Myths that Led to Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 1

Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being—the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual—on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow.

The Manhattan Declaration, released in 2009—

Key point: The Supreme Court ruling that changed the definition of marriage in the United States to include same-sex couples is based on numerous myths, including myths that have misinformed and misled people in the United States about the role of government, the nature of rights in relation to government, and government’s responsibility to respect the sacredness of marriage.

Now known as the “father of infection control,” Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) wasn’t always well-respected. A native of Hungary, he earned his medical degree in 1844, and in 1847, through an appointment, became an assistant professor at a highly regarded teaching hospital in Vienna. His area of expertise was obstetrics, and he soon became alarmed about the mortality rate at his hospital among the women whose babies were delivered by doctors and medical students. It was between 13 and 18 percent! By contrast, the mortality rate was just 2 percent among the women whose babies were delivered with assistance from midwives or those learning to become midwives.

Ignaz Semmelweis

Noticing that it wasn’t unusual for medical personnel to perform autopsies before delivering babies, Dr. Semmelweis began requiring all doctors and students to wash their hands before assisting the hospital’s patients. The mortality rate plummeted to 2 percent—as low as the rate for the women assisted by the midwives. As wonderful as this was, Dr. Semmelweis wasn’t through. Now, medical instruments would be washed as well. After this requirement took effect, the death rate dropped down to just 1 percent.

Louis Pasteur

The good doctor, though his policies, had saved a significant number of lives. With our modern understanding of infectious diseases, we readily can see this; but at the time, sadly, Semmelweis’s supervisor did not. A new ventilation system had been installed in the hospital, and he believed it was responsible for the improved statistics. Apparently, Semmelweis could not convince him otherwise.

Joseph Lister

Unfortunately, Semmelweis’s appointment to teach and work at the hospital was a 2-year appointment that wasn’t renewed. To his credit, the doctor continued to make his case for handwashing among medical personnel. In 1861, he even wrote a book about it. Dr. Semmelweis was right, but his book was not well written and was met with skepticism. Only a few years later as a patient in a public insane asylum, Dr. Semmelweis died. He was only 47 years old.

Florence Nightingale

We all can be glad the story doesn’t end there. Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) entered the picture not many years later. While Semmelweis’s policies had produced positive results, the good doctor couldn’t articulate the reasons why. Pasteur was able to do this by explaining the germ theory of infectious diseases. Relying on Pasteur’s investigations, Joseph Lister, a British physician who lived from 1827-1912, was able to convince his medical colleagues to adopt effective sanitation procedures. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the medical pioneer credited with founding modern nursing, also promoted sanitation guidelines in the medical profession.1

Myths and the Dangers They Pose

It took some time, but Ignaz Semmelweis was vindicated. Many lessons arise from his story—not the least of which is that failure to believe and act upon the truth can be quite costly. While we’ve cited from his story just one false belief in a single situation, false ideas sometimes grip entire cultures. When they do, they can be extremely dangerous and hazardous. Moreover, the more ingrained an erroneous belief is in people’s minds, and the more widespread it is, the greater its potential to harm and destroy. We often call an erroneous belief that has widespread acceptance a myth.


The more ingrained an erroneous belief is in people’s minds, and the more widespread it is, the greater its potential to harm and destroy. Such beliefs often are called myths.


In this and subsequent posts, I’d like to examine at least 16 myths that paved the way for the Supreme Court to redefine marriage two and a half years ago in Obergefell v. Hodges. In the United States we did not arrive overnight, but over time, at a place where judicial decree could redefine marriage. Even so, this process has taken place at amazing speed. Only a scant few decades ago, the idea of same-sex marriage was totally unthinkable. Since then, the culture’s prevailing underlying assumptions about marriage were challenged, attacked and ridiculed, and then pushed aside—both forcibly in the courts and subtly in the culture.


Over time, the culture’s prevailing underlying assumptions about marriage were challenged, attacked and ridiculed, and then pushed aside—both forcibly in the courts and subtly in the culture.


In this article, we will examine 4 myths about government, law, and the US Constitution. In subsequent posts we’ll examine the remaining myths on our list, these having to do with the nature of marriage itself. We will see how these myths, both individually and especially through Obergefell, actually are a threat to the well-being of individuals, society, and individual liberties. Proponents of same-sex marriage are not exempt from these threats. Those who worked hard to promote the redefinition of marriage are not as free as they think they are. Falsehoods enslave, but the truth liberates!

Here goes.

Myth #1: Marriage is a government construct over which government and government alone has oversight.

Fact: Marriage—the lifelong union of one man and one woman—is not at all a government construct, but an institution that preceded government, and an institution that preceded the United States government by thousands of years. Moreover, marriage and the family is society’s most important and most basic institution. Despite any and all appearances and sentiments to the contrary, without healthy marriages and healthy families, societal stability cannot be maintained.

This is not to say that government ought to have nothing to say about marriage. It is to say that government should respect marriage for what it is rather than seeking to manipulate it to meet the demands of a select few.

Charles Colson, one of the drafters of the Manhattan Declaration

In the Manhattan Declaration (2009), the section on marriage first cites two Bible passages—Genesis 2:23-24 and Ephesians 5:32-33.  Then, the initial paragraph on marriage begins with these three sentences.

[1] In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation. [2] In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself. [3] Marriage then, is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.


Marriage…is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.
—The Manhattan Declaration—


Clearly from the context, the word first in the term “first institution” means both first in time and first in importance.

Similarly, the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage states,

On the matter of marriage, we stand in solidarity. We affirm that marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation.

Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.

Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government.

In the spring of 2015, Dr. James Dobson wrote the following in a letter to supporters of his ministry, Family Talk.

The institution of the family is one of the Creator’s most marvelous and enduring gifts to humankind. It was revealed to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and then described succinctly in Genesis 2:24, where we read, “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” With those 20 [-plus] words, God announced the ordination of male-female marriage, long before He established the two other great human institutions, the church and 
the government.

At least 5,000 years have come and gone since that point of origin, yet every civilization in the history of the world has been built upon it. Despite today’s skeptics who claim that marriage is an outmoded and narrow-minded Christian concoction, the desire of men and women to “leave” and “cleave” has survived and thrived through times of prosperity, famine, wars, peace, epidemics, tyranny, and every other circumstance and human condition. It has been the bedrock of culture in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia and even Antarctica. [Note that this has been true even in countries that aren’t predominantly Christian.]…

Admittedly, there have been various societies in history where homosexuality has flourished, including the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire. None of these civilizations survived. Furthermore, even where sexual perversion was tolerated or flourished, the institution of marriage continued to be honored in law and custom. Only in the last few years has what is called “gay marriage” been given equal status with biblical male-female unions.…God help us if we throw the divine plan for humankind on the ash heap of history.

In the months prior to the Supreme Court ruling of June 26, 2015, that redefined marriage nationwide, the dominoes were falling in states where the people had amended their state constitutions to say unambiguously that marriage was between one man and one woman. Judges—especially members of the federal judiciary—were overruling the people almost en masse. Observing this judicial tyranny, Dennis Prager lamented,

Society is no longer being permitted to define marriage in the only way marriage has ever been defined in the annals of recorded history. Many societies have allowed polygamy, many have allowed child marriages, some have allowed marriage within families; but none in thousands of years has defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex.

None of this matters to these judges or to all those who seek to redefine marriage and can’t convince a majority of their fellow citizens to agree.


Many societies have allowed polygamy, many have allowed child marriages, some have allowed marriage within families; but none in thousands of years has defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex.
—Dennis Prager—


Given what marriage is, and what it has been for millennia, and the good that results when it is respected and honored, it is fitting that the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage would say forthrightly to the Supreme Court of the United States,

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

Myth #2: The federal government, especially through its court system, has absolute authority over marriage.

Chief Justice John Roberts

Fact: This myth is completely unconstitutional. Courts do not have authority to make laws. Moreover, the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” The Constitution is silent about the matter of marriage, and that alone places marriage out of the reach of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

In his dissenting opinion in Obergefell, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote,

[T]his Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise “neither force nor will but merely judgment.” The Federalist No. 78, p. 465.

Justice Scalia, dissenting, wrote,

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia

Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact— and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito

Justice Alito, dissenting, wrote,

Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of its authority have failed. A lesson that some will take from today’s decision is that preaching about the proper method of interpreting the Constitution or the virtues of judicial self-restraint and humility cannot compete with the temptation to achieve what is viewed as a noble end by any practicable means.

Myth #3: The government bestows rights; therefore, the government can take them away.

Fact: The Declaration of Independence is correct when affirms the self-evident truths

that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The government never will admit to taking away rights—only to granting them. Yet, in the very act of creating rights outside its authority, it tramples on the inherent, God-given rights of others.

This isn’t all. In state after state, unable to convince the people to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, advocates of same-sex marriage went to the courts to get the judiciary to reshape and change marriage. They demanded that the courts make of marriage something it is not, and in doing so, they relied on government to create rights it has no authority to create.

In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas was especially articulate in highlighting this myth and warning of its dangers. Thomas, dissenting in Obergefell, wrote,

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic. I cannot agree with it.

Thomas went on to demonstrate just how far out of bounds the Court went when it changed the definition of marriage to grant “rights” to same-sex couples. He also emphasized the threats to religious liberty and rights of conscience the court’s overreach created. Please read more from Justice Thomas’s brilliant and articulate dissent here.

Go here to read about the differences between the Founders’ view on rights and the contemporary American view. Unfortunately, we have exchanged the Founders perspective on rights—a view of rights that fosters genuine liberty—for one that eventually will give way to tyranny. All the while, this has been done under the mantra of freedom and rights!


Unfortunately, we have exchanged the Founders perspective on rights—a view of rights that fosters genuine liberty—for one that eventually will give way to tyranny.


Myth #4: The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of disputes in the United States.

Fact: The Founders of our country never intended that the Supreme Court of the United States would acquire the power it now has. Often, we hear that the Framers established “equal” or “co-equal” branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial. Even if it were true the Founding Fathers intended for them to be equal, our government has departed from this principle. The courts have stepped way beyond their constitutional authority.

In the Federalist Papers—initially anonymous articles published by a New York newspaper that encouraged New York to ratify the proposed US Constitution—Alexander Hamilton wrote,

Alexander Hamilton

It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power; that it can never attack with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the Legislature and the Executive. [Federalist Paper #78].

James Madison said this: “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates” [Federalist Paper #51].

Thomas Jefferson

Another Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, became alarmed about the growth of judicial power he himself was witnessing, and he openly expressed his concerns. Each of the following is a quote from the third US President.

  • We already see the [judiciary] power, installed for life, responsible to no authority…advancing with a noiseless and steady pace to the great object of consolidation. The foundations are already deeply laid by their decisions for the annihilation of constitutional State rights and the removal of every check, every counterpoise to the engulfing power of which themselves are to make a sovereign part.
  • [T]he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.
  • To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.…[T]heir power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided…its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.…When the legislative or executive functionaries act unconstitutionally, they are responsible to the people in their elective capacity. The exemption of the judges from that is quite dangerous enough.
  • It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression…that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary – an irresponsible body…working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States and the government be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed.

In an extremely insightful Prager University video titled “Why We’re Losing Liberty,” Dr. Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, explains that the Founders never foresaw that the Supreme Court would become the entity it is today, exercising unrestrained power. He says that “now, most Americans think of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of almost every social and political dispute. The Founders never envisioned the court in this role.” Go here to watch this excellent presentation.


Now, most Americans think of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of almost every social and political dispute. The Founders never envisioned the court in this role.
—Professor Robert George—


These four myths not only led to the Obergefell ruling; they also are being reinforced by that ruling. It is time for the American people to understand the limitations the Constitution has placed, and places, on the federal government, particularly the judiciary. Furthermore, it is time for the people to demand that these restraints be honored and respected.

It is difficult to think of a matter that could be more out of bounds for the federal government to manipulate than marriage.

