March 7, 2014
In an arresting piece about his denomination’s struggles in dealing with homosexuality, United Methodist Pastor Talbot Davis writes:
When therapy turns into theology … our experience and our empathy determine our doctrine. I’ve been in those counseling sessions. Asked to officiate a same-gender wedding. Invited to bless a same-gender union. And the pastor in me longs to tell folks what they want to hear, yearns to affirm the narrative I’m privileged to be part of. And yet over against that personal, pastoral desire, I hear another question: have we become so good at empathetic listening that we have lost the capacity for critical thinking?
Because it seems to me that the role of the Scripture has been precisely to guard against what so many of us now do in elevating personal experience to the level of revealed truth. Theologically, then, Scripture protects us from ourselves. Which is why Paul tells Timothy: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (and) why Jeremiah declares: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Personal experience and individual feelings — even when others share those experiences and feel those feelings — are among the weakest of rationales for shifting theology and changing doctrine. The reason the church does theology and arrives at doctrine is to protect us from our natural tendency to turn what we feel into what we believe.
Feelings of warmth and acceptance are natural with respect to people we love, like, and respect. To lack them is virtual sociopathy. Yet the Bible calls Christians to stand for truth - not with rancor or anger, but with the right balance of kindness and firmness.
Not to uphold the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality is to show a lack of love. Sexual intimacy as God intended it - within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman - is beautiful, life-affirming, and life-giving. Sexual intimacy outside these parameters, however enjoyable transiently, leads to the withering of the soul and the erosion of society.
Pastor Davis is right: We cannot derive our theology from our emotions. Theological doctrine stems from another source, the unchanging Word of God, and is as it is because a loving Designer enables us to realize our sexuality best in the context of heterosexual, monogamous marriage.
March 5, 2014
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on this day in 1946. His phrase — “an iron curtain has descended across Europe” — was seen by some as the beginning of the Cold War. But Churchill wanted nothing more than to rally the democracies to take a strong stand, a united stand for their own freedom.
Churchill understood Russia’s great suffering during World War II. More than twenty million Russians, Ukrainians, and other peoples of the then-USSR had perished in what they called “the Great Patriotic War.” Churchill certainly wanted no new world war.
His message was essentially the same that wise American presidents from George Washington to Ronald Reagan had spoken of — peace through strength. With President Harry Truman on the same stage, the honored world statesman said:
February 28, 2014
On Wednesday, a U.S. district judge in Texas ruled that the state’s law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman was unconstitutional. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling adds to a growing list of rulings striking down state marriage amendments. Judges in Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia have been all too willing to substitute their individual judgment for the voice of the people on a question that our Constitution leaves to the political process.
District Judge Garcia recycles the faulty reasoning seen in other marriage cases in recent weeks. Specifically, he asserts that Texas has no rational basis for recognizing marriage as the union of a man and a woman, ignoring the state’s argument that marriage should be recognized as such in policy because the state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that a man and a woman who bring a child into the world raise that child as dad and mom. The vast majority of Texans share this historic belief. With Wednesday’s ruling, their right to uphold that ideal has been trampled on as Texas politicians such as Senator Ted Cruz have pointed out.
Judge Garcia chose to overlook the fact that as a class of people, only opposite-sex couples are biologically capable of having children and that as a class, same-sex couples are not. By failing to acknowledge this fundamental difference, Judge Garcia bypasses what this discussion is all about: the understanding of marriage as an institution that brings men and women together to responsibly care for any children their union produces. Texas has no interest in affirming who a person can love; it does have an interest in ensuring that children are raised by their mom and dad. Marriage best accomplishes that purpose and should be recognized as a legitimate and indeed rational interest.
February 27, 2014
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Religious liberty is under attack.
The Attorney General of the United States is calling on state attorneys general not to defend their states’ laws prohibiting same-sex “marriages.” As FRC President Tony Perkins rightly asked this week, “If the Attorney General can pick and choose which laws to uphold, then can the rest of us pick and choose which laws to follow?”
With respect to the wildly misrepresented Arizona bill concerning religious liberty, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Kellie Fiedorek captured the real issue well when she wrote, “a Muslim caterer shouldn’t be forced to serve pork sandwiches at a Christian wedding on Saturday just because the couple asks for them. And a religious photographer shouldn’t be required to use her creative talents to promote the message of an atheist group.”
Recently, a panel of United Nations “experts” demanded that the Roman Catholic Church reevaluate its teachings on such issues as abortion and to consider jettisoning 2,000 years of Christian moral teaching on this and other difficult social issues (we’re having an important panel discussion on this next week).
