Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 4

[G]ay marriage is simply not on par with the black civil rights struggle. Not even close.…I have gay friends who are married. The states in which they reside might not recognize their unions, but their friends and families do, and they generally live their lives in peace. No one is turning water hoses on them. They are not being attacked by police dogs. There is no Bull Connor or Ku Klux Klan. They are not being lynched en masse, drinking at separate fountains, or being ordered to the back of the bus. This is not to say that gay Americans who wish to have the full benefits of marriage afforded to heterosexual couples don’t face adversity. That’s a major part of the current debate. But it is to say that any hardship they face can’t compare to what black Americans faced 50 or 150 years ago.
Jack Hunter in 2013, who at that time personally favored same-sex marriage but believed it should be left to the states—

I resent having my race compared to what other people do in bed.
Janet Boynes (brief bio here), an African-American and author of Called Out: A Former Lesbian’s Discovery of Freedom


Key point: Homosexuals have not always been treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings, but they cannot legitimately compare their quest for gay rights and same-sex marriage to the civil rights movement; nor can they draw any substantive parallels between their quest for recognition of same-sex marriage and the effort to end interracial marriage in the US.


Recently we have been exposing numerous myths that led to same-sex marriage in the United States. Keep in mind that a myth is a false idea that is widely accepted as true. In this post, we add two more myths to our list.


A myth is a false idea that is widely accepted as true.


Myth #10: The denial of marriage to same-sex couples is akin to the denial of civil rights to blacks during the Jim Crow era.

Fact: The civil rights movement sought genuine equality for blacks in the post-slavery, Jim Crow era. By contrast, the “equality” sought by advocates of same-sex “marriage” for gays is not true equality, but a manipulation of society’s most foundational institution to create advantages for a small fraction of society. This has occurred at an exceedingly high cost, however unintended, to society as a whole.

Some background information on Jim Crow laws is in order. Southern Democrats were largely responsible for them. As we noted in a previous post,

Racist Democrats in the South after the Civil War no longer had the institution of slavery to bring blacks down, so they found other ways. “Jim Crow laws” were widely used for this purpose. Jim Crow was a character created by Thomas “Daddy” Rice. In the 1830s, Rice wrote and performed for audiences in blackface and spoke in a black dialect. The name Jim Crow caught on, and by the late 1830s it had become a negative term people used to refer to a black man.  We’ve noted that during Reconstruction (a period lasting from 1855-1877), federal laws were passed that afforded certain basic civil rights to blacks. However, in

the 1870s, Democrats gradually regained power in the Southern legislatures, having used insurgent paramilitary groups, such as the White League and Red Shirts, to disrupt Republican organizing, run Republican officeholders out of town, and intimidate blacks to suppress their voting. Extensive voter fraud was also used. Gubernatorial elections were close and had been disputed in Louisiana for years, with increasing violence against blacks during campaigns from 1868 onward. In 1877, a national Democratic Party compromise to gain Southern support in the presidential election [an event we highlighted in our ninth point on this list] resulted in the government’s withdrawing the last of the federal troops from the South. White Democrats had regained political power in every Southern state. These Southern, white, Democratic Redeemer governments legislated Jim Crow laws, officially segregating black people from the white population.

Go here and here to read some examples of Jim Crow laws and to learn about the segregation and oppression they engendered. Jim Crow laws were enacted not just during the 19th century in the years following the Civil War, but also well into the 20th century.

at a streetcar terminal in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1939

These laws routinely put blacks at a disadvantage, as they were denied access to a great many opportunities readily available to whites—even things as simple and benign as the same public restrooms and seats at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s. Moreover, in this environment, racism often prevailed, and it gave way to overt cruelty, even lynchings. Blacks and other fair-minded citizens fought against this social climate, rightly demanding equal treatment for those the Jim Crow laws intentionally targeted.

Numerous Black Leaders Decry a Link Between Gay Rights and Civil Rights

Rev. William Owens, photo from campusa.org

Has the quest for recognition of same-sex marriage been similar to the civil rights movement of the 1960s? Not according to Rev. William Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors. In an interview at the March for Marriage in Washington, DC in late March of 2013, Pastor Owens, a veteran himself of the civil rights movement, declared,

I marched and many other thousands of people marched in this same location years ago on the claim that we were being discriminated against, and today the other community is trying to say that they are suffering the same thing that we suffered, but I tell you they are not. They are not suffering what we suffered, and I sympathize with people who face discrimination. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, but what they’re going through does not compare to what we went through.

There is no comparison, and for many years, the African-American family and community have been under assault from all sides – abortion, single family households, poverty and a failing education system.

Changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, Owens added, would be “devastating to all of our families.” He went on to conclude,

Perhaps, you were not old enough to be with me in the civil rights movement in the late 50s or the early 60s, but I’m marching again, and this time I’m marching to defend marriage between a man and a woman.

Alveda King, photo by Gage Skidmore

Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a civil rights leader in her own right, spoke against the ruling that established recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States. Here is an excerpt from an article at WND highlighting King’s concerns.

“Love is not the problem. You can love who you want. It’s the sex that is the problem. Sex is not the same as love. People get that mixed up even in marriage,” King said in an interview with WND. “Sex should be part of that marriage union as that is where children come from. Of course all the models we have today are broken. But that was the design. We have people all confused. How it got mixed up is a long story I can’t go into here. It would take days, but we have a lot of teaching to do on this issue.”…

While still a member of the NAACP, she has said in the past that she believes it’s a mistake to place the LGBT community in the same category with blacks in the civil rights movement and that her uncle would never have approved of doing this.

Clarence Thomas also sees no link between the fight for gay rights and the struggle for equality among blacks:

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

Thomas—the court’s lone African-American justice, and only the second black jurist to serve in its 226-year history—unleashed a scathing dissent in the Obergefell vs. Hodges same-sex marriage case, rejecting the notion that gays, like African-Americans, had suffered from second-class citizenship. Unlike slaves, he argued, lacking the right to marry didn’t prevent gays from traveling freely across state lines, or subject them to overt discrimination.

At the same time, the justice argued, the 5-4 court majority that made same-sex marriage the law of the land Thursday was misguided in its attempt to grant government the power to bestow “dignity” on gays and lesbians, something they should have already had.

“The government cannot bestow dignity,” he writes, “and it cannot take it away.”

You can read excerpts from Justice Thomas’s dissent here.

Tony Evans, photo by The Urban Alternative

Black pastor Tony Evans also has warned against drawing parallels between the quest for same-sex marriage and the civil-rights movement that sought equality for blacks, saying, “The issue of race is not an issue of choice. It’s an issue of birth.”

Is homosexuality a choice? The right answer to that question isn’t a simple yes or no, so we can’t say Dr. Evans is entirely wrong. It is undeniable that various choices are involved in living a homosexual lifestyle. Homosexuality, you see, is inseparably linked to behavior. Race is not. Skin color is irrefutably an innate, immutable characteristic. These differences prevail even when Dr. Evans’ assertion about homosexuality is qualified. In other words, his point remains valid.

Keeping this in mind, let’s cite a quote from civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King. A pivotal event in the quest for equal treatment of blacks was the March on Washington that took place on August 28, 1963. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King gave is immortal “I Have a Dream” speech.

You can read it in its entirety here, and you can watch it here. At the climax of his speech, Dr. King spoke of having a dream, and his dream included this:

I have a dream today.…

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

As we have indicated, skin color is an immutable characteristic over which people have no choice, but homosexuality is linked inseparably to behavior, behavior that is undeniably tied to deep impulses but also rooted in choices made. No one, at least no one with any credibility at all, has ever made the case that it is a sin to be black. Many decent people, however, including people who respect homosexuals’ right to live as they choose, do hold to the belief that engaging in homosexual sex is sinful and wrong, and that it is harmful to the people who engage in it. Accordingly, in good conscience they cannot approve of homosexuality, let alone celebrate it.

Ignoring and Silencing the Opposition—All in the Name of Tolerance

The idea of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle on par with heterosexuality is relatively new in American life. Anti-sodomy laws were still on the books in a number of states until the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas overturned them in 2003. While militant gay activists will point to this as evidence of unfairness and bigotry, I point to it as evidence of a societal consensus that homosexual activity has harmful consequences. Same-sex marriage, which also came to be recognized in the United States as a by court order, was implemented only as recently as 2015 through Obergefell v. Hodges. Furthermore, the Obergefell decision was the climax of a years-long process in which 32 state constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one man and one woman were overturned. Most of these amendments, which were adopted by due process, received overwhelming support at the ballot box. Yet in many court cases, defenders of natural marriage were left without due representation. Not only is this unfair, it is un-American.

The civil rights movement had its share of court rulings, of course; but that movement was broad in its scope, touching consciences and seeking to shape minds and hearts as well as working to enact laws through legislative bodies. Even as early as 2009, concern was raised that the road to same-sex marriage was becoming littered with judicial activism in ways the quest for civil rights for blacks never was.

As we have indicated, many people who could never be described hateful or bigoted still have legitimate objections to homosexuality and same-sex marriage on medical, social, developmental, and moral—and yes, religious—grounds. These individuals respect those who disagree with them but rightly believe they should receive respect as well. It is more than disconcerting that militant homosexual activists, some of the very same people who preached “tolerance,” said “live and let live,” and contended that same-sex marriage would harm no one, rush to accuse those who disagree with them of bigotry and hate. They adamantly demand that Christian bakers and other wedding service providers be forced out of business if they politely refuse to participate in a same-sex wedding, even when these business operators readily and happily serve gay customers in all other contexts.

It is significant that a group of black leaders spoke publicly in support of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who in 2012 politely turned down a same-sex couple’s request for a wedding cake (also go here). They sued Jack, and his case is currently before the US Supreme Court.


It is more than disconcerting that militant homosexual activists, some of the very same people who said “live and let live” and who contended that same-sex marriage would harm no one, are quick to accuse those who disagree with them of bigotry and hate.


There’s more. In an excellent piece entitled “Is America Running Out of Patience with LGBT Activism?” social researcher Glenn Stanton paints a vivid picture of militant LGBT advocates’ views.

If you don’t believe that Caitlyn Jenner is a woman, you’re the worst kind of hateful. If you think a child deserves a mother and a father, you are a bigot. If you think a gender-dysphoric boy should not be treated as a girl, you’re evil. If you think a man should use the men’s restroom, regardless of what sex he thinks he is, you are discriminatory. If you think parents’ desire to get their children counseling help for their same-sex attraction is okay, you’re very dangerous. If your church teaches that homosexual sexual activity is wrong, your church is bigoted. You must agree with every part of LGBT values or be slimed. This dictatorial absolutism is not sitting well with many Americans.

Nor should it. Take note! These are matters that relate directly to the content of one’s character! While many individual homosexuals do respect those who disagree with them, militant gay activists and the LGBT movement as a whole do not.


These are matters that relate directly to the content of one’s character! 


Myth #11 The denial of marriage to same-sex couples is akin to denying interracial couples marriage.

Fact: Limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman and banning interracial marriage are as different as night and day.

Marriage is about uniting one man and one woman, not uniting a man and a woman who are members of the same race. A marriage bringing together a heterosexual couple of different races still is a marriage, and advocates of interracial marriage bans knew it! They knew that such unions could and would produce children, which is one of the natural outcomes of heterosexual marriage. Thus, to abandon their prejudicial perspective, supporters of laws forbidding interracial marriage would have to move toward acknowledging what marriage really is: a member of each of the two sexes coming together in lifelong commitment to each other—irrespective of race. Much to the chagrin of those who supported interracial marriage bans, interracial marriage affirms the true meaning of marriage.

By contrast, same-sex marriage distorts—more accurately, destroys—the true meaning of marriage as an institution. Neither two men nor two women are the same thing as a man and a woman. So to demand that two men or two women can be married is to manipulate society’s most basic institution and reshape it according to the whims of adults.


Neither two men nor two women are the same thing as a man and a woman.


The consequences for the children involved are enormous!

“It’s a very different thing for a child to say that ‘I have a Caucasian mother and an Asian father” than “I have two dads and no mother.” There is no research saying biracial parents are developmentally harmful to children,. But there are thousands of definitive studies showing motherless and fatherless families limit every important measure of children’s physical, psychological, emotional and intellectual development.”1 [The authors cite these studies in a footnote in their book; to see the listing, go here.]

Many, many more considerations could be highlighted about these two myths, but these are among the most important. Here’s the bottom line. When someone tells you the quests for gay rights and gay marriage are a lot like the quest for equality sought by African-Americans  during the civil rights movement, set the record straight.

The two are light years apart.

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Note:

1Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier, Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 36-37.

image credits:

top image: outside a bus station in Durham, North Carolina, May, 1940
Rev. William Owens: www.caapusa.org
Alveda King: photo by Gage Skidmore
Tony Evans: photo by The Urban Alternative

 

Myths that Led to Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 3

Someone who wants to explain what marriage is has the difficult task of explaining something that every one of our grandparents simply took for granted, that everyone two generations ago thought was common knowledge—that marriage is a permanent, exclusive union of husband and wife. Much of human wisdom is tacit knowledge. Only when it is attacked does it need a formal, explicit defense. Explaining why marriage is the union of a man and a woman is like explaining why wheels are round, but it has to be done.
—Ryan T. Anderson1


Key point: Through the process of natural procreation, nature teaches that marriage can only be the union of one man and one woman committed to each other for life and to the well-being of their children. Ideally, through the sacrifice and commitment required to maintain a marriage and to rear children to become responsible adults, family relationships deepen and become richly rewarding and fulfilling for all. The ideal isn’t always the reality, but failures to reach the ideal never should keep us from upholding it; nor should these ever compel society to change the definition of marriage.


Having studied teething and other similar discomforts that make infants and toddlers restless and fussy, 19th-century midwife and children’s nurse Charlotte N. Winslow created a “medicine” that would calm any child. In 1844, she passed her formula along to Jeremiah Curtis, her son-in-law, who was a Maine druggist. He and his business partner, Benjamin A. Perkins, marketed and sold the potion under the name “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup.” During the 1850s, Curtis and Perkins moved their business to New York City.

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was widely advertised. The company promoted its product through newspapers and other print media such as trading cards, cookbooks, and calendars. And it became quite popular. This letter, along with numerous other endorsements, appeared in the December 1, 1860 edition of the New York Times.

DEAR SIR:

I am happy to be able to certify to the efficiency of MRS. WINSLOW’S SOOTHING SYRUP, and to the truth of what it is represented to accomplish. Having a little boy suffering greatly from teething, who could not rest, and at night by his cries would not permit any of the family to do so, I purchased a bottle of the SOOTHING SYRUP, in order to test the remedy, and, when given to the boy according to directions, its effect upon him was like magic; he soon went to sleep, and all pain and nervousness disappeared. We have had no trouble with him since, and the little fellow will pass through with comfort the excruciating process of teething, by the sole aid of MRS. WINSLOW’S SOOTHING SYRUP Every mother who regards the health and life of her children should possess it.

LOWELL, Mass.
Mr. H.A. ALGER.

A youtube.com video purporting to be a “turn-of-the-century pharmaceutical ad” showcases how quickly parents could come to depend way too heavily on Mrs. Winslow’s formula. Even though the video’s title indicates Mrs. Winslow had created a cough syrup, the name of the product did not include the word cough.

The sad truth is that Mrs. Winslow’s formula was dangerous to kids to begin with!

The primary ingredients of the syrup were morphine and alcohol, with approximately 65 mg of morphine per fluid ounce. A teaspoonful of the syrup, then, had the morphine content equal to that of approximately twenty drops of laudanum. Given that the 1873 edition of The Health Reformer suggested that babies six months of age receive no more than two to three drops of laudanum, the dosages listed on the bottles of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup are alarming: For a child under one month old, the recommendation was 6 to 10 drops; children three months old were to be dosed half a teaspoon; and children six months old and up were to be given a teaspoonful three or four times a day! The recommended dosage for children with dysentery followed the amounts outlined above but was to be repeated every two hours until visual improvement was noticed. A teaspoonful of the syrup would have contained enough morphine to kill the average child, so it isn’t hard to understand why so many babies who were given Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup went to sleep only to never wake back up again…. There is no statistic of the number of children that died from the use of soothing syrup, as many caregivers did not link the death to the syrup or they chose not to reveal the use of the syrup, but thousands of children are believed to have died from overdoses or from morphine addiction and withdrawal.

A teaspoonful of the syrup would have contained enough morphine to kill the average child, so it isn’t hard to understand why so many babies who were given Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup went to sleep only to never wake back up again.
Museum of Health Care

Thankfully, The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required manufactures of medicines to list ingredients on the packaging of their products. Moreover, it established standards of medicinal purity and forced drug companies to abide by them. As a result, producers of Mrs. Winslow’s no longer could include morphine in their product and had to remove the word “Soothing” from its name. In 1911, the American Medical Association condemned the potion as a baby killer—but it wasn’t taken off the market entirely until 1930.

To be fair, we should acknowledge that Mrs. Winslow’s Syrup was created in an era when labeling of ingredients in medicines was not common and when medical professionals, including druggists and doctors, didn’t adequately understand the effects those ingredients would have, both good and bad. This was true of procedures as well as medicines; on December 14, 1799, an ailing George Washington was treated with a procedure known as bloodletting. The loss of blood he experienced at the hands of his doctors is now believed to have contributed to his death three days later. Nearly a century would pass before bloodletting as a treatment would fall fully out of favor.

More to the point, parents and other family members, understandably, trusted trained physicians and pharmacists. Modern medicine was in its infancy at the time, however, and even with the “best information available,” sometimes led to dangerous and deadly myths that exacted a heavy price.

Myths About Marriage

While we can be glad we live in a day when medical professionals have a much more accurate understanding of diseases, treatments, and cures; we unfortunately have regressed in our understanding of marriage. Scientific discoveries have given way to great medical advances, but with regard to marriage, we have trashed to our own peril what the natural world and ancient wisdom teach us.

Sadly, with regard to marriage, we have trashed to our own peril what the natural world and ancient wisdom teach us.

In fact, a large number of dangerous and deadly myths about marriage led to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 that opened the door to recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States. That ruling, named for the plaintiff in the case, James Obergefell, doesn’t just rest on perilous myths; it also is reinforcing them. In turn, these myths also are reinforcing in people’s minds the perception that the Obergefell ruling is valid. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Like the parents who gave their children Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, multiplied millions today—many of whom are sincere and well-intentioned—are being led down a deadly path. It is the purpose of this series of articles to expose the myths that led to and that now are reinforcing Obergefell. 

We highlighted four myths in part 1 and four in part 2. All eight myths we have named thus far are listed here. In part 3 we will focus on just one, but a critically important one. We need to understand why this myth has such a strong grip on our culture, and even on the church.

Myth #9: Marriage has more to do with sexual pleasure and emotional ties than producing children.

Fact: An individual has to accept this idea to believe that a same-sex relationship really can be a marriage, because same-sex relationships cannot produce children. Thus, to call a same-sex relationship a marriage eliminates procreation from the marital equation.

Of course, we would not minimize the importance of sexual and emotional bonding between a man and his wife, but let’s make sure we don’t miss what nature tells us about the connections between their emotional bonds, the sex act, sexual pleasure, and children. The union of the man and his wife in the one-flesh act of sexual intercourse leads to conception and birth and the one-flesh expression of their union in the form of a child!

Reinforcing the idea of marriage as only about emotional ties and sexual pleasure has been the ceaseless mantra of same-sex marriage advocates who have repeatedly asked, “If two people love each other, then why can’t they marry?” Yet, as we said in an earlier post, “Marriage is about love, but it’s not about love exclusively.”

In his book Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson calls this relatively new perspective on marriage the “consent-based” view of marriage. This point of view says

marriage is primarily about an intense emotional union—a romantic, caregiving union of consenting adults.… [According to this view, the thing that] sets marriage apart from other relationships is the priority of the relationship. It’s your most important relationship; the most intense emotional, romantic union; the caregiving relationship that takes priority over all others.…2

Yet, as Anderson goes on to say, this view of marriage actually fails to see the marriage relationship as unique or special. In other words, it views it as different from other relationships in terms of degree rather than as a different kind of relationship. This view

cannot explain or justify any of the distinctive commitments that marriage requires—monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence—nor can it explain what interest the government has in it.

Lightstock

If marriage is simply about consenting adult romance and caregiving, why should it be permanent? Emotions come and go; love waxes and wanes. Why would such a bond require a pledge of permanency. Might not someone find that the romance and caregiving of marriage are enhanced by a temporary commitment, in which no one is under a life sentence?3

Moreover, Anderson asks, why should such a relationship be exclusive? And why should it be limited to just two people?4

With regard to heterosexual marriage, the arrival of children answers these questions loudly and clearly. Marriage should be permanent, exclusive, and limited to the man and the woman alone for the sakes of the children involvedThis is what nature tells us. While same-sex couples can adopt and thereby “bypass” their infertility, we cannot afford to miss the message nature sends about their relationship in and through their innate infertility. It cannot be a marriage! This isn’t bigotry, but reality!

While same-sex couples can adopt children and thereby “bypass” their infertility, we cannot afford to miss the message nature sends about their relationship in and through their infertility. It cannot be a marriage! This sin’t bigotry, but reality!

Let’s return to the heterosexual couple and note that even if they have no children, permanency, exclusivity, and restricting their union to two and two alone still make perfect sense. First, two is the natural number because only two sexes—male and female—exist. Furthermore, just as male-female differences make procreation possible, they also work together to cement a heterosexual couple’s relationship in ways utterly impossible with two men or two women. Here is a part of the evidence.

The Culture

Unfortunately, today people overlook this evidence when they think about marriage. Why? Because in people’s minds, the “consent-based” view of marriage and the radical individualism that gave birth to it are deeply, deeply ingrained in the American psyche. John Stonestreet made this point a number of years ago in a very insightful BreakPoint commentary. The idea, he says, of marriage as “anything other than a private expression of mutual affection” is totally foreign to average citizens and even “unintelligible.” Yes, they may desire to have children, but to them, having kids isn’t what marriage is all about: “When someone speaks about the social dimension of marriage and the centrality of child-rearing, they may as well be invoking the idea of arranged marriages and dowries.” You see, in a world that values freedom as “liberation from constraints, especially institutional constraints,” marriage can’t be viewed as anything desirably special unless it is seen, as Ryan Anderson put it, as a “consent-based” relationship. The alternative is to see it as restrictive and constraining, and therefore undesirable.

