Houston, You Have a Problem

We’re about to turn a corner on religious liberty in America, and it’s a chill wind that greets us.

Quoting from the story:

Annise ParkerThe city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

Wait a minute. Houston? Texas? One of the most conservative states in the nation? Well, statewide, yes, but, as usual, the cities lead the way toward the new progressivism. Funny how those policies called progressive always seek to overturn religious liberty.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a law firm that specializes in protecting religious liberty, has filed a motion to stop the subpoenas, but why are we even at this place?

The controversy began when the city council, back in June, passed what it calls a “non-discrimination” ordinance that allows, among other things, men to use women’s restrooms and vice versa. It is “equality” run amuck. And any Christian pastors who speak out against it or the homosexual agenda that drives it are now in the legal crosshairs.

First AmendmentAs a spokesman for the ADF notes, “Political and social commentary is not a crime. It is protected by the First Amendment.”

That’s why this is such a chill wind; it seeks to stifle all political disagreement and the religious beliefs that are the basis of that disagreement. If ever anything were a clear violation of not only the original intent of the Constitution, but the specific wording therein, this is it.

Why subpoena sermons? To shame pastors publicly who speak out against homosexuality. To try to marginalize them and the Biblical message that homosexuality is a sin—a view, of course, that is quickly becoming forbidden in America. They want to “out” these pastors as so-called “anti-gay bigots.”

Many of us warned this day was coming. This ordinance is only the first shot in this particular battle of the culture war. There are those who say there is no culture war, that those of us who speak of it are blowing things out of proportion. Look around you. The forces against the Biblical worldview are building up their arsenals. It’s only going to get worse.

Yet we cannot allow these attacks to put us on the defensive. We have the message of life, and it’s never been more needed than now. As opponents of Christian faith become emboldened, we must not cower in fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. We need to work with Him, guided by His Spirit, to meet this challenge.

The Supreme Non-Decision

Supreme Court 2Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to review appeals from states with respect to the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. On the surface, this is an awful decision, yet is this possibly our best chance to reverse the tide?

The immediate, and dismal, result is that this non-decision clears the way for up to 30 states recognizing same-sex marriage as legitimate. Where can one find that elusive silver lining in the midst of such a departure from Biblical morality?

Let me offer what is probably a minority viewpoint from the conservative Christian community.

While I am unalterably opposed to homosexuality and am grieved by its increasing acceptance by our society, we may have, as one commentator noted, just dodged a bullet. Based on previous Supreme Court decisions, the odds were not in our favor if the Court had indeed ruled on these appeals. In all likelihood, it would have come down on the side of same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, thereby mandating that all states accept it as legitimate.

What this non-decision does is allow some states to continue to stand against the tide that seeks to sweep over us. It should provide the impetus for states to set their own standard for marriage. In fact, I was concerned that so many states were placing all their bets on a Supreme Court decision. It was an all-or-nothing proposition, and I fear we would have come away with nothing.

Yes, there should be a national definition of marriage, but given the status of our morality, I would prefer it not be imposed at this time. Same-sex marriage is an oxymoron, and a Court decision in its favor would have forced it upon all the states.

Keep in mind it has been federal courts that have led the way in overturning states’ traditional view of marriage. Did we really want the Supreme Court, with four extreme liberals and a so-called conservative who has already made it clear he would vote with those liberals, to enshrine this sin as sacred?

As I’ve said many times, government is not our savior, and if the government is trampling on Biblical morality, it’s because the people have allowed it to happen. We are the ones who have elected those who have pushed for this. We are the ones who put a man in the White House who is radically pro-abortion, pro-same-sex marriage, and who seeks to undermine religious liberty.

We let it happen. Now it’s up to use to reverse the direction we are headed as a country. It begins with a strong message of sin, repentance, and the new life offered through the Cross. It begins with individuals getting their lives straightened out as they get right with God.

Then those redeemed individuals need to inject that same message into all areas of society: education and government must be the focus if we are to change for the better.

Will this work? Theoretically, yes. With God all things are possible. But even though we have no guarantee, we must be faithful to the task. We’ll only know if it works if we remain faithful. Now is not the time to resign our role as salt and light.

