Weekly Roundup

This week’s noteworthies are fairly self-explanatory, so they are presented without comment. 

Move over New Atheists, there’s a New Theist in town.

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The 4th of July: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

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Egypt’s Pope hails protesters taking back ‘stolen revolution.’

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RAND PAUL: Celebrating American independence while abetting tyranny.

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What J.R.R. Tolkien said to the Nazis when they asked if he was Jewish.

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Your Boss Owes You a Paycheck, not Fulfillment.

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If only Kermit Gosnell had worn pink sneakers like Wendy Davis.

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Nearly 1,200 People Have Starved to Death in NHS Hospitals.

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Beliefs Are Not Set in Stone, Except for When They’re on Tablets (Rachel Held Evans, Same-Sex Marriage, and When Not to Rethink Your Theology).

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21 Jokes Only Nerds Will Understand (Or people with questionable senses of humor).

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UPDATE:  American Evangelist Arrested in London for Preaching Homosexuality is a Sin.

Weekly Roundup: Same Sex Marriage and Superman

For many years Joe Carter, the original proprietor of the Evangelical Outpost, would gather together the week’s most interesting stories in a series called 33 Things.  Being a bloodthirsty Capitalist, Joe has threatened to sue if we continue to use the name*, thus we continue the tradition with the entirely unoriginal title of Weekly Roundup.

This week saw the high profile Supreme Court decisions that will fundamentally alter the same sex marriage debate in America.  Mere Orthodoxy has a helpful roundup of their own, gathering many of the major reactions from across the web.

One reaction not included in the Mere-O roundup comes from Dr. Peter Jones, Professor at Westminster Seminary California and Director of truthXchange.  Dr. Jones has a sober warning for the future of the church and her witness in America.

The venerable Doug Wilson, for his part, offers words of encouragement:

The salvation that Jesus is bringing to us is not a possible salvation, or a probable one, or a likely salvation. It is an inexorable and necessary salvation. Reformation, revival, salvation, forgiveness, and a spirit of deep repentance is coming at America just like tomorrow morning is.

Speaking in broader cultural terms, Josh Bishop ponders the implications of genderless marriage for men in general, specifically for their ability to form intimate, lasting and non-erotic friendships with other men.

And John Mark Reynolds provides a bit of much needed perspective by reminding traditional Christians that we have long been the “moral minority.”

In other political news, President Obama is still using ad hominem attacks on his political opponents, again suggesting that anyone who disagrees with his alarmist views on global warming is a member of the “Flat Earth Society.”  At HughHewitt.com, Clark Judge suggests that it is Mr. Obama who embraces flat earth science…and economics.

Zach Snyder’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel, is generating a lot of controversy for its dark tone and seemingly endless action sequences, as well as its clumsy Christological references.  But what if there is much more going on beneath the surface?  Peter Lawler at Big Think suggests that the film is all about Plato.  (He then continues and deepens his discussion of the Platonic themes in Man of Steel here).

While the new Superman may be an analogy for both Jesus and Plato’s Philosopher-King, Joe Carter would like to remind us that a Kryptonian invasion would be seriously bad for the economy.

There is a popular story on BuzzFeed, Eight Foods That We Eat in The US That Are Banned in Other Countries, that makes several claims about the negative health impact of some of our everyday foods, specifically the chemicals in those foods.  A chemist reviews those claims and finds them a bit overstated. 

While postmodern secularists would say that modesty (they would call it prudishness) is opposed to free self-expression, Marc at Bad Catholic argues that modesty is all about honesty, and is in fact the very thing that enables the truest expression of the self.

And now for something completely different!

 

*I kid, of course.  Joe is not bloodthirsty and he would never sue us.  He is a Capitalist, though.

 

The Gay Marriage Round-Up: Thoughts from Around the Web

Same-sex marriage has been a major topic of discussion across the web, especially in evangelical circles. I thought it might be helpful to give our readers a round-up of some of the best and most interesting stuff around the web.