Next time, we’ll expose several myths that relate to the nature of marriage itself. Be sure to return for our critically important discussion.

 

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

Note:

1Safe Exit: Balancing grace and truth on the complicated subject of same-sex attraction, (PFOX—Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, 2015), 56. Go here for more information.

 

 

 

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 3

[M]arriage is never only about the couple. It is always about the larger community.…In fact it always includes concern about the next generation as well. We seem to have forgotten this.
—Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier1

 

Key point: When we begin to explore ways biblical marriage mirrors the gospel, we find qualities that contrast sharply to the characteristics of same-sex relationships.

Part 2 is available here.
View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

In their excellent book titled Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting,2 Glenn Stanton and Bill Meier make the observations we have quoted above. Not coincidently, their insights apply to the gospel as well.

The gospel is never only about Christ and the church. It is always about the world. In fact it always includes concern about the next generation.

Marriage, you see, is all about the gospel.

Here are two important ways God-ordained marriage reflects the gospel—the good news—of Jesus Christ.

The Nature of the Relationship Itself

Read Ephesians 5:22-33 and reflect on the word mystery in verse 32. The relationship between Christ and His church is mysterious on many levels, one of which we see reflected in the “way of a man with a young woman.” Proverbs 30:18-19 (NIV) declares,

There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a young woman.

No same-sex “marriage” has any comparable relational mystery.


All same-sex relationships lack the relational mystery inherent in heterosexual bonds.


Significantly, it is the differences between a man and a woman that provide the platform for a healthy marriage (see Gen. 2:18-25); and similarly, it is the differences between Christ and His church (and what those are) that set the stage God to initiate a rescue operation to save humanity.

In his insightful book, Growth into Manhood, former homosexual Alan Medinger highlights four sets of contrasting qualities between masculinity and femininity. The second of these is that the essence of masculinity is initiation and the essence of femininity is response. Medinger observes that since God is the ultimate initiator, it is entirely appropriate that He would reveal Himself in the masculine role of Father. We, as responders to God, are all feminine in this sense. Moreover, Medinger notes, it is fitting that we who are followers of Christ are called His bride.3 This is at the heart of the gospel’s good news!4

We do well to elaborate a bit more. In the plan God implemented to save sinners, Christ, God’s Son, came to earth as a man and pursued them so they could experience His love and forgiveness and become His bride. As Christ’s bride, His followers share in His victories! Hymn writer Samuel John Stone (1839-1900) expressed it this way:

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

Procreation

At the dawn of time, God instructed Adam and Eve, the first married couple, to “Be fruitful and multiply.” Marriage is about reproduction; yet no same-sex relationship, even if it’s called a marriage, ever can reproduce.


No homosexual union can reproduce; only a heterosexual union can do that.


The gospel is about reproduction as well. In fact, if anything has to do with reproduction, the gospel does! We see this clearly in New Testament. Go here for several examples.

God Involves His People

It is noteworthy that God invariably uses His people—members of Christ’s bride, the church—as He draws non-Christians to Himself. Consider Paul’s conversion to Christ. Jesus supernaturally appeared to him on the road to Damascus, (see Acts 9:1-9), but God also sent his servant Ananias to him in Damascus to minister to him (add vv. 10-19).

Even those who have come to Christ by reading the Bible have read Scripture human beings have printed. God uses the words and influence of His people every day to bring people to Christ. Initially we might wonder why God has placed such a limitation on Himself, but we find the answer in the truth that His people are a part of Christ’s bride, the church. We know that in a marriage relationship, both the groom and the bride are involved in the reproductive process.

We need to be careful not to press this point too far, of course. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates and gives new life. Still, the point is made. God does not work to reproduce spiritual life without involving the bride of Christ in the process, and we as Christ’s bride cannot produce spiritual fruit without relying on Christ (see John 15:1-5).


The mysterious dynamic of the marriage relationship and the ability of the married couple to procreate are two significant ways marriage mirrors the Christian gospel.


Losing Man-Woman Marriage in Society Makes Sharing the Gospel Even Harder

So, God-ordained marriage, and God-ordained marriage alone, reflects the relationship of Christ and the church. It therefore reflects the gospel. If our society loses a clear understanding of what marriage is—and we’re far down that road already—it will lose a window through which it can gain a clear understanding of the reason Christ died. With marriage at stake, the gospel is at stake. Despite these urgent realities, the church seems oblivious to what really is happening—and ironically, she herself is the bride!


With marriage at stake, the gospel is at stake!


One of the best ways the church can demonstrate faithfulness to her Husband, and one of the most effective ways she can champion the gospel, is to articulately contend for the God-ordained definition of marriage both within and beyond her own walls. Granted, the insights we’ve highlighted here are best emphasized within the church, so let’s start there. All church leaders must be involved in this effort, but pastors are going to have to take the initiative.


Do you really care about the gospel? Then defend God-ordained marriage.


Do you really care about the gospel? Then defend God-ordained marriage. Learn, and help other believers learn, how marriage showcases the gospel.

Next time, we’ll begin to explore some specific ways God’s people can rise to this challenge.

Part 4 is available here.

 

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


Notes:

1,2Glenn T. Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier, Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 12.

3Alan Medinger, Growth into Manhood, (Colorado Springs, CO: Shaw, 2000), 85.

4Some points of clarification are in order. We should note that both men and women are members of God’s highest creation, for God made both in His image. At the same time, as we have said, God has revealed Himself to humanity in masculine terms, as a Father. This does not mean we never see evidence of feminine traits in God or in His dealings with humanity (here is one such example).

Another important point is that we are not saying a man provides salvation for his wife. It is Christ and Christ alone who provides salvation for the church, which is made up of both male and female members. Both men and women are sinners and need Christ equally. We are affirming the ideal of marriage as presented in Ephesians 5, including the truth that the lifelong union of one man and one woman mirrors the relationship of Christ and the church.


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.

One passage was taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 2

Advocates of so-called “gay marriage” make the argument “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.”
Charles Colson

 

Key point: One reason Christians are losing the fight to preserve marriage is because the church has failed to educate its people—especially young believers—about the rich and wonderful ways God’s design for marriage reflects the gospel.

Part 1 is available here.
View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Last time we talked about the culture’s influence on the church with regard to the definition of marriage. Most in the modern evangelical church probably still believe in man-woman marriage. Even so, it’s clear the culture has influenced the church’s thinking with regard to society’s bedrock institution. More on that in a moment.

Marriage mirrors Christ’s relationship to the church, so it also represents the gospel—God’s plan of salvation and the best news ever announced.

Yet the church seems to have forgotten, or it frequently overlooks, this truth. If marriage represents the gospel, we ought not hesitate to make the case for either—or for both!

How Did We Get Here?

It is helpful to explore just how we as Christians fell into this trap. In an important BreakPoint commentary, John Stonestreet provides both insights and background. Meet Dr. Abigail Rine, who has taught classes “on gender theory at George Fox University, an evangelical school in the Quaker tradition.” She reports that her students “arrive in my class thoroughly versed in the language and categories of identity politics; they are reticent to disagree with anything for fear of seeming intolerant—except, of course, what they perceive to be intolerant.”

Unfortunately, Rine’s students find arguments for man-woman marriage intolerant, even those that articulately connect the lifelong, loving commitment of one man and one woman to childbearing, childrearing, and the relational bonds arising within the family unit. We must realize these students represent many, perhaps even most, young evangelicals.

Have these young people with Christian upbringings heard a solid biblical case for man-woman marriage? No, Stonestreet says, “only…wooden proof-texting.” Moreover, they already see marriage as the very thing defenders of traditional marriage describe as “revisionist”—a two-person union based on emotions, romance, and sex. Why do they see it this way? On a practical level, this is the definition of marriage on which they were raised! Yes, it had biblical and heterosexual overtones, but nothing deeper. This thin veneer hasn’t been enough to prevent these young people from taking the definition of marriage they were taught and reshaping it into the one the culture is promoting.


What have most Christian young people heard at church to help them understand the biblical basis for man-woman marriage? According to John Stonestreet, little more “wooden proof-texting.” This probably is true of most Christian adults as well.


Rine astutely observes that

the redefinition [of marriage] began decades ago, in the wake of the sexual revolution. Once the link between sexuality and procreation was severed in our cultural imagination, marriage morphed into an exclusive romantic bond that has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction. It is this redefinition, arguably, that has given rise to the same-sex marriage movement, rather than the other way around, and as the broader culture has shifted on this issue, so have many young evangelicals.

Stonestreet notes that the idea of marriage as an arena for sexual intimacy alone, divorced from procreation, is promoted everywhere. “Even in the Church,” he admits, “children have become an optional add-on to married life rather than its primary purpose.” The church, influenced by the culture, has unwittingly set the stage for the young people in its midst to become convinced of a thoroughly unbiblical idea!


The church, influenced by the culture, has unwittingly set the stage for the young people in its midst to become convinced of a thoroughly unbiblical idea.


What can the church do about this? Obviously, it needs to rediscover and reaffirm the connection between marriage and children. Put another way, it needs once again to celebrate children as assets and blessings. Scripture declares,

Don’t you see that children are GOD’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
Are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
You’ll sweep them right off your doorstep (Psalm 127:3-5, The Message)

This doesn’t mean making childless couples or couples with one or two children feel guilty. It does mean encouraging parents and celebrating children in both large and small families. Moreover, the church must not miss the big picture. Having children isn’t just about families and the individuals within them, but society as well.1

Perhaps even more fundamentally, however, the church needs to rediscover and uphold the truth that a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman mirrors the gospel. It also needs to train Christians, especially young believers, along these lines.

Next time we will examine two specific ways marriage reflects the gospel. The church can start with these truths and begin to emphasize and teach them with fresh enthusiasm. Actually, it must!

Be sure to return!

Part 3 is available here.

 

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

top image: Parents with child statue, Hrobákova street, Petržalka, Bratislava


Note:

1Go here, here, and here.


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture in this article has been taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 1

Marriage is not a human invention; it is a divine revelation. Its design never was our own made-up arrangement of infinite malleability. It was given to us, at the beginning of all things, as a brightly shining fixity of eternal significance. We might not always live up to its true grandeur. None of us does so perfectly. But we have no right to redefine it, and we have every reason to revere it.
Ray Ortlund

 

Key point: When Christians understand the meaning and significance of marriage, they will be compelled to defend it.

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Jesus’ disciples frequently didn’t understand what their Master was teaching. For one thing, Jesus regularly said what His hearers least expected. Add to this that the disciples had their own expectations, and these had been shaped by the mood and culture of the day.

Consider Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Apparently very soon after making his confession, Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He—Jesus—would suffer, die, and rise again. Jesus responded with some very strong words: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Unwittingly and unintentionally, Peter spoke on behalf of Satan!

These and similar situations in the Gospels might well prompt us to ask, “Why did the disciples fail to understand?” I would like to suggest we ought to be asking another, more pertinent question: How is it that we fail to understand spiritual truths that also are of paramount importance? Well, we also have been influenced by the culture.


Why do we fail to understand spiritual truths that are just as important as those truths the disciples failed to see? We, too, have been influenced by the culture!


The Truth About Marriage

The meaning and significance of marriage provide perhaps the best examples. In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul wrote,

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

I fear many Christians today find it difficult to deal with this passage without cringing over the word submit in verse 22. This is clear evidence of the culture’s influence. Of course, we need to be sensitive to the perspectives and hurts of those we’re trying to reach—but note carefully—in verse 21, which immediately precedes the statements he makes about marriage, Paul writes, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Thus, the context affirms mutual deferment of self for others.

There’s something even more important. Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Thus, especially among Christians, marriage is to model that relationship. Jesus is Lord, but He never “lords it over” anyone. Likewise, no husband ever has the right to “lord it over” his wife.


Jesus is Lord, but He never “lords it over” anyone. Likewise, no husband ever has the right to “lord it over” his wife.