The Church

In the church, especially among younger Christians, views on marriage are not a great deal different. While a great many churches acknowledge the biblical pattern of one man and one woman committed to each other for life, rarely, if ever, do they mine the rich relational jewels that marriage affords a couple deeply committed to God, each other, and the welfare of their children. Marriage, according to God’s plan, offers a deep intimacy and a strong security foreign to all other relationships. But to have these, sacrifice is essential. Writing in First Things, college professor Abigail Rine observes,

As I consider my own upbringing and the various “sex talks” I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist [mainly “an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people” rather than both a demanding and richly rewarding relationship in which the couple sacrifices for each other and for the well-being of their children]. While the ideal of raising a family is ever-present in evangelical culture, discussions about sex itself focused almost exclusively on purity, as well as the intense spiritual bond that sexual intimacy brings to a married couple. Pregnancy was mentioned only in passing and often in negative terms, paraded alongside sexually transmitted diseases as a possible punishment for those who succumb to temptation. But for those who wait, ah! Pleasures abound!

Using Rine’s article as a backdrop, John Stonestreet explains in another BreakPoint commentary why young Christians have difficulty embracing a prohibition against same-sex marriage.

As Rine points out “the redefinition of marriage began decades ago” when “the link between sexuality and procreation was severed in our cultural imagination.”

And if marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction,” then it seems mean-spirited to Rine’s students to argue that marriage by its very nature excludes same-sex couples.

Sadly, both the church and the culture are imprisoned by a myth, by a deadly, false idea! Again, the myth we’re highlighting is this: Marriage has more to do with sexual pleasure and emotional ties than producing children.

Lightstock

Changing the Culture’s Perception First Means Changing the Church’s

Here we see the results of the church’s failure to uphold marriage as an institution that mirrors God’s character and that reflects Christ’s relationship with the church. An emphasis on purity was and is needed, of course. But so is an emphasis on sacrifice and its rich rewards. Nothing can hold a candle to making a positive difference in the world beyond one’s own lifetime through one’s children!

Nothing can hold a candle to making a positive difference in the world beyond one’s own lifetime through one’s children!

Yes, it is difficult to sacrifice, but we have immeasurably benefitted from the One who sacrificed His all for us. In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul challenges us to emulate Him and His service to others,

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Keep in mind as well that Jesus Himself said,

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

The Key

Pastors and Bible study leaders, the key to loosening the grip of this myth on the culture is leading and guiding God’s people to break free of its grip on them and on the church at large. Christians cannot fight spiritual battles in the culture if they’re unfamiliar with the weaknesses of the myths Satan uses to entice people. On the other hand, when God’s people understand what marriage is, and why it is what it is, they’ll be far better equipped recognize and reject the myths that have led to cultural and government recognition of same-sex marriage.

Moreover, they’ll understand that such recognition is a lot like Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup—soothing to some, yes; but also dangerous…

…and potentially deadly.

 


Significantly, just four days after I posted this article, this BreakPoint commentary was released: America’s Reversal on Gay “Marriage”—What Really Happened?


Notes:

1Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2015), 17.

2,3,4Anderson, 15.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Links to all the articles in this series are available here.

top image: Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup promo picture—National Library of Medicine

Part 1: Myths Relating to the Courts, Government, Law, and the US Constitution

Part 2: Myths Relating to Male-Female Differences, Procreation, Parenting, and the Absence of a Mother or Father in Every Home Run by a Same-Sex Couple

America, Where Are You? Part 5

The State of the Church


Here is the great evangelical disaster—the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this—namely accommodation. The evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.…This accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of the Scriptures to confront the spirit of our age; second, in allowing the further slide of our culture. Thus we must say with tears that it is the evangelical accommodation to the world spirit around us, to the wisdom of this age, which removes the evangelical church from standing against the breakdown of our culture.
Francis Schaeffer

Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years.
Francis Schaeffer


Key point: In its efforts to avoid offending people, will the church wind up offending the One it never would dream of offending—God Himself? Unless it makes a conscious decision to honor God in the environment of moral quicksand in which it finds itself, the church will indeed offend God. The good news is that through the church, God still can turn America back to Himself. God’s people however, must cooperate with Him for this to happen.


Summaries of all the articles in this series are available here.

Last time, we stated the following.

  1. Engel v. Vitale was an initial step in the process that effectively cut off a generation, and future generations, from voluntarily acknowledging God in a public environment.
  2. Having been cut off from God, America had no point of reference for recognizing the intrinsic value of human life. Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton therefore legitimized the practice within the human family of turning against one’s own and killing the most vulnerable and defenseless members.
  3. Obergefell went even further, denying what it actually means to be a human being. Natural man-woman marriage affirms what being being a human being is all about, but same-sex “marriage” effectively removes that affirmation from the institution of marriage, at least as far as public recognition is concerned.

This is not to malign anyone, especially homosexuals and those struggling with gender identity issues. The truth is, however, that telling them to “be who you are” actually will hinder them from being who they really are and finding fulfillment by reaching their God-given potential. Their struggles are real. We must be understanding and offer compassionate and loving help. Yet this does not mean telling anyone it’s OK to follow their base inclinations and desires. Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25 are identical. They declare,

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

It doesn’t help that our country has lost a clear understanding of what is required to have and maintain genuine liberty. Liberty is not license—the freedom to do whatever our base desires urge us to do. Rather, it is freedom within the reasonable restraints set by morality, law, and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


Authentic liberty is not license—the freedom to do whatever our base desires urge us to do. Rather, it is freedom within the reasonable restraints set by morality, law, and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.


Liberty, as Depicted at the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts (see below)

Where is the church with regard to this cultural quicksand? To answer that question, let’s first recall that in Matthew 10:16, Jesus said to His disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

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I believe the church is following Jesus’ command to be as harmless as doves but unfortunately is failing to be as wise or as shrewd as serpents. Moreover, the church needs a shot of boldness.

The Pressure to Conform

In a very real sense, God’s people find their situation similar to that of a teen who is outnumbered by the crowd. Here is an excellent example. Researchers recruited several groups of ten young people to help them with a study of how well teens could see. The participants were told that they would be shown numerous sets of three lines, each of different lengths, and would be asked to indicate which was the longest line in each case: A, B, or C.

The researchers, however, weren’t really studying eyes or vision. They actually were investigating the effect of peer pressure on teenagers. Nine of the ten participants in each group were told privately to choose the second longest line rather than the longest one, while the tenth individual was allowed to keep on believing the study was all about teens’ ability to see.

In incident after incident, when the facilitator would introduce a set of lines and ask the group for a show of hands when the longest line was named, nine of the ten would, in unison, raise their hands for the second longest line, bewildering the tenth young person. Could I have misunderstood the instructions? They seemed so simple, the confused teen must have thought. Didn’t they say we are to indicate which line is the longest? The directions were repeated, and no, the student had not misunderstood them. All were to indicate which of the three lines was longest. The pressure to join the group was enormous—so much so that 75 percent of the teens studied raised their hands with the rest of the group, even though everything they were seeing was contrary to all the instructions they had been given and what they knew to be true!

Only 25 percent of the teens refused to go along with the crowd; just 1 in 4 was willing to take a stand for what he or she knew to be right, despite all his or her questions and the undeniable awkwardness of the situation. I can’t understand why no one else is choosing the right line, but I am certain which line is longest, and I’m going to raise my hand for it!1 Their courage and their actions are to be admired—and emulated!

Several lessons arise from this true story.

  • First, appearances can deceive. In terms of reality, the participants who were informed about the study actually were ignorant about the lengths of the lines. Moreover, even though the ones whose responses were being studied were not “in the know” about the real purpose of the study, these individuals actually were right about which lines were the longest. This is especially true when the student went against the consensus of the group. Let’s put it another way: The enlightened really were misinformed, and the misinformed were enlightened.

The enlightened really were misinformed, and the misinformed were, in fact, enlightened.

  • Second, the instructions were straightforward and simple, and in one sense, following them was simple. Still, following them was anything but easy! Even obvious realities can be hard to acknowledge in the face of a group consensus to the contrary.
  • Third, decisions to “go along with the crowd” were made based on emotions, including the understandable desire to be liked and the awkwardness of taking a singular stand.
  • Fourth, in real-life situations, the choice to follow the crowd brings only short-term benefits. By contrast, aligning oneself with reality, even though one is made to fell quite uncomfortable in the here and now, affords an individual or group a host of advantages in the long-term. Why? Reality is a friend to those who accept it and cooperate with it, but an enemy to everyone who denies and resists it.

The church is like each young person in the study who faced nine others with different opinions. What would he or she do—state the obvious, despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered, or go along with the crowd to avoid controversy?

Equipped with God’s Truth, the Church Is in Touch with Reality

Abortion advocates claiming to contend for women’s rights have loud voices and great influence, and in their eyes, to be pro-life is to be anti-woman. Nothing could be further from the truth (go here and here). On January 31, 2018, the following statement appeared on BreakPoint’s Facebook page:

Too many pastors soft-pedal their teaching on #abortion. Maybe they don’t want to be seen as getting “political.” Or perhaps they believe this subject is not their calling. They might even fear offending people. #Pray that God would grant the #pastors in your community #courage to teach the entire counsel of #Scripture, including commands to protect the innocent. Pray that they would have the #wisdom to speak accurately. Pray that they would also have the #compassion to speak kindly.

With regard to marriage, the situation is desperate, as evangelicals increasingly warm to the idea of same-sex marriage. If the church doesn’t understand what marriage is, then the real definition of marriage, including marriage as a picture of Christ and the church, and consequently marriage as a picture of the gospel, will forever be lost to society. We must realize people do not have to understand the theology to benefit from the model! Even atheists benefit from it! Natural man-woman marriage reflects and conveys divine realities even “under the radar,” even without people realizing they are recipients of divine truth. The natural world does the very same thing (see Psalm 19:1-4).

Remember the study on peer pressure. Do not forget that the enlightened actually were misinformed, while the misinformed were enlightened. Do not forget that God is truth and the source of truth, and He has revealed truth in His Word. Human life is His masterpiece, and to destroy it is to offend Him. Natural, man-woman marriage has God’s fingerprints all over it! For Christians to withhold the truth about marriage when society is so terribly misinformed on this issue is to fail to faithfully represent the God who established it, and the gospel.

One is reminded of Joshua and Caleb, who also were outnumbered when they gave their report on the land of Canaan. In their case, they were outvoted 10 to 2. Could the Israelites conquer the land? Joshua and Caleb said yes, but the other 10 spies said no! Because these two men remained faithful to God despite appearances and even against overwhelming odds, the Lord permitted Joshua and Caleb to enter the promised land, even as he He barred everyone else in their generation from doing so.

James Tissot, The Grapes of Canaan

Please know it is not my wish or intention to disparage or discourage the church or its leaders. Ministry, including evangelism, is very hard work, especially in this culture! Moreover, many pastors’ plates are so full they are overwhelmed! I sympathize, and I understand.

Even so, Jesus said,

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

A Place to Start

The church can begin speaking out for the truth by doing so within its own walls, educating its own people. It must talk about and defend those ideals and institutions that are under vicious attack. Start with marriage. Hebrews 13:4 declares, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral” (NIV). This article names twelve traits that must characterize the church’s case for natural marriage. Pastors and other leaders should explore and explain to God’s people the deep theological truths reflected in natural marriage, including ways that marriage is a picture of the gospel. Here and here some articles that will help you convey these ideas.

All is not lost, but much has slipped away. Much is slipping away even now. The situation is urgent!

All is not lost, but much has slipped away. Moreover, much is slipping away even now. I believe, and my friend Steve believes as well, that God wants to use His church to call America back to Himself. To do that, the church must repent of seeking to entertain people and once again endeavor first to please God. When it does, it will demonstrate not only that it loves God supremely, but also that it truly loves others.

