"People who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and the state should not discriminate against them . . . I don’t think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state…. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans."There are several points of concern in the above, and his campaign website's open letter to the "LGBT community" underscores many of them; for it shows that the above is no off-the cuff, impromptu, ill-considered remark but instead it is a calculated part of his political agenda:
. . . I’m running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all – a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It’s wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation . . . Equality is a moral imperative. . . . as president, I will place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.The most obvious problem with Sen Obama's position as stated, is that equality of persons made in the image of God, for excellent reason, does not equate to moral equality of the ideas and behaviours of those persons.
As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples — whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does . . . I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system.
For, as Greg Koukl so aptly points out in his essay on knowledge, truth right and wrong, we should indeed tolerate and respect persons, but we must be discerning in our evaluation of ideas and behaviours, as there are ideas and behaviours that are self- and/or socially destructive. That is, wrong, or even evil.
In short, unchecked error is destructive, and indeed, following Kant's logic on the Categorical Imperative, that is one way that we can discern errors of truth and moral behaviour. Namely, error is destructive so if it propagates across a community it would result in chaos.
Thus, we can identify evils by asking what would happen if a society were to allow that propagation to occur? If chaos would result, the behaviour is evil. [Try it with classical behaviours such as lying, cheating, stealing, murder, marital infidelity, etc. on one hand, and truthfulness, integrity, respect, love, kindness, marital fidelity, courage, etc. on the other.]
Further to this, some forms of immoral behaviour are sufficiently destructive that the Judaeo-Christian tradition, for very good reason, has long since seen such behaviours as injustice or crime to be curbed by the Civil Authorities acting as God's servants to do us good:
RO 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established . . . . 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience .Oops, I "forget"!
RO 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor . . . .
RO 13:8 . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
This is all from "an obscure passage in Romans" that can be safely dismissed as we pick and choose what biblical texts we want to use.
So "obscure" a passage that it is the (now too often unacknowledged) theological foundation behind the rise of modern liberty and publicly accountable democratic self-government of and by a free people over the past 500 years since the Protestant Reformation. For, if all civil authorities are God's servants to do us good, then if one turns tyrant, lower magistrates have a duty to act jointly with the people to defend the community from the destructive behaviour of the ruler gone bad.
For instance, as we may directly read in the opening paragraphs of the foundational US Declaration of Independence of 1776:
When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.In short, we are made in God's image and as image bearers of God, we have rights to be respected under God. Governments, through their mandate to do justice, are in part ordained to protect such rights. So, when rulers sufficiently violate these rights they may forfeit the mandate to rule under God, and lower magistrates may properly act with the people and interpose themselves between the tyrant and those whom he would destroy. (Thank God, the institutionalisation of the free, responsible, watchdog press and the democratic, regular General Election --over the past hundred to two hundred years [and largely due to the success of the American Revolution] -- now allows us to do this peacefully. However, we must not ever forget that, proverbially, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .
One would imagine that a Constitutional Lawyer would know such elementary points. But, so far has radical secularism advanced in the United States, that basic, easily demonstrated facts that do not sit easily with the secularist, de-Christianising agenda are often obscured by many tortured twistings of history and historical, legal or -- more to our most direct concern -- Scriptural texts in service to the accelerating de-Christianisation of Western culture.
This brings us to my principal concern, addressing the agenda-serving, sad wrenching of the scriptures in Sen Obama's remarks:
1] "I would refer them to the Sermon on the Mount":Sadly, with Senator Obama, that is where we have now arrived in American politics. And, if his proposed policy prevails, those who object on Biblical grounds will be targetted for persecution as intolerant bigots who would impose a religious tyranny on the latest legally protected group, homosexuals. (This has already begun to happen in Europe and Canada, so this is not empty speculation.)
A sermon that in material part reads:MT 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them . . . 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven . . . . 7:12 . . . in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.In short, Jesus' teachings must NOT be read as casting one part of Scripture against another, but as an integral, unifying part of the whole. Indeed, explicitly, Jesus' remark on doing to others as one would be done by in the context of God's Moral Law is EXPLICITLY a summary of the law, not its replacement. And, as Paul remarks in Rom 13:8 - 10, as already cited, the point of neighbour love is that it does no harm, so it fulfills the law. (Rom 2:14 - 16 amplifies that this principle is written on the hearts of all men by God, which is the reason why the Golden Rule in various forms, can be found written in the tablets of our hearts; from earliest childhood.)
