I am writing this response to your September 12, 2015 article, “Two Kingdoms in Conflict Over Same-Sex Marriage” (found here: http://townhall.com/columnists/calthomas/2015/09/10/two-kingdoms-in-conflict-over-samesex-marriage-n2049901)
I am making this a public letter to you not because you are the object of my opposition. In fact, your article was suggested to me recently and happens to be just one of many such articles lately having a similar tone regarding same-sex marriage as it relates to the Christian church. In that sense, none of my arguments are meant as personal attacks but are meant to stand in opposition to yours. You are clearly very established and successful in your journalism career and I do not have anything to say against your character. I think it is healthy for all sides in this debate to evaluate arguments fairly and have open minds and to persuade and potentially be persuaded from time to time.
Before I get to your arguments I want to say that both you and I and most other people consider this topic the defining issue of our generation. It is controversial and people care a lot about it. This is why I don’t think it is productive to name-call or label those in opposition with you a “hater”, “bigot”, or “intolerant” these types of labels get us nowhere.
I have to say that personally, this is a very difficult topic. I truly understand both sides and would consider myself open to being persuaded by a consistent and substantive argument. I have not been persuaded up to this point. To confirm, I have known and been friends with many homosexuals over the years (in case you were wondering). For me, however, it is not enough to make a bumper-sticker comment like “love wins” in order to persuade me that the Christian church has been wrong about its stance on homosexuality for the last 2000 years. On the legal side, it will take more than 5 activist judges to persuade me that we somehow missed the plain fact that the authors of the fourteenth amendment weren’t only writing about African-American slaves but had gay rights in mind. The 2/3 Senate and House vote and 3/4 states that ratified the amendment obviously thought that one day their dream of allowing a gay person to have a legally recognized marriage to someone of the same-sex would be realized. Although happy the decision finally came down, lawmakers of the 1860’s probably would question how long it took as, somehow, this overtly pro same-sex marriage meaning was lost to the world for nearly 150 years. Although this illustration is filled with sarcasm, I think the point can be seen. This topic is complicated and I don’t think the easy -go with your heart- answer is really what we want to go with when deciding on this momentous of a topic.
I think both sides can agree that the precedent set by SCOTUS in usurping state authority and the democratic process is not good for the country, regardless of the outcome. When someone is willing to read ideas into the a text that were not the intent of the authors of that text, we are heading quickly in a direction where that text will become completely void of value and thus meaningless. This text was written by men who understood there to be transcendent and inalienable truths than men could not create or take away. Now that the text of the Constitution can mean whatever we want it to mean, it means nothing. Men and women will now use this text as they please and will silence opposition. This means that all those who “rainbowed” their Facebook profile pictures following the Obergefell v. Hodges decision might have celebrated a bit prematurely. Although, they got what they wanted in the short-term, the long-term effects will be bad for individuals and groups in this country. One immediate negative effect of this decision is that it puts evangelical, traditional Christians, in a place of the “loser” and immediately wrong on the subject of same-sex marriage. They short-circuited the way the process is actually supposed to work and artificially picked the winner.
Christians who oppose redefining this sacred, God-given institution, are typically very tolerant in the sense that they tolerate and are inclusive of non-Christians and homosexuals. Being tolerant of something, however, in no way requires someone to believe that something is true that they disagree with. Redefining a word will not make same-sex marriage or homosexuality moral. However, it might further push traditional Christians into a group that is hated and misunderstood.
Christians are worried about several repercussions of this decision. We are concerned about our freedom to act out and vote our conscience. We are concerned about the direction of our culture and the type of world our children will grow up in. Does the fact that same-sex marriage (and likely other aberrant forms of “marriage” that will soon be legalized) will now proliferate in society make it less likely that people in the future will think it is a sin (including the church)? We are concerned about being good stewards of the what was handed to us in this country. Indeed, the burden of proof firmly rests in those who wish to continually change society and government. On every topic, as responsible citizens, we should ask ourselves: Why should we change this long-held system or belief? What will the long-term outcomes be as it relates to liberty, religious freedom, and societal longevity and health? What is the track record of the new movement that is trying to be implemented? Has it been good so far? How would this improve us? Will this change affect children? We are not simply haters. We have a well-integrated worldview that provides good reason for what we believe and if someone wants to make changes of this magnitude, they should persuade us. This will be a tall order them.
