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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