The Thinking Christian

Lately, when confronted with the opinions of my fellow Christians, I ask myself, "What were they thinking?" Truth is, I wonder if they've really thought through the opinions they put forth. In this blog I will attempt to provoke thought on some current issues. My thoughts might not mirror the popular view, but I hope they will help others consider the question, "What would Jesus think?"

Saturday, August 27, 2005

HOMOSEXUALITY: The Really Bad, Nasty Sin

Are there classes of sin? For example, is gluttony an okay sin since so many Christians—as evidenced by our waistlines—partake of it? Is gossiping a mild sin? After all, almost all of us do it at one time or another. Then there is the famous “little white lie.” Who hasn’t used that one? Has anyone ever taken a tablet of sticky notes from work? Just a little moderate thievery never hurt anyone, right? A bit too much eggnog at your Christmas party? Drunkenness once a year or so, isn’t one of the really bad sins, is it?

I once knew a Christian whose son was living a homosexual lifestyle. A Christian sister, whose own unmarried son was living with a woman, expressed shock, judgment and pity. “How can you stand to have your son like that?” she asked. The message was clear: your son is doing a really bad sin. My son’s sin is…normal, acceptable.

How did it happen that homosexuality has become the big, bad nasty sin of all time? I do not deny that it is a sin, I just wonder how it became a special class of sin, sin worthy of a level of contempt and hatred toward the sinner unmatched by that of any other sinful lifestyle.

Consider 1 Corinthians 6: 9 –10:
“9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

In this scripture, homosexuality is listed along with greed and heterosexual immorality. These sins are not rated according to their level of wickedness. Think about it: homosexuality and greed (When was the last time YOU worked overtime so you could buy more material goods?). Both are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Are they equal in your eyes?

1 Corinthians 6 goes on to say:
“11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

According to that scripture, some of the early church had been homosexuals. It’s not the unforgivable sin. It’s not a sin that merits Christians holding signs condemning homosexuals to hell. It’s not a special class of sin. It’s a sin like any other. Let’s remember that and temper our behavior accordingly, showing the grace and mercy toward sinners that Jesus shows, remembering always that “such were some of you.”

Friday, August 26, 2005

Without a Prayer

I recently received an email imploring me to sign the attached petition for “President Bush to reinstate prayer in school.” I glanced at the list and there were my church friends, duly signed and numbered. I, however, couldn’t sign it.

You see, prayer in school is already protected by the US government. To quote from:, “Section 9524 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ("ESEA") of 1965, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires the Secretary to issue guidance on constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools. In addition, Section 9524 requires that, as a condition of receiving ESEA funds, a local educational agency ("LEA") must certify in writing to its State educational agency ("SEA") that it has no policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in public schools as set forth in this guidance.”

According to this guidance, the students are specifically allowed:

“Prayer During Noninstructional Time” This includes saying a blessing before meals, praying with fellow students, praying before a football game or concert, praying that a test will go well, etc.

“Organized Prayer Groups and Activities” This gives Christian students the right to form prayer groups, attend “See You at the Pole,” have Bible studies and Christian clubs.

“Accommodation of Prayer During Instructional Time” Under this heading, students may actually be excused from classes for a time of prayer if their religion obligates them to do so.

That is a lot of freedom. Granted, in their zeal to protect separation of church and state, school officials often make mistakes applying the law. That is when organizations like the Rutherford Institute ( step in to remind the schools of the students’ rights.

If these laws are already in place to protect prayer in public school, what prayer does this petition want Mr. Bush to “reinstate?” It can only mean some kind of publicly mandated corporate prayer in classrooms and I’m not sure when in US history there has been such a thing. I went to school from 1962 to 1975 and never saw “corporate prayer in public school.” But if a thing once existed, do we really want it back? Let’s think about that.

If Mr. Bush were to “reinstate prayer in school,” my first question would be, “Whose prayer?” Certainly a Christian prayer, right? But even then, what branch? Catholic? Anglican? Mormon? Protestant? If Protestant, what branch? Baptists? Pentecostals? Lutherans? Clearly, even if such a prayer were kept within the bounds of Christianity, there is no standard to assure a single, acceptable Christian prayer.

Then there is that whole pesky separation of church and state thing. How would Muslims, Native Americans, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, etc. receive a publicly mandated corporate Christian prayer? I believe that separation of church and state is there to protect us and it should not be tampered with. Sure, things are great right now. There is a Christian president in the White House and the Christian Right has more power than ever before. If we tamper with the Constitution to suit our Christian agenda, it’s all for the best, right?

Probably not. If we weaken separation of church and state while Christians are in power, what happens ten years down the road when a Muslim becomes president and there is a Muslim majority in the US? Will the crack we put in the law open to allow publicly mandated Muslim prayer 3 times during the school day? It could happen. But not if we cling to the safety of separation of church and state and refuse to alter it even for what appears to be a good cause.

Christians expend much energy on non-issues like this. Before we send out a petition and before we sign one, we should research the issue. Is it a real issue of concern? In this case, a little research shows that there is protection for personal prayer in public schools and any public, corporate prayer would be against the Constitution and could lead us to a place where we would not want to be.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What We Can Learn From Billy Graham

Billy Graham, a fellow Christian and Democrat has been an exemplary example of man who knows his purpose in life. In his book, Just as I Am, he wrote, "An evangelist is called to do one thing, and one thing only: to proclaim the Gospel. Becoming involved in strictly political issues or partisan politics inevitably dilutes the evangelist's impact and compromises his message. It is a lesson I wish I had learned earlier." He has also said, "If I get up and I talk about some political issue, it divides the audience. What I want is a united audience to hear the Gospel."

