Who is Oppressing Who?

April 29, 2012

News comes this last week of vandalism against a church in Portland by a group identifying itself as “angryqueers@” because of the churches anti-gay stance:

Neighbors who live on Southeast 32nd Avenue and Taylor Street in the Hawthorne neighborhood reported seeing several young adults throwing rocks into the windows of the Mars Hill Church early Tuesday Morning.

When the church grounds keeper arrived, hours later, he discovered nine windows smashed — two of which are historic stained-glass windows. The damage is estimated at several thousand dollars.

It is of course not the only instance of vandalism by such groups. A church sign in Hickory, NC was defaced earlier in the week:

After the vandals were finished with it, the marquee sign in front of Hickory’s Tabernacle Baptist Church read: “Hate Speech Sunday April 22.” The black paint obliterated the sign’s original message: “Marriage Sunday April 22.”

The sign’s other side was scrawled with the message, “Love not Hate.”

The Rev. Scott Hooks said he thinks the vandals were reacting to his church’s stand supporting the proposed amendment to North Carolina’s constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

These events are not infrequent. I personally know pastors who have received death threats for their stances on various policies advanced by the gay agenda. As blogger Wintery Knight chronicles, such persecution is widespread and goes far beyond mere vandalism. Whether it is a public harangue against Christian students at a journalism conference or students keeping a speaker from talking at a public university, Christians have become a major target of homosexual activists.

All of this flies in the face of the story we are typically given concerning gay rights. The normal narrative one hears when gay rights are discussed in the media or academic discussions is as a group gays are a powerless minority being oppressed by an antagonistic majority. Lately one hears about bullying in schools, but the same narrative pop-ups during gay marriage debates and discussions of adoption.

And historically homosexuals as a group have certainly been subject to discrimination of various sorts in the Christian West. Such intolerance has ranged from legal sanctions against specific sexual acts to an unwillingness to officially acknowledge homosexual relationships to mere personal disdain for homosexuals in social circles. And it is no exaggeration to say that as a group homosexuals have been targeted for their proclivities, whether one consider police raids on bath houses or individuals being attacked for their orientation.

I think most people now agree (including Christians), that whatever their personal views of the gay lifestyle, targeting any group for persecution is wrong. And while most professing Christians such as myself find fault with the sexual choices of gay individuals I would think most generally accept the fact that a certain number of people have same sex attractions and that those people will operate throughout a wide strata of the society. In short, most gay folks have attained a level of acceptance in our society that many minorities in our culture could only dream about.

That being said, the advancement of the gay agenda continues to be predicated on the notion that homosexuals are an oppressed group in our society. This continues despite the fact that as a group they have higher levels of education than their heterosexual counterparts, they generally have higher incomes than heterosexuals and have no restrictions in terms of where they live or what they do for a living. As a group gays have a very sympathetic ear in the media as well as educational and governmental institutions. These are measures of equality, but the current concern isn’t so much about equality and freedom as it is about sanctioning and normalizing homosexual relationships. On this front the gay agenda has met much more resistance and as a result gay rights advocates have lashed out against the group they see as being the primary barrier to full acceptance – believing Christians.

So when it comes to freedoms are being reduced, it isn’t the freedoms of homosexuals that are endangered – as NPR reports, the freedoms being denied are those of Christians to speak, worship, associate and educate and work as they see fit.

Oppression is certainly occurring – but it’s coming from a politically organized and unconstrained gay activists and it’s against Christians.


Observations

April 27, 2012

“Men have always one of two things: either a complete and conscious philosophy or the unconscious acceptance of the broken bits of some incomplete and shattered and often discredited philosophy.”

G. K. Chesterton


Friday Fun-ness

April 27, 2012

As the father of four, including a 13-year-old daughter, I can attest to the fact that their growing up occurs much more quickly than this amazing video by director Frans Hofmeester.


The Sad Absurdity of Gender Neutrality

April 24, 2012

For the Christian the idea of gender is rather straight forward. The text of Genesis clearly delineates the origin of two genders:

Genesis 1:27
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

It is an understanding that is later reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 19 in his discussion on marriage. For most of history this has been perhaps the most mundane concept in the Bible; after all, the idea that humans fall into one of two genders on the face of it seems rather obvious, easily discernible at birth. Like many considerations though what was once mundane is now highly controversial.

