Mere Sexuality | Book Review


How should Christians think about human sexuality? That is the question Todd Wilson asks in his new book, Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality. Wilson (Ph.D., Cambridge University) is senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois, and cofounder and chairman of The Center for Pastor Theologians. His is a timely book, given the sea change of opinion and practice that has washed over Western culture since the middle of the 20th century.

“Did you know,” Wilson asks, “despite a genuine diversity of views expressed along the way, the church has held to a coherent view of human sexuality for centuries?” With a nod to C. S. Lewis, he calls this view “mere sexuality,” that is, “what most Christians at most times in most places have believed about human sexuality.”

The book touches on “a whole range of biblical, theological, cultural, and practical questions.” These include biblical and theological reflections on biological sex, gender identity, marriage, sexual intercourse, celibacy and homosexuality.

For example, Chapter 2, “The Sexuality of Jesus,” looks at what the Incarnation says about sexuality. Many who write on this topic look at Jesus’ words and actions for guidance. What did He teach about sexual immorality? How did He interact with sexual sinners?

This is appropriate, of course, but Wilson thinks we ought to look deeper at what Jesus’ person teaches us about human sexuality. He writes:

The Son of God, though biologically sexed, lived a sex-free, fully contented life. Not an easy, pain-free existence, but a whole and deeply and richly human life. This is a remarkable fact — one that confronts all of us, whether we’re same-sex-attracted or straight, married or single. It also confronts our secular culture and the evangelical church culture as well — I suspect in some uncomfortable ways. I find it’s easy to forget (and tempting to resist the idea) that I don’t need sex to be satisfied. Jesus didn’t, and yet he was supremely satisfied in God…

One of the main claims of mere sexuality, as it has been articulated and practiced throughout the church’s history, is that while sexuality (our being biologically sexed as male and female) is central to what it means to be human, sexual activity is not. If we want to be fully human, we have to embrace our sexed bodies. But we don’t have to engage in sexual activity to be fully human. The life of the Son of God makes that perfectly clear.

The Incarnation itself, in other words, challenges the “pervasive and powerful cultural myth” of “our hypersexualized contemporary culture,” namely, that “sexual activity is essential to human fulfillment — that you can’t be human without it.”

I quote this particular passage not because it is the end of Wilson’s discussion — the book goes on for five more chapters — but because it is a badly needed example of how doctrine can inform practice. We cannot present a Christian view of human sexuality unless we have examined it through a theological lens. What we believe about Creation, the Fall, Christ, the Resurrection, and eschatology shapes — at least, it should shape — how we think about and practice sexuality.

Mere Sexuality is written for a broad audience, so it can be read profitably by pastors and laity alike. It would make a good text for discussion in book clubs and small groups. I highly recommend it.

 

Book Reviewed
Todd Wilson, Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017).

P.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.

P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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Dr. Todd Wilson | Influence Podcast


In this episode, I talk to Dr. Todd Wilson about the Christian church’s historic consensus about human sexuality, bringing Christian theology to bear on a controversial topic.

Wilson is senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois, as well as cofounder and chair of The Center for Pastor Theologians. His newest book is Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality, which will be published on October 9th by Zondervan

To learn more about Mere Sexuality, visit MereSexuality.com. The website of The Center for Pastor Theologians is PastorTheologians.com.

Thursday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Jeff Leake and I talk in today’s Influence Podcast about why every believer needs to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
  • We note two Gallup polls indicating a sea-change of American opinion about same-sex marriage particularly and homosexuality generally and recommend several resources for navigating the challenges this change of opinion presents.

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

P.S. The June-July 2017 issue of Influence is in the mail, so I’ve changed the featured image for this month’s post to the new cover.

Review of ‘Speaking of Homosexuality’ by Joe Dallas


Joe Dallas, Speaking of Homosexuality: Discussing the Issues with Kindness and Clarity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016).

The Christian sexual ethic is out of step with the times. This is true across a wide range of heterosexual behaviors, such as premarital sex, cohabitation and no-fault divorce. But Christians are rarely called out for their opposition to those behaviors. When it comes to homosexuality, however, the response is different. Christian opposition to homosexuality generally or same-sex marriage specifically provokes accusations of homophobia and hatred.

The Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the nation, further contributes to the marginalization of the Christian sexual ethic. Same-sex marriage is now understood as a fundamental civil right, and opposition to it is likened to support for segregation in the American South during the era of Jim Crow.

How should Christians speak of homosexuality in this adverse environment?

That’s the question my friend Joe Dallas seeks to answer in his new book, Speaking of Homosexuality. Until 1984, Joe was “a staff member with a pro-gay church, an openly gay man, and an activist, identifying as a gay Christian, arguing for the acceptance of homosexuality.” Then, however, his study of Scripture convinced him that he was in error. For the last thirty years, he has ministered to others, both gay and straight, helping them to develop a biblical perspective on human sexuality. He thus brings a unique personal perspective to bear on this controversial topic.

Joe frames much of the book as a conversation between “Traditionalists” and “Revisionists.” Traditionalists advocate the “traditional view of marriage and sexuality,” namely, that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman, and that outside of marriage, a person should remain celibate. Revisionists advocate “revising our view of Scripture or of morality in general to condone homosexuality.”

The first three chapters of Speaking of Homosexuality provide a “contextual overview” of the debate between Traditionalists and Revisionists. Chapter 1 argues that “knowing the context of our conversation can help us anticipate problems, adjust our approach, and stay sensitive to the perceptions and feelings of others.” Joe points out that the often acrimonious conversations between the two groups typically revolve around “presumption, politics, and the personal” (emphasis in original). Both sides, that is to say, make assumptions about the other the side that renders them “guilty of stereotyping.” Consequently, “mistrust is a frequent companion” to such conversations.

Chapter 2 identifies three goals traditionalist Christians may have when speaking of homosexuality with others: “evangelizing an unbeliever, discipling a believer in error, or simply reasoning with someone about our different views.” These goals shape the content of those conversations in different ways.

Additionally, who your conversation partner is shapes the kind of conversation you have. Joe identifies five groups in particular: “militants, mainstream, millennials, Revisionists, and friends and family.” Too often, traditionalists lump all LGBT people and their allies into the militant category. Dallas thinks this is a mistake. Rather, “most…could be described as mainstream, fellow humans and citizens with whom we have more in common than differences. And, per Jesus, they’re our neighbors, whom we’re to love and serve.” That last sentence is key, as far as I’m concerned. Too often, Traditionalists approach those on the other side of this issue as enemies to be defeated rather than as neighbors to be loved. That’s not Jesus’ way of doing things.

Chapter 3 then outlines seven guidelines to follow when speaking of homosexuality:

  1. Speak clearly.
  2. Speak appropriately.
  3. Speak empathically.
  4. Concede what’s true.
  5. Consider what’s possible.
  6. Watch the apologies.
  7. Recognize and point out diversions.

I want to hone in on numbers 3 and 4, because this is where I think my fellow Traditionalists most often go wrong. We do not empathize with the “feelings” and “experiences” of LGBT people. Consequently, we are prone to speak “irresponsible, inaccurate, contemptuous words” at or about them. “Lots of Christians have said hateful things about gays,” Dallas writes. “Lots of Christians are more upset about homosexuality than they are about adultery or fornication, even though those are condemned in the Bible.” Both statements are true. There is no virtue in denying either of them.

If chapters 1–3 address the “context” of our conversations, chapters 4–13 address their “content.” Dallas examines the “origins of homosexuality” (chapter 4), whether “change” of orientation is possible (chapter 5), whether opposition to same-sex marriage is reasonable (chapter 6), whether moral disapproval of homosexuality in and of itself constitutes “homophobia” or “hate” (chapter 7), and in what sense a person can or cannot identify as a “gay Christian” (chapter 8). Dallas’ discussion of the issues in these chapters is nuanced, which is appropriate for the complex subjects they address.

Chapters 9–13 then take up the proper interpretation of the most commonly cited biblical passages disapproving of homosexuality: Genesis 19:1–11 (chapter 9); Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 (chapter 10); Romans 1:24–27 (chapter 12); 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:9–10 (chapter 13). Chapter 11 examines what significance Jesus’ “silence” about homosexuality has for the moral debate. Dallas’ treatment of these passages is brief but competent. Like him, I find it difficult to agree with Revisionist interpretation of these passages, for the reasons that he cites.

