Thoughts on “Religion,” and How Not to Fix the World

Maxfield Parrish Humpty Dumpty, fall of man

Before the Great Fall

Does anyone like getting asked the question, “Are you religious?”

When asked this, does anyone ever enthusiastically answer, “YES!”

I only like getting asked that question because it gives me a chance to explain my faith.

One of my earliest insights as a young follower of Jesus was that Christianity is not about a religion; it’s about a relationship. In college I pretty much abandoned the use of the word “Christianity” altogether because it is so broad as to be practically meaningless and confusing.

This is not an uncommon way of thinking in evangelicalism. It is widely understood that our faith has primarily to do with the person of Jesus, not about some system of belief or ritualistic practice. At a minimum most would agree that a religion is not “the answer” to the world’s problems. Most would recognize that one can be scrupulously religiously observant and yet completely miss God. There is good and bad religious practice. I think most people would agree that there are bad religions in the world.

So it’s kinda weird to speak of “religion” in general as either good or bad.

You’ve probably heard evangelicals say,

“Religion is mans’ attempt to reach God, Christianity is God reaching down to man.”

Or “I’m spiritual, not religious.”

I’ve tended to argue that religion can serve as a positive cultural force, but I’ve tended to personally reject the observance of religious rituals, traditions, and practices as baggage. Yes, I pray regularly, but as a part of relationship with God – not as religious ritual. In the same way, I don’t consider talking with my wife to be a marriage ritual.

All in all, the word “religion” has been a pretty distasteful word to me for all of my life, even though, ironically, people who don’t know me well may tend to think of me as religious.

Hmmm…Maybe I don’t despise the word “religion” after all

I recently read some thoughts on the origin of the word “religion” that ring true to me.

…Etymologically, [religion] means something like tying back together – re-ligion:
re-ligamenting, re-ligaturing, finding the unifying reality behind disparate appearances, seeking oneness, integration, wholeness…

(Michael Ward, Professor of Apologetics, Houston Baptist University)

This sounds right to me because, for better or for worse, all the religions of the world seem to be concerned with restoring unity to our broken world in some way. There seems to be a universal recognition that things are not as they should be in the human situation, and that the problem is separateness – division between God and man, between man and man, and between man and nature.

However, conflict arises between religions and ideologies because there are vastly differing opinions as to how to accomplish the restoration of unity in the world. Unfortunately, history shows us that human beings are vulnerable to the temptation to externally impose unity onto each other. Of course this doesn’t work, but apparently many ideologues feel there is no other option. Current examples include ISIS and the American left-wing Antifa.

The brilliance of spiritual rebirth

Among authority figures, Jesus is unique in His approach to unity and restoration in that He offers voluntary, internal change for the individual. He offers this in the form of spiritual rebirth:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (Jn 3:3)

Here’s an apostle of Jesus pithily describing God’s plan for unity and restoration:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
(Eph 1:7-10)

This describes the God of the Judeo-Christian scriptures taking merciful initiative on our behalf, and providing a means for us to be reconnected to Him first, and ultimately to each other and to all of heaven and nature. In the very next chapter Paul refers to this salvation as a gift from God – not something that can be earned. (Eph 2:8,9)

Isn’t this what we all want? We really should tell people about this.

(Original image by Maxfield Parrish, circa 1921. Modified by the author.)

 

Advertisements

How Wounded People Have Shaped Culture

fatherless atheists, defective father hypothesis

Have you ever wondered about the personal histories of people who have influenced the world in negative ways – philosophically or politically? I have. I’ve harbored a long-held suspicion that influential people who have shaped the world for the worse have generally done so from a position of personal woundedness.

The point of the question is not to establish a reason to judge people or to create division. But I think it’s an interesting and significant question. If anything, establishing such a connection may help foster understanding.

It may also shed light on issues that we may assume to be intellectual issues but which may in fact originate with psychological issues rooted in personal history.

In my opinion it also underscores the importance of marriage, loving family, and the meeting of the relational needs of our fellow human beings.

I’ve finally gotten around to doing a little research, and what I’ve learned is fascinating. We know the names and contributions of world-shapers, but what is less well known is that the stories of those who’ve made a negative impact are very often deeply tragic.

Who is to Say What is “Negative”?
This is a fair question. Let me hasten to add a caveat here. I am unapologetically biased in my opinion about what constitutes a “negative influence” in the world. Justifying my opinion is probably a topic for a separate post. I recognize that some of you may consider what I see as a negative contribution to be a positive one. I also recognize that the contribution of many the folks mentioned below is mixed.

However, I don’t believe it matters. Regardless of what you think about a person’s contribution to the world, the facts of their personal history remain, and, I believe, shaped the course of their lives.

Following is a list of people who have shaped the world in the modern era; especially in the world of academia. There is overlap in these categories as most of these people are/were atheists.

Atheist thinkers
In a recent movie review I mentioned the connection between well known atheists and the “father wound.” Psychologist Paul Vitz has written a book on this connection entitled, Faith of the Fatherless, which I recommend. Here are arguably the most notable atheist names in history:

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Popularly known for his pronouncement, “God is dead.” Nietzsche’s father, to whom he was very attached, died just before his fifth birthday. After his father’s death he lived in a religious household consisting of his mother, sister, paternal grandmother, and two paternal aunts, until he went away to school at age 14.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Prominent British atheist philosopher and author, notably published a collection of essays entitled, Why I Am Not a Christian. From an aristocratic family, Russell’s mother died when he was two years old. His father died two years later. Russell was then raised by his paternal grandparents, Lord John Russell and Lady Russell. However, his grandfather died when he was six years old, leaving him to be raised by his puritanical grandmother and a succession of nannies.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
Influential 20th century French atheist philosopher, playwright, and novelist. Sartre’s father died when he was 15 months old. He grew up very close and emotionally invested with his mother. When his mother remarried in Sartre’s 12th year, she moved into an apartment with her new husband, and Sartre stayed with his grandparents with whom he was not close.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
French atheist philosopher, author, and journalist. His father died in battle during World War 1 when Camus was 1 year old. Camus was raised by his mother, who was illiterate and cleaned houses for a living, and subsequently grew up in an economically depressed environment. In 1937 Camus was denounced as a Trotskyite and expelled from the French Communist Party, at which time he joined the French anarchist movement.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair (1919-1995)
Perhaps America’s best-known atheist before her death, she led the lawsuit to successfully ban prayer in public schools during the 1960s. According to her son, Madalyn hated her father and unsuccessfully attempted to kill him on at least one occasion. The reason for this intense hatred is not known

Richard Dawkins (1941- )
British “New Atheist,” evolutionary biologist, and author. A critic of all religion and especially Christianity, Dawkins is on record stating that the teaching of Christian doctrine to children is child abuse. He attended a religious boarding school at age 9 and experienced sexual abuse at the hands of his Latin master while separated from his parents.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)
British “New Atheist,” journalist, and author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Hitchens grew up in an intact family and also went off the boarding school at age 8. His father was a naval officer and Hitchens claims to have “few clear memories of him,” referring to him as “the Commander.” He was close with his mother, who eventually had an affair with a former Anglican priest. The two lovers subsequently ended their lives together in a suicide pact.

Daniel Dennett (1942- )
American “New Atheist” philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist. Dennett’s father worked as a counter-intelligence agent for the US government. The family moved to Lebanon during World War 2. His father died in an unexplained plane crash while away on a Middle East mission when Dennett was 5 years old.

Political leaders
Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)
Leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and architect of the Soviet state. Third of six children in a happy family, when Lenin was 16 his father died of a brain hemorrhage. He renounced his belief in God soon thereafter. 5 months later his elder brother was hanged for his part in conspiring against the Tsar.

Joseph Stalin (1879-1953)
Soviet dictator, orchestrator of the Great Purge against political rivals, and perpetrator of the worst man-made famine in human history. The precise number is unknown, but by some estimates Stalin presided over the deaths of 20 million people. Originally trained for the priesthood, in his 30s Stalin rejected his family name (Djugashvili) and changed it to the Russian word for “man of steel.” Stalin had a very harsh upbringing. His father was an alcoholic and often severely beat him and his mother.

Mao Zedong (1893-1976)
Communist leader and father of the People’s Republic of China. Mao presided over the Great Leap Forward of 1958 (the ensuing famine of which caused the deaths of some 30 million peasants,) and the Cultural Revolution of 1966 (which resulted in some million and a half deaths and destroyed much of China’s cultural heritage.) Mao reportedly hated his father, who was a tyrant and regularly and severely beat him and his three siblings.

Adolph Hitler (1889-1945)
Leader of the Nazi Party, Chancellor and fuehrer of Germany, and initiator of World War 2. Hitler presided over the Nazi Holocaust during which 6 million Jews were executed – nearly two thirds of Continental Europe’s Jewish citizenry. Additional victims included communists, the mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals, blacks, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and political opponents. As a boy, Hitler’s father severely and regularly beat him; “every day” according to his sister. He was one of 6 children, 3 of whom died in infancy. As an 11 year old boy Hitler was deeply affected by the death of his younger brother, Edmund. Hitler’s antagonistic relationship with his father ended 3 years later when his father died unexpectedly. There was no father figure in his life after this.

