underwear bomber) almost created another 9/11 again showing the governments growing incompetence.  The reason for this distrust is, Colson argues, The bigger that government gets, the further it grows away from the people

Colson only sees three options for where this will lead America:

Where will all of this lead? There are a few likely scenarios. Government could get a dose of reality and put the brakes on. But its leaders give us no indication of restraining themselves. A second scenario could drive us off a cliff into national bankruptcy, which has happened in many countries whose governments spend irresponsibly. The third possibility, and the one I think we are on the verge of witnessing, is a populist revolt.

Colson goes on to note that populists movements have their advantages and have been important in America's past (he specifically points to the time of Andrew Jackson).  But what about the Tea Party movement?:

But this time, a massive wave of anti-government sentiment could shatter the political consensus, which may well leave the country virtually unmanageable.

The inevitable consequence of all of this should deeply trouble Christians, who, of any segment of our society, understand the necessity of a strong government.

I'm not sure his characterization is accurate of the Tea Party.  Are the tea partiers wanting anarchy?  From what I can gather from Colson's statements, this is what he is suggesting.  The USA Today article hints at this suggestion, though never making it clear (one must wonder why this article was so important for them to comment on).

What the Tea Party wants is freedom, liberty, and a return to America's traditional values, a free-market  economy, and a restoration of a Constitutional government.  Colson agrees with all of these and as Christians we should take these beliefs seriously.  Certainly liberty is the cry of the soul and Christians should celebrate it.  Certainly traditional values reflect a belief in God, personal responsibility, godly character, and personal morals and Christians can celebrate that.  Capitalism can be debated among Christians and should be, but one must admit that Capitalism grows an economy in ways that no other economic theory can.  Let us not also forget that all economic systems breed government tyranny except Capitalism.  And as for the Constitution, it ensures and protects all of these things; freedom, small government, personal liberties, low taxes, etc.

Colson is right when he says:

The Bible teaches that God ordains government, appoints leaders, and requires obedience so that we might live peaceable lives.

Why is this? God recognizes that even a bad government is better than no government. No government leads to chaos and mob rule. When order breaks down, justice is inevitably undermined. As Augustine of Hippo argued, peace flows from order, and both are necessary preconditions to the preservation of liberty and some measure of human dignity and flourishing.

The Tea Party, I believe, doesn't reject this (though the movement isn't just a Christian movement) statement.  The Tea Party is by no means suggesting that we shouldn't have any government.  Certainly there are some bad eggs like radical anarchists, but the majority of the movement is not for such a radical idea.  Anarchy only leads to chaos.  What the Tea Party wants is a return to the American experiment as laid out by our Founders.  It seems that the movement is waiting for a particular class of politicians that it can get behind to support.  They aren't calling for the end of the US government, but for its restoration for what it once was.

So Colson is right in his critique of the government.  What we need is reform; a radical reform of our government as it stands.  The government has gotten too big and the people are being ignored and it is not all President Barack Obama's fault.  However, Colson incorrectly characterizes the Tea Party movement as anarchists or at the very least, lacking a political philosophy to replace the current political powers.

Christians firmly believe in the necessity of a strong government, but at the same time must resist a tyrannical one.  Colson, I fear, has sent the wrong signal to the wrong people and has made himself sound like he is against the Tea Party populist movement, but rightly understood, he agrees with them.  From a Christian perspective, there is a lot in the movement that we can respect and even support.  However we must warn that no Christian should ever place their hope in politics, public policy, politicians, or the government.  The government is corrupt because it is run by corrupt persons.  Even if the Tea Party got its way, the world would remain broken, full of war, poverty, and injustice.  What we need, at the end of the day, is a revival of repentance.  True hope and change comes through the pure gospel, not through a libertarian politician.

Colson and Larson (Christianity Today) - Channeling the Populist Rage 

For more:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Who Isn't One?: Brian McLaren and Social Christians

Brian McLaren, Emergent leader and author, has posted two videos recently.  The first is of an advertisement of a number of people saying that they are social justice Christians.  The second video is of McLaren himself saying that he himself is a social justice Christian because the Old Testament prophets were, the apostles were, the early church was, the Catholic Church has been throughout the centuries, the radical reformers were, and because John Wesley was.

But then again, who isn't one?  If by social justice you mean concern for the poor then who isn't a social justice Christian?  I realize that there is anger over Glenn Beck's language that has been misunderstood and used as an opportunity for his opponents to rip him apart, but can anyone honestly say that Glenn Beck or orthodox Evangelicals hate the poor?  Why is it that those who refuse to support government hand outs that only encourage poverty are against poor people?  I am broke and yet I have concerns over a growing government, hand outs, accusations against conservatives, capitalists, republicans, and those who are more concerned with preaching the gospel than preaching humanitarian aide.

It is time for Christians to stop this sort of madness.  We all care about the poor.  Can we move on and have an honest discussion on how to reach the poor, the rich, the suicidal, the abandoned, the honored, the prisoner, the model citizen, the politician, the anarchist, the atheist, the legalists, the abused, and the abusers with the gospel of Jesus Christ?  When will the gospel take priority over policy?  Yes I know that politics and policy is important, but Jesus never ran for office and Paul never complained about the tax code.  They preached the gospel:  Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Shame on us for just coming off of celebrating Easter and all it seems we care about is just meeting temporal needs at the cost of eternal truths.  There is a God who demands everyone, everywhere to repent.

What really concerns me is that in all of this we are missing the gospel.  In all of this debate, little (and at times nothing) is said of Jesus' call to repentance and surrender, the substitutionary nature of the cross, and the demand to righteousness and the finished work of salvation brought about through the resurrection. We seem to be convincing ourselves that theology has nothing to do with concern for the poor.  In fact, we seem to be suggesting that sound theology stands in the way of concern for the poor.

The gospel is at stake.  Does no one care about the gospel anymore?  We say much about poverty and global warming and yet we are silent about sin, salvation, the cross, the resurrection, worship, fellowship, obedience, righteousness, or damnation.  We are slipping from orthodoxy the moment we forget to mention the gospel.  We should celebrate the concern for the poor, but unless we are grounded in the gospel nothing separates from welfare, universal health care, or any other hand out or humanitarian organization.  In other words, without the gospel, we cease to be Christian.

We can offer both water (leaving us thirsty again) and living water (which truly satisfies eternally) and yet we mention nothing about the living water of salvation granted to all men who repent as the result of the sacrificial death and triumphal resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Let us preach the gospel as loud as we preach social justice.  That is what Jesus did.  Lets follow Him as He commanded us all to do.

I am Kyle McDanell and I am gospel-proclaiming Christian!  Make an ad about that!

For more:
Brian McLaren - Are You One? 
Commentary - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel