Dear Christians, Your Stance on Abortion is a Joke

abortion-stops-a-beating-heart

Dear Christians,

Your stance on abortion is a joke.

Now, let’s get a couple of things out of the way first.

  1. I am a Christian.
  2. I believe life begins at conception.
  3. I believe abortion takes a human life.

I’m not the typical person you see denigrating the conservative Christian position on abortion, so this should make for an interesting blog post. Throughout this election season I’ve repeatedly listened to good friends of mine (the majority of whom are conservative, Christian, and view abortion as “our nation’s genocide”) talk about how they could never vote for an opponent who was pro-choice. Generally this has always led to the point in the conversation where they say that, regardless of anything, they’re voting for Trump.

Realize this isn’t about Trump. I’m not going to tell you to vote for him or not to. What it is about is recognizing that Trump was a supporter of all forms of abortion, even elective partial-birth abortion, right up until the point he started campaigning for president on the Republican ticket. At that point it became politically necessary for him to claim that he was pro-life, regardless of any intentions to do anything at all about it. It is important to recognize two things: first, that the top four presidential candidates (Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein) are all actually pro-choice; and second, that all it takes to win the evangelical vote on this issue is to tell Christians what they want to hear and then simply not follow up on it.

After a recent conversation with yet another Christian who claimed that the entire basis of their support for any elected official lay solely in their position on abortion, I conducted an informal poll and asked approximately one dozen college-educated, conservative Christians who identified abortion as their top issue to name the last time any legislative effort was made to outlaw abortion. Not a single one could name a single time, nor could they indicate that their support for a candidate would wane if he claimed to be pro-life but made no effort to act on that belief for his entire political career. In other words, the real Christian position on abortion is predicated on the kindergarten-level stance that someone only need to say “the magic words” to get their vote, and that immediately and permanently let both the voter and the candidate off the hook to do anything at all about it.

When I taught at a university I had a young, idealistic freshman approach me regarding abortion, defending it as the substantive issue upon which Christians should base all of their votes. She then went on to claim that no Christian could ever be a Democrat, and that the Republican party was the sole refuge of anyone claiming to love life. I asked her the same question I did of the others mentioned above – when was the last time the GOP did anything at all to change the status quo? Crickets. I then presented her a very specific situation: in 2002, when President George W. Bush was enjoying a 90% approval rate, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, with a balanced (and arguably slightly conservative-leaning Supreme Court), did the GOP do anything to outlaw abortion?

No.

Instead, what they made the focus of the entire government was a defense against terrorism in the light of 9/11. The legitimacy of 9/11 and terrorism is unarguably legitimate, so that aside, let’s pit the two scenarios against each other. On 9/11 approximately 3,000 US citizens died. According to conservative Christians, abortion represents a national genocide in which approximately 50 million have died since 1973.

50,000,000 versus 3,000, in the context of a government’s position on saving lives. Seems to be a bit of a non-issue, right? TO put this in perspective, here is a chart outlining the relative number of US deaths from terrorism and abortion during the same time frame.

abortion-versus-terrorism

If the GOP had actually adhered to its ideological position that abortion is one of, if not the key issue in protecting the lives of American citizens, shouldn’t it have placed terrorism beneath abortion in the priority list? Absolutely. What did it do? Not a damn thing – and Christians didn’t challenge that.

To throw in a quote from my favorite superhero, I think Batman probably sums this up best.

batman-what-i-do

Christians excel at recommending we outlaw solutions without coming up with an actual answer. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:3-4 when he said, “They preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Planned Parenthood and its policies, with all of their heinous ugliness, at least presents a solution. When a woman is facing the reality of an unwanted pregnancy, one that will change her life forever with the presence of a child she doesn’t love and doesn’t want to raise and would likely be unable to find an adoptive family for, she has a couple of choices. She can approach the side of the line represented by Planned Parenthood, where she will find acceptance, guidance, and a list of choices that, regardless of their ugliness, represent a way to live her life and ensure that a child will not grow up unwanted and unloved. Or, she could approach the side of the line represented by the Western Christian church, where she is instantly condemned as a whore for having the pregnancy, a murderer for even thinking about abortion, and an outcast when she seeks alternative options such as an adoption. What do you think she will choose? Do you see why Christianity is losing the cultural battle here?

If one family in every third church in America adopted a child, all of the children currently in the US foster care system who are eligible for adoption would find a home. Let that sink in. One family in one out of every three churches in America. I’ve spoken with multiple families who wanted to adopt and chose international over domestic adoption. The reasons range, but the most relevant and oft-cited reason is that domestic adoption laws often present a complicated scenario where the birth mother could later have a claim to access, and even parental rights, for the child. As long, painful, and expensive as the international adoption process can be, there is usually not this risk. No one wants to enter a situation where the child they adopt could possibly be forcefully taken from their family later in life, and this is completely understandable.

However, that shows Christians where their real fight lies. Abortion is not a legal issue; it is a cultural one. If Christians truly want to save lives, they should realize that the process Jesus outlined in founding Christianity was to redeem the social condition through the Christian’s presence as salt and light in everyday life, rather than by legislative action of outlawing anything they deemed to be sin. The Christian’s fight with regards to abortion should not be in outlawing the procedure, thereby driving abortions underground and actually costing lives (when the entire claimed basis of the movement is to save lives), but rather in presenting loving, grace-filled alternatives and an accepting refuge for those women in often-controversial situations. Christians should be fighting to change domestic laws to facilitate adoption, and then creating an environment where the church is begging to redeem unwanted children. Instead, the church is known only for being a bastion of hypocritical condemnation.

I say “hypocritical” because Christians are unwittingly responsible for thousands of abortions within the church each year. All forms of “the pill;” i.e., oral contraceptives, use abortifacients as a third line of defense. The first two lines of defense in oral contraceptives are actually contraceptive in nature – third line of defense is abortive, making the lining of the uterus unable to facilitate the implantation of a fertilized egg – and a fertilized egg, according to conservative Christian beliefs, is a life that has already formed. The linked article above estimates that even at infinitesimally low odds, it is likely that the pill is responsible for tens of thousands of unintentional and unknowing abortions each year. It is time for Christians to stop standing on the “holier-than-thou” ground they have planted their flag on for decades and recognize that, based on scientific evidence, many of the people you go to church with on a weekly basis are using a product responsible for abortions, all the while condemning others who engage in the practice.

