Tag Archives: Public Policy

Dr. George Yancey: advice for responding to hostility from non-Christians

Dr. George Yancey
Dr. George Yancey

This article contains an interview with Dr. George Yancey, who does research on bias against Christians. It appeared in the Christian Post.

Here’s the introduction to the interview:

What should Christians do about the hostile environment they increasingly face? In a Christian Post interview, professor George Yancey talks about his new book written for fellow Christians, Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias.

Christianophobia exists among a powerful elite subculture in the United States, University of North Texas sociologists Yancey and David Williamson wrote in So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? While that book was written in an academic voice, in Hostile Environment, Yancey writes as a Christian speaking to fellow Christians, and offers some guidance on how Christians should respond to that anti-Christian hostility.

In an email interview with CP, Yancey said he appreciated the opportunity to speak from the heart to fellow believers about how he thinks Christians should respond to Christianophobia.

The early chapters summarize much of his work in So Many Christians, So Few Lions and helps readers understand the sources of Christianophobia. The middle chapters, “Are Christians Responsible for Christianophobia” and “Trouble Within” discuss ways to deal with hypocrisy, sin and dysfunction within the Church. The latter chapters deal more specifically with ways to confront anti-Christian bigotry.

Yancey is also careful throughout the book to distinguish between the discrimination against Christians in the United States and the violence against Christians in other parts of the world. He does not use the word “persecution,” for instance, to describe the negative experiences of Christians domestically.

“Christians are not being persecuted, but religious discrimination and bigotry in our society can affect us. We should combat that discrimination and bigotry when it rears its ugly head,” he wrote.

Here’s the part that I thought was the most interesting:

CP: What do people with Christianophobia want from Christians?

Yancey: In a nutshell they want Christians to shut up and stay in their homes and churches.

Individuals with Christianophobia have a great deal of pre-capita social and cultural power as they are more likely to be white, male, educated and wealthy than other Americans. They indicated in my research that they believe they know what is best for our society, and perhaps that is because they possess such power.

They also argue that Christians are leading us back to the “Dark Ages,” want to set up a theocracy, and oppose science. They also demand that Christians do not proselytize others since they believe that Christians are not very intelligent or are trying to manipulate others for money or power.

These beliefs and stereotypes provide them with justification to assert that they, and not Christians, should run our society and government. For this reason it is not surprising that they want Christians to stay out of the public square.

People with Christianophobia at least superficially value the ideals of religious neutrality. They perceive themselves as non-biased. So while they want to exclude Christians from the public square, they are unlikely to support measures that overtly single out Christians for punishment. This allows them to hold on to a social identity that is linked to “tolerance.”

However, they have a willingness to support measures that disproportionately punish Christians, or remove Christians from the public square, as long as such punishment or removal can be justified with non-bigoted reasons. This is similar to the concept of disparate impact that has been discussed as a part of the racial problems in the United States.

Other Christian apologists who read my blog sometimes ask me why I write so much issues outside of Christian apologetics, since that’s what I am most interested in. Well, I have encountered the attitude that Dr. Yancey is talking about when I was in university, and in the workplace as well. I understand that these very educated non-Christians think that Christians have no reasons for believing what we believe. They think it’s all superstition and bigotry. And so, they are alarmed by the idea that we are voting for public policies based on irrationality. One reason why I talk a lot about politics to get Christians thinking about policies, and reasons why we should support and oppose specific policies. Specifically, I want Christians who believe in policies that are consistent with the Bible to be able to discuss those policies with non-Christians by appealing to public, testable evidence.

But there’s another reason to talk about evidence outside of the Bible on this blog. And that reason is so that Christians understand that their faith is not private, nor is it meant to produce good feelings, nor to make them feel liked. Christianity is about truth, and we need to be studying science, history and philosophy, and making connections between what the Bible says to public, testable knowledge when we talk about our faith. We need to counter the perception that we are “dangerous” because we are irrational by being skilled at having conversations about what we believe and why. It can’t just be superstition or “this is how I was raised”. That’s what atheists find scary. They do not find it scary when we can explain ourselves. And that’s why we need to get really good at explaining how Christianity relates to these other areas. And not just explaining, but being persuasive using arguments and evidence, too.

Ryan T. Anderson: background on the same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court

This Daily Signal article is a great summary of everything that a lay-person like me or you ought to know about the case that is going to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Here are a few of the points I thought were most interesting:

2. The overarching question before the Supreme Court is not whether a male–female marriage policy is the best, but only whether it is allowed by the Constitution. The question is not whether government-recognized same-sex marriage is good or bad policy, but only whether it is required by the Constitution.

Those suing to overturn male-female marriage laws thus have to prove that the man–woman marriage policy that has existed in the United States throughout our entire history is prohibited by the Constitution. They cannot successfully so argue.

3. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito pointed out two years ago, there are two different visions of what marriage is on offer. One view of marriage sees it as primarily about consenting adult romance and care-giving. Another view of marriage sees it as a union of man and woman—husband and wife—so that children would have moms and dads.

Our Constitution is silent on which of these visions is correct, so We the People have constitutional authority to make marriage policy.

The debate over whether to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships is unlike the debate over interracial marriage. Race has absolutely nothing to do with marriage, and there were no reasonable arguments ever suggesting it did.

Laws that banned interracial marriage were unconstitutional and the Court was right to strike them down. But laws that define marriage as the union of a man and woman are constitutional, and the Court shouldn’t strike them down.

4. The only way the Court could strike down state laws that define marriage as the union of husband and wife is to adopt a view of marriage that sees it as an essentially genderless institution based primarily on the emotional needs of adults and then declare that the Constitution requires that the states (re)define marriage in such a way.

Equal protection alone is not enough. To strike down marriage laws, the Court would need to say that the vision of marriage that our law has long applied equally is just wrong: that the Constitution requires a different vision entirely.

But the Constitution does not require a new vision of marriage.

Advocates for the judicial redefinition of marriage cannot reasonably appeal to the authority of Windsor, to the text or original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, to the fundamental rights protected by the Due Process Clause, or to Loving v. Virginia. So, too, one cannot properly appeal to the Equal Protection Clause or to animus or Lawrence v. Texas.

Nor can one say that gays and lesbians are politically powerless, so one cannot claim they are a suspect class. Nor can one say that male–female marriage laws lack a rational basis or that they do not serve a compelling state interest in a narrowly tailored way, as explained in Heritage Foundation legal memorandum “Memo to Supreme Court: State Marriage Laws Are Constitutional.”

7. Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage: It makes the relationship more about the desires of adults than the needs—or rights—of children. It teaches that mothers and fathers are interchangeable.

I think that’s the fundamental question in the marriage debate. The question is, is marriage a relationship that is geared towards producing children, and locking in husbands and wives together in an exclusive, permanent relationship so that those children have two people who are biologically-related to them who are nearby to watch over them and care for them. When I think about what it is like to be a little child, or even a little animal, it is obvious to me that we should be aggressive about encouraging and celebrating couples who have children and then stick together to raise them. It’s a hard, self-sacrificial job. It’s not about self-centered hedonism. It’s about doing the right thing to provide for the needs of children as they grow up. Marriage isn’t about grown-ups being happy, it’s about regulating sex for the benefit of children, and society as a whole. We do better together as a society with natural marriage.

Pastor Matt: five books Christians should read to understand politics and public policy

I agree with this list by Pastor Matt.

About Pastor Matt:

Hello, my name is Matt and I am a book addict (i.e., well read, sophisticated, sad and lonely here is evidence).  But I want my sickness to help you.  I have been a political junkie since 1992 when I was recruited by my then Congressman to work for him. I then ran several campaigns including helping a businessman win a seat in the U.S. House in 1994.  I spent two years working in the House during the Gingrich years of 1995-1997.  I then attended seminary and law school but have remained a political and public policy junkie.  During this week’s political dust-ups, I read a lot of statements from Christians that qualify as “bumper sticker” logic at best.  So, for those interested, here are five books every Christian leader should read if they want to truly understand politics and public policy.

The list:

  1.  A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen
  2. The Heritage Guide to the Constitution by Ed Meese, Ed. (Regnery 2005)
  3. Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell (Basic Books 2010)
  4. Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem (Zondervan 2010)
  5. The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus (Crossway 2013)

I think it’s nice to see that pastor Wayne Grudem appears twice in the list. He has a PhD from Cambridge University and is the best theologian who writes books about economic and political issues. (Notice how I left room for Pastor Matt to be the best overall on economics and political issues!)

Here’s the detail on number three:

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell (Basic Books 2010).  Most Christian leaders (and apparently most Americans) have a poor understanding of economics.  Most seem to believe wealth is fixed (it isn’t), incentives and effectiveness are secondary to fairness (they aren’t), etc. Sowell, a long time professor of economics who has taught at Cornell and UCLA, has penned a long but very reader friendly work that you should take chapter-by-chapter.

On this blog, I feature Thomas Sowell a lot. The good thing about him is that even if you can’t buy his book, you can read lots of his current events stuff for free. In fact, he wrote a great column recently explaining the government shutdown that I think everyone should read. You can also get great sermons on politics and public policy from Wayne Grudem’s “Essentials” class.

Is it good enough to quote the Bible when discussing public policy issues?

In a recent post, I stated my view that holding up signs with Bible verses on street corners was a foolish way to argue against homosexuality and legalizing same-sex marriage.

Marshal Art wrote this in response:

It might be much better to have scholarly spokesmen, but can we wait about until they show up, are sought out by the media and left-wing enablers or can command the same level of attention as the activists? I don’t think so. The fact is that we need everyone who opposes the sanctioning of this attraction as normal and the attendant behavior as morally benign to speak out often and loudly. The problem with the goofs, like Fred Phelps for example, is that they are among the few who are vocal about their position, without more rational people risking blowback by being outspoken opponents themselves.

And then Lindsay Harold replied to me, and this is the one you need to read closely:

Exactly. People who make a public case against same-sex marriage (or abortion, etc.) solely on religious grounds are basically painting a big target on everyone who holds the same position. They make it easy for people to ridicule them and ignore the facts by saying that the only opposition to these things is religious in nature – that conservatives just want to “force their religion” on others. That’s a difficult charge to overcome precisely because, in many cases, there is a lot of truth to it. Too many people only want to stop same-sex marriage and abortion because they believe they are wrong according to the Bible.

The problem is, that’s not sufficient reason to make something illegal. There are plenty of things that are wrong (coveting, lust, not remembering the Sabbath, etc) that are not and should not be illegal. Thus, if you are going to make a case for why something should or should not be legal, you must have more than religious reasons. Making only a religious case in such a situation is indeed attempting to force religion on others. And it hampers the real work of using evidence and logic to make the proper legal case by painting all the others defending marriage or fighting abortion with the label of “religious fanatic.”

Probably the hardest part of defending traditional marriage or arguing against abortion is convincing the other side to listen to the facts and logic rather than dismissing you as religiously-motivated. The reason for this is that there are too many well-intentioned, but ignorant and misguided, people out there making things harder for their own side with their faulty arguments.

She actually wrote a similar post on her blog, “Lindsay’s Logic”, but on the abortion issue on her blog recently, and here’s a snippet:

You see, laws in this country are not based on religion. In fact, our Founding Fathers specifically planned to create a nation where religious freedom was protected. In order to do that, one must have a secular country based on logical principles, not a theocracy. History has shown that government based upon religion inevitably persecutes those who disagree with the religion in power. Many, if not most, of those who came to America and founded this nation came to escape religious persecution. They knew firsthand the dangers of living in a church state. They wanted to ensure freedom for all, so they set up a secular government and laid out basic principles to limit the government’s power and prevent oppression of the people. Their principles were based on the concept of inalienable rights – rights that are innate in every human being and which government cannot grant or take away. These rights include the right to life, liberty, ownership of property, religion, a fair trial, and many others – all developed from basic logical principles. And, in this country, laws are to be made by the people, but only in accordance with these principles so that no one’s rights will be violated.
Of course, these logical principles are quite consistent with a Biblical worldview – and not by accident. The concept of inalienable rights, for example, comes from the view that mankind is the product of a Creator who has endowed them with these rights. Religious freedom is also consistent with the Bible. After all, even God Himself does not force Himself upon anyone, but gives all people the free choice to choose Him or not. But one cannot enforce every doctrine from the Bible in a secular society. There are things that are wrong, according to the Bible, which cannot be made law. How would one, for example, make lust or coveting illegal? And while the Bible commands us to remember the Sabbath day, one cannot enforce this on all people within a society without violating their freedom of religion. Thus, not everything that is wrong should be illegal.

It looks to me like Lindsay’s logic is pretty sound. My own view is that I get my moral views from the Bible, and then when talking about those views with people in the the public square, I use secular arguments (unless they happen to be evangelical Protestants like me – but then they probably would not need convincing?!)

What do you think? Is Marshal Art right or is Lindsay right? Although both of them are good people and mean well, which approach do you think will actually solve the problem?

John Piper writes a pro-life article with broad appeal to everyone

Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics
Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics

Previously, I have held Pastor John Piper accountable for expressing opposition to same-sex marriage in ways that would only be persuasive to Christians. I didn’t like the way that he would not use arguments outside the Bible to argue against same-sex marriage, so that non-Christians would also be persuaded. I wanted him to have arguments and evidence to offer people who are not conservative evangelical Christians. I also disagreed with him for doing the same thing on the issue of abortion.

Well, something changed. And now I guess it’s time for me to eat crow.

Take a look at his new reasons for opposing abortion:

4. Being small does not disqualify personhood.

The five-foot-eight frame of a teenage son guarantees him no more right to life than the 23-inch frame of his little sister in her mother’s arms. Size is morally irrelevant. One inch, 23 inches, 68 inches — does not matter. It is morally irrelevant in deciding who should be protected. We know what we are doing in killing the smallest.

5. Not having developed reasoning does not disqualify personhood.

A one-month-old infant, nursing at his mother’s breast, does not have reasoning powers. But only a few dare argue that infanticide is therefore acceptable. Most know better. Outside and inside the womb the infant cannot yet reason, but is a human person. We know what we are doing.

6. Being in the womb does not disqualify human personhood.

Location or environment does not determine a right to life. Scott Klusendorf asks, “How does a simple journey of seven inches down the birth canal suddenly transform the essential nature of the fetus from non-person to person?” We know what we are doing.

7. Being dependent on mommy does not disqualify personhood.

We consider persons on respirators or dialysis to be human beings. The unborn cannot be disqualified from human personhood because they are dependent on their mother for food and oxygen. In fact, we operate on the exact opposite principle: The more dependent a little one is on us, the more responsibility we feel to protect him, not the less. We know what we are doing.

(Those last four observations, #4-7, were summed up by Scott Klusendorf under the acronym SLED: Size, Level of development, Environment, Degree of dependence — none is morally relevant for the definition of human life.)

8. The genetic make up of humans is unique.

The genetic make up of a human is different from all other creatures from the moment of conception. The human code is complete and unique from the start. Once that was not known. Now we know.

9. All the organs are present at eight weeks of gestation.

At eight weeks of gestation all the organs are present. The brain is functioning, the heart pumping, the liver making blood cells, the kidney cleaning the fluids, the finger has a print. Yet almost all abortions happen later than this date. We know what we are doing.

10. We have seen the photographs.

The marvel of ultrasound has given a stunning window into the womb that shows the unborn, for example, at 8 weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. Watch this four-minute video of the developing unborn child. We know that they are children.

Now note that he makes those arguments to non-Christians, and he has even more arguments to make to Christians:

For Christians who believe the Bible, we could add at least ten more reasons why we know what is happening in abortion, and why it is wrong. But the aim here is threefold.

    1. To make clear that we will not be able to defend ourselves with the claim of ignorance. We knew. All of us.
    2. To solidify our conviction to resist this horrific evil.
    3. To intensify our prayer and our preaching toward gospel-based soul-renovation in our land, because hardness of heart, not ignorance, is at the root of this carnage.

He’s not changing really, he’s adding more to what he already had said, by targeting a new audience, while still addressing the old one. It’s a both-and. It’s a win-win.

Scott Klusendorf and Life Training Institute

Pastor Piper credits some of his arguments to Scott Klusendorf in his article. Mr. Klusendorf is the top pro-life debater in the world, in my opinion. I recently wrote about an interview that Scott did with Brian Auten of Apologetics 315, too. And I also posted a debate that he did with Nadine Strossen.

You’ll remember that I picked Scott’s “Life Training Institute” as my charity of the year for 2012. I really recommend LTI if you are looking for a charity to support. Scott is the William Wilberforce of our age, and that goes for all pro-lifers who can make the pro-life case to anyone, not just Christians.

If you’re looking for a good pro-life book, check out Scott’s “The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture”.

And he has a new book out as well, called “Stand for Life: Answering the Call, Making the Case, Saving Lives”: