Monday, May 31, 2010

The Slippery Slope: From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 4

In this series of post, we have been tracing the commonly used slippery slope argument especially regarding marriage and sexual ethics.  Many have rightly pointed out that legalizing something like homosexuality will only open the door wider to other sexual deviancy.  A look at our past has led to our current debate over marriage and moral sexuality and the trajectory into our future adds to the evidence that society is always trying to push farther into promiscuity. 

We can see this slippery slope take place within the homosexual movement as it currently stands today.  In January 2010, the New York Times (anything but a right wing, fundamentalists, Christian newspaper) published an article detailing a dark secret of many in the gay community.  According to the report (and the evidence it provides) many homosexuals are in "open" relationships.

An "open" relationship is one where a couple consensually agrees to have sexual relations with other partners.  The article reported:

New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.

That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”

This report is more significant than it may appear at first.  Homosexuals have been lobbying for the right to marry for years now and currently there are two central arguments being made.  First, through the use of vocabulary like "sex orientation," the gay community has convinced many Americans that one's sexual preference is predetermined at birth and not just a choice.  This turns the same-sex marriage into a civil right equal to that of blacks fighting for their rights in the 1960's.

The second main argument being fed is that opening the doors of marriage to homosexuality will have no affect on marriages.  In other words, homosexuals and their allies are arguing that homosexuals are looking for the same right of practice as heterosexuals:  monogamous, loving marriages.

The problem with both of these arguments is that they are simply not true.  There is no "gay gene" and the search for one has failed completely therefore not making same-sex marriage a civil right protect and granted by the Constitution.  Furthermore, according to the new data, many in the gay community are not wanting access to traditional marriages.  If by marriage we mean two people exclusively devoted their lives together, many (and perhaps most) in the gay community are not interested.  The New York Times article goes on to say:


The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.

None of this is news in the gay community, but few will speak publicly about it. Of the dozen people in open relationships contacted for this column, no one would agree to use his or her full name, citing privacy concerns. They also worried that discussing the subject could undermine the legal fight for same-sex marriage.

 

That last sentence is critical.  Many know that to make such data more public and commonly known will reintroduce accusations of sexually transmitted diseases being spread more rapidly through homosexual sex (like AIDs) and such an accusation would be a public relations nightmare.  Open sex and rampant promiscuity means an increase in the spread of STD's.  Furthermore, to make such truth known more widely would undermine one of the fundamental arguments for same-sex marriage.

The Times is quick, however, to point out that the phenomenon of "open" relationships is not limited to the homosexual community.  The article highlights a former Mormon couple who saved their virginity until marriage who saved their relationship by practicing extramarital sexual relations with the full consent of their married partner.

One cannot deny the idea of "open" relationships is present in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships.  It is no secret that most Americans have had multiple sexual partners before "settling down" and getting married.  When entire generations grow up believing sex is just biology, the idea of having multiple sleeping partners throughout one's life is not a surprise.  And when a culture gets used to multiple partners, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain faithful to one person for fifty years. 

Enter open relationships.

One cannot deny that the rise of the homosexual movement really opened the door to this.  Certainly the increase in the divorce and remarriage rate added to the problem, but from the beginning, the gay community has been known for having multiple sexual partners.

This "new" evidence allows us to look into the future and see the slippery slope at play.  Open relationships opens the door to swingers and polyamory.  Having multiple partners with the full consent and encouragement of one's "partner" opens the door to a more public embrace of new forms of sexual experience including sex with multiple people at the same and to having multiple "friends with benefits" and sexual partners all the while claiming to be "dedicated" and "faithful" to one particular person.

Opening this door will only force our society to question the very purpose of marriage (especially as being a bond between one man and one woman) and the limits of marriage.  The Times article begins by noting how one gay couple got "married" without the words "fidelity" and "monogamy" in the vows.  Is this the future of marriage?  It is hard to deny it.

Again, we are confronted with the perverse strength of human nature.  We have been told for years now that the only intention of the gay community is to share the same rights with their heterosexual Americans.  But the facts simply speak against it.  This does not mean that all homosexuals are in favor of open relationships, but it does make it clear that many in the movement aren't at all interested in what we now call marriage.  Traditional marriage goes beyond a certificate, but is a covenant.  One man and one woman pledge to spend their lives together, becoming one flesh and enjoying one another until they die.  The door we are debating to open (and we've already cracked it) will change all of that and change it for the worse.

If relationships are open, then what is the purpose of marriage?  If relationships are open, then why are we speaking of two people in marriage?  The slippery slope is in full affect if only we will open our eyes and see the facts as they are.


New York Times - Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret 


For more:
New York Times - Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret 
Christianity Today - Same Sex, Different Marriage  
Charles Colson - Not Like Everyone Else
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
Commentary - Colson: Same-Sex 'Marriage' Today...Polygamy Tomorrow

Friday, May 28, 2010

Why I (Hesitantly) Signed the Manhattan Declaration

One would think that I'm a little behind.  The Manhattan Declaration debate and craze was months ago, so why discuss it now?  I followed the debate and who signed it and who didn't but I always kept my distance from it wanting to see where it was going.  Recently I was approached by one of our church members asking if I had signed it and if I agreed with it.  I told them that I knew about it and though I hadn't officially signed it, that does not mean that I am completely against it.  I just had my reservations.

And that member was not the first to raise the question.

I am a pastor of a rural church.  Anytime a number of the members are aware of something like this that lets me know that it is time to take it a little more seriously.  Clearly the Manhattan Declaration in our small town continues to have its affects on believers and I believe it continues to affect the broader culture.  And so, just for a moment, I would like to reopen the debate and offer my answer as to why I (hesitantly) signed the Declaration.

WHY I SIGNED

The Declaration discusses three main topics:  (1) marriage; (2) the sanctity of life; and (3) religious liberty.  I affirm that of all of the social issues being debated today, these three are the biggest.  The Declaration does not limit the issue of marriage to just homosexuality, but broadens it to every issue surrounding the institution.  The Declaration says:

We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage. Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all Christians to do the same.

To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make
.

Divorce, promiscuity, sexual immorality, and (of course) homosexuality are serious issues and serious threats to the institution of marriage.  I could not agree more.  Christians are accused of only caring about homosexuality and forgetting about the issue of divorce and there is some truth to it.  Our marriages are in shambles and we must repent of that.  The Declaration makes this very clear.  But at the same time homosexuality is a peculiar and deadly threat to the institution of marriage and the Declaration makes this just as clear.  We cannot ignore one or the other, but as Christians, we must deal with both.  The language, concern, and Biblical articulation was spot on.

The section on life was just as well written and received.  The sanctity of life is about more than just abortion but includes a number of biotechnological issues, euthanasia, eugenics, and so much more.  The Declaration doesn't fall for the trap of simply dealing with abortion, but rightly sees the fight over life as much bigger than that.

The Declaration says:

A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable. As predicted by many prescient persons, the cheapening of life that began with abortion has now metastasized. For example, human embryo-destructive research and its public funding are promoted in the name of science and in the cause of developing treatments and cures for diseases and injuries. The President and many in Congress favor the expansion of embryo-research to include the taxpayer funding of so-called "therapeutic cloning." This would result in the industrial mass production of human embryos to be killed for the purpose of producing genetically customized stem cell lines and tissues. At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and "voluntary" euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons. Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe. Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave. The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of "liberty," "autonomy," and "choice."

I'm not sure I have heard the issue better summarized and articulated than this.  By cheapening the value of life, it becomes much easier to discard it without any emotion attached.  And once that has taken place, eugenic questions of "life unworthy of life" begin to be asked.  The Declaration rightly asserts that "The only difference [between the 1920's eugenic movements and] now [is] the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of 'liberty,' 'autonomy,' and 'choice.'"

Finally, the section on religious liberty is perhaps the most neglected of these three and yet most frightening.  Christians are being shut out of the debate and labeled hate mongers, bigots, homophobes, and any other name.  The purpose of such name calling is to silence our voices and (eventually if not already) criminalize cultural dissent.  Christianity is under assault in the name of openness and tolerance (contradictory I know).

