By / Apr 28

Recently at TGC, I wrote a piece on how Christians should be thinking through the oral arguments related to same-sex marriage. That day is today, and I’d like to add an additional note about a conversation that isn’t happening that should be happening related to this week’s Supreme Court’s hearing of oral arguments on same-sex marriage.

The affect of a sweeping fifty-state ruling that would nationalize same-sex marriage would serve to alienate a large swath of the American population that believes marriage, whether held for religious or moral reasons, is reserved only for one man and one woman. A ruling of this nature would cripple the idea that Americans of diverse beliefs have an equal share in the representation of their country. Pastors, your church members who voted for marriage, and who had the belief that they “had a place at the table” in America, will be eroded.

Since 2004, over thirty states, and over 50 million Americans, have cast their vote in defense of traditional marriage viewing it as a unique institution unlike other human relationships that advances a rational purpose, namely, to bind men and women to any children they create. And would the Supreme Court move to nationalize same-sex marriage, and depending on the tenor of the opinion’s authors, it has the very real consequence of reducing these votes to acts of invidious bigotry. Normal citizens would have a cherished, historic belief accosted for the purposes of advancing a vision of marriage built on elevating romantic union over the needs of children and social stability. That’s right, an institution upon which there’s thousands and thousands of years of recorded history to build its case for, would be reduced to the dustbin of history in service of a novel innovation unseen before the year 2000.

Even though polling suggests that a thin majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, the rapid advance of culture cannot be equated with the idea that common culture itself is accepting of same-sex marriage. Statistical support does not account for the differentiated cultures that comprise these United States. Portland isn’t Birmingham, for example; and New York City isn’t Wichita. What makes America unique is the belief that Birmingham’s moral beliefs about marriage are equal to any belief that Portlanders may have about marriage. And where disagreements about competing visions persist, electoral persuasion acts as a guide to bring competing sides into consensus.

Same-sex marriage has made remarkable advances throughout American culture. No one can doubt that. In some sectors of the country, same-sex marriage is considered an artifact of bohemian, enlightened taste. Here, it is seen as anathema to question the morality or wisdom of same-sex marriage. Were the Supreme Court to tip its hat in this direction, it only advances the concerning trend of making everyday Americans made to feel disenfranchised from a common culture that thought like them as little as 10 years ago. The pace of this cultural revolution does not require a final word from the Supreme Court.

Democracy is premised on the idea of its being participatory by nature. The future of participatory democracy hinges upon having a population that doesn't feel like political refugees as a result of the dhimmitude of the Sexual Revolution.

Considering these possible threats to America’s moral fabric, what should the Supreme Court do? The prudential option, one that conservatives and Christians should opt for, is to leave this dispute to the states to settle. A decision to leave this issue to the states is a decision to pay deference to democratic procedure. This is a better path forward than using the using the law to bring dissenters to heel.

Regardless of whether one is in favor of same-sex marriage or is not, it should be uncontroversial to allow democracy to work itself out. Foisting a vision of marriage onto a populace that isn’t ready for it, or believes it deeply immoral and harmful to the welfare of society, serves no purpose other than to advance ideology at the cost of civic unity.

In America today, we need less embattlement and less entrenchment. Which means we need more discussion and more debate.

By / Apr 23

If we could rewind the clock to 1973, would the outcome of Roe v. Wade have changed if churches fully embraced the sanctity of life and rallied together to pray for its protection? It is impossible to know.

But what we do know is that our nation may be facing the Roe v. Wade of marriage as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments on several same-sex marriage cases on April 28. The question that confronts us now is whether evangelical churches will fully embrace the sanctity of biblical marriage and rally together to pray for its protection.

“Isn’t it pointless to pray?” some will ask. After all, cultural momentum seems like an unstoppable train headed down the track toward same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision in the Windsor case a couple of years ago seems to set the framework for a Roe v. Wade-type decision on marriage. And frankly, marriage in America, they’ll say, is already in shambles amid the wreckage of the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce. Is it really worth the fight?

