The Temple

Proposition 8 & The Church

I do not intend this post to be an endorsement for or against Proposition 8 rather to raise some issues as to how the church involves itself in issues like the one surrounding Proposition 8.

The Proposition

Proposition 8 is an initiative on the 2008 California General Election Ballot.  If passed it would force an amendment to the California Constitution to include the statement “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

“Prop. 8 is About Preserving Marriage; It’s Not an Attack on the Gay Lifestyle. Proposition 8 doesn’t take away any rights or benefits from gays or lesbians in domestic partnerships.  Under California law, “domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections and benefits” as married spouses. (Family Code §297.5.) There are no exceptions. Proposition 8 will not change this.” (This is from “Protect Marriage – Yes on 8” Campaign)

The Position

There is a great deal of heat surrounding the proposition and the Constitutional amendment.  I just watched a half hour video mailed to the church free of charge from AFA (You can watch the video at American Family Association) calling on churches to inform their congregations to register and to vote for Proposition 8.  The video was full of clips from homosexual “marriages” performed in courthouses soon after the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22 (passed in 2000 by California voters) was unconstitutional and opened the door for gay marriage in California.  It also made it clear that it was the duty of every pastor to get the word out to their congregations to register to vote and to vote yes on Proposition 8.

The Problem

The problems raised by the amendment and the PR campaign are numerous and regardless of your position, conversation on the process is a must. Political rhetoric has its own rules and agendas. When the church gets pulled into the “silly season” process, we need to behave in a way that reflects our high calling, and avoid falling into the utilitarian methodology of “winning” elections at the cost of integrity and truth.

  • The video uses imagery that is inflammatory.  I counted at least 6 images of gay “marriages” where the kiss was the image used to highlight the message. I see how strategically this was the appealing video bite necessary. Appealing to emotion is effective, but not typically our best effort. This is clearly done to incite people to vote against this “abomination.” Again, language that is inflammatory and divisive is not to characterize our appeal as the church. Religious posturing for the camera is not holy. It only communicates the message: We are better than gays.
  • The video used the Civil Rights Movement as a foundation for exhorting pastors involvement in the movement, apparently not seeing the inherent contradiction in that analogy. We are not the oppressed minority in this battle. We are the majority, we have history and strength of numbers on our side and no one is being restricted in their rights to marry, on our “side.” Playing the victim in this argument is absurd.
  • The whole movement is based on the premise that “marriage” is at risk in this election. This too is false. Marriage is not at risk. Marriage is foundational to human existence, and this truth is self evident. Opposition to “marriage” is fringe and peripheral activity. Sometimes those voices may scream, but they are never taken seriously. The sky is falling strategy is beneath the church.
  • At issue is not marriage, its viability or sanctity, rather this is now a battle between the religious and the secular communities. Much of the power of the Homosexual agenda is fueled by vociferous religious opposition to it.  Is it possible that we have made more of this than we should have? Sometimes, the nonsensical should simply be ignored, which in effect becomes the strongest argument.

My Response

I don’t believe that homosexuality is a viable, satisfying lifestyle.

But I don’t need the Bible to tell me that.  Most people (believers and unbelievers alike) would affirm the statement that “homosexuality is not a viable or satisfying lifestyle.”  Most homosexuals would reluctantly affirm that statement.  It is simple observation and deduction that tells us that homosexuality is aberrant, minority behavior.  It cannot sustain humanity.  Heterosexuality is a superior relationship from a purely naturalistic perspective, hence, gay people desire to adopt children or lesbians will allow for a sexual encounter or artificial insemination to have children.  It doesn’t take special revelation to figure that out.

If you have listened to any of the wording in some of these gay marriage ceremonies, it is rather comical.  I pronounce you husband and wife has turned into husband and husband which has turned into I pronounce you spouse and spouse.  This distortion of language is further elucidation on the confusion of definition inherent in “gay marriage.”

But stop a moment and think about it.  The desire that gays have to be married is a tacit concession to the superiority of heterosexuality.  Marriage is superior to non-marriage; marriage is de facto a heterosexual union; therefore, my desire to be married is an admission of the deficiency of being gay! Our “enemies” are desirous of something that we have! There is no better foundation for speaking truth to people.

It is obvious that marriage is in fact a relationship between a man and a woman.  Homosexual relationships can be loving, monogamous (?), caring, loyal, encouraging etc. but they are not marriages.  Even if our culture ultimately concedes and redefines “marriage” in America, the church can still define marriage appropriately.  And we may need to pay a price for that definition, oh well.  It won’t be the first time we will have to say: It is better to obey God than man.

The Church’s Illicit Marriage to Politics

But since we have drawn the church into the argument, it no longer is simple. The clear issues of nature are now being ignored and the issue becomes about gay rights, and their right to not be “oppressed” by the church. Rights that they appropriately and already have under the constitution. In taking this political stance we have elevated the issue inappropriately, and we have muddied the true message of the church.

We don’t live in a Christian nation.  We live in a pluralistic society.  There are different people in America with different world views.  And we have died fighting for that freedom, the freedom that people can disagree with us, to their eternal doom. The church and the state are distinct institutions, and God has purpose for both of them. My advice to the church is to keep those distinctions clear so that we fulfill our call and stewardship to God. Our stewardship is the gospel. The State’s stewardship is the sword. We need to get our hands off the sword.

So the question becomes: how does the church change culture?  How does the church deal with a changing culture?  The church has felt less effective in impacting culture, and we have turned to the political process for assistance.  We have attempted to change those in bondage by exerting our will as the moral majority.  It didn’t and doesn’t work. It won’t work here.  We won’t be more moral, more Christian, or closer to a better society on November 5 with a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage.  We will feel like we have won, but in reality we will have gained nothing.  The church doesn’t change culture by winning elections. Taking a “strong stand” for marriage in the political arena will not strengthen marriage in the church, or make it more sacred.

