Thursday, July 2, 2015

Religious Apocalypse

I promise that "religious apocalypse" isn't as right-wing as it sounds. In fact, I'm making a major case for separation of Church and State in this post, and I'm pretty sure you have not heard my particular spin on this issue, so don't freak out and go away... Here's an awesome picture to convince you to stay.

I haven't said anything publicly in the midst of the marriage-equality decision because I don't really have a solid stance. And I'm find with that. Not every issue needs to be something that we pour our entire beings in to, and for me, who gets married or doesn't get married isn't an issue I'm passionate about in either direction. 

Even when I got married, I wondered, what IS this, really? I've said a few words, signed my name, and now things are different than they were before? Those things aren't really what marriage is about, no matter your circumstances or sexual orientation. 

There has been a lot of freaking out and passive aggressive scripture references on Facebook recently on both sides of this issue. My basic stance is that I have the freedom to vote however I want to in private, and in public, I choose to be kind, whether that means encouraging relationships, or keeping my mouth shut about ANY relationship that I'm not a part of, PARTICULARLY if I don't have a close friendship with whomever I'm giving my opinion to. This doesn't mean I don't stand up for my beliefs or that I'm two-faced, I'm just choosing my battles, here. In fact, through the writing of this post, I came to realize that my religious beliefs do not support same-sex marriage, but my political beliefs do. I used to think that those two camps had to be on the same page, but the more I've thought about it, the more I am content with there being a difference between the two. 

My family was discussing the whole supreme court decision over dinner and what we felt about it and what implications we thought it had. More than the morality of the decision (and there was some variance in where different members of the family came down on that), the thing we thought was important, and ultimately troubling, is the legality of the law. Let me preface this by saying that my personal spiritual beliefs aside, I'm not against same-sex marriage being legal. What I am against is having the federal government - in this case, the choice of 5 people - overturn something that many states have VOTED against. It makes our rights and opinions as voters a joke, even if I do agree with the outcome. 

I have little doubt that given a few more years, many states would have legalized same-sex marriage on their own, by popular voting majorities. As my dad pointed out, none of the people in my family know the details of the case that came before the Supreme Court and resulted in this ruling, and those details are probably pretty important in deciphering whether the Supreme Court's decision was sound in terms of the law. 

Again, I have not personally read the chief justice's dissenting opinion, but I've heard that his main criticism is that there is no basis in the law/constitution that leads to the choice to make same-sex marriages equal to traditional marriages. Again, this is not a reflection of the morality of any kind of marriage, just that it's not addressed at all in the constitution. Neither is traditional marriage. Therefore, it is my opinion that the Supreme Court should say, "we can't make this call given what the law says/doesn't say". Based on the constitution alone, they don't have the authority to dictate the definition of "traditional" marriage either. The Supreme Court's ONLY JOB is to interpret the law as it is, not create new laws. Right? (Seriously, is that right, or am I out of the loop?) If the American people think these issues of marriage are so important, they should work on getting them in to the constitution. I have no problem with the constitution evolving with the times. 

If you want to have sex with animals or a bunch of people at once, or yourself, or whatever, I may not think it's a good idea, but it's not my job to tell you what to do or not to do in private. Neither do I think the State should have a say (by the way, in most of this post, my use of the term "state" refers to the entire country). I do think society and the state have a responsibility to protect those who can't protect themselves, so minors (even consenting ones - underdeveloped frontal lobes, people!) and probably animals too, but otherwise, we are not a theocracy, so the state shouldn't mix religious values with home life. We should stop bawling about how we're losing our Christian values, since the United States was not beholden to them in the first place. {image}

However, there are true Christians who live in this nation. Another thing some people have been saying is that this decision on the definition of marriage opens the floodgates for a bunch of other "paganism". That sounds extreme, and maybe it is a little bit, but it is undeniable that our country is secularizing itself in the sense of "Christian values". As I've pointed out in previous posts, "Christian values" in America are basically just a political platform. One that I occasionally agree with, but none the less, a political platform. The idea that America has ever lived by Biblical law is pure and simple BS on several accounts. I think what people mean when they talk about "Christian values" is a certain idea of decency, but what is considered decency is changing. Many, including myself, think it is decent that same-sex couples be able to get married if they want to. Think about the specifics of what you mean if you are someone who considers the United States founded on Christian principles. Allegiance to the name of God? Not murdering? Not having premarital sex? Being kind to your neighbor? 

Let's break this down. 
Allegiance to the name of God - Even if some people in our government, whether past or present, profess faith in Christ, a) only God knows each person's heart and b) having a handful of believers in government doesn't mean that every citizen shares their beliefs OR that they have the power to make every law in line with what the Bible says. Democracy prevents that. 

Not murdering and being kind to your neighbor are not exclusively Christian values. Jesus having said to do or not do something doesn't make that thing a purely Christian value. He encouraged the Jews to pay their taxes to Rome, and I'm pretty sure we don't think of paying taxes as a "Christian value". 

Premarital sex is something that the Church itself has a dismal track record with, as pointed out in this fantastic article, which you should read in its entirety for many other points other than the one it makes about premarital sex in the Church (thank you Sarah for posting it!). 

On a bit more tangential note, consider for a second what life would look like under a law that truly aligned with the Bible. There's a lot of stoning and [poo emoji] in the Bible tied to people's bad behavior. Jesus was not very political (much to the chagrin of the Jews), which is a possible argument for us as believers not freaking out over politics, but I digress. The tangential point I wanted to make here is that we all agree that ISIS is the worst, but they are actually a pretty accurate embodiment of literal Quranic law. Although not a direct correlation, they're not a bad comparison for what life under literal Biblical law might look like, in that they seek to rid the world of leaders who don't conform to their strict religious law. 

