Sunday, November 18, 2012

Four More Years?

I’m writing from the Heartland of America, Laurie and I having made a “reverse Snowbird” journey from the warmth of California to the cold and getting colder plains of Iowa.

For those who follow politics, Iowa is a fascinating place due to its distinction of having the first presidential “caucus” in America where the parties choose their candidates. Also, Iowa is important due to it being a “swing state,” meaning the presidential vote is up for grabs, unlike some states that are safely in the camp of either the Democrat Party or Republican Party, where no amount of campaigning will change things.

Five years ago Laurie and I went to the Iowa State Fair with our friends Wall and Jan Posey (Walt is also a Rolling Stone Ministries board member) and noticed a small group of about ten or fifteen people crowding around a slender man who was shaking hands with the crowd. We recognized the man, and walked right up and took a picture. It was Senator Barack Obama, campaigning for the Democrat Party nomination for President of the United States. How things have changed in five years!

It is ironic that living nearly my entire life in California, the most populous state in the United States, it is rare to have presidential candidates visit. Yet here in Iowa, with 1/12 the population of California, all the serious candidates spend time here, crisscrossing the state in efforts to get momentum for their presidential campaigns.

Now that the elections are over (didn’t it seem like the presidential race went on forever?) some people are elated, others depressed. Those who embrace biblical values are rightly concerned about the erosion of our religious liberties, and the abandonment of biblical morality in America. Whether it is the battle for marriage, the fight to protect the unborn, or the attempts by a pervasive secularism to intimidate churches from speaking out on the issues, the spiritual war rages on. Some of us might think, “if only _____ (fill in the blank) had won, America would be a better place.” Perhaps. But regardless of who occupies the White House, who controls Congress, and who controls our state legislatures, government is not the means to usher in the millennium. And we are to pray for those in positions of authority, regardless of party affiliation. The Apostle Paul, writing to Christians in Rome at a time when the Emperor, Nero, was one of the cruelest, most deranged leaders of antiquity, told the Romans “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. [Not “just when you like them or agree with them”] For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1).

Putting things in perspective, for Christians, our ultimate purpose is not to elect the “right” candidates, although some candidates may, indeed, be vastly superior to others, and are worthy of our support. Our battle is for the hearts and minds of people. It is generally easier to reach people’s hearts when the government is sympathetic to maintaining Christian values in America and not an impediment. But what happens, as seems to now be true here in the United States, when there is a growing hostility toward Christianity influencing the direction of the country?

If we take a lesson from history, the Early Church grew despite the hostility and persecution visited upon them by Emperor Nero and his successors. In fact, as early Christian apologist Tertullian said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The Church has historically grown stronger in the face of adversity, as is now true in many parts of the world (a former student of mine was killed two weeks ago in Kenya when Muslim terrorists lobbed grenades into his church). Whether physical persecution or antagonism by the government, Jesus said, “The gates of Hades shall not overpower [the Church]” (Matthew 16:19).

By analogy, when I discuss the issue of abortion, I would like laws protecting the unborn, and think the Roe v. Wade decision (40 years and nearly 60 million babies ago) that permitted abortion on demand should be overturned. I’ve debated the Roe case on the radio and at law schools. However, the ultimate solution is not making elective abortions illegal, although I would like to see that happen. No. The ultimate solution is to change the hearts and minds of people about the unborn. If there were abortion clinics on every corner of every town, but people in their hearts believed abortion was wrong and sought out alternatives, abortions would virtually cease. Yet if abortion was outlawed, but people believed that abortion was a necessary solution to an unwanted pregnancy, women would find a way to obtain illegal abortions. The battle is ultimately for hearts and minds, with the law and government leaders playing a minor role. Therefore, regardless of who is in office, the work continues for people of faith to persuade others that the ultimate answer to the problems we face starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ. Once the heart changes, behavioral change can happen. There are no political solutions to spiritual problems.

To summarize, our task is to see life through God’s perspective (Psalm 36:9), put our trust in Jesus of Nazareth Who claimed to be the Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6) and Who said He was coming again to Earth (John 14:2). We are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12) that cannot be fought successfully with carnal weapons such as politics or the law. We cannot legislate that people follow Jesus. Instead, we are to love people and care enough for them that we make sure they know that Jesus died for their sins, and that He invites them to believe in Him so that they might have eternal life (John 3:16).