The declaration says:

t is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these "rights" are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

Again, how the Declaration clearly articulates the issue is top notch. 

So why did I sign it?  Because it is the best summation of these three most important issues we face today.  I have not come across a better example (especially in one single document) of Christians clearly articulating our concerns and reasons for debate.  It is a call for Christians to take their faith seriously.  It is a call for Chrsitians to wake up and realize that we don't live in Kansas anymore.

WHY I HESITATED TO SIGN IT

With all of that said, there is one issue that concerns me:  the gospel.  Nowhere in this beautifully written document is the gospel itself articulated or identified as the driving cause for our concern and action.  There is nothing theologically wrong with the document, but the absence of the gospel stands out to me (and others have pointed out the same).

Where is the gospel?  In a document that has been signed by hundreds of thousands of people and given ample media coverage, I feel that we have missed the opportunity of clearly showing how the gospel - the foundation of our faith - is the catalyst of why all of this matters.

Life is sacred not just because we were created by God but because Christ died for us.  Marriage is worth defending not just because the Bible clearly defines it, but because it is a picture of the gospel:  Christ and His Church whom He redeemed.  Religious liberty matters not just because it is found in our first amendment and without it millions of Christians will be persecuted, but because true conversion does not take place at the end of a gun.  Where is the gospel.

I agree with everything in this document, but am frustrated that the gospel is missing.  How can we say that we are Christians if we get caught up in social issues without articulating the gospel?  The gospel is the center of our being, not politics, policy, or the public square.  The gospel is our cause, not protesting.  The gospel.  The gospel.  The gospel.  If we ever fail to clearly proclaim the gospel in all that we do, we have missed the point.

So yes, I signed the Manhattan Declaration, but only in a hesitant way.  The document is beautiful and timely, but it is not perfect.  Christians must remember that the gospel ought to be our only motivation for in it God is glorified.  Will we preach the gospel and let it shape our views on social issues?  Or will we simply focus on the sins of this world forgetting that propitiation for our sins was made at the cross?


Manhattan Declaration Website 
Read the Manhattan Declaration   


For more:
John MacArthur - The Manhattan Declaration 
Albert Mohler - Why I Signed the Manhattan Declaration 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Legislating Morality: We All Do It, But Only a Few Get Blamed For It

We have established that political policy reflects one's morality and that every law (or lack there-of) is a moral pronouncement and reflects a people's moral code.  At times this is harder to illustrate, but at other times it is very clear.  Take the issue of homosexuality for example.  Those, like myself, who oppose the practice of homosexuality and do not want to see it legalized are accused of forcing my personal moral and religious beliefs on the public.  Therefore, to support a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is written off as bigotry and homophobic.  Furthermore, opponents of such an amendment (or other laws banning same-sex marriage) consider it a breech of separation of State and Church and, they argue, one cannot legislate morality.

But does the shoe not fit on the other foot?

Take the signing of a gay pride proclamation by the mayor of Spartanburg, South Carolina for example.  Mayor Junie White signed the proclamation which will lead to a gay pride parade on June 19, 2010.

White said it was time members of the gay and lesbian community are treated equally and have the same rights as heterosexuals.

The purpose of the resolution was to state that:

The city of Spartanburg supports efforts to ensure that everyone has the right to live in conditions of dignity, respect and peace" and "Pride Week celebrations contribute to reducing discrimination, isolation and barriers faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Two Spirited community.

The question should then be asked:  is the mayor and homosexual proponents in Spartanburg, SC forcing their moral values on those who do not hold them?  That's the argument made by the Herald-Journal executive editor Michael Smith who wrote an editorial in his paper making the argument that This nation and community are having a very one-sided discussion on the merits of religious faith in the public arena.

He goes on to add:


The truth is that every moral debate is at heart about religious faith. That faith dictates our sense of moral absolutes or our disbelief in any absolutes. That faith determines the moral authority we look to for our sense of right and wrong.

For instance, someone who believes in God may look to Scripture for the definition of right and wrong, while an atheist may have no higher moral authority than his own thoughts and sense of reason. But every moral position is at heart a matter of religious faith of some kind.

We don't treat it that way in public discourse. Only those with traditional religious faith are accused of improperly bringing their beliefs into the public discussion. Only they are told to take their sense of morality out of the public policy arena.

You can see where Smith is going with this.  Why is it that only those with traditional religious values accused of trying to legislate morality whereas secularists, atheists, or other moral and religious beliefs are not accused of the same.  Smith goes on to add:
If a mayor who believed the scriptural admonitions against homosexuality had issued a proclamation condemning the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day, he would be vilified by all those who support White's decision. They would cry that this mayor is forcing his religious beliefs on everyone in the city. And they would be right.

But it is also true that White is forcing his beliefs on everyone in the city, and because these are moral beliefs, they are fundamentally religious beliefs. By proclaiming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day and putting the full weight of city government behind that declaration, White is asserting that his convictions are correct and paramount and that those with differing religious beliefs can just live with it.

The proclamation sets a nice tone about "dignity, respect and peace," but it also uses the authority of the city to establish the "Pride Day," and many citizens' beliefs will not allow them to take pride in this celebration. 

Why is this tolerated from one side when it would never be tolerated by the other? Why is one set of groups told that their religious beliefs have no place in the public arena, no business informing public policy or social evolution, but other groups are encouraged to bring their moral senses into the debate?

Smith's questions continue to ring in the air.  Why is it tolerated for proponents of homosexuality to make moral arguments, make moral proclamations, and pass (usually by judicial or executive decree) laws and yet escape the accusations of legislating morality?  Why is it that only Christians and those with similar moral and religious beliefs are not allowed to enter the public debate with their moral worldview and yet secuarlists are excused to use theirs?  
Smith rightly concludes:

There really is no such distinction. Both are religious points of view. The only difference is in who we trust for our definition of right and wrong. All moral belief is fundamentally a religious question: Whom do you worship?

When a mayor, judge, governor, Senator, or President makes a moral proclamation it should be labeled as such.  Whether it be the removal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, or a ban on partial-birth abortion such actions such be identified as moral.  No politician or voter can (or should have to) separate their moral convictions in the debate over policy or law.  To deny some their right to make a moral argument that is reflected in a law is to deny the natural process of democracy.
Everything we say, do, vote for, believe, and think reflects one's worldview even if such a person claims to not believe in God or to follow a traditional religion.  Until we as a nation admit that truth, we will never have the robust and honest debate that Democracy demands.  Christians must cease feeling pressured to leave their moral convictions at the door and instead embrace the fact that those proposing such a policy are themselves guilty of making moral pronouncements.

Morality and religion is part of who we are even if we deny the existence of such things.


For more:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A New Wall of Separation: Why There Should Be a Separation of Sports and State

We are all aware of the phrase "separation of Church and State."  The meaning, as it is applied today, is that the two spheres of religious institutions and government should remain separate.  The Wall argument is favored by those who prefer a purely secular government free from any religious (and particularly Christian) influences.  The phrase "wall of separation between Church and State" comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a group of Baptist.  It has been gospel ever since.

I propose a new wall of separation:  The Separation of Sports and State.  Since the passing of the tough immigration law in Arizona (which only enforced at the state level the federal law), many have responded with disdain including a number of sports teams and institutions.

In early May, the Phoenix Suns decided (and apparently none of the players objected) to replace their English-only jerseys to Spanish in defense of Hispanics who make up the majority of the illegal immigration.  In other words, the jersey's of the playoff team read "Los Suns" instead of simply "Suns."  The jersey's were worn during a home game on Cinco de Mayo.

Likewise, an Illinois high school girls team were denied the earned right to represent their school in a major tournament to be played in Arizona because of the new immigration law.  The school claims that they are not trying to be political, but their efforts to escape accusations have fallen on deaf ears.  The school allowed the girls to travel to China (which demanded they present their "papers" in the same way the Arizona law expects immigrants to presents proof they are here legally) without fear for their safety and yet hypocritically have denied the same girls team the right to continue their season in another state.

