I plan to come back to my normal blogging schedule next week, beginning a new set in the “Drawing from the Well” series on the Nicene Creed. Today, I wanted to share some thoughts I have had recently about a pitfall I see in the pro-life movement.
What is the pro-life movement about? What are its specific cultural and political goals? How does it measure success? I believe the movement is primarily about one thing, and thus the success of the movement depends on the achievement of one measurable objective: the elimination of legal forms of murder in the United States and other (mostly Western) nations that currently allow it. The farther we drift from defining the term “pro-life” from that specific objective, the more fractured and weakened the movement will become. Continue reading
During the long presidential primary season, I would have preferred that the Republican party nominate anyone on its massive slate of candidates over Donald Trump. But Trump vanquished them all. Then, during the months of the general election campaign, I saw many reasons to be critical of candidate Trump, even to the point that, for the first time in my life, I chose not to vote for the Republican nominee for President (nor did I vote for the Democrat, nor have I ever done so, nor will I ever do so unless that party undergoes massive changes). And, in spite of my expectations, Trump vanquished Hillary Clinton and will tomorrow be inaugurated the 45th President of the United States.
In the two months that have passed since the election, as I have watched the Trump transition at work, my optimism for the future has grown. Here are several reasons why:
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, it seems he is a far better choice for President than the alternative we had this year. Hillary Clinton is one of the most transparently corrupt politicians in history. And, had she won, it would have been a foregone conclusion that leftist entrenchment in the massive organization of our federal government would have only grown, leading to more liberal policies on abortion, further curtailing of religious liberty, the permanence of Obamacare, and a continued push for cultural accommodations to LGBT concerns. Though I did not vote for Trump, I fully understand why many Christians did, and I think it is unfair to criticize them for choosing what appeared to be a bad option, when bad options were the only options on the table.
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, it is important to keep in mind that we are now emerging from eight years of an Obama administration that has been a wretched one. For eight years he has governed from the far left as a globalist and presidential imperialist. And now, at the end of his presidency, Constitutional government is virtually in shambles, left-wing ideology has permeated our federal government, our foreign policy is an incoherent mess that has led to a less stable world, and the list goes on and on. Having been through the Obama years, it is hard for me to imagine a President doing much worse. And by all accounts, it looks like Donald Trump will pursue policies oriented in a different political direction.
- As flawed as Donald Trump is, he has assembled a very strong administration, signaling his desire to pursue conservative policies in many areas of government. I am thrilled to see, for example, Betsy DeVos, an advocate for school choice, heading to the Department of Education. I expect Trump’s Supreme Court nominees will also be good ones. So far, Trump is making good on his promise to surround himself with solid, competent people. I believe, as the saying goes, that personnel is policy, and so the transition that Governor Pence (himself a solid pick for VP) has overseen gives me reason for optimism.
Of course, we cannot be naive. President Trump is very likely to continue the kind of imperialist presidency for which Barack Obama set a new precedent. On social issues related to marriage and sexuality, I don’t count Trump an ally. I don’t know that I have ever heard Donald Trump articulate a philosophy of government that comes close to resembling the Constitutional structure of checks and balances. It is regrettable that true conservatism wasn’t on the ballot in November 2016. I fully expect that the Trump presidency will help further the coarsening of our culture, that he will pursue some policies that will require convictional Christian believers to oppose him, and that under his leadership our national debt crisis will likely get worse.
And yet, all things considered, this is a scenario that is better than the alternative I envisioned. The hard push to the left that we have seen over these eight years has been arrested. The bleeding has been staunched. That doesn’t mean the whole body is healthy, but if you were expecting to bleed to death shortly, it’s certainly a reason to be thankful.
I am approaching the Trump years with cautious optimism, praying for our new President, hoping he will come through on many of his worthy campaign promises, but standing ready to oppose him when I must.
All of the sexual confusion and controversy of our age can be understood simply as an impasse between two different approaches to ethics, based on two different visions of the Good. One approach, the traditional one inherited from 2,000 years of Christian history, sees the external world as having a certain “givenness” to which my inner self should seek to conform. The world has been designed to operate a certain way, and not by me, and one of the ways I bow in submission to the Lord who designed and created the world is by seeking to conform my inner desires to the way things actually are in the external world. If I find a point of discord between my heart and the world, then I must assume the problem is in me and address it accordingly. If I have male anatomy but feel like I should be a woman, I assume that something has gone wrong with my feelings, and the best option to pursue is working through the difficult process of changing my feelings to match reality. If I have female anatomy but am sexually attracted to women, and thus attracted to a union that cannot, by definition, be oriented toward the fruitfulness of procreation and family, I must assume that my desires have become disordered and begin the difficult process of working to control them. Continue reading
It was unfortunate to see this week Jen Hatmaker publicly affirm support for same-sex relationships in her interview with Jonathan Merritt. Her support is clearly not limited to a pragmatic consideration pertaining to public policy but also includes the affirmation that a sexual relationship between same-sex partners can be holy, and thus morally legitimate.
