Hobby Lobby and Religious Freedom

I want to look at Eric Reitan’s post on this issue located here. What I want to do is break it up in sections and hopefully respond to all points. Here’s the first part.

There is much about the recent Hobby Lobby ruling that I’m not qualified to comment on, but I have some concerns about a key claim in this case–namely, that the business owners’ freedom of religious conscience offers grounds for justifying the Supreme Court’s decision. There are two problems, in my view–although my thinking on both is still evolving. The first strikes me as less serious than the second.

1. Religious conscience needs to be responsive to matters of fact.

Suppose Pastor Bob refuses to officiate at the wedding of Pat and Alex on the grounds that he is religiously opposed to same sex marriage. If, as a matter of fact, Pat and Alex are a heterosexual couple, then no court of law would treat his religious opposition to same-sex marriage as a legitimate basis for refusing to marry them. And if Bob sputters that it is a matter of religious conviction that this man and woman are in fact both men–well, I doubt that will fly if the facts don’t line up with the conviction.

In other words, there is the moral premise of Bob’s argument–which is derived from his religious convictions. And then there is the factual one–which isn’t a matter of religious belief and shouldn’t be.

I find this to be confusing to say the least. Pat and Alex are either both males or females. What Reitan wants to do is separate the fact of reality, their maleness (together) and femaleness (together) from the religious belief that maleness (together) and femaleness (together) is immorally wrong for he says that IF THEY WERE HETEROSEXUAL (male and femaleness together) another fact of reality and wanted to get married, then no court would treat his (Pastor Bob’s) opposition to such marriage on the basis of his religious views as legitmate. Question: Why would Pastor Bob object to heterosexual marriage on the basis of his religion? If Pastor Bob believed in ONLY “marrying” homosexuals and a heterosexual couple came to him to get married and he refused on the basis that he didn’t believe in marrying heterosexuals on the basis of his religion (which would be odd indeed) well, he would certainly have the right to refuse to marry people on the basis of his religious conviction but: A. Show me a religion that teaches that. B. It is extremely odd for a side that is “equality” of marriage MEANING all people have a right to marry to be against heterosexual marriage. But let’s say for the sake of argument that Pastor Bob refused to marry a couple on the basis of their religious conviction that marrying heterosexuals is immoral. Should Pastor Bob be forced to marry such a couple? Have the couple been discriminated against illegally? Is it not within the Pastor Bob’s right to choose whom he will marry and whom he will not? Is not the “legality question” being stretched too far in such a case? For example, if the Roman Catholic Church believes that women are not allowed to be priests (also on the basis that they are female and for religious reasons) do “civil rights” extend in such a way as to say that the Roman Catholic Church does not get to discriminate in this way? If say, I believe that women SHOULD be ordained in the Church, the legal category, (to say they have a civil right) does not extend in such a way as A. Ordination is calling that is extended by a particular community in which they are bound by their own standards. B. No one has a right to a particular office. For the State to mandate that particular churches do particular things on the grounds of a certain conception of human rights, in my estimation that would be an overstepping of the State’s boundaries. Hopefully, you can see at this point the similarities. The State doesn’t have the right to make theological pronouncements for churches.

Ultimately, Reitan doesn’t attach any religious belief to the factual reality. I find that problematic from a Christian perspective in which the Church has always attached a religious and thus moral significance to the differentiation of sexes.


Personal Pain and Reality Distortion

I’ve told people about this before and I make no bones about it but on and off, throughout my life, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. At first, I didn’t even know what it was but only when I was put on Prozac by the school physician that I attended at that time did I realized that this was indeed what I suffered from. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a pretty outgoing guy who loves to laugh (in part because it is like a temporary cure to alleviate the pain I feel). People find me rather personable, especially once they get to know me (at first, at times, I seem stand-offish). However, it seems like I’m constantly trying to stay above the surface–as if I could crack at any minute. And what do I mean by that? Well, I’m not talking about harming others. I’m simply talking about having a nervous breakdown. Where I just can’t cope with the daily routines of life. You know, the struggle of getting out of bed, doing the things I love to do, (one of the reasons I don’t blog regularly is because I feel as if i don’t have the energy for it), etc. If I were to judge myself on a scale of 1-10 with 5 being the “surface,” I would probably fall somewhere between 4.5-6-8. Part of my problem is that I spend inordinate amounts of time by myself (and I’m definitely NOT an introvert). And it really isn’t so much that I feel I could “snap” all the time (that comes with particular stressors in my life). It’s that I feel that I’m grumpier and more moody than I was before I ever knew I had a case of clinical depression. Archibald Hart, a leading Christian doctor and researcher in this area of psychological health has a book out called, “Unmasking Male Depression.” He speaks about it’s differences from female depression and I would say some of the symptoms describe me to a tee.