So, can we agree that America isn't a Christian nation? Why is it surprising that secularism is blossoming? It's the same cycle that every other nation in history has gone through, and it would be foolish to think we're an exception. America HAS been friendly toward Christianity, and indeed, relatively friendly toward all religions. You know, that whole thing about freedom of religion. What a privileged we've had these past 250 years to go relatively free of persecution in light of our beliefs. Christians, or those who were generally in line with "Christian principles" have been in power and perhaps even a majority in the United States, but that is changing, and since a "Christian nation" was an illusion all along, I don't think it should be as painful or surprising as it seems to be for the Christian community that we, as a country, are shifting away from that (or showing true colors?) now. Is it really our job to fight the state, or are our energies better spent building relationships through which we can make a much bigger impact for Christ?

Ok, now I'm going to get to my notes on the religious apocalypse. It's like the zombie apocalypse, but more serious, and harder to make movies out of. 

You may have heard murmurs about Christian schools being defunded by the government, the teaching of Creationism being banned in schools, and other hints of the purging of Christianity from the mainstream. First, let me say that I do not think that the state/mainstream public has any obligation to fund religious institutions of any kind. I think it would be more fair to teach Creationism and Darwinism both as theories, along with any other major theories out there. I believe in Creationism and microevolution, but Creationism can't be scientifically proven, so it is indeed a theory. One that I choose to believe is the truth. Even secular scholars have largely discarded Darwinism, so there's that, too. Similarly, I think public schools should teach that "family" is defined in many ways, including same-sex parents because that is the reality of the world our children live in. It is our right as parents to teach our personal beliefs to our children at home, not to tell our children's classmates that they aren't part of real families because they have two moms or dads. {image}

Anyway, even though I'm cool with the separation of Christian schools and the state, I see a shift from simply separating and a shift into ridiculing, which is verging on lack-of-freedom-of-religion. Our society is no longer generally friendly toward Christian belief systems. Instead, Christians are considered backward, sheltered, bigoted, and unloving. Let me be the first to say that the Church has done a lot to deserve these labels. So much so that our mainstream society and our state often fail to see past those labels to the integrity of those who truly live for Christ. Rather than being embraced or tolerated as an acceptable vein of society, Christianity is more and more often scoffed at and occasionally silenced in ways that may be or may become unconstitutional. 

I should make a distinction here between media and your average passer-by. I rarely get flack for my beliefs face-to-face, but it's definitely not "cool" to be a Christian these days (I'd say it seems pretty un-cool, really), and I think that marks something of a change from previous generations. Not that it was "cool" before, but it wasn't laughed at en-masse, that I know of. Christian ideas (whether or not they reflect Christ) are no longer welcome alongside other beliefs (secularism and atheism are beliefs systems, even if no deity is involved), even if they are still allowed in most cases. It's not uncommon to be mocked or kicked out or penalized for vocalizing Christ-centered beliefs anymore. This is the faintest taste of persecution, and it's uncomfortable, but it's a badge of honor for a Christian, ultimately. There is NO honor in being hateful in the name of Christ - indeed, that is a great shame - but there is honor in being faithful to him in the face of persecution of any caliber. 

Persecution of the American Church sounds apocalyptic, but I don't think it's an unreasonable future outcome. I'm not trying to be a sensationalist, but I think we should prepare ourselves for life in a climate that is losing grey area and bringing black and white sharply in to focus. I'm not saying "gay people are the black/sin of the world", I'm saying that it's hard to hide out as a fake believer when professing faith in Jesus gets you ridiculed. True believers don't barricade themselves from a fallen world, they are in the darkest places, presenting hope to those who need it. Gay people are loved by Jesus, and... wait for it!... gay people can love Jesus too. 

One final breast stroke into the waters of the apocalypse, and I'll ask, would you lie about your faith to save a life? This question fascinates me. From time to time, I recall the story of Corrie ten Boom and her sister during the Holocaust. They were hiding some Jews under their kitchen table, and when Nazis came in searching for Jews, one of them asked if there was anyone hiding under the kitchen table. Corrie's sister told them, "yes!" because she was so strongly against telling a lie. In her retelling of the story, Corrie ten Boom says she couldn't believe her sister would do such a thing, but that ultimately, she felt that God honored her sister's honesty because the soldier thought she was being sarcastic and didn't look under the table. 

If I had been put in the same situation, I think I would not have skipped a beat in denying that anyone was under that table. Many times, I have wondered how I would handle a similar situation in my own life if I was presented with it. I wonder about medieval martyrs who burned at the stake before renouncing the name of Christ. Honestly, I don't think I'd have any problem saying whatever someone wanted me to say, knowing in my heart that my allegiance was to Christ. What do you think about that? Would you lie to save your own life, or the life of your child, or anyone's life, particularly if it meant lying about your faith in God? I'm not sure it would be the most honorable choice, but I think there's a case to be made that it was the right choice in some cases. 

Friends, think hard about your role in these shifting times, and be courageous. And wise. The Kindom of God is real and it is coming, but it is not to be found in placing our hope in any government or society in this world. The end of the world as we know it can be a beautiful thing. 

{image above of a total solar eclipse, and a Morman temple, but hey, they build incredible structures} 

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