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Friday, June 26, 2015

Faith Steps excerpt: How to lovingly and reasonably communicate in public the rationale for valuing true marriage

Given today's Supreme Court ruling on marriage, below is an excerpt from Faith Steps, Chapter 14, "Freedom of Faith, Conscience and Speech":
While many followers of Christ draw from Scripture the concept of marriage as solely between a man and a woman, secular governments for centuries also have advanced such conjugal marriage because of its benefits to children, the economy[1] and social stability.[2]
Unfortunately, the modern debate over marriage often has been marked by more passion than reason, with relationships and reputations suffering as a result. Some who name the Name of Christ unfortunately have violated the highest tenets of our faith by showing only disgust and not love for those who practice homosexuality. This fuels a public misperception that all opponents of same-sex marriage are hateful bigots.
Other believers do show love toward homosexuals yet remain unpracticed in presenting rational arguments for a secular audience in the public square. They feel at a loss to cogently defend what they know is a cornerstone of biblical teaching–namely, that sex is reserved for the marriage of a man and a woman. So they just accept same-sex marriage even though it counters what they know true marriage to be.
Believers, however, need not take either a position of bigotry or of defeatism regarding marriage. We can communicate love and simultaneously advocate for the truth about marriage.
A public message advocating for conjugal marriage might sound something like this:
We love and respect those who practice homosexuality and support policies that protect their dignity and appropriate[3] equal protection under the law. But marriage remains a consensual, exclusive and lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, expressed in a physical union uniquely designed to produce and nurture children.
Removing these objective defining factors makes marriage meaningless. By uprooting and replacing the definition of marriage with a subjective notion based on emotional relationship, divorced from the natural and objective marital elements of physical union and procreation, no rational parameters remain that would exclude further redefinitions of "marriage" as between multiple partners, related persons, or even persons and non-persons.
An affirmation of the exclusivity of marriage as between one man and one woman does not preclude separate personal, societal or legal sanction of any other consensual relationship. The core debate hinges not on a moral evaluation of various types of relationships, but rather on the objective qualities that make marriage, marriage.
Even those who lovingly and reasonably communicate in public the rationale for valuing conjugal marriage, however, face an incredibly harsh and judgmental reaction from activists, the media, politicians and other segments of society. We technically may still live in a democracy, but the intolerance of divergent views often seems more akin to a totalitarian state that systematically erases ideological diversity.
The drive toward ideological conformity looks like this:
1.      First the culture makes a controversial practice socially acceptable.
2.      Then policy makers and the courts make the practice legal.
3.      Finally, the culture and the government join to enforce the practice–including punishing objectors.[4]
With that in mind, consider urging your legislators to protect our First Amendment freedoms of thought and belief, by quickly passing legislation to protect conscientious dissenters from discrimination regarding marriage. We urgently need to pass the federal First Amendment Defense Act.
Read more: 
Amazon paperback: http://tinyurl.com/nhanq29




Kindle e-book: http://tinyurl.com/p2q8ywg  

[1] See, for example, Patrick Fagan, “The Wealth of Nations Depends on the Health of Families,” Public Discourse, February 6, 2013, http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/02/7821/, accessed July 10, 2014.
[2] For a thorough discussion of these characteristics, see Sherif Girgis, Ryan T Anderson and Robert P George, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (New York: Encounter Books, 2012).
[3] The word "appropriate" indicates that equal protection under the law means that while the law must be applied without unjust bias, that does not mean that every law must apply to everyone in exactly the same way. A law pertaining to pregnancy will not apply to everyone because by definition, the state of pregnancy can only apply to women. A law pertaining to American citizens, such as the guarantee of a trial by a jury of peers, does not apply to enemy combatants.
[4] For example, the women's movement and other cultural forces made abortion acceptable. The Supreme Court made it legal in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The Obama administration enforced the practice and punished objectors through federal agency policies.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Faith Steps excerpt: A personal journey--existential angst and the Strange Book

Part V in a series of excerpts from my new book, Faith Steps, which encourages and equips people of faith to engage with friends and in the public arena on vital issues.
From Chapter Four, A Personal Journey:
The cultural revolution of the 1960's, launched during the tumult of the Vietnam War and fed by radical ideology and drugs, had shaken the traditional American foundations of faith, morality and even reality itself. It hadn't taken much, it seemed, to strip the nation of its religious facade, revealing superficial beliefs ungrounded in Scripture and a cultural religion that had drifted far away from the living God.
No one, as far as I could discern, seemed to come even close to offering any real answers to the meaning of life, the nature of man or the existence of a Creator.
Haight Ashbury hippies turned out to be better at turning on to drugs than offering any substantive alternatives to the American capitalism they simultaneously despised and depended upon. My parents' generation had won World War II and provided wonderfully for their families, but many couldn't muster much meaning in life beyond financial security. So their children, wise to their parents' emptiness and hypocrisy but not to their own, traipsed off into Zen, LSD and Woodstock.
American political leaders had launched a successful race to the moon and built an unrivaled economy but then violated the public trust with moral lapses and bungled burglaries. Mainline religious leaders had long since lost the biblical moorings for faith and taken to mumbling a social gospel that eschewed spiritual life for the latest hip political ideology. Educators were trading traditional scholastic disciplines for subjective, "relevant" explorations–like the high school course I took on Rock and Roll.
I found the silence of meaning terrifying.

Good News / Strange News

In desperation, I took up reading a paperback copy of Good News for Modern Man–a loose, modern translation of the New Testament. I would read passages for a while but could only take so much of what struck me as bewildering, even bizarre.
I was looking to plant my feet on firm ground, not float off into spooky spiritualism. Angels and demons, prophecies and parables. That stuff practically made me shiver.
Yet after a time, for some reason, I would once again delve into the pages of the Strange Book....
Read more: 
Amazon paperback: http://tinyurl.com/nhanq29




Kindle e-book: http://tinyurl.com/p2q8ywg  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Faith Steps: How can we move toward God through personal and public policy choices?

Part IV in a series of excerpts from my new book, Faith Steps, which encourages and equips people of faith to engage with friends and in the public arena on vital issues.
From Chapter Three, Faith Steps--Moving Toward God:

Defiance leads to alienation but compliance leads to relationship

The good news is found in a silver lining in the cloud of rejected revelation. Consider carefully this unspoken corollary of the process of revelation and response outlined in Romans:
If we respond to God's revelation through nature and conscience  by making moral choices aligned with His creation and His law,  our thinking begins to align with God's principles and our hearts soften toward Him.
Perhaps a husband resists an adulterous temptation and devotes himself to loving his wife. A woman sacrificially cares for her elderly mother who suffers from Alzheimer's. A teenager makes a culture-challenging personal decision to save sex for marriage.
As individuals make choices aligned with God's principles, they step closer toward divine relationship and their providential purpose. Our gears mesh when aligned with our Maker's blueprint, yielding peace, satisfaction and fulfillment.
Conversely, when we make choices opposed to our Maker's principles, we experience negative results such as failure, loneliness and conflict. We cannot find peace, satisfaction and fulfillment. Adultery shatters marriages and families. Enmity with parents removes the crucial emotional support children need. Teenage sex results in emotional scars, disease and crisis pregnancies.
Each moral decision we make and action we take–to acknowledge God or not, to choose good or evil–either draws us closer to God or drives us farther from Him.
Faith steps are the moral choices we make
and actions we take toward God,
as we respond to His revelation
 and invitation.
A discerning and open individual will perceive readily the difference that moral choices make and the fruit they produce in his or her life. Such experience can begin to train the mind and conscience in the direction of God and His principles, as we learn through experience to choose the path that yields the best result.

