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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Today's Conservative Christian Crisis Has Been America's Problem All Along

Conservative Christianity is facing a crisis. What is the crisis? If you read Conservative Christian blogs, you would think that its biggest threat is sexual: that is same-sex marriage. There is even some concern about the increased attention being given to transgenderism. For not only have Conservative Christians found the judgments of the Federal Appeals Courts on same-sex marriage to be disappointing to say the least, the Conservative Christian fight against such marriages is suffering too many defeats in popular opinion polls.

And yet, how to react to the acceptance of same-sex marriage in society isn't the crossroads we are facing. Society's growing acceptance of same-sex marriage serves as but a single instance of our current critical point. We should note that we've faced other such instances and we have not fared well there either. 

What is the real challenge that is facing Conservative Christianity today? The challenge is this: How will Conservative Christianity share society with others? There are only 3 possible answers to this question and one is nonstarter. So either Conservative Christians can look to either share society as equals with nonChristians or seek a privileged position to rule over them. 

If the first option is chosen, then Conservative Christians will not use democratic procedures to force some subset of their beliefs on unbelievers through legislation. Not only that, they will protect more groups of nonChristians from being discriminated against by the law than they currently do. 

If the second option is pursued, then Conservative Christians will use legislation to some degree to either force unbelievers to practice, observe, or endure some Conservative Christian held belief or prohibit some behaviors or actions of nonChristians which we consider to be taboo. In either case, with the second option Conservative Christians seek a superior position over others because they feel entitled, if not also obligated, to that place in society. This feeling of entitlement is based on a sense of superiority over unbelievers which must be recognized for the future well-being of society. That sense of superiority can revolve around the knowledge we have or our character .

The same-sex marriage debate will illustrate how some Conservative Christians feel they have a superior knowledge to nonChristians. There are three reasons why Conservative Christians oppose the legalizing of same-sex marriage: because of what it says in the Scriptures and because of what natural law says. In either case, Conservative Christians act as if their definition of marriage is as much a part of reality as gravity. Obviously, those who don't accept the Scriptures as God's Word will receive scorn from some Conservative Christians because they have rejected what is clearly God's Word.

But some other Conservative Christians understand the problems with forcing God's Word on society. They believe in religious freedom and they understand that the society is not the Church. But at the same time, they will work to prohibit same-sex marriage in society because of how they view natural law. Natural law, according to these other Conservative Christians, is based on how we were physically created to be--note the religious slant that already exists. Some of us believe that one of government's responsibilities is to enforce natural law. The problem here is that these Conservative Christians deny that there can be multiple versions of natural law. And we fail to recognize that our view of natural law comes from the Scriptures. So when we push government to legislate some portions of their view of natural law, especially with laws controlling sexual behaviors and marital relationships, we are seeking a backdoor way of controlling society and reaching a superior status to nonChristians in society.

It's not that I disagree with my fellow Conservative Christians' views of natural law. It is that both I don't see any Scriptural mandates for governments to enforce every aspect of natural law and I don't think it is fair that we assume we have the right to control the lives of unbelievers. Rather, what is legislated should result from Christians and nonChristians collaborating that our laws would both protect society from those who would do us harm and prevent most groups of Christians and nonChristians from being marginalized. Obviously, there should be some marginalization for those who would do harm to others.

Finally, other Conservative Christians oppose same-sex marriage because of how it violates the tradition definition of marriage. The adherence to tradition is always selective. If nation's forefathers clung to tradition, there would be no American Revolution. If those in the Civil Rights Movement were more loyal to tradition, we would still have segregation and Jim Crow. Such examples should not be used to imply that we should have no regard for tradition. These examples merely point out that tradition by itself is not an adequate reason to maintain a certain practice. In addition, the traditional view of marriage is based on the Scriptures or the Christian view of natural law. And so those who use tradition to defend their opposition to same-sex marriage in society also struggle with seeking a privileged position in society in terms of determining its laws.

So the crisis facing Conservative Christianity is not about changing sexual mores or changing definitions of marriage. Neither is it about past issues such as public monuments created to honor God's Word. The Church has every tool necessary to handle those challenges in evangelism. The crisis we face is whether or not we will share society with nonChristians as equals. Our crisis is whether or not we will work side by side with unbelievers in determining what laws are fair and necessary so that fewer groups are marginalized. We should note that marginalization of most groups comes only when some groups obtain a privileged position in society. 

The acquiring of a privileged position by some groups starts a pendulum swing. Again, most groups are marginalized when some groups become privileged. This establishes a societal version of the game King of the Hill. Some of the marginalized groups eventually turn the tables and scapegoat the previously privileged groups for their troubles. When this occurs, the same game continues only a switch occurs in the standings. Those who were last are now first and those who were first are now last. And if we are committed to morals and principles, our chief complaint will be against the game itself rather than who's in first place today.

But what could be said about seeking a privileged place in society by some Conservative Christians  can also be applied to America's role in the world. For too long, we have been uncritical of America's leadership position in the world. Too many of us have been so proud of the fact that America is the leader of the Free World that we have been blind to the apparent oxymoron that is a part of the above statement.  For here, we should ask the following questions: How can a part of the world be free if it submits to a leader? Also, why does any part of the world that is free need a leader? These questions undo the notion that America is the leader of the Free World.

But what is more important than the oxymoron is this, if we regard ourselves as being the leader of any part of the world, will our reactions to challenges presented by other nations or groups be controlled by absolute moral standards and principles or will such reactions revolve more around maintaining our leadership position and prestige? For history shows that we've all too often sacrificed absolute moral standards in how we react to nations that don't follow our lead. These sacrifices can be seen in how we have sponsored and/or conducted terrorist attacks in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan (we sponsored Bin Laden when a Russian approved government was in control there) or when we have supplanted democracies or democratic procedures with tyrants such as in Iran, Chile, Vietnam, and Greece just to name a few examples. 

Why do we seek to be a strong leader in the world? Is it not because we feel entitled, due to some perceived superiority, to control the world or parts of it? Again, the same King of Hill Scenario is in effect as it is in a nation when some group gains a privileged position.  The only difference between playing a domestic version of King of the Hill from a global one is found in the toys used by the players. In the global version, more of the toys used are weapons. And in an age when the proliferation of WMDs is inevitable, continuing that game does not bode well for anyone's future.

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