Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marriage is Not a Right

Pink and red equality signs are showing up everywhere. Some on the Facebook profiles of some people that surprise me. It is a variation on the Human Rights Campaign's original symbol, a yellow equal sign on a navy blue background. (HRC is the largest "gay rights" advocacy organization in the USA). The pink and red version is their symbol for their fight for equality in marriage.

Just showing the symbol,
not condoning the life-style.
Now, what I am about to write may surprise my followers. But read the whole article. Sorry, but this one will be longer than normal.

What is Marriage?

To the government, "marriage" is nothing more than a civil union. Even between a man and a woman, a marriage license is nothing more than a contract between two people and the government. Technically, marriage by itself is illegal. According to Black's Law Dictionary, the definitive legal resource for lawyers, a "License" is "a revocable permission to commit some act that would otherwise be unlawful." The marriage contract is extremely one-sided in favor of the state. Because of the marriage license, a couple gives up their rights to own and control both their property and their children. That's through an age-old legal doctrine called parens patriae ("parent of the nation") that gives the state the authority to protect persons who are unable to act on their own behalf.

Do you get this? In simple terms, if you have a marriage license, you own property and keep your children only because the government lets you. The state can take your property and your children, and you can only fight it within boundaries set by-- You guessed it-- the state.

Morality and the Government

The United States, while founded on many Christian principles, is not and never has been a Christian nation. "Religious freedom" and "Christian nation" could never go together. So, as an American citizen, I believe that if the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ("GLBT") community wants to live in government-recognized civil unions, more power to them. While they would gain the usual marital "rights" of making medical decisions and having "rights of survivorship," they would also be subject to more government regulation over their relationships. If the government wants to recognize their unions, it can. Government recognition of gay marriage is a legal issue, not a moral matter. The government is almost never concerned with morality.

By the Way -- Marriage Is Not a Right

As an American, I believe that GLBT people are entitled to all the legal rights that any American should have. They should be able to live their lives free of fear and discrimination. But don't let anybody argue that gay marriage is a "right." It's not. Why not? Because "normal" marriage isn't a right, either. The word "marriage" does not appear in the US Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Like driving a car, "marriage" is a privilege granted by the state, not a right.

The Word "Marriage"

But now, the GLBT community doesn't want "civil union." They want "marriage." What's the difference? Legally, there's no difference. But semantically, in the power of words, it's a very big deal. By getting to use the word "marriage," they believe they can gain legitimacy for their life-styles.

Homosexuality and Christianity

In the Bible, homosexual activity, male or female, is called an "abomination." So what is an abomination? It's just a sin, except that it that it particularly "offends the religious sense of a people." (Look it up here.) In God's eyes, sin is sin, and homosexual behavior is no different and no worse than adultery.

Let's get this straight: "Being" homosexual is not a sin. Homosexual behavior is.

As a Christian, to me a GLBT person is no different than any other person. Homosexuals say they were born with their desires, and that may be true. As a straight male, I was born with desires to have sex with every woman I can. Does that make it right and moral for me to do so? Not at all. Do I understand those drives? Absolutely. Do I understand how a gay man can be driven to have sex with other men? Yes, I do.* Does my heart say maybe it's OK because it's natural to them, and I should approve? Yes, it does.

Does the Bible tell me to think and act with my heart? NO, IT DOES NOT. In fact, following your heart is one of the fastest tracks to sin.

Homosexuality and the Church

To be brief, the Church needs to treat GLBT people the same as it treats every other sinner, that is, like every other person in the world.

Some denominations of the Church are ordaining homosexuals as ministers. Is that wrong? In and of itself, no.

Imagine a straight, single male minister. It becomes known that he is having sexual relations with women. Or say he is married and found to be having an extramarital affair? What would the Church do? He would be called before the board, and at least temporarily removed from his ministry. If he was repentant of his sin, he would be guided through a restoration process. If non-repentant, he would be removed from ministry.

Being a heterosexual is not a sin. The sin is in practicing heterosexual behavior outside of marriage.

What of a priest who has sexual relations with children? Pedophiles claim that they were born with those desires, so their behavior is justified in their own hearts. Being a pedophile is not a sin. The sin is in practicing pedophilia.

