(Don’t) Let Them Eat Cake!: On Gay Marriage and the Extra Mile

DSC01941The Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows business owners to deny service based on sexual orientation. More to the point, the bill allows those in the wedding industry – photographers, bakers, planners, and the like – to deny services to homosexual couples based on religious convictions. Across the nation, of course, the issue of Christian bakers refusing service to homosexuals is a controversial one; in many instances the bakers face fines and sometimes shut down their businesses on principle.

I want to ignore the legal issues regarding personal conscience coming into conflict with societal obligations. The issue is tricky – after all, all of us wish to live with our personal convictions and to act on those convictions. None of us wants to engage in or aid an activity we believe to be wrong. But at the same time, sometimes being in a society means we have to do things we don’t want to do. That’s part of being an adult in a community. Where that limits begins, however, is highly contentious and I’m not sure if we can discover that line, hence my reluctance to engage in that discussion. While I think we’re moving beyond a secular state and into an anti-religious state – that is, one in which you’re allowed to believe in your faith, just not act upon that belief – I’m also uncertain whether a business owner has a right to exclude certain people from his business.

That being said, what is the Christian approach to such an issue, regardless of the law? If you owned a bakery and made wedding cakes would you make one for a homosexual couple? For many Christians who believe homosexuality to be a sin the answer is typically a quick no, or causes some to pause for a minute. But what if we used similar examples? What if the couple is grossly overweight, obese, caused by gluttony (Proverbs 23:2)? What if one or both people in the couple is/are divorced (Matthew 5:32)? What if the couple is extremely wealthy and gives nothing to the poor, and in fact intend to use this wedding as a display of their greed (1 Timothy 6:10)? What if they don’t go to church (Hebrews 10:25)? The list goes on of potential sins that the couple perpetually engage in as part of their lifestyle.

Now, some could make the case that these sins are different as they do not change the meaning of marriage. Homosexual marriage, it’s argued, changes the entire definition of marriage. Certainly one could make that case. Yet, the problem of a divorced couple going through a marriage remains; as does the problem of if the couple has already had sex and lived together, or if the couple does not attend church regularly, or if the couple isn’t even Christian. See, while “One man, one woman” fits nicely on a bumper sticker, it doesn’t really fit the Christian ideal of marriage. I dare not say the Biblical teaching on marriage because while the Bible is a holy book inspired by God, it also doesn’t always display the ideal in telling history. To put this bluntly, would we refuse King David a cake at his wedding to Bathsheba? While homosexual marriage might be different from gluttony, it is no different than remarriage or a watered-down version of a church wedding.  Continue reading


How the Church Failed America: Reaping What You Sow

IMG_0248Currently in Houston there’s a mayor doing some major backtracking due to some subpoenas. Without diving into the issue too much, Houston issued subpoenas for five pastor’s sermons and correspondence for all issues related to homosexuality, transgenderism, HERO, and the mayor. It was all part of discovery in an ongoing case. Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting a subpoena on most sermons as they’re available to the public anyway (via church websites), but it still seems icky. After all, it would seem odd to do the same for an Imam’s messages, or a Rabbi’s teachings; while it’s available to the public, forcing a religious institution to hand over its religious teachings to be used against it in a court case just seems wrong. Regardless, the subpoenas were far too broad and the city is limiting their scope (when they should just dismiss them).

Meanwhile, in Idaho, a Christian couple who are ordained ministers are facing a fine and jail time for refusing to officiate a same-sex marriage. From a purely legal point of view, what’s happening in Idaho is a direct violation of the couple’s freedom of religion and will more than likely not be held up in court. It would truly be shocking if it were upheld because then one must ask what’s the difference between someone performing weddings as a wedding chapel and someone getting paid to perform a ceremony elsewhere? If a pastor accepts a donation to do a wedding – since he must take time out of his schedule to do it – or even charges for it, is he subjected to the same laws? What if the court rules that while the couple doesn’t have to officiate the wedding, since the building is used for weddings it must be open to all marriages? In such a case, does this mean churches should stop hosting weddings, which would then inhibit their freedom of religion?

