A June Surprise? President Obama and Same-Sex Marriage

Is President Obama about to endorse same-sex marriage? The possibility was the subject of open speculation on the front page of Sunday’s edition of The New York Times. Reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg quoted an unnamed Democratic strategist close to the White House, who said that the President’s advisers are considering the political costs, if any, of such an action.

When President Obama ran for office in 2008, he stated that he was opposed to same-sex marriage, but he ran as an ardent supporter of the homosexual community. This week, he will host a $1,250-a-plate “Gala for the Gay Community” in New York City. Stolberg also reports that the President will host a gay pride reception at the White House on June 29. The issue of same-sex marriage will inevitably be discussed, especially given the fact that the New York legislature may be poised to legalize same-sex marriage as early as this week.

Interestingly, Stolberg cites the fact that while Obama, as a candidate, ran as one opposed to same-sex marriage, “he may have been for same-sex marriage before he was against it.”

She writes: “In 1996, as a candidate for the State Senate in Illinois, Mr. Obama responded to a questionnaire from a gay newspaper. ‘I favor legalizing same-sex marriages,’ Mr. Obama wrote, ‘and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.'”

President Obama has already called and worked for the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and has instructed his Attorney General not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Same-sex marriage seems like the logical next step, given the President’s record.

Nevertheless, an open endorsement of same-sex marriage by an incumbent President of the United States would be a very significant and troubling development. If he were to do so, President Obama would not only repudiate his former position(s), he would push this nation toward the unraveling of civilization’s most central institution — marriage.

The unnamed Democratic strategist said that President Obama “is clearly a president who is interested in making big historical changes . . . I think this issue has moved into that context for him.”

The realm of politics is as corrupted by sin as is any other dimension of creation and human culture. Here is a prime example of that fact. With this article, the White House is moving forward in gauging the political costs of such a move. The very fact that this article appeared in a Sunday edition of The New York Times indicates that the White House is well down the road of endorsing same-sex marriage. If this strategist is right, President Obama sees himself as the leader who can make “big historical changes.” Well, this one is big, indeed.

Such a move would represent nothing less than a moral revolution. Furthermore, the one who makes such a move would be nothing less than a moral revolutionary.

The Myth of the Genderless Baby

Back in the nineteenth century, the British people were introduced to a fairy tale about “water babies” through a story written by Rev. Charles Kingsley. The water babies entered folklore, and generations of British children imagined the water babies and their story.

Now, out of Canada comes another strange story, but this one is not a fairy tale. Two Canadian parents have ignited a firestorm over their determination to raise their third child as a “genderless” baby.

As reporter Jayme Poisson reports, “The neighbors know [Kathy] Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising a genderless baby. But they don’t pretend to understand it.”

Well, the neighbors might take these parents at their word, but the very idea of a genderless baby is nonsense. This is not a baby with ambiguous genitalia, a defect that occurs in a very small percentage of births. The parents admit that this baby has a clear biological sex, but they do not want that to become the child’s identity. They want the child to make that determination at a later date.

To no real surprise, these parents classify themselves on the political and ideological left. Their two older children are both boys, but the parents encourage the boys to act and dress in unconventional ways. So much so, that as the reporter informs us, many who see them assume they are girls.

The new baby, named Storm, is dressed and presented in a manner that makes no clear gender statement. Only the parents, the two older boys, and a close family friend know the truth about the child’s biological sex.

As Poisson reports:

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” says Witterick, bouncing Storm, dressed in a red-fleece jumper, on her lap at the kitchen table.

“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says Stocker.

Well, actually, you do — not in the crass and crude way that Mr. Stoker puts it, but in the virtually universal way that people ask of a baby: Is it a boy or a girl?

The controversy surrounding Storm is a sign of our times. Our rebellion against the Creator has now reached the point that we will deny the fact that our identity is not just our own personal project, but is first of all established in the Creator’s intention — and part of that intention is the fact that we are male or female.

Storm’s parents clearly believe that our personal identity is our own personal project. They lament even the fact that parents make so many decisions for their children. “It’s obnoxious,” Stoker says.

Well, the decision about gender is not something made by parents, but by God. At this point, the Christian worldview and the worldview of secularism run into direct collision. Nevertheless, the objective reality of the child’s gender will eventually become a public issue, regardless of the parents’ intentions. As even they recognize, at some point in the future, decisions about such things as which bathroom the child will use will force the issue.

The major issue at stake in this controversy is the objective reality of sex and gender. We are, in fact, what our genitals tell us we are. This is not because we are genitally determined, but because we were created by a holy God, whose plans and purposes for us are, inescapably, tied to our gender.

Gender is not merely a socially constructed reality. When the Southern Baptist Convention modified its confession of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message, in 2000, it added language that defined gender as “part of the goodness of God’s creation.”

Some observers wondered why that language is important. Now, you know.

Screen Test: The Danger of Digital Fixation

When it comes to the dangers of the digital age, most parents worry about what is on the screen of the computer. Recent research indicates that the screen itself just might be a very real danger.

Writing in The New York Times, physician Perri Klass warns that many parents are unaware of the risks posed by the digital screen. She tells of parents who tell the pediatrician that their child cannot have attention problems because he can watch a digital screen for hours on end. The child may have attention issues elsewhere, but not in front of a screen.

Dr. Klass writes:

In fact, a child’s ability to stay focused on a screen, though not anywhere else, is actually characteristic of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There are complex behavioral and neurological connections linking screens and attention, and many experts believe that these children do spend more time playing video games and watching television than their peers.

