Archive | Culture

Mystic Patriotism

About a year ago, I read G. K. Chesterton’s reflections on what it means to be a Christian patriot. If you have never read it, I encourage you to read “The Flag of the World” in his classic work Orthodoxy. Chesterton contends that love of one’s homeland is not like house-hunting—an experience in which you weigh the pros and cons of a place and choose accordingly. He writes:

A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration.

We do not choose our homeland. It is something that we are born into. Thus our acceptance of our home is not like a house that we can leave when we tire of it. It is like the love we have for our family: Continue Reading →

Is there a constitutional right to life?

Mary Ziegler has an article in The Atlantic talking about the future of abortion jurisprudence in light of Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court. Among other things, she speculates that overturning Roe is now a probability. Furthermore, she writes:

It is even possible that abortion foes will ask the justices to go further, recognizing a constitutional right to life that would mean the criminalization of abortion nationwide. Certainly, abortion opponents have always wanted more than just the end of Roe.

But even without Kennedy, the odds of such a ruling seem remote. The kind of strict-constructionist judge Trump promises is usually skeptical about the recognition of rights not spelled out in the text of the Constitution. Antonin Scalia, the model for Trump’s new selection, famously criticized decisions identifying unenumerated rights, including ones that conservatives might support, like protections for parents. Even on a reconfigured Court, the right to life might be a hard sell. [underline mine]

The underlined portions jumped off the page at me. What a rare, candid statement. This author apparently believes that the Constitution contains no guaranteed right to life. Furthermore, she thinks that it would be a “hard sell” even for originalist justices to recognize such in the Constitution. Continue Reading →

What was lacking in Bishop Michael Curry’s royal wedding sermon

After the royal wedding this past weekend, there was a lot of celebratory discussion about Bishop Michael Curry, who delivered the sermon during the ceremony. It was a sermon on the love of God, and Bishop Curry even referred to Christ as the exemplar of this kind of love.

Nevertheless, there are many bible-believing Christians who are less than enthusiastic about this message. I am one of them, and here’s why. The way I see it, there were at least two major problems with Bishop Curry’s address. Continue Reading →

Intersectionality as Religion… It’s infecting evangelicals too.

David French argues that Intersectionality is not merely an ideology but a religion. I think he is right about this. French writes:

It was foolish for anyone to believe that a less Christian America would be a less religious America. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, God “put eternity in man’s heart.” Traditional Christianity and Judaism aren’t just being removed from American life; they’re being replaced. The more passive person often fills his heart with the saccharine sweetness of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The angry activist often stokes the burning fires of intersectionality. And when commitment collides with confusion, commitment tends to win. [emphasis mine]

If you are not familiar with intersectionality, you need to be.1 It is all the rage not only on college campuses but also increasingly in popular culture. Many people become adherents without even knowing they are doing so. They simply absorb the norms of this new brand of identity politics from the ambient culture.

French argues that intersectionality has all the hallmarks of a religion. Its doctrine is the sacralization of marginalized groups (e.g. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Queer, Racial Minorities, Women, etc.). Its original sin is “privilege.” Its conversion experience is called becoming “woke.” Its piety is called “allyship.” Adherents must celebrate the sanctity of experience and may never question the moral authority of the marginalized. Any departure from these tenets is treated as heresy, and the heretics are banished.

French observes that intersectionality is becoming so influential that it even “haunts” those liberals who have not fully bought in to the ideology. He writes:

Even those who aren’t full-on adherents have begun to adopt various intersectional habits, such as adjusting their language, deferring to experiential authority, and questioning the value of free speech. Just as southern Americans are more prone to “God talk” regardless of personal religiosity, increasing numbers of blue Americans sound more woke with each passing day.

I think that French is right about this, but I would argue that the influence of intersectionality is not merely a problem among secular liberals. I have observed that many evangelical Christians are beginning to adopt intersectional habits as well. Many evangelicals adjust their language and defer to experiential authority in order not to offend the dogmas of intersectionality. These habits are deeply antithetical to the Christian faith, and yet very few seem to have noticed that yet.

