Evangelicals pledge to defend traditional marriage by witness and example
June 29th, 2015
Those who make a living defending God and the family from television commercials, gay pizza eaters, and children’s books are frothing and spewing about the Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality. They are pledging that they “refuse to accept” the ruling and calling for a constitutional amendment.
Meanwhile, the most prominent Evangelical Christians are taking another path entirely.
Evangelical Christianity (in this instance) is comprised primarily of Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, conservative Lutheran, conservative Presbyterian, Brethren, Reformed, and other smaller denominations.
Of these, the Pentecostal movement has mostly stayed out of the political fray. This is consistent with their tradition of seeing themselves as outside of the world to a large extent. Also mostly outside the political debate have been Brethren, Reformed, and the more conservative cousins of Mainline denominations.
But for many years, Southern Baptists railed against homosexuality and fought a culture war determined to keep equality out of the hands of their LGBT brothers and sisters. And those states in which Southern Baptists hold sway are chuck-full of anti-gay politicians who make little effort to hide their animus.
However, a few years back I noticed that there had been a shift in the Baptists’ approach. The SBC, though still hostile and hurtful, appeared to be largely stepping out of the battle. And their response to the Supreme Court ruling, along with other leading Evangelicals, is even more an evidence of this disengagement.
In a statement entitled Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage, a virtual who’s who of evangelical leaders staked out their position in response to marriage equality being found to be constitutionally protected. Signatories includes such leaders as David French, Eric Teetsel, Jim Daly, John Stonestreet, Marvin Olasky, Paul Nyquist, Albert Mohler, Richard Land, Ronnie Floyd, and many more.
Absent from the list were the usual clutch of firebrands, extremists, and lunatics. And the statement reflects a serious approach based less on political rhetoric and hyperbole and focused instead on how this change impacts the lives of those who share this faith.
Yes, they proclaim that “The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman”, when anyone with a Bible would be hard pressed to find such a marriage within its covers. But this is a statement of faith, a proclamation of belief, rather than a call to arms. And their objection to the ruling is termed as a dissent.
The meat of their statement is in what they commit to do.
The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:
- Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
- teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
- affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
- love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
- live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
- cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.
I will, of course, fight any of their democratic efforts to exclude me from full inclusion in society. And I’m not sure that we would draw the same boundaries for religious liberty. But otherwise I don’t find much with which to quibble.
Should Evangelicals live up to this mandate – to live respectfully, loving all people, and affirming dignity and respect – I would find them to be good neighbors and decent people. And if they wish to live an example of what marriage ‘should be like’, that would certainly go farther than all the name-calling and rejection that they have engaged in over the past several decades.
Tony Campolo endorses marriage equality
June 10th, 2015
Tony Campolo is a speaker and author and is highly influential in the side of evangelical Christianity that prioritizes social justice and charity. He has long been supportive of gay people, but his position on marriage was that the government should honor only civil unions for all and let churches decide for whom to conduct marriages. And he has been, for some time, a bit ambiguous about what he believes the church should do.
It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.
For me, the most important part of that process was answering a more fundamental question: What is the point of marriage in the first place? For some Christians, in a tradition that traces back to St. Augustine, the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, which obviously negates the legitimacy of same-sex unions. Others of us, however, recognize a more spiritual dimension of marriage, which is of supreme importance. We believe that God intends married partners to help actualize in each other the “fruits of the spirit,” which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, often citing the Apostle Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ’s sanctifying relationship with the Church. This doesn’t mean that unmarried people cannot achieve the highest levels of spiritual actualization – our Savior himself was single, after all – but only that the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth.
This casts the role of same-sex marriage not as acceptable, but as a spiritual good, a blessing to the couple and the church. He cites his experiences with gay Christian couple, and watching how they function, as influential to his change of thinking.
This is no inconsequential endorsement.
Gold Tinsel Jesus does NOT love all
April 6th, 2015
Eureka Springs is a little corner of color and decency in Arkansas. Over the years it has developed a gay community and even managed to pass a local domestic partnership registry.
This did not sit well with the religious conservatives. After all, this tourist town was mostly known for it’s Passion Play and it’s giant Jesus statue. This was, in fact, so horrifying that in 2008 the American Family Association whipped up a video warning the world that the radical militant homosexuals had taken over the little town.
