Christianity Is Alive and Kicking in the U.S.

The latest crusade to save Christians from persecution in the United States is now focused on Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples according to the law as defined by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.  She was eventually found in contempt because of her continued refusal to obey the law and carry out her responsibilities as an officer of the court based on her religious beliefs, nor would she allow her employees to issue licenses with her signature, which is required.  Rather than comply or step down from her position, she stood her ground and was arrested and jailed on contempt charges.

First of all, I can’t imagine how unfulfilled Ms. Davis’s life must be to go through with this defiant stance against the State of Kentucky and ultimately the Supreme Court.  Her actions seem to be that of a self-imposed martyr.  Given her past personal relationships that have been broadcast for all to read about over the last week or so, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.  In some ways, she is a bit pathetic.  Apparently, she is convinced that this is indeed what Jesus would do, because Jesus didn’t like same-sex marriage.  Of course, there is no hint that Jesus ever said anything negative about homosexuality, but there are plenty of passages condemning it in the Old Testament and several in the New.  That’s all Kim Davis and millions of other Christians need to know.  If attention is what she needed, she certainly succeeded in getting it.  And she is returning the favor to someone who needs it even worse and is very vocally supportive of her actions: Mike Huckabee, a minister and also a Republican candidate for President, who can’t get the media’s attention because EVERYBODY is waiting to hear the next outrageous phrase coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth, who is the current top contender for the White House for the Republicans.  Yes, we are all in shock.  I don’t know a fiction writer today with enough imagination to come up with something this rich.

Evangelicals across the nation are crying out again that there is a war on Christianity.  Religious liberties are at stake.  The liberals are forcing the silent majority to conform to the sinful culture of a nation that is turning its back on God.  They claim that Kim Davis has been thrown in jail simply because of her faith, and before long, it will happen to all Christians.  Really?  Does Ms. Davis’s refusal to carry out her duties as a government official not warrant repercussions, such as arrest (she is an elected official, and therefore cannot simply be terminated — she must resign or be impeached)?  Southern Baptists who were completely against drinking alcohol routinely issued liquor licenses to businesses in their counties and municipalities in their capacity as public officials. And speaking from experience, I can testify that it is difficult to find a more conservative religious person with deeper convictions than a Southern Baptist.  Apparently, serving or drinking booze does not offend God as much as two men who are in love and want to get married.

So how oppressed are Christians in America?  Are they indeed in danger for expressing their beliefs?  Is the government trying to stamp out Christianity and move toward a totalitarian secular society?  If the entertainment industry is representative of the cultural landscape, and I think it is, then Christians can relax.  The faith-based movie, “The War Room,” is the top box office hit this week, and it isn’t being banned or boycotted anywhere that I have seen. It follows the success of another Christian movie last year, “Heaven Is Real.” Both movies were released by mainstream Hollywood studios. The Supreme Court hasn’t ruled them unconstitutional. The President hasn’t issued an executive order shutting down theaters showing them. No one is going to jail for showing them or watching them. In fact, this latest one is taking the nation by storm. So for those who constantly preach about the war on Christianity in this country, please rest assured that your faith is alive and well and still one of the most influential forces in our society, for better or worse.

I Now Pronounce You — Addendum

As a nice addition and confirmation to what I wrote yesterday about the same-sex marriage ruling from the Supreme Court, here is a well-crafted open letter to Franklin Graham at Huffington Post from Paula K. Garrett.

“The Supreme Court did not say churches must change their definition of marriage. It said that states must. You have every right to insist that you will never accept same-sex marriage, God forbid a grandchild comes out in the family. You have every right to say you will never conduct a same-sex marriage. Nothing that the Court said this week implies otherwise.”

See the entire letter here.

I Now Pronounce You

It is now legal in the United States to marry anyone who also wants to marry you.  I’m not exactly sure why we needed a Supreme Court decision to bring us to this place, especially in the 21st century, but here we are.  In spite of the apocalyptic forecasts I have seen on Facebook over the last few days predicting that God’s wrath is now at the explosive point and ready to cover the country in steaming magma, we seem to have turned a corner where human relationships are concerned.  Of course, there have been the occasional displays of defiance we would expect from certain pockets of the country, namely the Deep South Bible Belt communities where homosexual activity is hidden, along with the whiskey bottle, K-Y Lubricant, the porn websites, and the patch of marijuana tucked neatly between the rows of tall corn stalks or mixed in with the soybean plants.