The influence of intersectionality is not the merely the experience of blue America. It’s everywhere now. And Christians need to be vigilant over their own habits of thinking and expression lest they be taken-in by this destructive error.

—————

1 See my previous posts on intersectionality here and here. For a primer on intersectionality, I recommend Joe Carter’s article “What Christians Should Know about Intersectionality.” Andrew Sullivan offers a powerful critique of intersectionality from a secular perspective in “Is Intersectionality a Religion.” If you want to take a deep-dive into some actual intersectional theory, I recommend Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seminal essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989, no. 1 (1989): 139-67. For a popular introduction to Crenshaw’s theory, see her recent TED Talk, “The urgency of intersectionality.”

Is it okay for the state to take your child away because you won’t affirm his transgender feelings?

A thought experiment: What if you had a child who experienced feelings of gender confusion? You are a Christian, so as your child grows you try to teach him what the Bible says about how God made us male and female and how the distinction between male and female is therefore a good thing (Gen. 1:31). You teach him that our maleness and femaleness is first of all biologically defined according to our binary reproductive capacities (Gen. 1:26-27). You also teach him that it is good and right to embrace that biological reality and the responsibilities and duties that go along with it. You love your child and wish to walk with him through whatever struggles he has. And you especially want him to be a disciple of Jesus—which requires embracing the fact that God designed him to be male.

Still, the gender confusion persists. In adolescence, he becomes depressed about his gender confusion. He tells you that he wishes he were a girl, even though he has the body of a young man. You grieve over your child’s pain and confusion. You pray. You love. And you never give up on him no matter what. You show him that the Bible teaches that sometimes our feelings betray us and don’t tell us the truth.

“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.” -Proverbs 28:26

You teach him that in a fallen world, sometimes our feelings don’t match up with reality. Whenever that happens, you teach him to trust God and not his feelings. You teach him that God’s revealed will is always wise, right, and true even when we don’t feel like it.

For a while, your son embraces this truth and becomes a faithful struggler. He tries to trust God’s good design in spite of his confused gender feelings. In his public school, however, your son begins to receive a different message from the one he’s hearing at home. Rather than trusting God’s good design, his friends and the school counselor tell him that his true self is not revealed by his biological sex but by his feelings. If he really feels like a girl, then he is one even if his body is male.

As a result of these influences, he begins to resist what you’ve taught him from the Bible about God’s good design of male and female. A chill of mistrust and rebellion enters the relationship. He begins to believe that the real source of his unhappiness is not his gender-confused feelings but any and every person who fails to affirm and encourage his gender-confused feelings. In the meantime, his distress doesn’t go away, but his trust in his parents and his faith in God begin to falter. He becomes bitter and depressed. He begins telling you that unless you affirm his transgender feelings, then you don’t love him. He even threatens suicide.

He shares the conflict with his school counselor, who refers him to a local “gender clinic.” The doctors there diagnose him with gender dysphoria and tell him that the best way to eliminate his mental distress is to transition to a female identity. They recommend that he adopt a female name, begin dressing in female clothing, and begin to take cross-sex hormones to begin making his voice and body more feminine. They even tell him that after he becomes an adult, he can get a sex-change operation.

He comes home from the gender clinic and informs you of his intentions to accept the prescription from the gender clinic, but as a minor he needs your permission. Because you want the best for him, you cannot and will not support the self-harm being prescribed by the gender clinic. You explain to him that these therapies will not help him but hurt him. You explain that people who undergo such transitions often fare no better in terms of mental distress than those who don’t have the surgeries. Then you also remind him of the most important thing. What is best for him is to embrace the man that God designed him to be.

He rejects your counsel, and goes back to his school counselor. The counselor calls state authorities because of your refusal to provide life-saving “healthcare” for your child. The state removes your child from your custody and appoints a temporary guardian while the matter is adjudicated in court.

Does this sound far-fetched to you? It’s not. Something like this is already happening in Ohio as I type this. The facts of the Ohio case are not exactly like the story I’ve just narrated above. In fact, many of the facts are not yet known, and it may in fact turn out to be a really hard case. Having said that, hard cases make bad law. And they certainly make for bad precedents. My concern is that the Ohio case may set a precedent that will enable the state to remove children from their homes when their parents refuse to go along with their gender transitions. Here’s an excerpt from the CNN story about the Ohio case:

An Ohio court will decide the fate of a transgender teen who is in what the judge describes as a “gut-wrenching situation.”

