Archive | Politics

“The Gospel according to Glennon”: What gospel?

Elle magazine has published a long-form essay on famous mommy-blogger Glennon Doyle Melton. Until Melton divorced her husband and came out as a lesbian last year, I really didn’t even know who she was. Even so, she has been a popular blogger and writer for a number of years, especially among women. Her openness about her imperfect life has endeared her to millions of readers, many of whom are Christians. Anyway, the Elle feature tells her story, which I won’t rehearse here. I encourage you to read the piece for the full account. Nevertheless, I would offer a handful of reflections on the essay:

1. I have never been a reader of Melton, so I am coming at this as someone with very little knowledge of her. Still, it is striking that for someone who was billed as a “Christian” writer, there is nothing about her in this article that would suggest that she held to the Christian gospel. Maybe she did at some point. But it is absent even in the part that narrates her “conversion.” Perhaps readers more familiar with her work can weigh-in on this, but I still thought that was a conspicuous absence.

2. Even before her coming-out, this article says that her fellow travelers were the likes of Rob Bell and other pop-spirituality/self-help gurus. It also says that she has been a member of the United Church of Christ–a “church” that sanctifies sexually immoral relationships. Were these items red flags to Christian readers before her coming-out? It seems like they should have been.

3. The author of the article emphasizes that Melton’s authenticity and openness about her imperfect “messy” life is what made her so popular–even among non-Christians. It seems that there is a lesson in this. An air of “authenticity” and “messiness” is no substitute for authentic Christian faithfulness. We would all do well to learn how to tell the difference. 

4. The story of Melton’s coming-out was particularly sad–and perhaps even a little bit dishonest. Melton did not merely come out as a lesbian. She divorced her husband to pursue a relationship with a woman that she had fallen in love with. Her husband’s description of his experience is worth considering in his own words:

As for Craig, he remembers receiving an urgent text message from Glennon one afternoon, saying she had something very serious to discuss. “It sounded like 911, like Code Red,” he tells me over the phone. “I rushed home. On the way, I was thinking, Either she has cancer, or she’s gay.” (Obviously Craig isn’t as clueless as he’s sometimes portrayed to be.)

When he found out it wasn’t cancer, “I hit the floor bawling,” he says. “I was just so happy she wasn’t going to die.” Then came a wave of “sadness, confusion, and anger,” he says. “I thought we had been doing things the right way. Both of us had been working on ourselves. We’d entered a phase that was supposed to be a new life for us. It was a shock. It felt like the end of the world.”

But eventually, Craig says, he felt he had no choice but to accept his new reality. Glennon and Abby are, after all, “two women following their hearts,” he says, slipping into Glennon-speak. “Isn’t that what life is all about? Finding true love? If Glennon is happy, and Abby is happy, and the kids are thriving, what’s wrong with that?” Now he shares joint custody of the children with Melton, and he recently accepted a new job in technology sales.

There’s no question that both spouses played a part in the dissolution of the marriage. But still, it is striking that Craig is unable to lament the end of his marriage. He is obviously grieved over the loss, but he does not even hint that anything wrong has happened. Because his wife fell in love with a woman, she is to be celebrated for divorcing him. But would people be celebrating the divorce in the same way if she had left him for another man? Probably not. Why? Because “coming-out” and embracing gay identity is seen as sacrosanct in our culture–even more holy than the covenant of marriage. Even more important than maintaining one’s wedding vows.

The result is that the divorce gets whitewashed. Its impact on the husband and children is almost completely a non-factor in the story. The central factor is Melton’s personal happiness and self-fulfillment. And that is why so many of her readers feel empowered to pursue divorce instead of sticking it out through tough times in their own marriages. Here is a telling comment from a marriage counselor interviewed for the article:

“She puts a knot in my stomach,” says couples therapist Michele Weiner-Davis, whose latest book is called Healing From Infidelity. “I can’t count how many times I hear women quoting her when they come into my office. On the positive side, she wants to empower women. But the fact is, most people don’t do divorce all that well, especially when children are involved. She’s strengthening their conviction that they need to get away from their husbands, instead of learning to work through challenging issues. Sometimes you have to be a warrior to stay.”

