Archive | News

Farmer banned from selling produce at market because of his views on marriage

I can hardly believe the report in the video above is true, but it is. Steve Tennes is a farmer who has been selling his produce for the last seven years at the farmer’s market in East Lansing, Michigan. Recently, he was asked on Facebook about his beliefs about marriage. Steven and his family are Roman Catholic, and so he answered with the 2,000-year old teaching of his church.

Somehow, the city of East Lansing got a hold of the Facebook post. As a result, the city decided not to invite him back to participate in the Farmer’s Market. So Tennes reapplied with the city to be included as a vendor. And the city wrote him back and informed him that he would not be allowed to participate in the Farmer’s Markert because of his beliefs about marriage. The rejection had nothing to do with his products or his business but everything to do with his religious beliefs.

If you think recent concerns about religious liberty among evangelicals is much ado about nothing, here’s yet one more piece of mounting evidence that this is much ado about something–something precious that is being lost. Is it really the case that a municipal government can punish citizens and exclude them from public space simply because of their religious beliefs? If so, something is lost indeed–America’s first freedom.

The mistakes Christians make in dismissing biblical teaching on modesty

Katelyn Beaty has written an Op-Ed for The New York Times lamenting “The Mistake Christians Made in Defending Bill O’Reilly.” I agree with her main point that Christians should have no part in defending the indefensible. I think that much should be uncontroversial as the scripture is so clear on this point: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph. 5:11).

Having said that, I have to take issue with some of the evidence she adduces to establish her point. Beaty links to a 2007 article written by John Piper as evidence of what is wrong in the Christian church. She writes:

In churches, a quick forgiveness for perpetrators often dovetails with strict standards of purity for women. From a young age, many Christian women are taught to dress modestly so as not to cause men to “stumble.” John Piper, a prominent pastor and theologian, has said that “a lot of Christian women are oblivious to the fact that they have some measure of responsibility” in managing men’s lust. The moralizing about dress and behavior can be a setup for victim-blaming wrapped in a spiritual veneer.

What is wrong with Beaty’s citation of Piper’s article? First, Piper’s article does not say that women have to take responsibility for “managing men’s lust.” That is a distortion of what he wrote. His article simply says that women should take responsibility for dressing modestly. I know that idea sounds old-timey and weird to secular ears, but it is pretty basic stuff as far as Christianity is concerned. “Modesty” is a biblical virtue, not an evidence of some sort of toxic “purity culture.” As the apostle Paul writes, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” (1 Tim. 2:9). I wonder if Beaty would view the apostle Paul’s words as problematic?

Second, Beaty says that “moralizing about dress and behavior can be a setup for victim-blaming wrapped in a spiritual veneer.” Let us agree that men are responsible for their own sin no matter how the women around them are dressed. That is one of many reasons why no victim of abuse should ever be blamed for the evil deeds of abusers. But we can agree to that without dismissing the Bible’s moral instruction about “dress and behavior.” Beaty seems to dismiss such teaching per se as a pretext for some darker purpose. And yet the Bible is replete with moral exhortation about our dress and sexual behavior. Would Beaty say that the Bible’s teaching itself is aimed at “victim-blaming”? Are we to avoid what the scripture teaches us about modesty and sexual behavior in the hopes that it might discourage bad behavior at Fox News? This is absurd.

The Bible’s teaching on these things is aimed squarely at the kind of behavior now being reported at Fox News. The Bible’s “moralizing” on these things exposes such evil for what it is. It doesn’t enable it. The Bible has as much to say—if not more—about the behavior of lecherous men as it does about the modesty of women (e.g. Exod. 20:17; Matt. 5:28). Pastoral silence on such matters would enable the darkness not confront it.

And this is the real problem with Beaty’s citation of Piper’s article. She conflates bad behavior at Fox News with faithful biblical teaching. What Piper wrote about modesty in 2007 is something we would all do well to listen to in 2017. And the reason we need to hear it is because it is the wisdom of scripture. Our sexually broken world needs more biblical wisdom, not less of it. If pastors charged with preaching the whole counsel of God cannot speak to this, then who can?

I agree with Beaty that Christians must not excuse or defend bad behavior. Instead, we must expose it (Eph. 5:11). But our duty to expose evil must not be turned into an excuse for turning away from what the Bible says about modesty. We need to know what the Bible teaches about modesty, and we need to live it. But we are not going to be able to do that if we slander biblical teaching as “victim-blaming.”

When a “mother” fathers a child, who are you to judge?

Perhaps you’ve already seen the new Dove soap commercial featuring a transgender “mom” (see above). Such displays are ubiquitous in pop culture these days, but this one caught my eye. This one stood out because it is not only redefining male and female, but it is also redefining mom and dad.

My question for those who accept transgender identities is this: Are there any limits on who can “identify” as a mom? If being a mom really comes down to how one self-identifies, what is the limiting principle here? Here’s what I mean:

  • Should someone who fathers a child and who looks and dresses like a man self-identify as the “mother” of a child? If not, why not?
  • Should someone self-identify as the mother of a child that they have no legal relationship to (either by birth or by adoption)? If not, why not?
  • Should someone self-identify as a “mother” when there is no child in the picture at all? In other words, should one self-identify as a mother even if he or she has no relationship to any particular child? If not, why not?
  • The Dove commercial says that “you are the only expert in your kid.” But what if a child says that she needs a father? Should her father self-identify as her mother? If not, why not?

If the Dove commercial is correct that we must affirm a father who self-identifies as a mother, then isn’t it possible for anyone to be a “mom”? If the Dove commercial is correct that there really is no one right way to be a mother, then who’s to deny any of the self-identities listed above?

These questions would have been incomprehensible to people even ten years ago. But I do think they are relevant today. The hegemony of self-identities is here, and those promoting them have given us no principle by which they may be limited–even when they are harmful to others. And yet they owe us that explanation, but that explanation is not forthcoming. And it won’t be forthcoming because they don’t have an answer. How long will it take for folks to figure that out? And how much damage will be done to families before they do?

Usage Note on “Re-Accommodate”

By now you have all heard about the United Airlines fiasco involving the violent removal of a ticketed passenger. I won’t rehash the whole story here (although I did get a first person account from my colleague John Klaassen who was seated right in front of the removed passenger; see the guy in the orange shirt here).

After videos of the incident went viral, the CEO of United released a statement claiming that passenger had been “re-accommodated.” This neologism has been widely mocked—especially since video footage of the incident had already been seen by half the world by the time the CEO released his statement. It was as if he was saying, “Don’t you believe your lying eyes. We merely re-accommodated him.” After two days, it’s pretty clear that nobody is buying this glaring euphemism.

But as “re-accommodate” is poised to become the word of the year, I thought it might be useful to make one usage note. Technically speaking, this passenger’s removal would not have been a re-accommodation even if the man had decided to deplane voluntarily and without incident. Why?

While the Urban Dictionary has already updated its lexicon, The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) still does not have an entry for re-accommodate. However, AHD does have entries for “re-” and for “accommodate.” Entry 3.b under “accommodate” says that the word means “to provide for; supply with something needed.” The prefix “re-“ denotes “again” or “anew.”

Since the accommodation in question is airline passage from Chicago to Louisville, the United CEO’s term re-accommodate would mean to provide passage from Chicago to Louisville again. But this is precisely what did not happen. One cannot re-accommodate unless they have first accommodated, which United of course did not do.

Bottom Line: The CEO’s euphemism would have been inaccurate no matter how the passenger had been deplaned. And I have a hunch that because this incident has become so notorious, the CEO’s intended meaning for this term is likely not going to be the one that makes it into AHD. The meaning reflected in the tweet below is mostly likely the one that will stick.

Santa in a gay marriage in new picture book

HarperCollins will be publishing a new book featuring a gay Santa. Here’s the report from TIME magazine:

A new picture book will depict Santa as a gay man in an interracial relationship, publisher Harper Design confirmed Tuesday.

The book, Santa’s Husband, goes on sale Oct. 10 and tells the story of a black Santa Claus and his white husband who both live in the North Pole. Santa’s spouse frequently fills in for his husband at malls, according to a description of the book Harper Design provided to TIME…

A photo… of the book’s original concept art shows the couple, both wearing Santa suits, looking dreamingly into each other’s eyes.

Harper Design said the book is meant for all ages.

I guess we already knew that no area would be off-limits in the cultural revolution before us, but this one is still quite sad. Santa has long been transformed into a secular symbol of Christmas. But still, he was a symbol for children. This book is but one more indication that purveyors of the new sexual morality are willing to appropriate any and every cultural symbol and transform it into an avatar of the revolution. 

Is the religious left really a “political force”?

Reuters has a report out today about how President Trump has activated the religious left. Here’s the gist of it:

“The election of Trump has been a clarion call to progressives in the Protestant and Catholic churches in America to move out of a place of primarily professing progressive policies to really taking action,” [Reverend Serene Jones] said.

Although not as powerful as the religious right, which has been credited with helping elect Republican presidents and boasts well-known leaders such as Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson, the “religious left” is now slowly coming together as a force in U.S. politics.

This disparate group, traditionally seen as lacking clout, has been propelled into political activism by Trump’s policies on immigration, healthcare and social welfare, according to clergy members, activists and academics. A key test will be how well it will be able to translate its mobilization into votes in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

“It’s one of the dirty little secrets of American politics that there has been a religious left all along and it just hasn’t done a good job of organizing,” said J. Patrick Hornbeck II, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York.

“It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump’s election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square,” Hornbeck said.

A couple comments here:

1. Reverend Jones says that the religious left needs to move from merely “professing” progressivism to “really taking action.” But nowhere does she or any other person in the article talk about a need for the religious left to “profess” the faith once for all given to the saints nor to act on the dictates of that faith. Nowhere in this article is Jesus, the cross, the gospel, or God even mentioned. If all I knew about the religious left were this article I’d have to ask in what sense it is “religious” at all. This article describes a very secular movement, if it even is that. And that brings me to my next point.

2. The article contends that the religious left—although not as influential as the religious right—really is beginning to gain some steam. It has been catalyzed, the article claims, by the presidency of Donald Trump. The religious left has been here all along, it just needed better organization. It is this latter point that is highly disputable. The mainline denominations are the cradle of the religious left, and the mainlines have been in a membership freefall for decades. They are declining in influence because they are declining in members. Theological liberalism eviscerates biblical Christianity. It is a form of godliness without its power (1 Timothy 3:5). Of course they are declining. Baptized secularism offers nothing more than unbaptized secularism. It is no surprise that secular people have decided that they don’t need to give up their Sunday mornings in order to have the baptized version. More “organization” is not going to fix the problem at the heart of the religious left—the fact that it is no longer Christian in any meaningful sense.

Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything

By now you may have already heard the news that the Washington State Supreme Court has rejected Barronelle Stutzman’s appeal. Here is the report from the Associated Press:

The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding broke the state’s antidiscrimination law, even though she claimed doing so would violate her religious beliefs.

Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Richland, Washington, had been fined by a lower court for denying service to a gay couple in 2013. Stutzman said she was exercising her First Amendment rights.

But the court held that her floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage…

Stutzman’s lawyers immediately said they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

Readers of this blog know that I have already written extensively about this case on this site over the last several years. Readers will not be surprised that I find this decision from the Washington Supreme Court to be a fundamental miscarriage of justice—a trampling of religious liberty. As I have written previously for CNN.com, this is what yesterday’s decision means:

The decision against Stutzman sets a dreadful precedent against our first freedom in the Bill of Rights: religious liberty. The court says that she is free to believe what she wants, but not to practice her religious beliefs. The court has ruled that if she wants to run a business in the state of Washington, she must defy her conscience and participate in same-sex weddings. If she does not, then the full coercive power of the state — as well as civil liability — will be brought against her.

Keep in mind that Stutzman does not refuse service to gay people. Indeed she had been selling flowers to this gay couple for nine years. She has also employed gay people in her flower shop. She had a friendship with the man suing her and cared for him personally and wished for her relationship with him to continue. She simply could not defy her conscience and lend her creative talent to help celebrate what her faith says she cannot celebrate. She had no idea that staying true to her faith would end up threatening her entire livelihood and savings.

We are witnessing a shift in our society — a shift which inevitably leads to Christians being treated as pariahs at every level of our national life. Louie Giglio’s Christian views on marriage got him removed from the President’s inauguration. Brendan Eich’s support for traditional marriage got him dismissed as CEO of Mozilla. Kelvin Cochran’s Christian faith got him fired from his position as fire chief of Atlanta. Two bakers in Oregon had to shutter their business and are now facing bankruptcy for refusing to participate in a gay wedding. The stories are mounting. Who will be next?…

Barronelle Stutzman’s case is nothing less than an egregious violation of our first freedom. It is Caesar saying, “Conscience be damned. Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything.”