Marginalizing Christian Faith

When I was in college I often attended meetings of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I found it to be an intelligent group of Christians who were devoted to understanding the faith and communicating on a level appropriate to the college population. Although most of my Christian activity was connected to my church, I always appreciated the influence of InterVarsity.

InterVarsity Logo

Now comes news that the California system of state colleges and universities has denied official student group status to InterVarsity throughout the state. The problem? InterVarsity won’t allow non-Christians to serve as leaders of the group. That stance is considered “discriminatory.” A Christian group wanting only Christians to lead it? How horrible!

Yes, we’re now in the twilight zone.

What does this mean, in practical terms, for InterVarsity? It means the organization, since it is no longer accepted as a legitimate student group, won’t have free access to campus facilities. It will have to pay for that access, which will cost thousands of dollars per year. It also will no longer have status to speak with professors and students like other campus organizations. In other words, it is considered outside the pale, not welcome on any of those campuses.

Religious liberty continues to be undermined in this country. The attacks are becoming more transparent. They will be couched in “nondiscriminatory” language, but they are attacks nonetheless. And behind it all is a strident, purposeful anti-Christian agenda.

If Christian colleges and universities think they are safe, they need to think again. I’ve noted this before, but it bears repeating. At any time, the federal government can say to Christian colleges, “Follow our rules or lose all student loan funding.” One of those rules will be to stop “discriminating” against homosexual “orientation.” If that happens, we’ll find out rather quickly which Christian colleges are truly Christian and which use Christian talk as window dressing.

Under the Obama administration, the pressure will continue, but in states like California, it won’t matter who is president; some states will take it upon themselves to marginalize Christian beliefs. I’m reminded of the exhortation of the apostle Paul to Timothy:

For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. . . .

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

That call to faithfulness reaches down to this present generation. Will we heed the call?

Margaret Thatcher: Unintended Consequences

I’m taking my time reading through Margaret Thatcher’s The Path to Power, going one section at a time, as I try to increase my knowledge of the history of the United Kingdom in the late twentieth century. As I’ve followed her life from her time with her family, to her university years at Oxford, to her early political career, I’ve been fascinated with her observations of the era.

I was struck particularly by a section of the book dealing with the cultural shift in Britain in the 1960s. Thatcher, from the perspective of hindsight, details the loss of the Christian foundations in her country:

Path to PowerBy now (1968) the left-of-centre consensus on economic policy was being challenged and would continue to be so. But the new liberal consensus on moral and social matters was not. That is to say that people in positions of influence in government, the media and universities managed to impose metropolitan liberal views on a society that was still largely conservative morally. The 1960s saw in Britain the beginning of what has become an almost complete separation between traditional Christian values and the authority of the state.

She freely acknowledges that she didn’t catch the drift at the time. In fact, she voted in favor of a couple of bills that haunted her later. One decriminalized homosexual conduct between consenting adults over the age of twenty-one. The other allowed abortion “if there was substantial risk that a child would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped, or ‘where the woman’s capacity as a mother would be severely overstrained.'”

She was influenced, she said, by her concern for other people’s suffering, but didn’t see at first the moral ramifications of what she helped start. Her analysis of those issues changed considerably later, as she explains:

As regards abortion, homosexuality, and divorce reform it is easy to see that matters did not turn out as was intended. . . . Instead, it could be argued that they have paved the way towards a more callous, selfish and irresponsible society. Reforming the law on abortion was primarily intended to stop young women being forced to have back-street abortions. It was not meant to make abortion simply another “choice.” Yet in spite of the universal availability of artificial contraception the figures for abortion have kept on rising.

Homosexual activists have moved from seeking a right of privacy to demanding social approval for the “gay” lifestyle, equal status with the heterosexual family and even the legal right to exploit the sexual uncertainty of adolescents.

Divorce law reform has contributed to—though it is by no means the only cause of—a very large increase in the incidence of marriage breakdown which has left so many children growing up without the continual care and guidance of two parents.

Margaret ThatcherThatcher concludes with these reflections:

Knowing how matters have turned out, would I have voted differently on any of these measures? I now see that we viewed them too narrowly. As a lawyer and indeed as a politician who believed so strongly in the rule of law, I felt that the prime considerations were that the law should be enforceable and its application fair to those who might run afoul of it.

