Archive for the ‘Religious’ Category

Mind the Gaps

I recently read a book about disasters. One of the author’s principle points is that geological disasters, such as earthquakes and volcanoes, happen largely at random. We have little to no ability to predict their occurrence with any skill beyond saying that an event of a certain magnitude is likely to occur in a certain region at a certain rate. People hate random events, however. We ascribe meaning to everything, and refuse to accept that our actions have no bearing on the Universe writ large. As such, we look for supernatural explanations for events. We find some way to blame the event on ourselves, or, better yet, someone else, and then take steps to rectify the situation. When a rare event does not recur during our puny lifespans, we are satisfied that we have successfully appeased the previously affronted deity.

One example in the book was a massive earthquake in the eastern Atlantic which devastated Lisbon in 1755. As Portugal was a predominantly Catholic nation, their Calvinist Dutch allies refused to send aid, not wanting to subvert the chastisement brought upon them by a God who was trying to shake some sense into the papists. Meanwhile, the Jesuits in the city blamed the disaster instead upon the growing tolerance of Protestant groups in town. Were this disaster a message from God, it, apparently, carried with it no effective lesson. It’s like smacking your sleeping toddler upside the head in the middle of the night and leaving them to figure out what they did wrong.

The problem for the ancients is that these calamities were shrouded behind several layers of missing scientific theory. That which defied the logical explanations of the time was given over to the realm of God. Entire theologies were (and are, we’ll get to that) built around a providence that plugs holes in our understanding of our world and the Universe in general. There is a problem with building theology around miraculous events: what happens when we learn that they are not miracles? Lightning bolts occur for scientifically understandable reasons. They are not the whimsical fury of a God lashing out at trees and buildings and ships and the occasional person. Earthquakes don’t judge Papists. Volcanoes aren’t a chastisement of pagan Romans. Hurricanes aren’t sent by God to punish Oil Baron Texans. Tornadoes aren’t a judgment on sinful foundationless mobile houses. All of these things happen because the natural world functions by a set of rules. They are following the chaotic ramifications of natural law.

So, what happens when you build your theology around a God that casts lightning from his hands, or, on smaller scale, doles out pancreatic cancer on the righteous and unrighteous with statistically identical frequencies? One of two things. You ignore the world around you, denying truths for the sake of faith in an alternative reality. This requires that you put your head in the sand and avoid facts – these inconvenient realities shake the foundations of your faith and must be avoided. Alas, such people can’t go to the moon. They can’t cure cancer if cancer is God’s divine dart gun. The other option is that one day you learn, really internalize, a particular fact, and your worldview will fall to pieces like a house of cards. Putting God into your construct of the Universe, defined by your ignorance, is a good way to create for yourself a god as ignorant as you are.

Where does this leave one who would acknowledge that the world is on the order of 4.5 billion years old? That species arise by natural means – at least, that no hand is required to make it so? That disasters of all sorts: global, regional, local, and personal, happen for a variety of predictable reasons, and with deterministic likelihoods? The Universe and its inner workings were once filled with gaps, and with so many holes in our understanding, it was sensible to bundle them all up into a variety of natural gods. No longer. There are no remaining natural mysteries for which the most likely explanation is the supernatural. Even what we don’t know is adjacent to what we do know.

To me, the final frontier is the human condition; the human mind; the human soul. It is the gap that remains in the providence of a God who has intervened in demonstrable ways in the past. But what happens when the selfishness of sin is explainable by the selfishness of genes? Or when thoughts can be reprogrammed by a computer (future) or cable news (present)? Or when the soul is a natural manifestation of a consciousness struggling to negotiate that tricky moment when one day, in the arbitrary future, it will blink out of existence? Is it that all theologies are gap theologies? Plug the gaps, and what remains?


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Stephen Paddock did not “snap”. He meticulously planned to do evil. It is my suspicion that he did this to prove that he could do it – to prove that those idiot amateurs were incompetent and anyone with half a brain could do tremendously more damage. But that’s irrelevant. Stephen Paddock is depraved. So are we.

You see it all the time; someone else’s kid grows up to be a drug addict and you tut-tut-tut at their parents and you look at your angelic kids. I’m better than those parents, a silent, hidden commentary says. But then your kids do the same. The families of mass murderers are always mystified and stunned. Don’t think they are just naive. YOU are naive. That could be your brother or father or son. The drug addled woman that leaves her kids in a hot car at Wal-Mart could be your sister or daughter. The jilted lover that takes out revenge, the loving father with a penchant for prostitutes, the trusted accountant with the off shore shell corporation, the kind housewife with an urge to steal things she doesn’t even want, the police officer whose mind goes blank for just the minute around the time when he shoots an unarmed perpetrator, the guy in the pickup who rams the distracted teenager off the road, the mom who drives home after one too many drinks and kills a toddler. These people are not remarkable. They are not outliers. They are representatives of the human condition, guilty of the corruption that infects all of mankind.

You included. Me included.

Thinks you’re better because you don’t murder? Jesus has news for you. The same infection is in your soul. Think maybe this is for one class of people, but not your class of people? You go to church! You are a police man! You are in the military! You are kind to animals! You donate time and money! You help the helpless! No, you are a whitewashed tomb. And no, you’re not exempt. No one is righteous, not even one.

This condition is not new, it’s as old as there are people. It’s restrained by the rule of law and the societal norms of morality. Both of those are crumbling around us. During the Enlightenment, humankind felt that it was getting better, smarter, more compassionate, more illuminated. Then we killed 100 million of our fellow men and women in a decade’s worth of World Wars. We will not heal ourselves. We will not evolve out of this. Evil, as a general trend, increases proportionally to the population. Sure, for a decade or two things might look better. Sure, specific societal ills may decrease. But our true nature will break through in the end, and we will, sometimes, shoot 600 people. Stephen Paddock was not an Other. He was an archetype of the depravity of all of us. Don’t think yourself immune, lest you too lose focus and expose the evil of your soul.

For all that it has been abused over the centuries, this is one of the key draws of Christianity. Biblical Christianity does not make believe that we are perfect. It acknowledges our universal brokenness. It points to a second archetype, a new Adam, in the form of Jesus. It doesn’t make believe that we become Jesus, it surrenders to that fact that we can’t, and instead falls upon its knees to humbly beg Jesus to save us. From ourselves.

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As it is Christmas season, you may be wondering, “Daddy, who is Santa and why does he bring people presents on Jesus’ birthday?” This is a good question. Recall, on your birthday, people bring YOU presents – it’s not like the Easter Bunny delivers candies to the elderly when it’s your birthday. So why does Santa do it at Jesus’ birthday? Is Jesus OK with it? Is Santa Jesus?

First off, let’s get one thing straight. Santa Claus is not Jesus Christ. They have some similarities though, and Santa knows Jesus. Both of them were born, both of them died, and both of them live on in the hearts of men, women, boys and girls. While Jesus rose from the dead and is still alive the same way he has always been alive, Santa lives in a different way.

Santa Claus is the new name for a man named Saint Nicholas, who lived in Turkey (the country, not the sandwich) a very long time ago, back when Turkey was part of the Roman Empire. He loved God and loved Jesus, and felt that giving people secret presents was a good way to show others that love. Jesus thought that this was a nice idea; after all, Jesus gives gifts to people that have done nothing to deserve them too. While Jesus’ gift is the biggest gift of all, eternal life, Santa gives littler gifts, gifts that you can hold and play with, or wear and play in. Jesus loves illustrations and parables. Santa is like a large, jolly parable in a red suit, giving gifts to the nice boys and girls, despite the fact that all are naughty and fall short of the high standards of true nice. Santa is like grace, if only grace rode a sleigh and ate far too many cookies.

So, how does it all work? Well, when St. Nick (that’s what his friends call him) died, he went to the heavenly registrar’s office and was given a few options for the jobs that he could fill in Heaven: gardener, roofer, lumberjack, poet. They were great jobs, but what he REALLY wanted to do, was to keep giving presents to boys and girls. He thought to himself, “When I was an imperfect man, I could give presents to a hundred children in my town. Now that I’m reborn with a perfected body, I should be able to give presents to all the children in the whole wide world!” As I mentioned before, Jesus thought this was a good idea. St. Nick was so happy to hear this that he decided to celebrate the yearly event on Jesus’ birthday.

There was a problem though: the people still living on Earth didn’t know when Jesus’ birthday was. You might think, “Come on, they didn’t know the most important person ever to live’s birthday??” Yup. They didn’t know it. Remember, Jesus wasn’t famous for almost 30 years after he was born. He was born in a manger, for crying out loud. His parents knew days and weeks and months based on the Jewish calendar, and most people on Earth were using a whole different calendar by this time. Everyone forgot, like when you don’t play with a toy for a month and it stays stuck behind the couch until you move.

Finally, someone decided to re-use a holiday called Saturnalia as Jesus’ birthday. This sent shivers down St. Nick’s spine. Saturnalia was at the end of December. Almost all the people in the world, particularly at that time, lived north of the equator. You see, in December, it is winter in the northern hemisphere. This is because of the way the earth is tilted with respect to its orbit around the Sun.

But that’s neither here nor there. The point is St. Nick was going to get cold when he delivered all those presents. Very cold. So cold that he decided that there was no way he could do it unless he lived someplace that was cold all year round so that he could get used to the chill. This was actually convenient, as Jesus thought it was prudent for Santa to stay away from people during the rest of the year. Jesus knows people, you see. People will steal, they’ll pillage, they’ll do all manner of sinful things. It was best for St. Nick to keep out of sight. The North Pole was just the place.

There was another condition on his new employment. He still had relatives on earth. He didn’t want his friends and family to know that he was doing the presents, so he had to come up with a new name. He decided on Santa Claus, because his first elves all came from a place that would eventually become Holland. They had strange accents, and used to mess up his real name all the time. He finally just started calling himself what they were calling him by mistake. It stuck.

So, by a few dozen years after he started, Santa Claus was all set up on the North Pole. He had elves to make toys – mostly swords and baby dolls at first, but eventually everything up to micro-electronics. The big companies, you see, waive their patents for Santa, since it is fantastic marketing to have one of your products seen in a sleigh. He had some major logistical challenges when getting started as well. Back then, there were no airplanes, no trains, no cars, and barely even any roads. Horses found the North Pole to be far too cold. He thought about riding polar bears, but they would get too hot in certain parts of the world, and they occasionally eat children, which is particularly inappropriate during the Christmas season. Really, the only option was reindeer driven sleighs. He requested an allocation of supersonic magic dust which was delivered within two business days by an armored vehicle. He was all ready to go, but no one knew that he was coming.

He started it out as a secret, then, dropping a toy here, a book there, some sweets in a shoe (that’s what people called candy in the old days), tasty meat and so on. People were confused, but grateful. Soon, they started to realize that all of this stuff was showing up on the same day, December 25th, Jesus’ birthday. Even more confused, they set up guards to watch. Nobody could see Santa though, at least not anyone who was too tall to ride the rides at the amusement park. Only kids could see him at first, because believing is seeing.

People sometimes say that seeing is believing. But this is all backwards, especially when it comes to Santa Claus. In order to see him, you have to know that he’s there, and look based on that assumption. Me, I saw him a lot of times when I was a kid. I saw his sleigh in the sky when we were driving home from Grandma’s house some years. I heard him on the roof. Once, he even knocked over something in my room in the middle of the night! See, Santa, though quick, is not very graceful. It’s all those sweets (candy), and the fact that he only gets one really good workout a year, on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, since I saw him when I was a kid, I can still see him. In fact, your mother and I interviewed with one of his elves, Henry, right before you were born. It’s standard procedure for Santa to consult with parents before a baby’s first Christmas. Even though Santa’s a nice guy, he’s only around one day out of the year. Some large elves make believe they’re Santa in malls and such, something which Santa is fine with: this is also great marketing. Your parents are around all the time, so we make the rules and Santa is completely fine with that. In fact, he uses our rules when determining whether you’re naughty or nice. So, you better be good for goodness sake. And good is defined by this guy, right here, Little Pea. Don’t you forget that!