Opinion shapers
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis. While his father was not abusive, apparently Freud considered him to be a weak man and a disappointment; lacking in courage and unable to provide for his family. Furthermore, according to Paul Vitz, in two letters as an adult Freud writes that his father, Jacob, was “a sexual pervert and that Jacob’s own children suffered as a result.”

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
British naturalist and author of the vastly influential On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The pure naturalism of microbes-to-man evolutionary theory made materialism (atheism) an intellectually respectable option. Darwin’s mother died when he was 8. He was raised by his sisters until he went off to school at age 9. His relationship with his imposing father was ambivalent. He once wrote, “To my deep mortification my father once said to me, ‘you care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family’.”

Feminist leaders
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
American birth control activist, sex educator, author, nurse, and racist eugenics proponent. Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the US and founded the American Birth Control League, which became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger grew up in an impoverished home headed by an alcoholic father. She was the 6th of 11 children. Her mother went through 18 pregnancies in 22 years, (including 7 miscarriages,) before dying at the age of 40.

Gloria Steinem (1934- )
American feminist, political activist, and journalist. Steinem was a leading figurehead for the feminist movement in the 60s and 70s and co-founder of Ms. Magazine. Perhaps her best known quote is, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” When Steinem was 10 years old her parents divorced and her father left, leaving her to care for her mentally ill mother.

Bella Abzug (1920-1998)
American feminist, lawyer, congressional representative, and social activist. Abzug was also a leading activist during the 60s and 70s. In her later life she became an influential leader at the United nations working to support womens’ equality around the world. Abzug’s father died when she was 13. She went to the synagogue every morning for a year to recite the traditional mourner’s prayer. This was in defiance of the orthodox synagogue’s tradition that only sons recite the prayer.

Shulamith Firestone (1945-2012)
American feminist thinker and author. Firestone is less well known than the others listed here but she was a central figure in the early development of radical feminism. Her book, The Dialectic of Sex, published in 1970, has continued to be influential in feminist thought, and is also considered to be an early “post-genderist” work. In the book she argues that it is the biological role of pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing that keeps women oppressed. She envisioned the abolition of the nuclear family with its oppressive parent-child relationship, and doing away with the maternal instinct. She envisioned artificial wombs, and collective child-rearing. Not surprisingly, Firestone’s relationship with her controlling, orthodox Jewish father was wildly antagonistic.

Summary
One would be justified in asking if fatherlessness was typical in past centuries, or if the family dynamic was dysfunctional for most people. Author Paul Vitz answers this question by providing a contrasting list of theistic thinkers and influencers. In virtually every case these theists were raised in nurturing, loving environments. When a parent was lost at an early age, relatives or friends stepped up as affirming father figures. Examples Vitz gives include Blaise Pascal, Edmund Burke, William Paley, William Wilberforce, Soren Kierkegaard, G. K. Chesterton, Albert Schweitzer, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

It would be wrong to assume that all atheists today grew up with a dysfunctional parent relationship. Atheism has now become a mainstream and academically respectable option. However, I remain convinced that children have a God-ordained right to be nurtured by their married biological parents whenever possible. If you are a parent I hope these stories will strengthen your resolve to stay a loving course in your marriage and parenting.

Happy Father’s day to all the dads reading this! May you be a blessing to your children!

President Trump & the Worst Thing That Could Happen Now

divided-america-blg

I stand amazed at the American political system.

In the bizarre, 2016 Trump/Clinton election it would appear that the people have spoken in ways that few predicted. Even though, as always, the voters are split nearly 50/50. If you are a liberal reading this, please bear with me as I hope to find common ground with you.

I hopefully believe that what we saw is not “whitelash.” Nor is it a “pro-Trump” movement. Nor is it “a resurgence of bigotry and hatred,” as so many fear.

Rather, I think we have reason to hope that what we saw is the people voting for freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and constitutional government in general. Despite serious questions around Trump’s temperament, voters nonetheless voted down the epitome of a connected, politically entrenched ideologue in favor of a political outsider.

It is also probable that people who are not ideological racists are tired of being called racists. People who are opposed to illegal immigration are tired of being called xenophobes. People who don’t hate gay people are tired of being called anti-gay. People who think the jury is still out on transgender issues are tired of being called bigots. People who are concerned about radical Islamic terror are tired of being called anti-Islamic. People who uphold the sanctity of innocent human life are tired of being called anti-woman. Caring people who hold a biblical worldview are tired of being called hateful.

Each of these issues deeply affect what American culture will be. There needs to be free discussion around these issues. There needs to be deep thought and the airing of opposing viewpoints. Remember how everyone was amazed at how quickly public opinion changed on gay marriage? Well, just maybe a lot of people simply shut down in the toxic environment because they didn’t want to be viewed as hateful and anti-gay. Maybe they felt it wasn’t worth getting on somebody’s poop list, or risking a lawsuit, or losing their job over. But that’s not change of heart.

Maybe they voted for freedom of religion and expression for everyone rather than for a creeping, Orwellian totalitarianism, complete with thought police.

Coming on the heels of eight years of an administration and its supporters attempting to impose political ideology onto the country from the top down, half the voters chose a political outsider over another 4 years of continued labeling, shaming, psychological manipulation, indoctrination, and forced participation.

Remember these labels?
Holier-than-thou
judgmental
self-righteous
imposers one’s morality on others
censor

Within my own lifetime in the not so distant past, these labels were always associated with “religious people.” Remember how the mention of one of these labels would call to mind “religious fundamentalists”? Remember how everyone hated these attitudes when religious people practiced them? Remember how the left framed these labels to be synonymous with Christianity? I do.

Well, it turns out that these labels are not exclusive to religious people. It turns out these things are simply attitudes that all human beings are prone to adopt whenever they feel strongly that they are right, religious or non-religious, right or left. It’s always arrogant, no matter which side does it. Today, the shoe is on the other foot. I have become fond of pointing out in online discussion that, just because it’s liberal bigotry does not make it good bigotry.

I remember reading a comment years ago from a conservative writer. I no longer remember who said it, but I remember hoping it wasn’t true. It was something like this:

“Pluralism is never an end in itself. Pluralism is a transitional strategy employed by the less powerful faction until power shifts from one orthodoxy to another.”

I’ve always remembered that, and wondered if I would live to see if it were true. The past eight years have suggested that it is. As a young conservative adult attending a very “progressive” art college, I was frequently reminded that liberals were the champions of open-mindedness, free speech, tolerance, and anti-censorship. But now, having believed they have the truth, majority support, and power on their side, the progressive movement has become every bit as censorious, judgmental, self-righteous, and holier-than-thou as any fire and brimstone TV evangelist. The difference is that, unlike TV evangelists, progressives attempt to promote their agenda using the power of the state.

That is an enormous difference. After all, one can ignore a TV evangelist.

What we’ve seen for the past eight years is the smug arrogance of liberal politics in action. Over the past eight years the Obama administration has gone around the U.S. Constitution and around the will of the people in order to enact public policy. It did this because voters would not have willingly approved Obamacare and gay marriage. But even worse, not only did the administration go around the people, it stubbornly refused to allow conscientious objection to these liberal policies.

The actions of Obama and his supporters essentially said, “This is way it’s going to be. You don’t get a say, and you must participate. Anything less than participation is hateful, racist, or bigoted and is a punishable offense now.”

As “victory” after liberal victory was won over the last 8 years, I saw a lot of gloating and mocking as dissenting conservative views were shut down. Businesses fell in line for fear of left wing retribution. There was no point in allowing conservative viewpoints to be aired, since those viewpoints were “bigoted” and “hateful.”

Then the election happened.

The worst thing that could happen for America now
The worst thing that could happen now would be for the Trump administration to do the same thing that the Obama administration just did: force its political ideology down everybody’s throats from the top down.

There is a remarkable opportunity now in America that I didn’t think could’ve existed before the election. I do not believe that Donald Trump was a sound presidential candidate. Nonetheless, this administration actually has an opportunity to restore constitutional government. If only it has the will to do so.

At some point all sides are going to have to recognize that both sides have legitimate concerns, and we’re going to have to negotiate how to live together in such a way that both sides feel their concerns are being addressed. For America, the U S Constitution is the answer.

If the American people cannot unite around the American constitution, then the American experiment is over. Christians do not need a Christian president, because constitutional government will protect their rights. Secularists do not need a secularist president, because constitutional government will protect their rights.

How to respond when things get ugly
Restoring constitutional government will mean that some unconstitutional “accomplishments” will have to be undone, and then redone constitutionally. To the left this will seem like an attack, of course. “Progressives” have sworn they are “not going back” because they feel they have gotten some of what they want, never mind that they got it unconstitutionally. But ultimately, restoring constitutional government will be as good for liberals as it will be for conservatives.

In the meantime, our way of relating to each other has to change. America is now horribly divided. We have to stop digging in and, instead, reach out to those who hold differing views. We must listen to each other. Both sides have to stop trying to hit “the enemy” back harder. There are compassionate people on both sides of the issues that divide us.

The election results were so surprising and disturbing that some liberals are trying to understand why things turned out as they did. This is a great opportunity for conservatives interested in building community, (which should be all conservatives.) It’s not that liberals are questioning liberalism. But some realize that they need to understand how their seemingly-nice neighbors could have voted for someone like Donald Trump. It’s a good question.

