Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Same-Sex "Marriage" and the Path Between Condemnation and Celebration

A few days ago, Russell Williams, a Southern Baptist pastor, wrote a Facebook post about Kim Davis' jailing. And it has been shared 47,569 times to date. Before I respond, here is the post in its entirety:

Since I am a pastor of a southern Baptist church please allow me to weigh in on the case of Kim Davis, the lady in Kentucky who refuses to issue a marriage licenses to a same sex couple.   
First: This is not a case of the government forcing anyone to violate their religious belief. She is free to quit her job. If she quits her job to honor God surely God would take care of her.   
Second: This is not a case of someone trying to uphold the sanctity of marriage. If she wanted to uphold the sanctity of marriage she should not have been married four different times. If she is worried about her name being affixed to a marriage license that goes against a biblical definition of marriage, she should not have her name on the last three marriage licenses given to her.   
Third: This seems to be a case of someone looking to cash in on the religious right. Churches all across the south will throw money at her to come and tell congregations how the evil American government put her in jail because of her faith in Jesus. 
This is why we are losing.   
This is why people have such disdain for evangelicals.   
Not because we disagree but because we don’t take the bible seriously. If ever there was a case of “he who is without sin cast the first stone”, this is it. If ever there was a “take the log out of your eye” moment, this is it.   
We must stop looking to the government to make America a Christian utopia. Our kingdom is not of this world.   
We must abandon all thoughts of fixing others and let Jesus fix us.   
If we want sanctity of marriage then stop cheating, stop having affairs, stop looking at porn, stop getting divorces. That is the way for the church to stand up for the biblical definition of marriage, not by someone martyring their self-righteous self.


Since you are a pastor in the SBC, it is my hope that you are seeking to honor Jesus and uphold His Word in everything you do. You clearly have influence, not just over your flock, but with many more people in the wider world. That's why your recent Facebook post has me so troubled. I am worried that your line of thinking will lead many further away from the heart of God.

You mentioned that Kim Davis is not being forced to violate her religious beliefs. You say that if she has a problem issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she should just quit her job. That is a viable option in my opinion. However, make no mistake. Her religious freedom—and yours and mine—is being violated. It started with bakers and florists, sermon subpoenas in Houston, and now a push for churches to lose their tax-exempt status. Kim Davis lost her freedom (albeit for a few days) because she listened to her conscience rather than the government. It's not because she supposedly broke the law; it's because of her Christian beliefs. Don't believe me? Then explain to me why San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom didn't go to jail. Why not Jerry Brown? Both refused to obey the law when same-sex "marriage" was illegal in California, but neither of them spent time behind bars for their acts of civil disobedience. 

You also wrote that this wasn't about someone trying to uphold the sanctity of marriage, and then you took what, in my opinion, is an unfair shot at Kim Davis. "If she wanted to uphold the sanctity of marriage she would not have been married four different times," you wrote. First off, you should know—or you should have done some research to discover—that Kim's marriage problems occurred before she came to know the Lord. As a born again Christian, she has a clean slate. We ought to be celebrating Jesus' victory in her life, rather than mocking her broken past.

In addition, divorce on its own is not sinful. As a student of the Bible, are you not aware that Jesus permitted divorce for sexual perversion? And that a believing spouse is not bound to her unbelieving husband? This is the classical evangelical view, and though some may disagree, citing more or fewer biblical grounds for divorce, it's not right to simply equate divorce with sin. While divorce is always a tragedy and always the result of someone's sin, it is not in and of itself necessarily sinful. 

You continued to slander Mrs. Davis, saying, "This seems to be the case of someone looking to cash in on the religious right. Churches all across the South will throw money at her to come and tell congregations how the evil American government put her in jail because of her faith in Jesus." Do you have evidence of this devious scheme? Unless you do, I think you owe Kim Davis an apology. 

Mostly, I want to respond to what you said about John 8. You wrote, "This is why we are losing. This is why people have such disdain for evangelicals. Not because we disagree but because we don't take the Bible seriously. If ever there was a case of 'He who is without sin, cast the first stone,' this is it." For a guy who doesn't like to see people throw stones, you have pretty good aim.

Jesus did not condone or celebrate this sin of the woman caught in adultery—the passage to which you alluded. In fact, He called it what it was—sin. But today we are being told that to call homosexual behavior or same-sex "marriage" sin is to be a hate-filled bigot. By codifying same-sex "marriage" in the law books, our government is mandating that we call what is evil "good." And if Jesus wouldn't do that, neither should we. 