A flurry of posts immediately followed The Atlantic‘s story “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss,” so that’s as good a starting point as any. In it are a number of arguments, many of them speculative, considering what sorts of things a gay couple may be able to teach a heterosexual couple. There are lots of statistics from various surveys and studies, but many of the claims for future knowledge come down to separating the sexes in order to learn what is ‘uniquely male’ and ‘uniquely female’ in relationship settings.

In direct response, First Things offered up the similarly titled “What We Can Learn from Same-Sex Couples.” Here, Glenn Stanton works through the research behind the provocative story from The Atlantic, in order to tease out the implications. The findings are less optimistic than the Gay Guide would have us believe, to say the least.

The Atlantic may just have been capitalizing on the topic, but they followed up The Gay Guide with a piece written by a gay member of the Catholic Church. She speaks to the difference between believing in God abstractly and believing in God concretely; the former is likely not tied to any particular church, while the latter has some visible historicity and beauty to it. Even as an evangelical, I certainly understand and appreciate the point of view.

While I don’t agree with the position of the person being interviewed, John Corvino still makes some really important points regarding debate, broadly speaking. Especially worth noting is his rejection of the idea that all positions are equally valid–a common yet absurd notion–which is an important reminder in fields other than gay marriage (often, same-sex marriage debates agree on but one thing: both sides can’t be right, and one position is clearly superior to the other).

If you’re not familiar with the topic at all, however, the above may have been overwhelming. Joe Carter offered up some definitions regarding LGBTQ issues, which are helpful for those who haven’t researched any of it. He also works through the positions of those who have embraced gay-marriage while still holding to some form of Christianity.

Not every question is new, however. On the topic of giving up the fight against gay marriage, at least publicly, Timothy Dalrymple simply asks: when is the cost too high? In answer to the question, Matthew Lee Anderson of Mere Orthodoxy points out that not every socially conservative movement has looked bleak; in fact, he argues that we should learn the right lessons from the pro-life debate, which is gaining traction. While there are clear differences between the movements, there’s something to this approach. Brad Littlejohn also addressed the question of a tactical withdrawal, but argues for a shift in those tactics, rather than running away entirely.

That’s a lot of reading. And some of it is pretty heavy. While I stand with the traditional Christian view on homosexuality, I also recognize that a lot of the ways that Christians have interacted with the gay community have been harmful, and I’d like to find a way to change that without sacrificing what I believe is Biblical truth. We should be known for our love, after all.

The State Of Our Union Is…Confused.

President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new.  As all politicians do, he called attention to a few high points of the past year, but primarily focused on the future, laying out a fresh list of promises that few people truly believe he can make good on.

The President took aim at Big Business, especially the medical and insurance industries, blasting them for making record profits while average Americans struggle.  What is more interesting is that he went on to warn Congress that now is not the time to gut funding for medical research that helps to save lives.  We have to wonder if the President is aware of how much of those record profits the medical industry invests in just the kind of medical research he wants to protect.

The real issue here, though, is not the specifics of where certain money is being spent, but rather an entire political philosophy.  When the President suggests that high profits for private companies can actually have a negative impact on society, and that any reduction in government-funded research is unacceptable, he is implicitly saying that the responsibility to do such research should be entrusted to the government rather than those private companies.  It would be better, in his mind, for the medical industry to hand over more of its profits to the government (paying more of their fair share, as it were) so that the government can do more of the same work that the medical industry is already doing.  I’m not arguing here that this is either good or bad.  The President’s underlying philosophy could be right.  I merely point it out because, sadly, the underlying philosophies of our politicians are rarely scrutinized and examined in light of other issues, which often leads to confused voters and even more confused politicians.