Abortion is a legitimate healthcare issue. Without legalized, medically sanitary abortion, abortion would still continue, but it would look absolutely horrible. Per the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, approximately 42 million women choose abortion each year, globally, with nearly half of those procedures deemed unsafe. Approximately 68,000 women die each year from unsafe abortion procedures, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality at 13%. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every 8 minutes a woman in a developing nation will die of complications arising from an unsafe abortion. Outlawing abortion does not solve this issue (if you think it does, let me know how that war on drugs is going). Without cultural support for legitimate alternatives (e.g., adoption), making abortion illegal simply makes it unsafe for both the mother and the child and ironically presents a situation where MORE life is threatened rather than saved.

So, in the end, the Christian’s stance on abortion is an absolute and utter joke for several reasons:

  1. It relies on a juvenile and immature response to a complex and legitimate issue by simply requiring any candidate for any office to say some magic words to gain the Christian’s undying allegiance.
  2. It is a viewpoint founded on the position that we need not actually do anything, nor attempt to find any solutions, just as long as we judge those considered “more evil” than us.
  3. The viewpoint ignores science and legitimate healthcare issues (e.g., the chemical composition and effects of oral contraceptives and the legitimacy of legalized abortion in the world of healthcare) in favor of a hypocritical, judgmental basis that simply states “Don’t do that!” without event attempting understand or explain why.

If you want to be culturally relevant; if you want to present actual solutions steeped in love and grace rather than cliches and bumper stickers wrapped in judgment, then I would challenge you to rethink your position on abortion and what should be done about it. Be a solution in a world of problems.

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Thankfully, your ugly wife can shop at Target

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Last week Target announced that transgender individuals could utilize the restroom and fitting room which corresponds to their gender identity. This ignited a significant response nationwide by conservative and religious groups and individuals opposed to this; adding to the conversation, several states passed laws forbidding individuals to access restrooms of a gender they weren’t assigned at birth.

I’ll let you in on two little secrets:

  1. I’m a Christian. I think that the transgender movement is, for the most part, unnatural.
  2. Your outrage is bullshit.

I personally think that humans belong to the gender to which they are assigned at birth. Changing that is akin to changing one’s race – sure, you can change your skin tone, your culture, where you live, how you express yourself… but it doesn’t change what you were born to be. The reason that I say “for the most part” is that anyone who goes with strict gender identity is scientifically ignorant of the concept of a hermaphrodite, an individual possessing both male and female genitalia.

Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya is a South African runner who has a vagina but lacks ovaries; in their place, she was born with internal testes. After a string of significant victories conservatives claimed that she should be stripped of her titles, publicly embarrassed, and banned from future competition as a woman… despite having been born with a vagina. This is a typical conservative approach: reject the inclusion into our lives of anyone who doesn’t fit into the neat little boxes we’ve inaccurately and inconsistently created in our minds – and the easiest way to do that is to denigrate success in those who stand out.

So yes, scientifically speaking, anyone who denies the concept of transgender individuals who must choose which gender they identify as is simply ignorant. I will also point out that there’s the distinct possibility that there are physical and psychological realities we do not fully understand, and as we explore science further our concept of what gender is may further develop. I’m simply saying that we need to keep an open mind, and religion and conservatism have a multi-millennial track record of being on the wrong side of science on a number of things, including the world being round, the earth revolving around the sun, not all ugly old women being witches, et cetera. Keeping an open mind is an essential part of moving forward in life. This includes both sides, meaning that true hermaphrodites are extremely rare, and from what I’ve personally seen the vast majority of transgender people I’ve interacted with are not truly transgender, but are rather struggling with some pretty intense and long-term psychological wounds which impact how they see themselves.

There are also a significant number of people who engage in attention-seeking behavior without any legitimate underlying issue just to make themselves feel important. This likely includes a fair number of the supposedly transgender crowd. It certainly includes people and groups like the American Family Association, which brings us to my second point.

Like most posts on this blog, the issue is not really the issue here; the issue at hand (Target’s inclusivity when it comes to bathroom access) is merely a vehicle by which to examine what I’d like to discuss. Show me 200 people who are outraged by what Target has done and I’ll show you 199 morons. The people who are upset are concerned about the possibility of sexual predators, children being molested, and men accessing women’s bathrooms. I’ve heard the complaints, I’ve listened to the arguments, and I understand where you’re coming from. Here are a couple of thoughts to consider.

If you’re truly concerned about the possibility of perverts in your midst, then you should realize a few things:

  • 82% of rapes are committed by non-strangers.
  • 50% of all rapes are committed within 1 mile of the home.
  • 7% of all rapes occur at school, 13% take place at the home of a friend or neighbor.
  • According to a 2004 study prepared for the US Dept of Education, nearly 9.6% of students are targets of sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.

When was the last time you vetted your family and close friends for their sexual history? Do you keep your kids from sleeping over at other people’s houses because of the distinct possibility they could be molested? Have you researched each educator at your child or grandchild’s school to ensure there’s no history of sexual abuse? Have you researched your local elementary and middle school’s policies to ensure that no sexual misconduct occurs?

If the answer to those questions is silence, then realize how completely absurd are your complaints about what Target is doing. You have a litany of tools and resources available to address what are far more real dangers in the lives of those you care about and pretend to be offended for, but you’re likely not utilizing any of them.

You should also realize that Target didn’t change anything with this announcement, so if you’re this upset because you’re now simply aware of something that was already happening, you should thank Target for educating you, and you should feel completely ashamed that an issue which is apparently so important to you is one you were either too apathetic, too ignorant, or too stupid to educate yourself on beforehand. Transgender individuals were already using these restrooms. If you didn’t know it, it’s either because it’s an issue that truly didn’t affect you, or you were already letting your granddaughter go into a public restroom and you weren’t taking any steps to protect her before – and you should feel distinct shame at your irresponsibility (this is not a tongue in cheek statement).

