We Should Honor our Veterans (and not just on Veterans Day)

GW Veterans DayFor those of us living in the United States, today (November 11) is Veterans Day. It is a day our nation has set aside to honor all those men and women who served in the armed forces during times of war. To steal a line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, it is “altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

The eleventh of November originally marked the day our nation honored those who fought in the Great War (otherwise known as “the war to end all wars”). When World War II came around, it became readily apparent that the Great War (aka World War I) was not the “war to end all wars.” Congress later changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to recognize all our veterans from all our wars, even those conflicts which preceded World War I.

It shouldn’t take an official holiday, however, for us to reflect on the debt we owe our veterans. We should honor our veterans every day of the year, not just on Veterans Day. Without those men and women who have served in times of conflict, our nation would not be the free and prosperous nation it is today. We indeed owe them a debt of gratitude we can never adequately repay.

God bless our veterans.

Today is Reformation Day

Four hundred and ninety-seven years ago today (October 31), an obscure Catholic monk and professor nailed a document to the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg, Germany. That document, penned by Martin Luther, contained ninety-five statements of protest against the false doctrines, abuse, and corruption found within the medieval Roman Catholic Church. Luther’s “95 Theses” would be spread far and wide via the printing press. They would make Martin Luther a household name and pivotal figure in Christian history. And they would unleash one of the most significant cultural upheavals in world history — an event we know today as the Protestant Reformation.

Why Oppose Gay Marriage? Hint: For Most Gay Marriage Opponents, it Has NOTHING to do With Hate

Why oppose gay marriage?

Why oppose gay marriage?

When will the shameful histrionics, baseless slander, and sensational exaggerations stop? However you may feel about the issue of gay marriage itself, the “debate” over same sex marriage has brought out the worst in our society and raised troubling concerns about the health of our democratic Republic.

It seems that politicians, judges, and everyday Americans are tripping over themselves every day to proclaim their impassioned support for “marriage equality.” This is all fine, as long you’re honest about history (including your part in it, such as your past views) and charitable toward those who may not be as quick to “evolve” (or flip flop) as you may be. What galls me about this whole thing is that few people (particularly those on the side of gay marriage) are being honest, fair, or charitable on this issue. Instead, those who advocate same-sex marriage seem to be in a competition with one another to see who can most colorfully and decisively denounce those on the “wrong side of history” (i.e., those with whom they disagree).

Before my pro-gay marriage friends jump on that last statement, I freely admit that many gay marriage opponents have been less than charitable over the years. But more and more traditional marriage advocates, like myself, are policing our ranks and rightly calling out the extremists for appropriate censure. I have repeatedly blogged against and preached against the Westboro Baptist Church cult (a group that’s neither a church, nor Baptist) and I’ve even taken to task more mainstream evangelical leaders who have stepped over the line in harshly attacking our gay and lesbian neighbors and fellow citizens. I believe we should treat one another with civility and kindness, and that should extend to every corner of society, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. In fact, I believe the evangelical community needs to do a much better job in showing love toward the LGBTQ community and building bridges and relationships to put that love into motion and practice. I commend, for example, pastors like Rick Warren who have tried to do this by aggressively fighting AIDS. And I’m glad that more and more Christians are locking arms to oppose the hate coming out of groups like Westboro, but…

At this point, most of the hate and persecution isn’t coming from the Christian community, it’s coming from the LGBTQ community and their supporters. When a federal judge brands opposition to same sex marriage as a “tradition of hate” and “savage discrimination,” a line has been crossed. We’re no longer in the realm of reasoned debate and constructive discourse. We’re instead in the realm of propaganda and slander. And when consultants are fired from corporate contracts because they wrote books (in their private time) against same sex marriage or when CEOs are forced to resign because they once donated to groups that opposed gay marriage, we’re no longer in the realm of political disagreement. We’re instead in the realm of persecution and on the cusp of enforced Political Correctness and Thought Police.

Of those Americans who still oppose gay marriage (and their ranks are getting smaller, thanks to the slander, mischaracterization, persecution, intimidation, and scare tactics decimating their ranks), most are NOT doing so for reasons associated with hate or homophobia. Most opponents of gay marriage recognize that gay and lesbian citizens should be treated with kindness, courtesy, and respect AND should have the same rights of heterosexual Americans, including in the areas of hospital visitation, contracts, home ownership, estate matters, etc, etc.