Unbelievers are in bondage to sin, and are unable to deliver themselves from this bondage.  The only hope for sinners in bondage to sin is the freedom that comes from liberating presence of the Spirit making effective and efficient the work of the cross and resurrection, causing a new creation.  I would place homosexuality in the broader category of bondage to sin.  Sinful thinking, sinful behavior, sinful lifestyles are only changed by the Holy Spirit. That is the message of the church.

The Solution

Live the Gospel. There is no better argument for the viability and sanctity of marriage than good and Godly marriages

Read the recent article regarding this issue in the San Jose Mercury News.

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September 23, 2008 - Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Culture - Values, Ethics, Politics, Politics and Religion, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

55 Comments »

  1. Great article. I do not believe for one minute that Gay marriage is a threat to us. I believe that most people in the gay community despise the Church because of the hostility the sence. Am I in favour of gay marriage, NO but I do firmly believe that with or without gay marriage the United States is no longer a Christian nation. PS I suspect an arguement can be made that it never was a Christian nation. What we need to be concerned about is that for the most part people aren’t getting married anymore they are simply living together.

    As a Pastor I am hardly every asked to do a marriage anymore unless they have already been living together for a while.

    Your Servant,

    Dale

    Comment by Dale | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks Dale,
    Isn’t it amazing that we have just now started talking about the law regarding marriage when the gays want to join in when heterosexuals have been desecrating marriage by the boatload in simply living together. The license gives the authority to live together for the purpose of family creation. This problem is more widespread and more destructive to family and marriage than the few gays who want to marry.
    Gay marriage is not really about marriage, it is about cultural acceptance.

    Comment by Steve | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  3. A few years ago, I purchased a book entitled “The Acts and Laws of His Majesty’s Colony of New Hampshire — 1759.” The first 14 pages, clearly, are embroideries on the ten commandments, with some moral crimes inviting capital punishment. The law’s acknowledgement of the age of Christ–which has informed jurisprudence for the last 2000 years, can almost be seen–in this light, as a fulfillment of the prophecy, “The Government Shall Be Upon His Shoulder.”

    We don’t want to throw away that heritage. Failing to vigorously support this proposition would be one more (of many) clear signs that the church has surrendered to apathy and irrelevancy. Personally, I wouldn’t want to worship next to someone who couldn’t bring himself both to vote for this proposition and admonish his Christian brothers to vote for it.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  4. Dale,

    A problem in your logic here:

    “..The desire that gays have to be married is a tacit concession to the superiority of heterosexuality. Marriage is superior to non-marriage; marriage is de facto a heterosexual union; therefore, my desire to be married is an admission of the deficiency of being gay! Our “enemies” are desirous of something that we have! ..”

    This would be something like Aztec high priests saying to their Christian missionaries and conquerors: “we like the story of the crucifixion. We want to call all of our human sacrifices ‘atoning sacrifices.’

    Imitating Christianity, by making an abomination of it, is not flattery. It is gross sin. And you should teach your congregation accordingly.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  5. Hey Jim,
    Thanks for reading and commenting, I think.
    First, the post was not intended to be a endorsement one way or another – to read it that way is to misunderstand my intention in writing the post, leading to your misunderstanding of the post. I think it is important to talk about how the church most effectively accomplishes her mission and brings all of creation into conformity with God’s creative purpose, to fill the earth with his glory. I think you could agree with that.
    I probably would have not reacted the way I did to your initial comment had you left out the last line, or written it differently. Do you agree with everyone in your church without exception? Is that a requirement for membership in your church? Do you somehow read in this post an affirmation of homosexuality? That is hard to believe as you are obviously articulate. No one is endorsing the homosexual lifestyle. So how about losing some of the hostility and condescension.
    The post was not intended to endorse the proposition one way or the other. Is that the problem? I didn’t want to have a discussion on the merits so much of the proposition as I did on the way we go about engaging as the church in the political process and using the political arena as a way of exerting power. I was concerned as to how we frame an argument, whether the arguments we use are accurate for one, and whether or not our arguments are being heard or if we are just massaging our own collective conscience in our preaching to the choir.
    You missed the point of my “logic”. I was not using it to say gay marriage was noble. I was using it to point out that gays are admitting in desiring to be married that their lifestyle and disposition are deficient. Their application as you pointed out is wrong – gay marriage is a contradiction. How can you miss that point?
    This is a blog post, not a sermon, nor is it a reflection of the teaching ministry of the church. A blog place to discuss ideas, challenge how we do things, how we think. Jumping from a blog post to a judgment about how a congregation is taught is a bit naive and again, quite condescending. So be careful of the sin of presumption.
    Anyone up for a friendly discussion?

    Comment by Steve | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  6. Steve,

    It’s the very neutrality that bothers me, and it would have bothered your Christian forebears. This is not an argument over padded pews, guitars in church, holy barking, or end times theology. It’s an argument over whether the church, HIS church, will have any influence over the culture and the society you are building for your children–and your flock’s children. I’m not quite sure you understood the reference to the church’s influence over law in the past, but the simple reality is that Christians, real Christians, insist on occupying the vineyard and conforming it to His vision for the order of life. We owe our laws against murder, theft, burglary, and, formerly against adultery, fornication, and sodomy to the influence of the church. The men of God, in a former age, didn’t lament the church’s influence over law and policy. They celebrated it!

    Christ is either the King–or you have turned him into some sort of minor avatar to focus your Sunday worship service.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  7. P.S. With respect to the “membership requirement” issue, I don’t believe everyone has to agree on every issue, but I will tell you a story that illustrates my point. A Baptist preacher once asked me to join his congregation. I said, “Pastor, you won’t let me into communion because I have a glass of wine with dinner; but you extend communion to people who vote for Barbara Boxer, who is a booster for the baby-killing of abortion-on-demand. None of Christ’s Cana wine but Molech-style abortion is your communion standard? No thanks.”