Whether you agree or disagree with the Christian (or Islamic, or Jewish, or most religions) stance on the act of homosexuality, certainly one can see the problems by removing the freedom to practice one’s religion, even if wrong. It establishes a precedent where only that which is agreeable is allowable; you have the freedom to do what you wish so long as I agree with what you wish to do. Such a sentiment is great until you find yourself in the minority. It would appear that in attempting to cease being oppressed, the oppressed have happily become the oppressors. Under such a system rights are not guaranteed, nor do they mean anything in any real sense; your rights are determined by the majority. Welcome to the end of democracy, as Plato predicted and as we’ve seen acted out numerous times in history, where the tyranny of the majority destroys the rights of the minority.

Yet, in many ways, the church in the United States is merely reaping what it has sowed. For too long churches used the political realm as a way to “further the kingdom,” not by winning people over to Christ, but instead by forcing them to live in a “holy” way. For whatever reason, Christians honed in on homosexuality as the chief of sins above all other sins and then sought to fight every legal battle they could against it. Now, we could say that it’s because there was a “movement” and an “agenda” that Christians had to fight back. But what about the sexual revolution in the 60s? What about the lax divorce laws that came from it? How come Christians didn’t fight to repeal them or to push a cultural war against such advances? Is it because the sexual revolution offered benefits to members? Maybe Christians ignored that the real battle for marriage is within the home, not the court room.

I’ve argued consistently that the government should absolve itself from the marriage debate. Stick to civil unions that can only be obtained through the county court; no pomp, no ceremony, nothing. You go in, sign a legal document, get it witnessed by an officer of the court, and leave. Sadly, the Religious Right wanted to continue to define marriage for everyone through a Christian lens. It led to a legal battle, one in which someone was destined to lose and have their religious liberty squashed. The homosexual Episcopal couple for whom marriage is both allowable and a sacrament lost with the anti-gay marriage amendments in various states; the minister couple who makes a living off wedding ceremonies lost with the pro-gay marriage rulings. The Religious Right created an environment in which there was a winner and loser, not a compromise, and now they’ve lost. For doing so, many of us “non-combatants” who had no desire to wage a culture war will become victims of their blunder.  Continue reading

Jesus, the Poor, and Commandments or, How Conservative Evangelicals Jumped the Shark

IMG_0260For those who haven’t paid attention, World Vision – a Christian organization that allows people to sponsor a child, giving money to ensure the child receives proper aid – recently stated they would allow homosexuals to find employment with their organization. The parameters applied to homosexuals were the same ones applied to heterosexuals, namely that anyone involved in a sexual relationship had to also be married. Their justification for this change is that their employees come from over 50 denominations, some of which allow same-sex marriage. In an effort to broaden who they can hire (as it is hard work), they decided to allow for alternative definitions of homosexual marriage.

Such as expected, the change caused an uproar in evangelical circles. Al Mohler was quick to condemn the action, even though – ironically enough – World Vision’s justification is based on a belief in local church autonomy, a cornerstone in Mohler’s Southern Baptist beliefs. The American Family Association went even further calling for a boycott of World Vision. In other words, the American Family Association would rather starve children in need before capitulating on the issue of homosexual marriage. Such a reaction from conservative evangelicals caused World Vision to reverse its decision within two days. In a way, conservative evangelicals just won a major battle in the cultural war, but in so doing they lost the war. This is the equivalent to the Tet Offensive; it was a surprise attack, taking place behind our own lines, one that was easily thwarted, but will forever change public opinion on an already unpopular war.

Christ made multiple commandments to help the poor, but never once did he make a command to boycott morally suspect businesses. While sometimes a boycott is called for (especially when a company engages in practices that openly oppresses people), it’s hardly called for in this case where a company changed hiring policies in the name of hoping denominations would get along. Whether or not what World Vision did is sinful is irrelevant – ultimately, that’s up for God to enact – what matters is that evangelicals opted to drop sponsorships to children in the name of a cultural war. How sickening is that? Or, as one of my friends put it: “Someday I hope the church will be as incredulous about the treatment of the poor, oppressed, and hungry as they are about organizations who hire gay people who care about and serve the poor, oppressed and hungry.”

At the point Christians have to commit a sin (neglecting the poor is a sin, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, it’s quite clear in Scripture) in order to protest a sin, they’ve jumped the shark. Are we saying that God is so anti-homosexual that he’s willing to starve children before letting homosexuals help these starving children? How much sense does that even make?