The 17-year-old identifies as a boy. Neither he nor his family can be named, according to court instructions. The teen’s parents want court authority to stop their child from getting the treatment and therapy that was recommended by his medical team in what it characterizes as a possible life-or-death situation.

Medical experts testified that the father’s ongoing refusal to call the child by his chosen name and the parents’ rejection of the teen’s gender identity have triggered suicidal feelings.

The teen was hospitalized in 2016. He has been diagnosed with depression, an anxiety disorder and gender dysphoria, according to court records. Gender dysphoria is a psychiatric diagnosis the American Psychiatric Association defines as “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify”…

The reason why the parents don’t want their child to receive hormone replacement therapy is because it is also against their religious beliefs. “Father testified that any kind of transition at all would go against his core beliefs and allowing the child to transition would be akin to him taking his heart out of his chest and placing it on the table,” according to a transcript of Clancy’s closing argument.

Clancy said that although the father testified he “fully accepts” his child, he also testified that having the teen come home would “warp” his siblings’ perception of reality.

Hamilton County Job and Family Services temporarily placed the teen in his grandparents’ home after the child had been hospitalized.

I see at least two potential dangerous precedents that might be set in this case. First, it looks like the state is removing parental rights. The state may very well determine that a transgender identity is better for the child than what the child’s parents want for their child. And it may lead to the state using coercive measures to impose its will over the parents.

Second, the court may decide that the state has an interest in promoting this child’s transgender identity. If they do, they will be saying that state’s interest in confirming the child’s transgender identity trumps the parents’ rights to raise the child as a Christian. This would have implications not just for Christians but also for Jewish and Muslim parents as well. Such a precedent would require parents to violate their religious beliefs or risk losing parental rights.

The stakes couldn’t be any higher. Is it okay for the state to take your child away because you won’t affirm his transgender feelings? A court in Ohio will decide for at least one child on Friday.


UPDATE (2/17/18): The court ruled against the parents and removed the child from their custody. From the CNN report:

(CNN) A Hamilton County, Ohio, judge on Friday gave custody of a transgender teen to his grandparents rather than his parents, allowing them to make medical decisions regarding his transition.

The parents didn’t want the teen, a 17-year-old who identifies as male, to undergo hormone treatment and refused to call him by his chosen name, triggering suicidal feelings, according to court testimony. The parents wanted custody in order to make medical decisions for the teen and prohibit the treatment that his medical team had recommended…

Hendon’s ruling says that in addition to receiving custody, the grandparents can petition to change the child’s name in probate court. The teen will now be covered by the grandparents’ insurance.

The grandparents, rather than parents, will be the ones to help make medical decisions for the child going forward. But before any hormone treatment is allowed, the court ordered, the teen should be evaluated by a psychologist who is not affiliated with the current facility where he is receiving treatment, on “the issue of consistency in the child’s gender presentation, and feelings of non-conformity.”

A team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where the teen has been treated since 2016, advised the court that he should start treatment as soon as possible to decrease his suicide risk.

The parents’ attorney had argued that the child was not “even close to being able to make such a life-altering decision at this time.” A county prosecuting attorney argued that the parents wanted to stop the treatment because it violated their religious beliefs.

Pursue God, Not Pornography

The New York Times published an article this week about teenagers and porn-use, and the first hand accounts contained in the piece are devastating. I am not going to link to the piece here or even describe it because it is too vile to share. In fact, I regret reading it myself. It’s that bad.

For those that have read it, however, I want to pass along some items that might be a little more helpful and hopeful.

1. The video above is a message preached in the chapel of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It’s an exposition of “Flee youthful lusts” in 2 Timothy 2:22 and how that applies to porn-use. If you’d rather have the audio, you can download it here or listen below.