5. If this article is accurate, what is left of Melton’s “Christian” faith cannot be reasonably described as authentically Christian. The article says,

She’s equally enthused about her new role as a pillar of the progressive opposition movement. Since leaving Craig for Wambach—who stumped for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has been an advocate for women’s equality and LGBTQ causes—Melton has recast herself as a leader of the Christian resistance to Trump. “It’s one of the best parts of our relationship,” Melton says. “We wake up in the morning, and we literally say to each other: ‘Coffee and revolution.’?”

To that end, Melton has stopped blogging about floor crap and started blogging about Black Lives Matter and the need for intersectionality. These days, when she reminds her followers that they “can do hard things,” she’s not talking about scraping Play-Doh off the rug but about helping children in Aleppo—or calling your congressperson. “I realized I didn’t just want to parent children in my own little home, but to mother the whole world,” Melton says. “What’s the point of gaining influence if you’re not going to use it?”

Mother to the world? Wow. But what is she bequeathing to her “children”? It’s not the faith once for all delivered to the saints, but sadly something else altogether.

Watch Senator Bernie Sanders tell a Christian that his faith disqualifies him from office

By now you have probably heard about what happened to Russell Vought, a Christian who appeared before the Senate Budget Committee (see above). When it was Senator Bernie Sanders’ turn to question Vought, he excoriated Vought for believing what Christians have always believed–that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved from condemnation. Not only did Senator Sanders attack this basic Christian belief, he also said that Vought’s belief made him unfit for office. Here’s how the exchange ends:

SANDERS: You think your statement that… they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?

VOUGHT: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.

SANDERS: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.

And so Senator Sanders closes his testimony saying that no one in this country should be believing what Christians have always believed–that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved. If Senator Sanders is right, then no faithful Christian would ever again be qualified for public office. Moreover, no faithful Christian would even be qualified to be an American. Why? Because what Senator Sanders finds so offensive is precisely what all orthodox Christians believe. To put it in Jesus’ own words:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18).

The heart of the Christian faith is this. All people are born sinners and for that reason are under condemnation. Because of this, all of us need to be saved from condemnation. God sends his Son Jesus into the world to save sinners from condemnation and to reconcile them to God. Jesus took our condemnation for us by dying on the cross, for in Christ God “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). The only way for sinners to escape condemnation and to be reconciled to God is through Jesus–which is why Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).

If it is un-American to believe this (as Senator Sanders suggests), then it is un-American to be a Christian because this teaching is at the very essence of our faith. Make no mistake, any Christian who agrees to the terms stipulated by Senator Sanders can in no sense remain a faithful Christian. In Senator Sanders’ America, one can be a Christian or be a good citizen, but he cannot be both. I can hardly imagine a position more corrosive of religious liberty than this.

Article VI of the United States Constitution forbids precisely what Senator Sanders is doing in this line of questioning—imposing a religious test on a nominee for public office. Article VI states “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” And yet here is Senator Sanders demanding that a nominee for public office betray his faith in order to gain that office. Disgraceful.

Watch the video above. You have to see it to believe it.

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.

Some thoughts on intersectionality and “activist science”

I’ve been doing some reading on intersectionality1 recently, and I came across an article by a feminist psychologist named Stephanie Shields. She argues that intersectionality should be an urgent concern for behavioral scientists and should determine the outcomes of their research. Shields writes:

“Intersectionality is an urgent issue because it is critical to the effective, activist science that feminist psychology should be. The goal of activist science itself is not to create policy, but to inform it. Research undertaken from an intersectionality perspective does originate from a point of view which includes an agenda for positive social change, but the agenda requires data to support it. This approach reflects a belief that science can be beneficial to society and that it is our obligation to study scientifically those problems and issues that bear on real people’s lived experience.”

-Stephanie A. Shields, “Gender: An Intersectionality Perspective,” Sex Roles 59 (2008): 309.

Thomas Kuhn famously said that science is theory-laden. If Shields is correct, intersectional science seems theory-burdened, or theory-predetermined. Shields contends for “activist science.” In other words, it’s not merely that the scientist has biases that inevitably (though perhaps unintentionally) shape his research. Shields is arguing that the behavioral scientist should have a bias for intersectional theory, and that the theory should function as an agenda in search of facts to support it.