By far the most often-cited reason I have seen for those objecting to gay marriage is the idea that such an arrangement is in direct opposition to God’s intention for humanity, where marriage is the union of one man and one woman in holy matrimony . . .  period.  Not a woman with a woman, not a man with a man, not a man with a goat, not a woman and her cat, not a man and his voice-activated computer operating system.  The Supreme Court decision merely affirms what a majority of states had already decided on their own, which thankfully at this point only deals with marriage between two human beings — probably about as far as we need to push it and still have a reasonable assurance of consent from both parties.

God apparently has fairly strict and narrow rules for marriage, not to mention sexual positions, contraception, and Sunday alcohol sales.  If the one-woman-one-man plan is what the Bible or any other religious text teaches you about God and marriage, then you have every right to live your life according to those guidelines as long as you can do so without infringing on the rights of others.  You can encourage your family and friends to do the same.  If you are influential enough to have a whole congregation of people who voluntarily abide by your religious convictions, that’s just peachy.  However, what you should not be able to do in this country is use those convictions to create, sustain, and enforce public policies that are no longer upheld by a good portion of the population.

Marriage ceremonies are no doubt an important part of religious practice all around the world, which is perfectly fine.  But here’s a news flash: marriage does not BELONG to religion.  Atheist couples should be able to publicly proclaim their love, devotion, and commitment to one another, free of the interference of a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque.  Their union should be recognized by local, state, and federal governments as a legally-binding contract, even if the marriage is performed by a secular, government official instead of a priest, minister, rabbi, qazi or madhun.  Oh wait, that is EXACTLY what happens with many atheists couples, and it has been happening legally for a long time in this country.  Wonder what God’s view of an atheist marriage is?  Hmmmmm.

There is no place for legislation in the United States based solely on religious teachings, which is obviously the source of objection to same-sex marriage.  If you are in such a position of authority, either through election or appointment by elected officials, you have an obligation to put your personal wishes and desires aside to serve your constituents, and this includes your religious views.  If doing so is too difficult for you, then I suggest you either find some other job where your religious beliefs won’t be compromised (and keep in mind that not all private-sector jobs will accommodate your faith either), OR you should find a country where your religious beliefs are enforced.  Good luck with that second option.

I hope same-sex marriage is here to stay.  The benefits to loving gay and lesbian couples is only now being fully understood by the heterosexual community.  One of the main objectives of our Constitution is to protect the dignity of our citizens and to secure their right to pursue happiness.  While it seems a bit embarrassing that we needed a Supreme Court decision to make it official, I am relieved that ALL people who want to be married in this country can now do so, complete with the accompanying privileges, obligations, and benefits.  You may kiss the . . . spouse!

Facebook: The Filterless Forum

There are now close to a billion daily active users on Facebook, which represents about 15% of the world’s total population.  All age groups are represented, along with just about every race, socio-economic level, political persuasion, sexual preference, religious affiliation, and geographic location on the planet.  Facebook users are a fair cross-section of the developed world.  Without a great deal of effort, this star of social media sites allows us all to have a personal website that is dynamic, entertaining, informative, and intimate.  One of the most attractive features of Facebook is how it encourages us to be spontaneous, quickly posting photos, videos, memes, quotations, and links, along with our own commentary, with just a few clicks.  Because we have these capabilities with our mobile devices, we can practically broadcast our lives to the Facebook world if we choose on a minute-by-minute basis (extremely annoying to many of our Facebook “Friends” perhaps, but nevertheless most easily accomplished).

Another aspect of the Facebook community is the significant impact the platform has on social discourse.  We are able to post opinions, either our own or those with which we agree, and launch discussions that can go on for hours, even days, and involve dozens of people from around the world if our Facebook “family” reaches that far.  I find it interesting how Facebook provides us with a perceived sense of anonymity when we engage other people, especially about controversial issues, and how so many of us become bold and even aggressive in defending our positions, most likely with an intensity that we would not exhibit in person or in a letter or even in an email.  Our reactions through Facebook posts seem more immediate, urgent even.  We write sentences that we would be hesitant to say if we were looking into the face of the listener(s).

