Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defending Freedom offers advice to churches on how to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage to remove the gender requirement.
[…][T]he greatest threat for churches lies in the application of the Court’s decision to believers who live in jurisdictions covered by so-called “non-discrimination” laws and ordinances. Everywhere that marriage has been redefined in the last several years has seen an awakening of non-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, or places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. These laws are peppered throughout the states and local governments and are a linchpin of the sexual revolution’s broader legal and political strategy: to establish non-discrimination laws at all levels throughout the country and to to “ensure that religion is not used as an excuse to discriminate.”
In coming days, the threat from these non-discrimination laws will materialize in numerous ways as same-sex couples marry. But there are proactive steps your church can take to protect itself.
I put the map from the ACLU above. I think that’s what he is talking about when he says non-discrimination states. Keep in mind that the ACLU supported redefining marriage, and opposes religious liberty.
Erik’s article covers 3 areas:
Church’s statement of faith
Pastors officiating same-sex marriage ceremonies
Church’s facility usage policy
Part 3) was the most interesting to me:
3. Churches should ensure their facilities usage policies are revised to allow only uses consistent with the church’s religious beliefs.
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, some churches may be approached by same-sex couples seeking to be married in the church facility. Churches should not feel as if they have to close their doors to the community just to prevent wedding ceremonies with which they disagree. Churches must continue to be a welcoming presence in the community and can do so through updating or revising their facility usage policy. The key point is to tie usage of the church’s facility to the statement of faith and religious beliefs of the church. And then to make clear that uses inconsistent with those religious beliefs will not be allowed. Alliance Defending Freedom has a sample facilities usage policy available in our Protecting Your Ministry manual.
So you update your statement of faith, and then tie usage of the the facility to that statement of faith. Simple.
I took a quick look at the booklet, and it also talked about tying employment within the church and church membership to the statement of faith.
Your church can best avail itself of the First Amendment’s protection in employee disputes if you create and faithfully enforce religious employment criteria for every employee. That requires churches to do at least two things: (1) require all employees and volunteers to sign a statement affirming the church’s statement of faith and standards of conduct, and (2) create written job descriptions for every employee and volunteer position.
4. Formal Membership Policy
If your church does not have a membership policy, you need to change that. Biblically, this should already be a priority for your church. You need to specify what the requirements for membership are, how one joins, how one resigns, and the procedures for church discipline. If all of this isn’t spelled out up front, your church could be exposed (see ADF guide pp. 17-18).
So what to make of this? Well, the ADF is an organization that I admire and trust. I cannot abide Christians who do not want to understand the details of what is happening with religious liberty in their country. The ADF has first class lawyers from the top law schools, and they defend religious liberty at every level of our justice system, up to and including the Supreme Court. If you want to help your church protect itself from prosecution, then you must point them to the ADF booklet linked above.
And this is especially true if you are in one of those states in the map above. In looking over the map, I noticed that much of the trouble we have been having with Christian businesses getting sued are in states that have these laws… Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, New York, and so on. Pay attention to that map and make decisions about where to live accordingly.
CNS News reports on a new Harvard study that was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
A new study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published online in JAMA Internal Medicine found that women who attended religious services more than once a week were more than 30% less likely to die during a 16-year-follow-up than women who never attended.
The study also found that compared with women who never attended religious services, women who attended more than once per week had a decreased risk of both cardiovascular mortality (27%) and cancer mortality (21%).
“Our results suggest that there may be something important about religious service attendance beyond solitary spirituality,” said Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study. “Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life.”
[…]Most of the women in the study were Protestant or Catholic. The baseline age of the participants was 60 years or older – and “therefore the study cannot be generalized to men or young adults.”
Now, note: this is not an apologetics argument, it’s just something interesting to get a discussion started. Obviously, we don’t believe things just because they make us happier or healthier. I would raise this to get a discussion started about whether a secular life that suppresses questions of meaning and purpose can really be satisfying at all. My goal is truth, though. Not life enhancement. We have to keep the focus on truth.
I’m very interested in how economic policy in different times and places affects the ability of Christians to carry out their Christian life plans. What economic policies should Christians support in order to be able to carry out their lives? Do Christians need to eat? Do they need to be safe from criminals? Do they need to be able to work or run a business without violating their consciences? Can a Christian be as charitable when he cannot even feed himself or his family?
When I talk to young evangelicals, they seem to be pretty in lockstep with the left on policies like raising the minimum wage, having government take over health care, environmental regulations on private sector energy companies to stop global warming, etc.
So, it’s worth it to look at how things work in places where socialism is actually being tried.
Here is an article from March 2013 from the radically leftist Slate. The headline is “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle: The Venezuelan leader was often marginalized as a radical. But his brand of socialism achieved real economic gains”. The author is “a senior writer for the International Business Times”.
Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results. Indeed, as shown by some of the most significant indicators, Chavez racked up an economic record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.
What did Chavez do, precisely, that caused the Venezuelan economic to boom? Well, he nationalized private industry and redistributed wealth from job creators and entrepreneurs to the poor.
As The Week correctly put it, while “Chavez’s policies of redistribution and nationalization of oil assets endeared him to Venezuela’s working class” and produced many laudable results, the country’s “oil-centric economy has taken away resources from other areas that are badly in need of development.”
Well, what happened next?
Consider this long and detailed article from the left-leaning The Atlantic. I can only quote part of it, but you really need to read this to understand what happens when country attacks all the people who were creating wealth and jobs with regulations, taxes, price controls and property seizure.
In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in line for hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.
But why? It’s not that the country lacked money. Sitting atop the world’s largest reserves of oil at the tail end of a frenzied oil boom, the government led first by Chavez and, since 2013, by Maduro, received over a trillion dollars in oil revenues over the last 17 years. It faced virtually no institutional constraints on how to spend that unprecedented bonanza. It’s true that oil prices have since fallen—a risk many people foresaw, and one that the government made no provision for—but that can hardly explain what’s happened: Venezuela’s garish implosion began well before the price of oil plummeted. Back in 2014, when oil was still trading north of $100 per barrel, Venezuelans were already facing acute shortages of basic things like bread or toiletries.
The real culprit is chavismo, the ruling philosophy named for Chavez and carried forward by Maduro, and its truly breathtaking propensity for mismanagement(the government plowed state money arbitrarily into foolish investments);institutional destruction (as Chavez and then Maduro became more authoritarian and crippled the country’s democratic institutions); nonsense policy-making (like price and currency controls); and plain thievery (as corruption has proliferated among unaccountable officials and their friends and families).
A case in point is the price controls, which have expanded to apply to more and more goods: food and vital medicines, yes, but also car batteries, essential medical services, deodorant, diapers, and, of course, toilet paper. The ostensible goal was to check inflation and keep goods affordable for the poor, but anyone with a basic grasp of economics could have foreseen the consequences: When prices are set below production costs, sellers can’t afford to keep the shelves stocked. Official prices are low, but it’s a mirage: The products have disappeared.
When a state is in the process of collapse, dimensions of decay feed back on each other in an intractable cycle. Populist giveaways, for example, have fed the country’s ruinous flirtation with hyperinflation; the International Monetary Fund now projects that prices will rise by 720 percent this year and 2,200 percent in 2017. The government virtually gives away gasoline for free, even after having raised the price earlier this year. As a result of this and similar policies, the state is chronically short of funds, forced to print ever more money to finance its spending. Consumers, flush with cash and chasing a dwindling supply of goods, are caught in an inflationary spiral.
The rest of the article has horrifying details about what socialism really means: businesses shut down, shortages of food and medicine, government waste, skyrocketing crime, failing education system, Zika epidemic, water rationing, blackouts, and so on.
There was even an article this weekend in the radically leftist New York Times about the horrifying conditions of hospitals in Venezuela:
By morning, three newborns were already dead.
The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward.
Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died.
“The death of a baby is our daily bread,” said Dr. Osleidy Camejo, a surgeon in the nation’s capital, Caracas, referring to the toll from Venezuela’s collapsing hospitals.
The economic crisis in this country has exploded into a public health emergency, claiming the lives of untold numbers of Venezuelans. It is just part of a larger unraveling here that has become so widespread it has prompted President Nicolás Maduro to impose a state of emergency and has raised fears of a government collapse.
Hospital wards have become crucibles where the forces tearing apart Venezuela have converged. Gloves and soap have vanished from some hospitals. Cancer medicines are often found only on the black market. There is so little electricity that the government works only two days a week to save what energy is left.
At the University of the Andes Hospital in the mountain city of Mérida, there was not enough water to wash blood from the operating table. Doctors preparing for surgery cleaned their hands with bottles of seltzer water.
“It is like something from the 19th century,” said Dr. Christian Pino, a surgeon at the hospital.
The figures are devastating. The rate of death among babies under a month old increased more than a hundredfold in public hospitals run by the Health Ministry, to just over 2 percent in 2015 from 0.02 percent in 2012, according to a government report provided by lawmakers.
The rate of death among new mothers in those hospitals increased by almost five times in the same period, according to the report.
Here in the Caribbean port town of Barcelona, two premature infants died recently on the way to the main public clinic because the ambulance had no oxygen tanks. The hospital has no fully functioning X-ray or kidney dialysismachines because they broke down long ago. And because there are no open beds, some patients lie on the floor in pools of their own blood.
This is not happening because of capitalism and the greedy rich. It is happening because of hatred and persecution of entrepreneurs and job creating private businesses. But, if you read books on economic policy like “The Spirit Level”, which is written by socialists, countries like Venezuela that have lower income inequality have lower infant mortality, lower crime rates and better health care. Socialism works great in academia, not so well in a North Korean work camp.
It’s not just Venezuela. This article from Investors Business Daily covers how well socialism is going in countries like France, Brazil and Argentina. It never works.
Now, in most churches, pastors are more concerned with making people feel good so that the coins continue to fall into the offering plate. Therefore, they carefully stay clear of topics like economics, business and entrepreneurship. The question that we need to ask ourselves is this: how easy is it for you to live out a Christian life in a country where poverty, crime, and government suppression of free speech and religious liberty are rampant? Shouldn’t part of being a Christian mean voting for public policies that actually help poor people have opportunities, children in broken homes and victims of crime, instead of just embracing what sounds nice and makes us feel good?
In case I need to be clearer, I mean that Christians who embrace socialism are taking us down the road to serfdom because of their ignorance of economics. And it’s not just the Democrats. Christians who support Donald Trump are embracing import tariffs, opposing free trade, raising taxes, raising the minimum wage, government seizing private property, and so on. That’s socialism, too. And we won’t escape the consequences of our economic ignorance anymore than the well-meaning Venezuelan voters did when they elected their strong man to rescue them.
The latest Prager University video features pro-marriage scholar Brad Wilcox:
I watched this video, and, as a card-carrying member of the Christian men’s rights movement, I was concerned that nothing was said about how radical feminism has weakened the attractiveness of marriage to men. I mean specifically things like women carrying debt, having liberal political views, being unchaste and even promiscuous, initiating the majority of divorces (70%), withholding sex if they do marry, and denying men child visitation if they divorce, single mother welfare making men superfluous, big government replacing men as providers, etc. The consequences of divorce for men are catastrophic, and I don’t just mean financially, but emotionally as well.
I contacted Wilcox to ask him why he did not recognize how radical feminism undermines the value of marriage to men, and he pointed me to this article he wrote in the leftist Washington Post.
These days, 20something marriage has gotten a reputation for being a bad idea. That’s partly because parents, peers, and the popular culture encourage young adults to treat their twenties as a decade for exploration and getting one’s ducks in a row, not for settling down. In the immortal words of Jay-Z, “Thirty’s the new twenty.”
Indeed, the median age-at-first marriage has climbed to nearly 30 for today’s young adults, up from about 22 in 1970. Of course, there’s an upside to that. As my coauthors and I report in Knot Yet: the Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America, women who put off marriage and starting a family earn markedly more money than their peers who marry earlier.
And here he sort of takes on my concerns about chastity, delayed marriage, and fertility:
First, you are more likely to marry someone who shares your basic values and life experiences, and less likely to marry someone with a complicated romantic or family history. Those who marry in their twenties, for instance, are more likely to marry someone who isn’t previously married and shares their level of educational attainment as well as their religious faith. Marrying at this stage in your life also allows couples to experience early adulthood together. In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, a 31-year-old woman who married in her mid-twenties, “My husband and I got to grow up together—not apart. We learned sacrifice, selflessness, compromise, and became better people for it.”
Women who marry in their 20s generally have an easier time getting pregnant, and having more than one child, than their peers who wait to marry in their thirties. You’ll also be around to enjoy the grandchildren for longer.
You’re less likely to lose the best possible mate for fear of getting started too young on the adventure that is married life. One single, thirtysomething woman struggling to find a good partner put it this way to psychologist Meg Jay, the author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now, and whose TED Talk on twentysomethings has garnered 6.9 million views: “The best boyfriend I ever had was in my mid-twenties. I just didn’t think I was supposed to be [married] with someone then.” And as psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb explains in her book, Marry Him, there’s a higher likelihood of finding a true peer and more appealing partner-for-life in one’s twenties, before those most appealing potential mates marry somebody else by their thirties.
I cannot fault Wilcox or Prager for being ignorant of the social changes that have undermined the value proposition of marriage for men, and that have also undermined men’s ability to fulfill their roles. Far from being a man-blamer, Prager is a warrior against radical feminism, and just today Wilcox tweeted a study showing the boys benefit from single-sex education – a position I favor myself. But I do want to head off the common “men need to man up” objection made by those who deny that the real problem is radical feminism.
Contrary to the “be a man / man up” crowd, my objections to marriage don’t come from a desire to be lazy about education, career and finance. Rest assured that I have a BS and MS in STEM, and nearly two decades of STEM work experience (internships, summer jobs, full-time employment). I do make six figures, like the person Wilcox discussed in the video, and I have the savings you would expect with a gapless STEM resume. So, complaining about “man up” isn’t going to work on me, and probably not on most men who have concerns about marriage.
Radical feminism causes women to delay marriage in order to have fun, travel and ride the carousel of promiscuity in their 20s. Women have been told that they will have more fun by delaying marriage and staying single in their 20s. Church leaders, friends and family should be discussing and demonstrating the value of marriage to women, and showing them how the lasting contentment of marriage is better than the temporary fun of drinking, sex, travel and career. Marriage is a better platform for lasting joy and for quality relationships. It’s up to the woman’s friends and family to make the case for marriage as more fun and fulfilling than the alternatives offered by radical feminism. Her friends and family need to be countering the feminist message that is everywhere in the culture: marriage is boring, children are a burden, and that husbands are needy and demanding fools. And women need to be told how spending a decade being selfish in their 20s undermines their suitability for marriage.
A woman’s friends and family should train her not to view the moral and spiritual leadership of a man as threatening and dangerous, just because it disagrees with her feelings and desires. Instead of recoiling in horror when a well-educated, successful, wealthy man tells a woman with a history of poor decision-making to get a full-time job, pay off her debts, and start investing, her friends and family ought to welcome it. A good man’s practical advice should not be seen as stifling a woman’s freedom to “follow her heart”. And her friends and family certainly should not celebrate when she chooses a penniless, unemployed, empty-resume man who never questions her reckless decisions. Women should be encouraged to choose men who have demonstrated ability as protectors, providers and moral and spiritual leaders, even if she would rather have a doormat who lets her be wild, selfish and irresponsible. Doormats are not intimidating, but they are also not decisive about marriage. When a man wants to marry a woman, he is very interested in encouraging her to be practical and responsible. This is a good thing.
Lesbian relationships are the most unstable and shortest-lived relationships. This suggests that there is a tendency in women to reject commitment when it goes against their feelings and self-interest. Women’s emotions can make them unstable, and less capable of commitment. Friends and family need to recognize that tendency, and help women to learn practicality, responsibility and unselfishness at a young age, so that they are capable of making commitments.Men look for women who have demonstrated that they are able to complete things that they start. We know that women initiate 70% of divorces, and mostly because of feelings of unhappiness. Finish a tough STEM degree, work a tough job for a few years, pay off debts, pay off a car loan, etc. Men look for women who can make and keep commitments through good times and bad times, even when it goes against their self-interest.
A good basic book to read on this issue is Helen Smith’s “Men On Strike“.
Here’s a short video about her book:
A longer interview from News Max:
And an even longer interview with a homeschooling man:
Some men are ignorant of how radical feminism makes women less suitable for marriage while simultaneously making school and work more difficult to boys and men. It is these men who need to “man up” and “be a man” by challenging women to reject radical feminism and embrace early marriage to strong men who lead. If you’re not willing to fight the radical feminism that causes the underlying problems, then you can’t complain when men wisely reject marriage to women who aren’t ready to be wives and mothers.
Matt Flanagan and Justin Brierley do a great job in this debate getting the real issues on the table, although you have to wait until about 20 minutes in. Quick note about Bell. He has a BA in Pastoral Ministry, an MDiv, and a doctorate in Missional Organization. Now I have a suspicion of people with a background like that – my view is that they are more likely to be impractical and/or insulated from real life.
I also noticed that his politics are liberal, and that he is featured on the web site of GLAAD, a gay rights organization, for supporting gay marriage. Why do people support same-sex marriage? I think the most common reason is because they care more about the needs of adults than they care about the needs of children for a mother and a father. That’s where this guy is coming from – he is a people-pleaser, not someone who promotes the needs of children over the needs of adults.
At the start of the podcast, we learn that Bell was in the Seventh Day Adventist church, which is strongly invested in young-Earth creationism. Depending on how strict his young Earth view was, this closes off many of the best arguments for theism from science, such as the cosmological argument, the cosmic fine-tuning argument, the stellar habitability argument, the galactic habitability argument, the Cambrian explosion argument, and even the origin of life argument (to a degree). These are the arguments that make theism non-negotiable.
When he started his journey to atheism, he says that he was reading a book called “Religion Without God” by Ronald Dworkin.I was curious to see what view of faith was embraced by this book. Would it be the Biblical view of faith, trust based on evidence? Or the atheist view of faith, belief without evidence? I found an excerpt from the book in the New York Times, which said this:
In the special case of value, however, faith means something more, because our convictions about value are emotional commitments as well and, whatever tests of coherence and internal support they survive, they must feel right in an emotional way as well. They must have a grip on one’s whole personality. Theologians often say that religious faith is a sui generis experience of conviction. Rudolf Otto, in his markedly influential book, The Idea of the Holy, called the experience “numinous” and said it was a kind of “faith-knowledge.” I mean to suggest that convictions of value are also complex, sui generis, emotional experiences. As we will see… when scientists confront the unimaginable vastness of space and the astounding complexity of atomic particles they have an emotional reaction that matches Otto’s description surprisingly well. Indeed many of them use the very term “numinous” to describe what they feel. They find the universe awe-inspiring and deserving of a kind of emotional response that at least borders on trembling.
The excerpt quotes William James, who reduces religion to non-rational emotional experiences. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that view of faith is Biblical at all. Biblical faith is rooted in evidence. So clearly, what is important to this Dworkin is not objective evidence, it’s feelings. And this is what Bell was reading. He was not reading academic books like “Debating Christian Theism” to get the best arguments pro-and-con. He was looking for something that “resonated” with his feelings.
His journey was prompted by a female Episcopal priest friend who was asked by an atheist “what difference does religion make in my life?”. So, the framework of his investigation is set by a question that is not focused on truth, but is instead focused on emotions and life enhancement. Now Christianity might be a real stinker of a worldview for life enhancement, and the Bible warns us not to expect a bed of roses in this life. Christianity is not engineered to make you feel good or to make people like you, especially people like female Episcopal priests and GLAAD.
When talking about atheism, he is not concerned with whether atheism is logically consistent or consistent with objective evidence. He is concerned by whether atheists can have the experience of being moral without God. He sees an atheist who has moral preferences and seems like a good person by our arbitrary social standards, and he finds that as “valid” as religion. He is judging worldviews by whether people have their needs met, not by truth.
He says that as a pastor, his method of evangelizing atheists was to encourage them to “try on faith” “go through the motions” “participate in social justice outreach events”, etc. His goal was that they would “step into the stream of the Christian narrative and discover that it held value and meaning to them, and find that they actually believed it”. So his method of recommending Christianity to others has nothing to do with logic, evidence or truth. He is offering Christianity as life enhancement – not knowledge but a “narrative” – a story. If it makes you feel good, and it makes people like you, then you can “believe” it. He says that he was “a Christian by practice, a Christian by tradition”. Not a Christian by truth. Not a Christian by knowledge. He just picked a flavor of ice cream that tasted right to him, one that pleased his parents, friends and community. And now he has new friends and a new community, and he wants to please them and feel good about himself in this new situation.
He says that the Christian worldview is “a way of approaching reality” and “creating meaning” and “identifying meaning in the experiences we have”. And he says that there are “other ways of experiencing meaning”. He talks a lot about his correspondence with people and reading atheists, but nothing about reading Christian scholars who deal with evidence, like William Lane Craig, Stephen C. Meyer or Mike Licona.
Literal, literal quote: (23:35) “Well I think the only access we have to the question of God’s existence or not is how we feel. I mean there’s no falsifiable data that says God either exists or doesn’t exist. It’s all within the realm of our personal experience”. “If living as though God exists makes you happy and comforts you, then by all means, go for it”. This attitude is so popular in our churches today, and where does it end? In atheism. I had a fundamentalist woman telling me just last night how this feelings mysticism approach was the right approach to faith, and that the head knowledge approach was bad and offensive.
I’m going to cut off my summary there, but the podcast goes on for 45 minutes. Matt Flannagan is brilliant, and went far beyond what I wanted to say to this guy, but in such a winsome way. I recommend listening to the whole thing, and be clear where this fideistic nonsense ends – in atheism.
This podcast is a great warning against two views: 1) faith is belief without evidence and 2) religion not about truth, but about life enhancement. Three other related stories might also help: the story of Dan Barker,the story of Nathan Pratt and the story of Katy Perry. I think the Christian life requires a commitment to truth above all. If you think that you can get by as a Christian relying on hymn singing, church attending, mysticism and emotional experiences, you have another thing coming. This is a different time and a different place than 50 years ago, when that sort of naivete and emotionalism might have been safe. Now we have many challenges – some intellectual and some not. To stand in this environment, it’s going to take a little more than piety and emotions.
People today are very much looking for religion to meet their needs. And this is not just in terms of internal feelings, but also peer approval and mystical coincidences. They expect God to give them happy feelings. They expect God to give them peer approval. They expect God to make every crazy unBiblical, unwise selfish plan they invent “work out” by miracle. They feel very constrained by planning and moral boundaries, believing in a “God of love” who is primarily concerned with their desires and feelings, not with rules and duties. Nothing in the Bible supports the idea that a relationship with God is for the purpose of making us feel happy and comfortable. When people realize that they will be happier in this life without having to care what God thinks, they will drop their faith, and there are plenty of non-Christians to cheer them on when they do it.
I would say to all of you reading that if the opinions of others causes you to stumble then meditate on the following passage: 1 Cor 4:1-4 too. There is only one person’s opinion that matters, ultimately.