Category Archives: Politics

Our Religious Freedom: North Carolina and Mississippi

Constitution

We are free.

In these United States, we enjoy freedoms that many in a variety of nations and cultures do not. Our Founding Fathers labored arduously to create a system whereby a nation of states could co-exist under the umbrella of a republic, a system that allowed for self-governance through elected representation to ensure that everyone could enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I’m afraid, though, that the fabric of this nation is being torn to shreds, this due to an infantile mind-set of extreme self-gratification. We have become a people who have become so self-righteous and pompous and self-important that I’m afraid we are like the moth circling ever-closer to the flame.

The biggest casualty? Our freedom.

A Free Conscience

The fundamental right that we have – that absolutely no one can diminish – is the right to think. And, from that right to think is the right to express our thoughts. Short of yelling “fire” in a movie theater, we can pretty much say whatever it is we’re thinking.

Alongside our freedom to think and express our thoughts is our conscience, a morality that is planted deep within us and guides our actions and our worldview. Our conscience – our morality – is part and parcel of our freedom to think, to express. I doubt that one could exist without the other, and I’m sure there is a deep-seated relationship between thinking, expression, and conscience. None can exist without the other.

Boycott the States

Recently, North Carolina and Mississippi passed state laws which guaranteed protection to those who object to certain flash point situations regarding LGBT actions. In North Carolina, it’s the “bathroom law”, and in Mississippi, it’s protection for those who, by conscience, do not want to participate in same-sex unions, be they clergy, religious institutions, or government employees. These states have recently recognized that these particular people and institutions cannot be forced to participate, or fined, for following their conscience, a way of thinking they feel compelled to express. They are free to express their conscience without fear of fine or penalty.

Yet, many corporations have called for a boycott of these particular states because of the protection they are providing for those who cannot in good conscience partake in such behavior. Celebrities, too, have taken the high ground and cancelled concerts – Bruce Springsteen in North Carolina, and Bryan Adams in Mississippi.

Oddly enough, they are following their conscience and boycotting people who are, well, following their conscience. Each side of the argument has developed their own line of thinking, and they’ve expressed it – which they are free to do.

One side of the argument is hypocritical, while another side of the argument is being punished, in hopes that their thinking and expression and, ultimately, their conscience will change.

The Transparent Hypocrisy

Much has been said in the public sphere.  In “If Christians Can’t Discriminate, Neither Can Bruce Springsteen,” Matt Walsh states,

The irony here is so thick I might choke on it. These are people and companies choosing not to provide services to a group of people as a means of protesting a law that allows people to deny services to groups of people. They are following their conscience and boycotting to overturn a law that allows people to follow their conscience. They are exercising their First Amendment rights in order to make a statement against First Amendment rights. They are discriminating in response to “discrimination.” What’s next? Will they fly a private jet around the world to lecture people about the dangers of fossil fuel?

In “Liberals’ Double Standard on Bathrooms, Boycotts, and Religious Freedom,” Ryan T. Anderson laments the hypocrisy of it all. He begins by saying,

If it wasn’t for double standards, some liberals would have none at all. That seems to be the lesson from the past few weeks, where liberals have displayed three distinct forms of hypocrisy.

Rod Dreher, in “Religious Liberty in Mississippi,” is trying to make sense of why the new laws are so objectionable to some. He states,

The problem is that gay rights and religious liberty really are a zero-sum phenomenon in most ways. That is, the advance of one comes at the expense of the other. Nobody can have his way completely without causing the other side some loss. The problem for social and religious conservatives is that the other side either doesn’t understand the compromise it demands from the religiously dissenting minority, or it doesn’t care — and with the rare exception of places like Mississippi, the other side holds most of the power.

Andrew T. Walker, in “3 Reasons Why Religious Liberty Laws Don’t Discriminate,” gives clear evidence that these are not cases of discrimination, and he is clear about the end-result if there can be no respect or tolerance. He says,

Supporters of religious freedom laws are not interested in discriminating against persons. What many find objectionable are participating in services that have an overtly sacramental meaning. Once you understand the true face and nature of discrimination, you’ll see that religious freedom laws in no way commit the type of discrimination defined above.

Respect and tolerance are essential qualities of a free society. But they require reciprocation. True diversity requires respecting individuals with a religious belief while also allowing for goods and services to be available for those who seek them. Better yet, a pluralistic civil society ought to allow for peaceable disagreement without resorting to accusations that one side is dehumanizing the other.