And as Dr. Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Seminary will discuss at FRC in a couple of weeks, “the global persecution of Christians” is widespread.
These threats are why Family Research Council works hard to defend and advance religious liberty at home and abroad. It’s a right that comes from God, not the state or any political leaders. It’s worth protecting.
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council
P.S. On March 13, U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) will be giving a lecture at FRC titled, “Health Care and Conscience Rights.” Please join us here or watch online at no charge.
Educational Freedom and Reform
February 21, 2014
Sochi thrills and spills are fast coming to a close and soon the 2014 Winter Olympics will only be faint memories of two weeks in Russia. Yet, even the casual Olympic television viewer will be left with a profound conclusion regarding family after these games — that the natural definition of marriage has little relevance for family structure or defining what is the “normal” formation of a family.
At least that’s the message that has been stressed over and over by several Chevrolet “Find New Roads” commercials that have run nonstop throughout the games. The advertisements equate heterosexual marriage (deemed “the old love” in “The New Love” Chevy spot) with the “new love” of homosexual unions. In “The New Us,” Chevy portrays a collection of families carrying out daily life, featuring two gay couples with their children alongside a collection of racially diverse heterosexual couples and their children. Intoning that “while what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has,” Chevy commits an emotionally appealing logical shortcut, conflating what a family looks like with how it is formed.
Historically, natural marriage has been understood as the foundation of family formation because marriage as the union of a man and a woman is the only union that can produce children, the next generation needed to maintain a family. According to Chevy though, such biological distinctions don’t need to have relevance for today and gay parenting patterns can be described as the new “normal.”
Ironically, when the parenting pattern that has been celebrated as the ideal for thousands of years — a married dad staying faithful to his wife and child — was highlighted at this Winter Olympics, the lifestyle was described as an “alternative.” American freestyle skier (and now gold medalist) David Wise holds the distinction of being happily married to his wife of several years, Alexandra, and the father of their daughter. In a sport that celebrates the rebellious, such staid behavior at the tender age of twenty three is deemed “wildly uncool.” Meanwhile, the first television depiction of gay couples during an Olympics received a pass as the “new us.”
That new path to family detached from the natural foundation of marriage is certainly a “New Road” that many have found. Not all new roads are smooth roads though, and only time will tell the consequences of redefining marriage into a genderless institution that fails to consider the needs of children ahead of the desires of adults.
February 20, 2014
Common Core is turning out to be a Common Disaster.
Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the largest teacher union, wrote a letter to the union’s three million members calling the Common Core rollout, “completely botched.” This is a blow to the standards and assessments many thought were a consensus among educators and states across the country to prepare students for college.
In recent months there has been a steady stream of teacher unions, teachers, parents and government officials expressing their concern over Common Core and hesitation about its rapid rollout and implementation timeline. Common Core is a state initiative that the Obama Administration is pushing and is already being incorporated in schools across the country, with full implementation required by the 2014-2015 school year.
Common Core removes local accountability for a child’s education. Presently, if a parent is concerned about their child’s education or teaching material in the school, there is a direct course of action for a parent to raise their concerns. With Common Core, however, that course of action and accountability between parents and teachers is muddled, at best, and completely removes accountability from the local school, teacher and even the state.
This is because Common Core was written, developed, and adopted with little input from parents and educators. Now, with 45 states and the District of Columbia having adopted the standards, educators and parents are learning that their child’s education is suffering, and there is little they can do because the standards and assessments are already written, being taught in school, and only allowed limited revisions.
In his letter to the union members, Dennis Van Roekel stressed the fact that the frustration with the standards are not isolated, citing the fact that 70% of teachers believe the implementation of Common Core is going poorly in their schools.
This statistic is astonishing. Developers of the Common Core standards and assessments seem to have forgotten that educators and parents should be consulted about what is taught in the classroom.
February 20, 2014
Bowdoin College, one of America’s elite institutions of higher education, has now “banned a local lawyer and his wife from leading campus Bible studies with students after the couple refused to sign a non-discrimination agreement they say violates their Christian faith.”
For nearly the past ten years the couple, Rob and Sim Gregory, has been volunteers with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Bowdoin Christian Fellowship (BCF). They have been told they will no longer be welcome on Bowdoin’s campus after May because of their commitment to the Bible’s teaching that sexual intimacy is reserved for a heterosexual couple within the covenant of marriage.
