Archive | Culture

A feminist describes her abortion… and sadness

Just three years after Roe v. Wade passed, feminist writer Linda Bird Francke wrote about her abortion experience. Her story originally appeared under the pseudonym “Jane Doe” in The New York Times but was later published in a book of essays under her own name. Her experience and feelings afterward are still so very common today. In her own words: Continue Reading →

Should Christians take one another to court? (Short answer: no)

Jesus says that the world will recognize his followers by how his followers love one another. If people look at us and see us resolving our disputes and putting one another’s needs before our own, if they see us trying to outdo one another in honoring one another, if they see us weeping with those among us who weep and rejoicing with those among us who rejoice; if they see that, they will know that we love one another. And they will know that we are who we say we are—disciples of the King Jesus.

But if they see us fighting with one another, gossiping about one another, complaining about one another, trying to take advantage of one another and to get our fair share of the pie from one another, and if they see us trying to exact a pound of flesh from one another; what is the watching world going to conclude about us? Are they going to say, “Wow, maybe there is something to this Jesus thing.” Or will they say, “Those people are just as pathetic as the rest of us. What a bunch of phony baloney that Christianity is.”

Do you think it matters whether or not we love one another in the church? Jesus says it does: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). If you think it matters (and Jesus says it does), then our ability to resolve disputes and conflicts among ourselves takes on existential importance for the mission of the church. The world will either see Jesus in our conflicts or they will not. Which will it be?

This is precisely the situation Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. In these eleven verses, Paul addresses members within the Corinthian church who had let their disputes get totally out of hand. It was so bad that they were hauling one another off to secular law courts. And you might think that this is a bit of a change of subject from the previous chapter on church discipline, but it’s not. In chapter 5 he’s dealing with the church’s failure to be the church, and he’s doing the same thing in chapter 6. In chapter 5, they were failing to be disciplined and holy. In chapter 6, they are failing to resolve their own internal disputes. And in both chapters, these failures harm the witness of the church to those on the outside.

In these eleven verses, Paul tells the Corinthians not to be hauling one another into secular lawcourts. And his reasons boil down to this:

I. The Saints Are Competent to Judge (1-3)
II. The Saints Are Compromised by Lawsuits (4-8)
III. The Saints Are Called into a New Identity (9-11)

To hear the rest of this unpacked you can download the audio here or listen below.

A drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business

In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge has a startling conversation with the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley. Jacob is damned in death for his misdeeds in life, and he appears to warn Scrooge that he is headed for the same fate. Scrooge resists the suggestion that Jacob’s life was damnable. Scrooge understands that if Jacob’s life is damnable, then so is his own. So this exchange ensues:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Well done, Mr. Dickens. Well done. Lord, help us to understand what is the comprehensive ocean of our business.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Who will stand for the children if their own parents won’t?

It is a shame that there is need for a video like the one above, but there is. Doctors are telling parents to put their gender-confused children on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone therapies which eventually render them infertile for life. Some are even recommending the surgical removal of functioning reproductive organs. All of these harmful therapies are in the service of a destructive, untested transgender ideology.

Who will stand for the children if the parents won’t?

Parents, don’t be taken-in by the erroneous, totalizing claims of transgender ideologues. Protect your child from destructive “therapies” that are irreversible and that cause permanent bodily damage. If you don’t stand, it is very unlikely that anyone else in the medical community will.

The Daily Signal has a transcript of the video above at the following link: “I’m a Pediatrician. Here’s What I Did When a Little Boy Patient Said He Was a Girl.”

Christian Baker Jack Phillips Gets His Day in Court

Today, Jack Phillips will finally get is day in court–the Supreme Court. The State of Colorado is attempting to force Phillips, a Christian baker, to use his artistic gifts to create a cake for a gay wedding celebration. Phillips says that creating such a cake would violate his religious beliefs. Phillips is not singling out gay weddings as uniquely objectionable. He has also declined to make Halloween cakes and cakes with risqué messages for bachelor parties. Why? Because those messages also violate his religious beliefs.

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the question. The Court will decide (probably in June) whether the state of Colorado can force Jack Phillips to create a message that contradicts his beliefs. What will they decide? That remains to be seen. Until they do, however, it is important to keep in mind what this case is and is not about.

I first wrote about this case over four years ago, and I have been following it very closely ever since. In that time, I have observed a raft of news reports that obscure the facts of the case. For example, The New York Times reported last summer:

The case will be a major test of a clash between laws that ban businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation and claims of religious freedom. Around the nation, businesses like bakeries, florists and photography studios have said, so far with little success, that forcing them to serve gay couples violates their constitutional rights.

