Christianity Archives

A Win for Religious Freedom … Of a Sort

Let’s see if this sounds familiar. An employee is hired for a job, but at some point that employee is asked to do something that is against their religious beliefs. They refuse to do it, and consequences ensue. What consequences? Well, if you’re a baker, a photographer or a pizza company that wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding, that generally means a hefty fine and sensitivity reeducation. If you’re a county clerk that won’t issue same-sex marriage license, that means jail time. If you’re truck drivers that refuse to deliver alcohol, that means … the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the EEOC – goes to bat for you and sues the trucking company for not creating a religious accommodation, and you walk away with $240,000.

What a minute, what? Yup, you heard right. OK, well then, is that progress? In one way, it certainly is, though the federal EEOC is really late to this party. Hobby Lobby, Kim Davis, and various small businesses could have really used help over the past few years, but it’s nice that the federal government is finally waking up. Can we expect this same action in the future?

Well, I guess it all depends. I would like to point out that all these victims were Christians, except the truck drivers that got federal help and the windfall. In a move that makes the feds look like their picking and choosing which religions get protection and which don’t, they were Muslims. Now, this is just one situation, but given all the other opportunities for the feds to help Christians which they passed on, it really does look like they’re playing favorites, which the Constitution forbids.

In a statement, the EEOC said, “We are proud to support the rights of workers to equal treatment in the workplace without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs or practices. It’s fundamental to the American principles of religious freedom and tolerance.” Apparently, as long as you’re not Christian.

Remember this during the next brouhaha about religious freedom. Watch how this administration acts. For those of you who value religious freedom, and that should be all of you, their actions should let you know what they think of the First Amendment.

I’m actually happy for those Muslim truck drivers. They should have gotten a religious exemption. And this is good news for religious freedom in general, because now anyone can point to their case as a precedent. My fear, however, is that this will go down the memory hole the next time a Christian is on the chopping block.

    In discussing the gun issue on Facebook from my personal account with some friends, a couple of studies were referred to me that show, generally, more guns, more murder. Now, it kinda’ does make sense that the more guns you have in an area, chances are the more gun violence you’ll see. But my issue with these kinds of studies is that they just count guns, as if it’s the guns acting on their own.

    But consider this. If you compare the number of guns in gangland Chicago vs the number in a quiet suburb of gun-loving Texas, you’d see pretty quickly that just counting numbers of guns is misleading. It depends on who has them. And what has been clear from what we see is that highly restrictive gun control law shift the balance from the good guys to the bad. The UCC shooter had more guns on him than those who were physically carrying one among the campus population. And in fact, the UCC shooting is something of a microcosm of my point.

    When the shooter arrived, the number of guns on campus increased dramatically, and he started killing with them. More guns, more murder. But then, twenty minutes later, the armed police arrived. When faced with good guys with guns, the bad guy with a gun killed himself. More guns…less murder.

    So who had the guns made all the difference. And when UCC needed help, who did unarmed security guy call? Guys with guns.

    So the mantra of the pro-gun crowd is that a good guy with guns will stop a bad guy with a gun. ThinkProgress, the liberal blog, noted an MSNBC report of a guy who did have a weapon on campus, and suggested there were others. So see? A good guy with a gun didn’t help the situation! Well, if you actually listen to the guy talk, he said he was quite a distance from the building where the shooter was, so that going that distance with an active shooter around would make them targets, and having to go that far they might be mistaken by the police for the bad guys. If the shooter had been close at hand, though, he was ready.

    So here’s a guy being a responsible citizen, keeping himself and others out of the line of fire, not acting like a vigilante and not trying to hunt down the shooter. If he’d tried and gotten hurt, he’d likely be castigated by ThinkProgress as proof that good guys with guns are no protection. Instead, he used as an example that good guys with guns are no protection. They get to grind their ax either way. Only if he’d acted irresponsibly and it happened to work could he be in any way shown as an example of a good guy with a gun. But then ThinkProgress, I imagine, would rightly suggest that this was a bad idea in general. No matter how it worked out, they get to use this story in pursuit of their agenda.