To the degree that behavioral sciences are being conducted in this way and to the degree that they become an apology for intersectional theory, we should not be surprised to find conflict between such “science” and traditional religious perspectives (including Christianity). But it is crucial to note that the conflict is not between real science and Christianity, but between a thinly veiled feminist theory and Christianity. The feminist theory masquerades as “science,” but it is not really that at all. It is a religion of first principles predetermining which facts are relevant and which ones need to be suppressed or discarded because they don’t support intersectional theory.

This is just a reminder that not all “science” is true science. The discerning reader will understand that there is a difference between facts and evidence and the evaluation of facts and evidence. Sometimes there are agendas at work shaping the way researchers construe the evidence. Oftentimes, it is the evaluation of the facts and evidence that reveals that underlying worldview of the researcher.

For example, in 2013 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders removed “Gender Identity Disorder” from its list of psychiatric disorders and replaced it with “Gender Dysphoria.” Did they remove it because scientists had uncovered some new facts or evidence showing it no longer to be a disorder? No, that is not why they did it. As I have pointed out before in this space, the diagnosis was changed to remove the stigma of transgender identities being labeled as a “disorder.” Consider also, for example, how the scientific community has responded to the research of Mark Regnerus and Paul McHugh. Has the negative response been based on facts and evidence? Or has it been based on the fact that these men sometimes reach conclusions that depart from predetermined outcomes?

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1 For a primer on intersectionality, I recommend Joe Carter’s recent 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.”

Can the mainline be saved? Not in the way Douthat suggests.

I’m a big fan of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, and I am really grateful for his voice at the old “gray lady.” So it is unusual that I would take issue with one of his columns. But over the weekend I read his column “Save the Mainline,” and I thought this one might be worth a little push-back.

I should stipulate, however, that I agree with much of his analysis about the decline of mainline churches and about the ideological rootlessness of modern liberalism. Without some unifying principle, liberalism really has descended into a kind of “illiberal cult of victimologies that burns heretics with vigor.” Douthat is right that “The wider experience of American politics suggests that as liberalism de-churches it struggles to find a nontransactional organizing principle, a persuasive language of the common good.”

So we are agreed on the decline of mainline churches and the ideological listlessness of liberalism. I disagree, however, that a return to the mainlines would be a good thing. Here are three reasons why I think it would be a bad thing.

(1) Liberal “Christianity” does not have the theological ballast to right the ship of political liberalism. Or to put it another way, it is not at all clear that mainline liberal churches are any less prone to becoming an “illiberal cult of victimologies” than their secular counterparts. Can you think of any recent mainline examples of intolerance? I can. I don’t think this spirit will offer anything to counteract the intolerance emerging on college campuses across this country. In many ways, the mainlines have already capitulated to the very errors that Douthat thinks they are prepared to correct. If history is any guide, secular liberals are more likely to influence mainline churches than mainline churches are to influence secular liberals.

(2) Mainline churches tend to be theologically liberal, and theological liberalism is not Christianity. Theological liberalism in 2017 looks a lot different than it did in 1923 when J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism was published. But what Machen said of theological liberalism then is no less true of theological liberalism now. It is a different religion that is completely incompatible with the faith once for delivered to the saints (Jude 3). In that sense, it is a kind of apostasy—which is an old timey word for “falling away” from Christianity. Mainline congregations tend to deny the authority of scripture, supernatural elements of the biblical storyline, and the sexual norms of scripture. Some of them even deny the incarnation and the bodily resurrection of Christ. These are not theological sidebars. They are at the essence of the faith. Any congregation that denies them is at best Christian in name only. I am grateful for individual congregations within mainline denominations that are holding the line on these issues. May their tribe increase. But they seem to be the exception rather than the norm, and an influx of unbelieving secular liberals is not going to help them in the struggle they are engaged in.

(3) Christianity teaches that apostate religion is bad for people, and as a Christian I cannot recommend something I know to be harmful to people. Moreover, I cannot recommend something that scripture explicitly tells me to warn people against. I just finished preaching a series on the pastoral epistles at my church. One of the key themes that Paul hammers home time and again is how dangerous false teaching is. It doesn’t lead to “good deeds”; it leads to judgement. Here is a sample of the kinds of things Paul says about false teachers and those who listen to them:

“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16).

“…keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:19-20).

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions…” (1 Tim. 6:3-4).

“O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge “– which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).

“But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).

As a Christian, I can’t see any reason for commending churches that are Christian in name only. Such churches lead people away from Jesus and not to him. How could we possibly commend them to anyone?

I would love for mainline churches to be “saved.” But that salvation will not come from an influx of secular liberals. Moreover, “salvation” should not be cast in terms of institutional viability but in terms of faithfulness to Christ and his gospel. In the latter sense, the only way for the mainline to be saved is for congregations and leaders to repent of essential departures from the Christian faith. Anything short of that would be window-dressing at best.

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.

A remarkable display of self-unaware inconsistency

The video above is a remarkable display of self-unaware inconsistency.

These students are asked if a creative professional has the freedom to decline work that conflicts with his or her personal beliefs. All of the students said “yes” when the creative professional was the dress designer refusing to make a dress for Melania Trump or a Muslim singer refusing to sing in a Christian Church.

But when they are asked if a Christian photographer should be able to decline to work at a same-sex wedding, they all said “no.”

They favor limiting the freedom of conscientious Christians even though they wouldn’t limit the freedom of other conscientious citizens in analogous situations. The inconsistency seems totally lost on all of these students. And it exemplifies why religious freedom faces perilous challenges right now in our country.

(HT: Andrew Walker)

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.

Evangelical Trump supporters have an obligation to pressure their man to stand for religious liberty

I wrote last week about the internal struggle within the White House over religious freedom and LGBT policy. For evangelicals and other religious conservatives, this struggle is perhaps the most important and relevant debate unfolding in our politics. But for some reason, it is not really getting enough attention. On his Facebook page, Robbie George weighs-in:

There are numerous media reports that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner led the charge to persuade Donald Trump to retain Barack Obama’s “LGBT” executive order, despite the demands of religious freedom advocates to revoke it. Reportedly, the couple is also standing against the proposed religious freedom executive order that the President had promised social conservatives he would issue. It is well-known that Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner were supporters of same-sex marriage and contributed money to advancing that cause. The fact that Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner identify as orthodox Jews is neither here nor there. They do not subscribe to orthodox Jewish moral teachings on the nature of marriage as the union of husband and wife.

Social conservatives should not deceive themselves. Donald Trump is not a social conservative. I don’t know that he believes anything, but I know that he does not believe what we believe. Donald Trump is a deal maker. He will make deals when he perceives it as in his interest to do so and he will keep the terms of his bargains when he perceives it as it is in his interest to do so. He rightly perceived it to be in his interest to keep his promise to appoint a constitutionalist judge to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. That’s how we got Neil Gorsuch. But it will take a lot of pressure from social conservatives to overcome the influence of the Kushners when it comes to the proposed religious freedom executive order.

An irony, of course, is that Mr. Trump, in upholding the Obama “LGBT” order and stalling on the religious freedom order, is serving the interests of the organized LGBT lobby—which loathes him and attacks him at every turn. Mr. Trump is notoriously thin skinned and ordinarily retaliates against anyone who criticizes or slights him. But perhaps because of the Kushners’ influence, Trump is rewarding, rather than retaliating against, the lobby. Or perhaps the deal maker still thinks he can make a deal with them.

I think George’s impressions are correct here. That means that it will require political pressure to induce Trump to take necessary steps to do the right thing. There are at least three things that Trump’s supporters should insist that he do to protect religious liberty:

  1. Repeal President Obama’s 2014 “LGBT” executive order
  2. Sign the religious liberty executive order that was leaked to news outlets last week
  3. Sign the “First Amendment Defense Act” when/if Congress passes it

President Trump could act on the first two items from this list right now if he wanted. But he hasn’t acted. Instead, he has put out a press release celebrating his decision to keep President Obama’s LGBT policy in place.

Religious conservatives need to take notice, especially those who supported Trump’s candidacy. Their voices will carry much more weight with the Trump administration than the voices of “Never Trumpers” like myself. President Trump appears to be under the impression that it will cost him nothing to fold on religious liberty. That is why evangelical Trump supporters have a special obligation to pressure their man to stand for religious liberty and to make sure that he understands what it will cost him politically if he folds.

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.

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