We told Santa to only bring you one or two presents each year. I know, I know – but think about it little baby. You have all you need already, right? We have a little house! A bunch of presents wouldn’t fit! So, when Jesus’ birthday comes around, you get a couple presents from Mom and Dad, and a couple from Santa Claus. Occasionally, an elf or a reindeer, or even Mrs. Claus (they met in Iceland when he was on his way to the North Pole – it’s a whole different story) will send you a little present.

One thing is very important to remember. Some kids get a lot of presents from Santa, and it’s a good thing because if they didn’t, the economy would collapse. Some get very few, and we set aside some of your presents to help bring holiday cheer to those less fortunate every year. For you, you must understand that you can be happy with what you’ve got; a little or a lot. Stuff isn’t what makes you happy, and presents aren’t what makes Christmas special. It is the bigger things like family and love, friends and fellowship, mystery and holiness, and most of all Jesus that make Christmas special.

One last thing…not everyone believes in Santa Claus. Some folks can’t even see him when he’s right in front of them, dancing a jig. They think it’s silly (though they don’t complain about the presents) and there are even some people who think that you shouldn’t believe in Santa either. It’s possible to live your life without believing in anything, or believing certain things so much that there’s no space for other things. Maybe one day your relationship with Santa will become a bit more complicated than it is now, and maybe you’ll start to see him a different way, but just remember: there’s mystery, magic, and miracle in this world. Whether it’s Santa and elves or not, doesn’t much matter. There’s more to life than what you can see with your eyes and hear with your ears. Believing is what makes life worth living.

So, Abigail, this year on Christmas Eve, keep your eyes on the sky. Listen for bells. Look for a jolly man in a red suit. It’s possible you’ll catch a glimpse, or even a smile and a wink if you’re lucky. Enjoy these simple, happy times. You’re only young once, and sometimes, it’s harder for old people to believe the way that you can. When you meet such people, give them a wink and a smile. Maybe, if they’re lucky, they’ll see Santa Claus too someday.

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In Media Res

I haven’t written anything in several months, and then this. I acknowledge up front that this is going to be a little, uhh, outlandish, obscure, and, for most, mind numbingly stupid or incoherent. But, here it goes.

About 12 years ago, I tried to believe in a Young Earth creation scheme. I worked at it for at least half a year. I read a few books. I was a physics major at the time. I found the books to be insulting. They were written by people who were scientists in fields other than physics or cosmology or geology, folks who could leverage an impressive sounding title into sales while they dabbled in fields that were clearly not their day jobs. Not that I was the bees knees in theoretical physics – but it’s pretty easy to spot a charlatan. But I admired them for trying. They felt strongly obliged to believe that the Universe and all is in it was created 6,000 years ago and worked hard to justify that belief using some semblance of science. Having hit a few dead ends in that foray, I decided that the only way that one could believe in Young Earth creationism was to believe that God made a young Universe to look old – very much older than 6,000 years (let’s just call it 13.8 billion years, plus or minus a couple hundred million). He made galaxies way far away, all hurling away from each other for some reason or another. He made light en route, a trillion raised to the quintillion photons made in a flash, all looking as though they came from somewhere else, but, apparently, didn’t. They just were. It would be an incredible deceit, one that doesn’t seem very much in God’s character.

For a few solid years after I just ignored the problem. Then I started to ignore that I was ignoring it. Next, I started getting into real science and history a little bit again; after that decided, you know what, enough of this. And now I’m back on the path of regular science. I still have seen only two ways for someone to believe in Young Earth creationism without holding tremendous contradictions in their mind: 1) To believe that God created the Universe in media res, or 2) To be completely ignorant of science and to distrust all who grapple with scientific inquiry hence avoiding the problem of dealing with their ideas (ps, there’s no global warming).

Recently, this came up again, this time at Bible study with some really bright people who are legitimately struggling with how to synthesize the Bible with what they see in reality. When I moved away from everything looking like Young Earth creationism, I didn’t flush the Bible down the toilet as gobbledygook, mind you. While my goal here is not to explain what I actually believe, in brief, I see the creation account as being a true framework for the concepts under girding the generation of the Universe while not meant to describe the blow by blow with anything resembling scientific rigor. Much of Genesis falls into that category for me. Just as the incarnate Jesus didn’t know how to build a laser, the human authors of the Bible weren’t aware of string theory. Putting that aside, I spent the last few days trying to come up with something anyway. I was looking for a 3rd option to the Young Earth creation account; one that was a bit less implausible, one that could not have holes punched in it quite so easily, and one that didn’t ignore the Universe as we see it currently. It involves a bit of slight of hand, a bit of technicality, but I think it fits the bill.

So, what about this…

We know that the Universe is not the first thing to exist. God existed beforehand (and that’s a necessary assumption for this worldview, so you must grant me it or obviously we’re not having this discussion). Not only did God exist beforehand, but SOMETHING else did too. Angels were, prior to the creation of the world, cast from heaven to hell. So, God, angels (many of them), at least two locations. What housed this? Some spirit world, but where does that occupy with no Universe, no space, no time? Eh. Who knows. Unimportant, just know that when the Bible says “in the beginning”, it doesn’t mean “in the beginning of everything.” It just means “in the beginning of this thing, this reality in which the reader is currently living.”

What if God made many many Universes from his other-world beyond the beginning and the end of the horizon? What if he made trillions of them, boiling and bubbling, exploding and collapsing, coalescing and dissolving. There was a flash, there was heat, eventually light, then gas, then swirly collections of it. On fusion, on gravity, on nova and star dust. Ho planets and comets and asteroids and satellites. As these trillions of Universes writhed and convulsed, each every so slightly different from the other, God selected one and said, “this is the one in which I’m going to reveal my glory.”

From here, this basis, our (“the”) Universe was copy and pasted into existence. First the void, the fabric. Next the light; already en route because it was already made, just not “made”, not “real” because it was elsewhere not “here”. Then a planet, then oceans, then land, a story repeated quadrillions of times, a massive merger from an existing place into a newly created realm. Plants, here, maybe everywhere. Animals, here at least, why not everywhere else? Lastly man, he too already in progress, copied en masse with a pre-history all his own.

It’s hard to contradict such a theory. After all, this new Universe looks just like an old one. It basically IS the old one, though it isn’t. I don’t know how it all works, dimensions and whatever; the question of what exists before the Universe is part incomprehensible (as in, it’s not a valid question) but mostly metaphysics. There are problems with my idea, for instance, at what point does man become MAN? Where do Adam and Eve fit in? I’ve always liked them as the first spiritual man, the first man in God’s own image, in the image of his Son. There were men since who were not bearers of Christ’s image, why not also men before? It’s a bit herky-jerky I know, but no worse than Adam and Eve’s children moving into cities made up of who exactly?

Anyway, that’s what I came up with. If I die and learn that the Universe is 6,000 years old, maybe this is the general mechanism. At least this way, I wouldn’t have to ask, “but yeah, why does it LOOK so old,” because this at least builds in an explanation for that. Or maybe it’s 6,000 years old and the shells in the mountains are from the flood and anything else is a sort of demonic conspiracy. Consider me duped.

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I have little spare mental energy to write things most of the time, so when I have an idea for a post, I make an appointment in Outlook for it. Then Outlook nags me for weeks, as I kick the reminder 8 hours into the future over and over again. I do the same thing with Outlook at work for any number of chores, but I’m not here to talk about Microsoft Outlook.

My most recent pending topic has been about the predictability of nature and in how that impacts God’s sovereignty. This is a topic with obvious ramifications to both Christians and non-Christians alike, though oppositely obvious.

Hurricane Sandy came ashore after being predicted roughly 9 days before landfall. The models were sniffing at the solution that ended up occurring for a week – a preposterously long time and, as an aside, a marvelous job. The timing of this prediction doesn’t really matter. We understand nature to work in a certain way and make predictions based on this. It is, then, a deterministic system. Given more perfect knowledge, more accurate predictions can be made.

