November 28, 2011

Why Respecting My Religon Is Disrespectful

There are a lot of words thrown around today in the political arena that simply don't mean what they used to mean; some are more obvious than others. However, the biggest area where this goes on is within the context of religion. Many have talked about how those who preach "tolerance" are often intolerant of those who disagree with them, but that is not the word that I talking about today. I'm talking about respect (insert Aretha Franklin joke here).

First a caveat: I do believe that we should respect other people's beliefs. Not all beliefs are worthy of respect, but most are. Besides, they are human beings, and they have reasons for what they believe. Often times we just have different starting places (or "bliks" as Roger Olson recently said). If you don't respect that they have a right to their opinions, and that there are reasons behind what they are saying, then you are not going to be able to have a serious conversation about truth with them, evangelisic or otherwise.

However, what many mean by respect isn't respect at all. Many times, I have gotten into conversations with someone, and they talk about what they believe, and I either assess what they said, or offer my own opinion on the subject. And then, they turn to me utter that great conversation stopper, "I respect that opinion."

However, they don't. They don't because they ended the conversation, and left it at that. By "respect that opinion" they mean "I am fine with you believing that but I'm not going to think about." That isn't respect. Respect isn't taking what I said, wrapping it up in a little box with a ribbon that says "respect" on it, and then putting it on a shelf to collect dust. Respect is taking what I said seriously.

I don't believe what I believe because it makes my life simpler, easier, or happier. Indeed, it doesn't always. I believe what I believe because I am convinced that it properly describes reality. If I am right, then that belief is as true for you as it is for me.

It seems to me that this "respect" and "tolerance" movement often allows people who don't really want to get involved with thinking about such things to hide their beliefs from criticism. People have taken personal possession of their beliefs: their own little creations that marks who they are, and shows how creative they are. Like those paintings that I made in high school that I still have for some reason, there is this self-gratifying nostalgia looking back at such creations.

However, also like those paintings from high school, many times they're crap! However, the difference is that I am aware that those paintings were crap, but many of these people expect to receive the same level of respect for such opinions as ancient beliefs that have had thousands of persons carefully meditate and consider the implications of for centuries. While being old or organized doesn't make something true, it certainly makes it more worthy of respect than a really cool idea someone came up with while eating pizza and playing Halo.

Respect needs to be earned, and if your idea really is brilliant (and it may be), then demonstrate it by allowing it to stand up against scrutiny. True respect is not only recognizing that someone has good reasons for believing what they believe, but that they could be right, and that therefore what they are saying is worthy of consideration. This is especially true if what they are saying has serious ramifications for your life (like the future of the country, or the eternal state of your soul). These are things to be taken seriously, and not "respected" like I respect that you like Elvis over the Beatles (which I don't understand, but I digress). It needs to be true respect. It needs to be a recognition that this is something worthy of my time.

Here is my advice to you: don't use respect, tolerance, or other political words to ignore important ideas. Really take the time to think things out, and hear what people say. Show people enough respect to take them, and their ideas, seriously. Then maybe, just maybe, we'll become a society of real dialog that has conversations of substance.

November 24, 2011

Thankfulness as the Key to Joy

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. -Ephesians 5:17-20

In Christian life, thankful is intended to be a way of life. It is not incidental that Paul advices us, no, charges us to be thankful in everything. The key to living a joyful is to choose to be thankful for the life that we have.

It is interesting that we live in such a properous nation, and in such lavish comfort over all, and yet most of us have a lot of trouble being thankful. Here nation is a testament to the truth that getting what we want does not make us happy. What makes us happy is recognizing that we already have more than we deserve.

God is a merciful and caring God, and even the most disadvantaged person in the world has still been given life, a gift that was unearned and was not owed him. My every breath is a gift. Even though it is easy to be frustrated that things are as good as they were, be grateful that you still eat three square meals a day, have a roof over your head, and clean clothes on your back, for there are many who don't have those things who are grateful for what we have.

So this Thanksgiving, give thanks. Know that God is with you and is blessing you. Look at your family and friends and thank God for them.

And one more thing: have fun! God loves a cheerful thanker.

November 21, 2011

Types of Theological Development

I realized that I have never written on this, and it kind of surprised me. I personally, and this is completely me, see four modes of theological development. By this I mean that a person's or a group's opinion on a certain theological/philosophical matter doesn't simply develop on its own. There is generally some kind of impetus which causes us to think on things, and that impetus influences how our theology itself develops. Because of this, certain theological ideas are based more out of the mode through which it was birthed. I think it is best to see what I mean.

The Four are:

  1. Apologetic: In this mode, a person's theology develops essentially through combat with other ideas. The person begins with a basic belief system, and then engages in other belief systems. That core belief system is then protected through new theological ideas intended to combat or dodge certain criticisms, or new ideas that are designed to demonstrate that system's superiority over other systems.

  2. Irenic: In this mode, a person's theology develops through optimistic comparisons with another perspective. The person begins with a belief system, and then looks at another belief system to see what they have in common. Those commonalities are then emphasized and are considered to be more important. The differences are either altered, or talked about. New ideas result from seeing an idea in the other belief system that the person likes, and then altering it to fit within their own views. Irenic development is not necessarily postmodern relativistic interfaith kind of thinking (though that can be an example of it). It is can also be anytime when two or more groups are trying to unify (Such as the original Fundamentalist movement).

  3. Scholastic: In this mode, a person's theology develops through careful and systemic analysis and meditation. The person begins with a basic belief system, which is then critiqued, analyzed, expounded upon, etc... Scholastic development often results in systematic theologies, and other such tomes. As far as new ideas are concerned, that is the goal of Scholastic development. It is people trying to come up with new ideas.

  4. Pragmatic: In this mode, a person's theology develops by attempting to use one's theology/philosophy to achieve certain objectives. The person begins with a belief system and a goal. The person then eliminates those aspects of that belief system which impedes their goal and adds ideas which help their goal. To be frank, this is the typical mode of theological development in America today, which isn't surprising given our culture.
In the best cases, a person or group should really be employing all four of these modes. If one's theology were a city, then scholastics are the foundation upon which everything is built, apologetics is the wall which protects the city from invaders, irenics is the infrastructure (roads) which keeps the people united, and pragmatics is the industry which keeps things moving.

When any of these becomes over emphasized, things go bad. Scholastics starts dealing with worthless ivory tower nonsense, apologetics causes strife and fracturing groups, irenics makes your ideas wishy-washy and easily ignored, and pragmatics causes you to lose sight of what really matters. It is when the four are in balance that your ideas develop in a healthy manner.

November 14, 2011

A Take on the Republican Field

I thought I would do a quick little post on my thoughts on the Republican field. Because we are talking about the primaries, I am going to use my friend Chris Bastedo's stock metaphor of buy (someone I think might succeed), hold (someone I could succeed), sell (someone who I don't expect to succeed), and sold (someone who I think is a joke). Also, to avoid bias, Chris always lists everyone alphabetically. Therefore, to flaunt my bias, I'm going to start with who I like least and move to who I like best:
  • Jon Huntsman (Sold)
    Huntsman is a RINO and simply is not going to win. His only chance was if the "establishment" portion of the party backed him, and they are backing Romney. I also don't care.

  • Ron Paul (Sold)
    Ron Paul is a libertarian, and a good man. He cares about freedom, which I like, and pushes small government, which I also like. However, he also has very naive views on foreign policy. While this naiveté makes for an adorable Representative, it doesn't inspire confidence for someone aspiring to be Commander and Chief. In short, I like the man, I am glad he is in Congress, and I hope he stays there.

  • Rick Santorum (Sell)
    To be honest, I have trouble with someone who attempts to make everything about values. Santorum is the kind of guy that I would probably vote for in the 90s when we were confident and comfortable. In those conditions, we usually care a lot about values. But right now we have a strife-ridden Middle East and a failing economy. I want someone practical. I just don't see Rick as that guy. (I also question whether value based voting should have a place in federal elections, but I digress)

  • Michelle Bachmann (Sell)
    I think, for this race, Bachmann has had her day in the sun, but it is now past. Overall, I like Bachmann. However, I have found very little of her campaign differentiates her from the other candidates. She has a lot of slogans, and a lot of anti-Obama rhetoric, but I don't see anything that I can't get from someone else in the race.

  • Rick Perry (Hold)
    Perry is a guy with some really good ideas who suffers terribly from foot-in-mouth disease. I also feel like him and Santorum through the most mud around, which isn't really something that gets me behind someone. What I fear the most is if he goes against Barak Obama and says foolish things which cost him the election. Besides, I think we can do better.

  • Mitt Romney (Hold)
    I am sure many of you are surprised that I am saying "hold" for Mitt. Well, to be honest, a large portion of the Conservative base of the Republican Party is trying to find someone other than Romney, and I think there are better choices. Personally, I would be happy with Romney. He does a very good job. I also think he has a fantastic poker face (is he ever not half smiling?). The guy knows his economics, and he understands federalism (which a lot of his nay-sayers apparently don't). But I also think we can do better. He's a Rockefeller Republican instead of a true conservative, and I think a lot of his economic plans are too safe. The radical economic plans of Cain, Gingrich and even Perry are much more exciting and to my liking. In short, I would be happy Romney, but happier with a couple of others.

  • Herman Cain (Buy)
    First of all, I trust his character a lot more than the persons who are criticizing him. I am also exciting about anyone who wants to implement the fair tax (which his 9-9-9 plan is supposed to be an intermediate step towards). I also love his foreign policy, which is essentially appointing other people who know what the heck they are doing and then trusting them. That is what every president without military and diplomatic experience should do. However, I have a couple of concerns: first I little worried that his 9-9-9 plan will be a permanent intermediate step. In other words, I am worried that he'll pass it, and then his term will end before he can implement the next phase towards the fair tax (in government you always have to keep in mind that others with inherit what you do, and may not do with it what you would want). My second concern is a lack of political experience. Solution: Cain is the VP for...

  • Newt Gingrich (Buy)
    I think Newt is the right man for the job. First of all, seeing as we need someone who is going to work well in both the domestic and foreign environments, it is good to have someone named after an amphibian. More seriously though, this is a man who behind the economic boom in the 90s. Additionally, he has extensive experience in federal politics, not only as a Congressman, but also as a leader. He has demonstrated to have a deep understanding of any issue upon which he speaks. He also rhetorically articulate and aggressive, while seeking fairness on the field with his competitors. Apart from a bit of a tarnished past which he has repented of, there isn't anything I can really say which is negative about him.
I want to finish with one last thought: as Americans, we have a responsibility to make informed decisions. If you want to vote, then get informed. If you don't want to bother to get informed, then don't vote. We have the privilege of living in a country where our opinion matters. But like all privileges, it comes with responsibilities. Don't wait until the last minute to read a pamphlet to hand you your opinion in front of the voting booth. Start looking at the people and the issues now. Remember, it's your future too.

November 11, 2011

Part III: Applying the Answer

Is has been posited by me in my last post that the reason that homosexuality is wrong is because it betrays our responsibility to represent God, and that it misrepresents the divine nature of love. OK, that's great. But what does that mean for us as Americans, evangelists, and church goers? How do we as Christians take this theological understanding and apply it socially, politically, and practically?

The State of Unions

The first question that I think will be asked in terms of applying our opinion of homosexuality is whether or not gay marriage should be legal. Here we have a real conundrum. As someone who believes that homosexuality is wrong, I cannot really be for gay marriage. However, recognizing that my understanding for why it is wrong is completely bound in my understanding of God, I cannot really insist that a government which is not supposed to take sides in religious squabbles should be expected to support my position.

Here it comes to a question of how you understand your own opinion as it comes to government. For instance, if you understand our government simply as a representative democracy, then you may believe that it is the politicians role to represent your opinions, regardless of how the government is supposed to be set up. However, if you take such a position, you cannot really be upset when they also take up the cause of your neighbor with whom you so adamantly disagree. In such an understanding, the politician is ultimately going to represent the majority, and we aren't really the majority on this issue.

Fine. Well if you instead believe that we are a Republic, and those politicians are elected to represent not our opinions but our best interests within in the confines of the Constitution, you would then be closer to my own views. However, can we constitutionally justify the government siding with one religious view over another? There is freedom of religion in this country. I know that that often gets abused, but in this case it is legitimate. Even if we just stick within Christianity, the idea of freedom of religion meant that the government couldn't take the side of Baptists and outlaw infant baptism. That was the kind of thing our forefathers meant. Is it really any different about deciding who our church's are allowed to marry?

I don't really think so. Quite frankly, the government, especially the Federal government should just stay out of it. And it is really this view I think we should support. This is something that needs to be fought in the hearts and minds of the people. This battle needs to take place in books, pulpits, blogs, etc... It shouldn't take place in Washington, or even Albany.

This is why I have always supported the idea of civil unions. I don't mean a separate but equal idea, but removing the language of marriage from the law entirely, and replacing with the structure of the unification of property between two citizens, whether partial or complete. This is the principle reason why government is involved at all, so let's just step out of the religious aspect of the issue, and only deal with property rights. This would free the churches to deal with the issue on the ideological battleground.

Church Life

However, one shouldn't run the church like the government. The government is not a moral institution (it is amoral in nature); the church is though.

We still need to be careful though. We need to make sure that we are not treating them differently than anyone else who has a habitual sin in their life. We need to see them as a person who needs redemption. You don't kick someone out of your church just because they have sin in their life. Naturally, someone who is unrepentant in a sin shouldn't be given a teaching position, or a position of authority, but they can still attend service and bible studies. But if they are trying to teach other people that what they are doing is OK, or if they are causing strife within the church, or if they are flaunting their sin, disciplinary measures are clearly required, up to having them leave the congregation. However, this is true of any sin.

For homosexuality in particular, the church needs to be aware of why a person enters into that lifestyle, and offer alternative answers. I believe that a person enters into homosexuality because identity issues: it helps them find their place and role in society. The church can offer that same sense of identity: you are a child of God, made in His image, and represent Him to the world. You are part of God's family, and are love and accepted for who you were truly are (not necessarily who you think you are though).

However, that is a general answer. To truly answer a person's ultimate identity questions, you need to take seriously who they are individually. This isn't something that I can do in this post simply because the precise answer would be different for each individual. Everyone has a place in God's family, and it is part of the church's role to help a person find it.

One On One

"OK Martin, but how do I deal with homosexuals at my job, in the world, and in my life?" Excellent question!

First of all, watch your language. What I mean is make sure that what you are saying reflects your perspective, not the worlds. The world labels men who are effeminate as gay. Don't do the same. This enforces the kind of stereotype which pushes certain males to define themselves as gay just because they are more sensitive or gentle. Indeed, reject the entire label of a homosexual. There are no homosexuals. That isn't a type of person. Just because the world believes that, doesn't mean that you should. If you speak about the issue differently than everyone else, it will cause curiosity, and give you the opportunity to share the truth.

Second, care about everyone. Don't discount a person because of their political or sociological agenda. Recognize them as children of God, and deserving of the respect of divine image-bearers.

Third, be open with what you believe without being overbearing. You don't have to try and convince a person each time you talk with them (especially not the first time). Instead, simply state truth matter of factly, without judgment or coercion. Allow the truth to speak for itself, and only defend it when it is actually attacked. The best offense is a good defense. Perfect your defense.

And one final point before I close: remember that these are people. You don't know why someone is living a homosexual lifestyle. You don't know their life story. Do not interpret their life unless they give you permission. Do not explain their choices and decisions that they have not told. Instead, focus on God, and declare His glory and love unequivocally. Ask questions and don't give slogans. Remember, it is not our job to convert people. It is our job to teach them to listen for God. Let Him do all the hard work. After all, He's better at it.

November 9, 2011

Part II: What Is The Answer?

Biblical Texts

There are three main biblical texts that deal with the issue of homosexuality. Romans chapter 1 describes homosexuality, and clearly represents it as a sinful lifestyle. However, Romans 1 uses homosexuality as an example of the culture's sinfulness, and takes the sinfulness of homosexuality itself as a given.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 lists homosexuality among a list of vices. What we can gather from this text is that A) homosexuality is not sin as a special sin and B) that according to verse 11, homosexuality is repentable and redeemable. The fear and hatred that many feel towards homosexuality is therefore not supportable from Scripture.