To help at least a few understand, after the election I joined a “Safe Persons” discussion group composed almost entirely of liberals. It was good for me. I learned that a lot of liberals really are afraid. A couple of members expressed feeling unsafe that I was even part of the group. Of course, they were not actually unsafe, but the point is that they truly felt that way. Some of the other members wanted to interact, and, though it took some time and effort and some overlooking of insults, I feel it was worth it. In my next post I will print some excerpts from our dialogue that I feel are worth posting.

Post election, I’ve seen other encouraging events in my small corner of the world. One friend of mine, along with several of his liberal friends, is starting a book club. Elsewhere, a conservative evangelical friend in a neighboring town has been invited to be on the editorial board of the local newspaper. Apparently the board has decided it needs to broaden its perspective. These things speak well of all parties involved. For some of us, bridge-building could be as simple as going out of our way to initiate a relationship with a neighbor who had a Hillary sign in his or her yard last autumn.

I’d love to hear about how you have reached out in your community to build bridges. Please do share your thoughts and ideas below.

New Video Release: The Reason for Christmas

From a human perspective, the coming of Jesus changed the course of human history. From a divine perspective, the sending of Jesus was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promises, and His final answer to human pain, suffering, and all disunity, including the most profound division of all, which is death.

While on earth, Jesus preached the arrival of His kingdom and the promise of spiritual rebirth and resurrection. We see this now in partial fulfillment, and those who believe look forward to the future “uniting of all things, in heaven and on earth, in the Messiah.” The Judeo-Christian scriptures refer to this as the explicit will and plan of God (Eph 1:7-10.) This plan is in keeping with the Bible’s description of God as Life, Light, and Love.

The specificity and verifiability of biblical prophecy is unique in the world. For example the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm that the book of Isaiah was indeed written and virtually unchanged for hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus. As knowledge advances in the fields of textual criticism, archaeology, and science, the case for the reliability for the Judeo-Christian scriptures becomes better, not worse. For the honest seeker, the 21st century is a great time to be alive.

A couple of years ago I created a short video with the help of a couple of friends. The video was designed to be an intro for one of my live painting performances, themed around Christmas. Last weekend I performed this piece again and realized that the video could also be viewed as a stand-alone piece, so I am putting it out on Youtube.

If you would be so kind as to view it, this would help my Youtube rankings! I think it might also encourage you. Plus my friend Linda Joy has a really cool accent.

Feel free to share this. If you would like to show it before a large group, such as a church congregation, I would appreciate it if you would let me know. I would like for you to credit me by using my kids’ book website, if you wouldn’t mind: http://www.BigPicturePublishing.com

Speaking of my storybook website. I’m still fulfilling orders for my newest book, The True Story of Christmas. (It is favorably reviewed in the current issue of World magazine!) While this book does not parallel the video, it does tell the Christmas story in the context of the big picture. But it doesn’t include creepy, unusual Christmas imagery like the video does. Like this:

nebuchadnezzars-dream

Image of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as interpreted by the Hebrew prophet Daniel.    From the video, The Reason for Christmas – artwork by Scott Freeman

Okay. Now you know you have to watch the video. You could also subscribe to my Youtube channel while you’re at it.

Video Credits:
Writing, graphic design, and artwork by Scott Freeman
Video editing by Bree Hottinger
Voice acting by Linda Joy

Thanks for your support!
You can view my original children’s storybooks HERE.

What Jesus Said About Marriage Equality

Jesus-in him all things hold together

The words of Jesus have a way of keeping His followers off the fence. For example, in the ongoing religious freedom and marriage equality “debate,” it is sometimes pointed out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. Therefore, some have argued, perhaps followers of Jesus shouldn’t be saying anything about it either.

However, while it’s true that we have no record of Jesus specifically mentioning homosexuality, we do have an extremely pithy statement from Him about what God intended marriage to be. This is fitting, because today’s marriage equality debate is not ultimately about homosexuality anyway, as the Left and its sympathetic media would have us believe. The debate is and will continue to be about the redefining of marriage.

The statement on marriage made by Jesus is remarkable in its relevance, precision, and transcendence. In three sentences there are at least eight defining aspects articulating what Christians believe the Creator of marriage intended marriage to be. I’ve created a diagram (below) so that this can easily be seen.

But first, I want to examine a meme that has been circulating in discussions on social media. It supposedly shows why the Bible doesn’t support “traditional marriage.” (The white caption is mine because I couldn’t resist commenting.)

How can “biblical marriage” be a thing?
The argument is that marriage has changed over millennia many times, and that the current redefining of marriage to include same sex couples is simply another iteration of an evolving institution. After all, the Bible itself contains many examples of marriages that today’s evangelicals consider to be objectionable, so how can evangelicals argue for “biblical” or “traditional” marriage?” Here’s the meme:

marriage meme fail

There are at least three reasons why this meme fails:

  • Example #1 misrepresents Gen 2:24, which it claims to be describing. None of the 4 points listed in example #1 are true for this verse. In truth, Gen 2:24 describes God’s ideal conception of marriage as it existed before “the fall” – before sin and death entered the world. We’ll return to Gen 2:24 in a moment.
  • The rest of the meme’s examples are post-fall, including references from the Torah of the Mosaic Covenant, a body of law given to instruct and govern a Jewish theocracy in ancient Israel. Jesus states that the Torah contained concessions due to “the hardness of men’s hearts, but from the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19:8.) In other words, the Torah does not express God’s ideal will or desire for human interaction, obviously. Rather it was a “custodian,” to govern an unregenerate, rebellious body of people, until something better would come in the Messiah (Gal 3:23-26.) The Bible presents a linear, progressive revelation of God. It is a fundamental misunderstanding to assume that old covenant Levitical law represents God’s ultimate ideal, or that New Covenant followers of Jesus are bound by it.
  • The meme ignores the fact that in the New Testament, Jesus and His apostles unequivocally teach a return to the ideal of marriage in Gen 2:24, doing away with polygamy, slavery, religious war, a non-egalitarian standing of women in the church of Jesus, and observance of the written Torah in general (Ro 7:6; 1 Cor 7:1-3; Gal 3:28; Eph 6:12.)

What Jesus said
Jesus begins His statement on marriage by referring, not to Levitical law, but to the unspoiled created order: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” This refers to a passage in the first chapter of the Bible where we find the phrase,

“So God created man [meaning both men and women in Hebrew] in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them”
(Gen 1:27)

Thus Jesus’s defining statement on marriage is rooted in a transcendent basis for the worth and equality of the two sexes: both were made in the image of God, reflecting His likeness.

Proceeding from there, He goes on to either explicitly state or imply the defining characteristics of marriage as God conceived it. Since everyone likes rainbows now, I’ve shown this in the rainbow-colored chart:

Jesus gay marriage equality

As you can see, types of unions that fall outside of Jesus’ ideal of marriage would include homosexual, polygamous, incestuous, promiscuous, “monogamish,” and temporary sexual relationships, to name a few.

Definitions draw distinctions. If marriage has any definition, then it must exclude some people. It is important to note that by focusing on gay marriage, the U. S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision also excludes many consenting adults who at this moment want the legal right to marry but instead suffer discrimination. (Read their testimonies.)

In addition to Jesus’ statements, the New Testament states that marriage is a “profound mystery that refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32.) Throughout both testaments of the Bible God repeatedly uses heterosexual marriage as a metaphor to describe His relationship with His people. In the New Testament, the church of Jesus is often described as His bride. Furthermore, marriage is widely understood to be a reflection of the unity-in-diversity that exists within the loving, generative, triune Godhead itself.

Thus, for the majority of those who follow Jesus and the Bible, lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a profound ideal with both practical and symbolic applications.

Admittedly, Jesus articulated a very high bar for marriage. Of course, this is not to say that people in alternative types of unions should be hated, or executed, or harassed, or fired from their jobs, or generally refused service, or be otherwise excluded from the human family. But their relationships are simply not marriages according to Jesus. Jesus commanded His followers to love everyone, but He also called them to observe His teaching, which He claimed to be truth. It’s really that simple for Christians (John 8:12, 14, 31-32, 47, 51.)

So for followers of Jesus, this is not about hatred or bigotry. Despite what the news media continually says, it’s not even “anti-gay.” (Many same-sex-attracted people agree with and follow Jesus.) The Left is simply using hate-shaming to manipulate the public, move its agenda forward, and attempt to get Christians to shut up and leave the field.

Entitled to your opinion
You may not agree with what Jesus said. You may not agree that Jesus actually said these things at all. You may believe that Jesus was gay. Or you may not believe that Jesus ever even existed. You may think the Bible is a book of fairy tales. You are free to believe whatever you want about God and Jesus, and, according to our Constitution, congress may not make a law that forces you to participate in “an establishment of religion.”

However, neither does our Constitution allow congress to make a law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. For a great many American citizens, marriage is a religiously defined institution. Government may not force these people to participate in an ideological campaign to redefine marriage, sex, and gender.

Yay. This is freedom. It’s a two-way street. The Left is free to march on with its now decades-long, disease-ridden, death-producing sexual revolution. Followers of Jesus are free to not join in the parade for a cause that they believe to be a bad idea that ultimately harms society in general and children in particular. People on both sides can have compassionate reasons for believing as they do.

The bottom line is that followers of Jesus simply don’t believe they have the authority to redefine a fundamental concept that God has so clearly defined. We happen to believe that human government does not have that authority either.