Indeed, in my opinion, it would be more intellectually honest for Revisionists to say that these passages are wrong or irrelevant than to say that they have been misinterpreted or misapplied. In other words, there is good reason why the Traditionalist position has been the default position of the Church for the last two millennia. It is because, as the children’s gospel song says, “the Bible tells me so.” If you’re familiar with the historical arc of the Revisionist position, it begins with “The Bible has been misinterpreted” and ends with “The Bible is wrong on this matter.” That is the arc of mainline Protestant thinking on this topic. My guess is that that is where evangelical Revisionists will land eventually as well. Disagreeing with the Bible is not a place where evangelicals should want to be.

Speaking of Homosexuality is a countercultural book. As I wrote at the outset, the Christian sexual ethic is out of step with the times. This is nothing new, however, since Christianity’s sexual ethic was out of step with the culture of its own time as well. The question, then as now, is with whom—or rather, Whom—we will walk in step going forward.

I’ll conclude this review with Joe Dallas’ closing words:

A steward is rewarded for faithfulness, not outcomes. We hope greater faithfulness means greater outcomes. But ‘other things’—such as God’s and the hearer’s will—come into play. And since those factors are out of our hands, we keep those hands on the plow, striving to improve our understanding, articulation, attitudes, and faithfulness to the standards we preach. Above all, we continue seeking deeper intimacy with the Master we serve.

Speaking of homosexuality is a small part of that life commission. Our more general commission is to speak of Jesus, His teachings, His invitation, His nature, and His soon coming. Any truth we can lovingly communicate to better prepare people for eternity, binding them to Him, is critical.

_____
P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review originally appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

Marriage and the Constitution: What the Court Said and Why It Got It Wrong


This is the best article-length critique of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision I have read.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is a significant setback for all Americans who believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, democratic self-government, and marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The ruling is as clear an example of judicial activism as we’ve had in a generation. Nothing in the Constitution justified the redefinition of marriage by judges. The Court simply imposed its judgment about a policy matter that the Constitution left to the American people and their elected representatives. In doing so, it got marriage and the Constitution wrong, just as it had gotten abortion and the Constitution wrong in Roe v. Wade.

The question before the Supreme Court in Obergefell was not whether a male-female marriage policy is the best or whether government-recognized same-sex marriage is better, but only whether anything in the Constitution specifically took away the power of the people to choose their marriage policy. Yet the Court spoke almost exclusively about its “new insights” into marriage, and was virtually silent on the Constitution. That’s because it had no choice. Our Constitution is itself silent on what marriage is; We the People retain the authority to make marriage policy.

Marriage and the Constitution: What the Court Said and Why It Got It Wrong.

Review of ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet


Same-Sex-Marriage Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet, Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014). Paperback / Kindle

On September 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law, which Congress had passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities (85–14 in the Senate, 342–67 in the House). Section 3 of that law provided a legal definition of the words marriage and spouse for federal laws and regulations: “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled Section 3 unconstitutional by a 5–4 vote. And although DOMA was enacted with significant Democratic congressional support and signed into law by a Democratic president, the current Democratic party platform explicitly endorses “marriage equality.”

The enactment and demise of Section 3 of DOMA illustrate the tectonic shift in U.S. public opinion regarding same-sex marriage particularly and homosexuality generally. Over the past two decades, public opinion has become increasingly favorable to both. The Pew Research Center has tracked public opinion on these matters since 2001. Its polling data show a reversal of fortunes for the anti- and pro-same-sex marriage positions. In 2001, the public opposed same-sex marriage, 57–35 percent. Now it favors same-sex marriage 52–40 percent. Furthermore, the trend line of opinion regarding same-sex marriage is increasingly favorable in every demographic category: generation, religious affiliation, political party, political ideology, race, and gender.

This tectonic shift in U.S. public opinion and law is dispiriting to those of us Christians who affirm the biblical and traditional understanding of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman. Given the way this understanding has shaped marriage law in America, the rapid shift of opinion represents more than political or legal defeat. It represents a cultural defeat as well.

“In light of this reality,” Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet write in their new book, “Christians should shift their mindset from preserving or conserving to proposing and building. Christians should no longer wish for a massive judicial or political victory to save marriage. When an institution has been culturally compromised the way marriage has been, it cannot be saved. It has to be redefined and reestablished” (pp. 86–87, emphasis in original).

McDowell and Stonestreet divide their book into two parts. Part 1, “What Marriage Is and Why It Matters,” offers biblical and prudential arguments for understanding marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman. Their biblical case focuses on the Genesis creation accounts (Genesis 1–2), which Jesus affirmed as normative for believers in Matthew 19. They identify three “essential characteristics” of marriage: (1) union, (2) procreation, and (3) permanence. Interestingly, they don’t discuss the biblical passages that proscribe homosexual behavior. This is the right move, in my opinion, because marriage can be positively defined without reference to proscribed sexual behaviors.

McDowell and Stonestreet’s prudential case builds on an argument made by Maggie Gallagher: “Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies deserve mothers and fathers” (p. 44). As they explain it, “societies have a vested interest in the process that most often produces children. That’s why every society cares about sex. Societies also have a vested interest in supporting an environment that best rears children. That’s why every society cares about marriage” (p. 45).

If the traditional view of marriage acknowledges the essential connection between sex, procreation, and marriage, the revisionist view of marriage denies it. As same-sex marriage proponent E. J. Graff puts it, “Allowing two people of the same-sex to marry shifts the institution’s message… If same-sex marriage becomes legal, that venerable institution will ever stand for sexual choice, for cutting the link between sex and diapers.” Similarly, Andrew Sullivan writes, “From being a means to bring up children, [marriage] has become primarily a way in which two adults affirm their emotional commitment to one another” (p. 60).

Stated this way, readers should be able to see that the revisionist view predates advocacy of same-sex marriage by many decades. Long before gay activists began to champion same-sex marriage, advocates of the so-called “sexual revolution” were advocating changes to opposite-sex marriage, emphasizing sexual choice and emotional commitment, while simultaneously untying the knot of marriage, sex, and procreation. The results of that emphasis are all around us: sex outside of marriage, widespread use of contraceptives and abortifacients, the prevalence of nonmarital childbirth, no-fault divorce, etc. Same-sex marriage is the fruit of the sexual revolution, then, but not the root of it.

Part 2, “What We Can Do for Marriage,” offers practical suggestions for how the Christian church can go about rebuilding a culture of marriage in America. To me, the most interesting suggestion is the authors’ call to repentance in chapter 9. “If, in response, we spend the next 20 years point out discrimination and lost religious freedoms to the world without addressing concerns in our own community, we will become our own worst enemies. It’s time to take a long, hard look inward, admit our shortcomings and ask forgiveness from God, from each other and, where appropriate, from the gay community. There is no path forward to building a strong marriage culture that does not begin with a revival of God’s people to His design for marriage” (p. 100, emphasis in original).

That revival means we must address the practices of nonmarital sex, cohabitation, and nonmarital childbirth within the Christian community, not to mention of divorce. It also means that we need to address unbiblical attitudes and actions toward homosexual people. What might those be? McDowell and Stonestreet provide a list of questions:

  • Have we told inappropriate jokes that dehumanize gays and lesbians?
  • Have we treated some persons differently because of what we knew or suspected about their sexual orientation?
  • Have we listened as someone entrusted us with his or her deep struggles and sexual identity or behaviors, only to break off the relationship in disgust and fear?
  • Have we slandered others, whether or not they’ve slandered us first?
  • Have we spread gossip?
  • Have we condemned another, using their homosexual sin to justify and coddle our own heterosexual sin?
  • Have we re-tweeted or re-posted harsh and uncharitable words about the gay community on Facebook?
  • Have we physically or emotionally abused someone because they identify as gay? (p. 106)

McDowell and Stonestreet offer many other suggestions for building a culture of marriage in the United States, but their emphasis on repentance is both welcome and the best place to start. Didn’t Jesus himself say, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3–5)?

Same-Sex Marriage is a short book, written to persuade the average Christian and thus ideal for use in Sunday school classes, small groups, and book clubs. Its tone is consistently gracious. It touches on the main points of the argument about the nature of marriage without getting bogged down in details. A short list of books for further reading would’ve been helpful, though readers who want to study the topic at greater length can mine the endnotes for that information.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote yes on my Amazon.com review page.