This paragraph is actually incorrect. Phillips is not discriminating against anyone because of their sexual orientation. He is not refusing service to gay couples because they are gay. In fact, he serves gay customers all the time. He is perfectly happy and willing to serve gay customers in his shop.

Earlier this year, USA Today and Religion News Service ran an article headlined, “Supreme Court will hear religious liberty challenge to gay weddings.” This one really distorts the nature of the case. Phillips is not challenging the legality of gay weddings. He’s challenging Colorado’s attempt to force him into participating in one (RNS has since corrected the headline).

And that is the real issue. Phillips does not think the state has the right to coerce him to create art that contradicts his faith. Creating a cake for the purposes of celebrating a same-sex wedding would violate his faith. And that is what he is objecting to.

You will read press reports and hear news stories claiming that he wishes to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. That is just simply not true.

How will this case ultimately be decided? The decision is likely to come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man who was the deciding vote in both Obergefell and Windsor. David French explains the religious liberty peril before us:

If Justice Kennedy views this case primarily through the LGBT lens, then the First Amendment may well lose. Kennedy is obviously proud of his long line of LGBT-friendly precedents, and that pride has even led him to a relatively rare First Amendment misstep, so it will be critical to explain to him (and the other justices, of course) that this isn’t a case about “discrimination” but rather about forced speech. Framing matters, and the other side will wrongly frame the case as raising the specter of Jim Crow. The right framing is found in the First Amendment.

This case will likely be a watershed for how free speech and religious liberty claims are treated in the future. If the government can force Jack Phillips to create a message that contradicts his beliefs, then the state can coerce anyone to violate their conscience. Free speech and religious liberty are not just for Christians but for everyone.

If the court gets this right, it will have gone a long way to upholding our first freedom in the Bill of Rights. If the court gets this wrong, it will have gone a long way to undermine it.

Polyamory, the next sad frontier of the sexual revolution

Now that homosexuality and transgenderism are all but normalized, polyamory seems to be the next sad frontier of the sexual revolution. The latest installment of this trend appears in The New York Post’s profile of a polyamorous “throuple.”

Stories about polyamory are appearing with more and more frequency, and I have seen a theme beginning to emerge in other polyamorous profiles that I have read. Not everyone in the relationship is happy about polyamory. At least one partner wishes for monogamy but concedes to polyamory so that he won’t lose the one he wishes he could be monogamous with.

The throuple in the Post’s profile is no different. One man and woman in the relationship describe themselves as “bisexual.” A second man describes himself as “homoflexible”—by which he means homosexual but willing to accept the presence of the woman so that he doesn’t lose his man.

Readers of this blog know where I stand on this one. Any sexual relationship outside of marriage is an immoral one and does not promote God’s glory or human flourishing. I grieve that our culture has become so debased that this kind of blatant immorality could be perceived as normal or wholesome.

Acceptance of polyamory begs some fairly obvious questions about sexual morality that our culture is not prepared to answer. If sexual morality is reduced to consent, then on what basis could anyone possibly object to polyamory? If our culture is willing to accept polyamory merely based on consent, where does this end?

Yesterday’s taboos are today’s norms. Who could have imagined ten years ago how much our culture would come not only to accept but also to celebrate homosexuality and transgenderism? I can’t help but wonder what taboos today will give way in the days ahead. Incest? Bestiality? Indeed, where does this end?

Moral Clarity and Witness are the Priority, not Politics

Yesterday, I saw a portion of the emotional press conference in which another very credible woman accuses Judge Roy Moore of sexual misconduct. The New York Times reports on what she said:

The new accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, told a packed news conference in New York that Mr. Moore attacked her when she was a teenager and he was a prosecutor in Etowah County, Ala. Ms. Nelson was represented at the news conference by Gloria Allred, a lawyer who has championed victims of sexual harassment.

“I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” Ms. Nelson said, growing emotional as she described the assault, which she said happened one night after her shift ended at a local restaurant, where she was a waitress.

She said that Mr. Moore warned her that “no one will believe you” if she told anyone about the encounter in his car.

Ms. Allred displayed a yearbook that Ms. Nelson said had been signed by Mr. Moore, and the writing mirrored other examples of Mr. Moore’s signature.