Beginning in the latter part of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st, gender and its role in the organization of society has become the latest front in an ongoing war against tradition and faith in the West. Starting with the radical feminism in the ’60s through the gay marriage movement of today, there has been a sustained effort to reinvent our fundamental societal construct along egalitarian lines. This effort though is rapidly moving from equality of the sexes to elimination of gender distinctions.

Two recent stories highlight how such efforts fall out. The first story is out of Sweden where activists are pushing for an extreme form of gender-neutrality:

By most people’s standards, Sweden is a paradise for liberated women. It has the highest proportion of working women in the world, and women earn about two-thirds of all degrees. Standard parental leave runs at 480 days, and 60 of those days are reserved exclusively for dads, causing some to credit the country with forging the way for a new kind of nurturing masculinity. In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world.

But for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don’t identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

On this side of the pond, there is another gender battle occurring, namely the efforts of a young man to run for ‘Prom Queen’, a role typically reserved for females. He is doing so in an effort to expand awareness and presumably acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students:

An Arizona teen is crying foul after his high school barred him from running for prom queen.

As CBS 5 is reporting, McClintock High School student River Flanary, who says he is straight, claims he wants to run for queen in an effort to stand up “for those who maybe weren’t bold enough to stand up before and maybe putting that courage in their hearts a little.” By that, he says he means the school’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

When taken together one quickly sees the contradictions that develop in the arbitrary nature of the secular left’s view of gender in our society. When the desire is to expand acceptance of alternate gender identities, activists utilize traditional roles to push the boundaries of our understanding of equality. Once equality is achieved, then the idea of gender is dismissed with all together.

Another contradiction arises when biology comes into the picture. Society is sold on the notion of accepting gays and bisexuals based on the claim that gender is not chosen individuals or imposed by society, but rather is product of certain inherent biological tendencies. “We are born this way!” is the mantra of the alternate lifestyle movement. And yet we see in in Sweden an attempt to eliminate gender distinctions by eradicating society’s imposition of gender roles. If our gender is a product of biology, then gender specific pronouns would merely be recognition of biology not an attempt at inequality. We could no more eliminate gender distinctions by striking ‘he’ and ‘she’ from the language than we could eliminate facial hair by declaring ‘beard’ and ‘moustache’ to be hurtful words.

Such contradictory thinking is of course the result of a secular mindset. As secularists see humans as merely biological, any notions of equality must be advanced by diminishing or ignoring biological differences. This notion of equality is quite different than that imagined by the American founders. Their notion of equality, which was later to expand to encompass our racial and sexual diversity rather than attempt to eliminate it, was predicated on the notion that we all have inherent worth. As persons we are ‘endowed’ by our Creator with equality and rights that transcends our physical distinctions. Unlike the secular concept this notion of equality is anchored in objective and unchanging truth, not the vagaries of language and societal roles.

In the end of course the secularists will fail because they are fighting against our inherent design. Our language and roles merely recognizes gender distinctions it doesn’t create them. The only real question is how much damage the secular left will do before it’s folly is made obvious?


A Great One Passes

April 22, 2012
Chuck Colson 1931 – 2012

Chuck Colson

Greatness as measured by Christians differs significantly than that found in the secular world. Those who are considered great by estimation of the unbelieving world are generally those who have succeeded in some great ambition – perhaps it’s amassing wealth, the building of significant structures or development of new technologies. It might be discovering a new scientific theory or a new land. Often it is the accumulation of political power through founding a movement or even more directly through military success. Whatever the consideration, greatness in this world is measured by what is gained.

The Christian view of greatness is directly the opposite of this in that it considers not what has been gained but what was lost or surrendered. Christ gave His life. Paul gave up his authority as a Jewish leader. St. Francis surrendered his wealth. Loss in this world is gain in the next, and so the greatest wealth of a saint is always the depth of his or her sacrifice.

Because of this upside down economy, the heroes of the faith often begin by being humbled. Paul was literally knocked from his horse in the midst of persecuting the church, originating the idiom to be “knocked off one’s high horse”. Augustine was called by the voice of children to surrender an empty life of carousing and licentiousness. John Newton the writer of Amazing grace and slave trader turned abolitionist was brought low by illness before his conversion.

Chuck Colson’s own humbling brought him to a place of faith, and eventually greatness. He came to national prominence as Special Counsel to then President Nixon in 1969. In that capacity he became a close advisor of Nixon’s, often advocating the harshest measures in dealing with the President’s ‘enemies’. It was in this role he was to become notorious for playing a role in the worst political scandals of the 20th century – Watergate.

