April 25, 2014

Friday in the wild: April 25, 2014

It's been a while since I've done an edition of FitW (let alone blogged anything at all, for that matter). However, in light of a few recent current events, I felt moved to post something, centred around the theme of same-sex "marriage."

Christians are often asked, "Why are you so obsessed with homosexuality?" My answer is, "Because homosexuality is the wedge issue by which a secular society is trying to vilify and marginalize Christians." Or, as a friend on Facebook has also pointed out, it is actually a sex-obsessed society that is demanding answers from us. (Similarly, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler has said that the media frequently contacts him for an opinion.) It makes you wonder who is really obsessed, doesn't it?

The latest salvo comes from the Law Society of Upper Canada, which has voted not to accredit Trinity Wesstern University's planned law school, meaning its graduates will not be able to practice law here in Ontario. The reason is a covenant that TWU students must sign, pledging that they will abstain from (amongst other things), sexual activity that "violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman":

Many members of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s board of directors condemned the policy as “abhorrent,” though several said they would still vote in favour of allowing graduates to practise in Ontario. Ultimately there were 28 votes against accreditation to 21 in favour.

[Full Story]

The preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that "Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law." However, if you believe in the supremacy of God and the rule of his law over human sexual relations, apparently you are not welcome as a lawyer in Ontario—even though whom you agree not to sleep with while voluntarily attending a certain school, seems to have little to do with the actual practice of law, if anything.

In pop culture news, Jars of Clay front man Dan Haseltine came out this week (pun intended) with his support for same-sex marriage, writing on Twitter, amongst other things: "I don't think scripture 'clearly' states much of anything regarding morality"; and, "I don't particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is 'wrong.' I care more about how it says we should treat people."

While I considered how I might respond to what I saw as a rather obvious self-refuting position—after all, isn't "how we should treat people" a profoundly moral question?—C. L. Bolt of Biblical Apologetics managed to say it far better (and probably more civilly) than I could. He writes:

It is inconsistent of you to state, on the one hand, that "most people read and interpret scripture wrong," and on the other hand to claim, "I don’t think scripture 'clearly' states much of anything regarding morality." If Scripture is not clear enough to interpret, then you have no place to tell other people that their interpretations are wrong. . . .

Your statement assumes that there is a way we should treat people. That means that there is also a way we should not treat people. That is, some ways we treat people are wrong. But you have already stated that you do not care about the stance of Scripture on what is wrong. You seem to be quite thoroughly confused. . . .

You need to be honest with yourself Dan. You are not merely questioning. You have an ax to grind against those who believe, upon the basis of Scripture, that "homosexual marriage" is wrong.

[Read An Open Letter to Dan Haseltine, Lead Singer of Jars of Clay, Concerning His Recent Comments Regarding the Nature of Scripture and "Homosexual Marriage"]

Update: Haseltine has responded to the ensuing controversy with a retraction/clarification of his remarks, citing a lack of clarity on his part thanks to the limitations of a 140-character tweet. He writes:

In the heat of discussion, I communicated poorly and thus unintentionally wrote that I did not care about what scripture said. Thus, the tsunami hit. It was picked up by bloggers and written into editorials before I could blink. And rightly so, people were shocked and offended by my statement dismissing the value of scripture. I got it. And possibly, I got what that combination of statements warranted for response. I should've chosen my words more wisely.

I care about what scripture says. It matters.

[Read Reset. (Context...Tangent...Apology)]

Hopefully, saner heads overall will prevail and a good, productive discussion can occur.

Finally, Jonathan Rauch at The Daily Beast, himself a supporter of same-sex marriage, nonetheless argues well against the oft-repeated claim that opposing same-sex marriage is the moral equivalent of opposing interracial marriage. His first point is the best one:

Virtually all human societies, including our own until practically the day before yesterday, took as a given that combining the two sexes was part of the essence of marriage. . . .

By contrast, marriage has not always been racist. Quite the contrary. People have married across racial (and ethnic, tribal, and religious) lines for eons, often quite deliberately to cement familial or political alliances. Assuredly, racist norms have been imposed upon marriage in many times and places, but as an extraneous limitation. Everyone understood that people of different races could intermarry, in principle. Indeed, that was exactly why racists wanted to stop it, much as they wanted to stop the mixing of races in schools. In both intent and application, the anti-miscegenation laws were about race, not marriage.

Why should this distinction matter today, if both kinds of discrimination are wrong? Because asking people to give up history’s traditional understanding of marriage is a big ask. You don’t expect thousands of years of unquestioned moral and social tradition to be relinquished overnight. And you don’t claim that holding to a venerable idea about marriage’s fundamental nature is morally the same as yoking marriage forcibly to a racist ideology which has nothing to do with it.

[Read Opposing Gay Marriage Doesn't Make You a Crypto-Racist]

I have been contemplating an extended blog series on homosexuality and the church for some time. The introduction would have included a list of reasons why such a series was both timely and necessary. The longer I delay, the longer that list becomes: and the more inevitable the series itself becomes. We are beyond the point where we can try to ride this controversy out. In time, silence will become capitulation.