A Pivotal Day: Gay Marriage Before the Supreme Court

supreme_courtToday is a big day in our Country.  The United States Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments regarding California’s “Prop 8” ban on same-sex marriage.  The suit that will be heard by the Court is being brought by one lesbian and one gay couple, challenging the voter-approved ban.

As I’ve listened to the rhetoric on both sides, there is one statement that I believe frames the crux of the argument.  It had to do with what is “right.”

What is right?

The statement was made by a cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts who reportedly “came out” as gay this past week.  Referring to Justice Roberts, he said, “I love my cousin. I hope he does the right thing.”

The “right” thing.  I thought about for a long while, contemplating how often that is used, not as an objective perspective, but as a personal preference, or judgment.  Certainly, those on both sides of the debate look at their position as the right one. So, is it simply as the postmodernists have argued that right is relative?  Is it really a matter of perspective so that right is determined by the winners of a debate?

I will concede that this is very clearly the way our world runs.  Certainly the United States and other western countries operate this way.  Of course, no one is consistent with this position.  If we were, then everything should be on the table for debate, and I suppose it is if someone wants to bring the argument.

To some, murder is right.  Stealing is right.  Gang attacks are right.  So far, though, there haven’t been large enough groups to bring serious challenges, but according to our standards, nothing is out of bounds.  Nothing can be called “right” and nothing can be called “wrong.”  It is simply based upon the decision of the masses.

Again, we’re not being consistent because most people who take this position believe that their positions are objectively right and moral.  For instance, those who take the stand that homosexuality is good, believe that it is good and right for everyone and to stand against it or at the very least, against redefining marriage, is universally WRONG.

In Need of a Standard

At some point, we have to decide that absolutely nothing is objective and, therefore, no one truly has “rights” (in that there is nothing objective to state universal rights. You only have rights so long as you can win the fight).  If we do this, the argument needs to change, since the Pro-gay camp is claiming it is their human right to marry.  Who determined this?  Is it claimed that this comes from the United States Constitution?  That document certainly doesn’t hold up to “universal” scrutiny as it only guides the people of a single country.  I understand that it’s their desire to marry, but a right?  That’s not possible from a position of moral relativity.

Who Needs the Bible?

I get the arguments on the other side.  If one does not believe in a Supreme Law-giver, they are certainly not going to willingly submit their lives and practices to the directives of some “religious book.”  They are not going to buy into the argument that in order for there to be objective truths and laws and rights, there must be an objective standard that declares what is objectively right and wrong.

As a result, I believe it is only a matter of time before the laws do, indeed, change.  That may not be this particular case, but it will come because the collective “we” are guided by what the masses determine is good and right.  Since public opinion is quickly shifting towards gay marriage, that will soon become the law of the land.  Do I agree with it?  No.  Does that mean I hate gay people?  Absolutely not!

Very few people have said that gay people do not have a right in this country to live together and act like married people.  Though I believe that it is objectively wrong, according to the One who makes those determinations, I think they have this right, just as heterosexuals have a right to co-habitat (which is also objectively wrong and destructive) according to the same standard.  I simply believe that changing the very definition of the only Institution that can actually produce natural families (i.e. a man and woman, through the natural act of sex, producing other human beings and raising them with both a father and a mother), we are rendering the very term meaningless.

There is no need for me to rehash the same arguments over again.  They have been made time and again and rejected time and again.  Personally, I will continue to stand on the Truth of Scripture, regardless of where that leads me in the future. I will continue loving and caring for all people, straight or gay, but out of love, I am compelled to declare the warning of Scripture (which I didn’t write, by the way!):

God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

If this is true (which is the basic issue that must be determined by the individual), then the reason why so many are buying into the arguments of the gay community must be attributed to God giving them over to sin.  I understand how harsh that sounds (and that’s not my intent), but is that not the straight-forward, logical conclusion to this?  That cannot be seen as God being OK with it, but the very wrath of God as He gives them over to be drawn into their own sinful desires.  That is not good news!  The only good news is that Christ can forgive.

Many in the Christian community will disagree with my position here, but I am not calling for gay people to simply “choose” not to be gay.  Personally, I doubt that is possible.  Due to the fall of man found in Genesis 3, I believe that we are born with all sorts of “bents” towards sinful desires (which are often wrongly judged to be “natural”).  So, I don’t necessarily believe homosexuality is a choice any more than I chose to be heterosexual.  What I do believe is a choice is what is done with it.  I have heterosexual friends who have never found “the one” whom they can marry.  Moral relativism says that’s no big deal, just find somebody to have sex with; play house together regardless of a love and a lifetime commitment.  However, they have taken Scripture seriously and remained celibate.

Biblically, my homosexual friends have no more right to give themselves over to their desires than my unmarried heterosexual friends.  That’s not good enough for them, though.  That means denying pleasure for righteousness.  Therefore, that type of righteousness cannot be right. It is redefined, then, as wrong.  After all, God would never call me to sacrifice my pleasure for His righteousness.  That whole thing about Jesus saying His followers must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him was, well, just a joke. He was just teasing. He’d had a bad day when He said that.  Who knows, maybe He didn’t even say it at all.

The Heart of the Issue

Yeah, it all boils down to that.  What do you believe?  You either have to believe Scripture as it has been given to us or reject it completely.  I realize that many are redefining it as they are everything else, but that’s just dishonest.  I have much more respect for those who outright reject it than to play twister with it and make it into what it never said.  Just stop playing games with it.

To be honest, I don’t have a personal agenda in this.  If Scripture didn’t say it was wrong, I’d probably just take homosexual practice in stride and get used to it just like everything else. It would certainly be easier.  Heck, nobody wants to be called a bigot or hater or intolerant by all of the wildly tolerant people out there.  I prefer to be liked by everyone and, certainly, I could be liked by a whole lot more people if I compromised truth, too, but I’m bound by it.  I’m compelled by it. I simply can’t.

But I’m not a hater.

I’m not intolerant.

I think by peacefully stating my position and the position of Scripture while not engaging in dirty names or making threats but, instead, declaring that I will continue to live in peace with my homosexual friends, I am demonstrating exactly what “tolerance” truly means.  However, let it be known that I will do it with integrity and standing firm on my principles.  I will make it clear that, because I love people and believe that sin is not just “bad,” it is deadly, I will not redefine it away if the Bible says otherwise…but I will not do it with malice or disrespect or hatred or in a mean-spirited fashion.  As a minister of the God-breathed Word of Truth, I owe people that, regardless.

It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

 That is, after all

…tolerance.

 

On Presidential Politics: The Aftermath

It was once told to me that if you have a pastor you don’t like, don’t waste time complaining.  Instead, pray for the one you have that he’ll become the one you want.  This will prevent you from dishonoring Christ, leaving too early or causing problems within the church.  I think that is very good advice.  I also think it applies to the President of the United States.  

If you don’t like the person elected, rather than engaging in UNPRODUCTIVE bad-mouthing, which only divides and brings shame to the name of Christ, spend that time PRODUCTIVELY praying for him to be the kind of president this country needs.  

Look, God is in the business of changing the hearts of man (and he’s changed some much more idealogical than the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave!), so if you think this is the wrong man, then sincerely pray for him.  Every time you’re ready to say something negative or post something cynical, pray instead…at that moment!  

I think it has much less to do with the “man” in office.  God can do whatever He likes with whomever He wills.  Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”  So, engage in spiritual battle for the sake of us all and, if your prayers are in line with the will of God, it will be done.  That’s the only way America will be changed and the only way America will be blessed.

On Presidential Politics and the Evangelical Dilemma

There seems to be a great deal of confusion rising regarding the upcoming elections among Evangelical Christians.  On the one hand, there is a candidate who claims to be a Christian, yet whose policies fly in the face of that claim.  On the other is a candidate whose policies largely agree with traditional orthodox Christianity but whose theology flies in the face of that claim.  How does one resolve such a dilemma?

For me, I can only say that when it comes to presidential politics, policy trumps theology.  That might sound odd for a pastor to say.  However, I am not voting for a pastor, but a president.  Presidents establish policy, not theology.  I can disagree with one’s theology and support their policy, if policy is their primary job.  On the other hand, if I am looking for a pastor, it is theology for which I’m most concerned.  So, when it comes to a president, I want to know that their intentions regarding policy will fall most in line with my own biblical worldview convictions.  Note I said most in line.  I don’t require a candidate believe exactly as I do or I may never vote, which I’m responsible for doing.   

Recently, the Billy Graham Association has come out declaring that Mormonism is no longer considered a cult.  First of all, though they were speaking of their own, internal list of those considered cults, they are seen as speaking for all Evangelical Christians.  For the record, they don’t.  Though Billy Graham is the most famous among us, he is not our voice.  In their political support of Mitt Romney, they seem to have felt the need to pave the way for evangelicals to vote for the Republican candidate with a clear conscience by removing the “cult” label.  I believe they not only made a tremendous error, it was an unforced one.  Using the criteria above, I believe evangelicals can freely vote for a candidate who might not share their theology but does share their convictions regarding how the Country should function. I believe they can do that without watering down their convictions in the process.

In my view, based on a simple reading of Scripture, Mormonism fails to pass the test of what would qualifies as an orthodox expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I don’t need to be convinced otherwise if I choose to vote for the Mormon candidate.  The fact is, I’m not voting for a “Mormon” candidate and more than I’m voting for a black or a white one.  I’m voting for a qualified candidate who will lead according to the principles I believe are most important and who I believe can lead the Country out of the economic crisis it is currently in.  

Regardless of whether we vote for the same candidate, I encourage you to do the same.  It is a high and important right and responsibility that we share as citizens of the United States of America, and if we end up voting for different candidates, we can do so with the satisfaction that we voted our convictions and hope for a better tomorrow together.

My Take On the Chick-fil-A Flap

I suppose I should start out with a disclaimer so some of you don’t turn me off before reading any further: I do not support the spirit behind the image posted to the right. I really don’t think it’s helpful (clever as it may be). However, it highlights an important point that deserves serious attention: Those who preach “tolerance” the loudest and most often tend to practice INtolerance the loudest and most often.

I am a pretty tolerant person. In saying that, I mean that I live among those who have different views than mine and I don’t work towards shutting them down. I don’t try to yell louder than them so they cannot be heard. I don’t try to shame them into silence and I certainly don’t try and kill them or otherwise rough them up. That is tolerance. I tolerate them. I don’t agree with their views. I tolerate their views. I will passionately state my own based on Truth from Scripture because I believe the eternal state of someone rests on it. Those are my views. At the end of the day, though, I don’t demonize them or call them names for not accepting them. That would be intolerance. My position is that I don’t expect non-Christians to act or think as though they were Christian. That’s lunacy.

I will also say very clearly and without apology that I do not believe in nor support same-sex marriage. I cannot. It would go against my conscience and my faith as dictated by Scripture to do so. So, does that now make me intolerant?*** Others have a very different view. I respectfully disagree with that view. Can I change it? Probably not, but if I choose, I can engage in respectful discussion and try…just like someone can do the same with me.
My Christian faith dictates that I treat others with respect and love as Christ loved (which includes loving enough to be honest with them about the truth!). It does NOT, however, dictate that I hold all beliefs as equally true or that I accept every view. Spiritual immaturity says that is being judgmental and unChristian. It is not (Christ didn’t accept every view as equally valid and was actually quite intolerant with many of the Pharisees of his day in order to deliver the people from their wrong thinking). I am, in fact, judging whether or not I believe a position is lucid, logically consistent (and, at least in my case, biblical) and, then, whether or not I can agree with it, but every individual under the sun does the same thing (including those who are judging others views as being judgmental…hmmm, what a viciously inconsistent world we live in).

Here’s the thing: To state a personal belief and practice is NOT being intolerant. To viciously attack or demonize a person who states a personal belief and practice absolutely IS. I am growing weary of the double-standard. Watching a news show the other day, a commentator went into a near rage calling Dan Cathy “a fool” for using his business to attack gays. Seriously? What Cathy was accused of simply did not happen. He stated his views.

In a response to whether he was against same-sex marriage, Mr. Cathy’s quote was, “Guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.” How is that anything but a statement on what this particular business is based on; a set of core beliefs that clearly does not include support for changing the definition of marriage (a definition that has never been anything other than it is right now throughout our history as a humans)? He has a right to that view and is supposed to have a right, as do those who are pro-gay, to state those views publicly in an orderly manner.

Further, he should not be coerced into building his business on principles that are not his personally held convictions. This company has not been charged with discriminating against those whom they serve. This is not a civil rights issue. They simply stated what they believe. Now politicians are working to shut them down for their personal beliefs? Are you kidding me?! We’re now living on Fantasy Island where the unbelievable and absurd becomes reality. Critical thinkers rather than thoughtless, emotional and ideological reactors are desperately needed. Apply within. You don’t have to buy their product, but it is wrong to try to use political power to shut them down.

The bottom line: If you want to see tolerance practiced…practice some.

*** It certainly does to at least some. In this culture, if I’m not actively pro-gay, I am expected to keep my “judgmental” mouth shut or be prepared to receive the rebuking scorn of “the tolerant”.

Making it up as we go

Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney denied that Obama had perhaps gone too far by dragging the Almighty into a fierce political spat.
 
“I believe that the phrase from the Bible is ‘the Lord helps those who help themselves,’” Carney said.
 
“I think the point the president is making is that, you know, we have it within our capacity to do the things to help the American people.”
The White House was later forced to clarify however that the phrase Carney used, though often mistaken for scripture, was not in fact biblical.

I wish politicians would just stick to politics.  Or at least actually read the Bible before {mis-}quoting it.