Marriage Showcases the Gospel

You see, Christ does not expect His followers to submit to Him without ever having submitted Himself for their benefit. Because marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church, it’s also a picture of the gospel. A church in England drives this point home clearly and effectively with this video.

This is what 21st century Christians in the West seem to be so slow to understand—despite the renewed emphasis on the importance of the gospel in evangelical circles. Our lack of understanding weakens our presentation of the gospel.


Failing to understand the connections between marriage and the gospel actually weakens our ability to effectively present the gospel.


“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” Paul declared. We can be certain he wasn’t ashamed of marriage, either, even though he may never have married. If we claim to be unashamed of the gospel but hesitate to defend marriage, perhaps we’re not as supportive of the gospel as we think.


If we claim to be unashamed of the gospel but hesitate to defend marriage, perhaps we’re not as supportive of the gospel as we think.


Just how did we get to this point? We’ll explore that question next time. Stay tuned!

Part 2 is available here.

 

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

top image: Courtship by Edmund Leighton

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.

 

An Argument Every Homosexual Rights Activist Ought to Understand and Acknowledge as Valid

Our government is supposed to protect our First Amendment rights—freedom of religion and expression. But the government is telling me I can only be a faithful Christian within the four walls of my church. That’s impossible and it’s unjust. What would Rob and Curt say if the government told them they could only be who they are in their own homes? [emphasis added]
Barronelle Stutzman, in an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post on May 13, 1915, naming the men who wanted her to create floral arrangements for their same-sex wedding and defending her right to decline the opportunity because doing so would have violated her deeply held religious beliefs—

Previously at Word Foundations we have discussed how a typical homosexual activist looks at and assesses even polite refusals from Christian business owners to participate in same-sex weddings. Based on his or her deeply held religious beliefs, a baker, florist, photographer, or other professional might say, “I’m sorry, I don’t do gay weddings. I can recommend some other vendors to you, but because I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, I must decline your request for my services.” Even though such a refusal is based, not on hate, but on deeply held religious convictions about marriage, the homosexual has difficulty seeing this. Here’s why.

[O]ne hundred years ago, people viewed homosexuality as a behavior. (By the way, this is exactly the way Scripture sees it and treats it.) Fifty years ago, society viewed it as a condition. Our culture today sees it as an identity. This is [a big] reason gays and lesbians have difficulty understanding Christians’ claim to “love the sinner but hate the sin.” A gay man believes, “If you hate homosexuality, you must hate me, because that’s who I am.”

I call this the identity argument. For many years we’ve heard it from homosexual activists and others demanding same-sex for marriage: I can’t violate who I am!

It’s bad enough that the cultural narrative says homosexuality is fine, but it does more. It fuses homosexuality and identity together. For this and numerous other reasons, gays and lesbians cannot separate their sexual orientation from themselves as people. To them, it’s personal.


The identity argument says, “This is who I am, and I have to live that out and express it.”


Here I won’t try to analyze the identity argument on the part of homosexuals or try to explain its weaknesses. You can read more about my perspective on homosexuality in the article that carries the above quote. For now, my point is that even if we believe homosexuals are misapplying the identity argument, we need to realize its power, including how this perspective sets the stage emotional wounding when gays and lesbians hear concerns raised about the destructive nature of homosexual behavior. Moreover, we need to consistently respect them as people as well as their right to hold to their views.

That said, let’s now turn our attention to the convictions of Christian vendors who feel compelled to refuse to participate in same-sex weddings. Barronelle Stutzman is one such vendor. She’s a florist in Richland, Washington. Rob Ingersoll had been Barronelle’s customer and friend for many years, and never once had his sexual orientation been an issue in their friendship. Then same-sex marriage became legal in Washington state. Rob was planning to “marry” his partner, Curt Freed, and he asked Barronelle to arrange flowers for the wedding. Despite their longstanding friendship, Barronelle felt she had no choice but to decline. She became the target of a lawsuit. Here’s her story.

Barronelle Stutzman’s case has made it all the way to the Washington state Supreme Court. Oral arguments were presented to the court this week, on Tuesday, November 15. Go here, here, and here for reports.

img-barronelle-press-conference-1

On Saturday, November 12, three days prior to her appearance in court, Barronelle offered her perspective on her case through the Spokesman-Review, a Spokane newspaper. Here is a portion of what she wrote.

Since I never hid my faith, I always figured Rob understood that my beliefs shape not only how I look at the world, but how I envision and create my art—the art he appreciated for so long. So it wasn’t that I wouldn’t create something to celebrate his same-sex wedding—I couldn’t. This wasn’t about selling him flowers, or celebrating a birthday. This involved what, to me, is an event of unique spiritual significance—a sacred covenant. Art, like faith, comes from the heart, from who I am. I couldn’t deny my faith—even for so dear a friend—without damaging the very creativity he was asking for.

If you’re not a person of faith, that may sound odd. But Rob said he understood, and I took him at his word. He may not have shared my beliefs, but he knew I genuinely cared about him. I still do, and I miss him coming into the shop. But the state is trying to use his case to force me to create artistic expressions that violate my deepest beliefs. It’s moving to dissolve my most precious freedom, erode my life’s work and savings and take away the financial security of those who work with me.

If you didn’t read the above statements carefully you might have missed it. Note that Barronelle writes, “it wasn’t that I wouldn’t create something special for his same-sex wedding—I couldn’t.…Art, like faith, comes from the heart, from who I am. I couldn’t deny my faith—even for so dear a friend—without damaging the very creativity he was asking for.”

Here, Barronelle, rightly, I believe, has made the identity argument. It isn’t just that she holds to Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality; she is a Christian, and that identity drives her thinking, actions, and affections—all she is and does. Hers is an argument that, of all people, homosexual activists should understand and acknowledge as valid.


Barronelle Stutzman has made the identity argument. Even though homosexual activists will disagree with her conclusions, they still should respect her argument and acknowledge it as valid. After all, they themselves make a parallel case in defense of their position.


Clearly, Barronelle respects Rob’s and Curt’s convictions about who they are, for, as we noted at the top, she has said, “What would Rob and Curt say if the government told them they could only be who they are in their own homes?”

Yet the Richland florist also is right on target when she says, “If you’re not a person of faith, that [what I have written about my perspective] may sound odd.” Even if does sound odd, a Christian’s identity argument should be respected in the marketplace of ideas, just as is a similar argument from gays and lesbians.

Otherwise, it will be impossible to preserve genuine liberty and freedom in the United States of America.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

After Obergefell, Can Courts Rewrite Laws?

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicia[l] in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self–appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
James Madison

madison_james-president_bep_engraved_portrait

An expanded version of this article is available here.

The Founders of the United States of America designed a balanced system of government that sets the stage for limiting the power of each of its three major divisions, or branches. We call this a system of checks and balances. It is a system that rests on the principle of the separation of powers.

washington_constitutional_convention_1787

Signing of the US Constitution by Junius Brutus Stearns

According to this model, courts cannot enact or rewrite laws; they can only interpret them or rule them unconstitutional. Only legislators—lawmakers—can write laws.

Recently, the highest court in Massachusetts reached beyond its designated authority. During the week of October 6, 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in a case involving two unmarried women and a child one of them had conceived through artificial insemination. Could the woman who hadn’t given birth be recognized as one of the child’s legal parents? Her lawyer was Mary Bonauto, one of the lawyers who argued on behalf of same-sex couples in the Obergefell case. In presenting her arguments, Bonauto pointed to two Massachusetts statutes. David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee explains (emphases added),

def-portrait-2-200

David Fowler

First, Ms. Bonauto argued that the “paternity” statutes justified the claim that her female client should be “deemed” the child’s other legal parent. Given that the word “paternity” means “the state or fact of being the father of a particular child” and comes from the Latin word paternus, meaning “of a father,” do you now see the problem? How can a woman be a “father” unless words in statutes no longer have their common meaning? And on what basis could a court “interpret” away the clear meaning of that word?

Well, Ms. Bonauto argued that the statutes do not define “mother” and “father,” which she asserted left the Court free to give those words new meaning to conform to the new meaning of marriage. Makes perfect sense to me—if a court can redefine marriage, why can’t it redefine “husband” and “paternity” (and, really, any word in the English language)? You have to wonder what legislators were thinking years ago when they didn’t bother to define the terms “father” and “mother”!

But Ms. Bonauto also argued that the statute on artificial insemination involving a “husband and wife” should be interpreted to apply to her as well. Makes sense, too—if a court can redefine “father” and “mother,” surely it can redefine “husband” and “wife.”

Before you say, “Thank God we live in Tennessee,” consider the fact Ms. Bonauto has commented on the artificial insemination lesbian divorce case in Tennessee in which I am involved on behalf of 53 state legislators. She said, “As a matter of supremacy…the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.”


As a matter of supremacy…the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.
Mary Bonauto, lawyer and advocate for same-sex marriage—


Yes, a similar case is being litigated in Knoxville—

a divorce proceeding… involving a marriage between two women. During the marriage, one of the women conceived a child by artificial insemination. The issue involves the custody rights of the woman who has no biological relationship to the child.

The controversy centers on a statute that deems a child born to a “married woman” by means of artificial insemination, with the consent of the “married woman’s husband,” to be the “legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

The two women have asserted that that statute, enacted in 1977, is unconstitutional if it is applied according to the plain meaning of the words used and is not interpreted by the courts to apply to same-sex marriages.

With all of this as a backdrop, I have some good news and some bad news.

  • First, the good news. Fortunately, David Fowler has filed a motion on behalf of 53 state legislators to intervene in this case. Remember, courts have no authority to rewrite laws; they only can interpret them or deem them to be unconstitutional. More than any other party, the legislators—the lawmakers themselves—surely have a great deal to say about what the laws meant when they passed them, and what they mean today. Legislators’ perspectives should be extremely valuable to the court in determining any law’s intent. Furthermore, if a marriage law or laws are ruled unconstitutional, it then would become the prerogative of the legislature—the lawmaking body of Tennessee—to respond.
  • Now, the bad news. The Tennessee’s attorney generalHerbert Slatery, also has addressed the question at issue in this case. The bad news is that unfortunately, he apparently agrees with Mary Bonauto!

According to David Fowler in an email,

The [relevant] statue says, “A child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

In response, the AG literally cited the definitional section of the Code about how the Code is, generally speaking, to be interpreted. It says, “words importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.” Then the AG immediately wrote: “So both the word ‘husband’ and the word a ‘wife’ in [the statute] would be properly construed to mean ‘spouse.’”

So much for reading the words “except when the contrary intention is manifest!” The AG argues as if that phrase isn’t even in the statute it relies on!


So both the word “husband” and the word a “wife” in [the statute] would be properly construed to mean “spouse.”
—Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, completely ignoring the italicized portion of this guideline for interpreting state law: “[W]ords importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.”—


If there ever were legal arguments desperately needing friend-of-the-court briefs, those being made by David Fowler are those arguments. Amicus briefs opposing him and the legislators surely will be filed by national organizations that favor LGBT causes, especially since Attorney General Slatery has sided against state sovereignty in this case.

The Massachusetts case already has been lost. According to Fowler, similar cases also have been lost in Indiana and Wisconsin. Another case is being litigated in New York. Additional legal conflicts are sure to surface. Will pro-marriage organizations anywhere else do as David Fowler has done and seek out legislators who might be willing to go to bat for man-woman marriage—or at least for marriage and family laws as they were originally written? Are we really willing to surrender the meanings of the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother” without a fight? Furthermore, if these words lose their inherent meaning, is there anything on progressives’ wish lists that won’t become reality as these pioneers of the new social frontier seek to reshape civilization? “Civilization” is yet another word that will be redefined, and everyone will pay a high price!


Are we really willing to surrender the meanings of the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother” without a fight?


Keep in mind this isn’t just about marriage, but also about divided government and the separation of powers. Do courts have the right to rewrite laws? In our constitutional republic, they do not.