Dr. Christopher Lucas of the New York University School of Medicine explains that the kind of attention demanded by the digital screen is very different from that required, for example, by a classroom or a book. The child in the classroom has to pay attention without immediate reward and learn to maintain that attention. When reading, a child has to supply the reward by means of imagination.

But, when focused on a digital screen, the child’s attention is rewarded by “frequent intermittent rewards” in the form of hormones released into the brain. The child may grow dependent on these rewards and lose the ability to maintain attentiveness without the pleasurable charges to the brain.

Dr. Klass admits that the research is not yet able to answer the question of which comes first — the dependence on the screen or the lack of attentiveness. Either way, the close association of the digital screen and the attention crisis is well documented.

This does not mean that parents should throw the computer (and other digital devices) out of the house, but it is a wake-up call that Christian parents should note with particular concern. For Christians the issue cannot be merely academic success in the classroom. We must be concerned with the means of grace that make for godliness in the life of the believer. The Christian should be a student of the Scriptures, and this requires the discipline of attentive reading. Attentive worship is another necessary discipline of the Christian life.

Are we creating a generation that cannot worship or read without the need for a dopamine release?

This research is important for us all. The digital revolution has brought wonders and opened new worlds. There is so much to celebrate and appreciate. At the same time, there are real dangers in these new technologies, especially for children. Parents must set and maintain boundaries for their children . . . and for themselves.

The Terrorist and His Porn Stash

The news that a huge stash of digital pornography had been discovered on the computers taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound was big news, but it should not have been a big surprise. As Scott Shane of The New York Times reports, the discovery “could fuel accusations of hypocrisy against the founder of Al Qaeda, who was 54 and lived with three wives at the time of his death.”

Well, he would hardly be the first married man caught with a porn stash, but in this case, Osama bin Laden had repeatedly accused the United States of immorality, with specific reference to pornography and sexualized images.

In 2002, bin Laden released a ‘Letter to the American People,” in which he attacked American sexual mores. In his words:

Your nation exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them. . . . You plaster your naked daughters across billboards in order to sell a product without any shame. You have brainwashed your daughters into believing they are liberated by wearing revealing clothes, yet in reality all they have liberated is your sexual desire.”

There is considerable truth in his criticism of America’s sinfully-sexualized and pornography-drenched culture, of course. Americans should be humiliated that we are known for such cultural exports to other nations. And yet, it turns out that the terrorists who denounce America for its depravity allow themselves pornography — and sexual entertainments.

At least some of those directly involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks had visited sexually explicit entertainment services just days before the murderous events.

What are we to think of this? Hypocrisy is nothing new, and we are prone to revel in it when seen in others. But there are larger lessons. For one thing, those who commit themselves to asceticism and denial in order to earn or supposedly deserve God’s mercy and favor almost always allow themselves some sinful enjoyments. As a recent study of dieters revealed, those who put themselves on a rigorous food diet often allow themselves other satisfactions — an expensive new dress, a few more hours of television . . . or worse.

Christians are called to holiness, not to asceticism for the sake of asceticism. The Gospel reminds us that we do not deserve our salvation and that there is nothing we can do to deserve it. Bin Laden and his associates must have been convinced that Allah would forgive them their sexual sins because of their faithfulness in carrying out acts of terrorism in the name of Islam.

Christians had better see this as a warning lest we allow ourselves the same kind of rationalization.The porn stash in Abbottabad is not only a symbol of Osama bin Laden’s hypocrisy — it is also a warning to us all.

The Trial that Still Must Come — The Death of Osama bin Laden and the Limits of Human Justice

As is always the case, we are left with a sense that a higher court is still needed. Christians know that Osama bin Laden escaped the reach of full human justice and a trial for his crimes, but he will not escape the judgment that is to come. Bin Laden will not escape his trial before the court of God. Until then, sober satisfaction must be enough for those still in the land of the living.

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Nero in Beijing — The Communist Party Declares War on Christians

The news out of China grows worse as reports of the arrest, detention, harassment, and beatings of Christians come from across China. The most publicized case thus far is the repeated oppression against a Beijing congregation that has led to numerous arrests and a crackdown within China’s capital.

In a very important editorial statement, The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board set the record straight. “Religious persecution is always abhorrent, but in this case it’s also a political blunder,” the paper stated.

Further:

The incident is a microcosm of the wider problems caused by China’s crackdown. Beijing insists it wants to promote a harmonious and stable society. Yet by arresting prominent activists for no apparent reason, the security forces are doing the opposite: Those who were once content to live quietly with the Party’s restrictions on free expression are now compelled to speak out.

Observers warn that China is sending the signal that it will not allow the eruption of protests like those that have spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

There is more to it, of course. Central to this crackdown is the paranoia of the Communist Party. One of the hallmarks of democratic societies is the existence of thriving “mediating institutions” between the individual and the brute power of the state. In the United States, these mediating institutions include everything from the PTA to your local church and the neighborhood reading club.

One dimension of the Communist Party’s idolatry is that it allows no mediating institutions between its power and the individual. It greatly fears these organizations, especially the church.

One reason — Christians in China now outnumber members of the Communist Party.

China’s strategy was detailed by the paper’s editorial:

This may come as a surprise to some in the West. Until recently, Beijing had played a skillful game of applying the screws just enough to keep everybody in line while easing state control over most aspects of people’s lives, including employment, choice of a spouse, housing, religion and even the ability to criticize the government in limited terms. International human rights advocates had to admit that most Chinese enjoyed greater freedom than ever before, and many foreigners downplayed arrests of dissidents as aberrations against a general trend of liberalization.

In other words, “those who doubted the Communist Party’s sincerity were right all along.”

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