Finally, we come to Leviticus 18:22. This verse merely says: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." It is a very short verse, and its context is merely a list of other sexual sins. So are we left with no explanation at all?


Well, no. Leviticus 18 does give us a clue. It refers to sin as an abomination. What does that term mean? Does it just mean "really, really bad"?

Well, we have to remember that this is a translation. The Hebrew word is 'toebah' (pronounced toe-ai-bah). 'Toebah' is used in two ways: in an ethical sense (essentially meaning something really really bad) or in a ritual sense (it makes you unclean, etc...). In total, it refers to something which God loathes or detests. However, these two senses are not that different since ethical sin is seen as something which itself is ritualistically unclean.

If we set our presuppositions aside, we can consider something which God finds detestable to be wrong, regardless of any other quality it may has. Our hedonistic society would ask what harm it does, but that question is irrelevant if it is something that offends God. It being wrong is not necessarily tied to it being harmful, if it goes against God's design and wishes.

However, even with this, we still don't have much of a reason. Ok, so God finds it disagreeable, but why does He find it disagreeable? It appears that in order to answer this question, we need to speculate beyond what Scripture directly tells us.

Being Made in God's Image

I have spoken here before about us being made in the image of God. I understand the concept to mean that we are representatives of God on earth. This gives us great authority over creation (as delegated by God) and also means that we are holy.

However, being holy also comes with a responsibility. We are God's image-bearers. As such, what we do reflects back on God. Things that go against God's nature are therefore wrong, because we are betraying that fundamental responsibility of our nature. Things, such as violence, coveting, stealing, etc..., go against how God Himself is. In doing these things, we are debasing God Himself.

This is also true when it comes to sex. First of all, sex is a creative act, and God is creator. Furthermore, sex is the creation of human beings, who are holy. Thus the act itself must also be considered holy. This doesn't mean that it must be stoic, or any of that other Victorian nonsense, but it does need to be respected, and understood as a reflection of God's own nature.

When we debase sex, we in fact debase one of God's most precious acts: the creation of humanity. As such, we are debasing God Himself and what He did.

What is important to understand in this, is that sex isn't a game. Is it fun? Yes, and there is nothing wrong with that. But that is not its purpose. It is a holy act of creation. In this sense, sexual sin is very much abominable.

What about Homosexual love?

One may say that since God is love, and since sex is the ultimate expression of human love, then shouldn't sex display God's nature as long as the love between the individuals is authentic?

Well, here we have to challenge some of the world's perceptions of things again. Love is not an emotion. Love is not an impulse. Love is prioritization. You love something if you value it more than yourself, or more than most other things. Just because an emotion may be strong, it doesn't make love valid. Love is valid if you are prioritizing things properly.

There are in fact lots of examples of love which are abhorrent to God: The love of money, the love of someone else's possession, the love of other gods… The validity of the love is dependent upon the worthiness of its object or expression, not the intensity of the love itself.

To be honest, there is nothing wrong with loving someone of the same gender. I love my brother for instance. I love my son and my father. Also, in a very similar sense, I love my best friends. However, the expression of that love is camaraderie. It is very different than the kind of love I have for my wife. That love is different because of the holiness of our marriage and the marriage act, with its expression of God's creative passion. Indeed, my love for my son is tied to my creation of him. He comes from me! It is in that creativity that we find out what God's love is really like, and that kind of love can only happen between a man and a woman.

This is not a simple statement that homosexuality is wrong because it goes against nature. I'm saying that it is wrong because it goes against God, and our fundamental purpose of human beings: to express who God is to the rest of creation. How we treat our children, and how we make our children, is intimately connected to that.

On Friday in part III I'll go over how I think the church should be dealing with this issue.

November 7, 2011

Part I: Why Do We Need An Answer?

Homosexuality is one of the more controversial topics in America right now, and for good reason. There is an overall question of whether the government has the right to judge the properness of homosexual relations, and whether or not rejection of a homosexual lifestyle is similar to sexism and racism. In a pluralist society, these are extremely reasonable questions.

However, as one who takes the Bible very seriously and one who concludes that the Bible considers homosexual intercourse to be sin, I have to conclude that the homosexual lifestyle itself is something which the Church cannot support. The biggest difficulty is the Bible doesn't give a complete picture as to why, and I have found the Church hasn't really been answering this question well given our current environment. While I find it sufficient to say that it is wrong because the Bible says it's wrong, I think it is foolish and arrogant to expect Non-Christians to be satisfied by such a response.

The purpose of this series is to propose an answer to this question, while remaining sensitive to why our culture has begun to accept homosexuality. I'll begin by talking about what I believe homosexuality means in this culture, and why the Church needs to have a thoughtful response for our society on this issue. Then in the next section I'll move on to why I believe the Bible says that it is wrong. Finally, I will conclude with how we as Christians should deal with this issue outside of our church walls. For the remainder of this post though, I will be dealing with why this issue is important to our culture, and why it is right for our society to at least ask the question: why is homosexuality wrong?


Before anyone can properly discuss why a particular thing is wrong, we need to first address why anything is wrong. I would argue that the general ethic in today's culture is a form of Hedonism. Quite simply, Hedonism is the belief that good is ultimately defined by what is pleasurable, and evil or bad is defined by what is painful or hurtful.

Hedonism often gets a bit of a bad reputation since a common description of it is mere self-indulgence. Indeed, this kind of definition allows many who actually believe in Hedonism to distance themselves from the word. However, most sophisticated forms of Hedonism attempt to define ‘good’ in the general sense, where you are not just seeking your own good/pleasure, but discussing how to increase good/pleasure throughout society. Acts which give others pleasure are equally good as acts which give yourself pleasure. Additionally, acts which cause pain in others are equally evil as acts which cause pain in you.

I think that hedonism is a natural standard of morality given a purely material world (a.k.a. materialism). Indeed, I believe this is why it has become so prevalent within our society. Along with secularization comes a pragmatic tendency to allow materialism to be the grand mediator among the various philosophies in our society. Because of this, even if Hedonism is contradictory to one's particular worldview, one tends to appeal to Hedonism when attempting to justify one's position to someone of a different worldview.

The problem with homosexuality is that it is really difficult, if not impossible, to hedonistically justify its rejection. We can talk about the unhealthiness of those who participate it, but it is incredibly difficult to prove, and most certainly hasn’t been proven yet. If we are to reject homosexuality, we need to appeal to non-hedonistic ethics. This is something that I intend to do in Part II of this series.

Church and State

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (The First Amendment)
As it currently stands in America, the government is responsible for certain functions of life (such as marriage, income taxes and hospital visits) that require definitions of interpersonal relations. In other words, the government needs to know who is related to whom and in what way. Some relationships are biological and are easily defined. But some, such as marriage, adoption, etc..., are not.

Therefore, it is insufficient for the government to just stay out of the way on this issue, which would be nice. Such questions as "Can homosexual couples get married?" or "Can homosexual couples adopt?" need to be answered by the government.
To be honest, this goes beyond the question of whether or not homosexuality is wrong, mostly because it is not the government's responsibility to determine that. But while we as a society attempt to sift through these issues individually, there are a group of people who believe that they are being unnecessarily restricted due to the religious beliefs of others.

This is not something we can simply ignore as Christians. And we cannot simply insist that the government submit to our opinion either. We need to seriously ask ourselves whether or not our views of morality need to be or should be enforced by the American government. Additionally, if we believe that it should be enforced, we therefore need to be able to articulate why homosexuality is wrong in such way that goes beyond Christianity since this government is not allowed to officially prefer one religious perspective over another. I will address this issue in Part III of this series.

Nature Vs. Nurture

One of the problems of this discussion is that homosexuality means something different to the world than it does to those of us who reject the lifestyle. If you go back and review this post, you will notice that I never use the term 'homosexual' as a noun. Quite frankly, I question the true existence of a homosexual as the world thinks of it. I don't think that one is homo or heterosexual. I believe that what we are is human.

However, that is not the way that the world sees it. The world believes that sexual orientation is something that you are born with, and you are denying yourself if you do not give into certain impulses.

There was one movie on the subject that really angered me. It was called In And Out, starring Kevin Kline. Many may say, "Of course you were mad at it. The movie celebrates homosexuality, and you hate homosexuality." Well, first, I don't "hate it". Second, I knew going into the movie that it was going to celebrate homosexuality, and was still willing to watch it, so it doesn't make sense that that is why it would anger me. It angered me because everyone in this man's life judged him to be a certain way despite the fact that it conflicted completely with this man's view of himself, and yet at the end of the movie they were right and he was wrong. Think about the implications of that: it doesn't matter what you feel, or who you want to be; if you fit the stereotype, then this is what you are. I believe we have choices, and we are not bound to some particular lifestyle just because the world forces it upon us.
However, I don't believe that the common conservative/Christian answer that it is a choice is completely fair either. It is clear that many who participate in homosexuality do so against their will, or at least somewhat. Though I don't believe that anyone is actually born a homosexual, I do think that many are pushed into that lifestyle by social pressures, especially some with certain types of personalities. I argue this more extensively here, but the gist of it is for various reasons people begin to believe that there is something different about them, perhaps even wrong. Homosexuality is offered as an explanation of it, and within the homosexual community they find love and acceptance.

If this is true [and given that I am neither a sociologist nor psychologist that is a big if], simply telling them that what they are doing is wrong is insufficient. We need to understand that what they require from us is superior answers to those questions that brought them into that lifestyle to begin with. And no theological explanation or pat slogan (like "love the sinner; hate the sin") can do that. They need to find love and acceptance for who they truly are outside of the homosexual community.

If the Church is to be such a community to do that within, she requires just as a starting place both a serious reflection on the homosexual phenomenon within modern culture and a robust understanding of why God objects to the lifestyle to begin with. The provision of such an understanding is exactly what this series is all about. This is what I hope to lay out in part II.

November 1, 2011

Christian Memorial Day


A Blessed All Saints Day to you!

I say blessed, because we in America do not fully understand what it is like to suffer for our faith. This is why All Saints Day is so important for us Americans.

All Saints Day is the Christian Memorial Day, where we remember those who of suffered and died for the cause of Christ. As a nation of comfort and religous freedom, we need to remember that our brothers and sisters across the world do not share our fortune. The gospel costs something. We, who are so afraid to stand up for the name of Christ and the hope that He brings, need to look at those saints who have paid the ultimate price on crosses, stakes, and swords.

This is the day of martyrs, and we have allowed Halloween of all things to let us forget the courage of our siblings in the Lord, and the power that the Spirit of God displays through our weakness.

Here is a story from the Voice of Martyrs website. Let it encourage you to pray for those in other nations, for our fallen myrtyrs:

Somalia: Teenager Beheaded

A 17-year-old Christian was beheaded by al-Shabab extremists on Sept. 25 as he prepared for school. Al-Shabab, determined to rid Somalia of Christianity and Western influence, had carefully monitored Guled Jama Muktar and his family since their arrival from Kenya in 2008, a source told Compass Direct News. “I personally know this family as Christians who used to have secret Bible meetings in their house,” the source said.

The militants arrived at Muktar’s house around 6 a.m. after his parents had left for work.

“The neighbors heard screaming coming from the house, and then it immediately stopped,” the source told Compass Direct News. “After a while, they saw a white car leaving the homestead.” When Muktar’s parents heard about their son’s murder, they rushed home, buried his body and fled the area, fearing the militants would kill them as well. “When the incident happened, the parents called to tell me that their son had been killed and that they feared for their lives,” the source said. “Since then, I have not heard from them.”

After a string of al-Shabab kidnappings in Kenya, Kenyan military forces invaded Somalia on Sunday, Oct. 16, to combat the extremist sect, according to Associated Press reports. Kenya claims that France joined them in an attack on Oct. 23, bombing a town near an al-Shabab stronghold.

The al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabab are masters of suicide bombs, slaughtering Somali civilians, many of them Christians. While fighting the transitional Somali government for control of the country, al-Shabab imposes a strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law, in the area it controls.