Source: Yahoo! News article: Obama: God backs jobs plan

First Baptist Church of…the Republic?

Over at the White Horse Inn, there is a good article on the Church and politics called, No Nation Under God, that I’ve included in my Google Shared Items Page and I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

In this article, Pastor Jason Stellman discusses the way in which the political process has infiltrated the Church, closely aligning a heavenly citizenship with our earthly one.  Stellman argues that this is a marriage we must reject and, instead, focus on what is of eternal value, for the overall good of this life and the next:

American Christians need to remember something that we so easily forget, and that is that our true homeland is an eternal, heavenly one whose allure cannot be compromised by the goings-on of the culture war. It is remarkable that, for all the passionate Christian devotees of right-wingers like Glenn Beck or lefties like Jim Wallis, there are very few evangelicals in this country who can articulate the doctrine of justification in a coherent and biblical way. In other words, we Christians seem to have sacrificed the one thing that makes us unique—the gospel—on the altar of some baptized political ideology for which the divine Son of God isn’t even necessary.

For a long time now, I’ve been voicing concerns about how the Church is supposed to be positioned to speak to ALL of culture, not from a right or left perspective, but a BIBLICAL one.  Unfortunately, Evangelicals have allowed (or designed?) the Church to act as a religious arm of the Republican Party, thus relegating us to little more than just another special interest group. Don’t get me wrong, the left is trying to do the exact same thing, they’ve just not mastered the process yet.

My position is that we must divorce ourselves, as a Body, from the political process.  That is not to say we back away from the ISSUES that drive the political process, but rather that we approach them not from a partisan position, but a biblical one.  Speak the TRUTH of an issue and if it lines up with the agenda of the Right, fine.  If it aligns itself with the Left, so be it.  I prefer to act in such a Christ-honoring, biblically-focused way that we’re not aligning ourselves with them…but they are lining up with us!  The Church must no longer be enslaved by political zealots of any party.

On The Election

For the last two weeks at church, we’ve been discussing both the will of God and the Kingdom of God. This week we have a new president. Some are happy about that while others, well, not so much. The question I want to ask is, “Did the will of God occur?” I think the way you answer that will affect what your attitude will be in light of the results. There are basically two possibilities:

If you believe the will of God can be thwarted by man and you were not an Obama supporter, you’re likely to spend the next four years (at least) with a generally bad attitude, over-looking accomplishments and rejoicing with every mistake. The question we then must ask is whether or not that brings honor to Christ.

If, on the other hand, you believe that either God’s prescriptive will (that He ordained Obama’s election for His purpose) or His permissive will (that God allowed it to happen for His purpose) was done, then you will respond very differently, most likely spending time sincerely praying for this president and asking God to fulfill all that He wants to see happen with our Country through this leader.

It seems clear there is a different outcome, depending on your view of God’s will. Now, I understand that there are some who hold that God simply steps out of the way and permits us to do anything we want through a total freedom of our will. Though there is some biblical merit to the ability to disobey God’s directive through our freedom, clearly there are limits and it is a dangerous thing to make Man sovereign and reject both God’s right and ability to over-rule that will when He chooses. To get there, one must ignore a great deal of Scripture that speaks to the contrary. We must remember that “in his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV). I take great comfort in that! The greatest thing I can offer my children is not absolute freedom, but the assurance that I am in control and will protect them and guide them. I’m glad I have an omnipotent Dad who feels the same way.

I believe in and glory in what Paul said: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1, italics added). Interestingly, Paul made no exceptions and was clear that God holds absolute authority and raises up power according to His purpose (and Paul was speaking within the context and setting of the Roman Empire!). Remember how many times God raised up powers to rule over His people throughout biblical history? Though they may have been ungodly rulers, God had ordained it for His purpose and His people were to respect that authority (because of who they were rather than who the leaders were). Usually, through those rulers, God was determining His people’s steps, driving them back to Himself in spite of their rebellious will . He is a loving, caring, and sovereign Lord. You must decide if you believe that or not, but it will give you great peace and comfort if you do.

Finally, the Kingdom of God comes into play because of our citizenship. Because you are ambassadors for Christ in a world in which you do not belong, I want to encourage you to look at this from a Kingdom perspective. Determine that you are going to be “strangers in a strange land” whose mission is to bring glory to Christ and to reach out in love and compassion to all people, regardless of which side of the political “aisle” they support and pray for this Country, respecting and pray for this President. For some, it may be a difficult assignment, but I believe Christ will be honored.