And the conservative Christians decided to fight back, taking a page out of the gay community’s playbook. In 2013, they organized a parade, the Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade.
Now I have nothing against Christians celebrating Jesus at the time of the most holy day in the Christian calendar. After all, it must be frustrating that during the Spring Equinox, bunnies and eggs and symbols of fertility seem to give more honor to Ēostre than to the Christian festival that borrowed her name.
So for the past three years, Christians have march and waved flags and driven floats, all for this stated purpose:
The focus of this family friendly event is simply to celebrate Jesus, bring unity to the body of Christ and be a visible expression of God’s love in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
And all went just fine for a couple years.
But this year there was a little problem. You see, the local United Methodist Church wanted to join the Parade. And they wanted to carry a banner with a very controversial message: Jesus loves all.
Of course every Christian knows – and often announces – that Jesus loves all. But what the conservatives mean and what the Methodists mean by that are very different things.
The First United Methodist Church of Eureka Springs has recently become a Reconciling Congregation, meaning that gay people were welcome to full inclusion in the church and further that the congregation was committing to civil and religious equality for the LGBT community. So when they say “Jesus loves all”, they mean it without asterisks.
And that was quite the opposite message from what the Celebrate Jesus people wanted to say. They don’t really want to celebrate Jesus – or not, at least, the one who kept droning on and on about treating people the way you want to be treated, and who hung out with sinners, and who blew off tradition and argued with the religious exclusionists. Nope, wrong Jesus.
They want to celebrate Gold Tinsel Jesus. He’s the one who had the decency to shut up and die and not talk about feeding the hungry and caring for those in need. And he most certainly is NOT welcoming of the Homosexuals! Especially not into churches.
So they banned the Methodists from participating. Because the Eureka Springs conservative Christians want you to know that Gold Tinsel Jesus most definitely does not love all.
World Vision unifies marriage requirements
March 24th, 2014
World Vision is one of the largest charities in the world, pulling in between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars each year. They are also highly rated, with good transparency and spending about 85 cents of each dollar on program services.
Focused on fighting poverty, hunger and injustice, they provide services to about 100 million people in 100 countries basing their charity on need, not on religious belief or political ideology. Although they are one of the largest AIDS services providers in the world, they also focus strongly on community development and sustainable futures.
World Vision is decided an Evangelical Christian organization. And, as such, they have strict rules about hiring, requiring employees to be Christian and to adhere to sexual ethics which includes “abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage”.
Now World Vision has decided to, well, NOT change the terms of those requirements. They have, however, decided that gay Christians who seek employment with them must follow the same rules as heterosexuals. (Christianity Today)
“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”
This was a decision based on the reality that Christendom is no longer unified on the place of gay people in society or the church. With many Episcopalians and Lutherans and Congregationalists now finding grace in same-sex marriages, World Vision decided that it was not its job to hold to some purity test for just who could be the hands of Christ to a sick child or impoverished family.
Stearns took pains to emphasize what World Vision is not communicating by the policy change.
“It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there,” he said. “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”
“We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us,” said Stearns. “This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.
“Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.,” he said. “So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles’ Creed and our statement of faith. We unite around our [Trinitarian beliefs], and we have always deferred to the local church on these other matters.”
The organization leaves a great deal of autonomy to local affiliates in hiring decisions, so this policy will not necessarily have global impact. For example, although World Vision opposed the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, there is a recognition that the Christian community in Uganda is homophobic so there is little expectation that local managers will hire someone in a same-sex marriage.
Nevertheless, this is a hugely important shift.
Until just a few years ago, marriage was a shared position of much of Christian faith and those who supported inclusion were an anomaly. Now it appears that one’s take on recognition of same sex marriage is becoming – at least to this important organization – a issue of denominational theological variance, an interesting and respected matter of opinion but not essential to Christian faith.
[The article is incorrect on one item: the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not allow its ministers to conduct same-sex marriages. It is likely that this policy change will occur at the next convention (it narrowly lost in 2012), but at present the Presbyterian Church (USA) is not a marriage equality denomination.]