    The truth is that a “Christian” who votes for candidates who support abortion, who lobby for the normalization of the homosexual lifestyle, who throttle the free expression of religion–aren’t really showing any signs of regeneration, and I would use the Matthew 18 medicine on them. (But then that’s hopelessly out of date, isn’t it?)

    We have mutual friends in the Creightons by the way. I don’t dislike you. I just think you’re terribly, tragically off-track.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  8. “We owe our laws against murder, theft, burglary, and formerly against adultery, fornication, and sodomy to the influence of the church. The men of God, in a former age, didn’t lament the church’s influence over law and policy. They celebrated it!”

    Sir, I think, unfortunately, you have a miscued understanding of U.S. history and the development of its governing policy. While it is popular for the current Evangelical Christian mind to look backward toward specific communities of the past to argue for a ‘Christian’ foundation of the U.S. government (i.e. the Puritans, etc.), any conclusion that our law was formed on the basis of Christian ethics is not wholly accurate.

    Check your history and you will find that our foundational policies have been driven by the humanist philosophy of natural law (John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and others), not the transcendent truths of God that conservative theology has historically upheld. If this were not true, our society though still imperfect, would be much more profoundly Christian in its ethics and morals. Instead, we have law that allows for pluralism and a multiplicity of options in religious and ethical practice. It is without a doubt that this is sanctioned in our governing law. If you disagree, take a closer look at the reality of the culture that surrounds us. It is filled with all kinds of philosophical systems and worldviews. Many of them do in fact share the ethics of Christianity because these are mutually based in moral law.

    If there have been any laws that seem “Christian” it is because these are more rooted in an empirical form of observable nature. To any Neanderthal, it is evident that taking another life is improper because of the disturbance in the natural order. Hence, murder has been outlawed for centuries in many societies.

    What you are arguing for carried to its logical conclusion has been done before: it’s called theocracy and has failed at every attempt. The ultimate theocracy of the ancient Jewish nation did not succeed, nor did the early Colonial attempts at establishing a so called “City on a Hill” last long. Therefore, I hardly think that sanctioning this proposition based on a Christian premise (the sanctity of marriage), is going to get us any step closer to the literal Kingdom of God. And this seems to be the point of the blog post.

    Comment by DFLO | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  9. DFLO,

    I have a degree in history from Stanford. I have spent the last fifteen years studying primary documents in 18th century American history, and I can assure you that my conclusions don’t depend on the textbook orthodoxy that had American high school teachers in the 70s, for example, teaching the ridiculous notion that the founders were Deists. The laws I quoted here don’t “seem” Christian. They are Christian, with clear (and orderly) reliance on the ten commandments. The New Hampshire laws even include anti-blasphemy penalties. I have a justice of the Peace manual that even concluded that atheists could not testify in court, becuase they had nothing to “bind their conscience.” You’re going to have to look very hard, indeed, for any Immanuel Kant in any of the governing statutes affecting every day life in the colonies. In Virginia, the Biblical “two witness” standard actually reduced convictions, because lawyers insisted on the scriptural rule for evidence.

    I’m trying to be charitable, and truthful, when I insist that–try as you may–you simply can’t speak for the Neanderthals. It would be better to argue from some written accounts of pre-Christian man: the Druids, or the Arapahoes, or the Aztecs. Were the human sacrifices of the pre-Columbian, pre-Christian period uniformly recognized as “disturbances of the natural order” by the native high priests, when they cut the hearts out of their victims? THat’s just high-minded sounding malarkey on your part.

    I am not calling for a theocracy. I am calling for the same government that has been informed, and enlightened, by Christian principles since the Pilgrims first put the words, “In the Name of God, Amen” to paper.

    Preaching the word of God, and teaching history at the same time, takes a lot of effort–and it makes it so very hard to be “seeker friendly.”

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  10. The issue of homosexuality has become so political that it is almost impossible to speak to the morality of the issue without becoming entangled in rhetorical he-said-she-said.

    Homosexuality is a sin, just like any other sin, and should be treated as such. The Church’s strategy for evangelization of homosexuals should be the same as those we ought to employ for sins such as lawlessness, rebellion, murder, immorality, liars, and perjurers; in other words, “The goal of our instruction,” should be “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

    Notice that some of the sins on previous list are moral issues punishable by state (murder, perjury, etc) but others are simply moral (immorality and telling lies)–but the Christian’s response is the same regardless. We simply do not care about State sanctioned distinctions, because we have one law (Christ’s) which calls us to love.

    Christians should not attempt to legislate morality simply because it is a bad conversion strategy. Politics are wonderfully energizing, exciting, and inspiring (as long as you are firmly planted inside one party), but those on the other side of the issue are separated purposely by divisive language and political hyperbole.

    The loser of a political debate, campaign, etc. is hardly likely to suddenly see the world through the other lens; they will merely be scarred and bitter about the overstatements and unnecessary insults that fly in the heat of the moment.

    Comment by Tim Bagdanov | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  11. Tim,

    In love, now: you are wrong. Romans 13 tells us that the ruler is called, by God, to restrain evil. Murder is an immoral act. It is condemned by the State. But it was Christ’s law that taught primitive cultures like the Druids and the Aztecs to abandon human sacrifice.

    Unless you want to turn over an animist, pagan, chaotic mess, start abandoning this pietistic, demonic version of Christ you are advocating. CHRIST IS THE KING. Start acting like one of his soldiers.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  12. Tim. P.S. “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.”

    Ray Comfort used to lament the sort of converts he was given. They had no gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice, because they had no idea how gross their sins really were.

    Christians who are considering Barack Obama: You are in Sin. You cannot follow Christ and vote for a man who advocates the killing of babies in the womb.