But laws also have a symbolic significance: they are signposts to the way society is developing—and the way the legislators of society envisage that it should develop. Moreover, taking all of the “liberal” reforms of the 1960s together, they amount to more than their individual parts. They came to be seen as providing a radically new framework within which the younger generation would be expected to behave.

Margaret Thatcher was able to own up to her mistakes and learn from them.  In the same vein, when Ronald Reagan saw the consequences of a liberal abortion law he signed as governor of California, he delved into the subject and came away a staunch pro-lifer. He always regretted his earlier action. While I wish neither Reagan nor Thatcher had made those mistakes, I am heartened by the fact that those who have a Biblical foundation to their thinking can see their missteps and make amends for them later.

Whatever Happened to Sin, Guilt, & Shame?

I’m hardly the first or only person to comment on how we seem to have lost a sense of shame. There’s rarely, at least among the political leadership, the news media, and the entertainment segments of our society, any embarrassment over actions that used to bring public disgrace. The opposite now seems to be happening: outrageous, disgusting behavior is either ignored or rewarded.

Yet how can one feel shame if one has no sense of guilt over that behavior? Why has guilt gone the way of shame? Let’s trace it back to the loss of belief in sin and one’s accountability before God for one’s thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We used to be a society that had a set standard of right and wrong based on Biblical morality. While that’s not completely gone, we are now experimenting with what a society might be like if it jettisons Biblical morality entirely. We are seeing the wreckage all around.

One of the more obvious symptoms of a deceived heart is the outward acceptance of—no, make that the active push for—homosexuality. What was once considered deviant behavior is now encouraged. When anyone comes out of some kind of supposed closet, society applauds the “courage” it takes to make that public declaration of deviance. We are in the process of redefining right and wrong. Wrong is now intolerance of previously degenerate behavior. It’s the Christians who continue to hold to the former standard of morality who are now perceived as the real threat to societal harmony.

The most blatant example, of course, is same-sex marriage, an oxymoron of the highest caliber. The sad tale of Brendan Eich, who is now the former CEO of Mozilla simply because he made a contribution to the California effort back in 2008 to maintain the traditional concept of marriage as between one man and one woman, is the latest warning to those of us who are not going to bow before the new gods of immorality.

Mozilla

We used to be concerned about genuine threats to the safety of the nation, such as when underground communists were stealing nuclear secrets and placing their devotees in key positions within the government. That’s passé.

Traditional Marriage

Culture can change without the government’s aid. However, when the government is in on it as well, it provides a greater impetus for that change. The current administration has led the way. It began with the refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and gradually morphed into outright promotion of same-sex marriage, linking it to the civil rights movement. We have an administration that picks and chooses which laws it will support. That puts us on the cusp of utter lawlessness:

The Law

Whether it’s the push for same-sex marriage, the attempt to force businesses to provide abortion services, or the desire to silence political opponents through the agency of the IRS, we are at a precarious place. The rule of law is on the verge of extinction because we have destroyed the Biblical concepts of sin, guilt, and shame. Only by restoring those will we restore what we have lost as a people.

Cultural Collapse & the Remnant

A friend shared an article with me that I read late last night. It can be found here: http://publicreligion.org/2014/03/leaving-religion-lgbt-issues/. It’s from an organization called the Public Religion Research Institute. The point of the article is that the millennial generation is rejecting the Christian faith at a record high rate, and that the main reason for it is what they perceive as “negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people.” The report, based on a survey, goes on to say,

Most Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues. Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people, while roughly one-third (35 percent) disagree. Millennials remain most likely to believe that religious groups are alienating young people. Seven-in-ten (70 percent) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.

I felt a wave of sorrow and anguish wash over me as I was reading it. Here’s how I responded:

We’ve had nearly two generations now raised on the premises of non-judgmentalism. I think the source of most of that training has been Rogerian/Maslovian self-esteem teaching that has permeated our schools. The old cliché about getting hold of the minds of the children is coming to fruition in our day. We are seeing the results of this idea that has seeped into every part of our culture.