Or, in other words, if a pattern of behaviour is harmful to the individual and/or the community, it is wrong. And, relativistic refusal to discern good from bad behaviours and treat them accordingly is plainly destructive.
Indeed, here is Isaiah on the folly of such relativism:ISA 5:18 Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit,The wanton destruction of marriage in the name of "fairness" and "equality" is precisely an example of this evil.
and wickedness as with cart ropes . . . .
ISA 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
ISA 5:21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight.
2] The destruction of Marriage:
Marriage is protected by the proscription on adultery, which in Jesus' words a few chapters later in the same Gospel of Matthew in which we find the Sermon on the Mount, encompasses thought and behaviour that would wrench apart what God has joined:MT 19:3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"Observe carefully: in Jesus' teaching, marriage is an integral part of God's creation order, the context for committed union between man and woman in which children are born and are to be raised up to follow in the path of right.
MT 19:4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,' 5 and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
MT 19:7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
MT 19:8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
In that context, the divorce-remarriage game is viewed as fundamentally destructive and only allowed -- note Jesus' change of language from "command" to "permitted" -- for the hardness of men's hearts. In other words, divorce was allowed only as the lesser of evils. So, he underscored the principle: "what God has joined together, let man not separate."
3] How is this relevant to "same sex marriage," so-called [or its near-equivalent "civil unions"]?
A closer look at Jesus' words will help:Q: Just what what did God "join"?In short, marriage -- reflecting the naturally obvious creation order and purpose of the two sexes -- is between man and woman, not between man and man, or woman and woman. If divorce and remarriage is destructive, how much more so is such a homosexual distortion of the creation order?
A: " . . . at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' . . ."
But, through the teachings of the Apostle to the nations -- so appointed by the Risen Lord [Ac 9] and so recognised by the other Apostles [Ac 15, 2 Peter 3:15 - 18] -- in his most important, well-known and definitive Epistle, in its very opening arguments, we are not left to speculate:
4] "an obscure passage in Romans . . ."
Romans 1, pace Senator Obama, is neither little known nor hard to understand.
Indeed, it is foundational to the most structured presentation of the theological substance of the Gospel in the entire Bible:RO 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."This is plain enough: when men in their rebellion suppress the truth and the right, professing themselves to be wise, they become fools instead, refusing to acknowledge the testimony of nature without and mind and conscience within that we are the Creatures of a loving God and Father. In the old days that led to idols in temples and associated legends. Today, we have images made to look like men, birds, beasts and reptiles in museums, school textbooks and the popular media, and are invited to accept the absurdities of evolutionary materialism, which inter alia undercuts the very foundation-stones of reason and morality:
RO 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
RO 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
RO 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.[evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of "science"] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.If we accept such Creator-rejecting absurdities, whether in the guise of ancient paganism or modern evolutionary materialism, we become benumbed and en-darkened in heart and mind, so that our passions twist out of control, most notably our sexual ones, even twisting out of God's obvious creation order into various perversions.
But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as "thoughts" and "conclusions" can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)
Therefore, if materialism is true, the "thoughts" we have and the "conclusions" we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them . . .
Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?
In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .
In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that "Right" and "Wrong" are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.
"Truth is dead," so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.
Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are "simply accidents of history," one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one's preferences.
Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless, so the weak, sick, defenceless and undesirable — for whatever reason — can simply be slaughtered, whether in the womb, in the hospital, or in the death camp.
In short, ideas sprout roots, shoot up into all aspects of life, and have consequences in the real world . .
This is personally and socially destructive -- which is massively documented [homosexuality takes literally decades off one's life expectancy and the associated agendas are plainly destructive to the community] -- and leads to the demand that such destructive behaviours not only be "tolerated" but that they must be APPROVED.
Therefore, we must reflect soberly on the Apostle Peter's closing remarks in his last Epistle, written shortly before his martyrdom:
2 Pet 3:15 Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.Let us beware, then, of such scripture twisting, whether in the ever-tempting guise of political messianism, or in the name of "equality" or "tolerance" or any other persuasive excuse. END
2PE 3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!
UPDATE: Minor copy editing, and a few additional remarks on the value of general elections and the role of a responsible, free press, March 13. It may also be wise to soberly but critically reflect on Jane Chastain's remarks on the Tony Rezko angle to the emerging Obama story, here.