A few weeks ago, there was talk of pressuring Major League Baseball to not have the 2011 All-Star game at the Arizona Diamondbacks stadium as a boycott against the new law.  The manager of the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen, and a native of Venezuela, says that if the 2011 All-Star Game is in Arizona, he won't attend because As a Latin American, it's natural that I have to support our own . . . I plead sportsmen to join on this.

More examples could be sited showing how the sports world has become enamored by the political developments of one state, but these three examples illustrate just how far the sports world has come.  I fear that many players, coaches, and league officials and representatives feel like Hollywood actors and directors who act as if their opinions can shape national opinion.  Actors campaign for politicians all the time and only results in a loss of fan base, not a strengthening of the country.

Sports has always been what has always united Americans.  I can watch and root for my favorite team with virtually anyone.  Sports in America (and our obsession for them) transcends the divides of religion (and I say that as a pastor) and politics.  No one should care if the star point guard or the starting offensive lineman voted for a Democrat or doesn't support the new health care law.  What matters is that they play for our favorite team and we are united.  I fear that once sports turns political, what has always united us will become source of division.

A politicized sports world will force me to root for teams that represent my values and think like me.  Rather than being able to escape from the crazy world we live in everyday, Americans we be forced to apply their politics and faith to the realm of sports.

So I propose that there should be a wall of separation between sports and the state.  By this, I do not mean there should be legislation, but an unwritten rule that sports will not be tainted with the stains of politics.  Jackie Robinson was loved not just because he was black, but because he was always the best player on the field and played harder than anyone else.  Certainly he was forced to prove himself because of people's doubts due to his race, but instead of playing politics, Robinson played baseball and we loved him for it.

Sports has always been a unifying, transcending force in America.  A place of escape.  A place of fun.  But when we begin to play politics instead of sports, the game becomes tainted and an added reason to be divided.  So when whether it be at tip off, or the ceremonial first pitch, or the kick-off at the start at each game, let us put politics aside and root for our favorite team.  What should divide us shouldn't be over policies like immigration reform, but over who we think should win and why.


ESPN - 'Los Suns' jerseys set for Cinco de Mayo 
Fox News - Outrage Spreads Over Decision Not to Send Girls' Basketball Team to Arizona  
CBS News - Arizona Immigration Boycott Zeroes in on Baseball 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Creation or Manipulation?: The Limits of Man and the Evidence of God

Jurassic Park step aside, the first artificially created human been constructed.  American scientists Craig Venter of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Maryland and California has created quit a media stir lately with his claim that he has created life artificially.  Admittely, I am no scientists and no amateur expert in the field of science or biology.  I'm barely an amateur in the field.  According to reports:


In the study, published in the peer-review journal Science, the researchers copied the genome, or complete genetic sequence, of an existing bacterium. They sequenced its genetic code and then used “synthesis machines” to chemically construct a copy. The new DNA was inserted into cells of a different type of bacteria. These reproduced daughter cells with both the natural and artificial DNA. The bacteria with the artificially constructed DNA replicated over a billion times.

“This is the first time any synthetic DNA has been in complete control of a cell,” said Venter, who likened the process to creating software for a computer. He told the BBC, “We’ve now been able to take our synthetic chromosome and transplant it into a recipient cell - a different organism.

“As soon as this new software goes into the cell, the cell reads [it] and converts into the species specified in that genetic code.”

Certainly this new breakthrough, assuming it is legitimate, raises a number of ethical issues as this new breakthrough certainly opens up a new door in biology.

Many have accused Venter of "playing God."  This is a common accusation thrown at scientists and biologists anytime life and human cells are manipulated.  Biological debates over stem cell research (both adult stem cells and especially embryonic stem cells), cloning, artificial insemination, and similar ventures have created more debate than any other scientific issue (perhaps next to evolution and the origin of life).

But is it really playing God, at least in the strictest sense?  Anytime a breakthrough like this is made, many act as if we mere humans have done something that God has done:  create life.  But from the Christian perspective, has science done what previously was believed that only God could do?

The question then must be asked, what did God do?  How did He create life?  Here we are confronted with the doctrine of Creation and specifically that God created ex nihilo ("out of nothing").  Christians (and even proponents of Intelligent Design and other origin theories) believe that when God created, He created apart from any pre-existent matter.  God created out of nothing.  He spoke and it appeared, it was created.

This is what we mean when we say that God created.  When God created, He created!

This is one of the many things that separates man from God.  Man can only manupulate with resources that are present.  God isn't so limited.  The reason miracles are possible is because God has never been bound by the laws of nature because He created (ex nihilo) the laws of nature and reserves the right to manipulate them.

So are scientists playing God?  Can scientists play God?  Can we really create life?  The answer, in the strictest sense, is no.  Man cannot create, he can only manipulate.  He cannot change the rules, but is limited by them.  Rules that God created and transcends. 

It is at this point that we as humans are forced to confront not only the existence of God, but His continued providence in our lives.  Evolution's thorn in the flesh comes down to the origin of everything.  Though Charles Darwin sought to explain the Origin of Species, he failed utterly.  The title of his most famous book (and one of history' most famous books) implies that through the aide of science, Darwin answered the origin of life, and yet he does not.  Darwin begins with matter and from that matter his theory claimed to explain all that is now, but he had to begin with something without being able to answer where that something came from.

The story hasn't changed even two hundred years since Darwin.  Theories like the Big Bang continue to run into the problem of causation:  what caused those event to take place? what caused those events follow the laws of nature?  Even with advancements in astronomy, physics, biology, and other scientific disciplines, we have yet to explain how everything came from nothing.

We are forced, at this point, to admit that there must be something that transcends matter.  Something that both is the origin of origins and yet is eternal.  We call such a reality God.  God is Creator and Sustainer of all things.  Even if the Big Bang is factual, it still depends on something (or Someone) who caused the Big Bang to take place.

So as Christians, we must confront the recent news stories regarding the creation of life critically.  We know that no such thing has happened.  What has happened is the birth of life from preexistent material.  This should be a reminder to Christians to reflect on the God we worship.  Not only is our God more powerful than the laws of nature and life itself, He is the Sovereign Lord over all matter and material.

At the same time, we must remember the cross.  The cross, once and for all, means that He who created life is intimately related and involved with His creation.  God is not distant (like the Deist want us to believe), but  very much cares for who we are, what we do, and how we live.  We not only exist because of God's will and prudential purpose, but we are accountable to Him.  A distant god would be convienant, but that is not the God of the universe.

The recent scientific development over the "creation" of life is certainly worth our time of study and debate.  As the days continue to go by, more will be written and said regarding the ethics of these events.  But at the end of the day, Venter has taught us one thing:  there is a God and we are not Him.


Lifesite News - "Frankenstein" or Scientific Breakthrough?: U.S. Biologist Creates Controversy with Artificial DNA  


For more:
LA Times - Artificially created cell called a scientific feat

LA Times - A Creation Question
Commentary - We're A Bunch of Idiots:  The Extent of Vanity Fair's Argument Against Creationism 
Commentary - John Lennox:  The New Atheism and the Gospel 
*  The above picture is taken from World Magazine.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Morality and the Role of Government: Libertarianism vs. Conservatism - What Rand Paul Has Taught Us

One day a libertarian and a conservative were having a conversation.  The conservative said, "I am distressed by the idea of fornication in public parks."  The libertarian responded, "I am distressed by the idea of public parks."*  This is the primary difference between conservatives and libertarians.  The battle cry for libertarians is freedom and liberty (hence the name) and thus sees a free society to be a right society.  In other words, libertarianism is primarily a political theory of government that believes that when a society is free (and yet not quit anarchical), society will be better off.

Conservatism argues otherwise.  Conservatives believe that maximum freedom is economically best it can however be morally is dangerous.  A conservative and a libertarian together fight against a growing government, tax hikes, and increase regulations in a society, but they primarily differ regards the limits of government.  In other words, libertarianism is primarily economic (and only vaguely political primarily in sense that the government protects individual liberty) whereas conservatism is primarily moral seeing a limitted government as best, but not perfect.