Well, I wrote all of this so far to say that the other day, (Sunday), I wrote on my facebook page, “Some days you feel so lost.” Well, Sunday, I felt that way. I knew what it was related to and I put those feelings in the category with my depression and the pain and hurt I’ve felt from people whom hurt me. “This pain is a knife a fire” and why do the “innocent pay” are references to a song by former Christian rock group, “White Heart” from their song, “Seventy times Seven” which have described my experience with some relationships. Interestingly, I’ve had some responses to my facebook posting and one in particular, by Jon Trott, whom some of you may remember was one half of the party that exposed Mike Warnke. Jon’s words penetrated and were deeply meaningful in the light of the advent of Christ’s coming to this painful world (this is not to put down a notch or two the other encouraging words. I really appreciated how all of them combined together essentially said, “You are not alone. God is with you)”. So, I want to post a link to Jon’s blog that he posted on my page. I hope you find hope in his words.

Personal Pain and Reality Distortion


Sectarian Diversity

This is a musing I put up on an Open Theism page that I’m a part of. When I refer to “Greg” I’m speaking of Greg Boyd who is quite influential in open theistic circles.

I want to ask a question but it will be put more in the form of a statement. This is also actually related to other issues as well, for example the “Health and Wealth Gospel” and is something I’ve had rolling around in my head for some time now. But I guess I’m wondering what the “goal” of open theistic theology is. Think of it like this. Say, back in the 1950′s, the “Health and Wealth Gospel” was virtually unheard of. America did start to see the major celebrity preachers come into the spot light at this time, but it wasn’t until the 1970′s that we begin to see the “Health and Wealth Gospel” come to full fruition. Since that time, there have been numerous articles and books (not to mention negative press from the secular media) talking about scams and the dangers of the “Health and Wealth Gospel” and yet here we are in 2014, and has the Health and Wealth Gospel gone the way of the do-do bird? Nope. Still here. Fundamentalism. Has DEEP roots in America. LOT’S of criticism of that. Still here. Let’s forward to Open theism. Institutions like the Catholic Church (or at least some leaders) consider it to be a heresay. So my question is, what is the goal of adherents of different religious movements and in this case, open theism? See, I’ve heard people complain when they were a prof at a Christian institution that there was a lack of openness to differing points of view ie., some won’t consider evolution and will even fire someone for teaching such “heretical views.” So what is the solution to all of this? What do open theistic proponents hope to achieve? Will they be not be satisfied until he whole world converts? Or at least the evangelical world? Well, I have news for you. Not gonna happen. Greg said years ago that he wasn’t concerned about the results but rather about being faithful. OK. I get that. But does that not mean NOT TRYING TO CONVERT people to your point of view? I mean, there has to be more to all the energy expended than simply being faithful. There has to be the hope of converts. To see, if not great swaths of folk “jumping the broom” and coming over to your side of seeing things then at least SOME. Is there not also the goal of correction? But is the traditional classical view of God like going to go the way of the do-do bird any time soon? Probably not. So would not a better solution be to accept things the way they are? Preach IN YOUR circles an open theistic view but leave everyone else be? In saying this, I’m not suggesting that one not have conversations with willing participants outside your circle, but should the goal be to convert say, Catholics whom predominantly believe in the classical view? Sometimes we see changes on political and theological issues. There is more acceptance of blacks and interracial marriage than years previous. More acceptance of same-sex marriage. More openness on certain Christian campuses to different points of views. But this isn’t across the board. Institutions will have their “defining lines.” Beliefs and policies that separate them markedly different from others. Call this a sectarianism. But it’s there. All around. For everyone. Is this such a bad thing? I just saw a t-shirt that said, “Be the change.” I’m sure it means personal change that will ultimately affect the world. But again, what is the goal? It’s so vague! Change to see what? Sometimes I think evangelicalism (and the church in general) is rife with an over-realized eschatology. “If I get enough folk to see it my way things will be better!” (as far as that goes).


Why We Need The Ashes

When “The Passion of the Christ” film came out there was criticism over the brutal scenes in the movie (a staple of Mel Gibson’s?). Anyhoo, one of my theological brainiac friends Dwayne Polk said something along these lines at the time:

“Christians are more concerned more about the pain and suffering than their own sin that put him there.”

