Pastors who marched in the civil rights movement have a message for President Obama.
Pastors who marched in the civil rights movement have a message for President Obama.
Christianity Today reports the story of a New Mexico wedding photographer who was successfully sued for refusing on religious grounds to photograph a lesbian wedding.
In 2006, Vanessa Willock asked Elane Photography in Albuquerque to photograph her same-sex commitment ceremony. Elane declined because it photographs only traditional weddings, not same-sex weddings. Willock filed and won a claim with the commission, alleging that she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation.
Mike Wittmer writes in reference to this story, “The worm is turning exceedingly fast, and it’s worth asking who is discriminating against whom. It seems that it’s possible for homosexuals to hate too.”
Alexis de Tocqueville sang the praises of Christianity’s influence in the United States. Yet, he was not an orthodox Christian. As Thomas Kidd has pointed out, in this regard Tocqueville was similar to Jefferson and some of the other founding fathers. A new book by Gregg L. Frazer promises to give more documented clarity on the important matter of Christianity’s role in the beginnings of the United States.
According to Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America), there was little doubt that the United States began in a very Christian context, and that a Christian beginning contributed to America’s success. Tocqueville wrote:
There is no better illustration of the usefulness and naturalness of religion, since the country where its influence is greatest today is also he country that is freest and most enlightened.
In the United States, Tocqueville said that Christianity reigned without impediment and with universal consent.
It should be stressed that Tocqueville’s point was not that the form of the United States government was Christian. Further, Tocqueville said it was not his goal to advocate a particular form of government.Indeed, “Tocqueville marveled at the relative absence of government from American life and the corresponding vitality of civil society, especially when compared to the state’s all-pervasive presence in his native France.” (See Samuel Gregg, “Socialism and Solidarity: Values and Economy,” The City (Spring 2011): 63). Rather than the form of government per se, Tocqueville believed it was Christian values, what Tocqueville called “habits of the heart,” which made for responsible citizens and was the bedrock of the American experiment.
Tocqueville was not naïve about the spirituality of America. He knew that every citizen was not a Christian and allowed that there was plenty of hypocrisy present in those who said that they were Christian. Still in all, he said,
Revolutionaries in America are obliged to profess a certain public respect for Christian morality and equity, so that it is not easy for them to violate the laws when those laws stand in the way of their own designs. And even if they could overcome their own scruples, they would still be held in check by the scruples of their supporters.
It is interesting, for all that he said about the importance of Christianity in the beginning of the United States, Tocqueville himself was not an orthodox Christian. Thomas Kidd (whose book I highly recommend) writes,
Despite his sanguine view of American religion, Tocqueville was personally skeptical about Christianity. Early in his life he became a deist, and for most of his life he did not receive communion as a Catholic. Nevertheless, he always maintained a general belief in God, Providence, and an afterlife. In this combination of personal doubt but public support for religion, Tocqueville manifested a view of religion not unlike that of several prominent founding fathers, including Jefferson. Jefferson and Tocqueville personally abandoned traditional orthodoxy, while maintaining that it was essential for the masses to keep believing in Christianity – - or at least in good and evil – - and in eternal rewards in the afterlife.” Thomas S. Kidd, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, 2010), 248.
Recently, Justin Taylor interviewed Gregg L. Frazer about his new book, The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders. Justin’s interview points out the importance of understanding the beliefs of Washington, Jefferson, and others and offers:
Apart from the extremists on the Left and the Right, I imagine there is a sizable swath of the American public that simply asks, “Who cares?” Obviously you think this question matters or you wouldn’t have written a 300-page book on it. So in your view, what difference does it make how one answers the question of the founding fathers’ faith?
The question of the religious beliefs of America’s founders is important for a number of reasons in a number of categories.
For Christians, it matters because of the dangers of the “Christian America” view:
a) designating a mixture of Christian and non-Christian influences as “Christian” or “biblical” attaches the authority of the inerrant, infallible Word of God to a non-biblical hybrid of influences;
b) identifying “religious” people as Christians makes the Gospel one of moral behavior and pronouncements rather than the saving work of Christ and personal commitment to Him;
c) Scripture teaches that God hates generic, moralizing religion—promoting “religion” as Christianity exalts what God hates;
d) many confuse their cultural heritage with biblical Christianity and lose the ability to distinguish what is truly biblical from what is merely American tradition;
e) the Bible is reduced to a mere tool in service of a political agenda—proper use/interpretation of Scripture is not important, what is important is counting how many times it is quoted (no matter how incorrectly); and
f) confidence is placed in processes and institutions rather than in the sovereign God—belief that the political system was originally Christian focuses and directs efforts of Christians toward correcting the political system and misdirects the resources of the church.
Read the whole interview here.
While I have not yet read it, The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders, looks very promising . . .
In a brief audio clip, the late Chuck Colson reflects on Memorial Day and mentions his highly recommended book, The Good Life.
Click here to listen.
Tonight a ticket will be chosen worth over half a billion dollars. Lottery agents in New York were selling 1.3 million Mega Millions tickets per hour Thursday.
Officials were expecting to sell about 1.2 billion tickets total before the drawing.
“Americans spend about $60 billion on the lottery every year,” says Stephen Dubner, co-author of “Freakonomics.” “More than $500 per American household goes to playing the lottery.” (CBS This Morning)
There are at least seven reasons you should not gamble with your money in this way — and should tell your congressmen not to support it.
Read the rest here.
This is a big deal!
Denny Burk’s thoughts here.
