Conversation on President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christianity (Part 3)

This is the third and final part. I would love to hear your thoughts after reading all three.

Matt: Christianity struggles with extremes. There have been voices that have said Christians should have everything to do with politics and other voices who say Christians should have nothing to do with politics. Is there a healthy balance where we can land? I think that balance starts with saying that we can’t rely on political processes to be the leverage we use to impact the world with our faith. We cannot depend on politicians to be our voice or our power and strength. I fear we have often put politicians into some roles and given them some expectations that should have been reserved for God and the Holy Spirit.

Politics is not the priority in the life of a Christian. When we have faith in God it will certainly be expressed in how we view the political process, how we vote, what issues are important to us and which issues won’t make any difference to us. We have to get below the surface to the spiritual reality of our lives and how our actions and attitudes toward politics, legislation, etc either uphold a Christian worldview or they do not and adjust accordingly. I love how Jesus takes specific actions in the sermon on the mount and digs below it all to the spiritual reality of what God is really after. God wants our hearts. Have we given our hearts to another and does our reaction to all these things show us where our heart really is? Too often I am afraid we have co-opted and syncretized our faith with the world in a way that makes Christians unrecognizable from the world. We can’t let that happen.

On a side note, I don’t see why granting “partners” visitation rights has to be tied to marriage. Is there a good explanation out there of why the two must be tied together?

Philip: I pretty well agree with all you said there.

As for your question, that’s where my knowledge gets hazy.  But it’s always struck me that the only difference between a civil union and marriage is semantics.  And there is a growing sentiment in the LGBT community to call their relationships by the name that opposite-sex couples call their relationships:  marriage.

Imagine for a moment a bizzaro world (this is a stretch, but play along) where our country banned marriage for cannibals.  No one who openly eats human flesh is allowed to gain a marriage license.  ALSO- guess what:  Christians who partake in the Lord’s Supper are classified as cannibals.  So we can no longer get married.  But, hey, here you go:  you’re allowed to have a Civil Union.  BTW, that’s the case in only 18 states — in 30 of them you can’t even have a civil union.  So you’ve got that going for you.  But no matter what you can’t call it marriage.

To us, that would seem like a very strange way to prevent a group of people from enjoying all the civil benefits of marriage that a large swath of the rest of society enjoys when they pledge themselves to someone.  Much less being able to express socially that you are married to someone.  And having your government — which is supposed to represent you (“a government of the people, by the people, and for the people”) — acknowledge that as well.

So I think that’s the essence of the yearning that the LGBT community has.

Matt: I have a feeling the transubstantiation crowd would flex a little in order to retain their rights to marry 🙂 I also think that many would view themselves as married in God’s sight (after going through the traditional Christian process) apart from what the government had to say about it all. There is the whole point though, right? Do we care what the government does and doesn’t say about all of this?

Philip: The LGBT community cares, yes.  Especially when it comes to civil issues related to marriage.

I don’t like being put in a position of defending their views.  I don’t want to fall into the trap that political moderates (like myself… since I am one) often stumble into.  Someone takes a side, so they (I) sense imbalance.  So as to restore their (my) sense of balance the moderate takes the other side.

Over and above the political intricacies of rights in gay marriage — or legal considerations of state amendments vs. a federal law — I’m way more interested in how the Church responds to the shifting dynamics at play.  Because I’m convinced that the bi-polar status quo of either wholesale resentment of & political activism against anything homosexual (on one side) or wholesale embrace of homosexuality & consideration as a legitimate, God-accepted choice for consenting adults (on the other side) is wrong.  So what is the way forward for the Church?

Matt: You saw right through my trap 😉 How does the church respond? We could write a whole book on that one and not cover it. In my opinion here is the key…the problem we have had in the past is that somehow Christians have thought that certain issues were serious enough that they could leave every single one of the fruits of the Spirit at the door when discussing them with others. If we embrace those fruits as we enter into these conversations we can have a healthier dialog with those we disagree with.

Related links:
Did Obama Change the Nation’s Mind on Gay Marriage
How Obama Moves the Needle on Gay Marriage


Conversation on President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christianity (Part 2)

Matt: Great thoughts. I had thought about Rex’s posts as well when you mentioned the culture war. Part of our problem is that so many of us have nothing better to do for the kingdom than rail against stuff like this. If we were as actively engaged in kingdom work as Paul was we might not even have time to be talking about these things because there would be more pressing personal and spiritual issues we were dealing with locally.

There are several issues here that have to be pulled apart:

First is Obama, as a Christian, openly embracing homosexuality and gay marriage. It seems technology has trumped Matthew 18 when it comes to a dispute among brothers. When Jesus talked about resolving issues among brothers he really did mean go to that brother. He did not say smash people you don’t know from afar. He didn’t say blog about it and air your dirty laundry first and maybe then say something to them later if you have a chance. He said go to them and trying to make things right. President Obama is a Christian. I am allowing him to define himself rather than get into all of the ins and outs of that here. If we take that seriously it would mean someone really should personally and privately go to him and talk to him about on homosexuality and gay marriage. Based on his recent comments he personally believes the lifestyle is morally acceptable and should be on level with marriage among heterosexuals. That is problematic as far as how that meshes with his faith. It does not seem that he is taking the stance that he doesn’t believe homosexuality is right but he is just trying to stay out of the way of legislating what people do in their own lives. He said this is his own personal view.

Second, how do we as Christians feel the political process and legislation play a role in the lives of controlling behavior of Christians and non-Christians in this country? That, to me, is the trickier question and I am still trying to figure that one out. I would be curious to hear more of your thoughts in regard to the first point and the second.

Third, is there a place for a prophetic voice out there in all of this? It seems the voice of the prophet would be shut out today in the name of not offending people. Imagine someone today taking Isaiah’s approach of preaching naked to show how shameful it all is. Someone would call Christians nuts if someone did that. It happened in the Bible…although it was done in Israel/Judah (insiders who should have known better) and not in the streets of Babylon (outsiders to faith). I am not sure how to balance all of that out but I think it is a valid question that I really hear people avoiding more than anything else. Thoughts?

Fourth, it is interesting to read the trial and crucifixion of Jesus and Paul’s trials and see what approach these guys took in dealing with the authorities of their day. Paul deals with Festus and Agrippa differently based on their own background as insider and outsider to Judaism/Christianity. I need to read through some of that again but it might help us to see how they dealt with these things and what their priorities were so we can further define our own rather than letting contemporary culture and politics do it for us by default.

Philip: It’s a good point about the President being a Christian.  But the President is not the first person to call himself a Christian & welcome homosexual marriage.  I’d contend that there are people of greater influence in circles of faith who are promoting the moral acceptability of this lifestyle.

Your second question is one I’m very anxious about for the Church.  And more specifically:  is the Church allowing political calculators & political actors to announce what our moral priorities are or are not?  And I think the answer is a resounding yes.  Look through history of our country we find that the church has a terrible record of being swept up into the spirit of it’s age.  During the Civil War pulpits across the land moralized based on where they were located:  north or south. (HT: Harry Stout  Our pulpits moralized over the evils of alcohol leading up to Prohibition & had no idea about the devastating unintended consequences that would result.  Pulpits in the south were terribly slow to confront racism & even used passages like Ezra 9 to defend segregation.

WHO exactly were we allowing to lead us around???  Honestly!  Who are we allowing to lead us around today?  For Kingdom people who are on the left AND on the right?  If we receive our moral marching orders from either David Plouffe or Karl Rove, then we really are the useful idiots that the Evangelical Manifesto said we were 4 years ago.

If we’re seeking a prophetic voice for this country on homosexuality then I think we’ve mistaken our priorities & venerated “Christian society” ahead of Kingdom-building.  Prophets are always aimed at God’s people who have gone wayward.  Are we going to persist in holding on to this notion that the U.S. is new Israel?

Again- we don’t see Paul, a Roman citizen, aiming a prophetic voice at the Empire to turn from their godless values.  And just think historically for a moment:  how short-sighted would that have been?  For Paul to aim his energy and his talents at trying to turn around Rome?  Thank God that Paul was led by the Spirit to have larger priorities.

I think the prophets that the Church needs are prophets that the Church already has.  Like Shane Claiborne who invites the Church to come out from partisanship in “Jesus for President.”  And like Derek Webb who proclaims that he’s never seen a Savior on Capitol Hill.  I wish the Church had ears to hear those prophets.