 

Review of ‘Seeing Black and White in a Gray World’ by Bill T. Arnold


Seeing-Black-and-white Bill T. Arnold, Seeing Black and White in a Gray World: The Need for Theological Reasoning in the Church’s Debate Over Sexuality (Franklin, TN: Seedbed Publishing, 2014). Paperback / Kindle

Few topics generate as much heated conflict among Christians as homosexuality does. Should pastors solemnize and churches recognize same-sex marriages? Should denominations ordain non-celibate gays and lesbians for ministry? The conflict over these questions has been evident among mainline Protestant churches for some time now, but it is increasingly appearing among evangelical Protestant churches too.

In 2008, Adam Hamilton—who pastors America’s largest United Methodist church in Leawood, Kansas—published Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. In that book, he argued that a “third way” on the topic of homosexuality was both possible and preferable—as well as on other topics that divide Christian. The book was influential among United Methodist pastors and more broadly on what one might call “liberal” evangelicals.

Bill T. Arnold is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, as well as a professor of Old Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Seeing Black and White in a Gray World is his critique of Hamilton’s book, focusing on the need for a theological approach to the question of homosexuality, one that he believes is lacking from Hamilton’s book.

Arnold lays out his case clearly, logically, and graciously. He argues that a “third way” on homosexuality is not possible because solemnizing same-sex marriages and ordaining non-celibate LGBT persons is either right or wrong as a matter of moral principle. A “third way” is not preferable because unity should not be bought through a compromise of moral principle. And a “third way” does not necessarily represent progress because the Church always stands in a tensive relationship with culture, with the goal of transforming it. To do this, the church must sometimes issue a prophetic critique of cultural trends, such as the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage, not just a spiritual affirmation of them.

Arnold also argues that the traditional Methodist process of theological reasoning—the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience—should lead the United Methodist Church to reject same-sex marriage. He pinpoints the crux of the controversy in that denomination as a debate between what Scripture teaches about homosexual conduct on the one hand and a contemporary social construction of homosexual experience on the other. In his judgment, too many Methodists—including Hamilton, to a degree—give experience a weight equal to or greater than Scripture. This, he points out, is not how the Quadrilateral is supposed to work. Tradition, reason, and experience may confirm what Scripture teaches—or help us understand it better—but they cannot be used as independent norms that contradict and overturn explicit biblical prohibitions.

Finally, Arnold repeatedly points to the longstanding practices of the United Methodist Church a moderate way to deal with the controversy. These practices combine the teaching of holiness with the practice of hospitality, the former a core doctrinal tenet and the latter an important moral virtue. The biblical affirmation of marriage as a man-woman institution need not—must not!—be construed as permission to be unkind or unloving to people who experience same-sex attraction. By the same token, the biblical practice of hospitality cannot be taken as an endorsement of sexual practices the Bible prohibits.

Proponents of same-sex marriage within the United Methodist Church will probably not like Seeing Black and White in a Gray World. But it seems to me that whether or not they agree with Arnold on the topic of homosexuality, they must agree with him that there is no “third way.” If Scripture prohibits same-sex practices, the United Methodist Church cannot permit them. If Scripture permits same-sex practices, the United Methodist Church cannot prohibit them. There is no mediating alternative, no “gray.” There is only “black” or “white.” This means that Adam Hamilton’s search for an alternative is doomed to fail.

Those of us outside the United Methodist Church, in evangelical Protestant churches that do not affirm same-sex marriage, would do well to read Arnold’s book too. It sheds light on the debate over homosexuality in the Church without generating more heat.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the “Grand Bargain”: An Instance of Neuhaus’ Law?