Such systems occur all throughout science. Exactly what should happen most often does happen given a set of well understood initial conditions. There are some exceptions to this of course. There used to be more exceptions. As time passes and our understanding of our environment increases, there are fewer and fewer unexpected results.

For centuries, people, not so much theologians, but regular people, have assigned to God the unexplained. Natural events of unexplained origins, are assigned divine cause. The idea that God has authority over all things is called sovereignty. I’ve been thinking about exactly when this sovereignty has to take place to have its effect recently. In a very real sense, God did not have to control where Hurricane Sandy went. We, with our computer models, knew where it would go, just based on the physical dynamics of the atmospheric system. There was no needs for divine steering of anything. Sure, two weeks out we didn’t know where it would go. If we had more data, better models and faster computers, would we? What if we were able to push it to three or four weeks? At some point, God barely fits into the system – in the limiting case, he’d have to perturb the young universe in such a precise manner that 13 billion years later, Hurricane Sandy would interact with a blocking high pressure system and slam into the New Jersey coast – everything else could be predicted. Once set in motion, it was not to be stopped. (pardon my passive voice)

To the atheist, this is all painfully obvious. It’s because there is no God, and all divine manipulation that we perceive is our own layer of interpretation on top of perfectly reasonable outcomes driven by an initial set of conditions. For the Christian, the opposite is true. Yes these things happen, but they happen to us for a reason, specifically to steer us to some greater trust or faith, some deeper understanding and some more transcendent experience of LIFE, real life. They happen for ANY reason – a plausible reason can be generated for any outcome in hindsight. This worldview could, if abused (or possibly, if allowed to reach its own conclusions), support the abolition of science in favor of the comfort of faith.

To do so would be dishonest. The world is not as simple as that. It does wheel through the universe under the control of knowable laws and forces. If there is a God who is somehow sovereign in the universe, he must operate through the determined courses of predictive science.

Now, I happen to believe that God can intervene within this system, though it certainly doesn’t seem that he does so on a macro sense very often. I may have less answers now that I did in the past, but I do know that the sun will rise and then set tomorrow. I could even tell you the times. But I still can’t explain to you why I find it beautiful. Somewhere in there, there’s truth.

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My brother, not impressed by bullying rhetoric, did not find Alan Miller’s Spiritual But Not Religious article on CNN compelling. I tend to agree. He misses the point, interpreting religion primarily as something to be affiliated with. He would like to draw a line in the sand and bunker down on one side of it – it is this that he seems to define as the value of religion.

I don’t disagree with his theme, even if I think he has missed the importance of it. To be “spiritual but not religious” is shorthand for “to define one’s own set of beliefs that provide succor and personal satisfaction”. As with many modern discussions on spirituality, the disconnect between modern society and the generations before boils down to a fundamental misalignment in the understanding of truth and reality. If there is some divine being, particularly an all-powerful one, then that god defines reality. To think that we could envelope ourselves in our individualized shroud of self-generated spiritual ecstasy does not make sense when the God of the universe has revealed the truth of himself in some different way.

If there is such an all-powerful being, our existences would be defined in terms of him. The spiritualism of today defines our existence in terms of ourselves. If there is an external, objective truth, a greater reality, then we do not define it, by definition. Doing so would make us to be god. In a sense, this is what the spiritualism movement attempts to do – start with oneself and learn to understand the universe in that egocentric manner.

If there is no universal truth, no reality, nothing external or eternal, then it makes no sense to worship a higher power – nothing could be higher in such a universe, as nothing really IS. In this universe, religion makes no sense, and humanism is the only meaningful “god”.

“Religion” is in need of a new PR man, as people tend to see the results of religion more than the genesis of it. Religion is a way of relating to something higher than you. It assumes an ultimate reality, and provides the framework through which mankind can interface with such a reality. In Christianity and Judaism, it is the God-inspired words of the Bible. In Islam, it is also the God-breathed word, though this time through the Prophet Muhammad. Eastern religions muddy the waters a bit more, but there is still an enlightenment, a higher form of life to be aspired for – with the middleware of religion providing ability to access the divine.