An excellent example of this political schizophrenia came from two of the President’s more praiseworthy statements.  In his best line of the night the President said, “What makes a man is not the ability to conceive a child, but the courage to raise a child.”  He went on to say that our rights as individuals are always wrapped up in the rights of others, highlighting the importance of community and cooperation.  Taken alone, these statements are excellent and any Christian on the conservative side of the spectrum ought to be able to endorse them wholeheartedly.  What may seem puzzling to some, then, is the President’s radical Pro-Choice agenda and his newfound but staunch support for gay marriage.

President Obama rightly acknowledged that a stable family structure is best not only economically, but also for raising healthy and productive children.  The redefinition of marriage is at odds with this truth.  In every nation that has officially redefined marriage on a large scale, marriage is disappearing.

More important is the issue of abortion.  How can you hope to encourage young men to think of fatherhood as something that requires courage when all the consequences and “dangers” of sex and pregnancy are so easily removed, and with no remorse?  When you continue to push the “easy way out” on the one hand, any calls for courage on the other hand ring hallow.

Moreover, why is radical individualism only a bad thing, and why are the rights of others only important, when it comes to gun control or higher taxes?  Why does the President not chide the radical individualism of the successful businesswoman who seeks an abortion because a child is simply inconvenient at the moment?  Why is she not to be reminded that her rights are tied up in the rights of others, necessarily limiting her choices?

Again, our current way of political discourse in America is not set up to handle these underlying philosophical questions, so I don’t place all blame upon the President or his party.  Mr. Obama may be wrong, but Conservatives and Christians in the media are failing to say so in an intelligent and persuasive manner.  We are all caught up in the culture of soundbites and shouting matches.  Worse yet, when we finally do tire of this unhelpful bickering, we retreat into the amusement of trivialities.  Senator Marco Rubio delivered a winsome, articulate, and at times passionate response to President Obama’s address on Tuesday night.  All day Wednesday, the biggest topic of discussion was Rubio’s 3-second, awkward reach-and-sip from a mini water bottle.  This mildly humorous non-event has received more attention than anything the President said in his speech.  That’s a sad statement.

I don’t exactly know where to go from here.  But I do believe that if conservatives and independents start demanding more thoughtfulness from their representatives while refusing to reward the escalating “cycle of soudbites”, things can only change for the better.

You can start right now by NOT posting that angry knee-jerk response to your brother-in-law’s annoying Facebook post.

 

Newsweek on Homosexuality and the Bible: A Response

According to Newsweek‘s senior editor and religion commentator Lisa Miller:

More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good–and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God’s knowledge of our most secret selves: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for “Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad.” Let the priest’s prayer be our own.

And her boss, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham:

No matter what one thinks about gay rights–for, against or somewhere in between –this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt–it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

I know that this is an issue sensitive to many readers of this blog, myself included. I am writing this post because I believe that Newsweek’s editors capture what I perceive to be the mainstream left’s response to conservatives on this issue. Several writers for Newsweek‘s blog “On Faith” wrote an ecumenical response to the articles. They are worth reading because they are illustrative of the sloppy nature by which Newsweek, and others who make similar claims engage this issue.
Here’s a portion of the ecumenical response (penned in part by EO’s own John Mark Reynolds):

In the latest issue of Newsweek, editor Jon Meacham explains: “To argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt–it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.” Indeed, he continues, “this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism.” Curiously, he intends this as a defense of Lisa Miller’s cover story, which announces that we should approve homosexual marriage because the Bible tells that Jesus would want us to.
On any plane of argument, the contradiction would appear stunning, but, then, neither Jon Meacham nor Lisa Miller are engaged in argument. They’re speaking, instead, in familiar tropes and fused-phrases and easy clichés. They’re trying to convey a feeling, really, rather than an argument: Jesus loves us, love is good, homosexuals love one another, marriage is love, love is loving–a sort of warm bath of words, their meanings dissolved into a gentle goo. In their eyes, all nice things must be nice together, and Jesus comes to seem (as J.D. Salinger once mocked) something like St. Francis of Assisi and “Heidi’s grandfather” all in one.