The late Richard John Neuhaus once articulated a principle that he presumed to call Neuhaus’ Law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” Over at Public Discourse, Robert P. George offers what I take to be an instance of this law, namely, the “grand bargain” between proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage:

Since most liberals and even some conservatives, it seems, apparently have no understanding at all of the conjugal conception of marriage as a one-flesh union—not even enough of a grasp to consciously consider and reject it—they uncritically conceive marriage as sexual-romantic domestic partnership, as if it just couldn’t possibly be anything else. This is despite the fact that the conjugal conception has historically been embodied in our marriage laws, and explains their content (not just the requirement of spousal sexual complementarity, but also rules concerning consummation and annulability, norms of monogamy and sexual exclusivity, and the pledge of permanence of commitment) in ways that the sexual-romantic domestic partnership conception simply cannot. Still, having adopted the sexual-romantic domestic partnership idea, and seeing no alternative possible conception of marriage, they assume—and it is just that, an assumption, and a gratuitous one—that no actual reason exists for regarding sexual reproductive complementarity as integral to marriage. After all, two men or two women can have a romantic interest in each other, live together in a sexual partnership, care for each other, and so forth. So why can’t they be married? Those who think otherwise, having no rational basis, discriminate invidiously. By the same token, if two men or two women can be married, why can’t three or more people, irrespective of sex, in polyamorous “triads,” “quadrads,” etc.? Since no reason supports the idea of marriage as a male-female union or a partnership of two persons and not more, the motive of those insisting on these other “traditional” norms must also be a dark and irrational one.

Thus, advocates of redefinition are increasingly open in saying that they do not see these disputes about sex and marriage as honest disagreements among reasonable people of goodwill. They are, rather, battles between the forces of reason, enlightenment, and equality—those who would “expand the circle of inclusion”—on one side, and those of ignorance, bigotry, and discrimination—those who would exclude people out of “animus”—on the other. The “excluders” are to be treated just as racists are treated—since they are the equivalent of racists. Of course, we (in the United States, at least) don’t put racists in jail for expressing their opinions—we respect the First Amendment; but we don’t hesitate to stigmatize them and impose various forms of social and even civil disability upon them and their institutions. In the name of “marriage equality” and “non-discrimination,” liberty—especially religious liberty and the liberty of conscience—and genuine equality are undermined.

The fundamental error made by some supporters of conjugal marriage was and is, I believe, to imagine that a grand bargain could be struck with their opponents: “We will accept the legal redefinition of marriage; you will respect our right to act on our consciences without penalty, discrimination, or civil disabilities of any type. Same-sex partners will get marriage licenses, but no one will be forced for any reason to recognize those marriages or suffer discrimination or disabilities for declining to recognize them.” There was never any hope of such a bargain being accepted. Perhaps parts of such a bargain would be accepted by liberal forces temporarily for strategic or tactical reasons, as part of the political project of getting marriage redefined; but guarantees of religious liberty and non-discrimination for people who cannot in conscience accept same-sex marriage could then be eroded and eventually removed. After all, “full equality” requires that no quarter be given to the “bigots” who want to engage in “discrimination” (people with a “separate but equal” mindset) in the name of their retrograde religious beliefs. “Dignitarian” harm must be opposed as resolutely as more palpable forms of harm.

The World Wide Religious Web for Thursday, January 5, 2012


EVANGELICALS, MORMONS, & POLITICS: Why Obama Wins. “So many evangelicals grew up being told that the pope is the anti-Christ and that the LDS Church is satanic, that it is deeply ingrained in them.  I’m not saying that they’ll campaign against Romney or Santorum, just that their antipathy to their religions will leave evangelical voters totally unmotivated.” See also Romney’s Evangelical Problem Starts with Theology. “The good news for Mitt Romney: he won the Iowa caucuses. The bad news for Romney: evangelicals remain reluctant to support him.” And finally, Romney’s religion still a sticking point. But if you read all the way to the end of the article, you read that Phil and Karen Poe (who attend an Assemblies of God church in Des Moines) got over their suspicions of Romney pretty quickly. “Beating Obama is my bottom line,” Karen said. My guess is that that’s the bottom line for many evangelical voters, not the candidate’s theology. See also Evangelicals and Santorum, where R. R. Reno shares the same intuition as I do.

MICHELLE BACHMANN: A Divine Call Won’t Get You Votes.

RON PAUL: Theonomists, Reconstructionists, and Dominionists. Oh My! “So I think we should applaud Goldberg for taking into consideration the religious viewpoints and influences of candidates like Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachmann, but we should also take her to task for not being a bit more sensitive to the complicated theological landscape. Christian Reconstructionists are a vocal minority, a “fringe” as Goldberg calls them, among politically conservative Christians, but their specific views about biblical laws and punishments are simply not attributable to every evangelical candidate.”