February 14th, 2014
In something out of Kansas called The Rolla Daily News, Jim Brock rants about the proposed pro-discrimination bill. He doesn’t think it’s very Christian:
I guess some members of the Kansas House never read Matthew 25:40-45: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'”
The holy words of Bible can be so inconvenient, especially when they don’t come from Exodus or Leviticus.
Refusing to love the sinner
January 3rd, 2014
I’ve long derided the glib phrase, “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”.
First, I don’t think there is anything inherently sinful in homosexuality, especially lived in a responsible, mature and spiritual way. But that isn’t my objection; you can define sin however you like.
Believe me, growing up the son of a Pentecostal pastor, it seemed like most everything was either sin or right up next to it: movies, television, secular music, dancing, playing cards (but just the kind with clubs and diamonds, not the kind with old maids), boys going shirtless, boys and girls swimming together, and of course smoking and drinking and sex outside marriage. And if anything new came along, you’d better put it on the sin list just to be safe.
But those were ‘things Christians don’t do’, not things that you lobbied and tried to ban in Caesar’s realm. So if you want to think something is sin, by all means don’t do it. Just stay out of my life and my rights (and my Ketel One martini, dry with two olives).
No, my problem with the phrase is that it has mostly been a lie, a claim that was mocked by the actions of those making it. Never did I see much love directed toward the “sinner” and it seems that all the hate was directed not towards whatever sin was imagined that he engaged in, but rather toward the one who was imagined to be doing it.
Love the sinner? Fire him! Love the sinner? Take away her children! Love the sinner? Ban his marriage rights! Love the sinner? Bully her in the school hallways! Love the sinners? Don’t let them eat cake!
But Micah Murray, writing at Huffington Post, gives another reason why this trite phrase will no longer pass his lips. Murray still considers homosexual acts to be sinful, but he now sees that by focusing on the sin of gay people, you don’t see the people of gay people.
And despite all my theological disclaimers about how I’m just as much a sinner too, it’s not the same. We don’t use that phrase for everybody else. Only them. Only “the gays.” That’s the only place where we make “sinner” the all-encompassing identity.
Then we try to reach them, to evangelize them. We speak of “the gays” in words reminiscent of the “savages” from those old missionary stories — foreign and different and far away, the ultimate conquest for the church to tame and colonize and save.
Maybe we accept them in our midst. But even then, it’s sinners in our midst — branded with a rainbow-colored scarlet letter. They aren’t truly part of us.
Even that word “them” makes me cringe as I speak it, as if my brothers and sisters are somehow other, different from me.
It’s a special sort of condescending love we’ve reserved for the gay community. We’ll agree to love them, accept them, welcome them — but we reserve the right to see them as different. We reserve the right to say “them” instead of “us.” We embrace them with arms full of disclaimers about how all the sinners are welcome here. And yet, they’re the only ones we constantly remind of their status as sinners, welcome sinners.
And sadly, that is quite true.
I still find Micah’s position to be less than ideal. For all his efforts, it’s clear that he is still clinging to gay=sin. But I applaud his honesty and his desire to set aside the weights that hold him in a place of condemnation.
He is in an in-between place. But if more of conservative Christendom were in that place, my life would be easier.
Breaking ground in the heart of our opposition
August 13th, 2013
Our community has gradually gained support in Mainstream Christianity, to the point where some more liberal denominations and pastors are taking up the mantle of advocacy in areas where there are not strong gay political action groups. And the support of churches has proven to be invaluable in such situations as the Minnesota marriage battle.
But we have, until recently, seen a sharp divide between liberal churches or the nominally Christian on one side, and the hard-core, pew-warming, born-again, biblical literalists on the other. But a study out of Baylor University has identified a new group which they call Evangelical Ambivalents who are starting to stake out a central position. (phys.org)
For their study—”How the Messy Middle Finds a Voice: Evangelicals and Structured Ambivalence towards Gays and Lesbians”—researchers analyzed national data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey, a random sample of 1,714 individuals across the country. Researchers found that 24 percent of evangelicals fit into the ambivalent category, supporting gay civil unions even though they are morally opposed to homosexuality. The survey, designed by Baylor University scholars and conducted by The Gallup Organization, included more than 300 items dealing with religion and the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the American public.