February 19, 2014
Amidst renewed plans from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take up legislation this spring addressing sexual assault in the military, a collection of ethical scandals involving military leadership continues to dog Pentagon officials.
Though the U.S. military still ranks as one of the most respected institutions in public life (and rightly so), the reputation of top brass has taken a beating with news of a Navy bribery scam, drinking binges during high profile missions, and incidents of serial adultery. Problems at one Air Force base extend to the junior officer level as over ninety officers responsible for operating our nuclear missile force have been caught cheating on monthly proficiency exams. In South Carolina, sailors tasked with operating Navy nuclear reactors appear to have shared exam questions and so far at least thirty sailors have been decertified as a result.
Given these troubling stories of lapses in integrity, numerous new oversight plans have emerged. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a full review of the ethical training senior officers receive, with the report due last Friday. The Secretary of the Air Force has spoken of the need to address “systemic problems,” and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said that assessing character will be a larger part of the evaluation of military officers in the future.
February 18, 2014
It’s the first day back to work following Valentine’s Day and the President’s Day holiday. For many women, today means eating the rest of the leftover candy hearts and cursing the selfishness of the single men who caused them to spend another holiday unromantically alone. But, what if the increasingly isolated situation of young women in the United States isn’t entirely the fault of self-absorbed perpetually adolescent 21st century males (as self-absorbed as they may be)? What if it’s partially the conduct of single females that’s driven up the average age of marriage and kept thousands of women apart from a spouse?
That’s the thesis of a new resource out from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture: The Economics of Sex. This short video primer posits that women offering sex “cheaply” give men little incentive to offer the commitment of marriage in exchange. Supply and demand apply to the relationships between the sexes just as much as in any other category of our market-driven world, the Austin Institute scholars explain.
As any serially single woman can tell you, more women than men want to start a serious relationship in pursuit of marriage. But if most single females are willing to offer their bodies to men with few conditions, men won’t have to look far for pleasure with no expectations.
What’s a woman to do then? Realize the power that she possesses in controlling access to her body, suggests the research team. She and her sisters might collaborate to require serious commitment from men, ideally the threshold of marriage, before giving themselves physically. Were women to place a higher value on sex, we would likely see women getting more of the commitment they desire out of a relationship and many fewer solitary Valentines.
February 14, 2014
Valentine’s Day is full of romance and love for many Americans and it is a beautiful thing. The thought of that special person can send sparks flying. Hearts, roses, and chocolates abound. Young love blossoms. Sadly, these scenes of romance are often a façade for a culture obsessed with an emotional high rather than a selfless love. When the day ends the beauty of the emotional romance is gone, replaced by the ugly reality of shallow relationships. Real romance is not a state of eternal bliss but a commitment to love, sacrificing for the good of the other. How can we hold onto love beyond that February 14th feeling? With so few cultural factors that encourage true romance and love it is helpful to use the Valentine’s Day holiday as a reminder of what love truly looks like. I could give a hundred reasons why marriage is good for you, but those are simply side benefits to following God’s plan for love. Here are three things every Christian husband should do this Valentine’s Day to renew a lasting love and romance:
- Remember that you are to love your wife like Christ loved the church. Enough to bleed for her and enough to die for her. Enough to be separated from His Heavenly Father and to become sin for her. I am to love my wife when she sins against me. I am to nurture her, cherish her, and care for her. I am to spend myself for her because I love her and because Christ showed me how.
- Remember that my love for her is not conditional on feelings. Feelings are fickle. They change but my love for my wife can shine brighter even when feelings wane. Choosing to love often brings feelings with it but feelings are not the gauge of love. I want my wife to know that “for better or for worse” wasn’t just a cliché phrase but a life-long promise.
- Remember to do her good. It can be easy to do good to your significant other while dating. But after a few years of marriage, it may require a little effort. Thinking of ways to do her good involves not just gifts but understanding her needs on both a personal and spiritual level. Bearing your spouse’s burdens can be a challenging and fulfilling task, but it is well worth the effort.
I love my wife. She loves me. I still consider myself a newlywed even though I have been married for well over two years. We still act like romantics, we still hold hands. I still kiss her every morning when I leave for work and she greets me with a kiss when I come home. But these are not the deeds that lead to love they are expressions of it. I have chosen to love my wife. Loving my wife, regardless of feelings, with a desire to do her good at all times is a difficult task. But it is a task I have been commanded to pursue and one I promised, on my wedding day, to perform until death. Along with the chocolate and the kisses, may we all renew our commitment to make the rest of “‘til death do us part” a beautiful thing.