While I’m certain that many Facebook users present a persona on their page that merely masks their true identity, I think more often than not Facebook users reveal who they truly are in their posts, how they feel, what they hate, love, fear, and desire.  Facebook removes the filters that we employ under most other circumstances of human interaction.  At the same time, at least from my own experience, this type of filterless forum clearly illustrates to me how deeply divided our society is on so many issues.

All my Facebook Friends are in the U.S., so my experience is limited to political, social, and religious hot buttons in this country.  I have intentionally kept Facebook Friends whose opinions differ from my own, sometimes rather heatedly, to specifically remind me of these deep divisions and to help me understand why they exist.  While I do see plenty of extreme posts from the left and the right that are intended to do nothing more than incite anger and protest, I also see thought-provoking posts that warrant serious consideration and discussion.  Even posts that are reactionary in their origin can lead to productive exploration of the underlying issues.  The political climate in America seems to have lost its center altogether, and the raw nature of Facebook often provides evidence of the fact.  Perhaps it is also establishing a forum that can lead us away from the outer limits and back to a place where we can all find some common ground.

Who’s Waging the War on Christianity?

Anywhere from 79% to 87% of Americans identify themselves as religious, with the overwhelming majority being Christian. Not a single member of the U.S. Congress claims to be atheist, at least implying that 100% of Congress is religious. The overwhelming majority faith in Congress is Christianity.  And yet, increasingly we hear that there is a war on Christianity in this country.  My question: who exactly is waging this war?

On the official recess calendar for the U.S. Congress posted by the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, the only official holiday listed is CHRISTmas.  It is still legal for the Old Testament Ten Commandments to be displayed on government property.  There are Congressional committee meetings that still begin with prayer (a Christian one, specifically), and you can bet that plenty of state legislatures open their sessions with a Christian prayer — Allah’s name is never invoked, you can bet your last BBQ sandwich on it.

The dominant holiday across the land, especially in the commercial arena, is Christmas.  It has almost completely engulfed the national holiday of Thanksgiving (which still has strong overtones of Christianity — who are we thanking, after all?) and is extending its reach further back in the year to early November.  Hanukkah is like a subdivision of the metro area of Christmas in this country.  And forget Ramadan — it’s not even a hamlet out in the rural countryside compared to the big city of Christmas.

There are several cable television networks that feed Christian programming around the clock, and plenty of other cable networks include Christian programs or movies with clear Christian themes.  Local affiliates broadcast Sunday morning church services in many areas of the country.  There are loads of U.S. publishers that do nothing else than print Bibles and Christian literature.

Yet when someone decides that the prevailing presence of Christianity is not appropriate in a certain venue, particularly in a government setting, the angry reaction that has become so predictable now is “Christianity is under attack in America!”  Really?  Are the rights of Christians all across the nation being trampled on because some of us see the real value of separating Church and State?  If some of us want to see a little more equality among religious practice in the U.S., or even a safe haven from religious practice for those with no faith, does that hinder Christians from going to church and worshiping just as they have been doing for generation after generation in America?  Somehow, this just doesn’t feel quite like war.

The Gamble of Ignoring Climate Change

If climate change resulting from human activities of burning fossil fuels and land clearing is all a hoax, then we have a whole lot of very corrupt scientists all around the world (about 1,300 of them). If it is true, then we are probably facing some dire consequences resulting from rising ocean levels, severe droughts, and wide-spread heatwaves. I’m not sure which scenario is worse.  The anti-intellectualism that characterizes so much of the American population feeds the IGNORE-ance surrounding the issue.  Unfortunately, it would appear that there are plenty of elected officials across the country who perpetuate this ignorance for fear of threatening the profits of some corporate sectors and disrupting certain segments of the economy.  Scientists had to start using the phrase “climate change” to dispel a growing misconception that “global warming” meant that temperatures should be soaring at all locations on the planet as a result of the greenhouse effect, which is not what the term really means. Perhaps the current predictions about the effects of rapid climate change proposed by climatologists are off the mark; maybe they will have to adjust their theories (which is what good science is all about).  Be that as it may, I will trust their theories over the agendas of politicians and the “common sense” opinions of the uneducated masses every day of the week and twice on Sunday. http://climate.nasa.gov/