And these are not Easter Sunday Christians or liberals displaced in an evangelical church. They are part of the conservative evangelical fold who are finding a way to balance both their church and their social conscience.
Other research findings about Ambivalent Evangelicals:
They are similar in biblical literalism and religious practice to those who oppose civil unions, while the 35 percent who are Culture Progressives—with positive attitudes toward homosexuality—are less involved in such activities as church attendance, although they pray privately.
Ambivalents are not as politically conservative as Gay Rights Opponents, but they are more politically conservative than Cultural Progressives.
They are more likely to be married, have lower levels of education, be biblical literalists, and attend church frequently than Cultural Progressives.
They are more likely to believe that sexuality is innate than Gay Rights Opponents, but less likely than Cultural Progressives to do so.
They are more likely to identify themselves as “born-again” than Cultural Progressives are.
If, as this study suggests, one quarter of evangelical parishioners are finding themselves in support of gay rights, the end to our biggest struggle is not far off.
UPDATE: The Atlantic takes on a similar theme, discussing the change in the way that religion in American interacts with gay people.
Lord Jenkin’s theology
June 6th, 2013
Sometimes you read something that simply must be shared.
Patrick Jenkin is a rather accomplished man from a distinguished family. He served in several positions in the Thatcher Cabinet and has been Baron Jenkin of Roding since 1987.
In the debate in the House of Lords over marriage equality, Lord Jenkin said the following: (PinkNews)
Finally, I return to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. I hope that he will not feel it is unfair if I call him my “old friend”, as indeed he is. I have come to the firm conclusion that there is nothing to fear in gay marriage and that, indeed, it will be a positive good not just for same-gender unions but for the institution of marriage generally. The effect will be to put right at the centre of marriage the concept of a stable, loving relationship. As a practising Christian, perhaps I may make the point to the Bishops’ Benches, including to the most reverend Primate, that there is every reason why, in time, the Anglican Church should come to accept that, although I recognise that it may take some time. The character of love which marriage reflects—that it is faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional—is the same character that most Christians see in the love of God. Marriage is therefore holy, not because it is ordained by God, but because it reflects that most important central truth of our religion: the love of God for all of us.
This is a very compelling argument for those who value their faith as something more than a mask for their prejudices.
Identifying your (dwindling) opposition
January 4th, 2013
On NomBlog, the National Organization for Marriage describes a letter issued in opposition to equality as “An extraordinary show of support for true marriage by a wide spectrum of faith communities in Illinois”. But that letter illustrates just how narrow that spectrum has become.
Our denominational opposition in Illinois consists of:
* Catholic Conference of Illinois
* Anglican Church in North America
* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
* The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
* The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
That may seem like a “wide spectrum” at first glance, and quite diverse, but when you look closer it reveals how few denominations have signed on to oppose civil marriage in the state. Our opponents are the Catholic hierarchy (lay Catholics support equality), Mormons, Muslims, and two Protestant denominations: the churches that left the Episcopal Church when she became pro-gay, and the smaller of the two major Lutheran churches (the other blesses same-sex unions).
It can no longer be said that the battle over civil marriage is between the gay community and people of faith. Far too many in the religious community have either disengaged or defected to our side.
Have Evangelicals stepped out of the marriage battle?
January 2nd, 2013
Google news for “Catholic” and “gay marriage” in just the past week you will have hundreds of unique articles. Google “Southern Baptist” and “gay marriage” over the same period and you will get:
1 article about the Metropolitan Community Church (132 hits)
3 articles recapping top stories from 2012
1 article about gay athletes
1 article about abortion
In response to legislation which will likely result in two more equality states this month, the Southern Baptists have no comment. Sure, Rhode Island and Illinois are not SBC strongholds, but still… nothing?
And this is not a fluke.
Over the last year or so I’ve noticed that while the debate over marriage equality has intensified and while the news surrounding marriage equality has been non-stop, one voice has been increasingly silent. The conservative evangelical Christian community has been nearly mum on the subject. Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Pentecostals, conservative Methodists and Presbyterians, and the dozens of Reformed, Brethren, Campbellites, and other denominations barely muttered a peep. Even in battle states, evangelicals have – at most – stood in the background while Catholic Bishops have become the voice and face of anti-gay efforts.
