Gay Marriage: Time to Get Over It

This is not just my view, it is the view of a gentleman who is considered to be the leader of the religious right’s intellectual wing.   Dr. Albert Mohler’s remarks can be seen at Christianpost.com.  He is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Mohler also registered his litany of complaints about other things.  He believes the President should have maintained opposition to the case for gay marriage.  He encourages everyone to keep working to turn around the public’s support.

Nevertheless, he said, Christians need to prepare for the normalization of gay marriage.  “I think it’s clear that something like same-sex marriage is going to become normalized, legalized and recognized in the culture. It’s time for Christians to start thinking about how we’re going to deal with that,” he said.

So far as I know, this is the first Christian right celebrety to admit it is time to recognize that the legal argument against gay marriage is over. Mohler made another interesting prediction about acceptance inside the evagelical community. 

“I think we’re going to be surprised and heartbroken over how many people are going to capitulate to the spirit of the age,” he noted.  “We’re going to find now that there may not be as many of us as we thought.”

Long ago, I came to believe that if gay people could tell their story to the general public, discrimination against them would end.  Acceptance of gay marriage is a good step forward.

The Most Politically Incorrect Word in the United States

There is a word almost never uttered by politicians.  It is seldom mentioned on the news or by pundants. It’s a word that raises hackles.

The word is overpopulation.  The term implies some finite capacity of the earth to support humans.  The opposite of this is the word is, “The Lord will provide.”  People have said this to me.

The world and U. S. population is rising by about one percent per year.  The rate outside the U. S. is higher than that within the U. S.  

Fortunately, the rate of growth is slowing.  If the rate continues to slow, the population will peak in 20 to 30 years.

Yet, the population may have run right by the capacity marker in the 1980’s.  We may see adjustments to overpopulation that will affect us here in the U. S.  

There are areas of the world that are farther beyond the ability to support growing populations than other areas.  Our country will be asked to help, including, perhaps, military support.

I wish it were possible to separate birth control, including the “A” kind, from religion and this Chrisitian thing, sin. If we know there is a problem that requires a solution, we know the solution and can provide it, I think we have an ethical obligation to do something. 

 The problem of death and suffering caused by too many people is preventable.  Some members of Congress and religion officials take pride in stopping funding of birth control and increasing the suffering that results.

New in Your Hymnal, AULD LANG SYNE

The annual yearbook of church membership in the Unitied States was just published. Overall, church membership is down about one percent.

Catholic membership rose by about one percent.  Pentacostal, Seventh Day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witness went up about two percent.  Southern Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ went down about two percent.    

The population of the U. S. goes up something like one percent a year.  So, the drop in the percentage of the U. S. population that belongs to churches is about two percent. 

These numbers have been about the same for several years.  This trend for ten years would reduce the percentage of the U. S. that belongs to churches by twenty percent.

If the denominations that showed growth have more children, and the children are considered members, some of their growth may be due to this.  Also, the hispanic population is the fastest growing ethnic group. Denomiations that they prefer, Catholic and pentacostal, may benefit.

This steady drop in church membership has many implications, like property tax exemptions of church property.  This exists because of the political popularity of churches.  If this popularity falls, churches will have to collect more from their members.

Other reports I have read say the average age of church members is rising, signaling lack of interest by the young.  The same trend started in Europe before it started here and has never reversed.  

But, the future is not always like the past. We don’t know what the future will bring.

Name Calling: Nazi, Communist, Atheist

During my 30 years as a public person, here, I’ve been called many names.  I don’t mind it.  It’s part of the deal.

Last week, I was called a new one here, a “closet gay-devil worshipper”.  I don’t know what that is, but I do have a little issue with the writer.  I don’t like being considered secretive, as in “closet”.  So, if anyone calls me this again, I’d appreciate being called an “open”, “out” or “admitted” GDW.   

While calling politicans like me nasty names is a fun form of recreation, it is not the same with groups of people.  It’s not considered acceptable any more to call women or black people stupid.  Derogatory labels for people of races and gender are mostly not acceptable anymore.

But, atheists are still called Communists and Nazis.  This is done even though atheists have nothing to do with those two politican movements. And, Communists and Nazis had no intellectual investment in atheism.

That is to say, there is no writing by either political group that spells out the origin of the universe, meaning of death or the afterlife.  These kinds of ideas are what make up a belief system. 

The Communists did not like religion, but said little else.  Atheists did not like Hitler and Hilter embraced religion.

In these ways, the Nazis and Communists differed greatly from atheists.  The name calling like “atheist Nazis” or “atheist Communists” is misleading, immature and inaccurate. 

It reflects a shallow understanding of these terms.

Let’s Rewrite History: Hitler and Lenin

Let’s rewrite it back to what is was before it was rewritten.  Or, just rewrite it to fit my own bias.  You can decide.

Hitler said he was a Christian.  Many pundants now say he was an atheist.  Mostly, he was neither.  

Lenin and the Communists are referred to as “atheists”. They, like Hitler, might have thought of themselves, personally, as Christians.  Like Hitler, they were mostly neither.  Like Hitler, they had other things on their minds.

The Communists came to power with economic, not religious, goals.  In trying to reach their economic goals, they ran into political resistance.  Some was from the Church.

So, like Hitler’s decision to publicize his religious convictions, Communists made the pragmatic decision to abolish a group that criticized their economic goals. This was the church.

Both Hitler and Lenin/Stalin were politicans, as well as evil dudes.  They used persuasion and the power of government to bring about the changes they wanted. Hitler wanted to restore the “greatness” that German’s might have thought they had before WWI.  Lenin wanted to redistribute income and wealth.  Probably both thought they would be very popular for their efforts.

Today it is popular to say that  Communists were atheists. The implication being that atheists are Communists. People like me amuse themselves by pointing out that Hitler was a Christian. The implication being that Christians are like Hitler.

What does Hilter’s Christianity and the Lenin/Stalin persecution of Christians have to do with today’s Christians and atheists?  Actually, nothing. 

The sooner we stop linking these historical villians to either point of view the better off we will be.

Here’s What Really Worries Secular People

I think every secular person, be he atheist, agnostic or Christian for the separation of church and state, knows that it will be a long time, if ever, before all vestiges of religion are removed from governemt.  Things like God in the pledge and the Ten Commandments on public property will be here for a long while. 

What raises alarm bells among us is when someone of some statrue makes an overt assertion that our government should just stand up and say, “The Bible tells us our government to do this or that.”  Even though we hear it often, every time it happens we worry for our country.

Today a retired evangelical pastor and author in Southern California named John MacArthur did it.  He said that our government leaders should go over to the countries of Eygpt, Libia and Tunisia and tell the protestors to knock it off.  Our government, he says, should tell protestors, “This is wrong, this is forbidden for people to do this, this is intolerable.”

Our government should do this for one reason, the Biblical admonishment to, “submit to the powers that be because they’re ordained of God.”  But, that is not all the good advice he had for our leaders.

He noted also that democracies are not always that good for the growth of Chrisianity.  Some of the best countries, he said, are places where a dictator promotes the faith.

I hope we do not see the likes of Pastor MacArthur in high government positions.

The Christian Right’s Short Sitedness

For several months, a Christian right group here in North Dakota has been trying to collect enough signatures to place on a ballet something called the Religious Liberty Restoration Ammendment.  The “right” does not seem to understand that this measure could return to harm them, not to mention the rest of our citizens.

The ammendment says, in effect, that if you have a job, and some task comes up that you feel violates some religious tenent that you hold, you do not have to perform that task.  If you have a “sincerely held religous belief” that you feel is compromised by the task, you don’t have to do it. 

This ammendment would place religious previlage higher than it has every been in our State.  The peculiar aspect of it is that very little documentation is required as to what it means to sincerely hold some belief.  It seems like religions that have not yet been born may crop up to claim exemption from tasks that someone does not want to bother doing.

We know it refers to pharmacists who do not want to sell birth control pills and school councelors who do not want to provide help to gay students.  But, what about other religious taboos?

A muslim cab driver may be able to not carry anyone who has consumed alcohol.  If serving pork is a taboo of someone’s faith and they are working at a barbeque place, he can refuse to do much of anything. 

This measure would expand government’s reach in a big way.

Phone Me, Sinner

There has been much discussion on some websites about the new Catholic innovation, using the iPhone for confession.  

This notion seems ridiculous at first.  But, one can see it must be, at least in part, a response to the shortage of priests.  It must take a lot of time to listen to people ramble on. 

When you think about it, religion has seen technology upset “traditional” ways of worship since day one.  I wonder what people thought the first time they heard a preacher on the radio.  Did they think, “That is strange, trying to preach over this box.  Preaching is supposed to be done right there in front of people.”

Following the radio was, of course, both local church services and evangelists broadcasting on television.  Electric guitars and  high tech sound equipment are now common.  The internet and Facebook are part of today’s technology mix.

It’s fun to speculate about what might be the next tech apps.  The iPhone could be used in so many ways.  How about scanning in your tithe as you walk into church instead the flat period during the service when the collection plates are passed?  And maybe nonsingers could hold up their phones with prerecorded singing to participate during hymns.

It will be interesting to learn if more Catholics fessup their sins with the new innovation.  I think the Catholics should modernize thier views about sin to match the new technology. 

Their views are still back in the preradio days.

Listen to MY Prayer, Not That Other Person’s

In my professional field of economics, there is something called a Zero Sum Game.  It happens when the only way for one person to win is for another person to lose.  To leave the sum at zero, the gains and losses must be exactly equal.

Unfortuately, much of real life seems to be a zero sum game.  When we encounter it, I don’t understand how prayer makes things better. 

If there is one job opening and two devout Christians apply, why does it make sense for both to pray the prayer, “Give it to me.”  The implication of the prayer is that the other person should fail. The same principle applies to praying that one will win the lottery.

The zero sum result is especially true in sports.  One team wins, the other loses.  When the coach leads the team in prayer, he/she is praying for the other team to lose.

I would think this concept would be confusing to young  people.  They are trained, especially these days, to cooperate, work in groups and encourage each other.  To then be told, “We’re going to pray that we win (and those others lose),” seems out of step with the value system they are being taught. 

It would make more sense if people would limit their prayers to requests that did not make others worse off. For example, if there is no limit to the number of people that can reach enternity,  one could pray for that.

Maybe during this season of flooding the best prayer would be for all boats to rise.

Are You Hearing Voices?

Recently, I was watching Pat Robertson.  I’ve often heard him say, “The Lord told me that…..”   There was never doubt that he had just gotten off the speakerphone with Jesus.

But, this time he said very carefully, “I had the impression that the Lord was speaking to me….”  I was so surprised to hear the disclaimer, “impression…” that I forgot to listen to whatever it was Pat thought he had heard.

I think it would be a healthy thing if all the big Christian evangelists and personalities would stop saying they hear directly from Jesus and God.  It seems to me it has the potential to persuade mentally ill people to believe that they, too, may be hearing from Jesus and are being instructed to do horrific things.

While it is not exactly the same thing, the rather common practice of saying one has reached a “prayful decision” carries the implication that while praying, one heard instructions.  Some of us are old enough to remember the resignation of President Nixon.  

Afterwards, the Federal Government began building a criminal case against Nixon.  Suddenly, President Ford announced that he had pardoned Nixon.  I remember most clearly that Ford then said, “I reached the decision after much prayer.”

Psychiatrists sometimes ask patients if they hear voices talking to them when no one is there.  For some reason, we think it is OK if the voice is that of Jesus.

It would be better if politicans and preachers did not hear voices.