The only thing certain about what will happen in the next four years is that in four more years it will be 2016, and time for a new president. Whether you supported Governor Romney, President Obama, or someone else in the 2012 presidential election, our purpose for being here has not changed. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to love God and to enjoy Him forever.” We are able to fulfill our purpose in life irrespective of who the leaders of our country are. If want to love and enjoy God, we show our love by believing His words, and living a life that reflects that we are His children. The calling of the Christian does not exclude politics, but it transcends politics. Therefore, in light of the recent elections, consider the perspective of the Apostle Paul to Christians in Corinth:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. 
Though outwardly we are wasting away, 
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us 
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. 
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 
(II Corinthians 4:16-18).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

“Live and Let Live” Applied to Same-Sex Marriage

I just read about a politician who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, being in favor of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. His political philosophy, at least as it applies to fiscal issues, is “live and let live.” I previously blogged about what a contradiction his philosophy is when applied to the abortion issue, since an unborn baby cannot “live” unless the putative mother will “let live.” But what about applying his laissez faire attitude toward the marriage issue?

There are so many in apposite expressions swirling around the marriage issue that I hardly know where to start. But the “live and let live” is, perhaps, representative of the inconsistency, if not hypocrisy, of those promoting same-sex marriage.

First, with the help of mainstream media, the debate has been framed as being “anti-gay marriage” versus “pro-gay marriage.” In reality, most people who want to keep marriage between a man and a woman are “pro-traditional marriage” or “pro-natural marriage,” and would be opposed to polygamy, incest, and any other relationship being called “marriage” that was not limited to one man and one woman who were not too closely related biologically.

Second, since marriage has for millennia been understood as one man and one woman, it is the supporters of same-sex “marriage” who are trying to re-define a term that already has an important historic and societal meaning. If enough people want to re-define what the color “red” is because it makes them feel better and more accepted, is that a reason to change the definition? Keep in mind who attacked whom. Heterosexuals did not agitate against homosexuals to deny them access to the term marriage. It was intrinsically understood, from common sense and the natural order, that marriage mean a man, a woman, and, most likely, children. An infertile couple does not void the heterosexual model that is procreative. It was the same-sex marriage advocates who tried to impose their view on an unwilling society, using the courts (in most cases) to do their dirty work, since they were unable to convince the electorate to embrace their view. In a couple of other cases it was a state legislature, unconcerned about the will of the people, who imposed a re-definition of marriage. As of this moment 32 states in the U.S. have been allowed to vote on what they wanted their social policy to be as it relates to defining marriage. All 32 have voted for marriage to be defined as one man and one woman.

 Marriage has historically been about children and parenting, but the modern approach to marriage uses the adult model of “companionship” and sexual expression. When kids are left out of the equation, the pro-gay marriage mantra of “marriage equality” sounds so fair, so American. The U.S. Constitution’s provision for “equal protection” is used to underscore the notion of “marriage equality” requiring same-sex couples to be recognized as married just as opposite-sex couples are recognized. But is there “equality?” Good heavens, no! It is not about “being able to marry the person you love.” I love my daughters and my close friends, but should not be able to “marry” them. Most would see that as stretching “love and marriage” too far. No one is forbidding a person from loving whomever they choose. It is merely that there is no historical, natural or Constitutional “right” to call a loving relationship “marriage” unless it is between one man and one woman.

Also, for the Constitutional doctrine of “equal protection” to attach, the parties must be “similarly circumstanced.” I submit that a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple are not biologically nor procreatively equal. When same-sex couples figure out how to procreate within their union, then we can re-visit the issue.

Finally, after millennia of marriage being the bedrock institution of families and civilization, what possible justification can activist judges find for striking the will of the people when the people vote to keep marriage between one man and one woman? In the Perry case in California (the attempt by pro-same sex marriage activists to overturn Proposition 8 in which the voters amended the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman), a federal judge determined that “animus” (i.e., “hatred”) toward homosexuals is the only explanation for excluding them from marriage. Two judges on a three-judge panel concurred, and now that case will likely make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is likely news to most of you that the reason you support traditional, natural marriage has nothing to do with its procreative potential, its traditional place as a stabilizing factor in society, nor its place in the religious teachings of Christians and Jews. You merely want to keep marriage between heterosexuals because you hate gays. Glad to finally be disabused of the notion that marriage was about kids. Now, with the wisdom of unelected federal judges, we now know that the vast majority of America is made up of homophobic bigots! What a wholesale return we get from our federal bench from such a meager investment of facts.