This is not tolerance. This is injustice that flies in the face of this nation’s laws and traditions. And if this kind of thing can be done to a 70-year-old grandmother running a small flower shop in rural Washington State, then it can be done to you. No one’s conscience is safe if this precedent becomes the norm.

Ms. Stutzman has appealed her case to the Supreme Court of the United States. I cannot overstate how important SCOTUS’s decision will be. Will they even agree to hear the case? If they do, what will Justice Kennedy decide? I encourage you to read the legal analysis from Constitutional lawyer David French. Among other things, French writes:

Once again, eyes will be fixed on Justice Kennedy. Will he continue to impose his own version of the state religion, the one he so enthusiastically articulated in Obergefell? Or will he remember that words have meaning, orientation doesn’t mean action, and the state can’t compel citizens to condone what they consider immoral. It’s time for the Supreme Court to take a deep breath, abandon its revolutionary crusade, and remember the great wisdom of its predecessors… What say you, Justice Kennedy? Do those who oppose the sexual revolution forfeit that fundamental protection? I suppose we’ll soon find out.

I have a particular interest in this case for a couple of reasons. First, Ms. Stutzman is a fellow Southern Baptist, and she is risking everything to be faithful to what we believe the Bible teaches about marriage.

Second, I offered testimony in the early stages of this case. And that day of testimony has impacted me to this day. When I was first asked to give testimony, I thought my role as an SBC pastor and seminary professor would simply be to enter into the record what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. But that is not at all what it turned out to be.

For an entire day, I sat across the table from attorneys representing the Washington Attorney General and the ACLU (two different attorneys because Ms. Stutzman is being sued by the state and by the gay couple that she was once friends with). These attorneys didn’t merely ask me what Southern Baptist believe. They tried to show that what Southern Baptists believe amounts to invidious discrimination.

I had to defend not only our denomination’s statement of faith (The Baptist Faith and Message) but also resolutions passed by our denomination going back 30 and 40 years. It was hostile questioning intended to discredit what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. They wanted to discredit us so that they could discredit her. And make no mistake, once they succeed in punishing her, others will use this precedent to punish the rest of us—and not just Southern Baptists but any person who dares to act on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

My one day of questioning is nothing compared to what Ms. Stutzman has gone through in all of this. Pray for her and her husband. She is happy to serve gay people in her flower shop. She always has been and always will be happy to do that. She is simply asking that the state not coerce her to participate in a gay wedding. If the Supreme Court denies her that simple accommodation, the consequences will be devastating not only for her but for all of us.

The battle lines are drawn in the White House between religious liberty and LGBT rights

There is a controversy brewing in the White House that religious voters had better start paying attention to. As I wrote yesterday, there is one faction that wants to keep President Obama’s 2014 LGBT executive order in place, and there is another faction that wants to oppose it with an executive order protecting religious liberty. Politico reports today about who is leading the factions and where this conflict is going:

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump helped lead the charge to scuttle a draft executive order that would have overturned Obama-era enforcements of LGBT rights in the workplace, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO.

A draft executive order on LGBT rights — which outlines how to roll back former president Barack Obama’s protections and expand legal exemptions based on religious beliefs — has been circulating among journalists and worried progressive groups this week.

But two sources close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have in the past been supporters of gay rights, said the young couple were both in favor of putting out a clear statement from the president, promising to uphold the 2014 Obama executive order and stopping the momentum for the turnaround in its tracks.

In short, Politico reports that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are responsible for the effort inside the White House to put an end to the religious liberty order. This puts them squarely at odds with Vice President Pence who supports it.

The salient question, therefore, is this. Who is the president going to listen to in the final analysis? Will he listen to Vice President Pence and enact religious liberty protections? Or will he listen to his daughter and son-in-law and advance President Obama’s LGBT agenda? Politico answers that question:

The fight over LGBT rights could reveal a fault line between Pence, an evangelical Catholic who as Governor of Indiana signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015; and Kushner, who is Jewish and whose social circle includes socially progressive New Yorkers.

“There are some in Trump’s family that have some views on these things,” said a source close to the discussions. “That’s where the decision is ultimately being made.[emphasis mine]

If this is correct, then the advice of Jared and Ivanka will carry the day. The Obama executive order would stand, and there would be no religious liberty protections forthcoming. Indeed, Politico reports that Jared and Ivanka are responsible for the statement that the White House put out on Tuesday night affirming its commitment to “LGBTQ rights”:

President Donald J. Trump Will Continue to Enforce Executive Order Protecting the Rights of the LGBTQ Community in the Workplace

President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.