As George Washington said in his Farewell Address,

portrait_of_george_washington-transparent

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its Administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism.

Constitution_We_the_People

We soon will see if the US and Tennessee constitutions will be honored or totally ignored. If they are ignored, then we’ll no longer live in a republic, but an oligarchy; and, as precious as man-woman marriage is, they’ll be a great deal more at risk than just the sanctity of man-woman marriage.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Igniting Reform

Seven Sermons that Inform, Challenge, and Warn the Church and the Culture

There are many inappropriate and unloving ways to uphold the truth, but there never can be a loving way to distort it.
—“Clarity Needed,” www.wordfoundations.com

When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Pastors must be on the front lines of the effort to restore America to its founding principles.
—”Misinformed and Misled, Part 8,” www.wordfoundations.com

A condensed version of this article is available here.

When I was growing up in the 60s, one of my favorite television shows was Lost in Space.

Lost_In_Space

It must have been no surprise to my parents when I asked for a toy Lost in Space Robot for Christmas. Here is a video highlighting the features of this really cool toy.

That same Christmas, my younger sister was given a sweater that turned out to be a size or two larger than she needed. Piggy-backing on my excitement over receiving the robot, my sister wandered through the house with her arms flailing. “Warning! Warning! Too big! Too big!” she cried.

The Lost in Space Robot, of course, is known for issuing warnings.

What would Lost in Space have been like were it not for the Robot and his warnings? I’m glad we didn’t ever know!

While Lost in Space showcased warnings that had great entertainment value, some warnings are dead serious—as is the responsibility Christians have to convey certain warnings clearly and in a timely manner. Last week I affirmed that as believers, “we have been rightly concerned about the need to express love and compassion to those who disagree with us.” Then I lamented, “Yet I fear we have let this concern overshadow our responsibility to speak prophetically.”

It is this need for Christians to speak prophetically that I will endeavor to address today. The need is real at both the individual and corporate levels, but for reform to be ignited, pastors will need to provide the initial spark in their pulpits. As we said last week, “we now need a host of spokesmen who will uphold God-ordained marriage!” If you are a pastor, I want to encourage you to remain faithful to the truth of God’s Word. This includes encouraging your people to love others and meet needs in Jesus’ name, but it also includes equipping them to discern truth from error and training them to effectively make the case for marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. This will include warning the church and the culture about the ominous direction our nation currently is headed.

A God-Given Duty

The classic text highlighting the responsibility of God’s spokesperson to issue warnings is Ezekiel 33:1-9.

33:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”

While this passage is specific to Ezekiel’s responsibility to warn those in the path of judgment, it also reflects the duty all believers have to sound the alarm and convey urgent messages from God. This calling has a rich history in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Consider these men whom God appointed to warn the people of their generation.

God’s Spokesmen Warned Their Contemporaries

Noah. Hebrews 11:7 tells us, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” We read this verse and we’re tempted to cringe, aren’t we? The culture has so drilled into our minds that we must not judge—and we most certainly must never condemn—that we feel a bit uncomfortable with this statement about Noah. While it’s true that Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” He didn’t mean for His followers to make no judgments at all. Discernment is essential. Jesus actually was telling believers not to be hypocritically judgmental.

The word translated condemned means just that—to condemn, but it also means to make others’ sins evident and conspicuous by one’s own righteous example. In Hebrews 11:7, this latter definition applies. We must never think this means Noah was arrogant, or condescending, or prideful about his righteousness or about the wickedness prevalent among his contemporaries. On the contrary, I believe he grieved for them and encouraged them to repent. In 2 Peter 2:5, Peter referred to Noah as a “herald of righteousness.” Obviously Noah proclaimed righteousness through his pure life and by building the ark in obedience to God, but he surely also must have encouraged those around him to join him on the ark before God’s judgment fell. Sadly, however, only “a few, that is, eight persons [just Noah and his family], were brought safely through water” because they took refuge in the ark (1 Pet. 3:20).

Moses. God used Moses to warn Pharaoh repeatedly about divine judgment. He also used Moses to warn the Hebrews of the coming death angel and to encourage them to run to safety by placing blood on the sides and tops of the doorways of their homes according to God’s instructions. Hebrews 11:27-28 says of Moses, “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”

Jonah. We learn from the Old Testament book that bear’s Jonah’s name, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah actually wanted God to condemn the Ninevites, but the Lord went out of His way to show Jonah that he needed to be an agent of divine mercy and grace (see vv. 3-17). How did God want Jonah to be such an agent? By warning the Ninevites of God’s coming judgment! After his experience inside the fish’s belly (see chapter 2), God instructed Jonah once more to preach to Nineveh (see 3:1-2). At last, he obeyed. Jonah 3:4-10 reads in part,

4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.…10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

You’d think Jonah would have been pleased with such an overwhelming response to his preaching, but he hadn’t yet learned just how deep and how wide God’s love and grace really were. God put Jonah back in the classroom. While the Lord earlier had used an animal to teach Jonah, this time He used a plant. The plant offered Jonah much needed shade at first, but then it withered and died, and Jonah was baking in the sun. When Jonah complained about the demise of the plant, God said to him, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11).

Despite Jonah’s imperfections, God used this reluctant prophet to urge the Ninevites to repent of their sins and thereby experience God’s mercy and grace.

John the Baptist. John prepared the way for the Messiah’s arrival by warning the people to repent and to change their way of living. He

went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:3-14).

Let us not forget that John also warned Herod, telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18). He paid for that action with his life, but he didn’t fail to declare the truth, even to a king.

Peter. At Pentecost, a mere seven weeks after Jesus rose from the dead, Peter preached the good news of salvation to the people in Jerusalem. His message included warnings. You can read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-36. After the people heard the fisherman-turned-evangelist preach,

37 they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls (vv. 37-41).

Yes, Peter warned his hearers of God’s coming judgment and encouraged them to receive divine forgiveness for their sins. In fact, here’s how the translators of the New International Version rendered Acts 2:40: “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’”

Paul. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote, Christ “we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28).

Warnings Are an Essential Part of Effective Evangelism

We must understand that the good news about Jesus Christ is as wonderful as it is because the bad news about sin is as terrible as it is. If people don’t understand how hopeless their situations are without Christ, they surely cannot comprehend how precious and priceless God’s gift of salvation really is. In fact, it’s so valuable it could only be secured by the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.

Accordingly, warnings aren’t just appropriate. They are necessary. They’re even more necessary in our day, because, looking over the landscape of sermons preached in recent decades, we see that these messages have been bereft of biblical warnings.

Please read last week’s post to learn even more about why divine warnings about marriage are so urgent today. We could summarize this by saying that if America is traveling to destruction by taking the road of redefining marriage (something it clearly is doing), then warnings against distorting and manipulating marriage need to be issued. Certainly this isn’t the only perilous path America is on, but it is one path about which the church has not sufficiently warned the country.

If America is traveling to destruction by taking the road of redefining marriage, then warnings against distorting and manipulating marriage need to be issued. Certainly this isn’t the only perilous path America is on, but it is one path about which the church has not sufficiently warned the country.

As a pastor, you can help the church regain its prophetic voice by making sure you do not neglect your duty to warn God’s people and the culture at large. But what should you preach?

For over a year, I’ve been writing articles and posting them at www.wordfoundations.com. Many of these have been Bible studies that a preacher can easily adapt and use for a morning or evening sermon. I’m highlighting seven such posts here. I encourage you to consider using them in your preaching ministry in the coming weeks and months. Along with the seven, I’m also highlighting four additional posts that provide important background information. While thoroughly consistent with biblical truth, these four posts aren’t Bible studies. Even so, you may find ways to convey the information to your people, as it will enhance their understanding of the times in which they live and how they need to conduct themselves in them.

Background information

Sermon and Bible Study Material

  • Discernment Needed—Christians cannot be effectively equipped to warn others if they don’t heed the divine warnings God gives in the Bible. This study showcases numerous warnings against falling prey to the lies of the world. Make sure you and the members of your church aren’t deceived.
  • Clarity Needed—If you read, study, or preach just one of these messages, this is the one I hope you will choose. God-ordained marriage is a picture that helps people understand why Christ died—so for the sake of effective evangelism alone, we must protect natural marriage.

If you read or preach just one of these messages, please choose “Clarity Needed.” God-ordained marriage is a picture that helps people understand why Christ died—so for the sake of effective evangelism alone, we must protect natural marriage.

  • Esse quam videriEsse quam videri is a Latin phrase that means “to be rather than to seem.” This article explores the ominous nature of a lie and the deadly destination to which it leads. How do we combat lies? We must counter them with the truth!
  • Compassion’s Mandate—Christians are told on nearly every front that refusing to accept and celebrate homosexuality and same-sex marriage is bigoted and hateful. Not so! Would a doctor who knows his patient has a deadly disease be compassionate to withhold that information? Of course not. Compassion’s mandate is to declare the truth in love.
  • The Supreme Court…Isn’t: Six Things the Bible Tells Us About the State—Christians need to know what the Bible teaches about government and governmental authority. This Bible study explores these teachings. Such authority is delegated by God and can be misused and abused. When government acts outside it’s God-given authority, believers have a duty to hold it accountable.
  • Reflections on Repentance—Repentance is seen everywhere as confining, restrictive, and burdensome. Of all people, we as believers know that on the other side of repentance is true freedom. As we present the truth to our family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, we need to pray that God would open their eyes to see how refusing to repent means staying in bondage, and how repenting opens up a fresh, new world of liberty.
  • Keep Cultivating and Don’t Lose Heart—Declaring the truth in this culture is risky. This Bible study encourages believers to remember the eternal value of the principles they stand for over against the temporal nature of those things they are tempted to hold with a tight grip. Presenting the truth may require sacrifice, but God will bless with things far more valuable. Never give up!

Keep in mind that all of these posts were written in 2015, and many were written before the Supreme Court issued its marriage ruling. Adaptations still can easily be made. Be aware too that some internet links no longer are valid, but the material in each article still is.

I pray that this post will find its way into many pastors’ studies and many Bible study leaders’ homes. Please use this material to warn God’s people and the culture at large about the perils of the direction in which America is headed.

The writer of Hebrews issued this command and this warning to his readers—including you and me: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb. 13:4). If we would honor marriage, we will never withhold the truth about it from a culture that is confused and misinformed. Nor will we fail to warn people.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Hebrews 13:4

Realistically, the initial sparks that will ignite reform in our country will most likely be generated by pastors. Pastor, will you fulfill your duty?

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations in this article are from the English Standard Version (ESV). The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2011. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.

One quotation is from the New International Version. THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Websites and videos in this article have been cited for information purposes only. No citation should be construed as an endorsement.

 

Misinformed and Misled: How a Distorted Perspective of Rights Is Leading America into Tyranny, Part 8

Initiating Reform

The only real security that you can have for all your important rights must be in the nature of your government. If you suffer any man to govern you who is not strongly interested in supporting your privileges, you will certainly lose them.
Founding Father Roger Sherman

Some are turned away from Christianity because they see Christians as judgmental. Many more are turned away because they see them as pansies. Stop retreating and you might earn some respect.
Mike S. Adams, university professor, author, free speech advocate—

Part 7 is available here.

A woman went to her lawyer and told him she wanted to divorce her husband. “Do you have grounds?” the lawyer asked.

“Yeah, we’ve got about two acres. We have our house on it, and a garden. It’s really nice.”

The lawyer tried again. “Do you have a grudge?”

“Yes. We have a two-car garage. We keep our cars in it, as well as the mower and some tools to keep the yard up.”

The lawyer couldn’t believe what he was hearing and decided to take yet another approach. “Does your husband beat you up?”

“It depends on what’s going on,” responded the woman. “Sometimes I get up before he does and sometimes he gets up before I do. Neither one of us is much of a morning person.”

Maybe a more direct approach will work, thought the lawyer. “OK” he said, “Let me ask you this. Why do you want to divorce your husband?”

The woman threw up her arms in exasperation and cried, “Well, you just can’t communicate with the guy!”

The Problem

This story is both humorous and sad, but it also reflects the cultural divide that exists in America today with regard to rights and liberty. On one side you have the liberals—or the progressives, as they like to be called—vying for “equality” and “rights.” On the other side are conservatives who only want things we also could call equality and rights—but to each side, these terms refer to different things. I am not saying that progressives or conservatives are as ditzy as was the woman who spoke to her lawyer. I am saying that when you have a situation where the same words mean different things to parties on opposite sides of an issue, the impasse that likely already exists is strengthened even more.

When a God-fearing, religious individual who is, say, a baker or a photographer, wants merely to be able to politely opt out of an opportunity to do work at or for a same-sex wedding, he or she might say to the individual requesting services, “I’m sorry, I don’t do gay weddings. The business two blocks down the street does, and it would do a great job for you.” In explaining the decision, the business owner almost certainly would affirm, “I will gladly do business with gays and lesbians in other contexts, but I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I have a right to follow my conscience and my religious convictions. It’s my First Amendment right.”

Well, the same-sex couple planning to “marry” may hear this explanation with their ears, but here is what many believe the vendor is really saying: I have a right to discriminate against you and to treat you in a manner different from my other customers. The customer concludes that hate has driven the vendor to refuse him or her the service requested. After all, what else could? Refusing to do business for a gay wedding can’t be tolerated, because everyone must tolerate—and here the definition of tolerate also means to affirm and even to celebrate—the lifestyle the ceremony is highlighting.

Why would a gay or lesbian individual respond this way? In a previous post, we observed (citations have been omitted),

[O]ne hundred years ago, people viewed homosexuality as a behavior. (By the way, this is exactly the way Scripture sees it and treats it.) Fifty years ago, society viewed it as a condition. Our culture today sees it as an identity. This is [a big] reason gays and lesbians have difficulty understanding Christians’ claim to “love the sinner but hate the sin.” A gay man believes, “If you hate homosexuality, you must hate me, because that’s who I am.”

Believers in man-woman marriage make a mistake when they fail to understand this perspective on the part of those working to incorporate the liberal perspective on rights into law and public policy. Understanding this point of view is not only foundational to showing genuine compassion; it’s also an essential part of effective efforts to secure conscience protections in the law. Having said that, we also must not be naïve. We have to understand that the progressive and conservative perspectives on rights and liberty cannot coexist long-term. One must emerge the winner; one must prevail over the other.

Despite what progressives believe, it isn’t hate that compels a Christian vendor to decline to do business for those wanting a same-sex wedding. Rather, it’s the vendor’s bedrock convictions about what marriage really is. Progressives make a mistake when they fail to understand this. A believer in man-woman marriage absolutely can respect gays and lesbians as persons and be a friend to them, yet disagree with them about the nature of marriage.

Cynthia and Robert Gifford are sterling examples of this perspective. Owners of Liberty Ridge Farm in upstate New York, they occasionally would allow their barn to be used as a wedding venue. Because of their religious beliefs, however, they turned down a lesbian couple who inquired about holding their same-sex ceremony at Liberty Ridge. The couple complained to the New York Division of Human Rights, which subsequently ruled the Giffords illegally had discriminated against the two women. The state agency levied a $10,000 fine on the Giffords, but that wasn’t all. It also ordered them to pay an additional $3,000 in damages and required them to implement classes to reeducate their staff on the definition of marriage. The content of the classes, of course, directly contradicted what the Giffords’ deeply held beliefs.

In November of 2015 when the Giffords appealed their case to a 5-judge panel at the New York Supreme Court, Cynthia said,

When the government tells you what to say and punishes you if you don’t, it’s very frightening. And all of us Americans should be scared about this, no matter where we stand on the issue.…We respect and care for everyone! We had an openly gay man working for us this past season. We’ve had a woman who’s transitioning to be a man. We don’t discriminate against anyone.

Unfortunately, early this year, the panel upheld the ruling of the state agency. A few weeks later, after considering the matter thoroughly, the Giffords elected not to appeal the ruling.

Do not miss what has happened here. Keep in mind that Liberty Ridge Farm is not only the Giffords’ private property, it’s also their home.1 Moreover, Cynthia and Robert Gifford don’t discriminate against homosexuals. They even had a gay man working for them! If progressives prevail in implementing their perspective on rights, you can be sure that government will intervene to take away conscience rights from otherwise law-abiding citizens, just as they are beginning to do now. If conservatives prevail, no one will be denied any service he or she seeks, but those who have deeply held convictions will be free to follow them without losing their businesses or livelihoods. Live and let live. Isn’t this what we’ve heard from gay-rights activists for decades? Now we see that their way is really a one-way street. Only the conservative perspective allows for a true live-and-let-live approach.

If progressives prevail in implementing their perspective on rights, you can be sure that government will intervene to take away conscience rights from otherwise law-abiding citizens, just as they are beginning to do now. If conservatives prevail, no one will be denied any service he or she seeks, but those who have deeply held convictions will be free to follow them without losing their businesses or livelihoods.

Let’s put it another way. To a large extent, at its core, this debate is about the nature of rights. If you haven’t yet read the previous post on two kinds of rights, be aware it contains information you must know to clearly understand the current debate. It is undeniable that progressives (not all, but at least some and perhaps most), are demanding that everyone agree with them and celebrate with them. Those who don’t join willingly will have to be coerced. This is how they acquire the positive rights they seek, “rights” that align with the contemporary, liberal view of rights. How different the conservative approach is! It isn’t just respectful of all, it’s consistent with the beliefs of America’s Founders. Religious business owners only want their negative rights to be honored, not just with regard to marriage, but also life. “If you don’t agree with abortion, don’t have one!” we’ve been told for years. Now pharmacists—even those with convictions against abortion—are being told they must dispense abortifacient drugs. And the Supreme Court, apparently, is all too willing to go along! This does not portend well for religious liberty!

A Horrific Event Rightly Sparks Outrage

An event from the early days of the civil rights movement is instructive for us with regard to these issues today. Have you heard of Emmett Till? Born in 1941, he was an African-American from Chicago. When he was 14 years old, he was visiting family in a small town called Money, Mississippi. As we might expect, the racism in the area was more intense than Till had encountered in Chicago, even though Emmett had been a student at a racially segregated elementary school in the Windy City. Till’s mother had encouraged her son to exercise caution, but his love of practical jokes caused him to make some very bad decisions.

Emmett_Till

On August 24, 1955, a Wednesday, Emmett was hanging out with some cousins and friends outside a store in the small Mississippi town. Emmett told his buddies he had a white girlfriend back home. Responding with disbelief, they dared him to go into the store and to flirt with the white woman behind the counter. On his way out of the store after buying candy, Emmett is reported to have spoken to her, saying, “Bye, baby.” The woman behind the counter was Carolyn Bryant, the store owner’s wife. She subsequently accused Till of making advances to her and of whistling at her as he strolled out of the store.

Several days later Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, returned from a business trip. Outraged to learn about what had occurred, Bryant and a relative, J. W. Milam, went over to the home of Emmett’s great-uncle, Moses Wright, where the young man was staying. This occurred during the dark of night, at around 2:30 in the morning on August 28. They kidnapped Emmett, forced him into their car, and drove off. The men “beat the teenager brutally, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan and shoved his mutilated body into the water.”

Three days later, Emmett’s remains were found in the Tallahatchie River. His great-uncle was able to identify him only because the teenager had been wearing a special ring that once had belonged to Emmett’s father. History.com reports,

Authorities wanted to bury the body quickly, but Till’s mother, Mamie Bradley, requested it be sent back to Chicago. After seeing the mutilated remains, she decided to have an open-casket funeral so that all the world could see what racist murderers had done to her only son. Jet, an African American weekly magazine, published a photo of Emmett’s corpse, and soon the mainstream media picked up on the story.

Bryant and Milam were acquitted of murdering Emmett Till in September of 1955. Since they couldn’t be retried, they later publicly admitted they had killed the young man. The murder was even the subject of an interview in Look magazine in 1956. While the town initially supported the two men, after the Look article was published, Bryant and Milam were shunned by the community.

Emmett Till’s murder is considered to be an important catalyst for the Civil Rights movement in its early days. It occurred just one year after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools must end.

Rosaparks

Also, biography.com notes that just one hundred days after Till’s death, Rosa Parks remained in her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama rather than surrendering it to a white passenger. Parks later said, “I thought about Emmett Till, and I couldn’t go back [to the back of the bus].”

What Needs to Happen

I need to be very careful here, because my use of the story of Emmett Till’s terrible murder easily can be misunderstood. How does the Till case relate to marriage? My point is not that all progressives have had vindictive and hateful motives like those of Emmett’s killers—even though some really do want to destroy marriage and have admitted as much. I’m sure in their minds, many believe they are contending for a noble cause. The harsh reality, however, is that the results of their efforts are extremely destructive—for families, for authentic liberty, for children’s well-being, and for societal stability.

With regard to the life issue, claims to support abortion for the “noble cause” of women’s health increasingly ring hollow. How can Texas lawmakers’ efforts to enhance women’s health standards when abortions are performed be considered an “undue burden”? Well, in making abortion safe for women, the law was deemed to make an abortion of any kind harder to obtain. Are abortion advocates really in favor of unsafe abortions? One has reason to wonder.

Mamie Bradley, Emmett Till’s mother, courageously ordered an open casket at her son’s memorial service to expose the horrific results of racism. She is a model for us! We need leaders in the conservative movement who will be as bold as she was, leaders who will highlight and expose the harmful effects of abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and all the “rights” flowing from same-sex unions, including parenting (see also this webpage). Fortunately, the number of such leaders for life has been increasing in recent years, but we now need a host of spokesmen who will uphold God-ordained marriage!

We have said that the debate over marriage is one about rights. This conflict pits those favoring limited government against those advocating increased government intervention. It is significant that the Supreme Court would, on the one hand, uphold government regulations requiring pharmacists to violate their conscience rights, yet, on the other, strike down regulations meant to protect the safety of women. We need no more evidence than this that the government has turned completely away from the Founders’ perspective on rights and is promoting the opposite of what they advocated. We’re facing tyranny because of it, and—again—we need leaders who are willing to expose this in all its ugliness!

Elections are important, and of course I believe we must elect leaders who will work diligently to return America to its founding principles (see the quote from Founding Father Roger Sherman at the top of this post). However, now more than ever, we need to see an uprising from the people themselves. It needs to be a godly uprising and a peaceful uprising, but it must be an uprising, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Civil Rights era, and the likes of which gave birth to this country in the first place.

As Christians, we have been rightly concerned about the need to express love and compassion to those who disagree with us. Yet I fear we have let this concern overshadow our responsibility to speak prophetically. The quote at the top from Dr. Mike Adams bears repeating here: “Some are turned away from Christianity because they see Christians as judgmental. Many more are turned away because they see them as pansies. Stop retreating and you might earn some respect.”

Drastic Measures Required

Our Founders were eloquent, yet they were clear about citizens’ responsibilities when faced with living under an illegitimate government. This coming Monday we honor their commitment to these words and to the country they were so instrumental in founding.

1280px-Declaration_independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

The Founders went on to say (I’m paraphrasing here) that while no steps should be taken lightly, there comes a time to take action. I’m certainly not advocating overthrowing the United States government, but I do believe there needs to be a massive movement of the people to return our republic to its founding principles—again, much like we saw in the Civil Rights movement. Some laws must be peacefully resisted through civil disobedience.

Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail about how an otherwise law-abiding citizen could advocate breaking some laws, even as he or she obeyed others. King explained that “there are two kinds of laws: just laws…and unjust laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws, but conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Pastors must help their people understand these and a host of other related biblical principles. Government has authority, but not absolute authority. Because the state’s authority is delegated, government is capable of abusing its power. It must be held accountable. Christians have duties to obey God and government, but when these two duties conflict, they must obey God. (Here is a Bible study exploring the Christian’s duty before God to the state.) By the way, in a recent book, Dr. King’s niece, Alveda King, wrote of how her uncle would be an advocate for life and natural marriage if he were alive today.

