What Do You Do With a Problem Like Freedom?

I saw this amusing video where confused college students willingly walk into proud and unaware declarations of hypocrisy concerning religious freedom.  Videos like this prove little about the actual merits of an argument because it’s not hard to find someone who supports a position while simultaneously not having thought it through very deeply.  It could be that there are thoughtful people with great reasons for holding a viewpoint, but you can be sure the producer of the video isn’t going to put them in the montage for one reason; they aren’t funny.

Nonetheless, you should watch this video because it’s funny and it supports my point of view.

I was talking through these issues with a gay friend of mine who agrees with me that florists, photographers and bakers shouldn’t be required to provide services for events that conflict with their religious values. Continue reading

World Vision and the Redefinition of Christianity

Yesterday news struck that World Vision, one of the top ten charitable organizations in the world would no longer prohibit the hiring of Christians in open homosexual relationships.

World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.

Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian charities.

World Vision argues that the decision about whether or not homosexuality is a sin is a theological question and as a parachurch organization they leave open theological questions to be solved by local churches. This news did not go unnoticed.

Russell Moore responded:

At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.

John Piper posted:

When World Vision says, “We cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue,” here is the side they do, in fact, jump onto: We forbid fornication and adultery as acceptable lifestyles among our employees (which they do), but we will not forbid the regular practice of homosexual intercourse. To presume that this position is not “jumping into the fight on one side or the other” is fanciful.

But worse than fancy, removing homosexual intercourse from its biblical alignment with fornication and adultery (and greed and theft and drunkenness) trivializes its correlation with perdition.

Trevin Wax posting at Gospel Coaltion said:

Sex is our god. Children are our sacrifice.


Albert Mohler challenged [perhaps my favorite of all the responses]:

Richard Stearns has every right to try to make his case, but these arguments are pathetically inadequate. Far more than that, his arguments reveal basic issues that every Christian ministry, organization, church, and denomination will have to face — and soon.

The distinction between an “operational arm” of the church and a “theological arm” is a fatal misreading of reality. World Vision claims a Christian identity, claims to serve the kingdom of Christ, and claims a theological rationale for its much-needed ministries to the poor and distressed. It cannot surrender theological responsibility when convenient and then claim a Christian identity and a theological mandate for ministry.

I think there is much that is tragic about this situation. What stands out to me most keenly is that our culture’s interest and preoccupation with sexual identity is causing a subtle redefinition of Christianity.  I agree with Word Vision that human sexuality is not at the core of Christianity, it ought not be a part of their intentionally inclusive statement of faith.  But the question of righteous Christian living in regards to sexual practice has become so decisive that I think many churches and organizations will be tempted to place their understanding of Biblical sexuality at the top of their doctrinal standards.

Two Too Many

R.C. Sproul took a question from a pastor on his radio show that interested me quite a bit. The pastor had a new convert in his church that had been a polygamous Mormon. The man had left Mormonism but not any of his three wives. The pastor was curious how he should go about disciplining this man and if he should be encouraged to leave his two additional wives.

You can hear Sproul’s answer here. Start at the 9:00 mark.

I expect Christians to encounter more situations like this one. And the dilemma isn’t just for polygamist. What should two married women with children be counseled to do if they join a church? Two married men? How about a man who divorced, as a believer, for unbiblical reasons and remarried?

I’m sure the situation is semi-regular in the LDS church. What must a polygamous man do to be baptized and enjoy full communion in the LDS church?

What’s Next in 2010

Time Magazine has an interesting article on the lasting effects of the LDS church’s involvment in Propostion 8 and what they will do in 2010 when the ammendment is attempted to be repealed.

Read it here

And since we’re talking about same sex marriage again;  I felt vindicated by this Moth Podcast about the awkward experience of seeing two gay twins making out with each other at a wedding.

Martyrs On a Gay Spring Day in April

I was reading a report that gay groups in large are planning on protesting outside of General Conference this April.  Some of these groups are known to be “out there” even by gay pride parade standards.  Clearly knowing anything about Mormon culture would tell you that this won’t work in convincing Mormons to change their minds.  Mormons have a deep seated “seige mentatlity” and already feel like martyrs.  Any large scale protest only heightens that martyr syndrome.  Further, any outlandish, public displays of sodomy and sex acts will only convince Mormons that “it’s us against the world.”

What’s ironic about this situation is the homosexual community feels like martyrs in this situation.  They are the ones who feel they’ve been persecuted and have a grievance against the world.  I imagine they are thinking is that holding a large protest in Salt Lake City will bring media attention to the LDS church’s role in passing Proposition 8.  It may not convince any Mormons to change their mind, but it might convince other people to change their mind about Mormons.

I don’t think the general homosexual population should be judge by those who go over the top any more than I think the Evangelical community should be judged by street preachers at General Conference.  But those gay men who like to “show off” their perversity in public got me to ask the question “what are they thinking?”  I can’t imagine that they rationally think that dressing up in a giant phallic costume will convince people that homosexuals are normal, mild mannered people who shouldn’t be feared.  It communicates the opposite.  To some degree, I think it’s an expression of anger toward the rest of society.  It’s like they are saying “We’re going to force our lifestyle on you for rejecting us. So take it, take it, take it (middle fingers [an apropos phallic symbol]  hoisted high in the sky).”

How both groups handle the situation and the press coverage will be interesting to see.  Either way I think the LDS church will be driven further from its mission to the gay community and the gay community will be driven further from its mission the the LDS church.  I think this offers a tremendous opportunity for Mormons to shock and suprise the protestors themselves with radical kindness;  the kind that turns its cheek when struck, but I think the opportunity will be missed.  It’s too great an opportunity to feel persecuted (and therefore the church is true).