The real difference, as is the case with most political, moral, theological and economic theories, regards one's view of man.  Libertarianism assumes each individual is virtuous.  Virtuous individuals populate and create virtuous societies.  To believe that man is good does not mean that they never do wrong, but a collection of virtuous people will likely lead to a virtuous society.

This is why libertarians are against the drug wars and want to legalize all illegal substances.  They argue that by making it illegal only creates a black market which encourages crime.  This is the problem that Prohibition created in the 1920's.  By making alcohol illegal, gangsters like Al Capone became rich and powerful and opened the door to more illegal actions beyond the making and selling of alcohol like murder and robbery.

Conservatives, on the other hand, argue that man is flawed and corrupt.  Thus, to leave man free to do whatever he wants will only lead to depravity for sale.  Likewise, a big, powerful government will only increase corruption in soceity for itself will be corrupt.  So though conservatives favor small government, they do not favor a government as small as libertarians because conservatives give government some (but limited) responsibility to prevent rampid evil and depravity in society.

Take pornography and sexual vice for example.  If society were as free as libertarians would want, the porn industry would be larger than it is now.  It is no secret that sex sells and people are willing to spend billions of dollars a year on it.  The reason mankind is obsessed with sex is because he is flawed.  Libertarian economics seeks to legalize prostitution believing that it will make prostitution less profitable and people will move on to something more virtuous (not to mention the crime that oftentimes surrounds illegal prostitution), whereas conservatism understands that to legalize prostitution will endanger young women and embolden perverted men.

This is the problem that recent Republican nominee-elect Rand Paul ran into while appearing on MSNBC (anything but a conservative or libertarian news station) following his electoral victory in Kentucky.  Dr. Paul is the son of libertarian Republican Ron Paul who ran for President in 2008 raising libertarianism out of its cultural slumber.  Like his father, Dr. Paul seeks to shrink government and limit the regulations the government currently holds over its citizens.

While on the Rachel Maddow show, Dr. Paul was asked a question regarding the Civil Rights Act.  On the surface it appears that he is not in favor of the landmark law that ended segregation throughout the United States.  Maddow asked Paul is he thought "that a private business has the right to say, 'We don't serve black people?'"  Paul responded:

Yeah…I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race. But I think what’s important about this debate is not getting into any specific ‘gotcha’ on this, but asking the question: What about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking? I don’t want to be associated with those people, but I also don’t want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that’s one of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized.

On the surface it sounds as if Paul is in favor of private businesses that segregate based on any form of discrimination whether it be race, gender, religion, nationality, wealth, etc.  But in fairness, here is the libertarian view: Government has no right to tell a free person who they can and cannot serve.  If the entrepreneur wants to predetermine and limit his customers, then he should have the right to do so realizing that by doing so, he is limiting his ability to maximize his wealth opportunities.  By not allowing an entire race to eat at his restaurant, for example, he is preventing his business from profiting from an entire population of society.  As a result, the owner will eventually open his business to everybody without any segregation.

One should admit that on the surface this is a logical belief, but the reality simply isn't true.  Our history shows that many business owners were willing to take the economic hit of not serving particular groups knowing that they would continue to profit from those who (im)morally agreed with the owner.  So in the case of racial segregation, owners who barred blacks from their place of business were financially rewarded by the continued business of the white customers who wanted and enjoyed that policy.  The entrepreneur's learned that their happy, racist customers balanced out the missing business from the black community.

This is where conservatism comes in.  Conservatism understand government to play the role of protector in society.  It must protect its citizens from outside forces (thus they have a military, diplomats, etc.) and from inside threats (thus they have police, judges, and law).  One of those threats is moral wrongs like racism and segregation.  Therefore, conservatives see the Civil Rights Act as a moral law that is just and right.  It is an example of when government should have intruded on the freedom of racist business owners.

Take Paul's argument here and apply it to something else.  He has repeatedly said that he is against racism and segregation and believes it to be immoral.  But his libertarianism prevents him from using the law to condemn and prevent segregation in society.  So his argument runs thus:  "Though I am personally against racism, I, nor the government, has the right to intrude on the individual rights of another person."

To apply such an ethic to racism is dangerous, but many are using that same faulty logic today especially in regards to other social issues like abortion and homosexuality.  How many people have said, "Though I oppose abortion and would never have one, I cannot tell other women not to have one.  That is their right and choice."  Oftentimes this argument is clouded in the, "if you make abortions illegal, women are going to have them in unsterilized alley's which will lead to the deaths of many women."**

As a Christian (and as one with conservative and at times libertarian leanings) I am appalled by this argument.  Because I believe that humans are flawed, I have a firm belief that where the gospel is ignored, government should have some (limited) role in preventing ramped immorality. Conservatives (and even liberals) rightly understand that the law is a moral document that defines our morality.  Every law is legislated morality.  Legalizing everything will not make immorality go away.  The continued slaughter of unborn infants proves the point.  Instead of the numbers dropping to the point of oblivion, abortion has become a source of birth control for sexually promiscuous couples and in the process more forms of infant murder are being debated like embryonic stem cell research, eugenics, and infanticide, not to mention euthanasia and other forms of state-sponsored murder.

Christians must be aware of these arguments.  Though Christians (especially Baptists) have held to a belief of limited government in recent centuries, we must understand that the Bible views government as one who protects its citizens and ensures a just and moral society.  There is the danger of bigger government (like what liberals and socialists promote) which only leads to an immoral society and also of a very small, limited government (like what libertarians want).  Small government seems best, but it should not be so small as to not protect the unborn and the discriminated against.***

I do not believe that most libertarians (and even liberals) are anti-moral.  However, I do believe that their political theory is flawed in its understand of the human nature and in the role of government.  Government, when given too much power, can become oppressive and history is littered with many examples of that.  But when given virtually no power, government and the broader society can turn a blind eye to injustice, bigotry, racism, sexism, hatred, and evil and American history has unfortunately illustrated.

So was banning (and therefore intruding on the individual liberties of many Americans) segregation just?  Yes.  Should government have stepped in.  Yes, for many were denied their rights.  Likewise, until the gospel takes hold of our society, government ought to step in and prevent the murder of untold millions of our fellow Americans and prevent the sexualization of women in our society (among other moral issues).  Freedom is a wonderful thing and is God-given and yet we can easily turn freedom into a license to sin in abundance.

So though I applaud Dr. Paul's concern for governments growth for it has become too bloated and unsustainable as it continues to increase our debt and intrude on our personal liberties.  At the same time, however, I am equally concerned with how far libertarians like the Paul's want to shrink our government to a point where immorality means taxable income.****


*Taken from Dinesh D'Souza, Letters to a Young Conservative, 12-13.
 **  Former first lady Laura Bush (whose husband was very pro-life) made this same argument recently on Larry King Live!
***  I know that at this point many will point to my belief that homosexuals should not be allowed to get married.  Before you scream at my hypocrisy, note that my firm belief against same-sex marriage is a moral argument.
****  Before closing, a quick word should be mentioned how a left-leaning media likes to pick at libertarians like Paul.  If you watch the interviews Paul did following the Maddow interview, many of the journalists begin to ask him questions that they would never ask a conservative like, "do you want to repeal minimum wages?" "do you want to get rid of the federal reserve?' etc.  However, the point remains, libertarianism has its many dangers even if they are at times mistreated and poked at by the media (much in the same way as conservatives are).





For more:
Denny Burk - Why I Can't Stand Libertarianism
Alex Chediak - Rand Paul Blows It On The Rachel Maddow Show 
ABC News - Rand Paul Says He's Being 'Trashed Up and Down' by 'Democratic Talking Points' 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Botched Abortion: How Are We Any Different Than the Barbaric People of the Past?

It seems like everyday a new case of an infant surviving an abortion is made public.  A recent example of a baby surviving a "botched" abortion comes from China who have a 1 child only policy which has led to a mass slaughter of unborn children (primarily women).  This will create a lot of problems for China when this generation becomes adults.