THE HIGH PRIEST OF OUR CIVIL RELIGION: Commander and Chaplain: The Faith of Presidents. “In the absence of a national chaplain, the President sometimes has functioned in that role, partly because of the expectations of the American people. When we have a crisis, whether it is a war or a tragedy—like the shootings in Tucson or a space disaster—we expect the President to function almost as our civic priest. We want him to give us assurance that God is still in control and that the people who have died have died for a good cause and that they’re going to be eternally blessed.”

MARRIAGE MATTERS: Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage? “There is, then, a further vital reason why same-sex marriage must be vigorously contested, namely, that no peace is to be had by capitulation. Like it or not, the great struggle is under way. Marriage, if you please, is the Sudetenland, and its concession is the precursor to a cultural Blitzkrieg.” I largely agree with this article, but why must the author use a Nazi analogy? By doing so, doesn’t he risk violating Godwin’s law? Regardless, if you think this author is just wildly speculating, read this.

MEAN ATHEISTS: Ill will toward men. “Seen on Answerblog.com: ‘How do atheists express their love for the rest of humanity?’ Answer: ‘You don’t need religion to express love, you complete idiot. Why are all your questions so ignorant?’ Genuinely warmhearted atheists exist, but warmheartedness is not the first descriptive quality that comes to mind. The more vocal ones betray themselves sooner or later: To reject God is almost always to despise people.” This makes logical sense. After all, atheists teach that God is a mere projection of humanity. If God is a delusion (Dawkins), then his human creators are ignorant and deluded. If religion poisons everything (Hitchens), then humans are the poisoners. Calling the vast swath of humanity stupid and wicked is the essence of misanthropy.

LEGO ATHEIST: The Brick Bible’s Case against Faith. “In all, the book—with its skewed perspective on matters of faith and its wry commentary on Old Testament stories—makes a pretty good case against faith. Since that’s not the objective of most parents, I’d suggest looking elsewhere for a good Bible storybook for your children.”

AGES OF ROCKS & THE ROCK OF AGES: Why Geology Matters. “But more specifically, it is clear that all Christian high school and Christian college students ought to gain substantial knowledge about the structure, composition, behavior, and history of their God-given home, planet Earth. The current situation, in which the geosciences are ignored totally, woefully underemphasized, or grossly distorted in Christian high schools and Christian liberal arts colleges, is inexcusable and must be radically changed. MacDougall’s book amounts to a wake-up call for a much larger place for geoscience education. Why Geology Matters should be mandatory reading for all scientists, school board members, and academic deans and presidents, but especially pastors, theologians, Christian school board members, and Christian college leaders.”

TOO MUCH POLITICAL SPEECH? Iowa: The Gray Lady Freaks Out. “So let’s sum up: The Times is concerned that 1) there is more political speech than there would be if not for the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United and the appeals-court decision in SpeechNow.org v. FEC; 2) groups of citizens are running their own ads, rather than relying solely on the candidates to run ads; 3) the ads are saying awful things, accusing candidates of “being too liberal on immigration,” or having “ethics baggage,” something the Times would never discuss, except in its news stories on Newt Gingrich’s “ethics” “baggage” on November 28, December 8, December 9, December 14, and December 31; 4) stories about a candidate’s ethics or positions on immigration should be off limits in an “accountable” campaign; and 5) all this citizen speech informing voters about various candidates’ positions, ethics, and endorsements, coming not only from the candidates but from other sources, can be blamed on Citizens United and SpeechNow.org.”

NO: Does Islam Forbid Even Studying Evolution? “Muslims everywhere must open their minds to all new ideas. They must be confident that their faith and worldview are robust enough to deal with modernity in its various facets; indeed, new viewpoints can help fine-tune beliefs and worldviews. Islam not only does not forbid studying evolution or any other theory; it welcomes new knowledge and deals with it objectively. Muslims are called upon to engage with science, philosophy, and art with confidence and open minds.”

CHURCH LAW & TAX: The Top 10 Church Law Articles from 2011.

BUILDING CHURCH LEADERS: Our Top 10 Resources in 2011.

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