The conservative organization Faith Driven Consumer has proposed a “buycott” for WalMart, meaning that in addition to avoiding Target one actually intentionally shops at WalMart. This isn’t because WalMart intentionally pursues different policies in this area (WalMart has had nondiscrimination policies in place protecting its trans employees, and their rights to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with, in place since 2011), but rather because WalMart hasn’t released a public statement on this issue yet. This is akin to a child putting their hands over their eyes and thinking that they’re invisible because they can’t see you – i.e., what the AFA, Faith Driven Consumer, and other conservative religious groups are proposing is distinctly naïve to the point of being asinine.

Conservatives and religious people who have signed the American Family Association’s boycott should first take a step back and realize how laughably absurd their tacit endorsement of the AFA is. The AFA is the origin point of a long string of failed boycotts and public relations stunts, many of them completely ridiculous. For example, AFA publishes an annual retailer “Naughty or Nice” list, downgrading retailers to “Naughty” and recommending shoppers avoid them if they don’t use the word “Christmas” enough. The distinctly non-Christian origins of Christmas and (if you want to get legalistic) distinctly anti-Christian connotations of Christmas notwithstanding, AFA’s entire charade is downright petty. Possibly the most revealing aspect of AFA’s Naughty or Nice list is the fact that the “Nicest” store listed is AFA’s own online store… meaning that the entire list appears to be a marketing gimmick meant to drive retail traffic and profits to the AFA itself.

AFA Naughty or Nice

An example specific to the absurdity of this particular AFA boycott is the distinct reality of its nature as both unscientific and completely devoid of accountability. For example, the list of people who have signed the petition is hidden – there’s no accountability for whether these are real people who have signed it, or whether they ever shopped at Target to begin with. ThinkProgress completed a test where they signed the petition three times using the names “I disagree With this,” “I really think this is stupid,” and “This isn’t A real email.” The only requirement to sign the petition was that a different email address be entered each time, but it didn’t even have to be a functioning or legitimate email address. While AFA celebrates a million signatures on the pledge, realize that the majority of these are quite possibly fake, repeats, or (most likely) people who never shopped at Target to begin with.

Finally, realize that the “outrage” over Target’s announcement isn’t outrage… it’s “faux-rage.” Target knows what every other large company in America knows: outrage by religious conservatives lasts only until something else offensive comes along. Remember all the outrage over Joseph Kony and the Kony 2012 movement? What ended up happening there? What about all of the Facebook profile pictures changed to show solidarity with Christians persecuted by ISIS? ISIS is still around, and they’re still doing the same things to Christians they did then… but all of those Facebook profile pics have disappeared. Now we have a bathroom issue which doesn’t actually matter, and in another couple of weeks the conservative version of a Kardashian nude selfie will come out and everyone will be up in arms about something else.

Squirrel

The last thing I’ll say is this: what would you prefer happen? There are some seriously ugly women out there (let’s be honest); women who are straight, who were born women, and who are simply and distinctly not very feminine. Do you want Target employees to pat down your wife to ensure she is sufficiently female? Would you prefer one of Target’s managers strip search your teenage daughter who is tomboyish and a bit delayed on the breast development to ensure she isn’t a horny teenage boy sneaking into the women’s room? Would you like the Target store manager to mandate cavity checks of anyone who (in their subjective opinion) is too ugly, masculine, or butch to likely have a real vagina? In all seriousness, what do you want to happen? And what is the cost?

Child molestation and rape are serious issues; one could make a legitimate argument that there are none more serious. However, if your child is going to be molested it won’t be by a stranger – it will be by someone you know. It won’t happen at Target – it will happen within one mile of your home, school, or place of worship. If you’re simply upset that you’re now aware of what is, in all reality, a non-issue; that you were made aware by an organization which has engaged in boycotts against retailers in order to drive sales to its own online store; or that you’re literally doing nothing to protect against what are actually legitimate threats against children (e.g., sex offenders or cops who abuse their authority to rape others), then understand that you are, in all honesty, an idiot. Realize that when you call your local Target to pitch a fit about something that truly doesn’t matter while ignoring all the things that do, you’re probably just laughed at when you hang up – and you deserve to be.

Thankfully Target is open-minded enough that your wife and daughters can shop in peace without being strip searched or cavity checked to ensure they’re sufficiently female to use the restroom. However, if you’d like that to change, I’m sure you can find someone you already know who is very interested in examining your underage daughter nude in the privacy of your own home. In fact, it may already be happening while you’re on the phone with Target.

When the Bible is a Cliche

To be honest, this happens all of the time. Let’s take the current situation with Bruce Jenner, for example. I’ve seen this discussed extensively on every outlet of news media and every brand of social media I access and I’m not going to waste your time with my (likely unoriginal) thoughts about the situation. It does, however, provide a convenient medium by which we can discuss what I do want to talk about.

I opened Facebook this morning to see that a friend had shared an article about Jenner and one of the subsequent comments communicated that Jenner needed to get over Satan’s lies and realize that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” according to Psalm 139:14.

Really? We are? Let’s think about that for a moment.

First, if you know much about the Bible you know that the author of this psalm is David, who by any independent analysis was a complete and total stud. Killed a giant with a rock as a teenager, went from shepherd to king faster than my car goes from 0 to 60, is independently recognized as one of the Nine Worthies who personify the ideals of chivalry, fathered the wisest man to ever live… yada yada yada. When David wrote this passage he didn’t write “all of us are fearfully and wonderfully made,” he said “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I don’t think anyone disagrees. Dude was a BAMF.

But let’s assume that this guy who was, without a doubt, fearfully and wonderfully made actually meant that how he described himself applied equally to everyone else.  Let’s also assume that this book of poetry, which repeatedly expresses things allegorically, can be extrapolated to be completely literal whenever we want it to be. (Dear Christians, at this point you can go ahead and start hashtagging #WowThisIsConvenient and #NoWonderPeopleDontTrustUs) Under those relatively liberal and completely far-reaching assumptions, everyone everywhere is fearfully and wonderfully made, and at best a misunderstood masterpiece.

Got it. So when people cope with life by doing things we disagree with, we pull out convenient little clichés from the Bible, like saying that Jenner wouldn’t have a problem if he just understood that God made him a certain way on purpose. We don’t have to investigate his life story, understand his struggles, comprehend what he went through, or know why he made the decisions he did. This convenient cliché does something that is absolutely key to understand:

It allows us to wash our hands of caring for others.

You see, we just wrapped up the sum total of Jenner’s life with a convenient assumption sans any investigation into his life and why he’s struggling with whatever he’s obviously struggling with that has led him to this point. Now we can call him everything from “mistaken” to “(insert hate-filled, expletive-drenched language).”

So let’s go back to David again. We’ve already wrapped him up in a convenient assumption as a total stud who had it completely together and described himself as so fearfully and wonderfully made that he didn’t have a care in the world (or at least, we’ve represented him in that way). He had a lot of triumphs, and likely wrote Psalm 139 when he was at a mountaintop in his life.  But what about when he wrote Psalm 22?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

Bruce Jenner can certainly understand the viewpoint offered by Psalm 139: he played football in college, won a gold medal at (arguably the most demanding physical event in) the Olympics, set a world record which stood for years, was named the top amateur athlete in the US, and was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame, among many other honors. There was a point in time where Bruce Jenner would have penned the words: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Bruce Jenner Olympics

But there was likely another point in Jenner’s life: a point of crisis where he would have found more identification with the David we see writing in Psalm 22 and saying:

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads…
…trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

Let me ask you this: what would make someone who was far more of a physical stud of a man than I ever was or ever will be so fundamentally change his identity that he engaged in surgical procedures to become a woman? I don’t know and I won’t speculate, but I’m pretty dang sure Jenner went through a lot.

Were you there? Were you his confidante? Did you sit through long, sleepless nights of soul-searching with him while he attempted to reconcile his despair with finding an identity and a place in the world? If the answer is no, then understand that you have nothing to say to Jenner. We shouldn’t even be talking about Jenner. To be honest, whether Jenner is Bruce or Caitlyn has not one iota of an effect on my life (or yours) either way.

But Christians who make the Bible a cliché impact my life daily.

We would do much better if we were to heed Jesus’ advice in Matthew 7 when He says this:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

The same David who accomplished more than you ever did suffered more than you could possibly understand. The same Jenner who accomplished more than you ever will has likely been through more crisis than you could comprehend. So until you walk a mile in those shoes, please avoid summarizing someone’s life in a convenient cliché and dismissing them as a result.

If someone impacts our life, we need to demonstrate actual care by loving on them and getting involved in their life. If they don’t affect us, then we should avoid passing judgment because we honestly don’t know the whole story. To end with a cliché of my own, if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.

In The Company Of Grace

grace

We judge. We condemn. We define ourselves by what we’re against.

We’re human. It’s what we do.

We cast stones. We condemn others because we feel that if we simply do that then we can build ourselves up by comparison. We may only have one eye, but if we can make everyone else blind we know we can be king.

But it shouldn’t be the way we operate.

I’m a Christian, and I’ll freely admit that religious folks are the worst and Christianity is the worst of the worst. We’re horrible. Here are a couple of thoughts as to why:

We have very little idea what we’re talking about. Christians love to schwack people with the Bible (and everybody from every other religion does it with their holy books, too). We beat people up about things that are “absolutes” and “everyone knows.” The problem is, not everyone knows and, often we declare things to be absolutely so when they’re absolutely not.

For example, CS Lewis is quoted in nearly every pulpit in America today, but he believed that God could count others’ service in their religion towards Himself and inherit the kingdom of God (i.e., the theological concept of inclusivism). Dang heretic. But then again, Billy Graham believes the same thing. He said, “[God] is calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.”

Martin Luther didn’t believe the Bible was inerrant. St Augustine stated that people who dogmatically claimed to refute science based on passages in the Bible they couldn’t fully explain spoke “idiotically,” demonstrated their opinions to be “disgraceful and ruinous,” and that one could “scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error” those opinions were.

William Barclay believed in universalism, the doctrine for which Rob Bell is so roundly condemned today. He wrote: “I am a convinced universalist. I believe that in the end all men will be gathered into the love of God…the choice is whether we accept God’s offer and invitation willingly, or take the long and terrible way round through ages of purification.” Ask your pastor if he studied Barclay in seminary.

If you think that you’re more educated in the truths of the word of God than Lewis, Graham, Barclay, Luther, and St. Augustine, then you’re probably incorrect. But all of us (me included, and I’ve probably been worse than you) have been guilty of casting stones at the “idiots” who believed differently than we did.

You know, it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t come to give us a theological treatise. He didn’t leave behind a single page of writing. You know what he did? He loved, and he gave grace.

When a woman was caught in the literal act of adultery and dragged into the street to be killed in full accordance with the theologically sound punishment outlined in the Mosaic law, Jesus didn’t even justify the charge with a response. He simply bent down, ignored the religious zealots, and wrote in the sand. When pressed for an answer, he simply responded: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” One by one, they all left. Once he and the woman were alone he turned to her and asked if anyone condemned her. She replied that no one was left. Then Jesus said something that’s absolutely mind-blowing:

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go, and leave your life of sin.”

Rick Warren wrote: “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Jesus didn’t agree with the woman’s lifestyle. He called it sin. But before he called it sin he clarified that he didn’t condemn her.

John 3:17 states: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

This is the mission we’ve been given. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 that God “through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

We are not to condemn. We are to give grace. We are to live the message and ministry of reconciliation.

This doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice truth. But in humility we need to recognize that we often don’t know what truth is. This was something that Pontius Pilate recognized as he stood before Christ, the final decision point between Jesus and the brutal murder of the cross. When Jesus declared in John 18 that the purpose for which he had come into the world was to bear witness to truth, Pilate responded by asking, “What is truth?” And Jesus, in the act of being killed by someone He had just told didn’t have any power over Him that Jesus hadn’t explicitly given him… extended grace.

Declare the truth you know. Humbly admit the truth you do not.

And in all things, act in grace.

In the military we have this thing called the Code of Conduct which governs our actions should we ever become Prisoners of War. It was created after the horrendous treatment our POWs received in Vietnam. Many people think that the Code of Conduct is a guide to never giving the enemy any information at all; they think that it’s six articles of bare-chested, hairy manhood which enables us to look torture in the eye and laugh, knowing that the enemy will never break us.

But that’s not it at all.

In fact, that assumption misses the whole point.

The Code was created with the input of former POWs for the express purpose of guiding our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in how to deal with the fact that they will all eventually break. It is something to cling to in order to help these men know that, frightened and alone, feeling utterly abandoned, thinking that they have failed their country by succumbing to torture, hunger, pain, and terror – they can still return with honor. They endured as much as any human could expect to bear, and then they reached that destination every human has: a breaking point. And they failed, and did something they swore they never would.

You see, the Code of Conduct is, in itself, an act of grace.

If you don’t think you have a breaking point, then you are simply demonstrating your ignorance. If you think that there aren’t some set of factors that would make you kill another, steal something, lie about what you hold most dear, cheat on your spouse, or abandon your children – then you simply do not know yourself.

The Rock on which Christ built His church denied ever having known Him. The Man after God’s own heart cheated on his wife, then murdered his most loyal friend to cover it up. The Man who had literally seen God and lived took his eyes off God… and he betrayed God completely. One of only two men to never die tried to commit suicide because he reached a point so low couldn’t feel God’s presence.

If you want to manifest grace, learn how to empathize (not sympathize).

Job’s friends heard of his suffering and came to sympathize (Job 3:11), but when they saw his suffering they did the right thing: they empathized. “They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” That was empathy.

Then they lost perspective, and tried to sympathize. And they spent thirty chapters telling him how this was all his fault and how he could fix it.

Don’t sympathize. Empathize.

I have spent the last five months going through almost literal hell. I’ve been abandoned, abused, hated, maligned, and spit on. I have reached absolute bottom. And in that experience I realized how great God’s gift to me was: He gave me perspective. You see, it’s hard to look down on anyone when you’ve been completely knocked on your ass.

Finally, I think I may have learned the need to give empathy.

I hope your learning curve isn’t as steep as mine was. Hopefully this blog is all you need.

Give grace.

Is Israel Still The Chosen Nation?

standwithisrael

The Chosen People of God

Since the return of Israel to its traditional land in the Middle East in 1947 an interesting attitude has sprung up in America, particularly among conservative Christians.  This attitude is that the secular state of Israel holds a favored place with God as His chosen people, and therefore America will only be blessed if it sides with Israel.  This attitude has borne out a number of foreign policy effects, not the least of which is to make Israel the largest recipient of U.S. military aid (and until 2003 Israel was the largest foreign recipient of US economic aid).  The U.S. contributes over $3 billion in military aid to Israel annually, larger than the FBI’s entire counter-terrorism budget.

In this post I’m going to examine the roots for such an attitude from multiple perspectives and determine whether this position is valid in any way.

Scriptural Precedent

Generally the entire premise for support of the state of Israel can be traced to the original promise in Scripture to “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”, as was first spoken to Abram in Genesis 12:3.  It was then passed on to his seed in the person of Jacob by Isaac in Genesis 27:29.  The next time this blessing appears is in Numbers 24:9 as Balaam, under the influence of the Spirit of God, pronounces this blessing as applicable to the entire nation.  These are the only three times this promise appears in Scripture.

Interestingly enough, the promise of “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” never appears in the New Testament.  Even more interesting is the fact that this promise never occurs after Deuteronomy 11:26, when God offers Israel a conditional choice to be blessed or cursed by Him.  The blessing was only offered as long as Israel stayed within God’s will; the curse carries with it God’s removal of His protection.  This means that either this protective umbrella of blessing over Israel was withdrawn when they withdrew from Him, or that it still exists and God curses Himself because He is actively cursing Israel to this day (they have not yet returned to Him).  Yes, there is a remnant, but it is not reflective of the nation of Israel as a corporate body and therefore the state of Israel (or any individual Jew) is no different from any Gentile state or individual Gentile.  Romans 10:12: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”

By any standard the “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” statement is a promise; we find clarification on how this applies in the New Testament (and therefore now) in Galatians 3:16: “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”  We find that the promise given to Christ extends to those who belong to him just a few verses later in Galatians 3:29: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  This means that the extension of this promise (“I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”) belongs solely to Christ and those who belong to him, which is not the secular state of Israel.  Indeed, Paul states in Romans 9:6-8 (immediately after explicitly outlining all of the specific blessings which belong to the nation of Israel): “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.  Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.  On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”

The attitude that all people everywhere need to respect, protect, and honor Jews because they are the chosen people of God is based upon ignorance of the Scripture.  Not only is Scripture extremely explicit in stating that these promises were given specifically to Christ by way of Israel (and therefore Israel had no claim to the promises after Christ), but Paul is very clear in stating that the benefits of these promises extend not to the “natural” children of Israel but rather to the “children of the promise,” who he clearly states in Galatians are those who belong to Christ.

Let’s go back to Galatians 3:16 and examine this verse in-depth for a moment.  The verse states that “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”  The three times where this promise is recorded was first to Abraham, second to Jacob, and then third to the corporate body of Israel; never is this promise explicitly made to the person of Christ.

To understand this we must do so in context and not pick just a section of the promise; this means we must go back to the very first time in Scripture that this promise we’ve been discussing was made; these are the words of God Himself speaking to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  The last phrase in that sentence reveals the purpose for which Abraham was chosen: to bless the entire world by eventually bringing forth the person of the Messiah through his line.  Psalms 72 is an expose on the Messiah and in verse 17 David writes: “May His name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun.  All nations will be blessed through Him, and they will call Him blessed.”  Galatians 3:8 states: “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’”  Abraham was blessed because his line would eventually birth Jesus; through Jesus the entire world would be blessed by His gospel.  What we see here is that a blessing is given to an ancestor with the blessing actually belonging to a descendant multiple generations down the line.  While this seems foreign to Western minds, it is a precedent cited elsewhere in Scripture.

In Hebrews 7 the author reminds us of the story of Abraham and Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God.  After Abraham has defeated a coalition of kings in order to free his nephew he is blessed by Melchizedek, and Abraham gives the king a tenth of his plunder.  Verses 5, 9, and 10 reveal why this is essential to understand: “Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people – that is, their brothers – even though their brothers are descended from Abraham… One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.”  Levi, someone who wouldn’t be born for another three generations, paid the tenth to a priest and thereby created the precedent by which God required all other Israelites to pay Levi, the priest, a tenth.  This Scripture allows us to understand that when God spoke in Genesis 12:3, He wasn’t actually speaking to Abraham… He was speaking to Christ!  This blessing truly, solely, and eventually belonged to Christ; the only reason it belonged to Abraham, Jacob, and the line of Israel at all was that they were carrying the body of Christ within their own!