  1. The ERLC is calling Christians to #PrayForMarriage because we believe marriage is worth fighting for. As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on several marriage cases at 10:00 a.m. EDT on April 28, we are asking Christians around the country to gather together to call on God to protect marriage.
  2. The ERLC is calling on Christians to #PrayForMarriage because marriage is a picture of the gospel designed to show the way God works in rescuing a bride for Christ through his self-sacrificial love.
  3. The ERLC is calling on Christians to #PrayForMarriage because every child deserves to grow up in a home with a mom and a dad. It is the best environment for them to flourish in as one who is made in the image of God.
  4. The ERLC is calling on Christians to #PrayForMarriage because marriage serves the common good by encouraging family stability in a way that engenders community stability.

Forty years from now, Christians may look back at this Supreme Court decision as the Roe v. Wade of marriage. Or, 40 years from now, Christians may look back at this Supreme Court decision as a moment when God preserved the dignity of marriage against the onslaught of the culture. Either way, the ERLC hopes that Christians will look back and be encouraged by the way we prayed for God to work during this important time. Will you join us?

By / Nov 4

We are becoming a soulless society. The Merriman-Webster online dictionary defines soulless as, “Not having or showing any of the qualities and feelings (such as sympathy and kindness) that make people appealing.” I am no technophobe, but we must come to terms with the fact that our 24-hour-a-day digital environment is not neutral.

Disconnected though connected

Our instantaneous global connectedness through electronics has produced a technological addiction that often disconnects us from physical reality. Rather than liberating us, our technological addiction has resulted in a depersonalizing technological servitude.

Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author of, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. She writes,

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

Losing our compassion

“Alone together,” is a powerful way of describing our present dilemma. Brad Paisley puts it this way:

I'm so much cooler online.
Yeah I'm cooler online

When you got my kinda stats, it's hard to get a date
Let alone a real girlfriend
But I grow another foot
And I lose a bunch of weight every time I log in

We laugh, but it is an uneasy laughter because it hits too close to home. If we depersonalize our own identity in favor of an avatar image version of ourselves, then we will lose a sense of humanity in others as well. Our wired environment is inherently impatient and demands an immediate response and declaration of our political/cultural tribal allegiance to every cultural event. Thoughtful reflection and deliberate conversation are often mocked as a sign of weakness.

And, I fear the dehumanizing impact of our cyber-lives has resulted in a pervasive loss of human compassion.We have traded personally shared values, often forged over countless face-to-face conversations around the dinner table, for a tweetable cultural party identity. Status updates help us provide an instantaneous statement of what side we are on without having to actually do anything but hit the post button.
Media talking heads (liberal or conservative) become our moment-by-moment de-facto theologians and ethicists even though their profits depend on fomenting an outrage culture. Every cultural event is immediately framed as “us” against “them,” and our side scoring points now trump any expression of human compassion. In such a dehumanized environment, all you need are talking points and not thoughtful conversation. Compassion for someone on the other side is immediately castigated as compromise and cowardice.

Thinking of people as people

I fear that we no longer even think of people as people. When the pictures of Michael Brown’s dead body lying in the street began to circulate on the Internet, the immediate reaction was beyond disturbing. In the face of unspeakable tragedy many people on all sides of the cultural divide immediately began to politicize the horrific scene.

One representative evangelical Christians reaction on social media was, “It was not a tragedy. An accident is a tragedy. When you are a criminal, it is simply justice.” Of course, I do not know of a single evangelical pastor who would look a church member in the eye whose son had just died while running afoul of the law and make such a cold assertion. What is the difference? That it is “us” and not “them.”
The flesh-and-blood humanity of people changes the equation.

Christians ought to be those who stand up in our soulless society and declare that these events are not a video game and that we are not talking about avatars but about men and women who are God’s image bearers. As Christians, we have the responsibility to bear faithful witness to Jesus Christ by clarifying who our enemy really is: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The gospel empowers us to see the value of those who society views as valueless and to seek the rescue, not destruction, of our cultural opponents.

Writing about the priority of Christian compassion, Jonathan Edwards points to the way the gospel should reshape our thinking.

Christ loved us, was kind to us, and was willing to relieve us, though we were very evil and hateful, of an evil disposition, not deserving of any good . . . so we should be willing to be kind to those who are of an ill disposition, and are very undeserving. . . .

As Christians we must not get trapped in a depersonalized cyber world. The reality that we are sinners talking to and about other sinners ought to make us communicate our convictions with courageous humility. Satan would love for evangelicals to win political and cultural victories by fighting against flesh-and-blood image bearers as our enemy because it would mean we have forsaken the spiritual war. For what does it profit a man to win social media debates if he treats others as if they have no soul?