Finally, the National Conference of State Legislatures provides a table of religious exemption statutes regarding same-sex unions. Ironically, many of the states that seek to boycott North Carolina and Mississippi provide for religious exemptions.

The hypocrisy of the progressive left is stunning. Using influence and money to coerce individuals and law-making entities stands opposite of what this nation was founded on. We are free. Free to think, free to express, and free to act without fear of penalty. I applaud those those who take a stand for religious freedom.

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Six Observations: Christianity in a Same-Sex Society

This past Friday, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, a decision which flies in the face of orthodox religious belief, namely Christianity.  There has been much response to the decision, and many, on both sides of the decision, have commented.  Some have celebrated the decision, while others have voiced disapproval.  Still, others have looked past the decision and attempt to predict the impact on other facets of society.

I am a Christian.  I attempt to live my life according to the Scriptures.  I believe the Scriptures are the inerrant, authoritative, sufficient Word of God.  The Bible is, very clearly, God speaking to his creation and created ones.  And, throughout the Bible is the gospel, God’s plan to redeem sinful man.

Over the past few days, I’ve read, observed, listened, and tried to understand public response to the Supreme Court’s decision.  Here are six conclusions I’ve reached regarding the public response to the Supreme Court decision.

1.  If you are a Christian, and you celebrate or support the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage, you stand in direct opposition to the teachings of Scripture.

The Bible is the inerrant, authoritative, sufficient Word of God.  It is how God reveals himself and speaks to mankind.  The Apostle Paul tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)  Wayne Grudem, in Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, states that “to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God himself.” (39)  He goes on to say that “…the Bible is necessary for knowledge of the gospel…but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.” (54)  In other words, we all know the difference between good and bad.

Christians can, in no way, rationalize or justify the legitimacy of same-sex marriage based upon the teachings found in Scripture.

2.  Both the Old and New Testaments affirm the one man/one woman institution of marriage.

From the beginning, God created and ordained the institution of marriage as a one man/one woman relationship that is both complementary and purposeful.  In the early chapters of Genesis, scripture tells us that

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

and

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24 ESV)

In the New Testament, Jesus affirms this when he responds to the Jewish leaders, saying

Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6 ESV)

Scripture is clear regarding the definition of marriage.  As Christians, this is the principle we must cling to as right and good.

3.  The New Testament condemns homosexuality as a sin.

The general response from our culture regarding homosexuality is that the Old Testament’s prohibition of homosexuality is for another social era and that the New Testament never condemns homosexuality.  If we remember that “All scripture is God-breathed…”, we read in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church this warning:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:18; 26-27 ESV)

Paul goes on to say in his first letter to the church in Corinth that,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)

And, to Timothy, Paul writes,

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:8-11 ESV)

The New Testament is clear regarding disobedience to God.

4.  Religious freedom is in peril.

Many Christians gloss over the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision, thinking that a lifestyle contrary to God’s teachings is all that is at stake.  There is more…much more.

When our founding father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote his now-famous letter to the Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1802, he assured the Baptists that “a wall a separation between church and state” had been established and that the Protestants were free to worship as they saw fit.  This “separation” though, only prohibits the establishment of a state church and does not prohibit the free exercise of religion, meaning that religion is free to influence its citizens and, yes, its government.

In the recent decision regarding same-sex marriage, our government has imposed on many of its citizens a law which cuts against the very grain of its religious faith and conscience.  While Christians cannot, in good faith, participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies, or in licensing same-sex couple to wed, the recent court decision has implications that citizens are required to under the threat of penalty.

And, what of Christian ministers?  While the Supreme Court allowed for a dissenting conscience among religious leaders, and there is protection in the 1st Amendment, some in the media have already asked questions about church facilities, religiously-affiliated universities, hospitals and such.  In his article, “Now Is the Time to End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions,” Mark Oppenheimer states, “…the logic of gay-marriage rights could lead to a reexamination of conservative churches’ tax exemptions…” And, the Pew Research Center says “…it’s possible that institutions will be pressured to give ground on gay marriage by federal authorities.”

5.  The role of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court has changed.

Since when do a group of unelected lawyers create law for the citizens of its nation?  The 14th Amendment, which was used to argue for marriage equality, never addresses marriage.  It’s a stretch to say that it does.  It is clearly the responsibility of states to determine marriage laws, yet our Supreme Court justices, who are appointed and who are not representative of the nation at-large, have overstepped the bounds of responsibility and taken it upon themselves to decide what marriage is and is not.