This is not to suggest that they have changed their theology, though I do think it has softened. Nor does it suggest that Alabama is going to willingly reverse their Constitutional ban. But it is a fascinating phenomenon which gives me a great deal of hope for change in the near future.
It could be that we are beginning to convince evangelical lay people that allowing gay people to marry at the courthouse or at some other church does not threaten their right to believe and live as they choose. This would explain the shift in support. Evangelicals, being grass-roots driven, are more susceptible to changes in the perceptions and beliefs of their congregants while Catholics, being hierarchal, can hold to positions that are shared by few in the pews but appeal to a handful of old men in Rome.
It’s not a gay thing
October 8th, 2012
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Every day en route to work, I’m greeted by a billboard telling me “Obama supports gay marriage.” It then asks if I do, while recommending that I “vote Republican.”
Really? That’s supposed to be my voting criterion? Why are decisions like choosing presidents or chicken sandwiches now a gay thing?
Go read the rest of it. And then read the comments.
Marriage, just like christening
October 2nd, 2012
Another institution that is religious in nature that also has had a civil component is christening. Though this is less evident and a less common practice, christening or baptismal documents can in many instances be presented as evidence of citizenship. Take, for example, the Florida requirements for obtaining a driver’s license. Each citizen must produce a primary document (birth certificate, naturalization papers, etc.) and a secondary document, one of which can be “Baptism certificate, which shows date of birth and the place of baptism.”
Baptismal documents are no longer a frequent proof of birth. The social security system, use of hospitals for birth, and the adoption of state birth certificates has pretty much diminished the need. But as genealogists well know, for a significant time in this country they were the primary evidence of birth and even after the incorporation of birth records, frequently fires, lost records, racial discrimination, reconfigured county lines and inconsistent record keeping would result in church records being far more thorough and reliable than municipal records. For much of our nation’s history it was these religious documents that provided evidence of citizenship. And though it is rare, some very elderly people still rely on these records as proof of birth.
Which is an interesting parallel.
Because, just like marriage, different faiths had strongly divergent baptismal beliefs and practices. Some, like Catholics and Lutherans, practice water baptism (generally a sprinkling or dripping of water) while other protestants strenuously object to baptism before the age of consent and instead will bless or dedicate a child. But in either case, the parent will receive a document recognizing the event and listing the relevant details.
Which raises the point, what if some religious advocates sought an amendment in Florida declaring that baptismal documents would be “defined” by the state to include only for such ceremonies as conformed with Catholic doctrine? And suppose their campaign was sold to the public solely in terms of “what God designed”.
I think that there is little question that a number of denominations would immediately sue to have such an initiative stricken from the ballot as being a violation of the separation of church and state. And they would win, and rightly so.
Which makes me wonder, why doesn’t the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or the Episcopal Church or Reformed Judaism sue to have Minnesota’s discriminatory amendment stricken from the ballot? It discriminates along doctrinal lines, declaring that such marriages as are sanctioned by one church are recognized by the state while the theological practice of another church is declared to be void. And the campaign is presented purely along theological lines; their ads defend anti-gay marriage law because “it was made by God” which declares in no uncertain terms that the state of Minnesota will vote whether the beliefs about what “God made” will include the teachings of Lutherans and other liberal Christians and Jews or be excluded to just what Catholics, Mormons and other conservatives believe.
It is time for those churches who believe that the call for justice and mercy as an integral doctrine of faith compels them to defend the marriage rights of gay citizens put their faith in action. They are victims of these amendments, just as we are. They need to stand up and be strong and demand that the anti-mainline-Christianity bigotry and anti-Jewish bigotry that is all over the face of these laws cease and hold no legal standing.
Otherwise it seems to me that their beliefs about baptismal documents are more important to them than their belief in equality.
Publisher pulls David Barton’s book of lies about Jefferson
August 9th, 2012
Former Texas Republican Party Co-Chair and evangelical “historian” David Barton is a darling of conservative Christians who believe that America is a Christian Nation and that God hand-selected very devout men to bring about it’s creation and that whole “separation of church and state” thing is just a fiction created to exclude Christians from their rightful role in government. He has for several years appeared on Christian television with stories that confirm their beliefs.