By / Aug 4

NOTE: Denny Burk will be one of the speakers at the ERLC National Conference: “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The conference is designed to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches. This event will be held at the iconic Opryland Hotel on October 27-29, 2014. To learn more go here.

If you’ve ever been in a debate with someone about gay marriage, one of the conversation stoppers that proponents often throw out is this: “How does gay marriage hurt traditional marriage?” Or more personally, “How does my gay marriage corrupt your straight marriage?” The thinking goes like this. What two people do in the privacy of their own home ought not concern you, even if they choose to reinvent society’s most basic institution. After all, who are you to judge someone else’s pairing? If some people want to call gay unions a “marriage,” what’s that to you?

The assumption in this line of argument is that marriage is a private good with no public consequences. But is this assumption valid? Is it not the case that a redefinition of marriage affects all marriages? Certainly a redefinition of marriage to allow gay nuptials will continue to sever the link between marriage and procreation. But this is not the only public consequence.

Hanna Rosin had a piece on Slate.com last year titled, “The Dirty Little Secret: Most Gay Couples Aren't Monogamous.” Gay marriage proponents frequently argue that gay marriage should be treated as equal with traditional marriage. Proponents put forth examples of gay couples and their domestic life together to illustrate the point that gay marriage is not different than any other kind of marriage. Rosin argues, however, that such examples are not the norm. She cites one study that “found that about half of all gay couples have sex with someone other than their partner, with their partner knowing.” Many gay couples are not monogamous butmonogamish.

Rosin then concludes with a profound admission:

In legalizing gay marriage, we are accepting a form of sanctioned marriage that is not by habit monogamous and that is inventing all kinds of new models of how to accommodate lust and desire in long-term relationships.

People sometimes ask me, “How does gay marriage hurt traditional marriage?” The answer is right there. Once our society abolishes the heterosexual norm of marriage, what’s to keep it from abolishing other norms as well? If heterosexuality is no longer a norm, then why should monogamy be?

Mark Regnerus argues that monogamy might very well become a casualty of legal gay marriage. Whereas the vast majority of Americans still consider adultery to be morally wrong (source), the same cannot be said for those in gay unions. Regnerus writes:

Because adultery doesn’t work the same way in a significant share of [gay] unions; instead of a single standard, couples negotiate (and often renegotiate) what their standard will be. It’s why Dan Savage can call nine extramarital partners being monogamish rather than serial cheating. Social theorist John Milbank asserts that when the definition of adultery must be tweaked, the exclusive sexual union risks ceasing to be perceived as having unique relevance—that is, not crucial—for marriage in general. We’re not there just yet, but the bridge is definitely under construction…

This, I predict, will be same-sex marriage’s signature effect on the institution—the institutionalization of monogamish as an acceptable marital trait. No, gay men can’t cause straight men to cheat. Instead, the legitimacy newly accorded their marital unions spells opportunity for men everywhere to bend the boundaries.

In short, Regnerus is arguing that the redefinition of marriage will bring with it a redefinition of marital norms. We’ve already seen this happen with the advent of legal no-fault divorce. No-fault divorce laws have given us unilateral divorce-on-demand as the norm. Thus the norm of lifelong monogamy has given way to serial monogamy over multiple marriages. That is why our culture is quite accepting of a man who has multiple wives—so long as he has them one at a time.

In the same way, I think Regnerus is on to something when he says that the legalization of gay marriage may cause a similar revision to the definition of “faithfulness” in marriage. A study published in 2010 reveals that monogamy is simply not a central feature for many gay unions. The New York Times reports:

Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result [of abandoning monogamy], they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.

Did you get that? The article suggests that “monogamish” serial adultery might be the future for all marriages. And not only that, adultery may save the institution from irrelevance! Perhaps this sounds like an absurd suggestion, but should we really be surprised by this? When we redefine marriage, everything is on the table. And there’s no reason to exclude the possibility that the monogamous norm might give way to the “monogamish” one on display here.

So as we appear to be on the precipice of legal gay marriage in this country, here’s a question everyone ought to be asking themselves: How much redefinition are you willing to allow? Is the monogamous norm up for grabs as well? The question is not whether we will define marriage in our culture and in our laws. The question is which definition we will land on. If we abolish the norm of monogamy, that will cause a revision that will affect everyone—both gay and straight.