The court has opened Pandora’s Box in regard to all sorts of equality issues, all based on their convenient interpretation of the 14th Amendment.  What of polygamy, or any other sort of contrived relationship?  The equality in the 14th Amendment is pointless unless applied to all, or it ceases to be equality.  That, too, is the danger of this decision.

6.  Civil disobedience is biblically permissible.

In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul affirms the role of government in the lives of Christians.  In essence, government is created by God to provide protection and welfare for the good of its citizens.

Yet, when the government imposes a law upon its citizens that requires disobedience of God’s laws, and then forces obedience to that law under threat of penalty, it is biblically permissible to disobey civil authorities.

Grudem states, “God does not hold people responsible for obeying the civil government, however, when obedience would mean directly disobeying a command of God himself.” (88)

We see an example of this in The Acts of the Apostles when some of the apostles are arrested and then commanded “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”  Their response? “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Later, they proclaimed that “We must obey God rather than men.”  If disobedience to God is demanded, Grudem states that “God requires his people to disobey civil government…” (88)

From this, we see clearly that we are called, as Christians, to stand firmly on the beliefs we have based on the Word of God found in the scriptures.

Following the Supreme Court decision, many on social media included the hashtag #LoveWins.  I don’t doubt that at all.  Love does win, and in the future, love will win out.  But, it will be the love of Christ through his Church that shows the ultimate love…despite sin, any sin, the love of Christ overcomes and gives grace to all of us sinners…gay, straight, or otherwise.  It is because of this love, though, that we are called to proclaim the commands of God and, by the power of the Spirit, walk in those commands.

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Church History: Baptists and Religious Freedom

The Baptists were accused of presenting false charges of oppression in order to prevent the colonies from uniting in defense of their liberties. (p. 53)

Baptists in America in and around 1774 were trouble.  Not only had they taken the stand that believer’s baptism by immersion was the only way to build the true Church, but they had also become vocal regarding religious liberty.  This was, they felt, a God-given right for man.  It would allow them to practice their faith openly and freely without the fear of penalty from those within and without the state-sponsored Congregational Church.

Enter Isaac Backus.  In the 1881 Baptist Encyclopaedia (ed. by William Cathcart), Backus is credited with furthering Baptists beliefs, both believer’s baptism and freedom to worship.  Born in 1724, in Norwich, Connecticut, Backus was raised by a mother who leaned toward Separate Baptist beliefs.  Early in life, when Backus became a believer during the Great Awakening, he reluctantly joined the Congregationalist Church in  Norwich, citing its “lack of discipline and its low state of religious feeling.”

Soon after, Backus and others separated from the church in Norwich and began meeting on their own.  These attenders, who were labeled “New Lights” because of the enthusiasm they felt for their faith and worship, began to meet in 1748 with Baptists who were also affected by the revivals of the Great Awakening.  Their belief in believer’s baptism and the paedobaptist belief of Backus’ Congregationalist members soon became a topic of “agitation.”  Backus, at first hesitantly accepted believer’s baptism, but soon after “was enabled to put aside all doubts and perplexities on the subject and come out unreservedly for baptism through a profession of faith.”

in 1756, Backus became pastor of the Baptist church in Middleborough.  “At the time, Baptists were subject to much oppression and persecution by the civil powers of Massachusetts,” and Backus took on the banner of religious freedom for Baptists in New England.  He was chosen as a delegate, along with other Baptist pastors, to convene in Philadelphia to address the Continental Congress regarding religious liberty.  It states that Backus…

…read a memorial setting forth the grievances and oppressions under which the Baptists labored, and praying for relief therefrom. The result of this effort on the part of the New England Baptists to obtain religious freedom was hurtful rather than advantageous.

After Congress adjourned, the rumors flew.  Reports regarding the statements made by Backus and others were slanderous and untruthful.  They were, essentially, accused manipulating Congress to prevent colonial unity.

Backus continued to pursue religious liberty for years, meeting with Founding Fathers and others, and laid the ground work for religious liberty in our Bill of Rights and national life.  Baptists owe him much.