Conservative evangelicals would do well to take a step back and realize that they’ve gone too far this time. By doing what they did, they essentially lost any and all public support they might have still held. At the point they were willing to withhold aid and food from children in order to score points in the culture war, they gave up the true Gospel of Christ. There is one overarching common theme in Scripture that evangelicals tend to forget, that with the exception Jesus Christ, every single Biblical hero is a horrendous sinner. David, a man after God’s own heart, has an affair and then makes a series of decisions that collapses his kingdom. Abraham, a friend of God, decides to have sex his wife’s handmaiden in lieu of God’s promise of a child. Noah survives God’s judgement and immediately gets black-out drunk. Judah chooses to have sex with his widowed daughter-in-law, only he thinks she’s a prostitute at the time. What’s interesting about all of these perpetual sinners is God used them for His purposes and for his ultimate purpose (all of them were involved in bringing Christ into the world). God apparently doesn’t object to using sinners to accomplish his goals, so why do evangelicals think they can have a standard higher than God?

One of the biggest concerns among evangelicals today is how to address their plummeting numbers, especially among young people. Many want to turn to apologetics, thinking that kids don’t have enough answers to questions (and they don’t). Others think they need to make the church more “relevant,” an attempt that began in the 1980s and has yet to be realized. Each generation has collapsed further and further away from the church, walking away and evangelicals left wondering why, realizing that these students are in search of a real faith, not an embattled faith. While Christians must stand up for social issues, when such stands become the centerpiece of the faith, Christianity becomes nothing more than a political party. People are leaving the church because they fail to see the Church, they fail to see the Gospel properly lived and enacted and instead see a list of “dos” and “do nots.” In short, people leave the church not because they lack answers or because of some moral failure, but because they’ve yet to find Christ within the walls of the church.

If evangelicals want to win back society, then they’ll have to serve society, not wage war against it. The early Christians existed in a time where orgies were a part of pagan worship, men had regular sex with their male slaves, Christian morals were not only despised, but persecuted. Yet, not once do we see them call for a boycott, we don’t see them withholding aid from those who need it, and we don’t see them ceasing to preach the true Gospel, not some moralistic Gospel. After all, the gospel of the modern conservative evangelical isn’t the true Gospel, but a false one, one that is a type of social gospel, believing that if we can eradicate homosexual behavior, elect good Christian republicans, and get our way on every political matter the world will be saved.

The true Gospel calls for support of the poor no matter what and, more importantly, calls for Christians to love sinners and serve them, not condemn them and segregate against them.

Wealth vs. Same-Sex Unions or, the Convenience of Moral Relativism

DSC02085Whether or not Scripturally justified (via various hermeneutical gymnastics), the traditional Christian approach to homosexuality is that the action is wrong (though historically the Church is silent on attraction). Whether that’s right or wrong is certainly up for debate, but historically the Church has been against such actions. The historical trend has led Catholics, Evangelicals, and Orthodox to stand in the way of allowing same-sex unions, a stance that of course futile. Within a generation every state will allow same-sex unions. Regardless, it hasn’t stopped Christians who follow the traditional teachings on homosexuality from doing all they can to prevent same-sex unions from occurring.

Another often ignored Christian teaching is the teaching against greed, or against opulence. Both the Bible and Church tradition clearly speak against the displays of wealth, of gaining wealth on the backs of the oppressed, and of generally holding onto that wealth. Ironically, such a history on the teaching of wealth has led to Christians really doing nothing. Granted, the Catholic Church has typically held a “liberal” approach to economics (along with its own economic system of Distributism) and the Orthodox have encouraged personal giving, but Evangelicals have almost moved entirely away from the issue. Even Catholics and Orthodox don’t like the idea of condemning the wealthy for being wealthy. Such an approach is almost uniquely American; it is also a new approach based on a progressive interpretation of Scriptures.

See, the Bible is clear that when the greedy hold onto their wealth, the entire society suffers for it. It is why God commanded rich Israelites to give a portion of their gains to the needy. Ignoring the spiritual purposes for giving (such as the fact that God gave His own Son as a gift for all, so we can give our income – something that is not from us to begin with – to help those in need), there are very practical purposes for being against the centralization of wealth. Study after study shows that when wealth is held in the hands of the few, the many suffer. Part of what made the American economy so powerful and successful for a number of years is that income inequality simply wasn’t an issue. With the rise of income inequality in the past few decades we’ve watched the middle class virtually disappear within America, and the ramifications are horrendous.