Earlier this year he set out to “debunk” the horrible lies that liberals and atheists were saying about revered Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. In his book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, Barton bets his reputation on articulating just how and why history backs up his claim that Jefferson was a devout Christian (of Barton’s flavor) who opposed slavery, and that the Founding Fathers really set out to enshrine religious principles in the Constitution rather than protect the citizenry from religious coercion.
He just rolled snake eyes.
Evangelical Christian professor and blogger Warren Throckmorton was long been on a campaign of debunking Barton’s absurd assertions. In May, he and fellow Grove City College professor Michael Coulter authored Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President, in which they use documents (often more complete examples of Barton’s snippets) to disprove his revisionist history.
This encouraged others to take a closer look at Barton’s historical claims. For example, Greg Forster writing for First Things, a project of The Institute on Religion and Public Life, found his claims about John Locke to be, well, let him say it:
I should note for the record that I’m not only a conservative (both theologically, as an evangelical, and politically, as a Republican) but one with a track record of defending Locke against claims that he was a deist or that his philosophy is antithetical to Christianity. As providence would have it, just over a week ago I published an article on how Locke’s Reasonableness helped me come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Yet Barton’s attempt to fit Locke into his larger historical narrative forces him into numerous distortions. Moreover, the article contains a number of incidental facutal errors that don’t even advance his thesis, indicating that his inability to write reliable history stretches beyond ideological cheerleading and into outright incompetence.
Criticism mounted – much of it from fellow conservative Christians who were offended by the blatancy of the dishonesty. But the final straw was when a coalition of Cincinnati area pastors – including several African-American pastors – threatened to boycott the Christian book publisher that printed Barton’s book.
Bishop Dwight Wilkins, president of The Amos Project, said, “We have privately approached Thomas Nelson about our concerns, with no resolution.” The pastors/church leaders pointed to four major concerns the group has with The Jefferson Lies:
1. It glosses over Thomas Jefferson’s unorthodox and heretical beliefs about Jesus Christ;
2. It minimizes and justifies Thomas Jefferson’s racism;
3. It excuses Thomas Jefferson’s practice of enslaving African-Americans.
4. The Jefferson Lies is riddled with factual distortions and falsehoods.
Rev. Damon Lynch said, “David Barton falsely claims that Thomas Jefferson was unable to free his slaves.” In fact, Jefferson was allowed to free his slave under Virginia law, but failed to do it. The Jefferson Lies glosses over Jefferson’s real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson’s racist views.
So today David Barton’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, has announced that they will cease publication and distribution of The Jefferson Lies. Because, ironically, it is lies: (World)
Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson’s director of corporate communications, told me the publishing house “was contacted by a number of people expressing concerns about [The Jefferson Lies].” The company began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”
Barton stands by his story, asserts that other publishers are ready to take up the book, claims Throckmorton is nuts, and blusters about a room full of PhD’s who endorse him but insist on remaining anonymous. But he has taken a serious blow. In the field of history, your credibility is your meal ticket. Once it has been proven that you’re a liar, you no longer have much to contribute.
A god not worthy to be praised
May 30th, 2012
Throughout the Jewish Scriptures and into the Christian testament there is a theme: worship of G-d is conditional. Their god was not worshiped simply because he was powerful and demanded it, but because he deserved to be worshiped.
In the Exodus story (the Hebrew people flee slavery conditions in Egypt by a miraculous parting of the Red Sea which closes on the Pharoah’s army and drowns their pursuers), Moses praises God for delivering them:
I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
In the 145th Psalm, attributed to David, it is God’s wonders and goodness that cause adoration
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
And closing out the black leather bound book, in the apocryphal Revelation, it is the act of creation that merits praise
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.
While one might question whether the creation of all things is truly deserving of applause (one of the many problems which I have with apocrypha, especially the vision of John of Patmos), still there is present the notion that God is deserving of praise due to His actions or choices or attributes.
But I’m guessing the notion of God deserving praise totally bypassed Curtis Knapp, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kansas. Knapp is more of a “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” kinda guy. And Knapp’s god said that gay people should be executed:
Knapp went on to read from Leviticus 20: “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.”