What can we learn from Billy Graham? We can learn that a balance can be struck between our work for the Lord and our political beliefs. Was Billy Graham apolitical? No, he was involved in the political arena in a way few people have experienced. During his ministry, this man was considered to be the minister, confidant and friend to every US president. As a Democrat, he must have had some strong opinions that he shared them with those in power. But the difference between Graham and so many Christians today is that he never lost his focus. He never used his platform for politics or to push a Christian political agenda. He never called for laws to be added or changed to suit his ideals. What he did was share the gospel with more people than anyone who has ever lived. He did not squander his popularity on things of this world, even though one word from him would have been enough to form a huge lobby on any subject of his choosing.

I want to be like Billy Graham. Am I a political creature? Yes. Do I support Democratic candidates and vote faithfully every time the polls are open? Yes. What I don't want to do, however, is to jumble my religion and my politics into a single, driving force. My purpose in life is to glorify God and to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. My politics must always take a back seat to this purpose. By promoting strong partisan politics mingled with religion, one does a disservice both to their political agenda and to the Lord.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Christian Utopia?

When I see the frantic efforts of the Christian right to set the agenda in American politics, to tamper with the Constitution for their own purposes and to lobby for laws that fit within the confines of Christian belief, I wonder what are they thinking?

Are they thinking that it is the mission of the Christian on earth to meddle in politics in order to create some kind of Christian Utopia? A place where Christians rule and set the agenda for all people, whether or not they are believers? A land where individual freedoms end where the Bible begins and God's laws are legislated from Washington?

Is this what Jesus thinks? I think not. Jesus said, "They are not of the world any more than I am of the world." (John 17:16) Here Jesus wants us to understand that we are separate from what's happening here on earth. We aren't called to control it, legislate it, change it or form it. We are called to be apart from it. We are told to "come out from them and be separate." (2 Corinthians 6:17)

We are told that "no one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer." (2 Timothy 2:4) If we are soldiers of Christ, what is our battleground? Politics? Law? Public opinion? No. Our battleground is our own heart. We are told to "endure a good soldier" (2 Timothy 2:3) and "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against...the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12) So our battlefield is not the political arena. It is against hardship and evil in our own lives and hearts. The issues in the political arena would be the "civilian affairs" of which the Bible speaks.

Finally, we are told that we are "aliens and strangers in the world." I am an American who has been living in Canada for three years. There are some things here with which I don't agree. But I am just passing through; this is their country and their problems. I'm not going to try to change Canada into another America to suit my sensibilities. I don't expect Canada to alter itself to accommodate me and my beliefs. In the same way, Christians are of a whole different land. If things are not to our liking, that's to be expected. We are only here on a very brief journey.
This world isn't our business and we shouldn't waste our energy on trying to make heaven on earth. Our job is to focus on our own spiritual condition and to share the good news of God's love to those around us. If we devote ourselves to that end, we will not have time to try to create a Christian Utopia out of a non-Christian world.

Pat Robertson: What was he thinking?

What was Pat Robertson thinking when he suggested that the US should "go ahead" and assassinate Venezuelan president, Hugo Cheves, to save us "from another $200 billion war" because Cheves is a "terrific danger?" Robertson says, "this is in our sphere of influence. We can't let this (all the dangerous stuff) happen."

To keep it simple, I won't delve into the fact that if this outrageous comment had been made by an Islamic cleric against the president of the US, it would have been decried as a terrorist threat. I won't even call into question the sanity of the aging Robertson, even though "Is he crazy?" would be a fair question. I would merely like to ponder what Jesus would think.

What would Jesus think about one of the ministers of the gospel--a man with access to millions of people--using his enormous influence, power and platform, not to present the good news of the gospel, but to call for the murder of a duly elected president of a foreign country? I believe Jesus spoke to this issue when he said, "Do not murder." (Matthew 19:18) Jesus also said, "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken." (Matthew 12:36)

I suggest that, while we reserve judgment day for the Lord, Christians should make Pat Robertson accountable now for this careless and sinful word. We should soundly renounce him and cease all support of his ministry. He has clearly strayed far from his purpose as a minister of the gospel. It behooves Christians every where to speak out against a man who has made a mockery out of his ministry, and fools of our countrymen and his fellow Christians.

I urge Christians to resist the desire to defend him because he is a brother in the Lord or because you agree with his politics. When a brother sins, we must not be seen to agree. We must rebuke him. Calling for murder is sin. Using your ministry to spread hatred and dissension is sin. Jesus has spoken on this issue. It is time we stand with Him and proclaim that we will not accept the unacceptable.

A Question of Marriage

In my youth, I had extremely definitive opinions on any topic. There was yes/no, pro/con, right/wrong and black/white. As I age, I find myself living in a grey haze with opinions like “maybe” and “it depends.” Like so many other current issues, the question of legalizing same-sex marriages renders me ambivalent.
One of my thoughts is that I strongly believe morality cannot be legislated. As a Christian, I find it difficult to adhere to the high standards that Jesus gave us in the Bible. I can only do so with constant help and grace from the Lord, and when I fail, I depend on his mercy. Therefore, it is unfair to expect non-Christians to obey laws in which they do not believe and for which they are not divinely equipped to obey. During his earthly ministry, Jesus overturned not one law, even though there were atrocious ones on the books at that time. When he was questioned on a point of law, specifically whether or not taxes should be paid, Jesus presented a coin to the people and asked. “Whose picture is on this coin?” When the people answered that it was Caesar’s, Jesus told them to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” By saying this, Jesus gave us a fine example of the separation of church and state. He did not try to get the government to implement his spiritual laws. He changed the world at the personal level, one soul at a time. Applying this thinking, I assert that it is not the job of moralists to make or change laws.