The reason some Americans still object to same sex marriage and continue to insist that marriage should be understood (legally at least) as one man and one woman is because most of the world (certainly the western world) has historically defined marriage around children with government’s only vested interest in the institution being the stabilization of society via generations (united by childbirth) supporting and taking care of another. Childbirth literally ties together the generations, socially (and legally via marriage) obliging them to support and care for one another. This is why societies generally with the healthiest families are themselves healthier and more prosperous than those without healthy families. While some heterosexual couples are unwilling or unable to have children, the bottom line is that the human race is perpetuated by heterosexual relations. That’s an unassailable, obvious, biological fact. And marriage has classically been defined around that fact.

Expanding that definition of marriage leads to legitimate questions like, Where does the redefinition of marriage stop? Once you open Pandora’s Box, you can’t close it again. If you say that loving, consenting adults should be allowed to marry, regardless of gender, then you MUST LOGICALLY ALSO SAY that loving, consenting adults should be allowed to marry even if we’re talking about three, four, five, or six people. In the last few years, whenever opponents of gay marriage have raised the polygamy issue, they’ve been met

Traditionally, marriage has been defined around procreation.

Traditionally, marriage has been defined around procreation.

with eye rolls, ridicule, and accusations of bringing up red herrings, but polygamy is on the move. Thanks to a recent court ruling, polygamy is now effectively legal in Utah. Is there any doubt that this will soon extend to other states of the Union?

It is legitimate (not hateful and not homophobic) for people like myself to believe that marriage should remain defined and understood as one man and one woman — as it has been for most societies throughout most of history.

Is it also legitimate for the LGBTQ community to ask that marital rights be extended to them in the form of civil unions? Absolutely. Is it legitimate for them to ask that the definition of marriage be expanded to include them, given that not all heterosexual couples have children? Yes, it’s valid to have that conversation. As a democratic society, we should have that debate. But it should be a fair and honest debate. And those of us taking part in that debate should be able to come down on various sides of the debate without fear of political, social, legal, or economic penalties and reprisals. Unfortunately, that is NOT the case. Those who oppose same-sex marriage do so at increasing risk to themselves. They can lose business, find their careers in jeopardy, or be excluded from certain social circles. And if this trend continues, they will be effectively (albeit perhaps not legally) excluded from political office, the workplace, the public square, and “polite society” altogether, and not even those in faith-based organizations or churches will be safe.

As an evangelical Christian, I will always oppose same-sex marriage in church and faith-based circles. Why? Not because of hate or bigotry. On the contrary, I believe we should love everybody, and I carry no hatred or malice toward anyone, certainly not for any reasons associated with a person’s sexual orientation. I personally oppose same-sex marriage in religious circles (and thus will never perform a gay wedding) because the Bible clearly lays out a standard of marriage being one man and one woman. (Note that those who say the Bible also endorses polygamy are showing their ignorance. Polygamy was a departure from God’s plan. See Genesis 1-2 for that plan).

As a citizen of the United States, I recognize that I can’t impose my religious views on the the rest of society, and I have absolutely NO desire to prevent consenting adults from living together in whatever arrangement (heterosexual or homoexual) they choose. I also accept that civil unions or some form of civil protection is appropriate for gay and lesbian couples. And, in the spirit of religious freedom, I even support the right (though not the decision) of churches to solemnize gay marriage. Religious freedom can’t be only for those who oppose gay marriage. It must be for every person of faith and religious entity.

But when you legally redefine marriage to include gay and lesbian couples, you MUST also include relationships with more than two loving, consenting adults. You can’t allow one without the other. And once you’ve expanded the definition of marriage to include not only same-sex couples, but also polygamous and polyamorous relationships, then marriage is effectively meaningless. For this reason, I simply can’t support same-sex marriage. But…

This is not a proverbial hill to die on. The American people have made their opinions clear, and same sex marriage is on the move and will soon be legal in all 50 states. It’s inevitable. And polygamy will be next. I recognize this. While I intend to stand up for my convictions, I am under no illusions as to what the outcome of that battle will be. We are a democratic Republic, and the majority will ultimately prevail. For me, the most important task isn’t stopping the inevitability of gay marriage and polygamy, but salvaging what’s left of our democratic Republic. If, in the course of these changes, we lose the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the right to freely exercise our religion, then we will have lost something that can’t be replaced. We will have lost our very soul as a nation. I pray that we will not let that happen.

Should Pro-Lifers Participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge?

If you haven’t heard of the ice bucket challenge thus far, it’s probably because you’ve been living under a tree and have no access to TV or the Internet. In case you’re in that group, the ice bucket challenge involves dousing yourself (or having someone else do the honors) in ice water in order to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neuro-degenerative disorder better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”  The vast majority of us have of course heard of the ice bucket challenge – and many of us have participated in it. And that includes yours truly, who recently made a donation to support ALS research and allowed my overly enthusiastic son to pour a large container of extremely cold water all over me.

The ice bucket challenge has taken the United States (and many parts of the world) by storm, and with its incredible popularity, comes controversy. That controversy centers around the fact that ALS research often involves embryonic stem cells. And since embryonic stem cell research typically requires the death of the embryo, such research raises legitimate opposition from those who value the sanctity of human life. However, not all stem cell research involves the destruction of human life (adult stem cell research is highly popular and involves no moral transgression), and even embryonic stem cell research in some cases doesn’t cross that line. The ethical situation involving stem cell research is best articulated by The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (CBHD):

“If fetal stem cells are obtained from miscarried or stillborn fetuses, or if it is possible to remove them from fetuses still alive in the womb without harming the fetuses, then no harm is done to the donor and such fetal stem cell research is ethical. However, if the abortion of fetuses is the means by which fetal stem cells are obtained, then an unethical means (the killing of human beings) is involved. Since umbilical cords are detached from infants at birth, umbilical cord blood is an ethical source of stem cells.”

In case there is any doubt, I am passionately pro-life. The sanctity of human life is not only a core tenet of my Christian faith, but it’s also among the “self-evident truths” laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Embracing the sanctity of life and opposing abortion (as well as any intentional destruction of human life, even in embryonic form) is consistent with both the Bible and also the founding principles of the United States of America. And I believe raising awareness for ALS and supporting research to rid the world of this dreadful disease is likewise consistent with biblical principles and pro-life values. Allow me to explain…

First, to be pro-life shouldn’t simply mean pro-fetus or pro-embryo. It absolutely should include that (obviously), but we should be pro-life across the board, and that means fighting hunger, senseless violence, child abuse, slavery, sex trafficking, poverty, and (in this case) disease. In other words, fighting against ALS is standing up for the sanctity of life.

Second, it’s completely unreasonable and downright unfair for pro-lifers to view the ice bucket challenge negatively or make assumptions against the character of those participating in it. The motivations and intentions of pretty much everyone participating in the ice bucket challenge are innocent and entirely well-intentioned. Most importantly, most research being conducted in the fight against ALS involves NO embryonic stem cell research. That means that the overwhelming amount of money being raised for ALS research is being invested in research that pro-lifers should have zero qualms about and should in fact enthusiastically support.

Third, not all embryonic stem cell research involves the active, intentional destruction of human embryos. As the CBHD explained, if embryonic stem cell research involves “miscarried or stillborn fetuses” or the removal of stem cells from living fetuses in a manner that doesn’t harm them, no moral transgression has taken place.

Fourth, it’s true that the ALS Association (the main recipient of ice bucket challenge donations) has admitted to “funding one study using embryonic stem cells.” However, no one participating in the ice bucket challenge is obligated to donate to the ALSA. There are alternatives out there, including the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. You don’t have to donate ALSA. You can donate to the charity of your choice.

Finally, even if you decide to donate to the ALSA, you can (according to ALSA) stipulate that your donation not be invested in embryonic stem cell research. That’s what I did.

The bottom line is that you can support anti-ALS research, without compromising your pro-life convictions. As the old saying goes….”Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Don’t let the unfortunate realities surrounding most embryonic stem cell research dissuade you from supporting a worthy cause, such as ending ALS. Fighting diseases such as ALS should be at the forefront of what we do.

Was the Jesus Story Borrowed from Pagan Myths?

The Internet is full of blog posts, social media postings, and videos that argue the story of Jesus Christ, specifically his rising from the dead, was borrowed from ancient pagan myths. Recently, a Huffington Post article by Karl Wilder titled “Losing My Religion” has circulated widely, resurrecting (pardon the pun) this attack on Christianity. In the article, Wilder writes: “I read the ‘myths’ Mithras and Orsis etc. I discovered that the bulk of the Jesus story was lifted and that his image came from Mithras, a white European god.”

In this highly informative video, several scholars put to rest this widely discredited, yet unfortunately still pervasive false allegation against Christianity…

There’s no valid reason for anyone to seriously think that Christianity borrowed the resurrection or any other aspect of Jesus’ life from any source. The reason Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead is because….he did!