Since this blessing belonged to Christ, the Jews had no claim on it after Christ was born because the blessing was a promise that was fulfilled in Him.  There is a strict physical line from Abraham to Jesus; Jesus had no physical descendents, so His lineage passed on as a spiritual one.  Let’s revisit Galatians 3:29: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  The lineage continues, but it continues to all believers, who are heirs according to the promise.

Interestingly enough the New Testament doesn’t describe the Jews or Israel as God’s chosen people a single time.  Not once.  Over the course of 27 books dealing with such related topics as election, the relationship between Jews & Gentiles, the role of Israel in Jesus’ kingdom, etc, it seems to be a rather glaring omission.  Conversely, Christians are repeatedly and explicitly stated to be God’s chosen people in the New Testament. Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience.” 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” In fact, every single specific role originally given to the Israelites in the OT was explicitly passed on to Christians in general in 1 Peter 2:9.

Nowhere in Scripture (OT or NT) does it state that there are two chosen peoples.  There is only one; in fact, a regular them in the NT is the contrast between children born “in the natural way” and “children of the promise” (this theme is seen most clearly in Romans).  Throughout the New Testament it is clearly explained that the mantle of spiritual blessing the physical nation of Israel used to enjoy has been passed to the spiritual nation of Israel: believers.  It isn’t as if there is a broken lineage, or that the secular state of Israel now enjoys some sort of “half-chosen” rights while believers have a sort of “half-chosen” position themselves.  It is a clear, unbroken, singular chain beginning with Abraham and continuing through his physical line straight to Jesus, at which point it’s physical nature is stopped (Jesus had no physical descendants) and is very clearly transferred to a clear, unbroken chain of spiritual believers.  We are Abraham’s seed, not Israel.

This is where an understanding of the purpose and clear line of delineation between Old Testament and New Testament must come into play for the Christian. “Testament” means “covenant,” and the rules, regulations, promises, blessings, and curses that were a part of the old covenant between God and a physical race have now been fulfilled or accomplished through Christ, who has instituted a “new covenant,” or a “New Testament.” We must be very careful when we read the Old Testament; it is certainly Scripture that was every bit as inspired by the Holy Spirit as the New Testament, but it is highly contextual. If we assume that the OT holds as much weight as the NT, then we have to assume that the all of the unfulfilled promises and prophecies in the OT are still unfulfilled, meaning Messiah hasn’t come and Jesus wasn’t the Christ. To assume that Jesus was the Christ and the New Testament is actually in effect, we have to see that some OT Scriptures are fulfilled, which means that they no longer apply in the same way they did when they were first written.

Paul discusses in Romans 11:11-24 how the branches of Israel were broken off so that others could be grafted in; here he is painting a clear picture of the lineage that grew up like an olive tree to bring forth Christ, a tree that found its roots in Israel but was brought to fruition through the spiritual heritage of all humans through Christ.  The tree is and always has been the tree of Israel; however the trunk was the physical Israel composed of Hebrews and the branches are now the spiritual Israel composed of believers.  Paul makes very clear that God does not engage in wholesale rejection of Jews; he immediately begins the chapter by emphasizing that he himself is a Jew and is saved by belief in Christ.  His primary focus is to emphasize that there is no difference between Jews & Gentiles; the only thing that matters is belief.  This is a theme he stated just a few verses earlier in Romans 10:12: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”  For our purposes, what must be emphasized is this: there is absolutely no difference in any way between Jew & Gentile; the only thing that matters is faith in Christ Jesus.  Paul states this again in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” and in multiple other places in the New Testament.

The Cursing of the Nation of Israel

We’ve seen that this promise was made to Christ and that it extends to believers regardless of racial heritage.  What we must also examine, as unpleasant a topic as it will be, is the current status of the nation of Israel.

Not only is the current state of Israel not blessed, it is under a curse; God states in Malachi 3:9: “You are under a curse – the whole nation of you”.  God charges the priests in Malachi 2, stating that if they do not listen and set their hearts to honor His name then He will send a curse on them and curse their blessings.  While God is specifically talking to the formal priesthood here, He is also talking to the nation of Israel in general.  We know this because of what God states in Exodus 19:6 when He tells Israel: “you will be for me a kingdom of priests…”  God expounds upon His statement in Malachi 2:2-3: “If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.  Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.  Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.”

To the Jews belong the responsibility for the murder of God’s Son (Matt 27:25), the first persecution of Christ (John 5:16, John 15:25), the first persecution of the Christians (Acts 8:1, Acts 13:50), and the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:60).  In fact no positive words are spoken about the nation of Israel in the New Testament, but only lament, and the only positive words spoken about individual Jews are those Jews who believe in Christ.  Any positive mention of “Israel” in the New Testament, upon examination, reveals a reference to spiritual Israel, which is composed solely of Christians.

God is explicitly clear on how we will know when this curse is lifted; He writes in Malachi 3:12, immediately after stating that the nation of Israel is cursed and outlining their action for repentance: “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.”  It is instantly obvious that the nation of Israel is still under a curse.  Israel is definitely the most hated state in the Middle East and an argument could be convincingly made for it being the most hated state in the entire world.  The only one clearly in competition for “the most hated state in the world” crown would be the United States, Israel’s protector.  The state of Israel is hardly blessed by all nations, and it is a land torn by conflict, strife, warfare, and hatred.

Logical Precedent

A promise of “blessing to those who bless you and curses to those who curse you” can only logically only stand up to a promise made by God to a covenant group pursuing Him.  Suppose the nation of Israel engaged in genocide (let’s briefly consider the Palestinian perspective); would God bless those who bless Israel’s pursuit of this?  By doing so God would have to disavow foundational principles in His word, all for the sake of blindly protecting a people group that denies Christ.

What of the historic persecution of Christians by Jews which continues even to this day?  The Associated Press covered a story in May of 2008 where Orthodox Jews burned hundreds of copies of the New Testament.  There are two forms of the Word of God: the Living Word and the Written Word; Jesus being the former and the Bible being the latter.  God obviously views His Scripture with the utmost respect as we see in the final words of Revelation: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  While the Jews mentioned weren’t editing the Bible, I would hardly say that burning it is more respectful.  Will God bless or curse them for this?

The logic of God blindly and unconditionally protecting a people group who are diametrically opposed to his rule escapes me.  God is a triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  If you deny any part of God’s being you deny Him as Lord.  Jews, to this day, deny that Jesus is the Son of God, despite Christ’s statement in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  To deny Christ is to deny God, but according to the common American interpretation of Scripture to deny God is to be unconditionally blessed by him, as long as one possesses the correct racial bloodlines.

Historical Precedent

This brings us to one of the most ironic aspects of this issue: the fact that an unknown portion of the population of Israel isn’t even composed of Hebrews, but rather traces their roots from Eastern Europe and was never Jewish at all!

The nation of Khazaria was founded in the 7th century AD between the Black and Caspian Seas, earning them a strategic place as a trade route between the East and the West.  It also sandwiched them between conflicting religious interests: the Christian nations in Europe and Islamic nations in the East.  As tensions grew between the two religious groups late in the 8th century the merchant-nation of Khazaria decided that it was politically beneficial to convert en masse to Judaism under the presumption that both religions saw Judaism as a forebear and therefore worthy of some respect.  The ploy worked and the nation continued to exist in prosperity for several hundred years.  It worked so well, in fact, that a Persian historian reported in the 10th century that “all the Khazars are Jews.”

Khazarian influence extended throughout Europe and the Middle East until they were finally defeated by Rus (the founding tribe of Russia) in the late 10th century.  The survivors were scattered and it is unknown to what extent those who identify as Jews today actually trace their ancestry to the kingdom of Khazaria. This is instantly apparent when you look at many folks who claim Jewish heritage but are obviously of European, rather than Middle Eastern, descent (e.g., Alicia Silverstone, Amanda Bynes, Harrison Ford).

Converts to Judaism after Christ came on earth carry the same spiritual legitimacy as do Muslims: both worship the God of Abraham and neither accepts Jesus as Savior.  This is incredibly ironic in light of the claim that Jews are currently God’s chosen people purely based on racial bloodlines, when there’s no way to actually tell who has true Jewish blood and who doesn’t.  Consequently, Jews have been intermarrying with other cultures for years… how do we know that all of the rest of us aren’t just as worthy of being called God’s chosen racial set? In fact, there are only three ways you can go with a racial argument: the first two are to argue that only 100% pure Jews are actually Jews (in which case it’s likely no one is actually a 100% pure Jew anymore) or to say anyone with any amount of Jewish blood is part of the chosen (in which case it’s likely almost everyone in the world is chosen). The third option is to say that those who convert to Judaism are suddenly part of the chosen, but then you run into the logical quandary that in order to be part of God’s chosen you have to convert to a religion which doesn’t claim Christ as God.

America’s Foreign Policy

Many American evangelical Christians suppose that the nation of Israel is a direct manifestation of God’s presence on this earth (i.e., “God’s chosen people”) and should be protected and supported unquestionably at all costs.  The last nation in the world we would ever consider actually attacking is Israel; this, despite such false flag attacks by Israel against the United States as the U.S.S. Liberty incident and the Lavon Affair. These are deliberate, planned attacks against American citizens that have been openly admitted to by the Israeli government and, in the case of the Lavon Affair, the Israeli government actually gave medals to those involved with bombing US embassies.  You may wonder why America hasn’t responded in force; certainly we’ve used far less as an excuse to invade and overthrow other nations within the past twenty years.  I’m convinced that the reason lies solely with the belief that Jews are the chosen people of God; I belief that I hope you now see is without justification from any angle.

The ironic thing about the premise that we must defend and ally with Israel by conservative Christian Americans is that it is based on these two premises:

1. They’re God’s chosen people.

2. If America doesn’t defend them, they’re toast.

This is inconsistent with logic and Scripture. If they are indeed under God’s protection then why do they need another nation to protect them? If they are indeed toast without America, then that seems to communicate that they’re not really enjoying that level of protection anymore.

It’s also inconsistent in light of Scripture. Throughout history God has consistently used foreign nations to invade, defeat, and destroy Israel whenever they strayed from Him (a status which they currently still hold). Historically and Scripturally, the protection that Israel enjoys comes from God and God alone; in the same way, the only time they are ever defeated by foreign powers is when God is disciplining them for the purpose of bringing them to repentance. If Christians attempt to adopt the posture that we’ll do whatever is necessary to keep Israel from being destroyed (knowing that the state of Israel is currently not in right relationship with God) then we could be found in the awful position of actually fighting against God as He disciplines them. That’s a position in which I never want to be found.

Some may see this note as anti-Semitic. It’s not. It simply demonstrates from a Scriptural perspective that Jews and Gentiles are no different; neither enjoys a more privileged status with God. It also demonstrates that the nation of Israel is hardly an ally and I, personally, don’t think we should be involved with them in any way. I’m not advocating that we attack, destroy, or punish them; I’m simply advocating that we (the US and Israel) part ways as two sovereign nations who can independently choose which road to travel.

Thank God They Took Prayer Out of Schools

Praying in secret

This year the Supreme Court decided that Hobby Lobby had the right to not be required to provide certain types of birth control to its employees. This was commonly hailed by many opposed to the business’s stance as a “refusal to provide birth control” of any kind. Period. Outright. Done. However, many Christians I know rightfully pointed out that Hobby Lobby willingly covered 16 different kinds of birth control and simply refused to provide the four types they found morally objectionable. That certainly changes the nature of the case.

For years Christians have been railing against the Supreme Court’s decision to “ban prayer in schools.” Thousands of articles, speeches, marches, and protests have been launched by the conservative and religious right since that fateful day on June 25th, 1962 when the Supreme Court passed down its decision regarding prayer. Conservative Christians have claimed that God was expelled from school, that we’ve taken God out of school, that prayer isn’t allowed in school, that God isn’t allowed in school, and multiple other variations which all invariably point to the same assumption: prayer in school is unlawful and represents an assault on Christians.

It’s interesting to see how that perspective changes when we look at what the decision actually was. Justice Hugo Black, who wrote the majority opinion on the Supreme Court case, stated that “by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents’ prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause.” You see, the Supreme Court didn’t say prayer wasn’t allowed in schools, it simply ruled that government-endorsed prayer in public schools is unconstitutional. The intent here was to ensure that any display of any religious values was personal in nature and not influenced, pressured, coerced, or endorsed by public figures; this means that students can individually pray all they want, about whatever they want, to whomever they want – staff members, as authority figures, simply can’t lead. While this changes the entire perception of what is occurring, many Christians still take issue with this more accurate understanding of the actual decision. Many Christians think that teachers should be able to teach their personal religious views with no restrictions.

That is, until this happens:

Revere Parents

Despite this fellow’s complete and total misunderstanding of what is actually going on (the school is teaching about multiple religions in a history course, one of which is Islam, and they aren’t advocating for any; he has no idea who Allah is, etc), all of a sudden the tables have turned. Now “no religion should be taught in schools” seems to be the Christian opinion. Bob Slate, in his book “Do Unto Others: Jesus Was a Liberal” writes about Newt Gingrich’s angst regarding a school superintendent who he felt was being treated unfairly as a Christian. Slate asks the question: “One wonders, however, how Gingrich would feel about a benediction at graduation that included the words ‘Allahu Akbar’”(p.16). I think that’s a great question.

Laws should never be enacted to favor one group over another. Laws should be enacted in order to condemn behaviors considered to be wrong by the majority. As I’ve previously advocated on this blog, laws should pass three simple tests:

  1. They should be few in number.
  2. They should be easily understood.
  3. They should be universally applied.

The third requirement proposes that any laws should be made on a principled basis, not on an application basis. In other words, we shouldn’t choose the one application that makes us feel catered to (e.g., government sponsored, mandated, required prayer in school is fine… as long as it’s a prayer we would pray at home); instead, we should decide the principle we want to support and then follow it wherever it leads, no matter how uncomfortable that may make us feel.

If we give government the power to sponsor religion in schools then we have to be okay with whatever they decide to support. Christians have to realize that even if a government decided to push “Christian values” in school they could fundamentally change the entire face of a religion and its core value system by what they teach. Follow me in this brief exercise:

Should Christian values be taught and endorsed by government authorities in school?

Resounding answer: YES!

OK, well let’s say they choose to go with Episcopalian values, as summarized on the Episcopal Church’s main page:

“In 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” (1976-A069). …the church has continued its work toward full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Episcopalians. In 2003, the first openly gay bishop was consecrated; in 2009, General Convention resolved that God’s call is open to all; and in 2012, a provisional rite of blessing for same-gender relationships was authorized, and discrimination against transgender persons in the ordination process was officially prohibited. To our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters: “The Episcopal Church welcomes you!”

Woah. Wait a second. That’s not the Christianity that I believe in!

OK, OK. So we throw out the Episcopalians because they’re weird. What about the Presbyterians, Lutherans, and those who belong to the Church of Christ?

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) generally takes a pro-choice stance. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) believes that the choice to receive an elective abortion can be ‘morally acceptable.’”

“The (Evangelical Lutheran Church) opposes legal restrictions on abortion and provides health-care benefits to its employees that cover elective abortions. Some hospitals affiliated with the church perform elective abortions.”

“The United Church of Christ has strongly supported abortion rights since 1971…”

Dangit. Gotta throw them out too. Well, what about the Catholics?

“Today, the Catholic Church supports theistic evolution(ism)… Catholic schools in the United States and other countries teach evolution as part of their science curriculum. They teach the fact that evolution occurs…”

DADGUMIT! Is there no one who believes what I believe?!?!?

That’s kind of the point. Religion is intensely personal, and that’s the principle the First Amendment reinforces when it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The government is not allowed to tell you what to believe; it is not allowed to endorse one religion over another; it is not allowed to require anyone to ascribe to any particular set of beliefs.

This is a good thing!

This is why Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Thank God for that.

Perhaps now we can better understand the other side in this case; if we simply replace every instance of “Christian” with “Muslim”, does our support of the actions taken reverse 180 degrees? Do we now assume that the organization at work here is no longer the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but rather the American Family Association, or the Home School Legal Defense Association?

If we are to be principled people, if we are to truly advocate that justice is blind, if we are to actually teach our children that the law applies equally to everyone and that governments do not exist to provide special privileges to certain groups above others, then shouldn’t we agree with the FFRF, ACLU, and Founding Fathers that government has no place in endorsing religion?

If not, we could take the position this author does (see the bottom of the page) when he writes about a Christian police chief’s intentions to send his officers into school on a community outreach mission:

“I want my guys to go into the schools and spend 30 minutes and read” with a child, said (the police chief), 52, who received his captain’s shield Wednesday in a ceremony at police headquarters. “I hate that police officers are always the bad guy. We should be an asset.”

Wow. What a bunch of God-haters who would call into question his motives. In fact, the author writes about how “his plans” likely involve the conspiratorial proselytization of school-aged children, and how evil it would be. Those darn liberals who are ruining America! Can’t we return to our foundations where teachers and police chiefs and public servants of all kinds could advocate for their faith whenever they wanted, thereby protecting and preserving the America we know and love?!?!

Oh, wait. Darn it. It’s a Christian author writing about a Muslim. *erases previous statements furiously*

You see, once we start down the slippery slope of condemning folks purely based on their religion or opinion (“they believe THIS, therefore their rights should be restricted!”) we’re in a very bad place indeed. As Christians, we need to be okay with Muslims exercising any rights we have, and we need to understand how others may feel about us when we exercise our own rights.

Exercise your rights. Believe in your religion firmly (I know I sure do). Simply understand that when you’re offended by someone in a place of authority forcing their religion on your child with the weight of government, two truths should be acknowledged:

  1. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
  2. That isn’t what Jesus would do.

May the proof that Christianity is true rest in our changed and grace-filled lives, and not in the enforcement of special privileges by force of law that we’re not okay with others exercising.