Read more: 

Amazon paperback: http://tinyurl.com/nhanq29




Kindle e-book: http://tinyurl.com/p2q8ywg 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Faith Steps: Why making up our own worldviews invites irreconcilable conflict

Part III in a series of excerpts from my new book, Faith Steps, which encourages and equips people of faith to engage with friends and in the public arena on vital issues.
From Chapter Two, How Worldview Impacts Public Policy:

If someone has deserted the Christian worldview–namely, that God created us and reveals Himself and His truth through nature and His Word–then that person is not left with much to go on. If we do not receive truth from God, the only option remaining is to make up our own worldview.
If we are each making up our own truth, each arriving at different conclusions, what do we do when our individually made-up worldviews conflict?
One of two things can happen: coexistence or domination.
Conflicting worldviews may coexist in tension for a time, especially if the holders of the worldview are willing to compromise with holders of conflicting worldviews. Key to such coexistence is the assumption, aggressively enforced if necessary, that all worldviews are equally valid.
After all–the unspoken assumption goes–if we each are making up our own worldviews, who is anyone to say that their worldview is superior to another's? On what basis could anyone possibly make such a claim?
If we claim our worldview is superior on the basis of logic and reason, then someone who sees life as random and meaningless will say, "What are logic and reason but your own vain constructions?"
If we say our worldview is superior because it is based on respect for others, then someone will say, "Fine–while you respect others, I will conquer and subjugate you to my will, for my worldview boils down to this: survival of the fittest."
Who will referee this dizzying mix of vastly differing worldviews?
No one. Since there are no objective rules in our self-made worlds, there can be no referee. How can you referee without a rulebook?
When everyone makes up his or her own worldview, only one alternative universal ethic remains: autonomy. Literally, self-law. A society based on autonomy boils down to, "If you let me do my thing, I will let you do yours." Sound familiar?
Unfortunately for modern America, autonomy–self-rule–is a grossly ineffective foundation for a society.
The trouble with adopting autonomy as the only guiding "rule" is that while compromise and avoidance may work for a while, conflicting worldviews inevitably produce an irreconcilable conflict. By definition, autonomy is utterly incapable of resolving an irreconcilable conflict. The rule of autonomy can only avoid judgment; it cannot make a judgment.
Read more: Amazon paperback: http://tinyurl.com/nhanq29

Kindle e-book: http://tinyurl.com/p2q8ywg

Monday, May 25, 2015

Faith Steps: Should Christians engage in the public arena, and if so, how?

Part II in a series of excerpts from my new book, Faith Steps, which encourages and equips people of faith to engage with friends and in the public arena on vital issues.
From Chapter One:
The leadership of Christian believers during the Bush presidency, our efforts to combat human trafficking through faith-based organizations, and Christian volunteers and ministries responding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina serve to illustrate Christians' engagement in the public square. The examples also help frame important questions about the biblical and prudential role of believers and the Church in politics and society:
What role, if any, should Christians play in influencing our government and our culture?
Does God call Christians to separate from the world for the sake of spiritual purity, or does He call us to engage the world for the sake of others?
Does shunning engagement in the public square preserve the Church's resources for the Great Commission, or is cultural isolationism a Great Omission?
Is America too far gone in the direction of secularism for Christian influence to turn her toward godly principles?
Since God is in control of history and we know how it all ends, does public policy really even matter?
To begin to answer these questions, we first must understand how our worldview drives our moral values, our laws and our lives–and how to take faith steps toward God and His kingdom....

Read more:
Amazon paperback: http://tinyurl.com/nhanq29

Kindle e-book: http://tinyurl.com/p2q8ywg

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Faith Steps: guidance in lovingly sharing God's principles, through personal discussions and public policy, by helping others consider how certain choices and behaviors will harm them or help them

Today begins a series of excerpts from my new book, Faith Steps, which encourages and equips people of faith to engage with friends and in the public arena on vital issues. From the Introduction:
Faith Steps begins with the precept that God reveals Himself to each of us–through the created world and through our conscience.
The Scriptures teach that rejecting this revelation darkens our minds (as we reject the truth about ourselves and our world) and hardens our hearts (as we reject the living God who reaches out to us).
The good news is that receiving and responding to God's revelation–by taking moral steps aligned with God's principles–keeps our minds open to His enlightenment and our hearts softened toward Him.
Ultimately these steps in God's direction, this spiritual preparation of our minds and our hearts through the decisions we make, can lead us toward a real relationship with God by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.
Faith Steps offers guidance in lovingly sharing God's principles, through personal discussions and public policy, by helping others consider how certain choices and behaviors will harm them or help them.
Faith Steps calls followers of Christ to examine, from a biblical and practical viewpoint, God's plan for government and the opportunity and responsibility of His people to reach their neighbors through public policy. This book offers a faith perspective on a host of vital issues from abortion and assisted suicide to stem cell research and human trafficking and more. It also encourages each of us to examine not only how we are presenting our perspectives publicly, but also how consistently we personally mirror the example and commands of Jesus Christ.
God creates every human being in His image. From a public policy standpoint, this means that we honor and protect human life at every stage of development, especially when individuals cannot protect themselves. From a personal standpoint, it means that as God's image-bearers, we need to walk consistently with His principles if the image we reflect is to help others better understand Him.
May God open our eyes, soften our hearts and enlighten our minds so that we may reflect His image and glorify Him in all we are and in all we do.
 Faith Steps is available:

Amazon paperback: http://tinyurl.com/nhanq29

 

Kindle e-book:

http://tinyurl.com/p2q8ywg

 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why Americans want to end abortions of pain-capable, viable developing babies


The US House of Representatives has just passed H.R. 36, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” by a vote of 242-184-1.  238 Republicans and 4 Democrats (Cuellar, Langevin, Lipinski and Peterson) voted yes.  180 Democrats and 4 Republicans (Dent, Dold, Frelinghuysen, Hanna) voted no.  One Republican (Hice) voted present. The House also defeated a motion to recommit that would have added a health exception to the bill by a vote of 181-246 with 3 Democrats voting no (Cuellar, Lipinski, Peterson).
 
Here are some video clips of members advocating for passage:
The office of House Speaker John Boehner provided a crisp summary of why Americans want this bill:

This week marks two years since the conviction of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was found guilty of murdering three babies by severing their spinal cords following unsuccessful abortions. It’s estimated that Gosnell similarly killed hundreds of other live babies over decades at his clinic, which the local NBC News affiliate dubbed a “House of Horrors”:

In addition to the murder charges, the 72-year-old [Gosnell] was found guilty Monday of involuntary manslaughter in the overdose death of former patient Karnamaya Mongar.

Gosnell was also found guilty of several other crimes including one count of infanticide, two counts of conspiracy, 21 of 24 counts of abortion of an unborn child of 24 weeks or more and 208 of 227 counts of violation of informed consent of an abortion.

Self-described liberal Kirsten Powers wrote at the time:

What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide. Legal infanticide. That so many people in the media seem untroubled by the idea that 12 inches in one direction is a “private medical decision” and 12 inches in the other direction causes people to react in horror, should be troubling. …

[M]edical advances since Roe v. Wade have made it clear to me that late-term abortion is not a moral gray area, and we need to stop pretending it is. No six-months-pregnant woman is picking out names for her “fetus.” It’s a baby. Let’s stop playing Orwellian word games. We are talking about human beings here.

Science and modern medicine show that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain by 20 weeks, or five months, in the womb.

That’s why the House will vote today on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36), which protects unborn children from abortion after five months.

According to public opinion surveys, a majority of Americans – including majorities of independents, women, and people 18-29 years old – support such a measure:

  • 60 percent of adults (including 59 percent of women) prefer restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks. (Quinnipiac, 11/14)
  • 56 percent of adults (including 51 percent of Democrats) back restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with an additional 10 percent supporting even greater limits. (Washington Post-ABC News, 7/13)
  • 59 percent of Americans either strongly or somewhat favor a federal law banning most abortions after 20 weeks. (Huffington Post/YouGov, 6/13)
  • 52 percent of people 18-29 years old support banning virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks. (United Technologies/National Journal, 6/13)
  • 64 percent support a law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks. (The Polling Company, 3/13)
  • 64 percent think abortion should generally be illegal after the first three months of pregnancy. (Gallup, 12/12)