Instead of summing up the story, it is best to read it for yourself:


AN aborted baby declared dead by doctors in south China's Guangdong Province cried before he was due to be cremated, but died hours later as doctors refused to treat him. 

A mortuary worker at Nanhai Funeral Home in Foshan City said the baby cried and scared him as he was about to throw the coffin into a furnace, Information Times reported today. 

He opened the box and found the seven-month fetus moving, but apparently choking on some cotton wool in his mouth, the report said. 

After the worker cleared his mouth, the baby yawned and breathed peacefully. Workers rushed him back to Guanyao Hospital which delivered the baby as medical waste earlier that day. 

But doctors left him in the lobby, and confirmed after an hour that the baby died.

The vice head of the funeral house said Guanyao Hospital sent many aborted fetuses or still-born babies for cremation. This baby apparently survived an abortion at seven months, and he had videos to prove the baby was still alive before the cremation. 

Hospital official Liu Sanhong said its staff checked the baby for an hour and made sure it was dead. Liu did not say whether the doctors tried to save the baby or not. 

The body was later sent back to the funeral house. The report said all workers were ordered not to talk about the incident. 

On March 31, at least 21 fetuses and dead babies were found dumped in a river in east China's Jining City. 

Eight had tabs with clinic code numbers attached to their feet. The Affiliated Hospital of Jining 

Medical University responsible for the corpses said they were "medical waste."

I honestly don't know what to say.  The barbaric nature of the abortion industry in the world is shocking.  We call ourselves civilized and yet we pile dead, unwanted, discarded human "waste" into mass graves.  What is common among these "botched" abortion stories is how many hospitals don't know how to act.  In most of the stories, the baby goes on to die.  It amazes me how the story is only newsworthy because the child died outside of the womb, but if the child had died in the womb as planned, no one would care.

How are we any different than the barbaric people of the past?


Free Republic - Aborted Baby Cries Before Cremation


For more:
Commentary - What To Do With An Abortion Survivor:  Italy, Infanticide, and Secular Moral Confusion
Commentary - Thus Says the Speaker of the House: Every Person Has Dignity and Worth
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, May 18, 2010

Thus Says the Speaker of the House: Every Person Has Dignity and Worth

I can't believe I'm about to say it.  But I might as well admit it.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and I agree on something.  When it comes to policy, faith, and on virtually every other issue, the Speaker and I rarely agree, but in a recent press conference, she said something that I wholeheartedly endorse:

I would hope that there’s one thing that we can do working together as we go forward that speaks to what the Bible tells us about the dignity and worth of every person . . . Because I think the Church is going to have to play a very major role in how we, in how people are treated . . . And I say, ‘But I want you to speak about it from the pulpit.'

I couldn't agree with her more and I am blown away by her admission that the Bible teaches that every person has dignity and worth and the Church is going to have to play a very major role in . . . how people are treated.  As a pro-life Christian, it is nice to see one of the farthest left, pro-choice political leaders in Washington DC to finally admit the obvious.  Life is sacred because life is the creation of God, not simply a biological accidents.

But then again, maybe the Speaker and I don't see eye-eye after all.  Speaker Pelosi, in the above quote, is not talking about every person as one would assume.  Instead, she is speaking on the topic of illegal immigration.  In the complete quote, Pelosi is calling on clergy to preach against immigration reform from their pulpits.  Beyond the beloved liberal (and misinterpreted) doctrine of the separation of State and Church, Pelosi is calling on Christian pastors, bishops, and clergy members to help her convince Americans to reject the Arizona immigration law and support the Democratic immigration platform (which seems to be amnesty and the status quo).

Here is the full quote taken from CNS News:

I would hope that there’s one thing that we can do working together as we go forward that speaks to what the Bible tells us about the dignity and worth of every person -- and that is on the subject of immigration,” Pelosi said in her remarks. “Because I think the Church is going to have to play a very major role in how we, in how people are treated.”

“The cardinals, the archbishops, the bishops that come to me and say, ‘We want you to pass immigration reform,’” disclosed Pelosi. “And I say, ‘But I want you to speak about it from the pulpit.'

“I want you to instruct your, whatever the communication is -- the people, some of them, oppose immigration reform are sitting in those pews and you have to tell them that this is a ‘manifestation of our living the gospels,’” said Pelosi. “Our patron saint of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, he said, ‘preach the gospel --sometimes use words.’ We need the words to be said because it isn’t being picked up automatically
.”

The report goes on to quote the Speaker who added:

We have to respect that dignity and worth (of the individual), and recognize that the Church has an important role to play in that,” she said. “We don’t -- as a practical matter, we can’t say to people, 12 million of you, ‘go back to wherever you came from or go to jail.’”

“We can’t do that,” she said. “But the newcomers to America are really, again, important to the constant re-invigoration of America,  which is part of who we are and have always been unless we’re all Native American -- God Bless them. But most of the people here came from someplace else
.”

So which is it?  Does dignity only apply to illegals and others in society, or does in fact every human being have worth?  Why do illegals have dignity, but the unborn don't?  One can easily see the many holes in her argument.  At this point, the Speaker would likely counter with common pro-choice arguments like a woman's right to choose, rights are granted at birth, not at conception, etc., but the problem remains.  On what moral basis does Pelosi, second in line to the Presidency, base her argument that illegal immigrants have a right to life and liberty in American but the unborn don't unless their mother decides otherwise?  Did she not say that every person has dignity and worthEvery person.

It is tempting to enter the debate over the meaning of person and how to define it, but I will not waste my time.  Pelosi has opened the door using the Bible as her proof of the dignity of life.  When one takes out the reference to illegal immigrants, Pelosi sounds more like a pro-life Republican than a pro-choice Democrat.

And not only does she apparently believe that the Bible supports the dignity and sanctity of all of human life, but she connects it with the gospel.  She argues that the dignity of life is a manifestation of the gospel and I could not agree with her more.  Not only is life sacred because of God's divine act of creation, but also because of God's divine act of salvation.  By dying on the cross, God declared that His creation was worth the greatest sacrifice.  He could have easily given up on us and we would have deserved His condemnation.  But we are His creation.  His holiness demanded both justice and mercy and the two met at the cross and resurrection.  God sealed the sanctity of life when Christ gave His life up for us.

So I do agree with the Speaker of the House, but at the same time I do not.  Nancy Pelosi has proven herself to be a hypocrite.  She cannot affirm life's dignity for some and not all and keep a straight face.  She can't possibly believe what she says here.  She cannot have it both ways.  Either she will be consistent and change her long-held views on abortion and other right to life issues, or she will illogically determine in her own mind who ought to have God-given rights and who doesn't (never mind what she just said the Bible and the gospel declare).

My concern is not her argument regarding immigration, but regarding her silence on the truly innocent in our world:  the unborn, the incurable, the handicap, and the dying.  Pelosi's policies are what one would expect of a San Francisco politician, but she has proven her worldview to be faulty.  Either she believes in the dignity of life or she doesn't.  Or, and this is the part that really concerns me, she has determined without reason who deserves rights and who doesn't.  And if a politician can determine that, what else can they take away from God?

What we have here is politics meddling in the affairs of religion which is exactly what the separation of State and Church is supposed to protect.  The dividing wall of the State and Church isn't to keep the Church out of politics, but to keep politics out of the Church.  Pelosi is revealing her desperation by calling on pastors and bishops to become mouth pieces for the State instead of mouth pieces for God.

When the government tries to define the gospel the message of the good news gets easily distorted.  Christians, especially clergy, shouldn't fall for such an appeal.  Politicians love to have the faith community on their side, but the Christian community must always make the gospel a priority, not politics.  The gospel says that all of life is sacred regardless of what any politician may try to say.

So will I preach the dignity and worth of every person this Sunday?  Of course I will.  Not because the Speaker of the House said so, but because the gospel of Christ has already declared it.  Preach the gospel . . . and yes, use words.