    Look, nobody ever said that a good guy with a gun is a guarantee of a particular outcome. But if you criminalize self-defense, if you outlaw the carrying of a weapon by otherwise law-abiding citizens, you can be guaranteed that there will be no one available to help out. As Glenn Reynolds often says, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

    People often try to get to what they call the “root cause” of crime. Some say that poverty creates crime. If that were so, we should have had an explosion of it during The Great Depression. If that were so, the wealthy Osama bin Laden shouldn’t have been a problem, or Bernie Madoff, or any of a number of white collar criminals. If poverty is a contributing factor, seems it would be hard to spot a trend.

    Let’s stick with mass shootings for a moment. There’s a link in the show notes to an article showing that mass shootings have been getting more frequent, even before Sandy Hook. It’s to an article in Mother Jones, which is a magazine and website with a decidedly liberal political bent, so folks who often dismiss information because it was reported by Fox or Breitbart can’t just handwave it away. President Obama was right that it seems he’s coming out to do press conferences quite a lot after these incidents.

    But what has changed? Our gun laws are pretty much the same as they were under George W. Bush. And if the guns in these shootings were obtained illegally, it should be no surprise that criminals don’t obey the law. We had a recession, but, if you listen to the administration, the economy has been looking better all the time. And if you look at the motivations of these shooters, few if any had an economic motivation. What about mental health? Many of these shooters had issues in that area, but then again, we’ve had guns and mental health issues in this society for over a century, but haven’t seen anything like this in the past. So is it more complicated than that? Perhaps. But perhaps not.

    I want to turn to some time-tested wisdom, in updated language, that explains this pretty well.

    Wise discipline imparts wisdom; spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents. When degenerates take charge, crime runs wild, but the righteous will eventually observe their collapse. Discipline your children; you’ll be glad you did—they’ll turn out delightful to live with. If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.

    These are the words of a government official, King Solomon, as written in Proverbs 29, and from The Message translation. It really brings out much of the meaning of the Bible if the King James Version seems a little opaque.

    There is much in here about discipline; internally to ourselves and externally to those in our charge. But it comes down to that last part. “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…” King Jimmy phrased it, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” What has been happening in our society? The influence of the Christian church has been waning. You don’t have to be a theologian or historian to notice that. There are a number of reasons for that, not the least of which is part of the church is watering down or outright rejecting of some of its own teachings. But our society has also decided that moral restraints are not needed, and everyone should do what they want.

    And, indeed, some have done exactly that. Some Facebook friends have told me that they believe human nature is essentially good. But Solomon, thousands of years ago, saw human nature for what it was, and realized that only God can change it, in the individual and in society at large. Are we just harvesting what we planted? Solomon figured that out. I think we’ve forgotten it.

    I’d say, “pardon the sermonizing”, if I thought this wasn’t useful, but I think it most definitely is. It wasn’t some feel-good words over a graphic of a sunrise or a flower. It was, I believe, the truth, and a truth that has been the truth for a very, very long time.

      Closely Held Corporate Policies

      An Office Depot in Schaumburg, Illinois refused to print flyers with a prayer on them. The prayer would be distributed by pro-life women praying for the people in Planned Parenthood. The prayer asked God to work in the hearts of the workers to convert them and stop performing abortions. The women tried to get Office Depot’s Office of the Chairman to reverse the decision, but was told that wouldn’t happen.

      The company claimed the prayers advocated the persecution of people who support abortion, and so they wouldn’t print it. So now, praying for conversion, enlightenment and salvation is considered an act of persecution. You know, it doesn’t matter your religious beliefs, how can anyone consider that the slightest bit of persecution?

      If a Christian printer were given a flyer to print that advocated something he or she disagreed with on religious grounds, you know what the outcome would be? And yet Office Depot can come up with its own policy out of thin air, refuse to take some business, and few even take notice.

      The double-standard is persecution, especially when it includes excessive fines and re-education. Yeah, yeah, it’s nothing like how Christians are persecuted under ISIS or the Chinese government, but it’s indicative of a trend in this country that goes against the tolerance that the Left claims to revere.

      I’ll say it again; businesses are allowed to decide who they’ll do business with. They are all equal in this regard, but apparently some are more equal than others.