If you haven’t seen the video of the press conference, watch it for yourself. As I said, I think this woman is very compelling and credible. And the same can be said of the other accusers who have come forward over the last week.

I am not omniscient and cannot claim any special definitive knowledge about the veracity of each and every allegation. All I can say is that from what I’ve read and seen over the last week, there is certainly enough smoke to suggest a very serious fire. Even if one does not believe the most serious allegations, everyone ought to be scandalized by the undisputed allegations—that a grown man was seeking to date underage teenage girls.

As Christians, our first response to such allegations should not be a political calculus. Our first response should be horrified compassion for those traumatized by sexual misconduct. And that response should also include moral clarity and consistency. The balance of the United States Senate is not our chief concern. Our witness is. More than anything, we must be concerned to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to its transforming power. That witness is undermined when God’s truth is set aside for any reason, much more for worldly political ends.

Yesterday before these most recent allegations came forth, Albert Mohler made the following remarks on The Briefing:

We also understand a particular responsibility to defend the defenseless and to speak up for those who need that defense, and we must make very clear that predatory sexual behavior, especially predatory sexual behavior addressed to a child, to a minor, is absolutely heinous, reprehensible, and cannot be accepted by any morally sane society. Even in our sexually confused age, we should be thankful for the fact that there is at least enough residual moral sense in the American people that they understand that any contact by an adult male with a minor female, or for that matter you could even change the genders, it’s absolutely wrong, immoral, and unacceptable. So we should at least state that about the charges right up front: If indeed the allegations are true, they are genuinely, morally devastating and they should be politically devastating as well.

I couldn’t agree more. Every person who names Jesus as Lord should agree as well.

12-year old boy transitions to female (then changes his mind)

60 Minutes Australia reports on a 12-year old boy who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and who decided to “transition” to become a female (watch above). With the help of his mother, he adopted a female identity, began taking female hormones, and grew breasts.

Two year later, however, at the age of 14, he changed his mind. He decided that he didn’t want to be a girl after all. But his body had already been permanently changed by the female hormones. His reversal will now require surgery, including breast reduction surgery to try and make his feminine-looking frame look more masculine.

A few thoughts on this:

1. The science conclusively demonstrates that 80-90% of children with gender confusion grow out of it by puberty, and they do so without any medical intervention at all. In light of that incontrovertible fact, everyone on all sides of this debate should agree that it is cruel and abusive to make permanent changes to the bodies of minor children based solely on their self-reported gender confusion.

2. Is gender dysphoria real? I think that it is. Some children experience real distress because of a perception that their body doesn’t match their mind. But what is the solution to this? Is it not far better to teach such children to resolve their distress in a way that affirms and embraces their biological sex? In other words, it is better to change their mind to fit their body than to amputate healthy body parts to make the body fit the troubled mind.

3. God’s “purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God” (source). Among those “short-sighted” alternatives are gender transitions of minor children. That radical measure is but one of the ways that people are harmed by failing to recognize God’s good design.

How homosexuality undermines male friendships

Anthony Esolen has a prescient essay in which he demonstrates that homosexuality undermines male friendships. He argues that the removal of the taboo and the openness of homosexual relations in the modern age cast a shadow over male friendships in general. He writes:

Imagine a world wherein the taboo has been broken and incest is loudly and defiantly celebrated. Your wife’s unmarried brother puts his hand on your daughter’s shoulder. That gesture, once innocent, must now mean something, or at least suggest something. If the uncle were wise and considerate, he would not make it in the first place. You see a father hugging his teenage daughter as she leaves the car to go to school. The possibility flits before your mind. The language has changed, and the individual can do nothing about it.

By now the reader must see the point. I might say that of all human actions there is nothing more powerfully public than what two consenting adults do with their bodies behind (we hope) closed doors. Open homosexuality, loudly and defiantly celebrated, changes the language for everyone. If a man throws his arm around another man’s waist, it is now a sign—whether he is on the political right or the left, whether he believes in biblical proscriptions of homosexuality or not.

If a man cradles the head of his weeping friend, the shadow of suspicion must cross your mind. If a teenage boy is found skinny-dipping with another boy—not five of them, but two—it is the first thing you will think, and you will think it despite the obvious fact that until swim trunks were invented this was exactly how two men or boys would go for a swim.

Because language is communal, the individual can choose to make a sign or not. He cannot determine what the sign is to mean, not to others, not to the one he signals, and not even to himself.