But I think we still stubbornly hold on to this idea that we can create Christian Utopia here today.  If we just pass the right laws & have just the right leadership we can usher in an age of vibrant faith.  Or at the very least “keep God on our good side.”  And I think political calculators & political actors exploit that misplaced hope and/or potential fear of America getting on God’s bad side.

I think the Church desperately needs to take back her moral voice from the political influences that have tarnished it historically.  As you can probably tell I feel pretty strongly about this.

Matt: Much of the angst you are expressing was summed up extremely well in a book that has just come out called “A Faith of Our Own” by Jonathan Merritt. I reviewed it and did a Q & A with Jonathan about his book.

You basically summed up his book in a few paragraphs. I will quote one paragraph from my review just to give you an idea,

“Jonathan believes Christianity has bought into the game of politics hook, line and sinker rather than mapping out a more biblical approach to how Christians engage their lives in what really matters. Merritt argues that for far too long Christians have allowed the political parties to use us as a voting block to move their agendas through while we mistook our partnership with politicians as a means to advance and engage in God’s mission. His contention in this book is that our identity as Christians must shape our politics and not the other way around. He also believes that our identity as Christians overcomes the dividing lines between parties as the commonality we find in Christ can bring those who disagree on the issues together worshipping the same God.”

As far as the prophetic voice goes, prophets didn’t focus on just one thing or the other all the time. They gave air time to many issues that were causing God’s people to be far from him (idolatry, mistreatment of the poor, etc). You know the list. The loudest Christian voices out there today have three major problems in dealing with issues like this:

1 – They don’t do it in love.

2 – They target the wrong audience (in scripture the target of rebuke was God’s people nine times out of ten, not the world…there are notable exceptions)

3 – They harp on the same one or two issues (homosexuality and abortion) and give no air time to anything else.

We all need to be reminded that speaking on God’s behalf is a dangerous thing. So many people take it so lightly. In Deuteronomy 18:20 here is what God told Moses about those who say they speak in God’s name things God has not commanded,

” But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” ”

That is pretty serious business!

Philip: Wise words.  And on that note I think you’ve nearly brought this conversation in for a landing.  Any prophetic voice needs to be motivated by love.  Not bigotry, or discomfort, or fear — but love.  And that’s what our reputation needs to be.  According to Jesus we are supposed to be known by our love (Jn. 13:35).  And when you look at our rep in the world today it seems like it’s anything but.  We’ve got some work to do.

I don’t know whether or not our country should allow same-sex marriage.  There are so many issues (from hospital visitation rights to taxes; to national standards of morality) that I have a difficult time saying exactly what the right thing to do is.  If each one of us were Emperor who knows what would be the right thing to do.  Maybe there’s some among us who would want to, like the President, apply the Golden Rule.  I know there’s plenty among us who want to stand on the side of the Biblical definition of marriage.

But the hard truth to face (for some among us) is that none of us is Emperor of America.  So how do we Christians proceed?  I think we’d do well to be agents of love in the world.  Who knows– we might even win over a few members of the LGBT community.  Wouldn’t that be a thrill?  I pray for that.

Conversation On President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christianity (Part 1)

A good friend of mine, Philip Cunningham, asked me if we could dialog a bit on our perspective on the news that Obama was going on the record about endorsing gay marriage. We thought it might be refreshing to have a healthy and productive conversation on the web instead of all the trashing people do of each other. We were mostly focused on what we, as Christians, should think about and respond to President Obama saying he was pro gay marriage. Here is the first part.

Matt: One thing I will say and am curious to hear what you think, why do you think he (The President) has always previously said that he thought marriage was between a man and woman but that his thoughts are still evolving. But now that he is pro gay marriage his views are no longer evolving as you might think they should. It is as if you can only evolve in your thinking toward gay marriage being right and once you land there, there is no more room to evolve into an better view. Do you think it implies that? Am I reading too much into it? Well…there is my first post 😉

Philip: I think the President said that because he wants to get elected.  Politicians — at least the ones who are good at it — say what they say to win elections & consolidate power.  There are lots of harebrained ideas out there about the President.  But one of the most under-discussed is this:  he is a political animal.  He & his team are as skilled a political machine as our country has ever seen.  And so you’ll forgive me if I doubt the sincerity of his evolution on this topic.

