Saturday, April 06, 2013

Homosexual Rights and Religious Liberties

By Scott Windsor

Well, as promised, I am writing another article to deal more with the topic of the article I quoted from (Gay Rights and Religious Liberties, by Skye Jethani) in my previous posting on this subject.  One might first notice that I don't use the same title as the original author.  I don't because I'm not into sugar coating the topic, and I believe that's exactly what the use of "gay" does to the subject of homosexuality.  It sounds so much happier, freer, etc. and that's because the original meaning of the word "gay" means exactly those things!  It is no accident that this word is chosen, and it is no accident that I avoid using it.  Does that make me bigoted?  I hope not.  All I'm doing is sticking to the precise word without the sugar coating.

So, back to that article.  The author, a pastor himself, Skye Jethani, breaks his article down into sub-topics, so I will address each sub-topic.  Before the sub-topics, he opened with the story I quoted in my previous article about the silly approach both sides had taken at his college when he was a freshman there - except Jethani calls the GLBA tactic "silly" and the Christian group (which he doesn't name) he calls their tactic "stupid."  I was a bit offended by Jethani's statement, perhaps even bias, here.  The Christian group's tactic was actually quite clever - and matched the silliness of the GLBA plot.

On with the response to Jethani...

REFRAMING

Jethani seems upset, or at best - disappointed in the fact that Newsweek declared 1976 "The Year of the Evangelical" as opposed to, perhaps "The Year of the Homosexual."  Why?  Because Evangelicals were making a huge impact on the political scene, and comprise a very large piece to the overall picture, both politically and religiously.  He objects because 1976 was also the same year that an openly homosexual person was elected to public office in San Francisco.  Well, this might have been big news for the homosexual community, but it was not for mainstream America - but indeed it was a turning point for the homosexual community.  While I agree it was big for the homosexual community, objectively speaking it is not all that big a deal at the time for the rest of America - so this event does not trump the hugeness of the Evangelical movement in 1976 which would lead to the "Moral Majority" (founded in 1979) which for about a decade, had an impressive impact on the American political scene.

Jethani also cites statistics:
For the church this framing has been costly. According to Gallop, in the 1970s 66 percent of Americans said they had a strong or high confidence in the church. Today it is only 44 percent. In 1994 only 27 percent supported same sex marriage. Today it is over 50 percent.
Well, we all know how numbers can be played with, but even accepting these numbers as fact - Christianity is NOT a democracy!  If one is true to their Christian morals and stance - then one is not affected by some sort of numbers game.  If even only 1% remained faithful to Judeo-Christian morals, then it would be that 1% which remained "right."  My friend who pointed me to this article said it wasn't about morals - but the subject of morals is unavoidable when we're discussing homosexuality.  Why would we just ignore the 600 pound gorilla in the room?  On that, I'll let my original article stand.

Jethani closes this section with this summary:
Therefore, rather than asking: Whose values will dominate the public square? we should be asking: Whose identity is welcomed into the public square? Do we believe LGTB citizens ought to bring their identity into government, business, the media, and education without fear of discrimination? And likewise, do we believe a Christian holding traditional beliefs should be able to bring their identity into the public square without fear of discrimination? Framed this way, the issue ceases to be about winning or losing, or which group gets control and which is pushed back into the closet, and it becomes about learning to share the public square as Americans with different beliefs about marriage and sexuality but all possessing inherent God-given worth.
The only "side" which seems to be so concerned about "winning" influence is the homosexual side.  The arguments I hear from the "other" side are based in, "they already have equal rights."  What is it they are really trying to accomplish here?  It would seem the goal of the homosexual community is to get the Christian community to not only accept the sinner, but to accept the sin too - otherwise, why insist upon "homosexual marriage" when a "civil union" creates essentially the same thing?   When they speak of "dominating the public square," just think about it - "they" make up such a minute percentage of society, yet "they" are already dominating in the realm of "the public square!"   "They" are not satisfied, however, with the fact that "they" already have such an influence on public discussion, "they" want "victory."

RETHINKING

In this section Jethani brings up the fact that in the 17th century those who came to America were essentially founding the "New World" upon Christian values and that they believed if they upheld these God would bless them and if they abandoned these principles, God would curse them.  Jethani cites some modern televangelists who blame America's morality for things like 9/11 and even the hurricanes and other disasters relating to the John Winthrop sermon of 1630, where the New World is the "city upon the hill" - and President Reagan echoed the sentiment as well.   Failure to be that "city upon the hill" will result in punishment.   In short, due to the moral decay these disasters are merely a reaping of what we have sowed.

Jethani writes:
According to this logic, the way to prevent terrorist attacks and natural disasters is by earning the Almighty’s protection through moral behavior, adherence to prayer, traditional family values, and frequent worship. This popular belief about God was also prevalent in Jesus’ day. It followed a simple formula—God blessed the righteous and cursed the unrighteous. Obey his commandments, it was taught, and one could avoid disease, accumulate wealth, and find favor with God and men. The equation worked just as well in reverse. Those with material blessings were seen as righteous and those who suffered did so because they were sinners.
Not necessarily so.  Not everything "bad" which happens is due to a "bad" act in Christian thought.  Sometimes "bad things happen to good people" can be a "test" of their faith and/or fortitude.  It might be convenient to use Jethani's cookie-cutter approach, but we cannot force such an interpretation on every situation/disaster which America faces - or any other country for that matter.  I realize he's trying to point out fallacious thinking, but in reality that is NOT the thinking for the majority of Americans, religious or otherwise.

Jethani's Conclusion

Jethani states: 
As Christians, as those clothed in the gospel of peace, we cannot, and should not, demand that everyone share our beliefs. But we can, and should, demand that everyone share our freedoms. When this happens, we will find the courage to take off the armor of the culture war and put on the image of Christ. We will find the grace to put aside fear and take up love. And we can be assured that Christ will be lifted up in the public square and draw all people to himself.
The point is, like it or not, the United States of America was founded upon Judeo-Christian standards.   We believe in those standards and we do not appreciate it when a (minority) group of people get together in opposition to our standards and attempt to force us to accept their standard.  That being said, while we do not want to see our standards whittled away, by the same token, the "rights" of minority groups and individuals cannot be ignored - and even respected.  In fact, the "rights" of religious groups are protected by the United States Constitution.

This is not a matter of putting aside fear and taking up love.  If we truly love our homosexual friends then we don't pretend that a homosexual relationship is some sort of blessing and/or give our blessing to such.  When Jesus stood with the harlot caught in the act of adultery (which, when you come down to it - homosexuality in practice is equivalent to adultery), after getting the hypocrites to leave her alone, He did not turn to her and say, "Go, continue to practice your sin."  No!  He told her she was forgiven and "Go, and sin no more."

Is It A Right?

The bottom line here is the homosexual groups argue that marriage is a right, and they demand equal rights.  Marriage, however, is not a "right" - it is something, much like a drivers license (when it comes to the "state" regulating it) making it a privilege.  No one has a "right" to a driver's license, and likewise no one has a "right" to a marriage license.  This matter of "licensing" (taking it out of religious context for the moment) is purely a "states rights" issue.  The states have the "right" to license whomever they choose.

An attempt to make this a matter of civil rights is quite displaced.  The homosexual community is constantly making comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) in the United States and to people like Martin Luther King, Jr.  Those who stood for the CRM should be totally offended by the comparisons.  By in large, the homosexual community is accepted and treated fairly.  Yes, there are some pockets of "homophobes" who mistreat them, but these actions of these homophobes is already illegal!   Homosexuals already have "rights" under the law from such things the CRM protested against.  Continued comparisons to the plight of African-American citizens to homosexuals wanting to redefine marriage should be taken as quite insulting to those who lived through the CRM, and especially those who gave up their lives for the CRM.