      Related to this is an article that asks, “Is the Left Losing Their Hold on Pop Culture?” It provides a few quotes from celebrities who, while clearly on the Left otherwise, standing up for Christian bakers, and Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. Here’s one to consider:

      Once again, the gay community feels the need to be sore winners. Is it so difficult to allow this woman her religion? Or must we destroy her in order for her to betray her faith. No matter how we judge, it’s truth. The rights we have all fought for, mean nothing, if we deny her hers.

      If you don’t recognize the name Christopher Ciccone, that’s OK. I wouldn’t have either if he hadn’t been identified in the article as Madonna’s openly gay brother. Just a few people are quoted, but it at least gives me hope that the over-reaction from the Left on these issues are at least causing the more sober thinkers on the Left to reconsider the slippery slope that they’ve put us on. I guess the question is; how big an impact is this having? The article I reference in the show notes does indicate a 4-to-1 agreement with freedom over force, which is an encouraging sign. But businesses are still being put out of business over this, so it seems that we’ve got quite a vocal minority winning the day.

        On Wednesday evenings around the country, many churches hold mid-week services or children’s programs, or bible studies. Sometimes, all three. A few weeks ago, a pastor was leading one of those Bible studies when a visitor came into the church and sat in on the group. He was welcomed to join in. He requested to sit next to the pastor, and so he did.

        An hour passed by with readings from the Bible and discussion, perhaps about what the text meant, perhaps about how to apply it personally. Even, perhaps, asking for the visitor’s thoughts, though I would imagine that the group, not wishing to create an awkward situation, probably didn’t push him to participate in an unfamiliar setting, content to let him listen in, and yet willing to let him speak should he want to.

        I don’t know what was discussed, or what the passage was that was the topic of the evening, but the visitor later said that the people were very nice to him. So nice, he said, that he almost … almost … didn’t do what he had come there to do. But in the end, he did, and when he was done, the pastor and 8 others had been shot dead.

        Dylann Roof had come there to start a race war; to start an uprising that would supposedly boil over into a full-blown conflict.

        At this point, we can only guess what he imagined the sequence of events would be leading to that war. Certainly he had seen the news reports about riots in the streets in other cities when a white man killed a black man, so it’s conceivable that he thought his actions would create the same situation, only more violent, because unlike many of those other instances, these would be killings that were obviously pre-mediated, with no other explanation than hatred. He wouldn’t have any self-defense case. He wouldn’t be a cop who may, or may not, have thought his life was in danger. No, nothing would be murky about this. This would be a clear cut case of racially-motivated murder, possibly causing an even more violent reaction than those previously.

        But all his plans were taken apart piece by piece, because of who he targeted. He targeted those who believed that you should love your enemies, and pray for those that hurt you. He targeted those who believe that the merciful are blessed. He targeted those who are told to forgive as freely as they themselves have been forgiven.

        He targeted a Christian Bible study. And while he was committing those acts of hatred, of malice, of evil, he had no idea that he was also opening up the floodgates of the love that those he killed professed. Those that survived, and hundreds of others in Charleston, though undeniably hurting, expressed that love to him. A reporter covering the crowd that stood outside the arraignment had a difficult time keeping his composure in the face of such love.

        Inside the proceedings, instead of acrimony and hatred, surviving family members expressed the forgiveness that the evil had certainly not expected.

        I would like to note that the faith community in other cities with unrest – Baltimore, Cleveland, and others – did take a stand and tried to calm and heal the tensions in their area, sometimes meeting with gangs to come to a truce, sometimes with special services for those in need because of the riots. But because there were riots, they got the headlines, and the tweets, and the Facebook posts. But in Charleston, riots didn’t happen, so they didn’t mask what good things were happening.

        So now it can be seen, and it is surprising, amazing and, dare I say, perplexing many who see the love of God in action. It’s been there, perhaps in the background, not grabbing the front page, but it’s been there nonetheless.

