Philosophy of the Backbone

I have heard for years that in order to grow our churches we should soften our stand on the issues that society finds divisive. Emphasize unity over truth. Strive to be less offensive on non-essentials in order to earn a right to be heard on spiritual issues. We are paying the price for intentionally softening our resolve.

I have tried to study the issues regarding homosexuality and court cases involving churches. Every church I know has a strong desire to protect themselves from being pulled into court over this issue. There are numerous sources who will issue advice on how to design their documents, policies and procedures to make this less likely. I suspect that it is not possible to avoid the issues completely.

The Bible defines homosexual behavior as wrong. This fact will not go away. Attempts to redefine the Bible only work if you have not given it a serious read. So those of us who read and respect the teachings of Scripture will continue to see homosexuality as a sin.

The courts have been busy deciding that disagreeing with homosexuality is prejudice. This conclusion is based on the idea that homosexuality is less a choice than a result of how a person was born. The phrase is often used that ‘God made them that way.’

So believing this perspective regarding the practice of homosexuality allows the courts to rule that traditional Christianity is discrimination. Since it has become trendy to include sexual orientation in discrimination laws, the idea has legal teeth. There has been an attempt in many places to make laws which clarify that religious freedom is a higher priority than these discrimination cases but the courts have repeatedly stuck these down and probably will continue to do so.

While I will take actions hoping to protect my church from these lawsuits, I don’t believe any defense will ultimately shield us. The battle is going to find us. Perhaps the end result will be that Bible believing churches will no longer be allowed to legally operate or to own property. The result may be that we manage to put the first amendment back into the first position again. I don’t really know what will happen, but I know it will come with conflict.

The reality is that churches in America have gotten soft. Because of generations of living under the protection of the first amendment we have not had to defend Biblical truth. Since we have not had to defend our beliefs, American Christians are not practiced in standing up for what we belief, nor are we accustomed to paying a cost for our choice to love and serve God.

Scripture makes it clear that our association with Christ will bring conflict with the world. We must not allow this to be a surprise; nor should it be a point of dismay. It is a point of opportunity to demonstrate the backbone of Christianity. The church itself will be stronger, more Biblical, and make a more significant impact on the world around us, when our resolve becomes visible.

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Religious Freedom and Homosexuality

Indiana has taken a huge amount of heat over its attempt to enact its own Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Similar to what happened here in Arizona, people started yelling discrimination, often without any respect for religious liberties.

Those who support the laws will quickly say the law is about religious freedom and not about discrimination. Those who oppose the law say it is veiled language to allow for discrimination against homosexuals. In Indiana the governor asked for additional legislation to clarify this point and to prevent the law being misused.

A similar situation in Arkansas makes a curious side note. The governor there said he changed his mind at the last minute and vetoed the law because his teenage son asked him to. If I was a voter in Arkansas I would ask the governor to explain why his son is more qualified to govern than he is.

In discussing the topic, I have heard it said that church leaders should have no say in these policies because it doesn’t affect them. They are given a ministerial exception in the laws. This argument is silly, creating an inequality between church leaders and church members. In my church I would like the membership and leadership to have the same religious freedoms. It is also obvious that their exception will soon be taken away.

A lot of this hoopla is based on a denial of reality. Conservatives want to protect religious freedoms, and try to pass RFRA or similar laws. But at the same time they try to align themselves as being against any form of discrimination. But the truth is you cannot have it both ways.

Religious freedom must include allowing a person to choose not to participate in something they find morally objectionable, not only as a private person, but also as a businessperson. Asking them to set aside their beliefs while conducting business is asking them to be a hypocrite. Incidentally I believe this should hold true for personal ideologies as much as for recognized religious perspectives.

Meanwhile the homosexual feels discriminated against if a businessperson does not want to serve them. They have very successful political forces seeking to make any such decision illegal. They have also controlled the dialogue of these encounters labeling anyone opposed to homosexuality as homophobes, defining in the public mind that homosexuality is genetic condition instead of a behavior, and defining sexual behavior as a greater good than religious freedom.

The path we are on ends with the courts ruling that all major world religions are historically wrong in regard to this issue and must change their doctrine. I don’t know for sure what the future holds, but I can tell you one thing about religious freedom. You will miss it when it is gone. Even if you are not religious, you will not like the world where the government determines the content of your conscience.

The Powerful New Court

Recently the Supreme Court made a subtle and important non-decision on gay marriage.

The non-decision happened like this. Alabama had a law banning gay marriage. It was voted into place by the majority of Alabama voters, but was then challenged and overturned by a federal judge. This decision will be brought up before the Supreme Court later this year, but in the meantime Alabama asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay preventing the issuing of marriage licenses to same sex couples until after the court decides.

The non-decision was refusing to hear and act on the request for a stay. Many have interpreted it as an indication the majority of the court is ready to rubber stamp anything and everything in regards to gay marriage.

This is not to say there are no dissenting voices. Clarence Thomas spoke strongly against the decision, and for my purposes against the implications of the non-decision.

He said the court demonstrates an “increasingly cavalier attitude toward the states.” He explained the federal courts fail to show “appropriate respect” to the states. He also reminds them they owe respect “to the people of those states who approved those laws.” He further said their behavior was formed “on questionable constitutional grounds.” And that their actions were “without any regard for the people who approved those laws in popular referendums or elected the representatives who voted for them.”

In other words, the Supreme Court, and courts in general, are expanding their power. But what will it mean for us all in the long run? We no longer have a representative government, but a shadow of one, more accurately guided by the supreme and uncontested power of the courts.