How does gay marriage hurt straight marriage? Laws establish norms, and norms establish cultures. A thriving marriage culture will not be helped if spouses begin “renegotiating” what faithfulness means. For this reason, legal gay marriage could hurt straight marriage in ways that people never anticipated.

By / Feb 24

With cultural indicators sliding and the influence of the Church eroding in Washington, how can people of faith navigate society in a way that will build bridges toward the gospel without compromising biblical truth? NAMB president Kevin Ezell talks with Russell Moore about culture, politics, adoption and much more.

Fear not from North American Mission Board on Vimeo.

See original post here

By / Feb 20

What constitutes true marriage? Does marriage really have to be between a man and a woman? Or is love between any two adult partners all that is needed? Does marriage have to last a lifetime?

Can we trust the church in its understanding of marriage? If we can’t, then what can we trust the church with?

Ironically, there is significant confusion in the Church. I’m thinking of the church of which I am a part, the United Methodist Church. A number of our ministers have performed marriage ceremonies between same-sex couples, knowing this is a violation of our understanding and doctrine of marriage. At the 2012 General Conference (the only body in our church that speaks for the whole denomination), the policy forbidding the blessing of same-sex unions was challenged but upheld. The conference delegates also left in place the church’s official doctrine declaring support for “laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

At this 2012 General Conference, it was reaffirmed that marriage is between a man and a woman by stating:

We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman. We believe that God’s blessing rests upon such marriage, whether or not there are children of the union. We reject social norms that assume different standards for women than for men in marriage. We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Though numerous clergy have violated the position of the church on this issue of marriage, recently it reached an almost unbelievable level of violation. A retired bishop disregarded the request of the Resident Bishop of North Alabama and the Council of Bishops and performed a blessing of the wedding of a same-sex couple in Alabama. That retired bishop now faces formal charges, at the urging of the Council of Bishops.

Another bishop of our church responded to the whole issue by acknowledging that we United Methodists are divided in our understanding of the nature of Christian marriage, and pleaded that we live civilly with our differences. The way he stated this was shocking to me.

As I have stated many times in the past, I acknowledge my human sinfulness, and do not presume to believe that my position is the unequivocal truth. I cannot know God’s Truth on this issue, and can only stand on my limited conviction of what I believe. I will not force my convictions on those who believe the opposite.

 My question to the Bishop is, given your admission that you “cannot know God’s truth on this issue,” why can’t you trust the Church?  And if you can’t trust the Church on this issue, how do you determine when to trust her and what you can trust her with?

 Who are our chief shepherds and teachers in United Methodism? Our pastors and bishops are our chief shepherds and teachers. The General Conference is the only body that can speak for the church in defining who we are and what we believe, thus the General Conference establishes the doctrine and discipline of the church.

 We don’t need theology based upon our personal opinions. As John Calvin pointed out, the human heart is an idol factory. If we are going to be a church that is a part of the Church, what we need is biblically informed theology so that we can stand against the tide of humanism as the “people of God” set apart to represent God’s Kingdom.

We United Methodists are united with nearly all Christian authorities and bodies across history and culture in how we view marriage: as a relationship instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship between one man as husband and one woman as wife.  From the beginning the church has considered marriage the most intimate of human relationships, a gift from God, and a sacred institution.  Protestants consider it to be sacred, holy, and even central to the community of faith. Catholics and Orthodox Christians consider it a Sacrament. Biblically, it is to be “held in honor among all. . . .”[Heb. 13:4]

In his teaching, Jesus Christ underscored the importance and sacredness of lifelong marriage between one woman and one man. He stated that God had created mankind as male and female, [Genesis 1:27] and that in marriage “‘the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”[Matt. 19:5b-6]

 This is the corporate, and continuing witness of the Church throughout history. We need to keep in mind that how we think must not be restricted to random feelings and even individual interpretation of Scripture. We need to be in harmony with the whole Body of Christ and all the saints now and forever.

I was pleased that recently the United Methodist bishop in Oklahoma was quoted defending natural marriage in his state along with the Catholic archbishop there and a Southern Baptist leader.  Theirs was the true unity of the Body of Christ.

If we can’t trust the church in our understanding of marriage, then whom are we to trust?