    Those are harsh words. But so are “snakes” and “white-washed tombs.”

    Harsh words heal.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  13. Mr. Riley,

    If you claim to be a “soldier of Christ” you might want to watch your tone on this blog. Coming off as condescendent, arrogant fundamentalist is probably not the best way to put across that which you are obviously passionate about. You have clearly missed the point of the original post, and instead of addressing simply the philosophy and theology behind said post you are getting emotional and displaying clouded logic. If you truly want to have a LOGICAL political discussion, take a breather and try to be objective for a minute. If you claim to be a brother in Christ, you ought not attempt to slaughter your fellow brethren with false intellect.

    Harsh words heal.

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  14. Jim,
    You say that you are not calling for a theocracy, but in fact you are. You do not separate the actions and obligations of the church with the actions and obligations of the state. This, in my opinion, is a fundamental error on your part. This also was not the intention of the framers.
    The church’s role is not to enforce the law! 10 commandments or otherwise. The church’s role is to enable people to obey the law by means of transformation. So when someone appropriately applies a passage of Scripture to the function of the church with regard to sinners and you respond with a passage describing the function of the state with regard to sinners, you misunderstand and misapply the Scriptures.
    The church has a role: The gospel which is the power of God. The state has a role: to cause fear in encouraging good behavior. Those are separate roles.
    My point, up for discussion, when the church ventures out of gospel and into law, we miss our calling, and weaken our effectiveness. That has to do with the role of the church.
    Just as American law treats me differently when I function an individual citizen and when I function as a pastor (ie. an official representative of the church), so the church must maintain it’s purity of purpose even though individual Christians engage society and culture at different levels. So the presence of Christians in the public square is to be the presence of salt and light, and they should vote their conscience and express their opinion, and exert influence.
    You are so quick to jump to conclusions and wrongly characterize my position, church and person:
    First, I am fully orthodox in theology, and practice.
    I teach faithfully and accurately the inspired word of God.
    Our church is not “seeker sensitive”
    I have not endorsed Barack Obama.
    I do not condone abortion
    I do not condone homosexuality
    All of the above are things you have implied (left open the excuse that you were not explicit and therefore innocent of slander) and are off topic. Your agenda and anger fill your comments. I would not have taken this personally had you not made it personal by referencing common acquaintances in the context of “instructing” me and presuming to know anything about me based on what others have apparently told you.
    Certainly you are not claiming that puritan theology was the only influence present in the early American mind? You can’t be serious, as a “Stanford” grad, in claiming that the early American’s were so unilateral in their thinking and influence and expression. To deny the influence of philosophers like Locke and Montesquieu is not accurate, the early America’s were not necessarily a cohesive Eden. Thomas Jefferson is notorious for ripping pages out of his Bible which he found distasteful or unbelievable to form what is now known as Jefferson’s Bible.
    Certainly, the Bible and Christianity, Judeo-Christian principles formed a large pool of influence in our great nation, but it is not now and was not then a pure expression of the kingdom of God. They are not the last word on how the church and state should function, simply one voice in attempting to express a Biblical ecclesiology.
    This issue (prop. 8 ) points out a strategy used by the church and Christians and raises the need for a discussion about how best to influence, not whether we should influence. I am sorry you misunderstood.

    Comment by Steve | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  15. Call my intellect false; that doesn’t offend me. If you are honestly rebuking me, you have my congratulations, and praise, since the Church, by and large, does not engage in rebuke. The church has become a playground for those who agree to tickle each othes ears.

    I agree that I can come off as condescending, but, I am honestly curious: how do you tell someone that leaving a child to die in a soiled linen utility closet is not exactly Christian? (Some “Christian” brothers are actually going to vote for Barack Obama, who has defended an abortionist’s “right” to abandon live born children.) How do you tell a pastor that taking a “neutral” stand on a movement to protect the sanctity of marriage is an example of the lukewarm attitude Christ has no use for?

    Rebuke is never easy to take. Paul began one of his eplistles, “Oh Stupid Galatians!” Jesus once told Peter “Satan, get thee behind me.”

    You don’t like my manner. Fine. I’ll try to be more polite for you, but please do tell me:

    Do you think Jesus would be pleased by two sodomites getting married in your church? It’s an honest question.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  16. Steve,

    If the state, as a result of the church’s utter silence on matters of law, allowed a Muslim community to kill one of its own members for converting to Christianity, would that be a victory for Jesus or not?

    You have failed to respond to my central thesis: the scriptures (“all of which are profitable”) have DIRECTLY affected, and sometimes even AUTHORED, law throughout western civilization. The church doesn’t write law, but it has the obligation to chide leaders, and law-makers, when the law fails to reflect God’s will. That is why, precisely, we have laws agains murder and theft.

    You are failing to use your voice against sodomite marriage now. When Muslims clamor for the right to kill Christians, or silence them, will you be silent then?

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  17. Steve,

    It is no secret that I don’t always agree with you on everything. However, on this subject I tend towards agreement. The Church’s influence on society needs to be a philosophical one, generated from deep within the consciences of its congregants and branching outwards. It is not the goal or purpose of the church to call upon the State to force philosophies from the outside in. That approach simply does not work. And if it were the job of the State to keep marriage sanctified, why is it not against the law to divorce? (A discussion DFLO and I have had recently.)

    I’m new to the blog but won’t be a stranger. I’m far too opinionated to stay away.

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  18. We have not in the past, nor will we in the future marry homosexuals. We obey God rather than men. If the law changes and the consequences arise, I guess I will be going to jail or paying fines or paying taxes. No one said gay marriage is a good thing…reread the post.

    Killing would never be a victory for Jesus, no one is proposing it. The church is not silent and does not have to be silent. There are many ways of communicating.

    Blogs are free, you have failed to respond to my central thesis: How does Church endorsement of Proposition 8 help the church proclaim the gospel and transform homosexuals from bondage to freedom, from disobedience to obedience?