As we continue to witness, one-by-one, Christian leaders and public figures embrace the legitimacy of homosexuality, it is important to recognize the reality of what we are witnessing, which is nothing short of the gradual abandonment of the Christian faith. I know that Christians have always had in-house debates about this issue or that, and that we land on various points on the spectrum on everything from the mode of baptism to the nature of the Israel-church relationship. But there is no such thing as a Christianity without a Christian sexual ethic, and the current attempt of left-leaning Christians to create one simply cannot succeed. Here’s why: Continue reading
With the presidential election coming soon, one of the arguments made against NeverTrump voters (of whom I am one) is that a vote for a third party candidate (such as the independent Evan McMullin, for example) is a wasted vote because, in the absence of any real possibility of victory, such a vote is meaningless. It is better, so it is argued, to opt for the lesser of two evils between the two major party candidates and achieve at least the possibility of some political gain, or at the least the possibility of doing less political damage than the alternative.
I disagree with this reasoning for two main reasons: Continue reading
I am currently teaching a Sunday School series entitled “The Gospel, Politics, and Culture” at my church. This past Sunday I argued, among other things, that one aspect of the political witness of the church is the formation of strong moral convictions on the pressing moral-political issues of our day. As disciples of Jesus, we must not assume that the church must have no voice on issues that are politically contentious. While I do believe that the church should not get pulled into the weeds of specific political strategy (e.g., supporting this bill over that one), it has both the right and the responsibility to take a clear position on moral issues such as abortion, the nature of marriage, and religious liberty, among other things.
I will be teaching on the three issues I named explicitly above: abortion, the nature of marriage, and religious liberty (the three issues addressed by the Manhattan Declaration of several years ago). The fact that my mind immediately gravitates to these three issues when I consider the question of moral formation in our churches may suggest to some that I am simply proposing a right-wing agenda for churches. Why, some might ask, wouldn’t I focus on alleviating poverty, providing universal healthcare, and immigration policy? Aren’t these moral issues as well? Doesn’t my approach indicate that I am nothing more than a partisan cloaking his preferred issues in the language of discipleship? Continue reading
I apologize for missing my regular Monday post yesterday. Occasionally, time gets away from me and leaves my blogging plans behind. I hope to get back on track next Monday.
In the meantime, I thought would share a brief reflection on an event I attended last night. It was the annual convocation ceremony of Augustine School, a classical Christian school for pre-K through 12th grade students in the Jackson area. Relatively speaking, it is a small school, with a total student body of around 125. But it is rare gem. Continue reading
If I could hand out one book at a large gathering of evangelicals, I would strongly consider What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. In this book, the authors argue that the church’s mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and that therefore churches should focus their efforts on Great Commission tasks and avoid the pitfall of spreading their efforts into too many good causes that would distract from what they have been sent in the world to do. It is a book that brings great clarity and focus to a discussion that has too often lacked it. It needs to be read far and wide, and if it is, it will be for the good of the church.
Peter Leithart recently wrote a response to the book in which he makes two major arguments against its main thesis. My aim is to respond to these two arguments. Continue reading
It is difficult for white people like myself to have conversations about racism, for a number of reasons. Here are a few I can think of:
- Because we think of racism primarily in terms of conscious, intentional patterns of thinking and deliberate actions and typically do not consider the possibility that it might far often manifest itself in unconscious assumptions. For this reason, we believe it’s a problem that some extremists may need to deal with, but certainly not us.
- Because we live a culture that is hypersensitive on racial issues, which has led to allegations of racism around every corner by professional race-baiters, and we do not want to give any legitimacy to that industry.
- Because our culture’s hypersensitivity leads us to think that we have to walk on eggshells when it comes to this topic for fear of saying the wrong thing. It is easier simply to avoid it altogether.
- Because the concept of systemic injustice is often vague and abstract to us, given that we live in a majority white culture and lack the experience that makes it a concrete reality.
- Because we are sinners who recoil from being confronted with our own sin.
Tim Kaine, vice presidential candidate, has been in the spotlight lately for claiming to be personally pro-life (as a Roman Catholic) yet publicly pro-choice (as a Democrat). His voting record in the Senate, with a 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood, is a clear indication that his “public” self is the one who comes to work everyday. In making this kind of distinction, Kaine is continuing the tradition that a number of Roman Catholic Democrats have been carrying on for decades now. Here is why the distinction simply doesn’t work. Continue reading