The above arguments aside, the Bible is very explicit on how the wealthy are to handle their money. Paul instructs the wealthy to be ready to share their money with those in need (1 Timothy 6:17-18). Proverbs 28:27 says that a wealthy man who gives has found true wealth, but the one who doesn’t give is cursed. James curses those who curse the poor man, arguing that the poor are called to be rich in faith (James 2:5-6), which of course contradicts the modern attitude toward the poor as “leeches” and “lazy.” Deuteronomy 8 explicitly states that it is God who grants wealth, not the individual. There is no such thing as a “self-made man,” merely one whom God has blessed. Proverbs 14 goes further to argue that whoever oppresses a poor man insults God. Paul again states that those who desire to be rich will simply fall into temptation that will result in destruction (1 Timothy 6:9-10). John says that those who fail to give lack the love of God within their hearts (1 John 3:17). God condemned the nation of Judah for illicit gain and protecting the wealthy, which harmed the poor (Jeremiah 22:17).

There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of passages on wealth and poverty, with most condemning those who are wealthy by illicit gain or for not giving to the poor. In Amos 2:6-8 God condemns Israel for their treatment of the poor, specifically for making money off the poor and oppressing them. The entire fifth chapter of Nehemiah is about him stopping the oppression of the poor. What is the oppression he is so against? The charging of interest, the mortgaging of fields, the borrowing of money to survive a famine. In fact, Nehemiah demands that the nobles redistribute their wealth and give back to the poor all they have taken. We then find out that Nehemiah did this while he was the governor of the land.

The entire point of the above is to show that God’s moral commands and legislative commands tend towards social justice, or at least not oppressing the poor. In the Bible, oppression seems to be when a worker is given a wage that is below what is livable, or when people make a profit on the poor (that is, increasing profit margins by keeping workers impoverished). Or when banks and other companies make a massive profit on the interest they charge people, especially when those people took out loans simply to eat or survive.

The Bible is incredibly explicit on the treatment of the poor, that when the wealthy become richer and the poorer become poorer, it is against God’s natural law. This is why no single society has ever lasted long in which the rich became richer and the poor became poorer; such a trend violates natural law, which is no different than trying to violate gravity. At some point, negative consequences follow.

Yet, Christians are relatively silent on the massive social injustices that have occurred in the past few years. In fact, many praise the rich. For those that recognize the problem, they argue against government involvement because, “it’s not the government’s place to place Christian morals on the rich.” Or, my favorite, “How can the government decide how much is too much.” I actually agree with these arguments, but then these Christians turn around and argue against homosexual marriage and homosexual unions, which is the government placing Christian morals on sexual actions! We quickly  become moral relativists when it comes to wealth, arguing, “We can’t know what wealth truly is” or “how much is too much?” But when it comes to sexuality, we’re ardent absolutists. These positions are incompatible – you can’t be a relativist when it comes to your pocketbook, but an absolutist when it comes to your pants.

Every single argument I’ve ever seen used to prohibit homosexual unions can in turn be used to prohibit the rich from being greedy. “It harms society,” “it’s disgusting,” “it goes against nature,” “it goes against God’s law,” “it goes against God’s intentions,” are all arguments that can be used against both homosexual unions and greed (if one follows a traditional interpretation of Scripture). If anything else, two men marrying each other does far less harm to society than a rich business owner hoarding his wealth. From a practical perspective (and spiritual perspective), the rich oppressor damages a society far more than someone engaged in sexual sin.

I am not taking a stand on these issues, at least not a legislative stand. I don’t want the government involved in my marriage or in my pocketbook, at least beyond what is necessary. What I’m arguing for, however, is some consistency. It is nothing more than relativism to argue that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but turn around and say nothing about wealth. It’s hypocrisy to push for legislation banning homosexual marriages, but fight any and all attempts to curb the greed implicit within our economic system.

While there’s nothing wrong with Christians pushing for economic justice or improvements to our economic system (as this is a way to promote aiding the oppressed), perhaps we would be better served to follow the example of Christ. Christ didn’t hold protests outside of brothels, nor did He attempt to convince the Romans to increase taxes on tax collectors (who did oppress the poor). Instead, He dined with them. He dined with both the sexually and fiscally immoral, showing them there was a better path. Rather than engaging in politics – which is necessary at times, but comes with a cost – He pursued the issues personally. The reason is because the Gospel extends beyond moral actions. Even if we legislated morality to the point that people had no choice but to lead moral lives, this would still not save them, nor would it save our society. It is only through holiness that a society can be saved, not the hypocrisy of picking and choosing which culture war we will fight.