    Comment by Steve | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  19. thanks Grace,
    I thought I had lost my mind…

    Comment by Steve | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  20. Steve,

    The simple reality is that you do your flock no good by composing nuanced distinctions about the Proposition 8 debate. You stated you have problems with the Proposition 8 proponents showing the sort of marriage kiss that would be repulsive to most Christians, and most heterosexuals. Why? Are they to surrender to the notion that homosexuality is “gay?” Are they to imply that what God calls an “abomination” is somehow just “different?” The church can only combat sin if it is willing to name it. Doctors can’t fight cancer by calling it freckles. Pastors can’t fight sin by pretending it isn’t there.

    You will find no defense of Jefferson’s errors here, nor did I ever claim that the founding American was a “cohesive Eden.” But researchers who spend time in the primary history know that there is a lot more Deuteronomy in early American life than there is Hume. I don’t blame you for not knowing that; it’s not your field. It is mine–and I can I only hope and pray that you learn something by “turning the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

    Christ wants us to tend the garden, and if a proposal for law comes along that reflects His will, it is our duty to support it–and not sit on the fence.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  21. Your question: How does Church endorsement of Proposition 8 help the church proclaim the gospel and transform homosexuals from bondage to freedom, from disobedience to obedience?

    Somewhere out there, there is a group of sad sinners who are earnestly waiting for the church to speak the truth. If the church acts like it doesn’t know the truth, the church will have no credibility with the people who need it the most. The church has to say, in clarion fashion, “it is a gross sin for two men to be married,” just like it has to say, in clarion fashion, “it is a gross sin to cheat in business, or cheat on your wife, or covet your neighbor’s success.” It can’t sit back and say, “oh, well, we live in a pluralistic society.” Pete Singer at Princeton is calling for the right of the state to kill children under two years old, if they are wanted. If that academic insanity gains credence, if it begins to have a support group, where will you hide? Oh well. We live in a pluralistic society?

    You have to be a man of God. You have to tell the ruler he should be a terror to those who would do evil. If it is evil for two men to “marry,” the state should be a terror to that evil.

    And that strength, the clarion, clear call of God’s will, wil convict and convert sinners.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  22. Mr. Riley,

    Let me first respond to your comments to me. First, there are plenty of righteous Christian brethren that will vote for Obama (sidenote – don’t think for a minute I am endorsing him here). Who are YOU to say that God has no use of those brethren? Is it not our Omnipotent Creator that allows all things? If that is the case, then any leader that is in office is ordained by our Holy God. If you have issue with that, then perhaps you ought to take things up with Him.

    Steve is not taking a neutral stance here. If you really knew him, as you claim to, then you would know that he is anything but neutral. There is a clear difference between opening the floor up for a logical conversation about a contraversial topic, and being neutral. A Stanford grad like you should know that.

    I appreciate your being polite for me. In regards to your question about God being ok with “Sodomites getting married in my church” I would like to ask you, who made those ‘Sodomites’? If you claim to be a Christian, then you would have to answer that God created all living creatures, and if that is the case, then you ought to be more loving towards them. Are you without sin? By the way, if Prop 8 is passed, that does not mean that homosexuals will automatically be married within all churches.

    I would now like to address your comment to Steve: “You are failing to use your voice against sodomite marriage now. When Muslims clamor for the right to kill Christians, or silence them, will you be silent then?” These are separate issues, complete unrelated, and you need to recognize that. First off, Steve is not failing to use his voice against sodomite marriage. I have no idea how you came to that false conclusion. Second, I think you ought to use analogies that pertain to the matters at hand instead of pulling from so many unrelated matters. You are lumping all arguments from the republican party together to make a point and are, in essence, making yourself look less knowledgeable than I am sure you are.

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  23. Grace,

    I’ll try to be polite. You cannot vote for a person who defends baby-killers and not be in deep, deep sin. If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand the Christian message. Christ tells us to turn from our sins and to rebuke each other when we sin. Christ, in His Sovereign will, will, indeed choose those who are to rule over us, but He works out His will through us. If we don’t speak the truth to our brothers who are voting for baby killers, the sin will be on our heads.

    Steve is saying “of course I won’t marry homosexuals in my church,” and I respect him for that, but he errs in assuming the church is supposed to remain silent on matters of public policy. What was Romans 13 if not a solemn warning to leaders that they had God-given responsibilities to be a “terror unto those who do evil?” Steve needs to give a warning to his followers that they need to vote for a law that would clearly have God’s blessing.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  24. Jim,

    I recognize the restraint you used in replying to me. Thank you. All politicians have sin, I am sure that isn’t news to you. No, I do not endorse or support abortion. But I can tell you that I have close friends who love Christ and live Holy lives who will vote for Obama for public policy that seemingly helps those less fortunate. Again, I repeat the fact that we are all in sin. We were born in sin. It is by Christ alone that we are sinless. That includes Obama, Mr. Riley (and believe me when I say that I am NOT endorsing him politically). If he has Christ, he is sinless. So are homosexuals, murderers and gossips. Sin is sin.

    The Church is not responsible for politics. We, as Christians, carrying Christian philosophies, convictions and belief networks are the ones to effect politics. Therein lies the difference, Mr. Riley. It is our responsibility as Christians to effect the outside world with that which has transformed us from within. It is not the Church’s duty to do so, but that of the congregants. It is a slippery slope to mix politics and church matters…one that could very easily lend itself to a theocracy. Don’t fool yourself by assuming otherwise.

    I am an educated Christian woman, who deeply desires to serve God in every aspect of my life, including my political vote. However, if I sat in Steve’s church and he preached that if I vote for Prop 8 I am damned, I would promptly walk out. The pulpit is NOT the place to voice political opinions, and that is what you are looking for him to do.

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  25. Grace,

    Try to understand me when I say, in love, you are arguing for the “let us sin that grace may abound” church. You simply cannot say that you can proceed in gross sin and then just pin flagrant, gross, baby-killing butchery to the cross. This was the same sort of Lutheran pietism that allowed the Nazis to do their worst work while Lutherans pretended it could all be washed away by God’s grace. That is a mockery of the Cross, and the same God who told us to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling” will NOT be pleased by Christians who call baby-killing Christians “holy.” There is no such thing.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  26. Jim – Since history is your field, then you must certainly be aware that many professional historians (and I am not referring to high school teachers), having also studied pertinent primary documents and the overall contextual framework of the period, do not share your conclusion regarding the overt Christian influence upon our foundational policies. Postulating accuracy in your argumentation based on your credential from Stanford does not necessitate your conclusions to be such. I’m sure there are historians employed at Stanford who do not agree that humanism was not profoundly influential among the framers and visibly explicit in their documents.

    Additionally, since your field is history, then I assume you have been trained in historiography. Not much has been altered in this area since the 70s save some postmodern sentiments. The study of history includes contextualization. For example, simply because an individual cites ‘God’ or ‘Christ,’ etc. in a primary document does not necessitate the same definition you would place upon the term. In other words, the bias you bring to your research in primary documents must be given attention in order for an accurate interpretation of the terminology to be obtained. ‘God’ has historically been a subjective term. It is employed by some of the framers in a different manner than you would use it. If your historiographical method is to subject primary documents to your presuppositions and rule out objectivity and contextualization, then you are no different from the humanists who believed the individual to be their own author of truth.

    Comment by DFLO | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  27. DFLO, I agree with your broad strokes, but the case at hand, the reality is really very simple. Adultery, Fornication, sodomy, and even burglarly were often met with the death penalty in the colonies. As I mentioned earlier, there even specific blasphemy statutes in many of the colonies. As you probably know, Congregationalism even remained the official religion of Massachusetts until the 1830s. Contemporary scholars disagree, both Christian and non-Christian, as to how much the Bible influenced the edifice of the federal government, but criminal statutes reflected a Christian cultural consensus and historians generally agree on that.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  28. Jim,

    I respond, in love, by stating that the Christian church is based upon Christ’s sacrifice. He came not for the well but for the sick. That means that, if He walked the earth today, He most likely would sit down with those sinners that you despise the most, and show great love and kindness. He would not throw stones at a woman who had an abortion out of desperation, but would love her. He would not shout hateful words at a homosexual couple who desires marriage, but would love them, and perhaps He would even dine with them over the likes of you and I.

    We make a great error when we take the focus off of those who we are called to love and minister to and instead use “broad strokes” to pass laws and propositions.

    I am not neutral, but thoughtful, in regards to all things political. I take a stand from a Christ centered standpoint, and that begins first and foremost with taking the log out of my own eye and showing great love.

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  29. Mr. Riley,
    I could be mistaken, but I am pretty sure references to “brood of vipers” and “white-washed tombs” were phrases employed by Jesus to rebuke pharisees, you know that group of teetotalin’ elect who confused the politics of religion with the spiritual needs of the community. Sounds familiar.

    Early American Pietistic movements aside, Christianity is at its best when it is apolitical. It is almost laughable to try and assert any claim to the contrary. You can keep referring to the Puritans as an attempted idealogical slam-dunk, and I could parade out the Constantines, and Crusades, and Inquisitions as examples of the failures of theocracies. We could also talk about how the greatest jumps in Christian evangelism have occurred when the church is the “counter-culture” and experiencing true persecution. But that is all rather beside the point.

    The question is what the role of the church is in society. I believe that the overwhelming message of Jesus is for the church to be an agent of transformation and redemption in the world. Once that point is established, it is left to us to figure out the best ways for us, as the church, to achieve those goals. The original blog post was an attempt to address that question.

    So then, I ask you. What is more effective in bringing homosexuals to Christ? Honest, humble, discourse with actual gays and lesbians, or Proposition 8? Respectful dialogue, or poling booths? How many evangelical bridges were burned by Hagee blaming Hurricane Katrina on Homosexuality? Harsh words do not heal…God’s truth does. And God’s truth can be expressed in different manners: in “harsh words” and pontificating gestures, or in the confident meekness that remembers that “all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.”

    Comment by Tim Bagdanov | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  30. Christ would love sinners, but he would tell them–TO SIN NO MORE. If Christ had to confront a defender of baby-killers like Obama I think more than just a few tables would be overturned. What was that He said about a millstone?

    Woe unto them that call good evil and evil good. IF the law is not written on your heart, you are no Christian. (Hebrews 10:16, Jeremiah 31:33)

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  31. I fail to understand how abortion and homosexuality have anything to do with each other.

    You using the word “baby-killer” over and over and over again is also unfounded and intellectually dishonest. It is a red herring. “No one wants to be a ‘baby killer,’ let’s just throw that in.” Give me a break.

    The discussion is about the role of the church. No one has endorsed Obama that I can see on this blog. And no one has even mentioned abortion, except in response to you. And if they had, I would expect someone of your education to calmly elucidate your arguments why they are wrong, not just yell “Baby Killer! Baby Killer!”

    Comment by Tim Bagdanov | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  32. “I fail to understand how abortion and homosexuality have anything to do with each other.”

    Simple. One word. Sin.

    I use the word “baby killer” because it is the most accurate description of what Obama repeatedly advocates–the right to kill children, both in AND out of the womb. Grace actually believs some Christians remain “holy” even as they support this butchery. Steve claims a calm neutrality about Proposition 8 and even claims the church is polluting itself by advocating that righteousness prevails in the public square.

    One question for you all: Is the law written on your heart–or not? If it is NOT written on your hearts, what does that say about your salvation?

    I know it’s hard to build a church and still tell the truth.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  33. Also, “Sin no more.” was a command that Jesus gave to people when they were departing him. He would say, “Go, and sin no more.”

    He did not say “Sin no more, Come here!”

    He first drew them to himself, then once won he would command them.

    That is how allegiances work. People have to be first aware that they have a king before they are willing to serve and obey them.

    Comment by Tim Bagdanov | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  34. Jim,

    You have yet to tell me that you do not possess sin. You might want to consider removing the log from your own eye here. Is the law written on YOUR heart? If it were, you would be slower to pass judgment. And yes, to directly address your question, the law IS written on my heart. Christ is my Savior, and though a sinner, He has made me blameless. And I do not recant my statement about the fact that Obama is without sin if Christ is his savior. Yes, he will be judged for his decisions, but so will you and I.

    In reference to your point about the difficulty of building a church and still telling the truth…it has been done. The church Steve pastors is proof of that.

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  35. Tim, is the law written on your heart–or not?

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  36. P.S. – Jim, you are taking the Word out of context and need to be careful. It would be better for you to have “a millstone tied around your neck” than to take things out of context.

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  37. What about the Iraq, that is political topic of concern (and therefore obviously a Christian one). Where does the butchery of war fit into this equation. Children die in Iraq. Are those children different because they probably would have grown into Muslims?

    We have grafted the Church onto the political beast that is the Republican Party, but what if that beasts turns a way we object to morally. Can we still vote for that party. NO! God no, because the other side are Baby Killers!

    But now I am a Christian supporting war. Seems sticky to me.

    Comment by Tim Bagdanov | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  38. Jim, answer this: Do you possess sin?

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  39. Which law are you referring to Jim?

    Comment by Tim Bagdanov | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  40. Grace, you are clearly arguing for “let us sin so that grace may abound.” The scripture is clear on that heresy: God Forbid! Let me re-state that: God forbids you to excuse sin by banking on grace. You cannot argue for the death of children and sing Amazing Grace at the same time. That is mocking God.

    OF COURSE I’m a sinner, by the way, but that doesn’t change the law. It merely confirms it. Those who argue for the magistrate to bless homosexual marriage because they have their own sin, would be something like arguing for the elimination of laws against theft, on the basis that our sins keeps us from restraining the sinful impulses of kleptomaniacs. This is bad logic, bad thinking and a bad witness.

    You are abusing the gift of salvation, and in the process wreaking havoc on earth.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  41. Tim, God’s law. Is it written on your heart? If you saw a doctor killing a child in the womb, are you grieved, or insensitive? If you saw homosexuals demanding the right to raise children, would you be grieved, or careless? If you saw the S.S. carting away Jews, would you be grieved or apathetic?

    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness…

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  42. Grace, your millstone response is–putting it charitably–bizarre. The millstone is not a metaphor about Biblical interpretation or taking things out of context. It’s a divine rumination about what God has in store for those who offend his little ones. I would think that would be particularly troubling for anyone who defends abortionists, or those who defend abortion apologists.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  43. Jim,

    My millstone response was purely sarcastic…I was taking it out of context the way in which you were doing so. Read the passage you are quoting from. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Passing a law is not CAUSING someone to sin. Prostitution is legal in Nevada…does that mean that the moment you cross states lines you must partake in sexual promiscuity? Certainly not.

    Do not tell me that I am abusing the gift of salvation, sir. I am living my life daily in a way that I hope will please He who has saved me. If I am wreaking havoc it is doing so by challenging the likes of you.

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  44. Jim, I am a Christian. I have been bought and redeemed with the blood of Christ. That should be good enough for you in order to have a simple and civil discussion about evangelical strategies and the role of the church, but I guess not. So here goes, I believe that I received the spirit by hearing with faith and not by works of the law. I also believe that each one should work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, which seems to be in short order on your side of the table. You very clearly believe that correct dogma is an absolutely necessary element in salvation. I do not. I believe that someone can believe and be saved, and still harbor false ideas and doctrines, as they move on towards maturity. For example, I believe you to be saved.

    Side note. Politically speaking the fact that Obama supports abortion is almost a non-issue. Bush is a two term president who opposes abortion and has not been able change the laws. Of the current Supreme court, 7-of-9 were appointed by Republican Presidents. They have not overturned Roe V. Wade.

    McCain will not be able to change the status quo concerning abortion over the next 4-8 years.

    So lob abortion grenades at Obama all you want. Loath him for it, go ahead. But to say that Christians who decide to vote for Obama are not Christians is irresponsible, false, and daft.

    War, corporate-greed-scandal-and-theft, are issues that Republicans aren’t likely to address anytime soon. If you are a Christian who believes these are the vital moral issues of our time, then you should probably cast an Obama ballot. Abortion, homosexuality, socialized medicine on your radar, the McCain ’08.

    As citizens we should all be politically conscious and active. We should vote according to our Christian ideals and values, as is only appropriate for a responsible private citizen. We are stuck with this system, and should do our best to reform it.

    But the Church! Really? The Church should stick its head into that grinder. I’m not so sure.

    Comment by Tim Bagdanov | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  45. Grace, the purpose of the Romans 13 ruler is to restrain evil, so your prostitution example is on point for reasons you might not have intended. Studies have indicated that violence, extortion, STDs, and child abuse all increase when strip joints and the sex industry move in, unfettered. Christians who float away into their safe ghettos and conclude “it doesn’t affect me,” don’t really show much care for their non-Christian neighbors. Christian missionaries, in former ages, established order first, and then spread the gospel. They arrived with military escorts and they outlawed polygamy, slavery, cannibalism, prostitution, etc., so that the resulting social order could receive the Gospel, without worrying if they were going to be eaten in the meantime.