What is life? What is marriage? What is the nature of God? What is the gospel? What is salvation? All these questions are tightly interwoven.

Which line is the longest?

Are we who have the truth willing to declare it?

Are you willing to do your part?

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Note:

1Dr. James Dobson, Preparing for Adolescence: How to Survive the Coming Years of Change, (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2006), 37-39.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Scripture passage marked NIV has been taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

About “Liberty” (see above; photo credit here)

At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. Genuine liberty isn’t possible without the other virtues portrayed—faith, law, education, and morality. The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

 

America, Where Are You? Part 4

The Attack on Marriage

 We call marriage a sacrament because it is a sign of God and His creation. It’s the definition of the word creation. We’ve got to restore this and teach it in the churches. We’ve got to take this simple little nugget of truth and build on it so that eventually we permeate public consciousness with the realization that this isn’t just about equality. This isn’t just about rights for gays versus straights. This isn’t about civil rights. This is about the plan of creation. And if we destroy that, we’re going to bring the wrath of God upon us. We’re actually going to destroy the very nature of the world we live in, the very purpose of the world and the very purpose of life.
Charles Colson


Key point: The Supreme Court decision that redefined marriage in the United States to include same-sex couples didn’t just redefine marriage but also what it means to be human.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

The final Supreme Court decision my friend Steve cited in his 338-word description of America’s moral unraveling was Obergefell v. Hodges—the 5-4 decision, issued June 26, 2015, that expanded the government’s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. We’ve discussed the implications and effects of this decision extensively in many articles at Word Foundations; here I’d like to dig into the archives and quote from one of them. In a post I wrote and published within a month of the decision, I cited “Eight Reasons Why the Supreme Court Has Crossed an Ominous Line.” I picked up five of the eight items from the  July 6, 2015 edition of Dr. R. C. Sproul’s radio program Renewing Your Mind. The remaining three arose from my own burden on this issue and my own observations. Here I’ll cite two of the five, and one of the three.

During the radio program, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., Chris Larson, and Lee Webb made these two points among others. Some statements in these summaries come closer to quotes than others, but all accurately reflect the concerns raised.

R. C. Sproul
  • The church doesn’t expect the state to do the work of the church, but it does expect the state to do the work of the state. The state, remember, also is ordained by God. Protecting life and protecting marriage aren’t just religious values but humanitarian values. When we say we object to the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, our concern isn’t that the state has separated itself from the church, but that it has separated itself from God! Since the state is a God-ordained institution, it is doing this to its own peril and to the detriment of its people.
  • What we’re talking about here is not just a rejection of God as Redeemer or as potential Redeemer. We’re talking about a rejection of God as Maker. This is what Paul warns about in Romans 1 when he talks about homosexuality—but the Court went even further than this. This ruling shakes a fist at God and says, “You made all of us, redeemed or not, to be this way (meaning that a man and a woman fit together naturally in marriage), and we’re going to turn this on its head; we’re going to pervert this as heinously as we can. We’re going to celebrate it, too!” This isn’t just telling God, “We know better than You; You’re mistaken and we’re wiser than you.” It’s “This will really tick You off because we hate You!”

A third reason Obergefell moves America and Americans in an especially dangerous direction is multi-faceted.

  • The Court didn’t bring marriage to same-sex couples; instead, it brought same-sex couples to marriage. In other words, the Court didn’t just bestow marriage on same-sex couples that desire it; it brought the characteristics of a same-sex relationship into the institution of marriage, thereby negating those things about natural marriage that make it special.
  1. The Court severed gender and gender differences from the meaning of marriage. In a practical sense, the institution of marriage no longer is about the dynamics inherent in opposite sex relationships; it isn’t about male and female differences anymore.
  2. The Court separated procreation from marriage. Marriage no longer is about a relationship that can produce children. This portends ominously for the future of civilization and its youngest and most innocent citizens.
  3. The Court severed gender from parenting, negating the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers from the family. Marriage and the family are no longer about the special skills and contributions a man can make as a father or that a woman can make as a mother.
  4. The Court, rather than validating children, has trampled on their emotional needs by depriving many of them of either a mom or a dad [in every same-sex parent family]. Put another way, the Court ignored the needs children have for the protective influence of a father and the unique, nurturing touch of a mother.

When a society favors adults’ rights over children’s needs, it has become barbaric in the worst possible way.

Tracing the Nation’s Steps

Summarizing or nation’s moral decline, we can say the following. To some extent we are oversimplifying, but not much!

  1. Engel v. Vitale was an initial step in the process that effectively cut off a generation, and future generations, from voluntarily acknowledging God in a public environment.
  2. Having been cut off from God, America had no reference point for recognizing the intrinsic value of human life. Therefore, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton effectively legitimized in people’s minds, and in the eyes of the law, the practice of turning against the youngest, most innocent, and most vulnerable members of the human family and killing them. To the Court’s majority, they weren’t persons!
  3. Obergefell went even further, denying what it actually is to be a human being. Natural man-woman marriage, you see, affirms what being a human being is all about. This is not to say that single people or homosexual individuals aren’t human; of course they are! It is to say that natural marriage affirms what being human means. Same-sex “marriage” doesn’t just distort that affirmation; it eliminates it—because if two men or two women can marry each other and have exactly what one man and one woman married to each other have (this notion obviously is a lie), marriage has nothing to do with gender, procreation, children, fatherhood, motherhood, male-female dynamics in a relationship, or anything else that truly makes marriage what it is, and that makes being a human being what he or she is. Marriage, after all, is is unique among human beings. It is unknown in the animal kingdom!
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Natural man-woman marriage affirms everything about what it means to be a human being. After all, marriage is unknown in the animal kingdom. Only people marry!


What about love? someone will ask. Isn’t marriage about love? Marriage is about love, but it’s not about love exclusively. It isn’t about sex exclusively, either. Authentic marital love cannot be divorced from everything else that we’ve named in item #3. As we indicated, the traits that make natural marriage what it is also empower it to affirm what being human is all about.


Marriage is about love, but it’s not about love exclusively.


Is it any wonder, then, that Steve cited Romans 1:18-32 and said it describes “the current state of the culture of the United States”? Can we really deny that our culture is behaving unnaturally? (See 2 Tim. 3:1-3, KJV.) The Obergefell marriage ruling goes against everything nature teaches us about human relationships—but so do the 1973 rulings that legalized abortion nationwide. It is unnatural, not only for two men or two women to be sexually intimate with each other, but also for a mother to abort her own child, and for a father to approve of eliminating his own flesh and blood!

Witnessing all of these things, can we deny the distinct probability that God has given this country over to its own desires? When we speak of God’s releasing a nation to it’s base appetites, we do not mean that He has done something like releasing a porcelain pitcher in outer space and letting it float gently away. No! Instead, He has done something akin to letting go of the pitcher on earth, where gravity pulls it to the ground and the impact causes it to shatter irreparably.


Everyone is free to sin if he or she chooses to do so. Collectively, a nation may choose to give itself over to sin; and again, it is free to make that choice. However, both individually and corporately, the choice to engage in habitual sin inevitably will bring dire consequences. 


Love Thy Neighbor

Let us have compassion and love for women who’ve had abortions and men who have encouraged them. When a woman faces an unwanted pregnancy she very likely may know no one to whom she can turn for help. Every voice she hears, including the father’s, may be encouraging her to abort her baby. These women need understanding, help, and encouragement to choose life for unborn children.

Let us also care deeply about and help homosexuals and everyone experiencing confusion about his or her gender identity. Let us reach out to them with understanding and friendship—but let us also not fail to present the truth. True compassion, after all, is honest as well as loving.

And of course, we need to be lovingly honest both with individuals and with society at large. We are on a dangerous path as a nation!


America is on a dangerous path!


Has America stepped beyond God’s saving reach? We have no right or authority to assume that she has, but we must heed the warnings Scripture gives us regarding right and wrong, good and evil.

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. 5:20).

If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14).

But seek first the kingdom of god and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

Next time, we’ll look at where the church is in the midst of this cultural moral morass.

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About “Law” (pictured at top, photo credit here)

At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. In a country that enjoys authentic liberty, laws do not stand alone. That nation’s laws are not arbitrary but consistent with the other virtues and ideals depicted at the Monument, and therefore consistent with “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

America, Where Are You? Part 3

The Attack on Innocent Human Life

The entire basis for Roe v. Wade was built upon false assumptions.
—an affidavit submitted by Norma McCorvey (the Roe in Roe v. Wade) to the District Court of New Jersey in 2000—


Key point: Court cases that prevail in court but that were built on lies result in more lies. Chief among the lies Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton have produced is this one: The unborn child is not a part of the human family.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

On January 22, 1973—ten and a half years after issuing Engel v. Vitale and in the midst of the immediate aftermath of the sexual revolution of the 1960s—the Supreme Court handed down its rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. As a result, abortion became legal in all 50 states. Most people do not know that that both these cases were built on lies. Significantly, the plaintiffs, who lived to regret their involvement in these legal efforts, have said this. Read about Sandra Cano—“Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton here and here, and about Norma McCorvey—“Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade here and here.

An analysis of the two abortion cases is available here.

On June 23, 2005, Cano testified before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here is a clip of her testimony, taken from this video.

In the video below, Norma McCorvey—Jane Roe—speaks out.

An effort is underway to present the truth about Roe v. Wade in and through a feature film. You can learn more about that project here.

There’s so much more here that needs to be highlighted, but we’ll limit our remaining space to the case against abortion, or, put another way, the case for life.

The Case for Life

Abortion isn’t about rights, but about this central question: Is the fetus a human being? In other words, What is the unborn? 


Abortion is about this central question: What is the unborn?


Pro-life advocates note that there are just four characteristics that distinguish an unborn baby, or a fetus, from other human beings: size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency (SLED).

  1. Size: Unborn babies are the smallest among us, but does their size determine their worth? It shouldn’t! We don’t deem those who are physically smaller or shorter as less worthy of life than those of us who are larger or taller. Neither should we say an unborn child is less worthy of life because he or she is smaller.
  2. Level of development: One’s level of development shouldn’t make him or her less worthy of life, either. A newborn isn’t a child; a child isn’t a teenager; and a teenager isn’t an adult. All have a right to life. An unborn baby ought to have a right to life as well; we never use level of development as a reason to kill a person who’s already been born.
  3. Environment: Moreover, one’s environment does not make him or her less of a human being. Sometimes you’re outside, sometimes you’re inside—but you’re just as much of a person in both locations. It’s the same with an unborn baby before he or she exits the womb.
  4. Degree of dependency: Finally, we see a difference in degree of dependency. Yes, a fetus depends heavily on its mother for life, but a newborn baby also is heavily dependent on responsible adults to meet his or her needs. This is true for children as well. It’s true even for some adults, depending on their circumstances and physical health. Are those who are more dependent less deserving of life? Of course not!

Spotlighting these qualities helps to demonstrate just how arbitrary society’s values have become—and how abortion is, essentially, discriminatory in the worst short of way. In other words, abortion denies the reality that a human life inside the womb is indeed a human life. Thus, as Dennis Prager asserts in this excellent video, abortion is immoral. Moreover, while it’s true that “[g]ood societies can survive people doing immoral things…a…society cannot survive if it calls immoral things moral.”