        There are those that believe that God, or even just religion, isn’t necessary to express this kind of love. We can, so the idea goes, work this up within ourselves without any help, because the capacity is clearly there in people. I would say that, yes, the capacity is there, because we are made in the image of God, and since God is love, we too have that ability. But while we, within ourselves, might be able to approximate the appearance of such a love, it is but a dirty reflection of what is truly possible. If, instead, we let, not our love, but God’s love shine through us, that’s when you’ll see what it really looks like, and it will be surprising, amazing, and perplexing.

        Some will ask, “Where was God? Why wasn’t He protecting His church?” That question has been asked many times, in many situations, throughout history. Perhaps one of the earliest examples of an answer to this comes from a man who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Through a series of events, over the course of years, he became second in command of the biggest economic power of his time. And in that position, was able to return good for evil, and save his family from a major catastrophe. You may recognize the Biblical story of Joseph, the son of Jacob. Or you may recognize the musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Either way, when his brothers felt extremely uncomfortable in the presence of the one they hurt, Joseph forgives them, telling them that, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…” We don’t always get to see the big picture – we may not live to see the big picture – but for those who trust Him, God uses the evil to work out the good. Dylann Roof intended to start a race war. He failed because God’s people let Him shine through them.

        If you’re wondering how such forgiveness and love can really happen, I have a suggestion. Somewhere near you, very likely, is a church. Now, you don’t have to jump in completely to their Sunday service. You might just want to test the waters. Try getting your feet wet at, perhaps, a Wednesday night Bible study. One of those almost stopped a gunman filled with hate. Imagine what it could do for you.

          The "Tolerance Police" Claim Their Next Victim

          I mentioned the case of Brendan Eich a little while ago. He’s the genius that basically invented JavaScript, which web programmers are very familiar with and have been using since 1995. He co-founded Mozilla, the company that produces, among other things, the Firefox web browser. He was going to be the company’s CEO recently, until someone noticed he gave $1,000 to the Proposition 8 effort in California to keep marriage to mean one-man-one-woman. He was run out of the company for what I called a Thought Crime. He was eminently qualified to be the CEO of the company, but because he had the politically incorrect idea that marriage should mean what it’s meant for millennia, he was pressured to resign. There were no allegations that he had ever treated someone badly because of their sexual orientation, but he had, according to some, the wrong idea about marriage, and therefore he was unfit to be CEO of the technology company he helped create.

          That’s what I want to stress here. In every other way, he was qualified for the job, but he had opinions that some disagreed with, and they created an atmosphere where Eich could not function in that job. That, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely what the word “intolerance” means. The irony is that those who created that atmosphere would very likely consider themselves the tolerant ones. The sad part is, they are unable to see intolerance in themselves because of the way they have redefined the word “intolerance” to mean “disagreeing with me”.

          That was exhibit A. Exhibit B showed up a couple weeks ago when twin brothers Jason and David Benham were green-lit to host a new show on Home and Garden TV – HGTV – about fixing up dilapidated houses for families in need. Who in the world could be against that?

          Well, in a radio interview, David Benham said this, and made some people mad.

          Read the rest of this entry

            Thought Crimes

            Charles C. W. Cooke calls it fascism. I think that may be a little overwrought, but there’s no escaping the reality that, if you think something politically incorrect these days, your job is in peril.

            Another day, another witch hunt — this time in duplicate. “Twin brothers David and Jason Benham,” CNN reports, “have lost their opportunity to host their own HGTV show.” On Tuesday, the pair was gearing up for their new role; by sundown the next day, the network had announced tersely that it had “decided not to move forward with the Benham Brothers’ series.” And that, as they say, was that.

            HGTV’s mind was allegedly changed by a post on the blog Right Wing Watch, where the duo was described as being “anti-gay” and “anti-choice.” That post, David Benham told Erin Burnett yesterday, “was too much for them to bear — they had to make a business decision.” How sad. Certainly, the Benhams hold some heterodox views. They are not merely opposed to abortion and gay marriage, but critical of divorce, adultery, Islam, pornography, “perversion,” the “demonic ideologies” that have crept into the nation’s “universities and . . . public school systems,” and the general culture of “activist” homosexuality, which, David contends, is inextricably tied up with a wider “agenda that is attacking the nation.” But so bloody what? They were tapped to host a home-improvement show, not rewrite the Constitution.