Duck Dynasty and the Culture Wars or, Sir, your religion is too close to me



The inevitably finally happened; a culturally conservative Christian on a popular television show said something deemed insensitive by others and now the Culture Wars™ are back in full swing. I guess there wasn’t enough War on Christmas™, so we had to settle for another “Christians vs. homosexuals” debate.

For those who haven’t heard, Phil Robertson was removed by A&E indefinitely for speaking out against homosexuals. Of course, no sooner had he said it than GLAAD and other LGBTQ groups were condemning his views. Robertson’s first evaluation was nothing short of a summation of Corinthians. His later comments, however, were quite grotesque by stating that (and I’m paraphrasing), “vaginas are just better than anuses, amiright?” Of course, such a thing is more personal preference and has quite a bit to do with biological conditioning more than a decision in taste.

Regardless, I really don’t care about the show as I’ve never watched it, never intended to watch it, and probably never will watch it. I hate America’s love affair with all things redneck and homey and personally wish the show would have gone the way of the dinosaur long ago. If anything, the Christian love-affair with the show is going to betray that people support Phil Robertson more than they support Christ, that they’re upset at the supposed persecution (this isn’t persecution), but are unwilling to do anything to actually further the Gospel. After all, speaking out against homosexual rights doesn’t really do much in terms of promoting the Gospel.

Yet, what is going on at A&E reflects a bigger problem within our society, something that transcends the show. While A&E will be met with a counter-boycott and people will argue over the legality of A&E’s actions (is this an act of religious discrimination, or is it an act of protecting people against sexual discrimination?), the bigger point of this event will continue to remain lost. There’s two big truths at play here that no one is covering: (1) We’ve lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable and (2) Christianity is forcibly losing its public voice.

There once was a saying that went, “I might disagree with you, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.” I remember hearing this said one time when the KKK was protesting and marching in some city. While there were counter-protests and counter-marches, the cities allowed the bile of the KKK to roam their streets. The reason for this allowance is because this is the United States where even morons and the ignorant can still speak. While the First Amendment applies to government-to-civilian relations, the unwritten rule has been that citizens ought to respect another’s beliefs and opinions within reason.

Instead, today if one speaks on a hot issue, one runs the potential for backlash, to the point that some will do all they can to shut up the opposition. This desire to shut up the opposition does tend to run both ways. Both liberals and conservatives have called for boycotts on the most mundane of issues, typically over disagreements that have little impact on how the world actually functions. Boycotts were originally intended as an extreme action used against oppressive company policies (such as forcing black people to sit on the back of the bus, or give up seats to white people). They were not intended to silence discussion or personal opinions, such as Glenn Beck stating that Obama was a racist and liberal groups boycotting any sponsor on his show (or alternatively, the threat of boycotts by conservatives against Disney because they allowed a “homosexual day” at their park, something that wasn’t even supported by Disney).

We live in a free society (supposedly), and living in a free society means there are going to be people who disagree with you. While you have every right to boycott those who disagree with you, the adult thing to do is simply to recognize there is a disagreement and move on. Or engage in a civil discussion. Instead, we treat every little disagreement as some moral crusade we need to embark upon, but of course it is a facade meant to cover up the insecurity of our existence. We act like brave culture warriors for our causes because deep down, we feel guilty that we really haven’t done anything to further the cause of justice in this world. Our parent’s generation came in toward the end of the Civil Rights era, the generation before defeated Hitler, the generation before that worked on women’s rights, and two generations before that fought a civil war over slavery. The current generation of young people all the way up to 40 year olds haven’t really done much in the ways of social change. Perhaps we explode over disagreements because we haven’t learned to be mature and we feel like this is our way to contribute to social change. Sadly, it’s the wrong type of change.

The second issue that this whole Duck Dynasty fiasco betrays is that Christians in America are forcibly being shut up, not through government intrusion, but through public outcry. What Phil Robertson said, mostly, fits in line with traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality (again, his comments about the “yuck factor” of homosexuality never enter into theological discussions, or at least ought not to). Regardless, he essentially paraphrased 1 Corinthians and stated what Christians have always taught; homosexual actions are a sin because they go against the economy of God. This is not to say people with homosexual predispositions are sinful or ought to go find the first woman out there; the Orthodox have Fr. Seraphim Rose, who had a male lover before entering into the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholics have many homosexual priests (or at least allow it). Fr. Pavel Florensky even speaks about how love between men is a noble type of love. Even early Christian monastic communities recognized same-sex attraction and dealt with it; they simply encouraged celibacy.

Of course, celibacy is akin to a curse in the modern world where sex is worshipped. We think that if one cannot engage in sexual activity, then one is denied the right to self-expression. Of course, they forget that at its most basic level (from a Christian understanding), sex is a tool for creating human beings. As with many other things in this world, there is a multi-layered view of sex, but at its base sex is to make babies. That is, at least, the Christian understanding. However, there is this strong desire by many to silence all Christian beliefs within the public sphere. We are told, “You have your right to worship, but not your right to promote your religion.” In other words, we don’t care if you worship on Sundays, but just keep it within the church walls on Sundays and don’t let it leave Monday through Saturday.

Such a teaching misconstrues what it means to have religious liberty. Religious liberty means that my religious ideas can and will impact my public decisions. It means that I can’t deny God six days a week, but suddenly worship Him on Sunday. Such an idea forces the Christian (or the Muslim, or the Jew, or the Hindu, and so on) to go against their religious practices. Would it be right to condemn Hindus for their implicit condemnation of those who eat meat? What about Muslims who have an implicit condemnation for anyone who drinks alcohol? While we can disagree with these views, there’s no reason to silence them or speak out against networks that give these views a platform.

I can think of the quote by the Christian philosopher-theologian Vladimir Solovyov, who wrote, “But if the faith communicated by the Church to Christian humanity is a living faith, and if the grace of the sacraments is an effectual grace, the resultant union of the divine and the human cannot be limited to the special domain of religion, but must extend to all Man’s common relationships and must regenerate and transform his social and political life.” In other words, if one is truly a Christian then it’s going to impact every aspect of who that person is.

Why, then, is there a public outcry over a man’s Christian opinion? Why did GLAAD go so far as to question Phil Robertson’s Christianity, and to do so in a laughable way (since Phil was essentially paraphrasing 1 Corinthians, apparently GLAAD thinks it can remake Christianity in its own image). Why aren’t Christians allowed to contribute to any conversation, even if there is disagreement? Such an attitude is incredibly unhealthy to a nation as it seeks to drive out all opposing views; that is not the foundation of liberty, but the first signs of the cancer of tyranny.

The Church, the Pope, and Homosexuals or, The Ignorance of the Media

Council of Nicaea. The Roman church (as well as Eastern Orthodox Church) believe that authority is derived from councils, not popular sentiment.

Council of Nicaea. The Roman church (as well as Eastern Orthodox Church) believe that authority is derived from councils, not popular sentiment.

If you have read the news lately, you’d think that Pope Francis was out changing all the theology of the Catholic church and making it more progressive. According to this article, the Pope will “send shockwaves through the church” with his latest announcement that he doesn’t judge homosexuals. Most news outlets act like what he is saying is somehow new or something the Catholic church has never encountered.

Of course, what do you do with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states,

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (CCC#2358)

Some of the more honest news agencies, or those who are better informed, are saying that while they recognize the Pope isn’t saying anything new, he is “changing the atmosphere” for the Catholic church. Well, let’s look at what the Pope said, shall we?

“The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”

“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”

Certainly that statement will send shockwaves. Of course, that statement, while said by the Pope, was not said by the current Pope. It was, instead, said by Pope Benedict XVI. It also wasn’t said while he was pope, but instead when he was just Cardinal Ratzinger, in 1986. It was also given the written approval of Pope John Paul II.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the media has gotten it wrong on what the Catholic church teaches. Consider how the Huffington Post stated that the Pope taught atheists could go to Heaven. Of course, by saying that atheists were capable of virtue and that by doing good works they could meet Catholics halfway, he was merely restating (though in different terms) the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states:

Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion but the imputability of the offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances. (CCC#2125)

Now, I am not a Roman Catholic. I have no real interest in whether or not the Pope “goes off the reservation” within the Roman church. I think his office is given far too much authority and I disagree with quite a few other aspects in Roman theology (notably the idea of original guilt, immaculate conception, Filioque, and so on). Thus, I am no apologist for the Roman church, but if you’re going to report on something it’s probably best that you understand what you’re reporting.