The medium through which this has occurred is government-controlled education. I think we will see very soon a more frontal attack on all Christian education, from homeschooling to evangelical colleges. We will be called—even more so than today—narrow-minded, bigoted, and out of the mainstream.

We will no longer be able to be comfortable with a large swath of our culture; in a sense, there will be a separation between the sheep and the goats. A divide will occur between those who hold firm to Biblical truth and those who are tossed by every trendy wind that comes along. The good news in all this is that the truth will stand out more clearly than ever before, and some will be drawn to the Lord through those who remain faithful to the message.

If this sounds too pessimistic, maybe I’m just revealing my affinity with Whittaker Chambers. Yet, as always, I believe the Lord can be seen in the dark times, and He can bring good out of evil if we stand with Him.

On the homosexual issue, I tend to agree with those who say the battle is already lost. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t continue to shine the light in this darkness. We just have to be prepared for the consequences.

I truly believe we are at a tipping point.

So was this response the result of staying up too late and being too tired? Am I too negative? Or have I caught the drift correctly? I do sense our culture is on the verge of collapse; I also sense that Christians need to wake up to this looming collapse and not pretend it’s all going to turn out alright. Can it be reversed? I don’t know, but my hope is that the Lord will once again use a remnant to make the difference, and what I do know is that I’m going to be part of that remnant. I hope you join us. Perhaps God will be able to show mercy to our society once more.

God’s Remnant in a Time of Spiritual Darkness

I’m in a more reflective mood today; perhaps pondering is the right word since it fits with my blog’s title. I’ve been thinking about how the society has changed in my 60+ years. Most of those changes, in the moral realm, have not been beneficial.

I grew up in a small town in northern Indiana, probably not more than 3500-4000 people. I knew everyone in my high school graduating class, to one degree or another, because there were only 99 of us, the majority of whom were in the same school for all 12 or 13 years of their educational lives.

I’m trying to recall how many of them grew up in broken families. I can think of 2, at least, although there must have been a few more. That was the exception; we all pretty much expected a mom and dad were in the home in nearly every family. I’m not at all sure any of the girls in my class had to leave school due to pregnancy; I don’t remember anyone in that situation, although, again, there may have been one I have forgotten. Once more, that was the extreme exception. Marriage was to come first.

No one in the 1960s talked much about homosexuality, let alone same-sex marriage. Out of sight, out of mind. Not on our radar. We had our share of sullen bully-types and those who reeked of rebellion and cigarette smoke, but if anyone ever was high on drugs, it wasn’t evident. That was for classes that graduated after mine.

Abortion was a word with which I had no acquaintance at all. I never knew anyone who had an abortion. Of course, it was illegal then; the floodgates had not yet been opened.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an alien culture today, a sort of virtual world that is an anomaly—this is not the way things are supposed to be. Families are not supposed to be disintegrating at the alarming rate we now see; marriage is in the process of being destroyed completely by the radical homosexual agenda; the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade—a staggering 56 million—defies all rational expectations. It’s absolutely horrifying, yet we are practically numbed by the immensity of the figure. In many people’s minds, the aborted babies are more statistics than real persons who have had their lives snuffed out. They are the most innocent victims of all; they never did anything to deserve such treatment.

As I pointed out in a post two days ago, we’ve even come to the place where the governor of New York says pro-life people, those who believe in the self-defense of carrying arms, and those who refuse to accept the movement away from traditional marriage are to be considered extremists who have no place in his state. I can’t imagine, as a high school student back in the 1960s, even with all the drama of Vietnam and the beginnings of cultural shifts at the time, that any governor would ever feel comfortable making a statement like that.

Statue of Bigotry

It’s easy to sense a deepening spiritual darkness, yet we cannot allow that to lead us to despair. We are the rays of His light in this dark world. Although I am sometimes stunned when I consider the plunge our society has made into new avenues of depravity, I have hope when I view hundreds of thousands congregating on the Washington Mall to show support for the sanctity of human life. It tells me there are many others out there who share my worldview. All is not lost. If we can encourage each other enough and work toward unity of purpose, we will give God something to work with.

God has never required a majority on His side to move a mountain. He will always honor the dedicated remnant. We must determine to be that remnant.