In generations past, everyone assumed that things were real, and that truths were true. In modern times, this has made people very uncomfortable, likely because a single truth renders many other statements false. People do not like this sort of exclusivity. Spiritual but not Religious is a rebellion against the idea that a truth exists and/or can be known. Because of this, science and religion find themselves as strange bedfellows in their common distaste of post-modern cuisine. Science sees the universe as an objective reality that can be understood and should be studied for this purpose. Religion sees the purpose of the universe as an objective reality that can be understood and studied. In both cases, reality is assumed, and systems are built from that basis.

Miller’s article didn’t deal with this at all. He says that we live in a world with sides, and you should pick one rather than stay on the sidelines. This is a necessary step in learning how to live in a world where truth exists, but to focus on a point further downstream is to highlight why religion should cause division – it’s no wonder that the areligious would find his style distasteful. First, establish that there is a truth. Next, point out that it is knowable. Lastly, mold your life around the outcomes of such an understanding. That’s where one starts down the road of religion.

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A couple days ago, North Carolina passed an amendment to their constitution defining marriage to be between a man and a woman.  I don’t agree with such an amendment, though I’m not as fired up (and frankly, as closed minded and vitriolic) as others who have been lambasting the vote.

A few things about the State here…

  1. I don’t see why the state should be involved in this question.
  2. That said, citizens in North Carolina have a right to define their laws via constitutional amendments…
  3. …which is an epically stupid way to run a state, as California can attest to.  Referendums are a horrid way to govern.  There’s a reason why we have a representative government.  The people are short sighted.  Mob rule has never and will never work.  My apologies to the communists and anarchists.  It’s against human nature for the individual to look out for the good of the community.

Despite the civic forum, however, this is primarily a religious question.  And the concept of gay marriage does fall into the religious arena.  Like it or not, the Bible is clear on the issue.  At risk of being burned at the stake as a heretic…that still doesn’t matter in this case.  The Bible Inc never trademarked any of its terminology.  Marriage, as recognized by Christian institutions, should adhere to the rules of the specific religious institutions.  Marriage, as a civil union between consenting individuals, is outside of the church’s scope.

The church (could use a capital C for the Church universal) is a body of believers.  Unbelievers get married every day.  Well, at least every weekend.  The church doesn’t seem to mind this – unbelievers mimicking the Christian institution of marriage.  In fact, I think that the church agrees with this idea.  As a God-ordained sacrament, marriage is an instrument of common grace.  It exposes sin, it roots out selfishness, it can act as an agent of sanctification.  So, if the church sees marriage as a useful tool for evangelism, why limit it through the creation of a legally binding glossary?

If I were to guess, however, legal marriage is only half of what the gay community wants here.  I’d guess that they not only want to be allowed to be married, they want people to agree that it’s not wrong for them to do so.  Can you imagine a state legislating “Gay marriage is both legal, and it is illegal for you to say that it’s wrong?”  I don’t think we’re particularly close to that happening.  Nor should we write a constitutional amendment condemning the wrongness of certain varieties of lifestyle.  We have a sort of constitution that already does that, and, while all men will one day be held accountable to its judgment, the state is not that court.  The Bible was never meant to be a basis for a Christian Sharia law.  We can’t be so aghast about Islam’s legislative morality if we’re so eager to pass our own brand.

So why did this pass so overwhelmingly?  Because people interpreted the amendment as a call to arms.  Because people thought that they were being asked “Please check YES for ‘Good’ and NO for ‘Evil'”.  Because this topic is a shibboleth, a representative issue used to prove your holiness against a tide of worldliness. But I don’t think this sort of legislation helps Christendom.

I’ve been wondering what I’d do if I lived in North Carolina.  I don’t like the question, so I would not provide an answer.  If this were put to a vote in my presbytery, I’d vote.  But in my state…it’s not a battle that I think needs to be fought.

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