I agree with this assessment for the most part but my online friend Brandon Ambrosino’s blog has asked that we look at the brutality and ugliness of the cross talking about why it is important. You can read that here:

No Beauty Without Ash: The Paradox of True Christian Art (or getting ready for Easter)


Cultural/Political Engagement: Let’s Be Realistic Shall We?

20140310-214502.jpgI was looking at this picture on the internet which shows these stick people trying to convince each other of the rightness or the wrongness of their position. My problem with the picture is that it doesn’t seem to accurately reflect the way that sociological movements work. For an example, if I were to draw a line in the sand and put 99 people on one side of the line and then put one person on the other side of the line, similar to the picture, you may be able to convince a few people to come over to your side and agree with your position and that may simply be on just one issue, but it’s hardly the case that you are going to get whole swaths of people coming over to your side to agree with your position as if it’s all going to be one-sided, again, as the picture shows. It doesn’t seem to work that way in real life. People usually don’t line up on one side of the fence or the other. What you have are a lot of people on both sides of the fence whom are a mixture of different positions on various issues. So, somebody might stand with you on one particular issue but they might feel the opposite of you on another issue and just because of that reason alone, you’re not going to have a consensus amongst people because you prioritize your issues, strong feelings get in the way, you have strong reasons for the other stances you take, etc. etc. etc. Basically, you’re going to have a whole mixture of individuals whom are going to be on both sides of the fence. We call that a spectrum. How this spectrum looks is another quite interesting question. Personally, I prefer to see an arch as oppose to a straight line that is more or less compartmentalized such that there are no clear dividing lines between say, “right,” “left” and “center.” The problem of this picture as I see it, is that it has a triumphalist tone to it. Essentially, “Come over to my side and everything will be alright in the world as long as we have everybody agreeing.” Well, yes this is true, I mean, if everybody agrees on something, agreement is always much better and much less tenuous then disagreement (socially speaking). But again, that’s problematic because it’s just not reality. That’s not the way the world really works. And if the world doesn’t work this way, people despair because, if, for an example, you have something like racism that not everyone can agree on, say, in terms of specific policies ie., affirmative action, or immigrant policies that one might think, are, at core, racist, then there is a lot of injustice going on (according to them). Now, there is a response to this and I’ll talk about that more in the next post, but for now, in closing, it is the expectation itself, that everybody is going to come over to your side and as a result everything is going to be okay, that is a part of the problem of why “nothing seems to get done.” We really have to be more realistic with our expectations.


Kansas And Marriage: Yep! We’re Still In Kansas Dorothy!

I’m just getting around to looking at a couple of different articles here. The infamous one by Andrew Sullivan here (actually looked at this one this week). And this one by Ryan T. Anderson here. Sullivan MAY BE CORRECT that people or businesses of religious belief can withhold services from gay folk PERIOD, IF THEY SO CHOSE to without threat of penalty. But I suspect he is not (I would agree with Anderson on this point). I tend to think he is reading MUCH more into this than what is the case. It’s good that he links us to the law and if you look at the very first part of the law you can see what is going on here. First there is this:

AN ACT concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage

This has nothing to do with with serving gay folk period (full stop) or anyone who might want to endorse same sex marriage or anyone suspected of being “complicit in celebrating or enabling the commitment of any kind of a gay couple.” What it is saying is just below:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:
(a) Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;
(b) solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or
(c) treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.

This doesn’t center out gays per se, which is what Sullivan, a gay writer, seems to want to infer. Nor is it is centring out same sex marriage per se. What it seems to me to essentially be doing is attempting to be neutral toward religious belief and marriage. In other words, if you have such and such religious belief concerning marriage you should not be coerced to RECOGNIZE or celebrate in ANY WAY a marriage that is contrary to those beliefs.

Now, this might seem odd to some because let’s just say you had a person or business that didn’t believe in traditional marriage. Should that person be coerced to do A, B, or C above? Seems kind of crazy seeing that traditional marriage is the in the majority. Who would say, that THAT marriage isn’t legitmate? But I would say that such a person would have a right to not recognize such marriages (albeit to his detriment) on the basis of freedom of religion or association.

But really, that is an extreme case. However, if you were to take, say, a polygamous relationship or incestuous one or what have you, I would say that folk should not have to recognize or celebrate those relationships on the basis of religious belief and the law should allow you to not recognize or celebrate those and not be penalized as well.


Evangelicals: On Reading History Sympathetically

I was reading Rachel Held Evan’s blog about the Bible here.

My buddy, Brent L. White deals with her hermeneutical approach here. See also, Glenn Peoples post here that Brent refers to.