As a side note, let me clearly state; protestors showing up at General Conference is NOT persecution.  To call it such dishonors any Mormon ever killed or hurt because of their faith.

In Defense of Mormons and Marriage

LDS might be glad to hear that Evangelical commentator and leader, Charles Colson, came to the defense of the LDS church and the status quo of marriage in a recent Breakpoint commentary.  You can listen to what he had to say here

Or read it for yourself here

The offending advertisement was this one

It’s About Sex not Love

I recently posted a response to Runtu’s take on Same-Sex Marriage.  I thought I’d clean it up and post it here. I don’t really seeing anybody making positive secular arguments for the status quo of marriage.

As a caveat, I think same-sex marriage is likely an inevitability in the United States. I think that civil unions for everyone might be an eventual solution to the problem. I also recognize that a good number of my readers are lawyers so I expect to be ripped a new one for one reason or another.  Take it easy on my legal ignorance and take the opportunity to illuminate me on where I might have it wrong.

Marriage is about property rights, but the question is “why do married people need their property rights defined?”. My impression is that government started issuing marriage licenses in an effort stabilize families for the protection of children.  Men and women who cohabitate together with a sexual relationship produce children as a natural by-product.  To ensure that children are given a stable environment in which to thrive marriage licenses were drawn up. This protected the property of one or both parties and meant it would remain with the newly created family if either died.  The financial benefits of marriage were delivered so that cohabitating couples would feel encouraged to join into marriage and give the stabilizing benefits to their children.

IF the benefits of marriage were created to protect children then they need not necessarily be passed on to cohabitating men and women who do not produce children.  But that’s where the equal protection of the law comes in.  All men must be allowed to marry any woman and all women must be allowed to marry any man. This ensures everyone has the same rights because (generally) the natural by product of cohabitation between men and women is children.

IF marriage is just about joining property with someone you choose to join property with (for love, sex, business, coercion, or any other reason), then marriage should not only be extended to same sex couples, but also non-sexual friendships, cousins, siblings, parent-child relationships and perhaps to multiple partners as well.  None of these relationships affect your marriage any more than same-sex marriage do.  If that’s the litmus test we are using than you really should be in favor of no restrictions on marriage whatsoever.  Any restrictions you come up with will ultimately be shown to be arbitrary with no more weight than you think they are “icky”.

The very fact that marriages must be sexually consummated to be valid suggests to me at least that the government thinks it’s about the creation of children and not just property law.

As dissatisfying as the argument comes across gay men have the same rights as straight men; neither are allowed to marry men.  The same goes for straigh and gay women.  I think Victorian romanticism has strongly injected itself into our thoughts on marriage.  Marriage has been around much much longer than our belief that it should be about love.  It’s about sex (that may produce children), not love.

A Post I’ve Been Avoiding

I was recently encouraged to write up a post on homosexuality and it’s a subject I’ve been reluctant to touch in any manner.  On the one hand, I know it will generate controversy and activity.  On the other, it will generate controversy and activity.  Honestly I think I’d prefer the blog comments I’d get on abortion over homosexuality.  Why? Because homosexuality is the current hot button issue that sparks frustration and contempt with the slightest provocation.

The Anglican church is seriously facing a schism over the issue. I’m confident they will not being the only ones facing the same problems.  Here in California I think it will be THE election issue.  This state is all but a lock for whoever happens to be wearing a blue shirt.  So with the prospect of a state constitutional amendment strictly defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman I’m quite sure I will grow weary of the political discourse quite quickly. The LDS church recently directed its members in California to actively participate in the passage of this amendment.

The nature of this blog being what it is, I should compare and contrast how Evangelicals have handled the issue as compared to Mormons.  On the face of things I think they are exactly even on a number of levels.  Both Mormons and Evangelicals have done some terrible things to “help” those struggling with homosexuality.  Both will be defined by the popular culture over this issue and both will struggle moving forward in a society of changing values and perceptions.  I think both faith traditions will lose members over the issue and possibly even gain members over the issue (as the pendelum swings back).

I think both groups have recognized how poorly they’ve handled this issue in the past.  I think both groups are still struggling with how to handle it now.  The echoes  of “hate the sin, love the sinner” are sounding more and more hollow as we have yet to find a great way to illustrate love to homosexuals while hating homosexuality.  What still reverberates with people is our hate rather than our love.

A number of years ago a friend pointed out to me regardless of whether the cause of homosexuality is nature or nurture, the fact still remains that people can’t help how they feel. In my mind that cleared the air of fighting the battle over that issue. No person struggling with homosexuality is going to find help in dealing with their sexuality by simply being told it’s caused by X.  I also don’t think the answer to that question changes what the Bible says in regards to God’s intention for human sexuality.

In the last couple of years I’ve had a friend who has been quite open about his struggle with homosexuality (in the context of a small group bible study). I think our group was pretty accepting and understanding of his story.  Eventually he gave in to his temptation and left his faith behind.  I’ll suspend any of my own thoughts about what percepitated those events.  I simply don’t know because he chose not to include his faith community in those decisions.  Only recently has he decided to reconnect with people in our church and live his life “out”.

I wrestle with ideas of what more we could have done for him.  If it was our burden or his.  If he had asked for more help, would we have provided it? (I’m sure he would now scoff that I even ask these questions).

Whether or not any kind of marriage amendment is passed on the state or national level, I’m confident those are short term stop gaps and we’ll eventually be overturned by a younger generation.  As we move forward I think what’s important for us is to be vigilant in emphasizing what we are for rather than what we are against (grace and redemption at the top of the list).  We should avoid making sex a political issue and making our churches appear to be voting blocks. We should be open to the messiness of discipleship and expect people to join our churches in a state of “not yet”. Finally we should remain humble for there are tough days ahead.

Your thoughts?