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Separation of Church and State: a response to David Ivester

bibleOn Monday, I posted a blog titled “Separation of Church and State: Jefferson Got It All Wrong.”  In it, I proposed the idea that the policy of “separation of church and state” is not and cannot be linked to the First Amendment, which prohibits our government from establishing religion and which allows for the free exercise thereof.  In my opinion, Jefferson, in responding to the Danbury Baptists in Connecticut, wrongly interpreted the First Amendment as providing “a wall of separation” between church and state.  Since then, our nation, specifically our courts and judges, have used the pseudo-law “separation of church and state” to make any number of rulings which limit, among other things, prayer in schools, religious displays in the public square, and, most notably, the decisions of the voting public.

On Tuesday, David Ivester responded to my post.  It is quite lengthy and thorough (as compared to the usual commentary), but is helpful to discuss this issue.  You can go here to read his response. I appreciate Mr. Ivester’s comments, and I am honored that he took the time to comment.  Dialogue is both helpful and good, and while we may disagree on some matters, it can be done with respect and with courtesy.  With that in mind, there are a few comments made by Mr. Ivester where I feel I must push back a bit.  I encourage you, too, to add your discussion.

[For the purpose of clarity, I’ll quote Mr. Ivester’s comment, followed by my point of disagreement.  Let me also establish that I’m not an attorney, nor am I an authority on interpreting law and judicial decisions.]

1.  Hamburgers’ fundamental error is his largely unspoken and unexamined presumption that the Constitution’s separation of church and state is merely a First Amendment textual matter. It is rather a bedrock principle of our Constitution, much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.  

I’ve read the Constitution and can find no place where it explicitly addresses separation of church and state.  As a constitution2matter of fact, in no place does the original body of the Constitution address religion.  It is a document that establishes the operational framework of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches along with their unique powers and responsibilities.  In establishing the responsibilities and unique powers of the branches of government, in no way does that imply a parallel separation of church and state.  I find that a difficult argument to understand.

While amendments were added later that do, indeed, address church and state, these were established to protect the rights of states and citizens.  Many of our founding fathers felt that the original Constitution was inadequate in that regard, and thus lobbied for amendments.  James Madison, at times begrudgingly, helped our early legislators accomplish this.

2.  …establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity)…

“We the people” is a great beginning to a governing document.  That statement in and of itself speaks volumes.  Yet, if we look at the Declaration of Independence, a sister document to the Constitution and necessary in the birth of our nation, we see that the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” gave our country the right to seek independence to become a sovereign nation.  As one writer says, the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence claim divine authorization to pursue the right to govern themselves, and that the purpose of government is to protect the rights that are given to people by God.  So, while the Constitution is a document that is by the “People”, I think it’s fair to say that leaders of those “People” intended for God to be included.

One might say that the Declaration of Independence has no real bearing in a discussion of the purpose and intent of the Constitution.  I would respond in saying, though, that the rights endowed by God of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (found in the Declaration) are the same rights the Bill of Rights sought to establish and protect.

3.  They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment…

I’ve yet to see where separation of government and religion had already been established, before the writing of or within the Constitution or in the First Amendment. So, how can it be “buttressed”?

James Burgh_128x128The idea of keeping church and state separate came not from Jefferson, but from the 17th century English political reformer, James Burgh.  Jefferson admired Burgh – his ideas and his writings – and recommended them to others, specifically James Madison and John Adams.  He also encouraged Congress to read Burgh.

Burgh (1714-1775) urged that “an impenetrable wall of separation between things sacred and civil” be maintained.  His concern was not that religion would taint government, but that government would corrupt religion.  He did not trust men associated with government to perform the holy and spiritual duties that were ordained by God and churches.

Jefferson used Burgh’s phrase in his response to the Danbury Baptists, yet it is clear by his actions that he never intended government (or society) to be free from the influence of religion and it’s accompanying morality.  Jefferson allowed for worship to take place in civil buildings, and even permitted the military band to participate.  As a matter of fact, after Baptists presented Jefferson with a huge wheel of cheese made from over 900 cows, Jefferson invited the pastor to preach in the Hall of the House of Representatives.

4.  To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

I suppose that those of us who are not “familiar with the Constitution” reckon that it is, indeed, of consequence.  At some point along the way, the metaphor “separation of church and state” has been wrongly associated with the First Amendment.  Even more, this metaphor has never been adopted by the American people.

Examples would be the Supreme Court decisions Everson v. Board of Education (1947) and Lemon v.gavel Kurtzman (1971), which effectively excluded all religion from the public square.  The Supreme Court made these decisions, not the American people.  In both decisions, use of the metaphor was given legitimacy and legal status, though it is never mentioned in the Constitution or the First Amendment.

While it may be a commonly used metaphor, it is not a legitimate interpretation.  And, raw judicial power does not make it so.

5.  The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not, as is sometimes complained, purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. 

This is where I disagree most.  The current climate in our society disallows many actions and decisions that are deemed based on religious belief.  For example, in Varnum v. Brien (2009), the Iowa Supreme Court decided to impose same-sex marriage on the state of Iowa, even though only 28% of Iowans supported it.  The court commented that society rejects same-sex marriage due to sincere, deeply ingrained – even fundamental – religious belief.”  In other words, maintaining the views of traditional marriage is the equivalent of “establishing” a religion.

In another example, when California Proposition 8 was challenged, it was stated that the Establishment Clause means that the majority (in this instance, 52% who voted for the proposition) cannot impose its religious beliefs on the minority.  Those representing the plaintiffs allowed for the discussion of the religious beliefs of various sects to show that their beliefs are bigoted and, therefore, unconstitional.  In my mind, determining the conscience of voters in regard to religious beliefs is wrong – it, in itself, is unconstitutional because it limits the “free exercise thereof.”

So, the statement Mr. Ivester makes saying that the metaphor separation of church and state “assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views” is overgeneralized.  Recent cases regarding business owners and same-sex marriage continue to prove that.


As I conclude, let me clarify that while I firmly support and believe in the First Amendment right that government shall not “establish” religion nor prohibit the “free exercise thereof”, I do not in any way see where this builds “a wall of separation” between church and state.  That metaphor was presented by Jefferson as more of an attack on his political adversaries, and gained momentum in more recent court decisions.  It was never the intent of the Founding Fathers to exclude religion from the affairs of the nation or its people.

In his book Founding Faith: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty, Steven Waldman gives account of the comments of Peter Sylvester, the first representative from the state of New York who stated in 1789 while debating the language of the First Amendment, that he “feared it might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether.”

I do not fear that religion will be abolished.  I do fear, however, that our society has so far removed itself from biblical morality and the influence of the Church that we will no longer be a “city on a hill.”

 

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Should Christians Support a War with Syria?

syriaAs the political positioning continues to establish support for an attack on Syria, much has surfaced regarding the complicated intertwining of religious and political factions in the area, specifically Syria.  While this is essentially a human rights issue for our government, in Syria, it is much, much more.

The Christian Responsibility

As Christians, we need to remember some things as we voice our support either way.  After all, our view of everything is seen through the lens of Scripture.

1.  In Romans 13, Paul tells us that we are to support of government.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Government is instituted by God and exists to, among other things, be a deterrent to evil, whether in our nation or abroad.  Since the institution of government and those who are leaders have been put in place by a sovereign God, obedience is necessary, unless a leader is in clear violation of the precepts taught in scripture.

2.  Christians are called to be an influence in governmental decisions and policy.  We cannot simply back away and take our toys home if someone is elected that we didn’t support, or a policy emerges that stands against Christian principle.  Christians must give input and present biblical morality with love and respect.

What is a Just War?

With that being said, Christians know that war is found in Scripture, sometimes ordained by God himself.  It follows, then, that there must be times when going to war is just.  In the ESV Study Bible, we are given conditions that would allow for war based on biblical teaching.

1.  Just Cause.  Is the reason for going to war a morally right cause?

2.  Competent authority.  Is war being declared by a leader within a nation who is competent to make such a decision?

3.  Comparative justice.  It should be clear that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong, and the motives and actions of those declaring war are, in comparison, morally right.

4.  Right intention.  The purpose of going to war is to promote justice and righteousness rather than to pillage and plunder.

5.  Last resort.  Have all other means and methods for resolving conflict been tried?

6.  Probability of success.  Is there a reasonable expectation that the war will be won?

7.  Proportionality of projected results.  Will the good gained from the war outweigh the harm and loss that will come with war?

8.  Right spirit.  Is the spirit of war approached with reluctance and sorrow for the harm that will inevitably come.

Those who propose a Just War theory also have added moral restrictions:

1.  Proportionality in the use of force.  There should be no greater destruction that what is needed.

2.  Discrimination between combatants and noncombatants.  Attention and care should be taken to avoid harm to noncombatants.