Our decision-making apparatus, when it comes to ethical questions, should not revolve around our feelings? This is a narcissistic and closed-minded way of living that can potentially hurt others. Feelings have their place but we need to do what is right regardless of how it feels. Of course, this presupposes that there are things that are objectively right and things that are objectively not right (wrong). If you are one who believes in these types of objective truths, then you should have a basis for your belief in those truths. You should further be able to explain why that basis is better than your opponents basis. If you do not believe in this type of objective truth then you cannot complain when someone else disagrees with you. For it is their subjective truth, which is no better than yours.
Unfortunately, I see too many people today who want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to right and wrong. They say that everyone’s truth is what they make of it then out of the other side of their mouth they say it is wrong for the other person to do or believe something. It is a quandary Cal!
My responses below:
Two Kingdoms in Conflict Over Same-Sex Marriage
9/10/2015 12:01:00 AM – Cal Thomas
Let’s get something straight. America has never been a “Christian nation.”
- When I read your opening remark, America has never been a “Christian nation”, I thought to myself that, at best you are either unaware of the great amounts of data contrary to your claim OR at worst, you could be trying to mislead your readers by equivocating the term, “Christian nation”. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt as I do not know what your intentions are in making such a bold assertion. However, it seems difficult for me to believe that you are truly unaware of the relevant historical data pertinent to your claim. Because of this reason I am more inclined to think that you are equivocating the term. This is truly unfortunate. Lets look at the definition of Equivocation:
- “to use equivocal language especially with intent to deceive. AND …to avoid committing oneself in what one says” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equivocate)
- “The use of equivocal or ambiguous expressions, especially in order to mislead or hedge; prevarication” AND, in logic, “a fallacy caused by the double meaning of a word.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/equivocation)
- Note that the use of equivocation is considered a logical fallacy.
- A counter-example to show how silly your misleading statement is would be me saying something like, “Let’s get something straight. America has never been a Secular nation”. It is a good draw to get reader’s fired up as it is provocative, but it has no force as a claim of truth. You later qualify your equivocal statement by writing, “America is a nation in which Christians — and every other religious and nonreligious person — have the right to practice their beliefs in private and public free of government intrusion…” Amen! However, It almost sounds like you are arguing against government intrusion into things like a Christian’s right to conscientiously object to photographing a same-sex wedding or officiating a same-sex wedding, which I don’t think you meant to do.
Those who believe otherwise have an obligation to say what part of our history was uniquely Christian.
- I find it difficult to understand why the burden of proof falls on the evangelical Christian in this debate. In my opinion, those who seek to change the understanding of history and the definition of long-held social institutions should bear that burden. However, even if I were to provide you with evidence that shows how the founders drew upon Christianity while forming the nation, would you change your mind about evangelical Christians voting their conscience on same-sex marriage? How many pieces of evidence would it take to convince you? The answer is none. No amount of evidence or persuasion would convince you that Christians should vote the way we do. To be honest, regardless of the history of this country, Christians should be asking themselves, “what would God require of me to do?” Even if this nation was founded by Atheists who explicitly claimed that Christianity is worthless, that should not affect our voting record. As it is, however, Christians not only have the Biblical reason to vote the way they do, they also have good historical and legal reasons.
Was it when slavery was legal? How about when women were denied the vote? The Gilded Age? The Roaring ’20s?
- This is such a red herring Cal. The question is not, have Christians always voted the right way or acted right, but, what is right to do in this circumstance. It is easy to point the finger and blame a group that claims to believe in objective moral duties and values. Since we are pointing fingers though, I would say that non-Christians are just as responsible in these circumstances as Christians. After all, this is a Constitutional Republic in which the citizens are the government. Is it not? Besides this has never been a theocracy Cal.
- I am not ignorant of the United States shortcomings. But it is instructive to compare our track record with that of other countries throughout history to see if we are still as evil as you seem to imply.
- As far as slavery goes. It was established on the continent hundreds of years before the country was formed and not in every state. Also, the abolition movements in the northern states were led by Christians. The bloodiest war in our country’s history was fought in order to defeat it. Slave trade continued in other countries including Brazil even after it was made illegal in the U.S..
- Women were given the right to vote in America around the same time they were in other countries around the world. In fact there are many nations who did not allow it until decades later (even some enlightened western European countries!) Some still do not. Brave women using the principles laid down in the founding documents to argue their for their rights is how the process should go. The supreme court should never make law.
- Why couldn’t they gay rights movement make an amendment like they did with prohibition in the 18th amendment? Is it because it can be repealed like the 18th was when the 21st amendment was ratified?
- I know I keep going back to this but, SCOTUS has been very wrong in its decisions in the past including the Dred Scott v. Sanford and Roe v. Wade decisions. These decisions should be resisted. In fact states and officials can choose and have chosen not to obey their decision. See: “The Unsoundness of Judicial Supremacy” at http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/07/15266/ AND “Two Public Servants on Different Sides of History” at http://www.afa.net/the-stand/press-releases/2015/two-public-servants-on-different-sides-of-history/
America is a nation in which Christians — and every other religious and nonreligious person — have the right to practice their beliefs in private and public free of government intrusion, except in some cases of life-threatening medical conditions in which the courts have occasionally intruded. It may make some evangelicals feel better to believe the country once reflected biblical principles, but despite generic quotations about “Divine Providence” that hark back to our founding, that’s difficult to prove.
- Divine Providence is something that implies a God that interacts with his creation, which excludes a deistic (watchmaker) type God. Also, when the founders spoke about God, which God do you think they were envisioning? Allah? Vishnu? It is almost embarrassing how easy it is to show our founder’s affinity to the Christian religion and biblical principles. It is hard to outright prove anything, but there is definitely more evidence for the traditional concept of a nation steeped in Christianity than your view can offer. I don’t think I should have to compile all of this for you Cal.
In the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed last week for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, this flawed notion of a once pristine nation that reflected “biblical values” is again being tested, because we never seem to learn from the past. Davis has since been released by the same judge who jailed her with the caveat that she not interfere with her deputies as they issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
- You set up a straw-man argument on this. I do not personally know of ANY Christians or evangelical conservatives whose argument is that our history is that of a “once pristine nation…” We might be nostalgic of the past and believe in the providential nature of the founding but that does not deny that there were issues we faced. There were obviously biblical values attached with the nation’s founding.
- On a personal note, I get the sense from non-Christians sometimes that anyone (who is Christian) who has ever made a mistake is then not able to make moral judgements henceforth. This is an absurdity and needs to be corrected (for more on this, see my article: “You are such an angry and judgmental person!” at https://williamjosephsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/avoid-rejecting-an-argument-for-fallacious-reasons/) The position of the Left-wing (and yours coincidentally) is to try to shame Christians into not having a say in public policy. “Keep your morals and religion out of the public square and out of public policy” This position, however, cannot be affirmed by citing history or biblical texts. Your only recourse is to try to shame Christians into not voting our conscience.
The late Charles Colson wrote a book titled “Kingdoms in Conflict.” It was about what evangelicals call the Kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of this world. For most evangelicals, it appears, these kingdoms are headed in opposite directions toward different destinations. Attempts by conservative Christians to impose through politics and government the principles inherent in their kingdom have mostly failed. The reason is set out in their Scripture: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
- Cal can you please explain to me how voting my conscience is somehow imposing my will on you? Does not the same principle apply to you? Aren’t you, through the use of government and politics trying to impose your beliefs on me? We live a constitutional republic in which we can vote and act however we may like as long as it is in accord with the laws of the land. You, by voting against traditional marriage etc… are trying to impose your views on my life. I don’t like it Cal.
- You use 1 Cor 2:14 as a proof-text as to why we should not expect non-Christians to understand the Kingdom of God. I could just say, well you wouldn’t understand, but I’ll try to level here. Does this mean that Christians should not vote for or try to persuade others of what they think as being moral and true? This does not follow logically. Nothing sounds more democratic than voting for and trying to persuade through the use of free speech. Unfortunately most of the efforts to overturn thousands of years of understanding regarding traditional marriage, have been taken out of the democratic process and delivered to activist judges (lawyers) who do not care about the democratic process.
- Another note on 1 Cor 2:14. Everyone, before they were a Christian, was not a Christian. In other words, the Holy Spirit is needed in order to understand and discerned spiritual truths for all people. Regardless, people are persuaded and the Holy Spirit is instrumental in the process. Beyond this point, the Bible talks about people being aware of God’s moral code as it is written on their heart (Read Romans 1 and 2) Here Paul (Same author as 1 Cor) is talking about all men and women everywhere, Not just Christians Cal. That we are all held to the same standards and are without excuse even if we are not part of the Kingdom of God.
- It is interesting to me the picture of love that Jesus left for us. He preached against the wickedness and injustice of the tax collectors and spoke out against sexual sin of the prostitutes but still spent his time with them. Eating with and spending time in the homes of sinners while still preaching against it as wrong was not a contradictory thing to do according to Jesus. Loving is trying to win them over as they were at the greatest risk of being excluded from the kingdom of God. Neither is it wrong for a Christian today to spend time with and love a homosexual and still hold the belief that it is wrong.
- Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling their and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves (Matt 21:12)
- John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod because he publicly pointed out that Herod was sinning for marrying his brother’s wife.
- Were jesus and John the Baptist wrong for getting involved in spheres outside of their “spiritual” religion? I think these stories make it apparent that both cared about actual social issues and were willing to rock the boat. We live in a different time than 2000 years ago and citizens of this nation are the government and authority. Back then you did not speak against the roman authority or you could die. But obviously that did not stop them.
If you are part of God’s Kingdom, which has sought in nearly every generation to impose itself on the other,
- How would you define the Christian mission Cal? What are Christians supposed to be like when it comes to a Constitutional Republic? If we roll over on this and other renounce the foundational element of Christian sexual ethics (a male-female foundation to marriage) what will happen? I suggest reading, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, (http://www.amazon.com/Homosexuality-Bible-Robert-A-Gagnon/dp/B002SG6HNS). It presents two Christians in dialogue on the subject of homosexuality.
answer these questions: If you are pro-life, have you ever tried to get a pro-choice, non-Christian to accept your position? If you believe in traditional marriage and practice it, does your example and argument that marriage should be reserved for “one man and one woman” persuade proponents of same-sex marriage? I didn’t think so.
- Cal this is really a silly exercise. In writing this article, you are trying to persuade people who disagree with you with the intent of changing their view. Are you not? In other words, you are trying to persuade us not to try to persuade others who don’t agree with us. Shouldn’t you take your own advice and not try to persuade me? This article is starting to seem superfluous.
- You are right, in a sense, that not everyone is easily persuaded. Nor should they be! But people do become persuaded. Usually it is a slow process over many years but people are persuaded about many things. I used to hate queso (Mexican melted cheese) but after years of living with my wife and being exposed to her joy toward it, I eventually was persuaded as to how tasty it can be! Persuasion is much better than being told what to think and how to think, which is currently how left-leaning folks seem to want to impose. Would you agree? Are you ever open to being persuaded? I am sure you have changed your mind on certain things over the years. If not, you seem very set in your ways and I would even say dogmatic. Interestingly, just as I was, through exposure, more likely to start accepting and eventually endorsing queso dip, so will the broader society, through forced exposure, be more likely to start accepting and eventually endorsing homosexual practice as right and good.
That leaves members of God’s Kingdom with two options: Force their views on those who don’t share them (which an objective observer might say failed during the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition days of the 1980s and the Prohibition era before that), or accept the biblical verdict for that other kingdom: “And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:17 NLT)
- So we are to ignore our neighbor who is about the fade away into the darkness? I would hope you would at least tell me if I was on my way in the wrong direction Cal. Even though I might hate you for telling me that I am wrong, I think it would still be important so that I at least had a chance to turn from the kingdom of this world toward God’s kingdom. Truthfully though, it does not sound like you believe in these two kingdoms so you probably would not tell me that I’m going in the wrong direction.
- Again on the Prohibition era as shown above: passing an amendment to the constitution is about as democratic as you can get. It was even repealed through the same process. apparently in your view laws should be imposed and not voted on??
And what, you might ask, pleases God the most? It is the sharing of His salvation message with members of that other kingdom, which has the additional benefit for those who accept it of changing their outlook on some of those very things most Christians believe. In other words, changed hearts are usually followed by changed minds.
- Changed hearts can be followed by changed minds. Also, changed minds can be followed by changed hearts. Further, right thinking or understanding can lead to right behavior. And in other cases, behaviors can lead to changes in thought (as mentioned above regarding queso dip). Are you giving Christians a crash course on how to evangelize? Either way, Christians should have the right to argue for traditional understanding of marriage. We aren’t necessarily talking about just evangelizing we are talking about the role of citizens in a constitutional republic.
Kim Davis chose the wrong issue for her “martyrdom.” Amazingbible.org lists more than 600 sins mentioned in the Bible, including adultery, fornication, divorce and lying. If Davis wants to be consistent she would refuse a marriage license for anyone who has sinned, which would limit the number of applications to zero since “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
- Thank you again for using scripture to prove your point Cal. (Sarcasm) I do think that this is the most difficult argument for evangelicals and traditional Christians to deal with. Although, I do also believe that it is an “in-house” debate among Christians and Christian Churches how we proceed. I believe that many churches have ignored serious issues regarding sin in the church and now it is coming to a head as we are being told we are hypocrites because we will not allow another sin to persist. This is a constructive critique from you.
- On the issuing of licenses, I would assume it is much more apparent to notice two men coming in for a marriage license than it is to notice a straight couple coming in who both happen to be habitual liars.
- Marriage licenses in this country (as far as I know) have never asked the applicants sexual orientation. That is because it is unimportant to the government! Gay men and women have ALWAYS had the ability to legally marry in the U.S. They could marry any member of the opposite sex. That is because marriage is in its essence and nature has been understood to be between a man and woman. Same sex marriage ceremonies were able to be performed in churches around the country. Civil unions in states provided the same benefits to members of same-sex unions.
- On Kim Davis, every state should according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, every employer including government employers should provide reasonable accommodations for conscientious objectors. She should be able to not provide this service if someone else can do it instead. This could have easily been resolved if she asked to be transferred or asked to have her name taken off the licenses.
Davis had four options: Issue the license, have someone else issue it, resign, or go to jail. She chose to go to jail, which, unlike Rosa Parks to whom she is being compared, makes her look more like a religious fanatic than a martyr. Removal of her name from the marriage licenses would be a good compromise.
Uncompromising evangelicals should not expect more from a kingdom they regard as heading in another direction.
- Expectation of success is not what drives evangelicals but it is obedience to God in Loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourself (Mark 12 and Matthew 22) This is our greatest commandment. Uncompromising liberals and haters of the First amendment and the Constitution and the Bible should not expect less from evangelicals. We will continue to argue for our views instead of just name calling and yelling. Thank you Cal.