I don’t think any Republican president has ever issued such a bald endorsement of gay rights. This is a first. But even more important than the rhetoric is the substance of Obama’s 2014 order that President Trump now says he supports. The order establishes LGBT as a protected class insofar as federal hiring and contracts are concerned. And now it is being adopted by a Republican president. That is a first as well.

Religious conservatives ought to be at Defcon 1 right now, but they are not. Everyone seems so distracted by the refugee order and the nomination of Neil Gorsuch that they are missing a looming threat. And it is one that they cannot afford to ignore.

Perhaps in the end, the Pence faction will win out. I hope and pray that it does. But from where I’m sitting, this doesn’t look very good. A Republican president is crossing lines that have never been crossed before by a Republican president. Religious liberty proponents who have influence with the president need to make their voices heard right now. The president must sign the executive order protecting religious liberty.

Pray for President Trump. There are things unfolding right now that will determine the future of religious liberty in this country. Will the trajectory be to continue what President Obama started? Or will there be protections for those citizens who cannot consent to the totalizing claims of the sexual revolution? The contest is unfolding right now in the White House, and we will know the answer to those questions soon enough.

It appears that President Trump is willing to accept LGBT as a protected class

Liberals are abuzz this morning about a leaked draft of an executive order (EO) that would protect religious freedom if signed by the President. Sarah Posner has a copy of the draft and contends that the EO “reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination” against LGBT people.

I have read the draft, and it does no such thing. The order does not legalize discrimination against LGBT people. It simply says that the government cannot coerce citizens to violate their religious beliefs. Ryan Anderson has also read a draft, and his assessment is spot-on, “The executive order is good, lawful public policy. And it makes good on several promises then-candidate Trump made to his supporters.”

As Anderson points out, this draft of the EO was leaked to liberal news outlets so that they could gin-up negative publicity that might convince President Trump not to go through with it. But this EO is good policy, and the president needs to sign some version of this. For more on this, go read Ryan Anderson’s piece at The Daily Signal. Continue Reading →

The Boy Scouts succumb to radical gender ideology

Today the Boy Scouts of America announced that they would begin allowing girls to enroll as Boy Scouts and as Cub Scouts. But this new policy doesn’t allow all girls to enroll—only those who are willing to say that they are a boy on their Scouting application. Here’s the text of the statement released earlier today:

As one of America’s largest youth-serving organizations, the Boy Scouts of America continues to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible.

While we offer a number of programs that serve all youth, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys. For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs. However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.

Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application. Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible – all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.

Two observations about this statement:

1. An 8-year old girl recently sued The Boy Scouts of America for discrimination after she was kicked out of her scouting group. She had identified as a boy on her application. But the troop subsequently told her that she wasn’t eligible because the gender on her application did not match the sex listed on her birth certificate. The suit against New Jersey Boy Scouts claims that the Boy Scouts “violated the state’s law against discrimination.” State laws like the one in New Jersey are precisely what this BSA statement cites as its rationale for this decision. Because these laws are on the books, the BSA would be exposed to lawsuits in every state that has a SOGI law in the books (for more on SOGI laws, read this). Rather than fighting these lawsuits, the BSA has apparently decided to capitulate. Given the fact that the BSA has already succumbed to pressure to allow gay Scouts and gay Scouting leaders, it is no surprise that they have succumbed on this issue as well.

2. The statement says that “Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys.” This new policy, however, is just one more way in which the BSA will fail to “meet the needs of boys” (and girls, for that matter). Until now, the BSA has used the sex listed on the birth certificate to determine who was a boy and who wasn’t. But now the BSA is saying that this is no longer sufficient for distinguishing male from female. That means that the BSA is saying that biology no longer matters in distinguishing male and female. This is an enormous concession to radical gender ideology, and it is not something that will help children. Last year, the American College of Pediatricians released a statement contending that “Gender Ideology Harms Children.” Among other things, the statement says this:

A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such…

Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.

When a child embraces a psychological identity at odds with his bodily identity, this is not healthy or good for that child. And it only adds insult to injury for adults to accommodate this harmful self-impression. But that is what this new policy does.

I can’t help but grieve that the Boy Scouts are going along with this radical redefinition of what it means to be a boy. They are making a big mistake in this, and it will be one that hurts not only their organization but also the very boys they wish to serve.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes