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.

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”:

Gay marriage: John Piper won’t endorse traditional marriage amendment

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, headline: “Key Minnesota pastors opt out of marriage fight.”

Excerpt:

Two key conservative evangelical leaders in Minnesota are not endorsing the marriage amendment or directing followers to vote for it, marking the first time during debate over the measure that major faith leaders have not encouraged members to take a stand on the issue.

Influential preacher and theologian the Rev. John Piper came out against gay marriage during a sermon Sunday but did not explicitly urge members of his Minneapolis church to vote for the amendment.

The Rev. Leith Anderson, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s longtime pastor, also said this week he does not plan to take a public side on the amendment, which would change the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Religious observers say the lack of formal backing from the two influential figures could signal that evangelical leaders in Minnesota are taking a less active role in supporting the amendment — a marked departure from evangelicals in dozens of other states where similar amendments have passed.

“Don’t press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism,” Piper said during his sermon, posted on Bethlehem Baptist Church’s website.

[…]Piper had been under pressure from conservative groups to weigh in on the amendment, according to his spokesman David Mathis, adding that Piper did not hold back over concerns the church could lose its tax-exempt status.

“Basically our position is, we’re not taking one as a church,” Mathis said.

John Piper has no opinion about whether the state of Minnesota legalizes gay marriage or not – he doesn’t want to get involved in politics. He is famous for pushing “Christian Hedonism” in his books, and also believes in predestination.

My advice for pastors who are pro-marriage

I think that it is important for pastors who want to take conservative positions and really have an effect on the real world to base their positions on logical arguments and evidence. Many pastors seem to just read what the Bible says to people in their churches, but they don’t really think about how the Bible applies to public policy. They don’t really think that the Bible has any bearing outside of the church – this is called subjectivism, and in Christian circles, it is closely tied to fideism.

Pastors who pass on studying apologetics often find themselves having to back away from what the Bible says in public, because they are afraid of being labeled bigots. If your views on moral questions are just held on faith, then it’s hard to tell people that public policy should be based on private faith. It’s like condemning people to Hell because they don’t like the same flavor of ice cream as you. It is much easier to tell someone that smoking is bad for their health though. Why? Because if you put the work in, you can use arguments and evidence, and it’s easy to be bold when you have arguments and evidence. But it takes work to build your case.

Neil and other people are telling me that Piper has stated his view against gay marriage in a sermon, and he cites Bible verses. My problem with this is that Piper’s sermon only applies to people who are inerrantists – who think that the Bible is authoritative. If Piper really opposed gay marriage, then he would support the marriage amendment, and he would persuade people in his state – not just his choir and congregation – using arguments and evidence that people in his state find convincing.

Here’s my argument:

1) If Piper sincerely opposes gay marriage, then he doesn’t want gay marriage to be legalized
2) To stop gay marriage from being legalized, the marriage amendment must pass
3) To pass the marriage amendment, the majority of Minnesotans must vote for it
4) The majority of Minnesotans are not Biblical inerrantists who are persuaded by Piper’s sermon and his citing of Bible verses
5) Piper’s flock cannot persuade the majority of Minnesotans with Piper’s sermon and his citing of  Bible verses
6) Therefore, Piper will have to have some way to persuade these non-inerrantist Minnesotans, if he sincerely opposes gay marriage

If your friend is on fire, you do not preach a sermon and quote the Bible to him. You throw a bucket of water on him – that’s what works. If you really want something to happen, you do what works. Preaching sermons with Bible verses to your flock and then declining to support the marriage amendment in public with evidence and arguments that appeal to the majority of Minnesota voters is not going to stop gay marriage. There are other pastors, like Wayne Grudem and Mark Driscoll who do study the research that bears on these sorts of issues and they do use evidence to persuade others – even non-Christians. They have arguments and evidence – they are bold and they do not care about sounding nice. Grudem even writes about politics and urges Christians to be involved in specific policies and legislation.

The secular left is very happy with pastors who don’t make any arguments or cite any evidence in public. They are easily marginalized and then non-Christians have NO REASON AT ALL to vote with us on social issues. It even has an effect on Jews and other religions, because they are told by the media “the only reason to oppose gay marriage is religious bigotry”. It’s similar to how Darwinists can marginalize opposition to evolution by pointing to fideistic pastors and then claiming that the only opposition to evolution is religious, not scientific. The pastors who refuse to study and make public arguments and cite research papers play right into this. They make it easy for non-Christians to vote against us because this is just “our view”. It’s not true of the real world. It’s just Bible verses. It’s not Bible verses supported by evidence.

Many pastors also kept silent during the time of slavery and Nazism, and said that they didn’t want to get involved in politics or approve specific legislation. Presumably, they expressed their personal opinions to their church choirs behind closed church doors, citing Bible verses which slave-owners and Nazis would not find convincing. But they thought that this was the best they could do since “you can’t argue anyone into the Kingdom of God” and “Jesus isn’t a Republican or a Democrat”. Not every pastor is going to be bold like a William Wilberforce or a Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and make their case in public.

The continuous refusal to engage in the public square with reasons and evidence is not good for Christianity. In fact, we may even lose our religious liberty when we only speak about Bible verses to the church choir behind closed church doors.

Look at what happened in Canada where gay marriage is legal:

In what they are touting as a “world first,” a Quebec homosexual activist group has launched a “registry of homophobic acts” with support and funding from the Quebec Government’s Justice Department.  Standing alongside Montreal Police Chief Johanne Paquin and Commander Alain Gagnon, the leadership of the group Gai Ecoute launched the anonymous tipster registry at a press conference today.

Included in the definition of actions classified as “homophobic” and deemed worthy of reporting to the registry are: “any negative word or act toward a homosexual or homosexuality in general: physical abuse, verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, offensive graffiti, abuse, injurious mockery, inappropriate media coverage and discrimination.”

A press release from the group says that anyone who has experienced or witnessed an act of homophobia “must” report it to the registry of homophobic acts.

And here’s what happened in Denmark where gay marriage is legal:

Homosexual couples in Denmark have won the right to get married in any church they choose, even though nearly one third of the country’s priests have said they will refuse to carry out the ceremonies.

The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.

Giving sermons in church is safe. But speaking out against gay marriage in public on public policy is not completely safe. If pastors pass on making arguments and producing objective evidence and pointing to current events now – when it is still relatively safe to do so – then we mustn’t shed a tear when the next piece of legislation forces pastors to have to perform gay wedding ceremonies in their churches.  Knowledge and practical wisdom are needed to be a good faithful pastor, I think. By being unable to speak out persuasively on moral issues, we leave ourselves open to the things that happen in Canada and Denmark… and around the world. We shouldn’t wait too long before we make our stand – voting “present” is not a good idea.

UPDATE: People are asking me what arguments Piper should be using instead of the sermons and Bible verses, which have limited appeal to the majority of Minnesota voters.

In order to influence the culture as a whole, Piper would have to use arguments like these:

Philosophical:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

Evidential:
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/06/5640

Human rights:
http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No3_Severinoonline.pdf

If Piper’s goal is to DO GOOD at a practical level, then he has to use public square arguments that are convincing to people who do not accept a very very conservative view of the Bible (which I accept). He has to decide whether Christianity is something subjective and private (about him and his life, and maybe the people who hear his sermons in his church) or public and practical (about society and law). Right now, he is enjoying the liberties that exist because the foundation of the United States is Judeo-Christian, but he has to do his part in public using secular arguments and evidence to protect those foundations, or they could be taken away.

If Piper wants children to *actually* have a mother and a father, and wants Christians to *actually* retain their religious liberty and freedom of conscience, then he will have to GO PUBLIC and use PUBLIC means of persuasion. If every single person in his church agreed with him, and every fundamentalist Christian in Minnesota agreed with him, that would still not be enough to defend marriage.

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