If a person truly wants to “live and let live,” then love whom you choose, but don’t expect society to re-define traditionally-understood terms to suit your purposes. To now disclose my “religious bias,” I would like to quote the One who claimed to be the Way, the Truth and the Life, the only way to God, and One with the Father: “Have you not read that He who made them in the beginning made them male and female, and for this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh….” Matthew 19:4-5.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Live and Let Live

America's Founding Fathers, God-fearing men for the most part, made clear in the Declaration of Independence that our "unalienable rights" come from God, not government. Their words, as written and attested on July 4, 1776, describe some of the rights that are "endowed by our Creator," such as "life" and "liberty."

Some people confuse "rights" with "privileges." "Privileges" are typically man-bestowed authority to engage in a particular act, such as driving a car. A driver's license is a privilege, and man, as government, can insist on a person qualifying before the privilege is bestowed. For example, a person may have to be of a certain age and pass a written and driving test before the privilege of driving is granted. Certain actions can cause the
privilege to cease, such as a propensity to drive recklessly, or driving under the influence of a substance.

"Unalienable Rights" are given by God, and no one has to first qualify in order to possess the right. However, man, through government action, can suspend those rights and even take them away altogether if a person, for example, is convicted of a crime. A conviction can cause the right to liberty to be suspended, with the person confined to jail. A person's right to life can also be forfeited if that person commits murder and is duly convicted and sentenced under the law. Thus, even a "right to life" is not absolute.

So, just what is a "right to life?" Certainly the U.S. Constitution references "due process of law" before rights are suspended or revoked. As a society we bend over backwards to ensure that someone accused of a crime is given every benefit of the doubt. This can be illustrated by a trip to a local law library. Ask a librarian where the books are on criminal defense. You will likely be pointed to several rows of books that deal with case law on criminal law and procedure, books that discuss how to fight criminal charges, and even books on how to expunge criminal convictions from your record. Then ask where are the books on victim's rights? After a puzzled look, the librarian will either tell you that none exist, or that there might be one or two that discuss such a topic.

A burning question in American society is whether the Creator-endowed right to life applies to babies in the womb. I recently read about a politician who is conservative on fiscal issues, but on social issues holds to a "live and let live" philosophy. Just before that philosophy is stated, the article says the politician calls himself "pro-choice." I wondered how many people saw as I did an inherent contradiction between "live and let live" and being "pro-choice." "Pro-choice," usually a euphemism for being in favor of abortion on demand, means it is up to the putative mother to decide if the baby lives. No one consults the unborn baby, even though it is a living human being. It would seem that a "let live" philosophy would be "pro-life," and would not allow the innocent unborn to be killed because of being the wrong sex or simply unwanted.

One aspect of the "life" issue that was glossed over by mainstream media was the vote last week by the U.S. Senate on whether to protect unborn girls from being killed because of their gender. World-wide it is estimated that tens of millions of girls are missing because in certain societies, such as China and India, boys are prized more than girls, and abortions are allowed for "sex selection" purposes. Saddled with an unborn girl? You may kill it, with the help of the abortion doctor. This is not a new phenomenon. There is an ancient papyrus letter written around the time of Christ from a man to his pregnant wife Alis. He tells her simply, "If its a boy, keep it; if its a girl, kill it." In those days they generally lacked the skill of modern medicine that can now efficiently kill the unborn baby in the womb, so, instead, the babies would be abandoned and left to die of exposure. In ancient Greece there were actual drop-off points where unwanted babies could be left, which were picked up and delivered to the Spartans to either be killed or raised up as warriors.

It is sad that our President did not want to interfere with "a woman's right to choose," so he did not support the Congressional efforts to make sex selection abortions illegal. Live and let live? Only if you've managed to escape what has become one of the most dangerous places for human beings--the womb of a mother who thinks it is okay to end the life inside her--can a person "live and let live."

Why does America allow abortion on demand? Because in 1973 our U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Roe v. Wade and its companion case of Doe v. Bolton determined that the unborn baby was not a "person" under the 14th Amendment (and thereby not entitled to equal protection and due process of the law). Instead, the 7-2 opinion elevated the pregnant woman's "right to privacy" above the unborn's right to life, and disallowed any restrictions on abortion during the first three months (first trimester) of pregnancy. During the second trimester states were told they could regulate how abortions can be performed, and during the third trimester states could, theoretically, outlaw abortions altogether, although in practice all a woman has to do is state that her mental health is in danger, and that overcomes the unborn baby's right to life, even up to the moment of birth.

Is overturning Roe v. Wade the answer? It would help to have laws that protect the unborn. However, the issue of abortion is for the most part a matter of the heart. If there were abortion clinics on every street corner of America, but pregnant women were determined to give life to their unborn child, there would be no abortions. If abortion was outlawed, but women in their hearts elevated their own convenience above that of their unborn babies, abortions would go on as they do now. Thus, in addition to needing laws protecting the unborn, people's hearts need to change. The good news is that the majority of America now identifies as "pro-life," and the numbers are growing, while the percentage of those calling themselves "pro-choice" is shrinking.

I agree with the politician who said, "live and let live." But I mean something different than he does when the statement is applied to unborn human beings. I mean that the unborn should also enjoy the unalienable right to life. Isn't that the logical application of the last two words of the statement, "let live?" Perhaps it is time to point out the illogic of those who fail to give to the unborn the right to life that born people enjoy, and ask them to rethink their position. Doing so could save lives.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Prop 8 Update

The debate over marriage can be simplified by one question? Who decides the definition of marriage—the electorate, or a few people in black robes?

In the case of marriage, no state court in the United States had ever found a “right” to same-sex marriage until the Massachusetts Supreme Court found it in 2003. Then California’s State Supreme Court found the right in 2008, and the Iowa Supreme Court in 2009. Currently seven states allow same-sex marriage, and in all seven it has been imposed by either judges or the legislature. When put to a vote of the people, 31 states have voted on the definition of marriage, and the score is 31-0 in favor of marriage being one man and one woman.

Shouldn’t states be allowed to set their own social policy? Of course. But when voters in California did so in 2000, approving Proposition 22 (“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”) with over 61% of the votes. But Prop 22 was challenged in court, and in a 4-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court’s majority decided it knew better than the electorate, and imposed same-sex marriage despite the clear will of the people to the contrary. The Court’s reasoning was that that certain lofty concepts in the State Constitution, such as equal protection, demanded re-defining marriage to include homosexual couples.

How can the will of the people ever trump a four-judge majority of the State Supreme Court? By amending the state Constitution. Those favoring natural marriage, even before the 4-3 ruling in May 2008 imposing same-sex marriage on California, signed petitions to get the issue on the ballot, again. Only this time the wording “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” would be enshrined in the California Constitution if approved by the voters. The initiative, known as “Proposition 8,” passed, with over seven million Californians voting for Prop 8, and in an election year where Sen. Barack Obama swept California on his way to being elected President of the United States.

After it was passed, Proposition 8 was challenged in the courts. Those who favored same-sex marriage couldn’t challenge the vote count that affirmed Californians want marriage to be one man and one woman, so they made technical arguments about Prop 8 not being a proper initiative, and should therefore be stricken. The California Supreme Court upheld the propriety of Prop 8 in a 6-1 ruling, but allowed the 18,000 or so same-sex “marriages” that took place from June to November 2008 to be recognized.

That’s then end of the line, right? The people of California spoke as to how marriage should be defined, and the state Supreme Court finally upheld the will of the people as expressed in Prop 8. But never underestimate gay marriage supporters. The day the California Supreme Court declared Prop constitutional, two homosexual couples filed a lawsuit in federal court in California arguing that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated the federal (United States) Constitution.

The case was assigned to Judge Vaughn Walker, who failed to disclose that he was a homosexual and was in a ten-year relationship with another man. The fact that Judge Walker could have benefited from his own ruling was evidence to many that he should have either recused himself from hearing the case, or at least disclosed his same-sex relationship. He did neither, and after a trial Judge Walker ruled that there is a right to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution, and therefore he overturned, again, Prop 8.