CNS News - Pelosi Says She's Told Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops They Must Tell Catholics Immigration Reform is a 'Manifestation of Our Living the Gospels'


For more:
Commentary - Christianity and the Border Crisis:  How Should We Respond? 
Commentary - From Life, to Choice, to Economics:  A New President and a Change in the Debate Over Life
Commentary - We Are Sparta:  Pelosi Skews Catholic Teaching on Abortion

Monday, May 17, 2010

What's the Big Deal?: Christianity and Homosexuality

One of the many accusations made against Christians regarding their strong beliefs about homosexuality is how front and center this is to them.  Many point out that other sins are just as serious:  adultery, divorce (including among fellow Christians), drunkenness, and so many other serious issues and sins.  Why is homosexuality forefront even at times trumping abortion? 

This is an important question because Christians themselves are beginning to ask it.  For example, in their book UnChristian, authors David Kinnamen and Gabe Lyons show that many in the culture depict Christians as simply being anti-homosexual (or even homophobic).  As a result, the authors suggests Christians reevaluate their priorities.  Does the issue drive our faith too much?

This is a serious question that we should take seriously.  Why do Christians make such a big deal out of the sexual preferences of adults?  As a Christian, I believe that homosexuality is an extremely important topic that Christians must remain engaged.  Just as abortion defines our nation's moral compass, so does the definition of marriage which is fundamentally under assault by the homosexual movement in our nation.

So why is it important?  Here are just a few reasons (this is by no means an exhaustive list):

BECAUSE THE CULTURE MAKES IT A FRONT-AND-CENTER ISSUE

I find it interesting that Christians are accused of being obsessive about this issue when it is the culture itself that continues to raise it. Apparently it is OK to mock Christians as bigoted and obsessed all the while ignoring the fact that it is the culture that raised it in the first place.  Does the culture really expect Christians and the traditional values crowd to ignore this after 40 years of the sexual revolution, decades of broken homes, and the use of abortion as birth control?

When Christians are accused of obsession, Christians should be reality with the counter argument that we are not the one's that turned this into an issue.  Its not like Christians decided to start talking about it.  Rather, the culture has forced Christians to engage the issue.  We are fools to think that Christians enjoy the subject and care more about this than anything else.  As a pastor of a congregation that is almost universally against homosexuality, I know of no one that goes out looking for an opportunity to debate the subject.  Instead, they watch the news and their favorite comedy and are forced to watch a lifestyle that they disagree with.

BECAUSE NO ONE IS DEBATING DRUNKENNESS AND OTHER SINS

In a similar vein, the reason Christians aren't publicly spending as much time dealing with other sins is because the culture isn't dealing with them.  Is there any real debate among Christians and non-Christians that drunkenness is wrong and drunk driving is bad for society?  Is there any real debate that rape and abuse are evils that need to be eradicated?

Certainly we can debate issues like divorce and adultery and face the facts that these are real cancers among Christians, but that should in no way undermine the immorality of homosexuality.  Just because Christians has warts doesn't mean that God is forced to change His mind on a lifestyle.  When proponents of homosexuality point out that Christians have no right to defend a traditional definition of marriage when their own marriages are in shambles, we should remind them that we aren't the one's who defined it in the first place.  Certainly Christians must be an example of why life-long monogamy is crucial for inidividuals, children, families, communities, and societies, but though we have many failures, that does not mean that God has changed His mind.

In other words, God is ashamed of the divorce rate of this country and He is equally ashamed of our drifting into homosexuality.  These are both cancers that only the gospel can eradicate.  Christians need to heed these words as well.

But all of this is to say that trying to distract Christians with other sins is pointless.  As a pastor, I am well aware of them as I face them every day (in my own life and in the people I meet with).  However, that does not change the seriousness of this issue.  The diversity of sins is no reason to take our eye off of one of them including homosexuality.

This reminds me of what children try to do when they get in trouble.  Oftentimes they will try to change the subject by blaming one of their siblings of something they did in order to pacify their parents wrath on what they themselves did.  We as adults are doing the same exact thing.

BECAUSE HOMOSEXUALITY IS JUST THE BEGINNING

We must realize the fundamental fact that the debate over marriage will not end with homosexuality.  Just as sex before and outside marriage wasn't enough, or divorce wasn't enough, or pornography wasn't enough, or adultery wasn't enough, or the sexual revolution wasn't enough, neither will homosexuality.  What we are witnessing is yet another stage of the sexual degradation of our society.

This is commonly referred to as the slippery slope argument and I think it is a fact that everyone must face.  It does not take much to realize that even right now many Americans are pushing for other sexual lifestyles including polyamory, polygamy, lowering the age of consent, and other sexual deviancy.  We are fools to think that the debate over marriage will end here.

Why is this?  Because the arguments made by homosexuals can be used for any sexual lifestyle.  For example, if three people love each other, how can we as a society tell them no?  You can't legislate morality can you?  Isn't it bigoted to treat people who love each other as second class citizens?  They didn't choose this lifestyle, they were born with it.  When did you choose to be a heterosexual?

Aren't these the arguments made by the gay community?

BECAUSE SEX IS A POWERFUL FORCE

What's the big deal about sex?  That's the question I'm asking the culture.  Is it me or is the culture obsessive with sex?  Christians certainly aren't.  For most of us, words like "sex" are no-no's among each other.  We prefer phrases like "one-flesh union" or "intimacy" (only sometimes).  But even then it is rare.  The culture may pretend that we are the one's obsessive with it, and yet aren't we the one's telling people to wait until marriage (at which point there is no limit on the sex).

The truth is, our sexual drives can easily take over.  And when the culture has accepted sexual experimentation and thrown aside protective sexual boundaries, there is no end to it.  We replaced common sense with experimentation and tradition with liberation.  Has it really made the world better?  Isn't that what we were promised?

Christians are fools to think that overcoming the sexual drive is easy.  There is no pill.  This is why this issue corrupts both Christians and non-Christians.  How many pastors, church leaders, and laymen have been destroyed by their lust and sexual drives?  Sex is a craving that consumes both genders of all ages.  Once we opened the door to the sexual revolution, we should have seen this coming.

Christians must realize that legislating against homosexual marriage will by no means end homosexuality.  In fact, apart from the gospel spreading like a wild fire, it will only get worse.  A over-sexed culture easily becomes consumed with its lust for more lusts and we are living in such a culture.

BECAUSE IT OPENS THE DOOR TO HATE CRIMES AND PERSECUTION

The truth is that where ever homosexuality is normalized and legalized, hate crimes and hate bills become the norm.  Free speech is only free so long as one doesn't speak against homosexuality.  In other words, eventually holding to traditional marriage and publicly speaking against homosexuality will become a crime.

It is tempting to say that this is conspiratorial, but does one really need to prove the point?  Entire books have been written chronicling persons, organizations, pastors, churches, and families prosecuted and persecuted for their stance against homosexuality and such actions have already happened in America.  It is foolish to think that this couldn't happen here because it has already happened here and it continues to happen here and any many other Western States.

Christians realize the dangers of ignoring this issue and simply allowing the culture to move forward with this.  Our sex drive is so strong that we will seek to legislate the morality of barring anyone from speaking against it.  Christians need to wake up and face reality, this is a serious issue with serious consequences.

CONCLUSION

This is only a partial list but should be a helpful guide into why Christians should take this so seriously.  This means that Christians should not give up defending traditional marriage.  However, as we have argued, Christians must not be foolish enough to believe that banning gay marriage will magically eliminate homosexuality.  What our culture needs more than a constitutional amendment is the gospel.  Only the gospel can save us from our sins.  No President or Congress can ever offer us what God can at the cross.

This is a serious issue and there is no doubt about that.  However, let us not also forget that the gospel is even more serious and is the key to saving our marriages.


For more:
Commentary -The (In)Tolerance of the Homosexual Movement: See, I Told You So
Commentary - The (In)Tolerance of the Homosexual Movement: A Response
Commentary - Where Does The Madness End? The Dire Destination Of The Homosexual Agenda - Part 1
Commentary - Where Does The Madness End? Where the Homosexual Agenda Leads - Part 2 
Commentary - Colson: Same-Sex 'Marriage' Today...Polygamy Tomorrow
Commentary - Polygamy on the Rise: See, I Told You So
Commentary - Obsess Much?: Understanding Our Cultures Obsession With Sex
Mohler: From the Bible to "Intimacy Kits" -- Goodbye to the Gideons?
Commentary - D'Souza: The Equal Protection Hoax 

Above picture taken from Times Online website.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Christianity and the Border Crisis: How Should We Respond?