    You wreak havoc when you cheapen Christ’s gift by saying, effectively, to baby-killers like Obama and his crowd, “heah, brothers and sisters, go right on sinning by killing children and absorbing racist theology. You can tack it all to the Cross. You are holy, holy, holy in your gross sin.”

    That isn’t exactly discipleship.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  46. Jim, how about responding to Tim?

    Comment by Grace | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  47. It may surprise you, Tim, but I am no fan of McCain or the Republican establishment either, though I like Sarah Palin. The simple reality is that no real Christian could vote for a supporter of abortion-on-demand like Barack Obama. I think God allowed the abortion issue to surface, clearly, to identify those who are more wedded to sin than to God. If someone can’t defend a baby left to die in a linen closet, I have serious doubts as to whether they ever gave their hearts to Jesus. We may lament the slow speed with which Roe v. Wade is being repealed, but it will happen, if the church doesn’t abandon it’s soul.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  48. Tim, by the way, I don’t think the church should stick it’s head into the meat grinder on every political issue, but there are fundamental issues to which scripture speaks very clearly and the church has no choice BUT to speak on those occasions. The Lutheran church of the 1930s will go down in utter shame, for eternity, for being silent in the face of what was unmitigated evil.

    You can’t be neutral on fighting the sodomite agenda. Scripture is so clear, in Old and New Testaments, about the singularly demonic nature of that sin, that a silent church on the issue of Proposition 8 is really nothing more than a cowardly church.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  49. The assumption that the Puritans got it right and that is how we should act is interesting. So, when you cite…

    “The Acts and Laws of His Majesty’s Colony of New Hampshire — 1759.” The first 14 pages, clearly, are embroideries on the ten commandments, with some moral crimes inviting capital punishment.

    you are serious. You would be happy killing “sodomites” as a just punishment for their egregious sin. At first I thought you were just referencing that citation to speak about Christian roots, but you are really wanting capital punishment for moral crimes like adultery and “sodomy”. You run with that.

    Do you define “sodomites” the way Ezekiel does? Or do you define it only as the Puritans apparently did (you being the expert and me being out of my field you can enlighten me if they spoke of Sodomites in light of Ezekiel)? The sin of Sodom according to Ezekiel was that “she had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.”

    When you talk about atheists being denied the right to testify in a court of law back in the glory days, you really want that to be the state of affairs today don’t you? That is not the America any historian would affirm was intended.

    Our concerns as a church include issues like abortion and homosexuality, but they also include other issues that seem to be outside of one party’s planks. Why are they less important?

    Since we are engaging in so much name calling and salvation questioning, I would characterize much of your presentation as legalism. You sound like someone who subscribes to a Christianity laced with legalism, the kind of fundamentalism that goes beyond the original good “fundamentalists” of the turn of the century who responded to the liberalism of Princeton. You sound more like a Mormon than you do an orthodox believer, confusing the doctrines of grace with another gospel that Paul so passionately condemns.

    You also have your own agenda and have dominated this post with comments mostly off topic and often only responding to challenges that help you spin your perspective, not to mention simply being rude and obtuse. So maybe it is time for an end to the discussion. If you return, and you are welcome to – let’s try and do better next time.

    Comment by Steve | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  50. Steve, legalism focuses on the inconsequential. Legalism is adding vegetarian oaths to baptismal ceremonies and giving a speaking-in-tongues test for salvation and insisting that all the men wear dark blue slacks to the men’s conference. It is NOT the timeless effort of the church to insist that lawmakers uphold God’s ancient moral law.

    I have repeatedly made reference to present laws against murder and theft. We take those for granted, but, as I mentioned earlier some academics like Pete Singer are beginning to ruminate that the state should be able to kill unwanted children under two years old. In today’s climate that is outrageous, but as the pagans begin to work the adversary’s will, at what point will we sacrfice completely the church’s once prominent role in influencing law? This is not about legalism. It’s about the church’s role in creating a society that is liveable.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 25, 2008 | Reply

  51. Sorry about the double post, but I didn’t want to write a tome and then find you had cut off commentary–as happened yesterday.

    It is clear that the sodomites were condemned for more than just their sexual sin, no argument, but we should be clear how deep their perversion really was: they were screaming for house guests to be sent out and raped. Their sexual and their economic depravity came from one source–their aversion to God’s will. When homosexual activists insist that curriculum standards for children as young as six begin “normalizing” the view of their lifestyle, when homosexual references are dictated in everything from the history to the math lesson plans, we see a similar predatory ugliness.

    In 1759, the civil and criminal code was barely an inch thick. Because they put God’s law in print, they rarely, and I do mean rarely, had to use it. A society more closely conformed to God’s order has less complexity, less crime, more political freedom and prosperity. Europe thinks we’re barbaric for using the death penalty, and we tend to think we’ve outgrown God’s simple order. I’m thankful, personally, for Peter’s dream, because I like bacon, and there may be parts of the old criminal code that don’t apply anymore, but the moral law was repeated very stridently by Paul. It seems to have a place in New Testament life that we may be ignoring.

    I am not a Mormon, by the way, though I have family members who are. They are out walking precincts for Proposition 8, and I’m proud of them for that. You should be too.

    Comment by Jim Riley | September 25, 2008 | Reply

  52. Steve has closed this discussion. If you want a place for your one-sided rhetoric keep it on your own “journal”.

    Comment by Grace | September 25, 2008 | Reply

  53. Anyone else notice the multitude of straw men?

    Comment by Caleb | September 26, 2008 | Reply

  54. […] is No Santa Claus, A Political Cautionary (I wrote a post last week on Proposition 8 that I had intended to be part of a discussion on the place of the church in politics, not to make […]

    Pingback by There is No Santa Claus, A Political Cautionary « The Temple | September 29, 2008 | Reply

  55. In the words of Keanu Reeves, “Whoa.”

    Comment by Mark | September 29, 2008 | Reply


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