Once the government cut off the next generation from acknowledging God in a public setting, as it did in Engel v. Vitale, it wasn’t all that long before it legalized, authorized, and legitimized the “right” of some members of the human race to eliminate—actually, to kill—others. The victims number in the multiplied millions, and they have been the most innocent and defenseless among us! Since 1973, the number of abortions in the United States has reached nearly sixty million!


Once the government cut off the next generation from acknowledging God in a public setting, as it did in Engel v. Vitale, it wasn’t all that long before it legalized, authorized, and legitimized the “right” of some members of the human race to eliminate—actually, to kill—others in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.


Love Thy Neighbor

None of these realities eliminates the critical need to demonstrate love through practical help for women facing unwanted pregnancies. Nor does it negate the need to show love and compassion, and to offer help, to women who’ve had abortions already. Men also have been deeply hurt by abortion, and they often need understanding and help as well.

Amazingly, the abortion decisions represent one more step in the America’s decline, a decline that has continued. Yes, things could get even worse—and they did.

Next time, we’ll explore a third crucial Supreme Court decision and its implications.

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About “Morality” (see top image; photo credit here)

At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. Morality is an inseparable part of the formula for freedom from tyranny, as is each of the other four virtues portrayed—faith, law, education, and liberty. The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

 

America, Where Are You? Part 2

The Attack on Voluntary Prayer

[A]s D. James Kennedy once pointed out, in 1935, what was the most educated nation on earth? The answer was Germany. But that didn’t prevent Auschwitz from taking place. So there is such a thing as education, where if it’s devoid of God, it is dangerous.
Jerry Newcombe


Key point: In 1962 the Supreme Court denied school children the opportunity to acknowledge God and seek His blessings for their leaders and the nation. America has been paying a heavy price for this ever since.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

On June 25, 1962, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Engel vs. Vitale, a case involving voluntary school prayer. In New York, the state Board of Regents had written a prayer and encouraged students to recite it in school. Participation was voluntary, but in New Hyde Park, New York, a group of students’ families took the matter to court, contending the policy violated their religious beliefs. The group was led by Steven Engel, who was Jewish. The ruling was 6 to 1 in favor of the plaintiffs, and it would have been 7 to 1 if Justice Felix Frankfurter had not suffered a career-ending stroke. Justice Byron White did not participate because he did not take his position on the court until after oral arguments had been made.

Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1958-1981

Justice Potter Stewart, the lone dissenter, did not believe the prayer was unconstitutional because the Frist Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing an official religion, not from encouraging prayer. Focusing on the Constitution itself, Stewart wrote, “I cannot see how an ‘official religion’ is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it.”

On the heels of the ruling, Erwin Griswald, former dean of the Harvard Law School, also objected to the majority’s opinion. He pointed out that the First Amendment of the US Constitution had not been violated, since Congress had made no law establishing a state religion. Neither had the State of New York, for that matter. This, he maintained, was a local matter, not a federal one. Moreover, he contended, “In a country which has a great tradition of tolerance, is it not important that minorities, who have benefited so greatly from that tolerance, should be tolerant, too?”


In a country which has a great tradition of tolerance, is it not important that minorities, who have benefited so greatly from that tolerance, should be tolerant, too?
—Erwin Griswold, former dean of the Harvard Law School, objecting to the Supreme Court’s ruling against voluntary prayer in Engel vs. Vitale


What was the prayer that so offended the majority of justices, as well as the plaintiffs? It was this:

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.

The 1962 decision became the basis for other Supreme Court rulings that have further restricted school prayer. Other decisions followed after these, and they’ve affected far more than education: In and through them, “the Supreme Court gave birth to an atheistic tyranny that has bedeviled America ever since.” According to the information site conservapedia.com, “Since the banning of school prayer, there have been a 225 percent increase in amount of children without fathers, a 343 percent rise in illegitimate births, and a 454% enlargement in the violent crime rate. These data are taken from the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, which in turn relies on statistical data collected since 1960.”

A Departure from Founding Principles

The Founders and early leaders of the United States never intended that God would be separated from government, only that government would not establish an official religion. Consider Noah Webster (1758-1843) who has been called the Father of American Scholarship and Education (also go here), or simply, the Father of American Education.

Noah Webster, the Schoolmaster of the Republic

Writing in 1788, Webster said,

In some countries the common people are not permitted to read the Bible at all. In ours, it is as common as a newspaper and in schools is read with nearly the same degree of respect.…Select passages of Scripture…may be read in schools, to great advantage.…My wish is not to see the Bible excluded from schools but to see it used as a system of religion and morality.

Returning to Engel vs. Vitale, we note that in this critical decision, the Supreme Court severed an acknowledgement of God—actually, an opportunity, not a requirement, to acknowledge Him—from the younger generation of Americans.

When a nation, in this case through its court system, kicks God out of public life, what happens? We’ve seen evidence that God steps back! We see this not only in the unraveling of American culture since the early 1960s, but also in the other two Supreme Court cases my friend Steve cited when he wrote about America’s decline.

Stay tuned!

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About “Education” (see top image; photo credit here)

At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. Education benefits a nation to the greatest extent possible when it affirms each of the other four values and ideals portrayed. The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

America, Where Are You? Part 1

A Sobering Assessment

I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that—the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God, when it comes to prayer, when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.
Mike Huckabee


Key point: Three landmark Supreme Court decisions have helped chart America’s direction and helped define who and where we now are as a country. To help America recover her moral footing, we first need to understand just how far off the stable path these decisions have propelled our country.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

In Genesis 3:9 (go here for the context), God asked Adam a powerful question: He “called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” This question came on the heels of Adam’s and Eve’s disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It came for Adam’s benefit—not because God was looking for either Adam or Eve. Adam needed to assess where he now was in terms of his relationship with God, and, as it would turn out, in his relationships with everything else.

God Judging Adam by William Blake, 1795

The beginning of a new year gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on where we are in terms of our relationship with God—not just individually, but also as churches, nationally, and culturally. We need to take advantage of this opportunity. Accordingly, this will be the theme of this series of articles.

Steve, a friend and coworker of mine, reads my posts regularly and encourages me a great deal. A few months ago, he told me he would like to write a piece reflecting his own thoughts about where America is right now and what can be done about it. On November 11 of last year, he emailed me an article consisting of 338 words. Steve not as “long-winded” as I am.

President Trump and his wife Melania visit a Las Vegas shooting victim

My friend began by citing the recent mass killings at the First Baptist Church of Southern Springs, Texas on November 5 and at a Las Vegas concert on October 1. These incidents left 84 people dead and 566 injured. To what can we attribute these horrific events? Are some people just that mean? Do we need stricter gun laws?1 Steve indicated that if we go down these paths, we totally miss the main message of the larger picture. He wrote,

Three events in the USA’s past are keystone moments in the history of our great nation.

The Authority of Law Statue at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC

First, in 1962, the Supreme Court ruled unfavorably regarding prayer in schools.

Second, in 1973, the Supreme Court made murder of our most helpless citizens legal.

Finally, in 2015, our nation, again through the Supreme Court, declared that people of the same sex could marry.

These three events present a drastic change from the attitudes expressed by the Founding Fathers during the last half of the 1700s.


The Declaration of Independence acknowledges, affirms, and upholds “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” yet on numerous occasions, the Supreme Court of the United States has thoroughly rebuffed them.


To murder, to not be allowed to pray, and blaspheme the institution of marriage by making legal an act that God calls an abomination is a dangerous set of events. Historically, in the Bible when people take these paths, destruction follows.

In the book of Romans, the last 15 verses of chapter 1 describe the current state of the culture of the United States. Our nation has been given over to itself in its wickedness.

Then my friend essentially said this:

America has a chance to make a change for righteousness and to be saved from destruction, but needed changes will occur, not primarily through the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of our government, as important as the decisions made in all of these institutions are. The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The church has to be concerned about reaching people—I get that. And it must reach younger generations if it is to survive in the long term. Yet in its well-intentioned efforts to reach the young, it has become a place of entertainment rather than a place where the truth is upheld, a place where people can find a large gym to maintain physical fitness but not discover the gutsy challenges of the gospel, and a place that all too often seeks to be “relevant” over being authentically truthful.

Upholding the Truth in Love

Is there hope for this country? Yes! But to be the lighthouse this nation needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


To be the lighthouse America needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


Concluding, Steve cited two verses of Scripture—one from the Old Testament, and one from the New.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Lord declared, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

While we must remember that God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 was extended to His people—those making up the nation of Israel—and that we cannot assume it applies to America in exactly the same way it applied Israel, the principle behind it does have a measure of application for the church in America in the 21st century. Similarly, in the context of Matthew 6:33, Jesus was challenging His followers not to worry about their material needs but to put God’s kingdom first. Even so, the principle of putting God’s kingdom first and of God’s taking care of everything else still is valid and has points of application for the church and the culture today.

Is Steve right in his assessment? I believe he is, and in future posts, I’ll explain why. We’ll look at each of the Supreme Court cases he cites, and then at the state of the church.

Be sure to return next time.

 

top image: www.lightstock.com

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Note:

1While this isn’t a post on the effects of gun-control laws, this article offers some important insights on that subject.

 

Every Child Needs a Mom and a Dad—and so Did Jesus, Part 2

Joseph
Integrity, Strength, and Safety: The Legacy of a Father

Joseph, although not the natural father [of Jesus], was the legal father and responsible for Jesus’ safety and well-being.
Sharon Beth Brani


Key point: The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth and early years demonstrate forcefully that even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He needed an earthly father. Every other child born into this world is unlike Jesus in that he or she isn’t, and never will be, God. Yet each one, like Jesus, needs a dad.


All the articles in this series are available here.

“Joseph! Get up and take Jesus and His mother to Egypt, and remain there until you receive further instructions! King Herod is out to kill him!” The tone of the angel’s voice—not just his words—carried a special sense of urgency.1 Joseph was asleep when he received this message, because the angel appeared to him in a dream; but the young carpenter, who now also was a new husband and father, wasted no time in heeding it. Matthew, the Gospel writer who penned the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective, tells us Joseph “took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,” and they stayed there until Herod had died. Then, significantly and somewhat surprisingly, Matthew added, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son.’”

Dream of Flight by Daniele Crespi, c. 1625

A Prophecy Fulfilled

The passage Matthew quoted is Hosea in Hosea 11:1:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.

Noting that “Hosea 11:1…does not seem to be a prophecy in the sense of a prediction,” Bible scholar Louis A. Barbieri, Jr. observes that Matthew gave Hosea’s words a deeper understanding. Originally, Hosea was not speaking of—or was not aware that he was speaking of—the Messiah, but only of the nation of Israel. Matthew indicates that Hosea wrote of both. The Gospel writer

viewed this experience [of the flight to and return from Egypt] as Messiah being identified with the nation. There were similarities between the nation and the Son. Israel was God’s chosen “son” by adoption (Ex. 4:22), and Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son. In both cases the descent into Egypt was to escape danger and the return was important to the nation’s providential history. While Hosea’s statement was a historical reference to Israel’s deliverance, Matthew related it more fully to the call of the Son, the Messiah, from Egypt. In that sense, as Matthew “heightened” Hosea’s words to a more significant event—the Messiah’s return from Egypt, they were “fulfilled.”2

Let us not miss the truth that God used Joseph to bring about the fulfillment of Hosea’s prophetic word. As significant as this was, it represents only a small portion of Joseph’s contribution to the Christmas and to the life of Jesus, his adopted Son.

A Child-King Protected—in One Instance After Another

This wasn’t the only time Joseph received a divine message in a dream; it actually was the second of four. Here are all four instances. With the dreams, we mark the phases of Joseph’s journey and his contributions of leadership and strength to his fugitive family.