Fine. So why not hold to your beliefs privately and just obey the law?
Because secularism is not a neutral, default position. It’s not as though religious viewpoints are biased while secular viewpoints are somehow unbiased.

For example, abortion-on-demand is not unbiased public policy. Recognizing only gay marriage from among other types of alternative love relationships is biased and discriminatory. The opinion that gender is determined by one’s feelings while sex is determined by one’s body is simply one, unsubstantiated theory. In fact these three examples can be seen as part of an ideological, sociopolitical movement called postgenderism or transhumanism.

In a diverse, pluralistic, and free society, religious viewpoints needn’t be any more private than do secular viewpoints. Followers of Jesus are free to aspire to a higher “supernatural” view of marriage, sex, and life, though they may not impose this on others. In the same way, secularists are free to aspire to a lower, “natural,” animalistic view of marriage, sex, and life, though they may not impose this on others. In all of this, American government should remain as limited as possible, while ensuring basic human rights and freedoms for everyone within the constraints of the Constitution.

Should the state be forcing either of these two groups to participate in the other’s well-intentioned vision? Nope, not in a free society. But…wait…what if lots of celebrity actors and musicians and big corporations say that only “progressive” opinions on marriage and gender should be legally protected? Still nope. The correct answer in America is always freedom and pluralism (meaning the peaceful coexistence of competing ideas in a free marketplace of ideas) within the constraints of our Constitution.

What are the implications of this?
American Christianity is firmly opposed to theocracy. Christians are not seeking to force non-Christians to live as Christians. Or to criminalize sex outside of marriage. Or to criminalize divorce. Or to criminalize gay unions.

This is not what Christians are advocating. Neither is it right for the federal government to redefine marriage along arbitrary, ideological lines, and then impose that definition onto everyone else. Americans for whom marriage is a religiously defined, fundamental, societal institution have a first amendment right not to participate in and associate with an ideological movement they believe to be malignant and morally objectionable.

The point of this post has not been to prove Jesus right. The point has been to simply point out what the gospel writers say He said about marriage. This is the crux of the current religious freedom “debate.” Religious conservatives are not misreading or cherry picking their own text when they disagree with “marriage equality.” Agree or not, there is a large population of the world that will not be going along with the ideological campaign to redefine marriage, and they have compassionate, humanitarian reasons for refusing.

In America, the government cannot force its citizens and their businesses to behave as political liberals, any more that it can force them to behave as political conservatives. We already have a solution to the religious freedom debate: limited, constitutional government.

 

Check out my kids’ storybooks designed to inspire love and reinforce a biblical worldview in the kids you love! SHOW ME!

Planned Parenthood, Robert Dear, & Officer Garrett Swasey

Fetus-blg

On the occasion of this 43rd anniversary of the Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion-on-demand, I want to look a bit deeper into a local shooting rampage. It’s a story worth clarifying.

On Jan 16, 2016 the Reporter-Herald in my hometown published an opinion piece entitled, The Sacramento Bee on the surge in the abortion wars.

The first sentence stated: “…anti-abortion activists unleashed a barrage of deceptive videos falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of trafficking in fetal tissue for profit.” Planned Parenthood’s defense from day one has been that the sting videos were “deceptively edited.” By now we’ve all heard this accusation.

Planned Parenthood even hired a research firm, Fusion GPS, to examine the videos. Not surprisingly, Fusion GPS found that the videos were indeed “manipulated.” Mainstream news media announced this finding without disclosing that Fusion GPS has ties to the Democratic party.

Subsequently, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) commissioned a third party digital security and forensics firm, Coalfire, to analyze the videos. Unlike Fusion GPS, Coalfire had access to the entire body of investigative footage. Coalfire’s findings were that the videos are “authentic and show no evidence of manipulation.” However, this finding has somehow not been reported in the mainstream media, even though the findings were sent to reporters at every major media organization in America.

The Colorado Springs tragedy
Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2015 lone gunman Robert Dear opened fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, killing 3 people, including a police officer, and injuring 9 others. Planned Parenthood and sympathetic news media were quick to blame the “deceptively edited videos” for the attack, and to associate the shooter with the pro-life movement, based on comments he made at the scene. (Police reported that Dear’s rantings included the words, “No more baby parts” – an allusion to the videos.)

Here is where decency and justice demand that a correction be made.

There was indeed at least one pro-lifer present at the shooting, but it wasn’t shooter Robert Dear. Dear doesn’t appear in Colorado Right to Life’s (CRTL) database of over 500,000 names. More to the point, by definition pro-lifers are morally opposed to the killing of innocent people. This is the reason there is an abortion debate. All right-to-life organizations strongly repudiate abortion clinic violence, (regardless of whether it is perpetrated inside or outside of the womb.)