Judge Walker’s ruling was appealed to the oft-reversed Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the case, Perry v. Brown, was assigned to a three-judge panel. One of the judges on the panel, Stephen Reinhardt, is the most reversed judge in the history of the United States, and his wife was the head of the ALCU of Southern California for nearly 40 years.
One of the issues for the Ninth Circuit was whether anyone had standing to represent the people of California who voted for Prop 8. Why was this an issue? Because when the federal challenge was filed against Prop 8 then-governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-attorney general Jerry Brown refused to defend the law (which was part of the Constitution of California, which they were both sworn to defend). The advocates of same-sex marriage tried to argue that no one had the right to step in and defend Prop 8 after the governor and attorney general refused, effectively denying the seven million who voted for Prop 8 from having a voice in opposing Judge Walker’s ruling, effectively giving a victory to supporters of same-sex marriage. The Ninth Circuit panel sent the issue of standing back to the California Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that the proponents of Prop 8 could represent the law in the federal appeal.

On February 7, 2012, the Ninth Circuit, by a 2-1 vote, affirmed the ruling of Judge Walker that Prop 8 violated the U.S. Constitution. Only the majority did not decide the case like Judge Walker did. Judge Walker found a right to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution (the first federal judge to ever do so, and a departure from the United States Supreme Court’s 1972 decision of Baker v. Nelson that held there is no right to same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution). The Ninth Circuit panel, however, clearly stated that they were not resolving the issue of whether the right to gay marriage is in the U.S. Constitution. Instead, the panel decided the issue by finding that same-sex couples had a right to marry in California, and Prop 8 took that right away without any rational basis, which made the law unconstitutional.

The Ninth Circuit opinion skims over the fact that the “right” to same-sex marriage was imposed by a 4-3 vote of the California Supreme Court, and the court-imposed “right” was only in effect for 143 days, until
Prop 8 was passed in November 2008. Further, the Ninth Circuit acknowledged that Prop 8 would be constitutional if any rational basis existed for the law promoting any legitimate government interest. The court found no rational basis for Prop 8, essentially saying that the law was rooted solely in hatred toward homosexuals. In short, the more than seven million Californians who voted for Proposition 8 were merely bigoted, since the court found that keeping marriage between a man and woman has no benefit to society whatsoever. The panel disregarded several rational reasons for natural marriage that promote legitimate government interests, such as optimal parenting and responsible procreation, reasons other courts have found to be rational bases for laws (e.g., Citizens for Equal Protection v. Brunig, 8th Circuit, 2006).

The proponents of Prop 8, who fought for Prop 22 and lost, who fought for Prop 8 before the California Supreme Court and won, who fought in federal district court and lost, who fought for standing before the Ninth Circuit and won, and who fought Judge Walker’s ruling before the Ninth Circuit and lost, now has a choice: either ask for an en banc hearing, in which a broader panel of the Ninth Circuit would review the 2-1 ruling of the panel affirming the district court’s overturning of Prop 8, or appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is currently a federal court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states, allows no recognition of same-sex marriages under federal law. Either or both the DOMA challenge and the Prop 8 (Perry) case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the issue of whether there is a right to same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution. Most court-watchers speculate that the U.S. Supreme court is divided 4-4 on the marriage issue, with Justice Anthony Kennedy being the swing vote. Whether true or not, soon the High Court will accept a case that will address the question of a “right” to same-sex marriage under the U.S. Constitution, and its decision will likely affect not only those seven states that currently allow gay marriage, but also the 43 states that do not allow same-sex marriage. But just like the Prop 8 issue in California, the question remains: Who decides the definition of marriage—the electorate, or a few people in black robes?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Men in Black Strike Again

Californians have become accustomed to a few people in black robes deciding they know better than the electorate. First, in 2008, by a bare 4-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court struck Prop 22, a voter-approved initiative that limited marriage to one man and one woman. Then California voters passed Prop 8, which had the same language as Prop 22, only this time as an amendment to the State Constitution. When the state Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, the opponents went to federal court, and found a sympathetic homosexual judge that ruled Prop 8 violated the U.S. Constitution. Now, in a 2-1 ruling, the oft-reversed Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court, essentially saying there was no rational basis for Prop 8 to take away the “right” for same-sex couples to marry. The 89-page opinion, written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the most reversed federal judge in the history of American, fails to give proper weight to the fact that the “right” to same-sex marriage was a right imposed by a 4-3 court opinion that only existed for 143 days until the electorate approved Prop 8. It was the effect of Prop 8 eliminating this “right” that was the basis for the Ninth Circuit ruling, not some yet-to-be found “right” to same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution. The issue of whether same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution is for another day, when the U.S. Supreme Court decides to weight in. Until then, the message is clear—all men are created equal, but if you wear a black robe, you are more equal than others, including over seven million Californians who approved Prop 8.