Saying that the Pope’s message on homosexuality will send “shockwaves” is no different than saying his message on helping the poor will send shockwaves; the only people who will be shocked will be the ill-informed and uneducated. Instead, the news media – and America in general – is so fascinated by personal experience that we let it overpower our thinking. Many lapsed Catholics (some of whom don’t realize they’re lapsed because they don’t understand their own faith) have an image of what Roman teachings were and are, so when the Pope goes against their perception they think he’s actually going against Roman dogma. The reality is, though the Pope can speak ex cathedra, he is still limited by the councils and by dogma. Thus, he can’t just change the rules mid-game.

What many people fail to realize is that the Roman church is not Protestant and that the Protestant church is not Roman. That might be tautological to some people, but the media tends to act as though the Roman church is no different than the Protestant church. In the Southern Baptist convention, if the majority of delegates change their mind on homosexuality, on inerrancy, or any matter of doctrine, they can change the belief of the entire denomination. The authority in such Protestant denominations comes from the masses. The Roman church, however, is confessional. The authority in the Roman church comes from Tradition and Scripture. The Roman faith is both sacramental and confessional, meaning the authority and teachings were determined over a thousand years ago and not by modern feelings.

This confessional faith means that even if 99% of Catholics believed one thing or acted a certain way, that doesn’t change the teachings of the Roman church. To put it bluntly, the Roman church is not a democracy. What the majority believe is quite irrelevant to the teachings of the Roman church. Thus, when people say, “Well I used to be Catholic and this isn’t a Catholic teaching” or “The Church needs to change x,” what they’re really saying is, “I’m not that informed on what the Catholic church teaches.” It doesn’t matter what one thinks the Roman church teaches, what matters is what the Roman church actually teaches.

What the Pope said will send no shockwaves throughout the church. He was simply stating what is already taught within the Catholic teachings. Yet, the media will continue in their ignorance and laziness, rather than reporting accurately (or refusing to report a non-story), they will report sensationally, only aiding in further dumbing down an already gullible public.

A Brief Thought Experiment or, Homosexuality and Abortion in the Same Post, Oh Boy

DSC01794As I’ve been quite busy and I’m spending more time writing my series on Virtue Capitalism, I was thinking today, which is dangerous. I was looking at how sometimes we can hold highly inconsistent views, or at least a hierarchy of views. Two very hot-button cultural issues tend to be homosexuality and abortion; nothing provides a strong line between what constitutes a liberal and what constitutes a conservative than these two issues. So I want to compose a very simple thought-experiment that will hopefully show how we are inconsistent with our views. Keep in mind that thought-experiments test our ethics in situations that most likely will not happen. So debating on the specifics or saying, “Well that could never happen!” doesn’t get one out of a thought experiment.

Imagine that later this year, scientists discover a gene or biological function that causes homosexuality. They find that this development occurs in utero and can through tests can be discovered in utero. Thus, we discover absolute evidence that our biological composition dictates who we’re attracted to.

With this in mind, a semi-religious family discovers their unborn child will grow up as a homosexual. Not wanting to deal with a gay child they decide it’s best to just abort the child. A judge intervenes and attempts to stop the abortion, saying that what the parents are doing is akin to genocide. Would you still support the parent’s right to abort their child even if the sole reason for the abortion is they just don’t want to raise a homosexual?

Alternatively, to those who lean more pro-choice, but believe homosexuality is a sin, would you still side with the judge, arguing that all humans have a right to life? Would you still be pro-life and defend the life of this unborn child even though you knew he would grow up to be a homosexual?

My hope is that this will force some people to face their beliefs head-on. If we can kill a fetus because we don’t like who that fetus will become, then the only moral boundary between killing that fetus and a child of the same disposition is a womb; as many pro-choice philosophers have argued, such a line is arbitrary. Likewise, if we would defend the life of this child even if we believe his homosexuality will be sinful, then why do we hold homosexuals in such contempt today? Why do we ignore the persecution and violence they undergo? If we value their lives in the womb, why would we disdain their lives outside of the womb?

As I said, this is a thought experiment for people to wrestle with, so I offer no grand narrative on how we should react. My only hope is that you’re truly challenged by it and forced to rethink some positions.