The First Appearance: “Go Ahead and Marry Mary”

Matthew 1:20-21:

20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-25 provide the context for this appearance. Having become engaged or betrothed to Mary, Joseph discovered she was going to have a baby. Mary hadn’t been unfaithful to Joseph but was pregnant by the Holy Spirit—a once-in-history occurrence. Joseph, however, did not know this, although he knew he wasn’t the father. Thinking Mary must have become pregnant by another man, Joseph resolved to call off the wedding; but as a righteous and caring man he didn’t want to make things any harder for Mary than they already would be. He decided to divorce her quietly.

Joseph was in for a surprise! As “he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

www.lumoproject.com

All of this was happening, Matthew states, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophetic word that a “virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” While Isaiah’s prophecy could have had an immediate fulfillment that didn’t involve a woman who never had been intimate with a man, it clearly had its ultimate fulfillment in Mary, who became pregnant as a virgin in the absolute sense.

Joseph not only married Mary, but he refrained from having sexual relations with her until after Jesus had been born. About this, Matthew is explicit. While only a few would understand this at the time, the details of this couple’s circumstances would testify that, without any question, Jesus had been born of a virgin!

The Second Appearance: “Flee to Egypt!”

Matthew 2:13:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

Luke 2:1-38 and Matthew 2:1-18 provide the context for this second angelic appearance to Joseph. Mary and Joseph had made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to participate in the census ordered by Caesar Augustus. Soon after they arrived in Bethlehem, the baby arrived. Angels told nearby shepherds about Jesus’ birth, and they made their way to the stable to pay homage to Him.

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck, 1639

Eight days later, Jesus was circumcised and officially received His name. At least 41 days following His birth, Mary and Joseph took Him to the temple in Jerusalem to complete Mary’s purification ceremony. It was here that Simeon and Anna encountered Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

After these events, the family made their way back to the place they were staying in Bethlehem. Probably several months after that, wise men, following a star, made their way to Jerusalem looking for the newborn King.

The Magi Journeying by James Tissot, c. 1890

King Herod heard of their search. He felt threatened by all the talk about a newborn king. Herod learned from Jewish scholars that Bethlehem was to be the place of the Messiah’s birth. He asked the wise men to return to him after they had found the new King so he also could go and worship him as well. Needless to say, he was lying! With the aid of an especially bright star, the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem, and they gave him expensive gifts. The wise men also received a divine message from God in a dream, one in which they were instructed travel home by a way that bypassed Herod. At this point, Joseph also was directed in his sleep to flee with his family down to Egypt.

The wise men heeded their warning, and when Herod realized he’d been ignored, he was livid. He arranged for all the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old and younger to be slaughtered. Talk about feeling threatened! With Herod’s massacre of the boys of Bethlehem, one of Jeremiah’s prophecies was fulfilled. The prophet had written,

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.

“Scholars” who have been reluctant to believe in the historical accuracy of the Bible have pointed out that no extra-biblical historian records Herod’s murderous tirade against the young boys of Bethlehem. Keep in mind, though, that the absence of a parallel account outside of Scripture does not mean the event did not occur. The truth is that this is exactly the kind of thing that Herod was known for, and it is reasonable to assume other similar actions on Herod’s part overshadowed his slaughter of innocent Bethlehem boys in historians’ accounts.

The Flight to Egypt by Carl Spitzweg, 1875-79

Originally, Jeremiah’s words referred to children’s deaths at the time of the Babylonian captivity centuries earlier. Once again, innocent children were perishing. Moreover, many thought of Rachel as Israel’s mother. She could not be comforted and wept without restraint.3

Against this backdrop, Joseph was told how he, in his specific situation, could most effectively do what men are divinely equipped to do for their wives and children—protect them from impending danger. Joseph obeyed, and considering that we’re talking about his protecting Jesus from life-threatening dangers, the importance of his role cannot be overstated. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) essentially acknowledged this, stating that Joseph was an essential part of God’s plan to send Jesus to earth as a human being, and a baby in particular. Had Mary not been married, she would have been stoned by the Jews. Moreover, Aquinas affirmed, in the years He grew from boyhood to manhood, Jesus needed the love, care, and protection that only a human father could give.

Joseph the Carpenter by Georges de La Tour, sometime in the 1640s

Joseph was told to do the very thing men are divinely equipped to do for their wives and children—protect them from impending danger.


The Third Appearance: “It’s OK to Return to Israel”

Matthew 2:19-20

19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

The context for this appearance is Matthew 2:16-21. Feeling threatened by the recent birth of the One people were calling the “King of the Jews” and having become angry over the wise men’s failure to return to report to him, Herod, as we have noted, “sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” Because Joseph had heeded the angel’s warning and had fled with his family to Egypt, Jesus, and Mary as well, were safe. After Herod died in 4 BC, Joseph received divine instructions in a third pivotal dream. The angel told the man who had become Jesus’ father by adoption, “Arise, take the young child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt by Jacob Jordaens, around 1616

How long did this special family stay in Egypt before returning to Israel? Putting the pieces together regarding Jesus’ age helps us answer this question. In all likelihood, the Savior was born between 6 and 5 BC, with a time frame of between 6 and 4 BC also possible. This timetable fits, if not with pinpoint accuracy, then loosely; one biblical historian says the family’s flight to Egypt likely took place 2 or 3 years before Herod died (in 4 BC) and that their stay in that land “must have lasted some years.” Certainly Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were in Egypt long enough for their departure to fulfill Hosea 11:1, the prophecy we cited earlier through which God declared, “out of Egypt I called my son.”

Once again, we see Joseph’s strength manifested in his protecting the members of his family, especially his adopted Son. We see his decisive leadership as well, a leadership that put the members of his family first and was dedicated primarily to their well-being. Joseph was a man fulfilling roles given to husbands and fathers by divine design.

www.lightstock.com

Joseph’s strength was manifested in his protecting his adopted Son. It also was manifested in his effective leadership, a leadership that put the members of his family first and was dedicated primarily to their well-being. 


The Fourth Appearance: “Avoid Living too Close to Archelaus”

Matthew 2:22:

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.

Matthew 2:16-23 showcases the context for this, Joseph’s fourth angelic encounter. The danger had not completely subsided following Herod’s death. Herod’s son Archelaus ascended to the throne, and he, too, was exceedingly cruel. Wisely, having heard of Archelaus’s ascent to power and having received a divine warning in a dream, Joseph returned to Israel—but not to Bethlehem. Instead, he and Mary made their home in Nazareth, a town located in the region of Galilee in the northern part of Israel. This was Joseph’s hometown, the place from which he and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born.

The family’s moving to Nazareth fulfilled yet another Old Testament prophecy regarding the Messiah: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” These specific words

were not directly spoken by any Old Testament prophet, though several prophecies come close to this expression. Isaiah said the Messiah would be “from [Jesse’s] roots” like “a Branch” (Isa. 11:1). “Branch” is the Hebrew Word neser, which has consonants like those in the word “Nazarene” and which carry the idea of having an insignificant beginning.4

Born in a stable and placed in an animal’s feeding trough, Jesus, we can see, did have an insignificant beginning by conventional standards. However, appearances often deceive. He would grow up to live a sinless life and to offer Himself as a sacrifice that would pay the price for human sin. What Jesus would accomplish would be infinitely significant and consequential.

At this point we cannot help but connect the dots! Joseph was involved in Jesus’ life in ways that made it possible for his adopted Son to live beyond childhood. Thus, it’s difficult to see how Jesus’ adopted father’s role could have been any more significant than it was.

Joseph’s Dream by Rembrandt van Rijn, about 1645

Summary and Conclusion

In the New Testament, we hear only a tiny bit more about Joseph after he and Mary returned to Jerusalem in search of Jesus and found Him in the temple conversing with the teachers of the law. This information is contained in the first of these two statements made by Luke. Luke referred to both Mary and Joseph with the pronoun them. He also made an important but sweeping, general statement about the years that remained in Jesus’ life before He entered His public ministry. It would be the last thing Luke would write about Jesus’ youth.

51 Then He [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

What happened to Joseph between this event and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry? Most likely, he died at some point during the “silent years” of Jesus’ life. Yet Joseph’s role in God’s plan to pave the way for the salvation of humanity is both critical and foundational. For starters, as we have said, Joseph’s actions protected Jesus from life-threatening dangers. Furthermore, it is crystal clear that “Joseph was a devout follower of the customs of his religion with his observance of Passover.…[It also is apparent that] Joseph made certain of good spiritual training for the children in his family. Joseph proved his integrity and willingness to be obedient to God’s direction and guidance.” Therefore, Joseph’s influence enhanced Jesus’ increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

Holy Family with the Holy Spirit by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1675-1682

That’s just the beginning. Much, much more can be said about both Mary and Joseph and what their roles in Jesus’ life imply about the needs of children everywhere, in every culture.

The events leading up to and surrounding Jesus’ birth demonstrate that even God’s Son needed a male and a female parent when He came into the world and during His early years. Although He was God, Jesus also was a human being who made His entrance into the world, not as a powerful king, but as a helpless baby—in the same way as all of us have made our entrances. Inherent to healthy journeys through babyhood, toddlerhood, and childhood—stages all people go through—are a mother’s loving nurture and a father’s protective strength. We readily acknowledge that in a fallen world not every child can have both of these positive influences. Even so, the Christmas story demonstrates that even Jesus needed them.


Inherent to healthy journeys through babyhood, toddlerhood, and childhood—stages all people go through—are a mother’s loving nurture and a father’s protective strength. We readily acknowledge that in a fallen world not every child can have both of these positive influences. Even so, the Christmas story demonstrates that even Jesus needed them. If He needed them, then so does every child.


If He needed them, then so does every child. To he greatest degree possible, individuals and society must work to affirm and uphold the essential contributions of both moms and dads in parenting—for the benefit of of both children and society at large.


All Word Foundations Christmas posts and articles are available here.


 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1A few dramatic liberties have been taken in this account, but the substance is true to the original.

2Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., “Matthew” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament edition, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., (Victor Books, 1983), 22-23.

3Barbieri, 23.

4Ibid.

top image: In his painting Anno Domini (1883) British artist Edwin Long depicts the arrival of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in Egypt.

 

Every Child Needs a Mom and a Dad—and so Did Jesus, Part 1

Mary

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:35, announcing to her she would become Jesus’ mother—


Key point: Only a woman could be Jesus’ mother, and Mary was God’s chosen individual to fill that critical role.


All the articles in this series are available here.

One aspect of the Christmas story that sermons and Bible studies often overlook is the contrast between the responses of Mary and Joseph to the birth of Jesus and the differing roles that each individual filled. Such information is extremely insightful in light of our current series on myths that led to the Supreme Court’s redefining marriage in the United States. One overarching myth is that gender differences are irrelevant in parenting. The biblical account of Jesus’ arrival on earth as a helpless baby, as well as Joseph’s responses to subsequent efforts to kill Him, demonstrate that even God’s Son needed both a mother and a father—just as all children do.

What do Mary’s and Joseph’s unique roles in Jesus’ arrival and earliest years teach us? In this post we will consider Mary; next time, Joseph. In all but one instance—Mary’s Quiet Reflections—we’ll mark Mary’s journey with the names of individuals who played important roles in her life.

Gabriel and Elizabeth

The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur

Mary was taken aback when, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to her suddenly and announced that she was highly favored and would become the mother of the Messiah. Luke records the events from Mary’s perspective.