Slain officer, Garrett Swasey, held this view. He arrived on the scene in response to calls from other officers. Since his death, many news reports have mentioned that he was a husband and father of 2 young children. Some have mentioned that Swasey was once a nationally ranked figure skater and ice dancer. Some have mentioned that he was a co-pastor at his church. But I’ve yet to see a report from a secular news source acknowledge that Swasey was a signer of the 2014 Personhood Amendment petition.

The Personhood Movement seeks to recognize unborn human beings as persons deserving of legal protection.

Officer Garrett Swasey was a committed pro-life Evangelical Christian of the sort that Planned Parenthood and the Left routinely demonize as being “anti-woman.” Swasey was not obligated to respond to the other officers’ call for help on Thanksgiving weekend. Nonetheless, he chose to serve and protect Planned Parenthood, an organization whose ideology he sharply disagreed with. As a “right wing pro-life extremist,” he gave his own life with the aim of stopping a shooter from harming other people.

His example should be held up, honored, and remembered. Let us refuse to allow the beliefs and motives of officer Garrett Swasey to be conflated with those of gunman Robert Dear.

My New Kids’ Book: The True Story of Christmas

Blg full spread

After 30 years of marriage and raising 5 kids together, Mollie and I have accumulated a beloved little collection of illustrated Christmas storybooks. When I worked at Hallmark Cards, the Creative Library there would bring in some of the best Christmas books on the market, and I ordered a few of my favorites for my kids (and for Mollie and myself!)

Some we bought for the great artwork, some we bought for the story. The best ones combined both. An important part of our Christmas season included slowing down, snuggling up, and reading Christmas stories to the kids in the evenings in December.

But I could never find a book like the one I’m making available to you and your family today.

Special care has been taken in The True Story of Christmas to remain as true to the biblical narrative as possible while still keeping the story accessible and engaging for children. The book seeks to reinforce the biblical narrative rather than the extra-biblical traditions that have grown up around the Christmas story.

For example, the scriptures do not say that a blazing star led the Magi to the manger in Bethlehem. (The Magi arrived in Jerusalem, where Herod eventually sent them to Bethlehem to search for the child. Bethlehem was just a few miles down the main road.) The scriptures also indicate that the Magi visited Jesus as a toddler in a house in Bethlehem, not in a stable on the night He was born.

Magi wisemen house gold frankincense myrrh

The Magi visiting Jesus in Bethlehem, from The True Story of Christmas.

While these details may or may not be significant, to me it seems best to be in accord with the scriptures regardless of how harmless such extra-biblical traditions may seem. Learning the true narrative at a young age will help to keep faith in the reliability of the Bible intact when such extra-biblical traditions, (and there are many,) are debunked later in a child’s life. The biblical narrative stands up to scrutiny – the extra-biblical traditions do not.

Perhaps more importantly, The True Story of Christmas gives the big picture context of the birth of Jesus according to the Bible.

The true story of Christmas begins at the very beginning, when God created the world. God is good, and everything He made was good. In the beginning the whole world was filled with God’s goodness and light…” (pg 1)

The book begins with God’s perfect creation, followed by the tragic consequences of the fall of humanity – the reason we are all in need of a Savior in the first place. After Noah’s flood, God’s restorative plan begins with His choosing of Abraham and the people of Israel. Kids are introduced to Israel’s prophets and their foretelling of a special child who would be born to Israel to set up a good and eternal kingdom. The Christmas story is the beginning of the fulfillment of this long-anticipated promise.

Following are some of the book’s illustrations and copy:

old testament jewish prophets messiah malachi

“The very last prophet to speak of the promised Messiah was named Malachi. After Malachi there were no more prophets at all in the land of Israel until it was time for the Messiah to be born. Israel had to wait 400 years after Malachi for God’s promises to come true. That is a very long time! But then, it finally happened!”…

Here’s an example of how the type appears on the page:

first christmas stable manger bethlehem swaddling clothes

To Order:
The True Story of Christmas is now ready to order, but PLEASE NOTE: Order by Dec 3rd to ensure that your order arrives in time for Christmas. The True Story of Christmas is not available in stores. You can only get it on my website! (And on Amazon, but I don’t tell people that because I want them to go to my website and sign up on my email list.)

To order now CLICK THIS LINK

Holy family warned in a dream egypt massacre of innocents

The flight to Egypt, from The True Story of Christmas

Thank you so much for your support!
May you and your family have a joyous Christmas season!

Special thanks to my 3 favorite teaching pastors – John Meyer, Pat Sokoll, and Jonathan Williams – for consulting with me on this book.
All images copyright Scott Freeman, 2015