My approach is going to be slightly different in this post. I’m not going to deal with her hermeneutical approach but more with her historical approach or lack thereof and her point of hindsight. In her blog, Evans makes several quotes on different issues found within the Church in general, as well as evangelicalism and more specifically fundamentalism. She has quotes about inter-racial marriage, slavery, science (specifically the Galileo controversy ie., the terra centric and thus a anthropological view of the universe), the annihilation of North American tribal peoples, women’s suffrage, and lastly segregation.

The whole project of RHE’s is that she wants to show that we cannot have certainty as certainty about something has not only been shown to be wrong upon further enquiry but has also been the condition that is present wherein we commit atrocities in the name of God. It also seems to be the case that if we can be shown to be inconsistent in one place, we may be inconsistent in another. Personally, I’m rather sympathetic to the certainty issue and not so much with the inconsistency one.

Regardless, there seems to be an inconsistency on her part because, well, she is a product of evangelicalism itself and as a result could be even more charitable than she makes herself out to be (“Look at the history of the church! [in those quotes] Terrible!”). What I mean by that is this. Evangelicals are notorious for being ahistorical. For example, this is seen in our churches when we come together to worship. Our buildings are rid of liturgical artifacts and we don’t realize when it comes to Bible reading that we read with rose coloured glasses– ie., that our biblical approach is not “objective.” And the same could be applied to what RHE is bringing up in her post. That is, she basically takes history out of it’s historical context. It’s not all about hindsight or progress. What we might want to do is ask about RHE’s and those who look at history the same way she does if they make a proper “distinction between those who love(d) history and those who use(d) history” for their own ideological purposes.

In other words, LOOKING BACK on history we might see what we think is an inconsistency but it is only an inconsistency with OUR times and not necessarily with their OWN times. History is a complex art. Not only must we get our facts right (which I’m not so sure RHE’s does even here on some if not most of those quotes) but we need to balance those facts against the wider backdrop of the times in which those acts took place much of which can come up with significant different interpretations which is ultimately why we have different volumes of books on specific events and persons of history.

One of the things that irks me about evangelicals deals specifically with the ahistorical and thus uncharitable view of that “bastard child” fundamentalism. Yes, there is progression. Yes, we move on to other questions. But I’m not referring to that. I’m referring to looking specifically at the HISTORY of fundamentalism with charitable eyes. Let me provide an example of this.

The other day I was reading a bit of a book called, “The Sword of Lord” by Andrew Himes. The book is an excellent part biography (as Himes was related to some of the big names within fundamentalism as a movement) part history book of fundamentalism. The nice thing about Himes’ book, is that it is sympathetic towards fundamentalism. It’s not that he agrees with fundamentalism it’s that he seems to realize that nothing occurs within a vacuum of sorts especially, in this case, a historical vacuum. Here are a few paragraphs I found interesting in the book.

“In general, a fundamentalist outlook made a lot of sense in a world in which you needed to be certain where to stand in order to survive the next day and to defend the lives and welfare of your family. Fundamentalism was a rational, and emotional, response to a dangerous world where you needed to know who was a sheep and who was a goat, who was for you and who was against you, who might slip a blade between your ribs and who would love you back.

Likewise, fundamentalist religion has reflected the absolutism of fundamentalist politics. Historically, Christian fundamentalists in America focused on identifying and proclaiming the set of doctrines or beliefs that have been held by orthodox Christians since about the fourth century the blood atonement, the virgin birth, the inerrancy of Scripture, the resurrection of Jesus, and his awaited return. Fundamentalists then militantly defended those doctrines against perceived heretical threats from liberals and modernists in the early twentieth century. It is striking, however, that those doctrines deemed “fundamental” did not include such core Christian doctrines as the Triune nature of God. They did not include the doctrine of salvation by faith through grace (the heart of the Protestant Reformation). And they included nothing from the revolutionary teachings of Jesus during his earthly ministry.

It is evident that the selection of ‘The Fundamentals” a century ago was time-bound, driven by the specific terms of a battle over doctrine fought by two groups of people bitterly opposed to each other.

But what happens to fundamentalism when its original enemies have succumbed to the passage of time or have been replaced by new opponents and the specific terms of the debate of a century ago become irrelevant? How does fundamentalism remain relevant in a world of evidently breathtaking diversity an array of different spiritual practices, philosophies, and explorations of the meaning of God and spirit none of which can seemingly claim to be authoritative? What does fundamentalism evolve into when the children of fundamentalists turn out to be more interested in following Jesus and practicing Christian, love than arguing over arcane points, of doctrine?”

I think RHE could not only be a better historian (not someone who uses history for ideological purposes) but someone who realizes the complexity of history and tries to balance it with a more charitable and sympathetic understanding.


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