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The comments came fast. The comments came loud. The comments, to no one’s surprise, came in overwhelmingly

Mike Pence, Indiana Governor

Mike Pence, Indiana Governor

negative. I’m speaking of the reaction among the movers and shakers to Indiana governor Mike Pence’s signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a piece of legislation widely understood as providing legal protection for business owners who refuse to service to homosexuals on religious grounds. Below is a sampling of comments from around the internet.

  • “Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law and calling on Arkansas Gov. to veto the similar #HB1228.” – Tim Cook, Apple CEO
  • Some in my band are gay & we have 2 gigs in your state next month. Should we call ahead to make sure the hotel accepts us all?” – Broadway star Audra McDonald
  • “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love” – Hillary Clinton
  • “Cummins believes it’s bad for business and bad for Indiana and sends the message that the state is unwelcoming. We are a global company in a competitive environment and it could hinder our ability to attract and retain top talent.” – Spokesman for Indiana-based Cummins Engine
  • “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.” – Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com CEO
  • “As a Hoosier, I’m deeply saddened and embarrassed. A government exists to protect its citizens; instead, it is legalizing their oppression.” – John Green, Children’s author
  • “Outraged over Indiana Freedom to Discriminate law, signed today. LGBTs [Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender] aren’t 2nd class citizens.” -George Takei, Actor
  • “Indiana’s anti-gay ‘Religious Freedom’ bill signed by Gov. Pence is absurd & insulting. This is 2015. Ridiculous.” – Talk show host Larry King
  • “Indiana? Seriously? Really? Bravo Salesforce for taking a stand….Hope more companies follow.” Ashton Kutcher, actor
  • “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.” – NCAA President Mark Emmet
  • “Discrimination is any form is unacceptable to me. As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.” Retired NBA star Charles Barkley
  • “Let’s be 100-percent clear: Indiana’s brand new Religious Freedom Law is a measure that fell off the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.” – CNBC columnist Jake Novak

What is the Christian to make of all this? Elite opinion obviously has come out against Pence and the legislation he signed into law. But for the Christian, it is not elite opinion, but what Scripture teaches, that is normative. And when we examine Governor Pence’s act of signing the religious freedom bill, it becomes clear that he is in the right and his critics in the wrong.

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According to John Hagee, the answer to this question is a resounding “yes.” Israel, we are told, is on the verge of annihilation and it is incumbent upon Christians to take a stand for Israel now.  Hagee and others believe that Christians have an obligation to bless Israel, and this is generally understood by them to mean supporting whatever initiative is being pushed by the Likud party.     In his book In Defense of Israel, the first chapter of which is titled It’s 1938…Again, Hagee makes the following claim,

John Hagee

John Hagee

As an avid student of history, I am convinced that we are facing the same situation the world faced in 1938.

Iran is the new Germany, and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the new Hitler. Iran poses a threat to the State of Israel that promises nothing less than a nuclear holocaust. The only way to win a nuclear war is to make certain it never starts. We must stop Iran’s nuclear threat an stand boldly with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East (Hagee, In Defense of Israel. 2,3)

Hagee, of course, in not the first or only person to make comments of this sort. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamen Netanyahu has built his career on statements of this sort. But since Hagee claims to speak for Evangelicals in general, his comments are of special interest to Christians.

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WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 09: Pete Prete of Equality Beyond Gender holds a ‘marriage pride flag’ outside the U.S. Supreme Court January 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. The justices of the Supreme Court were scheduled to meet to determine whether the court will take up any of the five pending state-banned same-sex marriage cases in Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky and Louisiana. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) | Alex Wong via Getty Images

The latest shot in the battle over same-sex marriage has fired in Bexley, Ohio. According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch,

A florist in Washington state, a baker in Oregon and a photographer in New Mexico are all among the small-business people who have received nationwide pushback for declining to provide services for the weddings of same-sex couples.

Now a videographer in the Columbus area has joined their ranks.

Next Door Stories in Bexley has become the subject of a boycott campaign, after a Facebook post detailed an email in which a company founder said she doesn’t provide services for same-sex weddings.

As of this writing, there has been no public statement from the owners of Next Door Stories providing details as to why they do not provide services to same-sex couples. The original response from the company to Jerra Knicely, the individual who solicited Next Door Stories to film her same-sex wedding, reads,

Hello,

Thank you for reaching out about wedding videography. How did you hear about Next Door Stories? Unfortunately at this time I do not offer services for same-sex weddings, but thank you for your inquiry!

Peace,

(name withheld)

Founding Storyographer

According to a Pew Research Center survey cited in the article, the American public is about evenly split when it comes to same-sex couples and wedding businesses, with 49 percent agreeing that businesses should be required to provide wedding services to same-sex couples and 47 percent supporting the right of businesses to refuse their services for religious reasons. What does the Bible have to say about this issue?

Property Rights and the 1964 Civil Rights Act

The principle reason for the debate over whether bakers, florists, and videographers have the right to refuse service to same-sex couples is that a prior question about property rights was answered incorrectly. The American Civil Rights Movement in 1950s and 1960s did a great deal to strike down laws prejudicial to blacks in the United States. To the extent that the movement focused on removing legal barriers to equality, it was in the right. But the Civil Rights Movement did not keep this focus, but instead attacked private property rights by seeking to legally prohibit owners of private businesses from deciding whom they will and will not serve. This attack on private property was written into Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which reads in part,

TITLE II – INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AGAINST DESCRIMINATION IN PLACES OF PUBLIC ACCOMODATION

SEC. 201. (a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

(b) Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

(1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests…

(2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premise…

(3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment.