In fact:  it seems that our President has been evolving quite a bit over the last several decades (HT CBN:

Perhaps the most absurd example of political “evolution” is the issue of Healthcare & our new national law.  Four years ago, candidate & then-Senator Obama campaigned against a national mandate in order to defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary. (HT ABC News:  And before all of the rancor & malice was stirred up on the right against healthcare, former Governor Romney pointed to his record in Massachusetts & championed a national mandate! (HT Boston Globe:  And now, this fall, America will observe both of these gentlemen argue the opposite positions passionately.

No- I don’t intend to defend the President on his “evolution” same-sex marriage.  Or expect any politician to lead the Church forward on this issue.

Are you concerned at how the President’s announcement will influence the country?  The Church?

Matt: I think that the president certainly does have influence, otherwise what is the point of having a president? Does the president’s view on something dictate it for the rest of us? Only if it becomes law and legally binding. Being the first president in U.S. history to endorse gay marriage is certainly a step in the wrong direction morally speaking. I do realize that there have been presidents in the past on the wrong side of various moral issues. That doesn’t make this a unique issue with Obama. It isn’t that only perfect people with perfectly biblical view points can or should be president…we wouldn’t be able to fill the office ever again. The problem I have with this is:

  • I disagree with his conclusion
  • My assumption (could be wrong) is that it is all political anyway.
  • Political or not this gives presidential backing to a very controversial topic in a way that has never been done before. In doing so he is giving more confirmation to society that homosexuality is normal (hey the president is on my side!) and that the fight they have been fighting to make this a social issue (something close to race) has succeeded.

Will it influence the church? Of course. Some will come out with guns blazing and will only confirm to the world that Christians are nuts. Others will stand for the truth in a more loving and gentle way. However, the church will still be the church. The church doesn’t stand or fall based on presidential proclamations or personal stances.

I ran across some items that came up on Obama’s website after his announcement.

I guess that means this announcement had been in the works a while (regardless of Joe Biden “oopsing” it) for his production team to have these on hand so quickly. My question for you is does it bother you that the Obama’s website is now selling pro-homosexual and gay marriage memorabilia? Do we just chalk that up to catering to his base and supply and demand or should we have a problem with him making a profit off his stance on these issues? It is not a new question, I am sure every president to date has made a profit off their stand on various issues and their stand on various issues has resulted in campaign contributions from those who support their view. I am curious to hear your take on that. Maybe I have already answered my own question.

Philip: I don’t know- the baby onesies for sale probably don’t bother me as much they should.  There are a whole lot of other issues that disturb me more than that — like the amount of money that is poured into our political campaigns in general.  I only have so much indignation that I can muster.

I did vote for the President in ’08.  I root for him to do well.  I want to like him.  So that’s my bias.

Still- I’m not yet convinced this announcement changes much.  The President isn’t pushing for legislation; he says the issue should be left to the states.  Most of the states in our Union have already settled on this issue one way or another.  The President’s announcement stokes the passions of the culture wars, but I’m unsure if it does little else.

And that former issue is my concern- how does the Church handle these culture wars?  How do Kingdom people dwell in a society where the unchurched are largely accepting of homosexuality & increasingly favorable to same-sex marriage?

How much of the Evangelical community’s contentiousness is a result of angst?  Angst over watching a “Christian society” slip away.  Our friend Rex ( and many others in the blogosphere (Rachel Held Evans, et. al.) have written so much about this — about the possibility of winning a culture war but losing a generation for the Gospel.  I don’t know how much more I could add.  Except maybe this…

I have a strong conviction about 1st Corinthians 5 being the normative passage on this issue for our day.  Paul is scolding the Church at Corinth over this guy who’s sleeping w/ his step-mother & bragging about it.  And he goes on & on about how it is our responsibility — the Church’s responsibility — to make sure we have purity within the fellowship of believers.  And he’s also clear about how his dictum to not associate with immorality does not carry over to the unchurched of Corinth.  v. 12 — “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?”

What business is it of our’s?  …to insist upon a what label is used on people outside of faith who want to pledge themselves to each other?

You know– Nero married a couple of guys in his reign.  We don’t see Paul or Peter organizing a million man march on Rome to “take their (society) back.”  That’s a notion that’s foreign to Scripture.

Obama Declares June Lesbian, Gay Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month

Is this for real?

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2010 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their own lives and everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


HT: Biblical Paths

Ben Witherington on Obama’s Nobel Prize Speech

An excellent post by BWIII on Obama’s Nobel Prize Speech. He highlights Obama’s influences, gives the text of the speech and his critique of it. It is very, very well done and insightful (as always). –

Health Care Reform May be Dropping the Public Option

Some new news on the health care bill, it seems Republicans may have made some headway. Hopefully that is not all they will drop out of this piece of legislation. I am glad to think that maybe they are actually listening at some of these townhall meetings instead of just assuming that we must want whatever Washington thinks is best for us. Link.

Dan Wallace Dismantles the Obama Antichrist Video – Last Post on This

Dan Wallace posted an excellent piece dismantling the video previously mentioned here at KL. It is worth the read and is very thorough. I mentioned I was going to refute the video but since Dan did such a great job and mentioned several of the things I was going to mention (and then some) I will just refer you over to Parchment and Pen for his response. Here is the link.


Could it be with all the Obama antichrist talk that we have missed the point entirely? James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix thinks so. I couldn’t help but pass this along with how similar it was to the Big Bird post. By the way, if you don’t know about his blog it is one you should check out on a regular basis or even subscribe to.

Big Bird Might Just Be the AntiChrist

In light of the last post critiquing the ridiculous video about how Barack Obama is supposedly the antichrist, I thought I would construct a case for Big Bird being the antichrist.

  1. I have never heard bigbird confess Jesus as Lord. That is the first telling sign that big bird might just be the antichrist (2 John 1:7)
  2. Ephesians 2:2 clearly teaches that the forces of evil are related to the “ruler of the kingdom of the air.” Big bird, being a bird, fits that criteria nicely. My suspicion is growing.
  3. As the video pointed out, birds were the very thing that came and plucked the gospel seed from the soil along the path (Luke 8:5)
  4. The Hebrew word for treacherous, deceitful, faithless or wicked has the consonants b_g_d…sound familiar? It is eerily similar to bigbird (I will even toss in the strongs number just for fun – 898).
  5. What is more? How tall is Big Bird? 8 feet 2 inches tall. If you go to the book of the Bible that we were just in, Luke and look at chapter 8 verse 2 what do you find? Evil spirits. What is more…you are just three verses away from the verse we just mentioned about the demonic connections and metaphor of birds with Satan himself.
  6. Numerologically, there is not much that can be done. I will mention that DEVIL adds up to 52 and BIGBIRD adds up to 51. Close but no match. Not even a close match in Greek or Hebrew equivalents.
  7. Hebrews 2:14 & 1 John 3:10 mention children and the devil in the same verse. Big Bird obviously had close associations with children.
  8. Do you know who Big Bird’s parents are? Have you ever seen them or heard of them? Exactly.

I think this is just as convincing evidence as what we have for Barack Obama being the antichrist. So which is it? We report, you decide.

DISCLAIMER – Please don’t take this as anything more serious than a ridiculous satire of the aforementioned video.

Probably the Worst Exegesis I Have Ever Seen

It would take a lot of effort to come up with a worse exegesis than what is found in this youtube video. In it an anonymous person (obviously no biblical scholar) takes on one of the worst word studies I have ever seen. His attempt to prove Barack Obama as the antichrist in this video is something similar to trying to tie strings to moving cars on the freeway to show they are connected somehow. In either scenario one could expect serious damage to be done. At the end of the day it only makes Christians look like fools and does nothing to further any political or religious discussion in a positive or meaningful way. I am pretty sure I could just as easily promote the idea that big bird is the antichrist if I was willing to be this theologically uninformed or exegetically incompetent. I normally try hard not to be a basher but this one seems so exceptionally bad and does nothing except feed into unhealthy stereotypes about Christians.

More of a response to these ideas to come another time.