If the Church chooses to ordain a homosexual into the ministry, that is fine. Being a homosexual is not a sin. The sin is in practicing homosexual behavior. There is nothing wrong in ordaining a homosexual into the ministry. But ordaining a practicing homosexual is anathema. (Look the word up.)

Some denominations of the Church are performing gay marriage ceremonies. Can the Church do this and be true to Jesus Christ? Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5: 17-20)

So let's see-- heaven and earth have not disappeared, so everything is not accomplished yet. So the law that Christ came to fulfill still stands. So the answer is-- No. Churches who condone and bless gay marriages cannot be true to Jesus Christ. They are calling Jesus Christ a liar and committing the one unforgivable sin. They proclaim through this simple act that they do not believe the Bible, and thus have nothing to offer to people who are desperately seeking something solid to believe in.

Sin is sin, no matter how we feel about it. The sins of the GLBT community are no worse than those of any other person in the world. The Church cannot condone the activity, but must love and minister to the sinner.

My word to Christians who support equal rights for GLBT people? Support their rights as Americans, and realize that marriage isn't a right that any of us have. As far as recognizing marriages between them, the government will do what it will (especially if they can gain revenue through it). What the government does is not our mission. Love them as you love yourself. Show them Jesus Christ, and welcome them into the Church. Let Him deal with their sin.

* I'd make a similar statement about understanding a gay woman's being attracted to other women, but I don't understand what attracts straight women to most men, either.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Popular as a Skunk at a Picnic

That's what I'm about to set out to be. But then, I'm used to it. I first got wind of my future during my first year in seminary. I had been arguing with a professor, trying to get him to reconcile his theology with the Bible I held in my hand. Finally, in exasperation, he glared at me and demanded, "Why are you such a renegade?"
I'm no artist. I copied
this picture from here.
As I thought about that, I decided it wasn't such a bad thing. In the dictionary, a renegade is defined as "a deserter from one faith, cause, or allegiance to another; an individual who rejects lawful or conventional behavior." I never deserted my faith, but I was definitely rejecting the liberal religion that the school considered to be ""conventional."
Since that time I have often been popular as a skunk at a picnic when gathered together with other clergy or church leaders. I've got this thing about Bible authority, and how anyone can claim to be wise enough to say, "Oh, that doesn't really mean what it says," or "Well, that can't apply to this modern world." You can't pick and choose what to accept in the Bible. It's either all true, the infallible inspired word of God, or it's all just literature. I stand on the word of God option.
Developed nations, especially the United States, are wracked by increasing violent crime, more broken families, lack of moral direction. At the same time, the Church in those same nations is in a free fall. No one can say for sure when and where it started, but it's apparent now. In Europe and the United States, and every developed nation in the world, the Church's membership and attendance are plummeting.
And I know why.
So here I go-- Over however long it takes, I'm gonna raise a stink that the Church can't ignore, and individual believers better investigate.
I'll start gently.
When the Holy Spirit first moved in the first church, Peter got up and preached. And "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2.41-47)
The Church's mission is in four directions, expressed in four greek words. They all point the same way. All four must be pursued equally. For decades now, the Church as a whole (but, thankfully, not every congregation) has been failing on every point.
The four words are pronounced just like they look:
  • Kerygma - The proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. "The apostles' teaching," sound doctrine, is rooted in this proclamation. This message is not for the intellect, but for the heart. The Church doesn't preach Christ-only any more.
  • Koinonia - "Fellowship" is being together by intimate participation. Every member-- young or old, man or woman, leader or new convert-- is to have a place and a purpose in the community. But outsiders feel like… well… outsiders.
  • Diakonia - We are called to give to any who have need. We are serve the poor and oppressed, contributing to their care, and building them up. The Church has surrendered this task to the governments, and how they have failed!
  • Liturgia - Worship, or "meeting together" in response to God. A group activity that reflects praise, thanksgiving, requests for need, and turning from sin. I don't know of anyone who has been bored into the Kingdom.
It's time to wake up, Church, and turn around. Oh... by the way... that phrase "turn around?" It's the definition of another unpopular word in the Church: Repent.