My Politics

I’ve had several people ask me about my political pursuasions lately.  Sometimes when my response is that I work really hard to be non-partisan, I am met with the response, “Well, you HAVE to vote for somebody!”  Well, yes, I DO have to vote for someone and I am going to.  My point is that I don’t sign onto the idea of aligning too closely to a political party.  As a pastor (and more importantly, a Christian) I believe it is important to speak to the culture not from a partisan position, but a biblical one.

For too long, in my opinion, Christians, in general, have aligned themselves with a particular party.  Now, the trend seems to be going the other way.  The reasons cited usually have something to do with one or two particular issues.  On the left, it seems mostly environmental and justice issues.  On the right, abortion and traditional marriage.  On both sides, the economy is a big deal and, of course, the war.

My contention is that none of those are exclusively (or primarily) political issues.  They are just issues and, principly if not explicitly, the Bible speaks to all of them.  So, why then attach ourselves to a particular party and lose the chance to speak to all of them?  I happen to take very seriously issues of justice (modern-day slavery, hunger, abandonment and mistreatment) and am concerned about the environment.  I am also concerned about issues of abortion and do not favor gay-marriage.  At the same time, I am very concerned about the dignity and respectful treatment of all humans whether they be unborn babies, homosexuals, or the homeless.

There are lines that must be drawn, but for a Christian, I do not think they are political.  Scripture transcends politics and, therefore, I feel I must as well.  I want to minister to Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents.  I can’t do that if I am a straight-line party guy.

Having said that, I am also an American who has not only the right but also the responsibility to vote.  I have weighed all of the candidates and found them wanting.  I say that, though, with the understanding that I would be found wanting, too.

So, to answer those who have asked who I support, I humbly submit that I will, as a non-partisan and with less reservation than I would have with the other candidates, be voting for McCain and Palin*.  I don’t stand for all that McCain is or does, but I think out of the two, he would serve as a better prepared and able leader…substance over style.

_____________

* This is not intended to be a political endorsement or necessarily an encouragement to vote for these candidates.  I am simply stating my personal position and have no intention of speaking of it within the context of our church.  Should the other candidate win, he will be my president and, according to Scripture, will have my support (though I have no obligation to support/agree with all of his decisions or views).

M.I.A.: The Strong, Silent Type

I have been reflecting on Charles Spurgeon’s devotion for this morning which referenced Matthew 27:11-14. That’s the section that tells of Jesus before the governor, being asked as to whether or not He was the “King of the Jews.” Jesus only response was, “You have said so.” It then follows that Jesus would give no answer to the Jewish leaders.

Now, obviously, there are several ways to look at this. One of which is to simply say that Jesus gave no defense on His own behalf because He had no desire to be released. The endgame was the cross and, therefore, He would do nothing that would jeopardize the mission, such as arguing His way out of conviction (which He demonstrated numerous times that He could have easily done).

Though I think that is a right way of thinking, Spurgeon points out the important example that Jesus set on another level. Sometimes it is best to strictly keep our mouths shut. Jesus was accused of many things, yet He did not feel it important to make great defenses on His own behalf; He did not argue against them. In doing so, His accusers fell under their own accusations and became the targets of the wrath of God, though Jesus, Himself, stood guiltless.

I most certainly believe that there is a time and a place to give a defense of the Gospel. Unfortunately, I believe we Evangelical Christians spend too much time defending ourselves. There is a world of difference between presenting a clear portrayal of the message of Christ love in a way that will clear up misunderstanding of who Christ is and arguing for our own rights or defending our own stands on any number of issues. We are called not to stand up for our rights as Christians, but rather the simple Truth of the Gospel. That is the major issue I have with many politically focused evangelical leaders today who argue for morality, ethics and godliness in society at the expense of alienating the very ones that we are trying to reach. I am all for morality, ethics, and godliness…I just don’t believe they come through debate, legislation, or boycotts.

Spurgeon said, “The anvil breaks a host of hammers by silently bearing their blows.” I believe there is great wisdom in that. I believe that we would find our influence growing among those hostile to the Faith more quickly by bearing the blows that come our way with dignity and grace and a quiet faith that Christ will deliver us in His time than by going on the attack, singing our battle cry of Onward Christian Soldiers. Anyone can become a political special interest group and fight for their rights. Respect comes when we do that which is counter-cultural and actively love those who are waging the attacks. You want to talk about blowing minds.

That’s not a pacifist perspective I am advocating (as I am not a pacifist at heart). There are times when standing up and fighting for causes is important, such as justice for widows, orphans, the outcast, etc. However, I’ve never read that our own rights are among those things to be fought for.

Sometimes, the greatest weapon of offense is a strong resolution to keep our big mouths shut and take the blows to the glory of Christ.

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