Mary was submissive to God’s plan, readily expressing a willingness to fulfill her role in it—as awesome as that role was. In fact, she rejoiced in being given both the responsibility and the privilege of being mother to God’s Son.

La Visitation by Philippe de Champaigne

The woman who could understand her situation best was her relative, Elizabeth, of whom Gabriel had declared, “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” While it was true that Mary’s and Elizabeth’s situations were more different than alike, they were similar enough to provide the foundation for a special bond between the two women.

Mary was indeed favored by God, but her situation also involved great risk. She was certain to be misunderstood. Pregnancies occur as a result of intimacy between a man and a woman. This was going to be a once-in-history exception—but only Mary and a select few in her life would have to understand this. Of course, Joseph, Mary’s husband-to-be, would have to be one of those select few. Many people never came to understand. Years later, the Pharisees would subtly accuse Jesus of having been conceived illegitimately (see John 8:41; context vv. 31-41).

Joseph

Joseph would believe and support Mary and marry her as planned, but understandably, God had to intervene to confirm to him what actually had happened. Joseph would be used of God to meet some very critical needs that arose in the early years of his adopted Son’s childhood.

We’ll consider Joseph’s roles of husband and father next time. For now, let’s reflect the swirl of events that culminated in Jesus’ birth and the arrival of shepherds at His bedside. The events we recount here are recorded in Luke 2:1-52.

Robert Campin, 1425-1428

Caesar Augustus issued a decree that the Roman world would be registered, and residents had to travel to the places from which their ancestors came. Joseph, who had descended from David’s line, traveled with Mary, his wife, to David’s hometown, Bethlehem. Mary was quite far along in her pregnancy by this time, so the journey had to be difficult. After arriving in Bethlehem, the couple faced an urgent situation. The time for Jesus’ arrival had come! Unable to find lodging in a local inn, they had to settle for a stable, and there God’s Son was born into the world as an innocent, helpless baby. Let’s put it another way. Mary became the “doorway” through which Jesus, God’s Messiah, entered the world. Only a woman could be used of God in this way.

The Shepherds

That same night, as shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks in nearby fields, a messenger from God—an angel—suddenly appeared! The shepherds were astonished, but the angel reassured them,

10 “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

The Shepherds and the Angel by Carl Bloch, 1879

After making his announcement, the angel no longer was alone, but joined by an army of angels who praised God and spoke of peace on earth “to those on whom his favor rests” (vv. 13-14, NIV). The shepherds wasted no time in making their way to Bethlehem and finding Mary, Joseph, and the Baby, who was lying in an animal’s feeding trough, just as the shepherds had been told.

The shepherds’ lives were forever changed! Surely they talked for the rest of their lives about this otherwise ordinary night when the sky had split open and an angel announced the birth of the One who was the Savior, the Christ, and the Lord. Momentarily, we’ll see evidence of their inability to keep quiet. “Lying in a manger,” He Himself would be a sign to them!

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerald van Honthorst, 1622

The shepherds found things exactly as the angel had described them. After seeing Him, they “made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (vv. 17-18). In addition, Luke tells us, “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (v. 20).

Mary’s Quiet Reflections

“But Mary,” Luke writes in verse 19, “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” The translators of the New International Version render this verse this way: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

I believe Mary was doing something here that’s is especially characteristic of women. Their ability to do this is such a wonderful trait! It isn’t that men never reflect on things; but, generally speaking, men are practical—action oriented. Joseph had to be. Next time we will see this when we consider him.

Mary, of course, had a great deal to ponder. Author and Bible teacher Beth Moore writes this of her reflection.

Pondered. It is a wonderful word. It is the practice of casting many things together, combining them, and considering them as one. In that moment, a host of memories must have been dancing in Mary’s head. The angel’s appearance. His words. Her flight to the hill country of Judea. Elizabeth’s greeting. Their late-night conversations. The first time she noticed her tummy was rounding. Joseph’s face when he saw her. The way she felt when he believed. The whispers of neighbors. The doubts of her parents. The first time she felt the baby move inside of her. The dread of the long trip. The reality of being full-term. The first pain. The fear of having no place to bear a child. The horror of the nursery. The way it looked. The way it smelled.

The way He looked. God so frail. So tiny. So perfect. Love so abounding. Grace so amazing. Wise men bowed down. Shepherds made haste. Each memory like treasures in a box. She gathered the jewels, held them to her breast, and engraved them on her heart forever.

Soon Jesus’ mother would have even more on which to reflect—some very heavy realities, indeed.

Simeon

Mary would be called by God to endure a much, and she soon would hear an aged man of God speak of her burden. The Lord had promised Simeon that he would not die before seeing God’s Anointed One. When he saw Jesus at the temple following His birth, Simeon rejoiced and declared to the Lord he was ready to “depart in peace.” He’d now seen God’s salvation, prepared for people everywhere,

“A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Simeon in the Temple by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1631

Mary and Joseph marveled at what was said about Him. Simeon blessed them both, but then he spoke directly to Mary. “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

How would Simeon’s prophecy be fulfilled? Bible scholar John A. Martin writes,

Throughout His ministry Jesus proclaimed that the only way to the kingdom, something the nation had long sought, was to follow Him. The ones who did so would receive salvation; they would “rise.” But the ones who did not believe Him would not receive salvation; they would “fall.” These consequences would reveal what they thought about Mary’s Son.1

Lamentation by Pietro Lorenzetti, about 1310-1329

New Testament scholar William A. Hendricksen observes,

In a parenthesis Simeon, in addressing Mary, states that a sword would pierce her soul; in fact, as the original indicates, a large and broad sword, the symbol of intense pain, of frightful and piercing anguish. For the fulfillment see John 19:25-27.…

What Simeon said was true. But he did not see everything. He did not see that even in the midst of Mary’s sorrow she would receive a measure of comfort. At the suggestion of the crucified Savior the disciple whom Jesus loved would take her to his home. Is it not possible that the very memory of Simeon’s prophecy strengthened Mary in the moments of her deepest agony, proving to her that this too was included in God’s plan and would therefore work together for good? Best of all, because of the resurrection on the third day Mary’s sorrow would subsequently be changed to rejoicing and strengthening of faith.2

There was much that neither Mary nor Joseph understood. Yet Jesus’ parents—His mother and his father by adoption—sought to be the parents to Jesus God wanted them to be. When “they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (vv. 39-40).

Jesus as a 12-Year Old Boy

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The family made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to participate in the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was 12, Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was missing on the journey back. Returning to Jerusalem and finding Him in the temple actively engaged with the teachers there, Joseph and Mary were amazed. Mary asked Him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously” (v. 48).

Luke records, And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them” (vv. 49-50).

Had Mary and Joseph not been bewildered enough already, they sure were now. But the time for the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry was still years away. Scripture implies that even then, Mary would not fully understand her Son. Yet for now, He “went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but his mother [—again—] kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (vv. 51-52).


Living with His parents, Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and win favor worth God and man” (Luke 2:52).


Virgin Mary by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, 1640-1650

It’s important to understand that we cannot be faithful to the Scriptures and attribute any divine characteristics to Mary. She was a sinner in need of a Savior like every other human being. Yet she was God’s instrument to bring Jesus into the world and to provide the nurture and assistance only a mother could provide. God needed her in this sense, and He used her to accomplish these wonderful purposes.

Moreover, as the Anointed One of God who came to earth as a human being to die to pay the penalty for human sin, Jesus needed Mary as well.


Mary was God’s instrument to bring Jesus into the world and to provide the nurture and assistance only a mother could provide.


Next time, we’ll consider Joseph. As a man and as Jesus’ adopted father, he was well-equipped to protect and provide for his family. And he did these very things in this real-life, cliffhanger drama.


All Word Foundations Christmas posts and articles are available here.


 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise noted,  Scripture passages are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture passages marked NIV or New International Version are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Notes:

1John A. Martin, “Luke” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament edition, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., (Victor Books, 1983), 209.

2William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 170, 171.

top image: Holy Family with Bird, c. 1650, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Myths that Led to Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 2

Several years ago I had the honor of hearing one of the world’s most distinguished scholars of natural law expound the nature of the basic good of marriage. Considering the times, a great portion of his lecture had to be devoted to why marriage is intrinsically heterosexual. The talk was perfectly logical, but to most people it would have seemed esoteric. During the discussion period, therefore, I asked him how he would make the case to ordinary people.…He thought for a little while, and then said, “I think it makes its own case.”

Exactly. And that is the classical approach. One cannot convince people of what they grasp already; one can only draw it out of them.

—J. Budziszewski1 (pronounced Boo jee shef skee)—

Key point: Same-sex marriage denies the importance of male and female differences in the marriage relationship itself, in parenting, and in the nurture and upbringing of children. Also, it robs children of either a mother or a father. By contrast, all of these are affirmed and upheld in natural, man-woman marriage.

Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.

We are considering myths that led to the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges two-and-a-half years ago, a decision that departed a great distance from sound legal reasoning. Last time we highlighted four myths related to the Supreme Court, government, and the law, including the US Constitution. Here is a review.

  • Myth #1: Marriage is a government construct over which government and government alone has oversight.
  • Myth #2: The federal government, especially through its court system, has absolute authority over marriage.
  • Myth #3: The government bestows rights; therefore, the government can take them away.
  • Myth #4: The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of disputes in the United States.

While in this article we will refer to the decision of the Court in at least one instance, I’d like for us mainly to think logically about marriage itself, including what nature tells us about it and the implications that arise for marriage when a same-sex relationship is considered a marriage.

Nature Has a Great Deal to Say About Marriage

In the 1970s and even into the 1980s, a series of advertisements featuring Dena Dietrich as Mother Nature promoted Chiffon Margarine. The ads told us that Chiffon Margarine tasted so much like butter, it fooled even Mother Nature herself. She was incensed! It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature! Here is one of those ads.

The truth is that no one ever can fool Mother Nature. Efforts to do so, however well-intentioned they may be to produce outcomes believed to be beneficial, backfire anyway. Such is the nature of reality when we push against it by pretending that it is something it is not or that it is not something it is. This is the situation with regard to the redefinition of marriage in the United States.


No one can fool Mother Nature. Efforts to do so, however well intentioned they may be to produce outcomes believed to be beneficial, backfire anyway.


Myth #5: Gender is absolutely meaningless in marriage.

Fact: Gender and gender differences—physical, emotional, psychological, and relational—form the bedrock foundation on which marriage rests! The innate differences between men and women

  • set the stage for interdependency in a marriage, and thus a journey away from selfish independence and toward oneness;2
  • set the stage for practical needs to effectively be met within the family unit, which often includes innocent, vulnerable, and helpless infants and children;
  • set the stage for God to display His image through the couple’s relationship. While this is true especially in Christian marriages, even non-Christian marriages offer a picture of God’s qualities and character.
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Men are strong and independent and often are initiators. Women are intuitive, relational, patient, and supportive. This doesn’t mean that men can’t be relational or that women can’t ever lead. It does mean that, generally speaking, the husband is better suited to be the protector and provider of his family, and the wife is better equipped to be the nurturer and the source of warmth and encouragement in the home.

From Christian psychologist W. Peter Blitchington, we gain a great deal of insight into how male-female differences help foster emotionally healthy individuals and a healthy society—and how, from a Christian perspective, certain aspects of God’s image are reflected in each partner.