The Bible has been one of the most influential texts in all of human history. Yet two of the top editors of one of America’s most recognized news magazines cannot even demonstrate basic competence of the text nor demonstrate an appreciation for the complexity of that great and Holy work. Even if one were to bracket the question of homosexuality, the lack of carefulness that these editors demonstrate is shameful.

Continue reading Newsweek on Homosexuality and the Bible: A Response

Prop 8 Is About the Kids

Californians, today you are being asked to vote on one of the most critical pieces of legislation that we have yet seen. I have given an extensive argument for why I believe it is moral and just to support proposition 8. The argument by those opposing proposition 8 is that it is wrong and unfair. They say that Proposition 8 has nothing to do with what goes on in your family or my family and everything to do with affirming love. However, the education that your children receive in schools directly impacts your family. That opponents of proposition 8 deny this aspect of proposition 8 reveals a stunning lack of integrity on their part. Consider the evidence:
Proposition 8: Who’s Really Lying?
Public Records Show Proposition 8 Opponents Want Gay Marriage To Be Taught In Public Schools – ‘The earlier the better.’
The top issue that has emerged in the Proposition 8 campaign is whether same-sex marriage will be taught in California public schools if the initiative is not enacted. Opponents of Proposition 8 are spending millions of dollars on television commercials telling voters that the Yes on 8 campaign’s claim that gay marriage will be taught in public schools is a lie. Yet a review of public records filed with the First District Court of Appeal in Boston shows these same organizations who claim our statement is a lie fought to make it true in Massachusetts. Specifically, they fought to ensure that gay marriage be taught in Massachusetts public schools, even over the objection of parents who sought an “opt out” for their children. Gay marriage was legalized by Massachusetts courts in 2003.

Continue reading Prop 8 Is About the Kids

Proposition 8: The Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Recently, I posted a number of posts about California Proposition 8. This is an emotionally charged issue with good thoughts on both sides.  Not surprisingly, my posts sparked debate in the comment sections where a number of excellent questions were raised. Richard Hollis is one commentator who raised especially thoughtful questions. As a result of the questions raised, especially by Richard, I have decided to write my thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage from the ground up and have asked Richard to respond. Below is my essay followed by Richard’s response. Please note, when I sent Richard my essay, I had not yet added links to my sources. Richard and readers of Evangelical Outpost – thank you for your thoughtful read and consideration of this post. – Dustin Steeve.

The upcoming proposition amending the constitution in the state of California to affirm marriage gives us opportunity to pause and reflect. Since 1970, marriage has endured a series of devastating attacks. In January 1970 the Family Law Act was signed by California Governor Ronald Reagan and “no-fault divorce” was written into law. Reagan would later cite this as one of his greatest regrets. The intent of the law was to help Californians separate amicably without having to contrive reasons for obtaining a divorce. As the explosive increase in divorces since 1970 attests, the effect of the law was that it hurt marriage.

Presently, proposition 8 is giving Californians a rare opportunity to stop further tampering of marriage through law.  As we consider the proposition, reason, empirical evidence, and morality ought to inform us. Each of these has led me to the decision to affirm marriage by voting yes on proposition 8.

Continue reading Proposition 8: The Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Same-Sex Marriage and Education

In my post last week I made the point that one consequence of the state sanctioning same-sex marriage would be that the same-sex lobby would be able to use our schools to normalize homosexuality. “No on 8″ proponents counter my argument by assuring us that this is not the intention at all behind the legalizing of same-sex marriage in California. Somebody from the “No on 8″ campaign should have told that to eighteen first graders who attended the wedding of their lesbian school teacher just recently.
Providentially, I received this notice from a good friend just today:

NEWS RELEASE Contact: Chip White, 916-215-4392 and
For Immediate Release Sonja Eddings Brown, 818-993-4508
First Graders Taken To San Francisco City Hall For Gay Wedding

SAN FRANCISCO, October 11 – In the same week that the No on 8 campaign launched an ad that labeled as “lies” claims that same-sex marriage would be taught in schools to young children, a first grade class took a school-sponsored trip to a gay wedding. Eighteen first graders traveled to San Francisco City Hall Friday for the wedding of their teacher and her lesbian partner, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The school sponsored the trip for the students, ages 5 and 6, taking them away from their studies for the same-sex wedding. According to the Yes on 8 campaign, the public school field trip demonstrates that the California Supreme Court’s decision to legal same-sex marriage has real consequences.

