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Denison Forum on Truth and Culture Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Denison

Denison Forum on Truth and Culture
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Before last Friday's Supreme Court ruling, many of us argued that same-sex marriage could or would lead to polygamy.  Gay marriage proponents were quick to dismiss our warning.  But consider Chief Justice Roberts's dissent to the court's decision:
 
"Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective 'two' in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not.  Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world.  If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.  It is striking how much of the majority's reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage." 
 
Here's the argument I believe we'll see for polygamy.
 
One: as with gay marriage, society has shifted its opinion on plural marriage.  Supporters of polygamy have more than doubled since 2001.  Younger demographics are even more affirmative.
 
Two: if the courts have no right to legislate what gender you can marry, they have no right to regulate what number you can marry.  A Tylenol commercial recently claimed that "family isn't defined by who you love, but how."  To extend the company's logic, family isn't defined by how many you love, either.
 
Three: the law should not discriminate against minorities, including those whose belief systems incorporate polygamy.  As many as 50,000 to 100,000 Muslims in the United States already live in polygamous families.  (A man marries one wife in a legal ceremony, then two or three others in religious ceremonies.)  Do laws forbidding polygamy discriminate against them?
 
Slate author Jillian Keenan recently claimed that "legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice" and concluded: "The definition of marriage is plastic.  Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less 'correct' than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults."
 
And why would the sexual revolution stop with polygamy?  The next step will be "consensual marriage," the belief that anyone should be able to marry anyone, regardless of age or biological relationship.  If those in love are entitled to marriage, why not fathers and daughters (or sons)?  Why not adults and children?  If federal and state marriage benefits are owed to anyone who marries, why would a young man not marry his grandfather to secure medical care and inheritance rights?  
 
In fact, why have "marriage" at all?  According to lesbian activist Masha Gessen, "The institution of marriage should not exist. . . . Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we're going to do with marriage when we get there.  Because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change.  And that is a lie.  The institution of marriage is going to change and it should change.  And again, I don't think it should exist."
 
Philosopher Auguste Comte noted that the only safe way to destroy something is to replace it.  Are we witnessing the destruction of marriage?
 
 
Publication date: July 1, 2015

 

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"Now's the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions."  So headlines a Time magazine essay by Mark Oppenheimer which argues that the government should not be "subsidizing religion and non-profits."  
 
He begins with organizations that dissent from the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, but he doesn't stop there.  Oppenheimer claims that the IRS cannot and should not define "religion," and that wealthy tax-exempt organizations in poor towns are harming their localities.  What of the services performed by religious institutions?  Ending their tax exemptions would increase government revenues, which would then meet such needs.  Or so he claims.
 
Oppenheimer makes exceptions for hospitals and other organizations which perform "an indispensable, and noncontroversial, public good."  And he allows that localities "could always carve out sensible property-tax exemptions for nonprofits their communities need."  But he claims that the rest of the churches and non-profits in the U.S. need to lose their tax-exempt status, as soon as possible.
 
I have three questions.  First, would the government really receive enough increased tax revenue to replace the services of the non-profit organizations his proposal threatens?  Second, can the government really provide such services as well as the private sector?  Third—and this is the crucial question—what happens if his proposal prevails?
 
For our purposes, let's limit his attack on non-profits to those which support biblical marriage.  In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that a school could forfeit its tax-exempt status if its policies "prescribe and enforce racially discriminatory admissions standards on the basis of religious doctrine."  Change "racially" to "sexually," and you've described thousands of faith-based universities in America.  Change "admissions" to "employment," and you've added thousands of faith-based organizations.
 
Gay rights activists have already stated that they're now going to seek protections in employment and housing.  Presumably they will want legislation to cover employment and housing with religious organizations which support biblical marriage.  Would a church that declines to hire a person in a same-sex marriage lose its tax exemption?  Would a school that declines to offer same-sex spousal benefits or housing face the same?  Would federal student loans be withdrawn?  Would government assistance for various programs be threatened?
 
I hope Christians will respond to this worst-case scenario in two ways.  First, let's do what we can to keep it from happening.  Reasoned discourse with society and governmental leaders is essential.  We need to show how our churches and ministries benefit all of society, not just our members.  We need to show that government discrimination against religious beliefs violates both the First Amendment and the separation of church and state, and threatens anyone who holds religious convictions.  And we need to support leaders who understand this issue.  We will win this debate through reasoned discourse, not vitriolic complaints.
 
Second, let's keep our eyes on our omnipotent Lord.  Jesus promised us that "your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:8).  Though imprisoned for his faith, Paul could still testify, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
 
Our omniscient King knows the future better than we know the present. (Tweet this) Whatever happens, we are in his hands.  There's no safer place in all the world to be.
 
 
Publication date: June 30, 2015

 

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Last week we witnessed two monumental Supreme Court decisions.  On Thursday, the court effectively removed the last legal obstacle to ObamaCare.  On Friday, the court essentially legalized same-sex marriage in the United States.
 
Left open in the Friday ruling are major religious liberty questions.  Let's assume for the moment that pastors and churches are not forced to conduct gay weddings, something they are required to do in many countries which have legalized such marriages.  But we don't yet know the implications for church and religious organizations with regard to spousal benefits, employment, and non-profit status.  It's conceivable that my statements upholding biblical marriage could be construed as "hate speech."  We just don't know the larger implications of this decision.
 
Here's what Christians do know.
 
First, we are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  If the survivors of the Charleston tragedy could forgive the alleged murderer and testify to the grace of Jesus, can't all Christians follow their example?  Our witness is never so strong as when it is tested.  Suffering reveals the reality of our faith to a watching world.
 
How to Defend Biblical Marriage: What You Need to Know about…omosexuality, Same-sex Marriage and the Bible by Jim DenisonThese days present a historic opportunity for American Christians to show our culture and the world that we are people of character and grace.  Our witness on this issue is especially significant with younger adults.  Seventy percent of non-Christians ages 16 to 29 say Christians are "insensitive to others."  Let's show the LGBT community and the rest of our culture what we're for, not just what we're against.  Let's show our world that we can disagree without demeaning, that we can be biblical without being bombastic, that we can care for people without endorsing behavior that hurts them and others.  "I love you" and "I accept everything you do" are not synonymous.
 
Second, we are called to speak unchanging truth to a changing world.  For decades, our culture has defined truth as opinion.  The court's ruling on same-sex marriage is the latest example of moral relativism.  If there is no objective definition of marriage, the justices did not "redefine" it—they merely conformed law to popular opinion.  But human nature does not change.  God's word is just as relevant as when it was first revealed.
 
God wants to redeem our cultural darkness with a clear and compelling display of the abundant life only he can provide.  As babies are given gender neutral names and dressed in gender neutral clothes until they decide whether to be male or female, we'll witness the destruction that results as the world goes deeper into deception.  As more and more couples choose same-sex marriage, we'll see the damaging results for themselves, their children and families, and our society.
 
But like the father who welcomed his prodigal son home, our Father welcomes all who return to his truth and love. We have all wandered greatly but have been invited back graciously. Let's join him.
 
 
Publication date: June 29, 2015

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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