To Eve, and to women in general, God gave this important role—the ability to create new life; to deliver a unique human being, fashioned after his initial design. Woman represents the life-giving, nurturant side of God’s nature. Her capacity to give birth to a child represents God’s ability to give life to an entire universe. She represents God as the life-giver. The roundness and softness of woman were not designed just for the enjoyment of man alone (although that was part of the plan); they are also symbols of God’s tenderness and gentleness.…

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But God didn’t stop there, for he is the life-sustainer as well as the life-giver. He could have made us without the capacity to create children after our own image; or he could have made us so that we give birth to independent, self-sufficient children who need no care or nurturance from their parents. But God chose to create us so that we would produce helpless, dependent children who needed our care and love in order to grow and develop. And so a woman’s breasts were created not to be mere ornaments but as life sustaining organs—reminders that every object in God’s creation is not made just to be selfishly admired and enjoyed (as important as beautiful things are), but to be used for others in some capacity. And appropriately, he placed those life-sustaining organs right over the heart of woman.

But the woman’s nature didn’t reflect God perfectly because it didn’t contain his power and strength, his initiatory activity and energy—in short, his masculinity.

So God created Adam—man—to reflect this side of God’s nature. He made Adam taller, more muscular, signifying the man’s role as the protector of his family. He was to be the first link in God’s chain of authority. God also created man to be more aggressive and dominant, more logical and analytical. All of these traits complemented the female traits perfectly. Adam submitted to God and Eve to Adam. All were in harmony. Since neither sex could fully represent God’s character alone, a unity between the two was required. Thus by his plan of marriage, God insured that there would be an opportunity for continual growth within the family.3

Holy Trinity, by Szymon Czechowicz (1756–1758)

Let’s be sure we don’t overreact to the word submitted in this last paragraph. According to Christian teaching, within the Godhead—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—the Father is the decision-making member of the Trinity, or the initiator. For the Son and the Spirit to submit to the Father causes no strife or resentment. Thus, since marriage is to reflect the diversity and unity within the Godhead, the idea of submission ought not to create strife in a marriage.

Also in Christian teaching, marriage depicts Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Is it a burden for the church to submit to Christ, the One who laid down His life for her? Not at all! It is a joy to submit to Christ. Christ is Lord, but He doesn’t “lord it over” anyone. Similarly, since the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it, there should be no bitterness on the part of the wife responds positively to her husband’s leadership. Would any woman married to a man who truly loves her as Christ loved the church have difficulty responding positively to his leadership? How could she, unless she already has resolved to remain independent of him? Yet marriage is about unity and oneness, not individual independence.

Myth #6: The fact that procreation occurs naturally only through heterosexual intercourse has nothing to do with marriage and the family.

Fact: The fact that procreation occurs naturally only through heterosexual intercourse is a part of nature’s testimony that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. In 2003, a BreakPoint commentary by Chuck Colson emphasized this strong testimony. The commentary read in part,

The first line of yesterday’s Associated Press story says it all: “An appeals court ruled that Canada’s ban on homosexual marriage was unconstitutional, and hours later two Canadian men tied the knot in the country’s first legal same-sex wedding.”

This is the beginning of a vast social experiment initiated by judicial fiat. Canadian Justice Harry LaForme wrote in his opinion, “The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offence to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them. The result is they are denied the autonomy to choose whether they wish to marry. This in turn conveys the ominous message that they are unworthy of marriage.”

The argument, you see, is that to deny homosexuals marriage is manifestly unfair. But it’s not unfair. Gays and lesbians are not unworthy of marriage; they are incapable of marriage.


Gays and lesbians are not unworthy of marriage; they are incapable of marriage.


In his wonderful new book, What We Can’t Not Know, University of Texas professor J. Budziszewski states that the purpose of marriage is procreation—the begetting and rearing of children. The future of the human race depends on marriage understood as the union of one man and one woman. Relationships between two men or two women are by their very nature sterile and, thus, not marriage.

Budziszewski writes, “To call procreation the purpose of marriage is not arbitrary; alone among all forms of human union, the union of the sexes produces children.…A legislature [or a court] can no more turn sodomitical unions into marriages than it can turn dogs into cats; it can only unravel the institution of marriage by sowing confusion about its purpose.”


A legislature or court can no more turn sodomitical unions into marriages than it can turn dogs into cats; it can only unravel the institution of marriage by sowing confusion about its purpose.
—J. Budziszewski—


J. Budziszewski

Budziszewski makes this case for heterosexual marriage on page 188 of his book.4 Just prior to making it, he describes the cultural backdrop with regard to the debate over marriage and shows how it has been rigged. A noble ideal, marital purity, in this case—the self-evident meaning of marriage as a permanent commitment between one man and one woman—is attacked in the name of another noble ideal, that of fairness. It isn’t fair, we’ve been told, to honor the request of a heterosexual couple desiring marriage while denying the request of a homosexual couple saying they, too, want marriage. We see this idea in Colson’s commentary in this sentence: The argument, you see, is that to deny homosexuals marriage is manifestly unfair. Yet this argument distorts the true nature of fairness. The principle of fairness in its truest form does not forbid treating people differently, but arbitrarily treating them differently. Likewise, fairness prevents us from arbitrarily treating people the same. Context is important.

Here’s an illustration. If we totaled up the score between two opposing football teams at the end of a game, divided it by two, and awarded each team the same score, that would not be fair. Why? Because competition is one of the inherent purposes of football. Such an approach would obliterate competition from the mix and change the very nature of the game.


If we totaled up the score between two opposing football teams at the end of a game, divided it by two, and awarded each team the same score, that would not be fair. Why? Because competition is one of the inherent purposes of football. Such an approach would obliterate competition from the mix and change the very nature of the game.


A fundamental inherent purpose of heterosexual marriage is producing children. While it may seem fair recognize a same-sex relationship as a marriage, doing so obliterates from marriage one of its inherent purposes. Same-sex couples, by the very nature of their relationship, cannot procreate! Yet they can be married? This stands contrary to reality!5

Myth #7: Gender is absolutely meaningless in parenting.

Fact: Mothers are not fathers, nor can they be fathers to their children. Similarly, fathers are not mothers and cannot act, in any ongoing way, adequately in the mothering role. This is not to say that moms can’t ever challenge their children to take reasonable risks or that dads can’t ever be nurturing. It is to say that men are equipped physically, emotionally, and relationally to be dads, and women are equipped physically, emotionally, and relationally to be moms. Men and women parent differently, and children of both sexes need the nurturing love of a mother and the strength, safety, and challenge a father will give. Children need both parenting styles for emotional balance and healthy development.

What are some specific ways men and women parent differently? Glenn Stanton, social researcher at Focus on the Family, names several in a must-read article. Here we summarize some of his major points.

  • Moms and dads tend to approach their children’s play differently. From Mom a child learns the importance of equity, security, and building bonds through shared experiences. From Dad the child receives encouragement to compete and to strive for independence. Also from Dad, a child learns how strength and safety can be intertwined. Roughhousing with Dad teaches the child that Dad is both strong and safe. This is foundational for self-assurance and confidence.
  • Moms tend to encourage and offer security while dads tend to push their children to move beyond their comfort zones to accomplish what they’re capable of achieving.
  • Moms are verbal and personal in their communication style; dads use fewer words than moms and tend to be more direct or “bottom line.”
  • “Dads,” Stanton writes, “tend to see their child in relation to the rest of the world. Mothers tend to see the rest of the world in relation to their child.”
  • Moms provide a gateway for their children to view the world of women; dads provide the gateway for them to view the world of men. Because all children are, generally speaking, surrounded by women in infancy and in their earliest years, it is understandable that dad’s connection to the world of men is especially important for young boys. In another article, Stanton discusses the truth that boys must learn to be men. How else can they learn this essential skill unless they spend time in the company of other men?
  • When children see their opposite-sex parents interact in healthy ways with each other, they learn much more than the relational dynamics involved when two people interact; they get to observe the core qualities and subtle nuances of interaction between the sexes. Though this interaction, kids learn what mutual respect for members of the opposite sex looks like and feels like.

Stanton’s conclusion offers this key statement: “When we disregard the gender distinctions of parental influence as unimportant or unnecessary, we seriously diminish the proper development of children.” In addition to Stanton’s article, this piece is well-worth reading.

Myth #8: Marriage is really all about adults—not children.

Fact: You won’t find advocates of same-sex marriage actively promoting this idea as expressed here. In fact, a focus on the needs of children has been at the forefront of the arguments for same-sex marriage. Read this portion of Justice Kennedy’s decision in Obergefell. Writing for the majority, he said,

[M]any same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently being raised by such couples…Most States have allowed gays and lesbians to adopt, either as individuals or as couples, and many adopted and foster children have same-sex parents…. This provides powerful confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families.

Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.

We readily acknowledge that the first sentence we have cited here is correct: A great many same-sex couples do indeed provide loving and nurturing homes for their children. This and a generous number of other statements in the majority opinion reflect concern for children’s well-being. Even so, the question is not whether homes with same-sex parents can meet a wide range of children’s needs and offer a loving and caring environment. They can and they do! The question is whether we are willing to acknowledge the critical element that is lacking for children in every same-sex-parent home.

Every home run by same-sex parents not only fails to provide a fundamental need children have; it actually denies children this need. Children need both male and a female parents, parenting together, and only an opposite-sex couple can meet that need. Please reread our discussion about myth #7 and consider it in light of myth #8. As noble as statements about the needs of children sound, it is crystal clear that same-sex marriage, because of what it is, shortchanges children by placing the desires of adults above the needs of their children.


Same-sex marriage shortchanges children by placing the desires of adults above the needs of their children.


I cannot express it any better than Katy Faust and Dawn Stefanowicz have in this video, which is produced by Alliance Defending Freedom. You can learn more at marriageisourfuture.org. You can hear them tell their own stories of growing up in homes with same-sex parents here.

There are even more aspects to this myth. This isn’t just about the impact of same-sex marriage in homes with same-sex couples; it’s also about the message that society sends to everyone in the culture, especially to members of future generations. In their excellent book, Marriage on Trial: The Case against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier answer the question, “How could same-sex marriage harm my children?”

Same-sex marriage teaches children and their generation that marriage is merely about fulfilling adult sexual and emotional desire, nothing more. Many approaches and philosophies of heterosexual marriage already teach this, and same-sex marriage will only help solidify it.

Same-sex marriage—like easy divorce, cohabitation, pre- and extramarital sex, and unmarried childbearing—relativize family relationships. It promotes a smorgasbord mentality for family life: choose what suits your tastes, and one choice is as good as another. But no society has ever been able sustain itself with such a view of family life.

Same-sex marriage will teach little boys that the idea of being a good family man—caring and sacrificing himself for one woman and their children—is not expected or even virtuous, but merely one’s lifestyle choice among many. Same-sex marriage teaches our daughters that being committed to and helping socialize a husband and bearing and raising children with him is also only one family lifestyle choice among many.

In short the entire meaning and significance of marriage itself, and what it means to be male and female, will be radically changed. So will the choices and behaviors of those who grow up within that altered social context.6

We now have considered eight myths, but we’re only about halfway through our list. Next time, we’ll turn our thoughts toward Christmas, but soon thereafter we’ll resume our quest to expose the harmful myths responsible for redefining marriage.

Stay tuned!

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 2003), 204-205.

2W. Peter Blitchington, Sex Roles and the Christian Family, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1981), 51.

3Blitchington, 52.

4J. Budziszewski, 188.

5Budziszewski, 187-188.

6Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier, Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 55-56.