Continue reading Same-Sex Marriage and Education

Prop 8 Video by the Family Research Council

While speaking with people about the issue of same-sex marriage, I often hear people claim that they see no harm in voting to allow same-sex couples to marry since they, the voter, will not be affected. When I hear this, I become concerned for my fellow citizens. I become concerned because I believe they have been deceived into thinking that good work being done by our families to raise children is unimportant to our society. People have been deceived because the implications of a law normalizing same-sex marriage have largely been kept quiet. However, make no mistake, the normalizing of a poorly constructed ideology framework for the family is truly the motivation for people wanting proposition 8 to fail.

The Family Research Council has produced a great video addressing what has already happened in Massachusetts as a result of laws legalizing same-sex marriage.

I have a lot of thoughts on this issue which I will address in a later post. However, the salient facts are that, in the state of California, same-sex couples who enter into a civil-union obtain the exact same legal benefits as married heterosexual couples. In fact, some would argue that same-sex couples have more benefits especially when it comes to areas like adoption where same-sex couples often receive preferential status. In light of this, it is clear that the strategy being played out in California is akin to the one played out in Massachusetts. If proposition 8 fails, the next move that the same-sex lobby makes is into the classroom. Please watch this video and consider whether it would be good if this happened in California.

Find out what you can do to help people think well about and protect marriage.

East Meets West: Sharia Law Sanctioned in UK

Upon hearing about the government sanctioning Sharia law in the United Kingdom, I was immediately concerned that western law was being subverted in an ally country with whom we share a unique history. There are two levels on which there might possibly be concerns. The first possible concern arises when one compares Sharia law to a traditional, Western sense of justice. The second possible concern arises when this event is viewed from a historical perspective. Upon thinking through these possible concerns, I believe that the first one raises interesting questions that Christians especially ought to consider and the second may actually be troubling.

In his speech on the rise of Islam in the United Kingdom and the coming sanctioning of Sharia law, Archbishop Rowan Williams best draws out the nature of the first concern.  Williams said,

And what most people think they know of sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments; just a few days ago, it was reported that a ‘forced marriage’ involving a young woman with learning difficulties had been ‘sanctioned under sharia law’ – the kind of story that, in its assumption that we all ‘really’ know what is involved in the practice of sharia, powerfully reinforces the image of – at best- a pre-modern system in which human rights have no role.

Off-the-hip criticisms of sharia law, especially in the media, will tend to focus around the easiest elements to critique.  Namely, criticism will focus on the areas where sharia law tends to most barbarically separate from traditional, Western ideas of justice.  The contrast between sharia law and Western law is especially easy to notice when one compares the rights of women within the two systems.   In an election year where Hillary Clinton was almost a presidential nominee for one ticket and Sarah Palin is the Vice-Presidential nominee for another, it seems pitiful that there is still a legal and cultural tradition where a man can divorce his wife via text message while the wife cannot divorce her husband save for impotence or his extended absence. 

Nonetheless, while we believe in the rights of women we simultaneously highly value cultures, especially minority cultures, and their traditions.   We value liberty and the freedoms of those with religious beliefs.  We desire to liberate people from oppressive systems, but we simultaneously believe that we liberate people from oppressive systems so that they may live freely according to their beliefs so long as they are not openly subversive to the state.  At the heart of these beliefs is an interesting tension between free expression and how one chooses to express himself/herself freely.  At the center of the tension are questions about the nature of law which are especially important for Christians to consider.

Continue reading East Meets West: Sharia Law Sanctioned in UK