Now, that which IS a "right" and IS protected by the United States Constitution is the "right" of "religion" to exist.  Marriage, while "licensed" by the state, is still commonly and traditionally administered by religion.  The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony can ONLY be "sacramental" within the confines of the Church.  Now, I realize that the homosexual community is not currently campaigning for the Church to accept and "bless" homosexual unions, but the fact is they have made such campaigns - and even "won" some in some religions, even some which call themselves "Christian."  From the religious, especially Jewish and Christian view, homosexuality is not a "right" - but a "wrong," and one which cannot be accepted or "blessed" by any truly Christian standard.

Is Is A Wrong?

This is the real bottom line for Christians.  As my previous article points out, homosexuality is a "wrong" and one which is repeatedly condemned as such in both the Old and New Testaments of Holy Scripture.  There's really no getting around this, from the aspect of "religious freedom" (which is part of the title of the article I am responding to!).  What is really happening here is the homosexual community is infringing upon the rights of the Christian community to uphold the standards upon which this country was founded.  They would like the Christian community to give their nod (blessing) to homosexual unions and just stand by and accept the redefining of marriage to include that which Christians see as an abomination before the Lord.  

THE NUMBERS GAME

All too often we see the argument being used that it (homosexual marriage) is becoming more and more accepted throughout the United States (and the world) as if that sort of thinking should influence the Christian stance.   Whose opinion dominates the public square truly is not the issue here.   On the public square in another topic, that of abortion, the abortionists have "won" that "position" but organizations like the Catholic Church have not and will not "give up the war" in that respect.  Catholicism, along with other groups who believe abortion is murder will continue to stand up for the rights of the unborn and fight for those rights until the "public square" comes around to acknowledge these facts.  Similarly, we hold to the same standard on the matter of homosexual marriage - regardless of what the court of popular opinion may adjudicate. 

NOT A MATTER OF MORALITY?

I was criticized in my original article that Jethani's article was not about morals, but rather upon religious freedom.  My question to whom would criticize me on this is - how can the two be separated?   It was Jethani who brought Jesus into the discussion and questioned what He would do - and as I said, He would not bless this "movement" nor should Jethani or those who support homosexual marriage expect true followers of Christ to ever accept the concept anymore than we accept abortion. 

ARE CIVIL UNIONS THE ANSWER?

Well, many, if not most, states already have such "civil unions" on the books wherein those of the same sex enter into a contract with each other - which when push comes to shove, isn't that "civilly speaking" all that a marriage license does?   The homosexual community already has this ability, even "right" if you will, in many states - and they have this "right" without impinging upon the "right" of the state to define "marriage" as the union between a man and a woman.  Where this battle should be fought is in those states which do not even allow for the "civil union" of homosexual persons.  

I have had and continue to have several friends who identify themselves as homosexual in either preference and/or in actual participation.  I do not shun these people in the public world, and they know my feelings on their chosen lifestyle.  We rarely get into discussions on morals - for they know where I stand.  Essentially I see this attempt to get me/us (Christians) to "accept" homosexual marriage as an attempt to get around the moral discussion by making it purely a political/civil discussion.  As I said before though, I compare this to trying to get us to accept legalized murder - which is precisely what happened in the abortion debate.  If the marriage debate ends similarly, I will be saddened, but I will not accept that a "homosexual marriage" is anymore "right" than abortion is, and when asked, I will continue to voice my concern for MY "freedom of religious rights" which are being whittled away by those who pick and choose which of God's Laws they will follow - or reject God's Laws altogether.  

Thank you for reading, and I do invite respectful discussion/debate on this topic.

AMDG,
Scott<<<

PS - I should clarify too... those who identify themselves as "homosexual" in preference, but have not acted upon it are not what I would call "homosexuals."  To BE a homosexual requires more than desire.  To BE a murderer, one has to murder someone.  To BE a rapist, one has to commit rape on another.   To BE a homosexual one must have participated in the act and/or continue to participate in it.  Those who are not actively participating I would consider to be, sexually speaking, celibate.  

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