            It matters not, however, to the "tolerant" Left, for whom that word now means "agrees with me". Redefining long-understood definitions seems to be their stock in trade, along with the word "marriage".

            Future students of language will wonder at the period in our history in which it was said with a straight face that diversity required uniformity, tolerance necessitated intolerance, and liberalism called for dogma. Of late, we have been told that Brandeis University is simply too open-minded to hear from a critic of Islam, that Mozilla believes too vehemently in “freedom of speech” to refrain from punishing a man for his private views, and that a respect for the audience of a show about duck hunting demands that we suspend a man for expressing his religious views in an unrelated interview. “Never,” David Benham confirmed in an interview with CNN, “have I spoken against homosexuals, as individuals, and gone against them. I speak about an agenda.” Later, he added that “that’s really what the point of this is — that there is an agenda that is seeking to silence the voices of men and women of faith.” Say, now where might he have got hold of that idea?

              Does the Pope Shop at Hobby Lobby

              No, but he does seem to be watching their Supreme Court case.

              Pope Francis and Vatican officials on Thursday told U.S. President Barack Obama they were concerned about "religious freedom" in the United States, an apparent reference to the contraception mandate in Obama’s health care plan.

              The talks included "discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church" in the United States, including "the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection," a Vatican statement said.

              Obama’s 2010 healthcare law, widely opposed by Republicans, includes a provision that requires employers to cover the cost of contraception in their health insurance plans.

              Catholic and other religious groups say the mandate forces them to support contraception and sterilization in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines.

              Just wondering if all those Democrats who have been falling all over themselves over the Pope when he seems to be saying something they like (whether or not he’s actually saying what they think he’s saying) will take note of this rather obvious political stance.

                I don’t know how much the Vatican’s Chief Justice holds sway in terms of official church policy, or how much his opinion reflects the position of the Catholic church, but I thought I’d pass this along.

                In an interview with Polonia Christiana magazine –and transcribed by Life Site News — Cardinal Raymond Burke said that Obama “promotes anti-life and anti-family policies.”

                “It is true that the policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies,” Burke told the magazine.

                The former archbishop of St. Louis stated that Obama is trying to “restrict” religion.

                “Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship, that is, he holds that one is free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions,” Burke said.

                Burke took a swipe against Obama’s Affordable Care Act over the law’s birth control mandate, saying “such policies would have been unimaginable in the United States even 40 years ago.”

                “In a democracy, such a lack of awareness is deadly,” Burke told the magazine. “It leads to the loss of the freedom which a democratic government exists to protect. It is my hope that more and more of my fellow citizens, as they realize what is happening, will insist on electing leaders who respect the truth of the moral law as it is respected in the founding principles of our nation.”

                Since this was transcribed by Life Site News, you know there’s an abortion angle, and there’s just a bit more at the link.

                The freedom of religion vs. freedom of worship is a distinction that I’ve heard elsewhere, and it’s good to hear it given voice by someone at the Vatican. These days, it’s almost like you lose that First Amendment right upon leaving the church building. You don’t, even if you own a business (i.e. Hobby Lobby). This is a serious concern.

                  Wedding Cakes and Conscience

                  Is it un-Christian-like to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding? If so, isn’t it then hypocritical if the baker doesn’t look into every other wedding ceremony to see if any sin is being committed?

                  No, says Russel D. Moore. The two questions are completely different issues. The former defies the Biblical definition of marriage. He discusses the difference, complete with citations from the apostle Paul, in "On Weddings and Conscience: Are Christians Hypocrites?"

                    This issue has been in the news before, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen an opinion from this high up in the Catholic church.

                    To deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians who are Catholic, such as Secretary of State John Kerry, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, “makes perfect sense” because it is a discipline that goes back to St. Paul, “the very first years of the Church,” said Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis and now the chief justice at the Vatican’s highest court.

                    In an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo on Dec. 13, Cardinal Burke explained that it is necessary to protect the Sacrament, the Communion wafer offered at Masses, from “being profaned, being violated by someone receiving unworthily,” someone “who knows that he or she is unworthy and yet presumes to come forward and to take the Holy Eucharist.”

                    For my Catholic readers, what’s your take on this?

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