Esolen argues that the shadow of homosexual signaling reduces men to bonding through stereotypical boorishness:

The sexual revolution has also nearly killed male friendship as devoted to anything beyond drinking and watching sports; and the homosexual movement, a logically inevitable result of forty years of heterosexual promiscuity and feminist folly, bids fair to finish it off and nail the coffin shut.

What is more, those who will suffer most from this movement are precisely those whom our society, stupidly considering them little more than pests or dolts, has ignored. I mean boys.

And then Esolen offers this most devastating observation:

The prominence of male homosexuality changes the language for teenage boys. It is absurd and cruel to say that the boy can ignore it. Even if he would, his classmates will not let him. All boys need to prove that they are not failures. They need to prove that they are on the way to becoming men—that they are not going to relapse into the need to be protected by, and therefore identified with, their mothers.

Societies used to provide them with clear and public ways to do this. The Plains Indians would insert hooks into the flesh of their thirteen-year-old braves and hang them in the sun by those hooks, for hours—a test of endurance and courage. At his bar-mitzvah the Jewish boy reads from the Holy Torah and announces, publicly, that on this day he has become a man.

In our carelessness we have taken such signs away from boys and left them to fend for themselves. Two choices remain: The boys must live without public recognition of their manhood and without their own certainty of it, or they must invent their own rituals and signs.

And here the sexual revolution comes to peddle its poison. The single incontrovertible sign that the boy can now seize on is that he has “done it” with a girl, and the earlier and more regularly and publicly he does it, the safer and surer he will feel. If sex is easy to find, and if (as mothers of good-looking teenage boys will testify) the girls themselves seek it out, then you must have a pressing and publicly recognized excuse for not having sex. To avoid scandal—think of it!—you must be protected by your being a linebacker on the football team, or by being too homely for any girl to be interested in you.

A boy who does not agree to a girl’s demand for sex will be tagged with homosexuality. She will slander him herself. Ask teenagers; they will tell you. But even a linebacker known as a rake will not dare to venture into the dangerous territory of too-close association with the wrong sort. He, too, will avoid the close male friendship. The popular and athletic boys will thus have their tickets punched, while the others live under suspicion, alienated from the other boys, from the girls, and from one another.

This must happen. In large part, it has already happened. But we must try to remember when it was not so, if we are going to gauge what we have lost.

Indeed we have lost much. Esolen wrote this about twelve years ago, and we have lost so much more in that interval. Sexual connotations seem to infuse even the most ordinary spaces—spaces where such connotations did not used to exist. Everything is sexualized, and thereby scandalized. It has been a great loss indeed.

Beware of casting off taboos. You will lose more than the taboo.

Esolen’s piece is a long read but worth your time. Read the rest here.

Getting downwind of ourselves

A wise preacher once said that it is good to get downwind of yourself whenever you can. Sometimes we don’t smell our own B.O. when everyone around us wishes that we would.

It’s an odiferous metaphor for the way our lives sometimes unfold. Sometimes our self-perceptions do not match the perceptions that others have of us. And even if other people’s perceptions are wrong, we do well to understand what their perceptions are. Sometimes they are right.

I thought about that as I read the Texas Monthly profile of Jen Hatmaker. If anything, the article helps evangelicals to get downwind of themselves—to see where self-perception may not match the perception of the world around us. Those differing perceptions offer insight into what the definition of “evangelical” even might be.

The article has some sage observations from Ray Ortlund to that end. Here is an excerpt:

But after the 2016 presidential election, evangelicalism is once again facing a crisis of faith. Similar to the fundamentalist movement, evangelicalism has taken on a political tone, sometimes being used in the same sentence as “alt-right.” But are people who identify as evangelicals truly guilty of being what mainstream culture deems as racist, sexist, homophobic—or has the term been hijacked?

“The word evangelical can be stolen and taken unfair advantage of,” said Ray C. Ortlund Jr. in a speech on the history of the movement at a conference hosted by The Gospel Coalition. Partly, the label is easy to misconstrue because of the relative freedom of the word. Descriptively, its definition can point to its history, its stereotypes, its perception in this culture. The prescriptive piece is what is often missed. Because to be evangelical is not to be white, or a Republican, or conservative, or to even wear the label of Christian. The label cuts to the very core of a person’s beliefs, the heart of their personal theology.

There are so many of us who wish evangelical could remain a description of the theological convictions of conservative Protestants. But that is not how the term is perceived by the watching world. And those of us who wish to retrieve the theological heritage of the term would do well to remember that.

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