3.  Avoidance of evil means.  Captured or defeated opponents will be treated with respect and dignity.

4.  Good faith.  There is a genuine desire for the restoration of peace and order.

Before you make your decision regarding this potential attack and possible war, read Kathryn Jean Lopez’s interview of Raymond Ibrahim titled, “Has Syria Got a Prayer?”.  Lopez asks, ” Are Syrian Christians better off if the U.S. does not strike against Assad?”  Ibrahim responds,

Absolutely. That is not because Assad is a great guy, but because the alternatives — the same alternatives we saw in Libya and Egypt, that is, the Islamists and jihadis — are hostile to “infidel” Christians, a fact with ample doctrinal, historical, and current-affair proof.

The action our military takes will have far-reaching effects on more than Syrian nationals and the tactics of its leader.  It will affect you, me, and countless others both in this nation and around the world.

The decision made needs to be the right decision.

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It’s Time to Obey God Rather than Men.

Men of character.  Bold.  Brave.  Committed.

peterPeter and John and the Apostles were men of conviction.  They so believed that they were part of something greater that they could not help but speak.  After all, they had “seen and heard” the very things they were speaking about.  Yet, time and again they were criticized, even threatened, if they continued.  Even if it meant punishment.

In The Acts of the Apostles, we read:

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:27-29

Consider this: Peter and the others knew exactly what this government was capable of.  They’d seen the beatings, the whipping, the mockery…they were at the trial that weekend when the whole thing played out.  Jesus, placed out front for all to see, was manipulated by a religious system that he knew all too well and accused of political subversion.  Yet, Jesus stood quietly and endured the false accusations because he was part of a larger redemptive purpose.

Still, the Apostles experienced all that took place, and, in spite of it, they had been empowered to speak of what they had seen and heard.  In the midst of imprisonment and threats, when push came to shove, they obeyed God…not men.

We must do the same.

On Monday, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, issued a post regarding the New Mexico Supreme Court decision in the case Elane Photography, LLC v. Vanessa Willcock.  Mohler’s post, “It is the Price of Citizenship”? – An Elegy for Religious Liberty in America, lays out the details of the court decision and its potential effects on religious liberty in America.  It is a bleak picture, and I encourage you to read it.

The First Amendment

When our Constitution was adopted in 1787, the First Amendment stated with purpose that

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof…

constitution2We’ve succeeded in the first part quite well, but our government is on a slippery slope toward eradicating the latter.  Our Founding Fathers had no intention of removing religion from our culture.  The very men who framed the Constitution were the ones who planned and participated in religious services in the Capitol and the Supreme Court.  Religion and biblical morality was firmly entrenched in their political philosophy.

Now, though, we have judges who intend to stand the First Amendment on its head and “interpret” law in ways which it was not intended.  To some extent, we have judges who are both lawyers and theologians saying to us what the First Amendment should mean.

Civil Rights?

The New Mexico Supreme Court hangs their decision on the fact that same-sex marriage and homosexuality are now firmly placed alongside race, creed and religion.  We cannot discriminate based on race, gender, or religion – and that is right and good.  But, refusing to participate in something that so egregiously opposes religious conviction and beliefs does not constitute discrimination.  It is an extension of religious exercise, because we, as Christians, are called to extend our beliefs on other days, not just Sunday.

We need to take a stand – and “obey God rather than men.”

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Can the Government Tell You What to Name Your Child?

Mommy knows best.

Or, in this case, it’s the State.

In Iceland, a 15 year-old girl is suing the Icelandic State for the right to be called by her name.  When she was born, her mother named her “Blaer”, which means “light breeze”.  The priest who baptized her allowed it, but later admitted he made a mistake.  The Icelandic State lists her on legal documents as “Stulka”, or “girl”.  Now, Blaer is suing for the right to have her real name back.

The Icelandic State, like a handful of other countries, provides a list from which new parents can choose names.  Their reasoning is that

…names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

Here we have a government that has decided it must protect children from embarrassment.

The role of government, at least in America, is to provide for its citizens the ability to seek “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  People can manage well enough on their own to determine what life and liberty and happiness is.  When government oversteps its bounds of providing for the common good of its people and, instead, dictating to them what is best, it ceases to be government.

Or, at least free government.

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