In 1974 Chuck Colson was indicted for his involvement in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary, and as he was facing arrest a friend gave him a copy of C.S Lewis’s Mere Christianity. The reading of this book, no doubt coupled with his impending conviction and imprisonment brought the necessary humility into the life of Chuck Colson to accept the grace-filled message of the gospel. The ‘Hatchet-man’ of Nixon became an imprisoned servant of Christ. It was this time in prison that was to lead to the chronicle of his conversion titled Born Again, a Biblical phrase that came to become a popular description of those who had become Christians.

His imprisonment also gave birth to what is perhaps his greatest work of service, the founding of Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry specifically dedicated to work with prisoners and their families. It was a work that was eventually to have national and international impact meeting the needs of the most hopeless in our society.

Colson also turned his attention to the influence of Christians in our culture, using his experience in government to explore the proper role we play as those who speak truth to authority while avoiding the pitfalls of the corruption of power and ambition. He became in many ways the embodiment of the command of Christ to be ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ it. He received a number of awards for the work he did but always turned his influence and wealth back to helping others.

I only saw Colson speak ‘live’ once, at a large gathering of Christian businessmen in the area a few years ago.  Of course he was the highlight of the event, but he was completely unassuming and without a hint of self-importance. His message was simple and direct, that all our wealth and power meant nothing if it was used to influence those around us for Christ and meet the needs of the neediest among us. His words had power because he had been living them for decades by then.

By the measure of those who have no regard for or understanding of the work of the gospel Colson will forever be party to a hated administration. For those who understand grace, humility and the transformative power of Christ Colson will be as the book of Philippians proclaims, one who will “shine among them like stars in the sky”.


Friday Fun-ness

April 20, 2012

Guys, explosive devices, common household objects, and a camera that captures it all at 2500 frames per second. What more do you need?


China’s Transformation and the Power of Christ

April 19, 2012

In a fascinating recent interview about his book  God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China, Chinese author and reporter Liao Yiwu talks about the benefits of the growth of Christianity in China:

“Your question is better served by a quote from the Rev. Wang Zisheng, the son of Wang Zhiming, a Christian leader who was brutally executed for his Christian work in Yunnan province during the Cultural Revolution. His son is now following his father’s example and has become a prominent leader in the booming Christian community. “There is so much for us to do,” Wang Zisheng said. “In our society today, nobody believes in Communism, and everyone is busy making money. People’s minds are entangled and chaotic. They need the words of the gospel now more than at any other time.”

In addition, I personally believe that Jesus Christ was one of the earliest and the most famous dissidents in human history. He was crucified by authorities for spreading the Christian faith and ideas. While I researched for this book, I encountered many Christians like Wang, who were inspired by Christ and were willing to sacrifice their lives for the preservation of their faith. That’s the spirit that we need to bring democracy to China. If democracy comes to China someday, we should thank Christ for inspiring us to stand up for our faith and ideas.”

Yiwu, who has been the object of torture and imprisonment for criticizing China’s Communist regime is not himself a Christian – and yet he sees in Christianity a critical force for advancing democratic ideals against a totalitarian regime. He has personally witnessed the courage it brings to stand up against overwhelming forces of repression and bring hope to otherwise hopeless circumstances.

His views are similar to those of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an atheist who witnessed the repression of Islamic regimes in Somalia also sees hope for change in Christianity. In her memoir Nomad, she claims:

The Christianity of love and tolerance remains one of the West’s most powerful antidotes to the Islam of hate and intolerance. Ex-Muslims find Jesus Christ to be a more attractive and humane figure than Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

The fact that atheists from other countries extol the benefits of Christianity as a force for freedom and human flourishing highlights the stark degree to which the New Atheists in the West have strayed from reason. Rather than thoughtful discernment which separates beliefs by their actual impacts on human flourishing, the New Atheists lump all religious beliefs together as merely different points on the same spectrum of ignorance, evil and delusion.

A belief in Christ offers more than mere succor for impending mortality – it offers the possibility of transformation, a foundation for real moral courage and a stable grounding for human rights and human worth – and it transforms the cultures in which it takes root.

And to the degree New Atheists attack Christianity, to that degree they oppose the benefits it brings and they cause real damage to real lives.