Dan Rather opened a CBS Evening News broadcast in 1991 by declaring, “One in eight American children is going hungry tonight.” Newsweek, the Associated Press, and the Boston Globe repeated this statistic, and many others joined the media chorus, with or without that unsubstantiated statistic.
When the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Agriculture examined people from a variety of income levels, however, they found no evidence of malnutrition among those in the lowest income brackets. Nor was there any significant difference in the intake of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from one income level to another.
Read the rest here.
Dr. Mike Wittmer:
Many of us have been saying for some time that the normalization of homosexual marriage will inevitably open the door to the state’s acceptance of polygamy. Proponents of gay marriage typically scoff and say we’re silly for making such a slippery slope argument. Well, not anymore.
In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Jonathan Turley argues that the same civil liberties that enable homosexuals to marry must also allow for polygamous relationships. He’s right.
If framed in terms of rights and freedoms, then of course homosexuals and polygamists have the right to freely marry however many of whichever gender they choose. A polygamist man would be free to marry two men and three women if he chose and they were agreeable.
But what if the debate is not really about rights and freedoms but about nature? If marriage is by nature the covenantal union between one man and one woman, then . . .
Read the whole thing here.
As Americans, along with our American neighbors to the north, celebrate our respective holidays, we would do well to ponder Tocqueville’s opinion that liberty cannot govern a people without faith. Nothing could be more truly patriotic than to be faithfully present in our countries as salt and light in our communities. With “glowing hearts” from the work of the Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31), let us stand on guard for the faith and contend for Christ together.
In 1830 a 26 year old Frenchman named Alexander Tocqueville was commissioned to travel to America and evaluate the prison system. He returned and wrote his famous, Democracy in America, an extended reflection on what was contributing to America’s greatness.
One of the things that Tocqueville argued was that for America to continue in greatness it was essential that the faith of the American people continue. He contended that the reason political freedom in America was not abused was because the faith of the country imposed needed boundaries.
Below is an excerpt from his chapter, “Accidental or Providential Causes Which Contribute to Maintain the Democratic Republic in the United States.”
Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is much more necessary in the republic which they set forth in glowing colors than in the monarchy which they attack; it is more needed in democratic republics than in any others. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity?
This is post probably has something to make everyone unhappy. But here goes.
With Memorial Day on Monday (in the U.S.) and, no doubt, a number of patriotic services scheduled for this Sunday, I want to offer a few theses on patriotism and the church. Each of these points could be substantially expanded and beg more detailed defense and explanation, but since this is a blog and not a term paper, I’ll try to keep this under 1500 words.
1. Being a Christian does not remove ethnic and national identities.
In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free (Gal. 3:28), but this does not mean men cease to be male or Jews ceases to be Jewish. The worshiping throng gathered around the throne is not a bland mess of Esperanto Christians in matching khaki pants and white polos. God makes us one in Christ, but that oneness does not mean we can no longer recognize tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples in heaven. If you don’t have to renounce being an American in heaven, you shouldn’t have to pretend you aren’t one now.
2. Patriotism, like other earthly “prides,” can be a virtue or vice.
Most people love their families. Many people love their schools, their home, and their sports teams. All of these loves can be appropriate. In making us for himself, God did mean to eradicate all other loves. Instead he wants those loves to be purer and in right proportion to our ultimate Love. Adam and Eve should have loved the Garden. God didn’t intend for them to be so “spiritual” that they were blind to the goodness around them. In the same way, where there is good in our country or family it is right to have affection and display affection for those good things.
Of course, we can turn patriotism into an idol, just like family can be an idol. But being proud of your country (or proud to be an American or a Canadian or a Russian or whatever) is not inherently worse than being proud of your kids or proud to be a Smith or a Jones or a Dostoevsky. I find it strange that while it is fashionable to love your city, be proud of your city, and talk about transforming your city, it is, for some of the same people, quite gauche to love your country, be proud of your country, and talk about transforming your country.
3. Allegiance to God and allegiance to your country are not inherently incompatible.
Sometimes Christians talk like you should have no loyalty for your country, as if love for your country was always a bad thing. To be sure, this must never be ultimate loyalty. We must always obey God rather than men. But most Christians have understood the fifth commandment to be about honoring not only your parents but all those in authority over you.
Moreover, Jesus shows its possible to honor God and honor Caesar. This is especially clear if you know some of the Jewish history. The tax in question in Mark 12 is about the poll tax or census tax. It was first instituted in AD 6, not too many years before Jesus’ ministry. When it was established a man by the name of Judas of Galilee led a revolt. According to Josephus, “He called his fellow countrymen cowards for being willing to pay tribute to the Romans and for putting up with mortal masters in place of God.” Like the Zealots, he believed allegiance to God and allegiance to any earthly government were fundamentally incompatible. As far as they were concerned if God was your king, you couldn’t have an earthly king.
But Jesus completely disagreed. By telling the people to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” he was saying there are duties to government that do not infringe on your ultimate duty to God. It’s possible to honor lesser authorities in good conscience because they have been instituted by a greater authority.
If you read all that the New Testament says about governing authorities in places like Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, you see that the normal situation is one of compatible loyalties. The church is not the state and the state is not God, but this does not mean the church must always be against the state. In general, then, it’s possible to be a good Christian and a good American, or a good Ghanaian or a good Korean. Patriotism is not bad. Singing your national anthem and getting choked up is not bad. Allegiance to God and allegiance to your country do not have to be at odds.
4. God’s people are not tied to any one nation.
When Jesus says “go ahead and give to Caesar what belongs to him” he is effectively . . .
Read the rest here.