“They should be put to death,” Knapp declared. “‘Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them, no?’ — I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.”
“You say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe you, you’re horrible. You’re a backwards neanderthal of a person.’ Is that what you’re calling scripture? Is God a neanderthal, backwards in his morality? Is it His word or not? If it’s His word, he commanded it. It’s His idea, not mine. And I’m not ashamed of it.”
“He said put them to death,” he continued. “Shall the church drag them in? No, I’m not say that. The church has not been given the power of the sort; the government has. But the government ought to [kill them]. You got a better idea? A better idea than God?”
Well, yes. Now that you ask, I do indeed have a better idea than the one proposed by Knapp’s god. Instead of executing people because they are attracted to the same sex, why don’t we become mature enough to question whether God is great, worthy to be praised, holy, or any other trite phrase that Knapp could babble?
Ultimately it comes down to this:
* Either our understanding of sexuality, morality, decency, a functional society, and the way to treat people is severely flawed,
* or Knapp’s theology is severely flawed,
* or that there is a horrific monster named God who delights in torment and is most definitely not worthy of praise.
Regardless of one’s particular beliefs about homosexuality, I think most readers here would agree that Knapp’s theology is not one that reflects the will of God. Some see the Levitical prohibitions as needing consideration of context and culture and do not read Scripture as literal. Others might find that grace abounds and that Christ’s declaration that all Law is subject to the command to treat one’s neighbor the way one wants to be treated would reverse any command to execute gay people. And, of course, others will see Knapp’s theology flawed because it includes the presumption that deities exist.
But there are many many people out there who, as Paul put it, “think like a child” when it comes to Scripture. And if it’s written right there in 21st Century English, then it must be the divine word of God. “Is it His word or not?”
Oddly enough, people like Knapp are not really the problem. They are a small minority and if responded to intelligently, they have little influence. The problem is Christians who do not respond to Knapp and leave his words the only words in the vacuum.
Surely the vast majority of American Christians do not think that the government should execute gays. But if they don’t say so – outside their pulpit and where people can hear them – then this becomes the defacto position of the faith.
All the nice neighborliness in the world, all of the loaning of lawn mowers, all of the “you’re such a nice couple” will not rebut what Knapp says. Unless Christians tell us that they absolutely do NOT agree with Knapp (and loan the lawn mower, of course), then we have no reason to believe otherwise. Yes, actions speak louder than words; but the words have to be said as well.
And when some very lovely Presbyterian invites the lesbian couple next door to join them for Christmas Eve service, they really have no one else to blame if the response is, “Bya-ha-ha-ha! You’ve got to be kidding! No way do I want anything to do with a religion that wants to execute me!”
The complicity of silence
May 22nd, 2012
It isn’t reasonable to hold one pastor responsible for what another one preaches. There is a great deal of diversity of thought and theology within Christendom and there is no presumption that what is said from the pulpit at First Baptist Church in any way mirrors the beliefs of All Saints Episcopal Church. We don’t hold one church accountable.
But sometimes something so outlandish is said in the name of faith that it requires a denunciation. A rejection. A refutation.
And the words of North Carolina pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church calling for placing gays and lesbians behind electric fences is beyond the pale. This is not a casual suggestion, this is not a theological position, this is not a difference of perspective, this is not an idea with which we are unfamiliar and about which reasonable people could differ. This is advocacy for evil.
So now we will see whether The Church responds.
Certainly there will be those who are asked and who will, naturally, say that they do not support such a notion. But will they be willing to call such a sermon evil or ungodly? Will they be willing to publicly refute Worley and chastise him? Are they brave enough to declare that such a proposition is anti-Christ and that it reflects a heart that is not right with God? Will whatever Baptist organization with which he is affiliated pull his license?
These are not just reasonable responses, they are required responses. When a sermon calls for an act that is of such a level of evil, godly persons cannot stand by and claim that they have no responsibility.
To say nothing is to condone Worley’s position. So be silent is to be complicit.
Church, take notice. It is your response by which today’s youth will judge you. If you say nothing, those who are unchurched will assume that Worley speaks for you.
It is a reasonable assumption.