2. Here is a short piece dealing with a similar article that appeared in TIME magazine in 2016: “The Darkness of Porn and the Hope of the Gospel.” Among other things, it says this:

I am not being hyperbolic when I call porn use a civilizational calamity. The sexual revolution promised us more sex and more pleasure. It has actually delivered to us a generation of men who think of women as objects to be used and abused for their sexual pleasure. It has not given us men who know what virtue and honor are. It doesn’t teach men to pursue their joy in self-sacrificially loving and being sexually faithful to one woman for life. It teaches young men to use women for sex and then to discard them when they become unwilling or uninteresting. This means that it has given us a generation of young men completely unprepared for marriage and for fatherhood.

3. The best book I know on the gospel and breaking the power of porn is Heath Lambert’s book Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. If you are in the throes of this struggle, you need to read this book.

Ryan Anderson on the virtues of motherhood and homemaking

I’ve been working toward a review of Ryan Anderson’s forthcoming book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment (Encounter Books, 2018). It really is a fantastic, must-read work. I will resist beginning the review here, but I do want to share a passage from it that extols the virtues of motherhood and homemaking. Anderson writes:

G. K. Chesterton praised the vocation of mother and homemaker as greater than paid employment in the modern marketplace, noting especially the broad range of responsibilities it involves. In her own domain, a home- maker is like the Queen, “deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays”; she is like Whiteley, the great retailer, “providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books”; she is like Aristotle, “teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene.” Chesterton remarked:

I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.

Today, Esolen echoes Chesterton, saying that our culture has gotten this backward. If a woman works full-time in the modern economy, specializing in one task—perhaps cooking, arranging flowers, or performing music—then society praises her. But if she “can do all these things and in fact does them for the people she loves and for those whom she welcomes into her home (and she is not afraid of guests, because her home is always just a whisk or two away from hospitality), we shake our heads and say that she has wasted her talents.” On the contrary, Esolen says, she has put her talents to use. Instead of “preferring the specialist who amputates and cauterizes and does one thing well, for herself primarily and sometimes even at the expense of the family,” we must renew our respect for “the woman of many talents and many tasks in the home.” Like Chesterton, we must acknowledge that the dignity of work does not depend on pay, and that the work done inside the home is just important as the work done outside of it, and perhaps more so.

The modern penchant for denigrating motherhood and homemaking is a morally retrograde farce. Bravo to Ryan Anderson (and Chesterton and Esolen) for seeing and declaring the good, the beautiful, and the true.

A gut-wrenching afternoon thinking about child sexual abuse

I want to share with you two things that have been occupying my attention this afternoon, one of them expected and the other quite unexpected.

First, I spent early afternoon completing a training program designed to help protect Christian ministries from child-predators. The program is the second one I have completed in the last month, and both programs are pre-requisite for serving in ministries that I am involved with. I am so very grateful for both programs. They were informative, helpful, and practical. But they were also gut-wrenching. I learned so much.

Both programs describe how child predators single-out and groom children. Both programs explain how predators manipulate “gatekeepers” to gain access to children. And both programs explain how predators target the most vulnerable children—those who are loners, fatherless, or otherwise isolated from their peers. The predators choose and victimize children who have the least amount of protection.

Both programs are designed to protect children participating in Christian ministries, which are often targeted by predators. For those of you who are interested in such training for volunteers in your church or ministry, the one I recommend is Ministry Safe. I hate that such programs are even necessary, but they are. I can’t recommend Ministry Safe highly enough.

Second, in a turn of providence just as I finished the training, I came across Justin Taylor’s posting of Rachael Denhollander’s victim-impact statement, which she gave at the sentencing hearing of Larry Nasser, former Team USA gymnastics doctor who molested her 16 years ago. Let me just say, that I have never seen anything like this.

For over forty-minutes, she held forth. She gave a heart-wrending account of her abuse at his hands. With her abuser right before her, she spoke with conviction, determination, and moral clarity. She also offered the gospel to her abuser and offered him her forgiveness. When she was done, the judge said she was the bravest person she had ever had in her courtroom. The gallery rose in a standing ovation.

I urge you to set aside 45-minutes to watch the entire thing (see video above). You won’t be able to look away. You will fight back tears. I know I did. But it will be worth it.

Then let the tears flow. Pray. Maranatha.

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