Francis Schaeffer wrote, “It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God’s Law it abrogates its authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation to such a tyrannical usurping of power.”

Pastors must be on the front lines of the effort to restore America to its founding principles.

Despite the potential cost, we also need more “ordinary people” who are willing to step up to the plate and stand true to their convictions, just as Cynthia and Robert Gifford, as well as others, have done. And we need to support these godly men and women and stand with them—praying for them, encouraging them, and giving to help them financially.

Of course, there are additional things we can do to set the stage for this movement.

  • Pray that God would raise up leaders who will, in the likeness of the prophets of old, declare His truth to the masses.
  • Do not let a legitimate desire to express compassion and love overshadow your duty to declare and live out the truth.
  • Speak up! Share your convictions in appropriate ways with family members, friends, and acquaintances.
  • Teach your children about worldviews and that the biblical worldview is the only one that aligns with reality.
  • Learn about American history and the Founders’ views on government, liberty, and rights. Teach this history to your kids. WallBuilders is an excellent resource for you to use in this effort, as is WallBuilders Live!, the ministry’s daily radio program.
  • Teach your children to respect governmental authority, but
  • warn them about how government can abuse it. Government is inefficient, costly, and has an intoxicating effect on leaders and the public. Government may look like a benefactor, but it can offer only those resources it has taken from citizens and businesses through taxes and regulations. Despite appearances, government is not compassion, but force. Government’s good intentions often have very bad unintended consequences.
  • Using this series of posts, educate yourself and teach your children about the difference between positive and negative rights, the perils of the former, and the liberating qualities of the latter.
  • Resist government handouts. Never buy a lottery ticket. The lottery is legalized exploitation of the poor—and government is orchestrating it!
  • Participate in the political process. Become informed about candidates, and vote according to godly principles.
  • Take the pledge Franklin Graham is encouraging people nationwide to take on his Decision America Tour.

We are living in challenging times. Just today, June 30, 2016, the Obama administration made an important announcement about the military. It now will lift the ban on transgenders serving openly. Here is Tony Perkins’s take on this news, courtesy of the Family Research Council’s Washington Update

While terrorism’s latest victims overwhelm Turkish hospitals and airports everywhere lock down their security, our president is ensuring that America’s military will continue be too distracted and fractured to cope with any of these crises. In a move today—one that completes the administration’s long-term project of dismantling one of the latest bastions of American tradition—Defense Secretary Ash Carter officially welcomed the gender confused into the military’s fold at a press conference formally declaring open transgenderism in the ranks of the military. The world is facing some of the greatest evil ever unleashed on innocents and the President’s plan for combatting it is letting men dress like women (and vice-versa) in our fighting force? Is this his plan for striking fear in ISIS’s hearts?

Has our nation gone completely mad? Have its leaders? We have to point our country in the direction of recovery! Let’s elect wise leaders—yes—but let’s also initiate reform from the bottom up!

I do not believe God is through with America yet, but it’s hard to think of a time when prayer and repentance were more urgently needed than they are today. God’s people need to wake up, look up, and speak up!

Will you be a part of the movement to renew and reform America?

Note:

1One is reminded of the Third Amendment to the US Constitution, which forbids government from housing troops in private homes during peacetime. Many details between the two situations are different, but the significant similarity is the issue of government’s forcing private citizens to use their homes in a particular way.

Epilogue: The Duty to Warn

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Top image credit: Norman Rockwell, “Freedom of Speech”

Websites and videos in this article have been cited for information purposes only. No citation should be construed as an endorsement.

 

 

Misinformed and Misled: How a Distorted Perspective of Rights Is Leading America into Tyranny, Part 7

Eight Reasons Obergefell Has Derailed America
The Importance of Rediscovering the Authentic American Way

[F]or avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy…the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people. I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments.
Gouverneur Morris, signer of the US Constitution, author of large sections of the Constitution—

Gouverneur_Morris

Founding Father Gouverneur Morris

Part 6 is available here.

As I write these words on Friday, June 24, 2016, this coming weekend is sandwiched between two all-American holidays—Father’s Day and Independence Day. Let’s consider each one briefly.

Father’s Day

In the United States, the genesis of Father’s Day as a national holiday can be traced to several events taking place in the early 20th century. One of these was a heartbreaking tragedy. On Friday, December 6, 1907, an accident occurred Monongah, West Virginia that has been called “the worst mining disaster in American history.” At 10:28 a.m. an explosion tore through two mines owned by the Fairmont Coal Company. Inside were 367 men, most of whom perished instantly. Unfortunately, those who survived the initial blast had little chance of being rescued because the support timbers and ventilation systems in the mines also were severely damaged or destroyed. Moreover, in those days, rescuers did not have life-preserving oxygen masks, so they were exposed to toxic fumes as they labored to free trapped workers. Each rescue trip had a time limit of 15 minutes. Lacking the means to sufficiently clear the mines of toxic gasses, the town lost 362 men. Only one miner was rescued while four managed to escape.

Mine_No_6_Va_explosion

Of those who died in the Monongah Mining disaster, 250 were fathers. Their children numbered at around 1,000. Mrs Grace Golden Clayton, daughter of a Methodist pastor, had lost her own father in 1896. Mrs. Clayton was deeply touched by these losses and the struggles their families were having in the weeks and months that followed. She suggested to her pastor, Dr. Robert T. Webb, that their church, located in nearby Fairmont, hold a service to honor fathers. Later recalling the request, Mrs. Clayton said, “It was partly the explosion that set me to think how important and loved most fathers are. All those lonely children and those heart-broken wives and mothers, made orphans and widows in a matter of a few minutes. Oh, how sad and frightening to have no father, no husband, to turn to at such an awful time.”

The service was held on July 5, 1908, just three days before Rev. Golden’s July 8th birthday. Many years later, in 1962, an effort was gathering steam to place a day honoring fathers on the national calendar. West Virginia Congressman Arch Moore received a letter from a gentleman named Ward Downs. Mr. Downs wrote,

It has recently come to my attention of a movement establishing a Father’s Day by an act of Congress to be observed the same as Mother’s Day. It was my privilege to have attended the first Father’s Day Service July 5, 1908 at the Williams Memorial M.E. Church, South, now the Central United Methodist Church, Fairmont, WV. The sermon was preached by Dr. R. T. Webb at the request of Mrs. Charles Clayton, a member of that congregation, and daughter of a Methodist minister. I recall the occasion very distinctly as the pulpit was decorated by having ripened sheaves of wheat placed about it. Many favorable comments by the individuals and the press were made concerning the service at that time. Any assistance you can give this movement will be very much appreciated by me and all the Methodists in this part of the country.

Despite Mr. Downs’s fond memory of the service, other events in the area, including a 4th of July celebration and the death of a young woman, overshadowed it. City and state proclamations establishing a day to honor fathers, therefore, weren’t a top priority at the time.

Another effort to honor fathers was spearheaded by Sonora Smart Dodd in Spokane, Washington. Dodd’s father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran. As a single dad he had raised six children. Having heard in 1909 about Anna Jarvis’s efforts to establish a special day honoring mothers, Dodd told her pastor she believed fathers should be similarly recognized. Because her father’s birthday was June 5, Dodd suggested that date. More time was needed for preparation of sermons, however, so the recognition was held on June 19, 1910. The Spokane YMCA hosted the event. Making it official, the mayor of Spokane and the Governor of Washington State issued proclamations.

Additional efforts were made at various times and places to set aside a day to honor fathers, but it wasn’t until 1966 that a presidential proclamation was issued establishing a national holiday called Father’s Day. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued that proclamation.

Lyndon_B._Johnson,_photo_portrait,_leaning_on_chair,_color_cropped

Six years later, on May 1 of 1972, President Nixon issued a proclamation echoing an April, 1972 joint resolution of Congress that from that point forward, Father’s Day would be commemorated nationwide every year on the third Sunday in June.

Richard_M._Nixon,_ca._1935_-_1982_-_NARA_-_530679

Consider these statements in Nixon’s proclamation.

To have a father—to be a father—is to come very near the heart of life itself.

In fatherhood we know the elemental magic and joy of humanity. In fatherhood we even sense the divine, as the Scriptural writers did who told of all good gifts coming “down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning”—symbolism so challenging to each man who would give his own son or daughter a life of light without shadow.

Our identity in name and nature, our roots in home and family, our very standard of manhood—all this and more is the heritage our fathers share with us. It is a rich patrimony, one for which adequate thanks can hardly be offered in a lifetime, let alone a single day. Still it has long been our national custom to observe each year one special Sunday in honor of America’s fathers; and from this year forward, by a joint resolution of the Congress approved April 24, 1972, that custom carries the weight of law.

So, in the histories of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we see that honoring one’s parents and celebrating one’s family are authentic American traditions. Yet today, these holidays threaten the politically correct message that the Left wishes to promote. The conservative information site conservapedia.com states of Father’s Day,

There has been liberal opposition to Father’s Day, wanting to replace it with “Family Day”. This concept was created in Canada due to the legislation of same-sex “marriage” as it was felt to be unfair to adopted children of same-sex couples. Such a move has been opposed by many normal parents who do not want to see this tradition being overtaken by political correctness. The Liberal opposition do not seem to care about honoring the role of the father, which is highly important for the support and the guidance for children.

Nor do the liberal opposition seem to care that same-sex marriage deprives children adopted by same-sex parents of either a mother or a father—by design! President Herbert Hoover was absolutely right when he observed, “Children are our greatest natural resource.” Walt Disney said something very similar: “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.”

Because they are unnatural, the unions forged by same-sex marriage cannot bring children into the world. Moreover, depriving children of either a mother or a father by design will have severe repercussions for a nation’s future. I am not saying here that parents in same-sex unions cannot love their children; of course they can—and they do! What I am saying is that men and women are different. No man ever can be a mother, nor can any woman truly be a father.

What about single parents? They obviously meet their children’s needs as best they can, and many of them are fabulous parents. We who are not in their shoes may well wonder how they do all they do as well as they do in less-than-ideal situations. Even so, a single-parent home doesn’t eliminate the concept of a mom and dad! Same-sex marriage destroys that concept, to the detriment a nation’s children and that nation’s future. Together, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day affirm the absolute best design for the family. We have departed from it at great cost, and it is imperative that we return.

In the United States, Father’s Day can come as early as June 15 (19 days before Independence Day) or as late as June 21 (13 days prior).

Independence Day

Independence Day, of course, commemorates the ratification of the declaration of the American Colonies’ independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence showcases the date of July 4, 1776, although July 4 actually wasn’t the date signatures were affixed.

In the early days of the republic, Independence Day was not merely a national birthday celebration. It was a sacred day. Hear these words from an oration delivered in Newburyport, Massachusetts on July 4, 1837 by former President John Quincy Adams. At the time, Mr. Adams had already been president (1825-1829) and was representing Massachusetts’s 12th district in the US House of Representatives.

George_P.A._Healy_-_John_Quincy_Adams_-_Google_Art_Project

Why is it, Friends and Fellow Citizens, that you are here assembled? Why is it, that, entering upon the sixty-second year of our national existence, you have honored with an invitation to address you from this place, a fellow citizen of a former age, bearing in the records of his memory, the warm and vivid affections which attached him, at the distance of a full half century, to your town, and to your forefathers, then the cherished associates of his youthful days? Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day?…

Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?

Cast your eyes backwards upon the progress of time, sixty-one years from this day; and in the midst of the horrors and desolations of civil war, you behold an assembly of Planters, Shopkeepers and Lawyers, the Representatives of the People of thirteen English Colonies in North America, sitting in the City of Philadelphia. These fifty-five men, on that day, unanimously adopt and publish to the world, a state paper under the simple title of ‘A DECLARATION.’