The state of Arizona has forced Americans to reconsider the issue of illegal immigration.  In 2006, Americans were then forced to consider the matter but soundly rejected President George W. Bush's comprehensive immigration reform plan.  The reasons seems to be that Bush and his supporters said "comprehensive," America heard "amnesty."

Arizona's immigration law is without a doubt the strongest on this issue.  Some have pointed out that it is similar (if not almost the same) to the federal law on the issue.  Regardless, many are split on the Arizona law.  Some sympathize with the state who has been on the front lines of this issue for decades now and is tired of waiting on the federal government to do its job.  Others consider this to be a form of racism, profiling, or simple bigotry granting imperfect police officers the power to profile Hispanics and ask them for "their papers" (that phrase, when uttered, is suppose to conjure up thoughts of the Nazi's who asked the Jews for "their papers").

So what is a Christian to think about this issue?  Certainly this isn't an easy discussion and we must be careful not to be too dogmatic, and yet at the same time, carefully seek to articulate the gospel.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS ILLEGAL

We must begin with the obvious and yet a point that is oftentimes overlooked.  Christians are commanded to submit to the laws of the government as a reflection of their submission of Christ (Romans 13:1ff).  The only time civil disobedience is ever allowed is when the government commands a Christian to do what we are commanded not to do by God, or when the government commands us to not do something we are commanded to do by God.

The very name of this debate should wake us up to the reality that we are not debating the legality of the issue for we are affirming that Illegal Immigration is illegal.  This is like someone asking if oral sex is sex.  The very name should be a huge hint.

When the Arizona bill was passed, MSNBC ran the headline:  "Law Makes it a Crime to be Illegal Immigrant."  (see my response here)  One's response to such a headline (Christian or not; against the bill or not) is, "duh!"  The purpose of the law was to reaffirm and to enforce the law against what is already considered illegal. 

This means that Christians must embrace the reality that crossing borders illegally, thus threatening the governments sovereignty by undermining its laws when they are not in clear violation of Scripture, is morally wrong.  No Christian should ever enter a country (whatever the country) illegally.

IT IS GOVERNMENT'S PRIMARY ROLE TO PROTECT ITS CITIZENS

We must also affirm that according to the Bible, the governments primary role (and some would say exclusive role) is to protect its citizens.  Is it really necessary to present the evidence that illegal immigration is a threat to our nation's security?  The open border is an invitation for terrorists to enter our country not to mention the rise of violence and the increase of violence as a result.  What motivated Arizona so strongly to pass this law was due to its responsibility to protect its citizen.  Ironically, shortly after the passing of the bill, an Arizona police officer was murdered by a illegal immigrant drug cartel and this was not the first time that similar events had taken place as a result of the federal governments failed responsibility to protect its citizens.

We must state another obvious fact.  If the federal government had enforced its immigration laws, then we wouldn't be having this conversation right now.  The debate over what to do with illegals here and now is a tremendous challenge that could have been easily avoided.  Regardless, we are here now and we must deal with this issue soon.

Obviously protection is a tricky business.  There is a fine line between protection and suffocation that even parents must walk.  We all want to protect our kids, but that doesn't mean we keep them locked up in their rooms constantly spraying it with Lysol.  At the same time, Arizona citizens and government are exhausted from the federal governments refusal to enforce its already existent laws.

At this point, one must sympathize with states like Arizona who have had to deal with the brunt of the federal governments failures.  This is not an attack against a Democratic administration, for this problem preceded President Obama's taking of office.  It also preceded President Bush's inauguration as well.  It is right and good (and maybe even pro-life) to call the government out for its refusal to enforce its laws (passed by leaders chosen by the people) and to protect its citizens.

Oftentimes in this debate we speak only of the illegal immigrants themselves.  But let us not forget two other groups that this issue affects:  (1) American citizens; (2) Legal Immigrants.  Law abiding citizens are being ignored and being put in harms way by the governments refusal to deal with this issue.  Imagine paying thousands of dollars to enter this country legally and then upon entering realizing that you could have simply walked across our southern border undetected for free. By not dealing with this issue, we are punishing those who abide by our laws and endorsing those who do not. 

Similarly, let us not forget about the message this sends to not just illegal immigrants, but to anyone in our country.  Have you ever not fulfilled a promise you made to your child about punishing them?  How do they respond?  With repentance?  Or by repeating the same mistake?  By not enforcing your own laws, the child begins to think that they can get away with disobedience.  Likewise, if the government gives a pass on this issue out of fear of racism, bigotry, profiling, or for some political gain, then what signal are we sending to future immigrants and current citizens?

RACISM DOES NOT MEAN JUSTICE

Though we speak about justice and the State's right to enforce its laws, we must not forget that laws are passed and enforced by depraved individuals.  Here's my prediction:  illegal immigration will be cut dramatically in Arizona only to increase in other states not enforcing border laws.  At the same time, though, there will be multiple cases and accusations of racism and profiling.

This is inevitable and for good reason.

Most illegals in this country are from Mexico.  That is not racism, that is stating the facts.  This does not mean that only Mexicans or Hispanics are guilty of illegal immigration or that all Mexicans or Hispanics are illegal.  Let us not forget the number of Cubans who seek refuge in Florida from their communist country (anybody remember Elian Gonzalez?).  But even Mexicans, Hispanics, and Cubans do not make up all of the people who are entering our nation illegally. 

America is a hot bed for immigration and always has been for good reason.  We are the land of liberty, the country of freedom where everyone is free and equal and has an opportunity to improve their lives.  This has always been the story of America and most of us are descendants of immigrants.  According to reports, 10% of Americans can trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower alone.

It is not secret that most illegal immigrants fit a certain profile.  However, that does not mean that we should assume that everyone of that race or profile is illegal.  I am not an expert on the current Arizona law or the federal law, but from what I have read, there seems to be some language guarding against racism by forcing officers to only check the legal status of an individual where there is "probable cause" (the phrase "probable cause" is not as general as many in the media suspect).

But let us not forget that imperfect, depraved people will not follow the law perfectly including officers and concerned citizens.  Yes there will be racism, and where there is clear examples of racism or presumptive profiling, then Christians must sound the alarm because racism is not equal to justice.  However, it must also be made clear that Christians defend a governments right to enforce its laws, but only to do so justly.  This, obviously, is a fine line that is difficult to walk, but it must be walked.

WE MUST MINISTER TO THOSE WHO ARE HERE

Finally (and this is not an exhaustive look at this issue), we must not forget that Christians are to be primarily concerned with the gospel, not politics.  This means that Christians must not see illegal immigrants as unworthy of the gospel.  It is necessary for Christians to be concerned for the souls of everybody, including those who break the law.  It is hypocritical for Christians to be involved in prison ministry and yet neglect illegals or to participate in any kind of ministry and yet neglect an entire group in society.

But this raises the difficult issue of how this will affect the church in the eyes of the culture.  Christians cannot tolerate lawlessness and so does this mean that Christians should turn in an illegal immigrant?  There are no easy answers here.  Regardless, the gospel must be paramount to all that we do.  Many fear that the Arizona law (as it now stands) will prevent churches from ministrying to illegals and that is something that the church and the government must consider.  One must also note here that it will be difficult for the church to know exactly who is legal and who isn't.  When was the last time you showed an usher your driver's licenses or birth certificate or social security card at the church door before entering?

Regardless, Christians must love and serve everybody including illegals.  This does not mean that Christians are to overlook the breaking of the law, but to nonetheless offer the glorious gospel without hesitation.  This may mean that Christians learn Spanish in order to minister to them.  If so, then so be it.  Let us not forget that God might be sending people to us.  So not only is God sending us to the nations, but through this issue, He might also be sending the nations to us.