I join with you in calling for the church to "stop cheating, stop having affairs, stop looking at porn, stop getting divorces." You're right—these are all ways that the church can take a stand for the sanctity of marriage. Maybe I'm not that cynical, but I believe that most real Christians—those who have been born again by an encounter with the risen Son of God—are actively fighting against sin. 

The real reason many people have disdain for Christians is because of the other thing Jesus said that day with the adulterous woman: "Sin no more" (John 8:11). Jesus called her actions "sin." He was calling her to repentance, to put her trust in Him. If Jesus had ignored, tolerated, or celebrated her sin, she might not have paid with her life that day, but she would pay with her eternal soul on Judgment Day. Her only hope was to put her faith in Jesus, so that her sins would be placed upon His shoulders at the cross. That's a message that the world all too often just doesn't want to hear because it means owning up to our sin. There's no such thing as salvation if there's no such thing as guilt.

The scenario you call for—one in which Jesus' disciples don't speak truth into culture, naming sin when they see it and calling sinners to repentance—is not evangelical. It's Amish. What you've inadvertently called for is the retreat of the church from culture and politics. Because if we cannot speak while there is sin in our camp, we will never be able to speak.

There is a middle way between condemnation and celebration. Today, the angry mob that Jesus had to deal with has been replaced by a cheering crowd of gay-rights activists and well-meaning but mistaken Christians who don't want to hurt others' feelings. That actually just makes things all the more difficult. Calling a sinner to repentance can look a lot like condemnation against that backdrop. But love does not want to see someone face an eternity apart from God. That's why Jesus died. And that's why we can never grow numb when our society celebrates something that breaks the Father's heart. Kim Davis understands that, and it is my prayer that you—and the church all across America—would too.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Real Reason Kim Davis Is in Jail

A few weeks ago on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked presidential candidate Ben Carson, "Simple question: Does the Bible have authority over the Constitution?" Carson seemed to stumble for a minute, sensing the trap, and managed to respond with "That's not a simple question. I think probably what you have to do is ask a very specific question about a specific passage of the Bible and a specific portion of the Constitution."
Since Carson couldn't give a straightforward answer, I assume there would be times when, for him, the Constitution would trump the Bible, and vice-versa. But I think he's wrong—about the question not being simple.

What if the Constitution was written in light of Scripture's revelation? What if our Founding Fathers, in their collective genius, designed a form of government that takes into account the nature of man as revealed in the Bible, the created order of the world as given to us by our Creator, and the basic moral framework found, among other places, in the Ten Commandments? If this is the case—as I believe it is—then there will be no conflict between Holy Scripture and the U.S. Constitution, at least not ultimately. That is, unless an oligarchy of nine unelected judges tinkers with it illegally. 

And that was the dilemma facing Kim Davis—and many other local, state, and national officials—beginning just a few weeks ago when the Supreme Court rendered its verdict in Obergefell v. Hodges. With gay "marriage" now the law of the land, Davis would have to choose whether or not she would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or follow her conscience and refuse to do so. In the end, she took a middle road. She stopped giving marriage licenses to everybody—gay or straight. She said she did so to avoid the charge of discrimination. 

Some will say that our Constitution is largely a secular document—with no explicit mention of God save "In the year of our Lord"—but I think our Founders were more savvy than that. By and large, if we take the Constitution as written and amended, there is virtually no conflict between faith in Christ and citizenship, nor between conscience and country. It's not a perfect document—that's why the men who wrote saw fit to allow for amendments—but certainly, followers of Jesus have been able to submit to and defend the Constitution in public office without fear of such a conflict ... until recently. 

Decades ago, the Supreme Court began ignoring the Constitution, though the document is clear: Only Congress has the right and responsibility to write laws. Yet the Supreme Court has seen fit on numerous occasions to bypass the legislative branch of our federal government and decree from on high a new way of life for us all. In recent years, the highest court in the land has found in the Constitution a separation of church and state that goes far beyond the First Amendment, abortion on demand, and now same-sex "marriage." 

And so, Kim Davis found herself required to uphold a law that wasn't a law when she first took office. And for bravely obeying her conscience and defending the actual Constitution—not a fictionalized retelling of it—she lost her freedom. 

Dr. Carson, the next time someone asks you which has higher authority: the Bible or the Constitution, make sure you ask your interviewer to clarify whether he or she means the actual Constitution or this patchwork thing the Supreme Court has seen fit to impose on us. Because if it's the real thing, there's no conflict. And if it's the "new and improved" version, I pray, for all our sakes, you'll cling to your Bible.