The object of this Declaration was two-fold.

First, to proclaim the People of the thirteen United Colonies, one People, and in their name, and by their authority, to dissolve the political bands which had connected them with another People, that is, the People of Great Britain.

Secondly, to assume, in the name of this one People, of the thirteen United Colonies, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station, to which the Laws of Nature, and of Nature’s God, entitled them.

You can read former President Adams’s complete speech here. We’ve quoted enough of it, however, to be reminded of the importance of this phrase in the Declaration of Independence: the laws of nature and of nature’s God. This phrase takes on even greater significance today, in 2016, as politically correct voices repudiate these two forces in both words and actions.

The One-Year Anniversary of an Ominous Event

It’s ironic that sandwiched in between Father’s Day and Independence Day—this year almost precisely in the middle—is June 26, the one-year anniversary of perhaps the most egregious overreach of the United States Supreme Court. As you are no doubt aware, on June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court issued its 5-4 decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, striking down laws nationwide that limited the definition of marriage to one man and one woman. Perhaps not coincidentally, the ruling came just two days shy of the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1969, an event that militant homosexual rights advocates point to as a turning point and an historical coalescing of their movement.

President Obama has designated June as LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] Pride Month in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016—each year he has been in office. As one would expect, his most recent proclamation (2016) speaks of Obergefell in glowing terms.

Last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 States was a historic victory for LGBT Americans, ensuring dignity for same-sex couples and greater equality across State lines. For every partnership that was not previously recognized under the law and for every American who was denied their basic civil rights, this monumental ruling instilled newfound hope, affirming the belief that we are all more free when we are treated as equals.

During the past several weeks, we have demonstrated that the “right” to same-sex marriage is based on a philosophy of rights that stands in direct opposition to the philosophy of rights embraced by America’s Founders. In summary, we can confidently say that man-woman marriage deprives no one of his or her civil rights, and to suggest that it does is to totally misrepresent the truth about marriage, the family unit, American history, liberty, authentic freedom, cohesiveness in society, and all the rights afforded to individuals by nature and nature’s God.

Man-woman marriage deprives no one of his or her civil rights, and to suggest that it does is to totally misrepresent the truth about marriage, the family unit, American history, liberty, authentic freedom, cohesiveness in society, and all the rights afforded to individuals by nature and nature’s God.

As you may recall, on the evening of June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court announced its decision in Obergefell, the Obama administration went out of its way to express support for the decision by lighting the White House in rainbow colors.

As we observed in a post from April of last year,

We can be assured that God is keenly aware of divine signs and images that are being misrepresented today. Thousands of years ago, God placed the first rainbow in the sky as a reminder of His faithfulness after the flood of Noah (see Gen. 9:8-17), but in 2015 many people see rainbow colors and celebrate evil in the name of the politically correct principles of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness.’ Then there’s marriage—a sacred institution ordained and instituted by God (see Gen. 2:18-25) as well as a picture of Christ’s relationship with His church (see Eph. 5:22-32). Needless to say, that picture is being muddied and distorted everywhere people look. If marriage is redefined in America, how can it possibly continue to represent in society anything close to the relationship God ordained it to represent? If we lose marriage, we lose an image that helps people understand why Christ died. While we cannot expect non-Christians to act as Christians, neither can we ignore the fact that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and for many years upheld these ideals. Yet in recent decades in this country, we have, as a nation, kicked God out of public life. Given all the opportunities we as Americans have had to hear and respond to God’s truth, we must understand that God will hold us accountable.

“Gay Pride” celebrations occur frequently in June, and many will be held this coming weekend, including those in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, St. Petersburg, and Nashville. Please pray about these events and for those who participate in them, that they will come to see the truth and that they’ll recognize the perilous risk thrust upon America and America’s children by same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

Pray for another event as well. Thankfully, homosexual rights advocates aren’t the only ones expressing their point of view—but you’d never know this by listening to the mainstream press. On Saturday, June 25, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the annual March for Marriage will take place at the National Mall in Washington, DC. No amount of maneuvering on the part of government can change the reality that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, but pretending marriage is anything else will cause great harm, and we need to be unafraid to articulate this truth.


Un-American

On this weekend marking the one year anniversary of Obergefell—a foreboding anniversary situated between the authentic American holidays of Father’s Day and Independence Day—I’d like to demonstrate that same-sex marriage and the positive rights flowing from it are wholly un-American. They’re even anti-American. Consider these eight realities. 

First, the real American way embraces free speech and open debate in the marketplace of ideas. In fact, at the founding of the country, free speech and personal integrity were so cherished that no one thought of trying to adjust his or her position so as to attract a greater number.

Modern Americans are assaulted by misguided calls for “bipartisanship,” a code word for one side ceding its ideas to the party favored by the media. In fact, however, [Founding Father James] Madison detested compromise that involved abandoning principles, and, in any event, thought the Republic was best served when factions [groups with opposing viewpoints, especially political parties] presented extreme differences to the voters, rather than shading their positions toward the middle. The modern moderate voters—so highly praised in the media—would have been anathema to Madison, who wanted people to take sides as a means of creating checks and balances. 1

Thus, while at the time of the founding rigorous debate was considered healthy, with Obergefell, the Supreme Court effectively choked it off! As Justice Clarence Thomas said in his dissent (citations have been omitted to enhance readability),

The majority [of this court making this decision] apparently disregards the political process as a protection for liberty. Although men, in forming a civil society, “give up all the power necessary to the ends for which they unite into society, to the majority of the community,” they reserve the authority to exercise natural liberty within the bounds of laws established by that society. To protect that liberty from arbitrary interference, they establish a process by which that society can adopt and enforce its laws. In our country, that process is primarily representative government at the state level, with the Federal Constitution serving as a backstop for that process. As a general matter, when the States act through their representative governments or by popular vote, the liberty of their residents is fully vindicated. This is no less true when some residents disagree with the result; indeed, it seems difficult to imagine any law on which all residents of a State would agree. What matters is that the process established by those who created the society has been honored.

That process has been honored here. The definition of marriage has been the subject of heated debate in the States. Legislatures have repeatedly taken up the matter on behalf of the People, and 35 States have put the question to the People themselves. In 32 of those 35 States, the People have opted to retain the traditional definition of marriage. That petitioners disagree with the result of that process does not make it any less legitimate. Their civil liberty has been vindicated.

Second, the debate over conscience rights isn’t a debate over whether or not same-sex couples will be allowed to “marry.” No same-sex couple wanting a ceremony has been or will be unable to arrange it; every gay and lesbian couple has complete freedom to orchestrate the outcome they want. Yet if they honor the conscience rights of religious vendors, they may not be able to have a particular vendor for one job or another. Is it truly the American way to single people out and force them to act against their most deeply held convictions? Of course not! As we noted last week, and as Founding Father James Madison declared, “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort…. Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” 

Third, generally speaking, those who have objected to hosting or otherwise participating in same-sex weddings or civil unions have not hesitated to do business with homosexuals in a wide variety of other contexts. Nevertheless, they believe it wrong to lend their talent and other resources for a “marriage” ceremony—or any ceremony, for that matter—solemnizing a same-sex union. Therefore, the debate isn’t about discrimination against a group of individuals, but about whether or not what one believes about marriage will prevent him or her from acting peacefully on that belief.

Fourth, conscience rights aren’t new, but a part of America’s heritage. Conscience rights are negative rights consistent with the Founders’ view of liberty and limited government. As Justice Thomas indicated in his dissent, the “right” of members of the same sex to “marry” involves government intervention inconsistent with Founding principles and with the Constitution. You may recall that Thomas wrote,

Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. 

Fifth, “Anti-discrimination” laws that essentially say any and all vendors must participate in a same-sex ceremony aren’t really anti-discrimination laws at all. As we have noted, in other contexts, those who object to participating in a same-sex ceremony will gladly and cheerfully do business with gays and lesbians. Thus, rather than leveling the playing field, such laws give homosexual activists carte blanche to target specific vendors and to force them to participate in ceremonies they find objectionable. This makes an absolute mockery of the Fourteenth Amendment’s provision that “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The positive “rights” flowing from Obergefell make a mockery of the Fourteenth Amendment’s provision that “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws.”

During the years that led up to the Supreme Court’s decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, proponents of same-sex marriage would repeatedly ask this rhetorical question: “Just how is my same-sex marriage going to affect you?” They were making the case that same-sex marriage is a private affair between two consenting adults. The denial of either a father or mother to every child adopted by a same-sex couple is a whole other issue, but activists were appealing to heterosexual adults and making the case that even if they didn’t agree with same-sex marriage, they personally would not be affected by it in any way.

Now we know that a growing number of people are being directly affected. Many are being threatened; some may even lose their livelihoods. Do not be fooled. Forced compliance to the militant gay agenda will not be limited to photographers, bakers, florists, artists, wedding planners, and venue operators. We ought to see this clearly now, especially in light of the push to give biological men who identify as women access to women’s restrooms. Where will it stop? We need to understand that unless we as a nation regain a solid moral footing, it won’t stop! This is blatantly un-American. In fact, it is tyranny.

Sixth, moral objections to homosexuality aren’t new, so homosexual activists can’t claim someone has recently invented a new rationale to discriminate against the gay community. As Eric Metaxas writes,

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American freedom is, of course, nothing like pure and unmitigated freedom—which would indeed be anarchy and no freedom at all. True freedom just be an “ordered freedom,” at the center of which is what we call “self-government.” So to be clear: People would not have freedom from government, but would have freedom from tyrannous government, or from government that might easily become tyrannous.”2

Yet today, as we have seen, government has thrown off many of the constitutional restraints that otherwise would prevent it from acting in a tyrannical manner.

Seventh, evidence from the health sciences raises red flags about homosexual activity and, therefore, about legitimizing homosexuality through same-sex marriage. The American way of free and open debate in the marketplace of ideas is not prevailing on this issue today. In our politically correct climate, even professionals with proven track records have hit a brick wall in their efforts to uphold safety and good health by presenting the truth.

Eighth, the belief that marriage should be a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman has been upheld in the civilized world for thousands of years and never was considered a bigoted position until very recently. Furthermore, those who contend this is an unfairly discriminatory point of view can offer no real evidence that gays and lesbians have been harmed by this perspective. Advocates of same-sex marriage make emotional appeals when they claim “discrimination” and call those who disagree with them names. But the evidence is on the side of those who believe marriage to be a lifelong heterosexual union. Also, it is undeniable children do best when they are brought up in homes by their married moms and dads. Listen to this one-minute clip.

The burden of proof for the notion that man-woman marriage is a bigoted position should rest on advocates of same-sex marriage. Simply calling those who disagree with them bigots is no proof. The Supreme Court’s ruling shuts off spirited, healthy, substantive debate and effectively acts to shut up proponents on one side of this issue. Again, this is un-American.


Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to recognize our country as the “land of the free and the home of the brave” (a quotation from the “Star-Spangled Banner”)—and to believe that she even remotely has the capacity to “confirm thy soul in self-control; thy liberty in law” (a quotation from “America the Beautiful”). It is imperative that we rediscover the authentic American way. We must never give up hope that we can return to the ideals embraced by America’s Founders. After all, our God is God of miracles.

Still, we must pray for America, because if God doesn’t act, things are looking pretty desperate.

Next week, in our eighth and final article in this series, we’ll consider ways that, with God’s help, we can lead our country back to the principles on which it was built.

Part 8 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Updates:

Websites in this article have been cited for information purposes only. No citation should be construed as an endorsement.

Notes:

1Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror, (New York: Sentinel, 2004), 122.

2Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, (New York, Viking, 2016), 29.

 

 

 

 

Misinformed and Misled: How a Distorted Perspective of Rights Is Leading America into Tyranny, Part 5

How True Rights and Genuine Liberty Are Becoming Casualties of the Supreme Court’s Redefinition of Marriage

Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government. Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by faith, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason. It is part of the natural created order. The Natural Law is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as a higher law or a just law in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.…The institutions of civil government should defend marriage and not seek to undermine it. Government has long regulated marriage for the true common good. Examples, such as the age of consent, demonstrate such a proper regulation to ensure the free and voluntary basis of the marriage bond. Redefining the very institution of marriage is improper and outside the authority of the State. No civil institution, including the United States Supreme Court or any court, has authority to redefine marriage.
Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage

Though expected, today’s decision is completely illegitimate. We reject it and so will the American people. It represents nothing but judicial activism, legislating from the bench, with a bare majority of the Justices on the Supreme Court exercising raw political power to impose their own preferences on marriage when they have no constitutional authority to do so. It is a lawless ruling that contravenes the decisions of over 50 million voters and their elected representatives. It is a decision that is reminiscent of other illegitimate Court rulings such as Dred Scott and Roe v Wade and will further plunge the Supreme Court into public disrepute.
Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, on June 26, 2015, responding to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling that redefined marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples—

Properly understood, rights are not guarantees that something will be provided for us but guarantees that what is ours will not be unjustly taken from us. That is, properly speaking, rights are not positive but negative.
Calvin Beisner

Part 4, which is available here, provides important background information for this post.

Depending on the circumstances and on what listeners want to hear, the truth can be very difficult to accept. So difficult, in fact, that some individuals reject it altogether. Consider Marc, who was very much alive but was convinced he was dead. When his psychiatrist asked him if dead men bleed, Marc said no. The doctor promptly stuck Marc’s finger with a needle, causing blood to come forth. “Wow!” exclaimed Marc. “Dead men really do bleed, after all!”

With very few exceptions, it isn’t desirable for people to live in a world of fantasy and illusion. Mature people must grapple with reality. People need to eat! The bills have to be paid! The real world is messy, but it is the one we live in—yet it’s also the one in which we can find fulfillment and satisfaction, if we adjust to life’s demands and cooperate with its realities.

The law of gravity provides a great example. No one can step out of a 10th story window and expect to go anywhere but down, and fast! Gravity prevents us from safely doing a great number of things. Yet when we cooperate with it, we benefit immensely. Why? In a great many ways, gravity, which is part of “the natural order of things,” makes ordered life on earth possible.

Marriage, as humanity has understood it for centuries, is very much like gravity in this regard. When a society respects marriage as an institution uniting one man and one woman in a committed, lifelong relationship, it’s clear that it limits that society in certain ways. Perhaps it’s not as clear that it liberates it in many more! Clear or not, this is the truth! When a nation rejects man-woman marriage, devastating consequences follow, a number of which we have discussed in previous posts.

This week in our series on rights, we move to consider how the Supreme Court of the United States, through its ruling on marriage, has violated the concept of rights our Founders embraced and enshrined in our Constitution, particularly in the Bill of Rights. Ironically, it has done this in the name of granting rights to a few! Five Supreme Court justices—a bare majority—also have violated the natural order to make life worse for everyone. Not everyone will accept the truth we will explore, but those who do accept it will benefit. Moreover, the more who accept it, the more the country will benefit. It is time for us as a nation to stop living in a world of fantasy.

At the outset, I’d like to stake out four principles that describe my perspective.

  1. Everything I write today, I write, as Abraham Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address, “with malice toward none, and charity for all.”
  2. While I bear absolutely no ill-will toward those who disagree with me, I cannot remain silent as this country continues to decline and as its foundational principles are abandoned and rejected. Liberty and authentic freedom are fragile and must be guarded. Once liberty is understood to mean license, once freedom is seen as absolute individual autonomy, and once the government endorses these definitions with policy, people begin to live according to their base desires en masse, without giving a single accurate thought to the public good. Eventually this will lead to societal chaos, which inevitably will lead to tyranny. We’ve been traveling down this very road for some time.
  3. In previous posts, I have repeatedly called the evidence for man-woman marriage “obvious.” From the Word Foundations menu, do a search for the word obvious, and you will see what I mean. Here is one of my bedrock convictions: The fact that marriage can’t be anything other than what it has been for centuries is self-evident, revealed in nature and other realities in the world in which we live. Why, then, isn’t the obvious, obvious? Because the popular culture has touted lies about the world, life, and marriage so frequently and for so long, millions have come to believe them. They have been blinded!
  4. I believe the Bible is God’s authoritative revelation to humanity and that it is absolutely true in all that it says. Even so, I don’t believe we need the Bible to understand what marriage really is. We will consider a few Bible passages at the end of this post, but otherwise we will rely on the truth that nature itself speaks loudly and clearly. The case for this is strong.

I am honored to be in very good company! Although I cannot verify that he would agree fervently with everything I’ve stated thus far, he apparently agrees with much of it, because I agree with him about the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling. In his dissent on this ruling, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas brilliantly describes the situation at hand.

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In this post we will examine only the first paragraph of Justice Thomas’s dissent. That paragraph’s seven sentences alone are insightful and substantive, and they’re alarming enough to raise red flags nationwide about same-sex marriage. Next week we will look at additional statements in Thomas’s dissent and discuss even more implications of the Obergefell ruling as it relates to rights. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here is the first paragraph.

The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic. I cannot agree with it.

____________________________________________

Let’s consider each of these statements individually.

Statement 1: “The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built.”

To learn just a few of the ways the Obergefell decision “is at odds…with the Constitution,” read this brief summary from Alliance Defending Freedom. Also read Bradley C. S. Watson’s National Review article “Reclaiming the rule of Law after Obergefell.” You can read some of our nation’s foundational principles here.

Statement 2: “Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits.”

From May 25 to September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and its delegates drafted the US Constitution. As we discussed in a previous post, resistance to ratification was strong because the proposed Constitution did not have a Bill of Rights—a list of limitations on the government that would keep it out of the way so people could live their lives freely. Even though the Constitution was drafted and proposed in 1787 without a Bill of Rights and subsequently was ratified, it was accepted only when the Bill of Rights was added. Thus, “there was, in the minds of this first generation of US citizens (not just the Founders), a direct relationship between the thriving of personal liberties (rights) and restrictions that kept the federal government out of people’s lives.” The battle to add the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution never would have been won if the principles of limited government had not been accepted and embraced in the populace in years prior.

Oh, that we could recapture their love of limitations on government! Today the prevailing perspective on rights calls, not for government limitations, but government intrusion! For a few moments, reflect on the degree to which government has had to invade marriage in order to remake it into an institution that affords same-sex couples the “right” to “marry.” While in US history, the Supreme Court has issued numerous egregious decisions to grant positive rights, only a handful have sent the Court even close to the level of meddling we’ve seen with Obergefell. More on this in a moment.

Statement 3: “The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty.”

The Bill of Rights, with its government-limiting provisions to ensure individual liberties, provides undeniable evidence of this truth.

Statement 4: “Yet the majority [of Supreme Court justices] invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect.”

These are allusions to a positive right and to negative rights. The positive right, the “‘liberty’ that the Framers would not have recognized” is, of course, same-sex marriage. Does anyone really believe the Founders had same-sex marriage in mind when they wrote the Constitution? Does anyone think for a New York minute they wouldn’t have acted to protect man-woman marriage if they knew same-sex marriage ever would be seriously proposed, much less practiced, in the United States? The point here is that we can be certain redefining marriage never even entered the the minds of the Founders, so they did not sanction it. We can say the same thing for those who drafted and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment (ratified after the US Civil War), which is cited as a basis for the Obergefell ruling. How then, can same-sex marriage be constitutional?

Many other strong arguments against the constitutionality of same-sex marriage exist as well, but Justice Thomas, rightly, was saying the Framers never would have recognized the practice as legitimate. The truth is that the men who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights did act to prevent the implementation of same-sex marriage, even though they didn’t know it ever would be considered. They did so by enshrining the principle of limited government in the founding documents. The Supreme Court has rejected this principle outright.

Further into his dissent, Justice Thomas discusses Obergefell’s threat to religious liberty, which we will consider next week. The freedoms associated with the principle of religious liberty are included in the term “liberty” in Thomas’s powerful clause, “to the detriment of the liberty they [the Framers] sought to protect” through provisions that limit government action. Those provisions were established to guarantee negative rights.

Statement 5: “Along the way, it [the Court] rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government.”

The Declaration of Independence declares,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Rights are God-given! Put another way, human dignity is innate because it comes from God! This was the conviction of our Founders. It is a principle on which they severed ties with Great Britain and on which they founded the United States of America. The Obergefell ruling, according to Thomas, “rejects this idea.” Justice Thomas is right.

Moreover, through its ruling the Supreme Court “suggests instead that it [human dignity] comes from the Government.” We must not miss the implications of Justice Thomas’s strong statement. Marriage, a God-given and God-ordained institution, could be redefined by government only through the most intrusive of bureaucratic actions. In redefining marriage, therefore, our government defied God! Yet, as frightening as this is, there’s even more here to alarm us. If human dignity comes from the government rather than God, is it really dignity at all?

Human dignity definitely does not come from government. It was the reality of human dignity—innate and God-given—that compelled our country’s Founders to limit government in ways that preserved personal freedom and rights in the first place!

Statement 6: “This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic.”

The implications here are especially alarming. Hang in there with me, and you’ll see what I mean. In the US Constitution we see reflected a host of principles stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence. This one comes to mind: In order “to secure these rights [the unalienable rights given by God], governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (emphasis added). Accordingly, the Constitution itself doesn’t begin with “The Government of the United States of America,” but with the phrase “We the People.”

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The people are to be the government’s boss in America, but the US government has inverted this relationship by usurping the people’s authority. Not only that, but the Supreme Court, through its Obergefell ruling, has defied nature and defied God. In fact, it has set itself up as God! If the Supreme Court will be so bold as to change the millennia-old definition of marriage, what will it not attempt?

Statement 7: “I cannot agree with it.”

Justice Thomas understands. He “gets it”! Because he does, he disagrees with the marriage ruling, and so must everyone else who is truly familiar with the importance of the founding principles of the United States of America.

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Let’s return briefly to statement 6. In reflecting on it, we said that government, through Obergefell, had set itself up as God. Then we asked, If the Supreme Court will be so bold as to change the millennia-old definition of marriage, what will it not attempt?  

We are told in Genesis that God thwarted the completion of the Tower of Babel. We’re also informed as to why. Genesis 11:1-9 declares,

1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

As with the worldwide flood just a few chapters earlier (see Gen. 6-9), God stepped in when humanity had stepped over a clear boundary. How long will it be before He intervenes to stop America from going any further?

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when deliberations almost had reached an impasse, Benjamin Franklin appealed to the delegates to establish regular prayers over their sessions. Here is a portion of what he said (emphasis added).

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I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.

Franklin pled with the delegates to acknowledge God in the infancy of our nation. Today, almost 230 years later, the US Supreme Court doesn’t just ignore God and the natural laws He established; instead, a majority of justices effectively shake their collective fist in His face! Even if a person doesn’t believe in God, he or she still could find it difficult to imagine how any person or group could more thoroughly or foolishly spurn nature’s clear teaching.

The Bible informs us that God is patient (see 2 Pet. 3:9), but His patience is not limitless. Marriage is sacred (see Gen. 1:26-28; 2:21-25), for it is God-ordained and a picture of Christ and His bride, the church (see Eph. 5:25-33). Make no mistake. The scriptural principle is clear: God will judge those who violate the institution of marriage (see Heb. 13:4).

In light of all this, we must resist the Obergefell ruling. Our long-term goal needs to be to restore the definition of marriage so that public policy aligns with what marriage really is.

We must require all branches of our government to stop meddling in marriage. Government entities must stop securing positive rights inconsistent with marriage’s age-old definition. In addition, we must, in both our personal and public lives, uphold marriage as being what God and nature declare it to be.

We’ve seen this week that if we don’t resist, the consequences for our country will be dire. And you know what? There’s even more to say about how dire.

Stay tuned!

Part 6 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2016 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.

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