CONCLUSION

We haven't even began to scratch the surface, but hopefully this ought to lay a small foundation for the Christian.  We haven't really dealt with the issue of what to do with illegals here and now other than to share the gospel with any and all who are lost.  This is a tremendous challenge that Christians should carefully be engaged in always guarding the gospel.  However, we must not let this blind us from our responsibility as believers to proclaim the gospel and to preach repentance.  There are not always easy answers, but we must trust in the sovereignty of God, the power of the gospel, and the purpose of government.  Yes we are fallen and imperfect, but God has given every institution its purposes.  As our nation begins this debate, we must be voices of reason and yet most concerned with what our words, actions, and opinions say about the gospel.


For more:
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (Richard Land) - A Moral and Just Response to the Immigration Crisis

Christianity Today - Arizona's Border Crisis (this article is a bit alarmists, but raises some good questions)
Shortblog - That's Why Its Called 'Illegal' Immigration 
Breakpoint (Charles Colson) - Defending the Stranger in Our Midst: The Demonizing of Immigrants
TM Moore - Strangers in Our Midst: Reflecting on Immigration 
Breakpoint (Charles Colson) - An Immigration Compromise: Showing Compassion, Upholding the Law 
Breakpoint (Charles Colson) - Illegal Immigration: The Real Root of the Problem 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A New Nominee is Named: How Should Christians Respond to Elena Kagan's Nomination to the Supreme Court?

Looking back on last Tuesday, I can see that our gut response -- our emotion-packed conclusion that the world had gone mad, that liberalism was dead and that there was no longer any place for the ideals we held or the beliefs we espoused -- was a false one. In my more rational moments, I can now argue that the next few years will be marked by American disillusionment with conservative programs and solutions, and that a new, revitalized, perhaps more leftist left will once again come to the fore. I can say in these moments that one election year does not the death of liberalism make and that 1980 might even help the liberal camp by forcing it to come to grips with the need for organization and unity. But somehow, one week after the election, these comforting thoughts do not last long. Self-pity still sneaks up, and I wonder how all this could possibly have happened and where on earth I'll be able to get a job next year.  -Elena Kagan, her response to the 1984 conservative political victory

It was made official today. President Barack Obama has made his second Supreme Court Justice nominee in his still young presidency.  Replacing retiring Justice Stevens will be (assuming Senate approval) Elena Kagan.  Between now and the vote for her nomination by the Senate, many political and judicial pundits, radio personalities, journalists, and TV hosts will have a lot to say about the nominee.  Already, within the first 24 hours, all of Kagan's background, decisions, and skeletons are being unleashed onto the public.

But what are Christians to think about this nomination?  Certainly anytime a new Supreme Court Justice is nominated, social and judicial issues like abortion, homosexuality, the definition of marriage, morality, bioethics, and other issues are raised and discussed.  What does she believe and how will she decide on cases dealing with these issues?

This is the real problem, and the political advantage, of a nominee like Kagan.  Kagan has no judicial experience.  Before we gasp, let us not forget that historically, this is not unprecedented.  Though it has been over four decades since the previous Justice was nominated without prior experience, such a nomination is not too unusual in the history of the Supreme Court.  The political advantage of such a nominee is the difficulty to pinpoint her judicial philosophy and worldview.  Usually, Senators and the American people use previous decisions as a bases for forming their opinion of the nominee.  In other words, by studying one's past one can usually predict one's future.  This is why conservatives loved former President George W. Bush's second nominee, now Justice, Samuel Alito instead of the original nominee Hariot Myers.

The problem, however, is that it is hard to support someone to such a powerful position without any track record to go on.  Is it wise to trust in the President's "hunch" about this nominee, or should we rather study to see for ourselves?  Kagan can easily dodge questions that she has not had to face as a judge, but at the same time how can we trust any answer she may give?

But what do we know about her?  Though no judicial decision has been made in her career, we can still have an idea of how she would decide on the issues that matter most to Christians.  To begin, we must note that this is the nominee of President Barack Obama.  It is foolish to think that a President would nominate anyone who would not have a similar, if not identical, judicial philosophy as himself.  With the evidence that is available (and more will come in I'm sure), it seems that President Obama has chosen a nominee much like himself.  Not only is she connected to Chicago and Goldman Sachs (like the President), but she seems to hold to similar views as the President.

In other words, anytime we are confronted with a new nominee, we should realize that a Justice is chosen by a politician.  The President.  It is foolish to forget that.  This is why elections have consequences.

President Obama affirms a hermeneutic of the Constitution believing it to be a "living document."  In other words, the President, and many others like him, believes that the Constitution should be interpreted, not in its original context, but in our context.  What do we believe it means to us, not what it meant to the Founders.  Conservatives are usually strict originalists who believe that we should interpret the Constitution as if we were the Founders.  Their original intent should drive our conclusion on a given case.

The living document interpretation, which Kagan almost certainly affirms, is a serious threat to the meaning of the Constitution.  What it allows is for a judge to insert their own philosophy and beliefs into the document.  One of the best examples of this is Roe vs. Wade.  One of the arguments made was regarding a previous case laid out a "right to privacy" in the 14th Amendment.  After the ruling of Roe vs. Wade in 1973, the majority opinion argued that such a phrase (applied to the 14th Amendment) also applies to a woman's body.  The only problem with such a ruling is that the 14th Amendment has nothing to do with a woman's body.

Kagan likely affirms such readings of the Constitution that have allowed judicial legislation from the bench.  One cannot miss the fact that much of Kagan's work has been connected to political and social causes.  She is against the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the military and sought to ban military recruiters at Harvard Law School.  Some have seen Kagan's views on homosexuality and also on the military extreme and to the left of extreme left Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Furthermore, Kagan is a staunch supporter of abortion.  No surprise there, so does the President.  Kagan, it seems, will be one of the more radical judges to date on this issue.  More radical than Ginsburg?  Only time will tell, but from what the evidence shows, she may give her a run for her money.

Other issues like hate crime laws and socialism seem to be far from the Christian worldview.  Christians in America have traditionally opposed the far left views of statements made by the nominee in the past.  Kagan wrote her Thesis on socialism and though some have tried to argue that writing on something does not mean to endorse or support it (in this case socialism) exerts released to the press reveals otherwise.  In the thesis (some of which I have read), Kagan seems to write on the topic in favor of the economic theory instead of critical of it.

At the end of the day, we should conclude that there is nothing surprising here.  The President has elected a Justice that seems to believe and think much like himself.  We should not be critical of the President for this.  If he were to have appointed someone who was on the far right wing, we would wonder what the catch was.  So if one does not like the President, the will not like this nominee.  If one does like the President and his policies, then this will only add to the his resume you like.

But what about the Christian?  Certainly there is reason to be concerned for her judicial philosophy and convictions regarding social issues.  Many have pointed out that judicial and social conservatives aren't losing a seat (nor gaining one).  She will be replacing a Justice unliked by the right only to be replaced by another left leaning Justice.  At the end of the day, Christians must remember that our hope is not in politics.  This does not mean that politics doesn't matter, but that our lasting hope isn't in politics.  If we want real hope and change, it will come through the gospel.  Abortion will only be completely eliminated through conversions, not repeal.  Even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, women will still have abortions.  How will we respond?  With politics, or the gospel?

Kagan's nomination is a reminder of why Christians should be concerned for the direction of our nation, and yet hopeful that not all is lost.  Kagan will oppose everything Christians stand for.  But who cares?  Christians have faced worse than nine Supreme Court Justices, must we lose our faith now?  The gospel is not subject to judicial tyranny or individual liberty.  The gospel is our hope, not politics, judges, or law.  The world will continue to decay in its morality, but Christians must not be shocked or without an answer.  This is just another day in the world of politics and in a few weeks, the story will change.  Through all of the fog, Christians must affirm and proclaim without hesitation the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our country and our courts need our prayers.  But they also need our message.




For more:
FRC Blog - Change Watch:  Elena Kagan - Supreme Court Nominee (a good summary of some of her views)