The antidiscrimination provisions of Title II are directed against what are called “place[s] of public accommodation” in contradistinction to other types of private property. For example, Title II specifically exempts, “private club[s] or other establishment[s] not in fact open to the public,” from having to comply with its provisions. This creates a two-tier system of private property. One which is called a place of public accommodation, and another which is termed a private club.

It is worth noting that Title II provides protection against discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, or national origin. There is no language in the Title II that disallows discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. Those business owners who have run afoul of the law for refusing their services to same-sex couples have been charged with violating state or local antidiscrimination laws, not federal law. At this time, there is no federal law against refusing service to someone on the basis of sexual orientation.

Property Rights and the Law of God

Unlike the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Scriptures know only one class of private property. There is no distinction between a private club and a place of public accommodation. Private property is private property, and the owner of that property – it is immaterial whether the private property in question is a dwelling or a business, or a club – is permitted to do with it as he pleases. Perhaps the clearest statement of this in all of Scripture is found in Matthew 20 in the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. When the workers complain about their wages, the vineyard owner replies to one of them, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” The Biblical answer is, of course, yes. And doing what one wishes with his own things includes deciding, not only how much he will pay his employees, but also the people whom he will serve or elect not to serve.

An objection may be raised against this conclusion by those who would argue that it gives aid and comfort to racists. Doubtless there are business owners who, if given the opportunity, would choose not to serve customers due to their race. But a business owner’s decision to consider the race of a person as the basis for whether to provide service, though it is a sin – it is a failure to love our neighbor as ourselves – should not be a crime. This is the case, because of what the Bible teaches about property rights, which rights flow from the 10 Commandments, specifically, the Eighth Commandment’s prohibition against theft. Laws that force a business owner to serve another are stealing that businessman’s property by diminishing his right to dispose of his property as he sees fit.

Worth noting too is that in a capitalist system which protects the rights of private property, discrimination can be costly. In his article Rosa Parks and History, economist Thomas Sowell provides some important, little known background information on how Jim Crow laws came to be in the South. Writes Sowell,

Far from existing from time immemorial, as many have assumed, racially segregated seating in public transportation began in the South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Those who see government as the solution to social problems may be surprised to learn that it was government which created this problem. Many, if not most, municipal transit systems were privately owned in the 19th century and the private owners of these systems had no incentive to segregate the races.

These owners may have been racists themselves but they were in business to make a profit – and you don’t make a profit by alienating a lot of your customers. There was not enough market demand for Jim Crow seating on municipal transit to bring it about.

It was politics that segregated the races because the incentives of the political process are different from the incentive of the economic process. Both blacks and whites spent money to ride the buses but, after the disenfranchisement of black voters in the late 19th and early 20th century, only whites counted in the political process.

Far from being the bastion of discrimination many take it to be, capitalism, the economic system of the Bible, has within itself built-in sanctions against racist behavior. Unfortunately the Civil Rights Movement, not being satisfied with overturning Jim Crow laws requiring racial segregation, attacked private property by passing laws that prohibited business owners from making their own decisions about what customers they were willing to serve. While we can applaud the end of Jim Crow, the destruction of property rights that came with the 1964 Civil Rights Act severely weakened private property rights in the US. But not only that, it set the stage for the stunning success of the Gay Rights Movement over the past decade.

Errors of the Civil Rights Movement Rear Their Head

It is a commonplace in conservative political circles to talk about the Law of Unintended Consequences. This is the notion that big-government initiatives often produce results that are precisely the opposite of what was intended by their proponents. Once such example would be gun buyback programs that result in more, not fewer guns.

Examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences can be found in the Bible as well. Joseph’s brother sold him into slavery. Although they intended evil against him, God used their sin to bring Joseph to Egypt and save them and their whole family from starvation. King Jehoshaphat of Judah made peace with Ahab king of Israel and took Ahab’s daughter as wife for his son. Although Jehoshaphat apparently undertook the alliance to strengthen his kingdom, he unwittingly set off a series of events that nearly resulted in the extinction of the Davidic dynasty (2 Kings 11). Caiaphas the high priest sought to have Jesus executed, so that the whole of Israel would not perish. He achieved his end, but not in the way he intended.

While it is doubtful that the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement had any intention of providing legal cover for the Gay Rights Movement, the damage they inflicted on private property rights with the antidiscrimination language in Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did just that. Many of those who championed the Civil Rights Movement have been shocked and offended at the way Gay Rights activists have attached themselves to their legacy, using many of the same arguments to attack private property as were used by Civil Rights activists a generation before. In his article Are Gay Rights Civil Rights?, Steve Osunsami writing for ABC News says,

In Boston, Bishop Gilbert Thompson does not like it one bit. “I resent the fact,” he says, “that homosexuals are trying to piggy back on the civil rights struggles of the ’60s.”

In Los Angeles, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson says it’s “offensive” and that the civil rights movement “is not about sex.”

In Chicago, Detroit, and Raleigh, N.C., the black ministers are beginning to preach on an uncomfortable subject in African-American circles. Gay marriage, they argue, has no place in a movement defined by Jim Crow laws and the right to vote.

“I was born black,” said Thompson. “I was born male. Homosexuals are not born, they’re made. They don’t qualify.”

It is a question of legitimacy. Civil rights protection, many argue, is meant for people, not behavior. Pastor Garland Hunt of Atlanta says that generally means race, gender and disability only. “It doesn’t protect behavior patterns.”

For many African Americans, who began the civil rights movement in the black churches of the conservative South, gay and lesbian Americans are people of poor behavior.

“Same-sex marriage has nothing to do with civil rights, this is an issue of morality,” said Hunt.

Although we have much sympathy for those who claim homosexuality is a behavior – the Apostle Paul proved that homosexuality is a behavior when writing to the Corinthians he commented on homosexuals and sodomites, saying to them “and such were some of you” (I Cor. 6:11) – the Gay Rights movement has successfully persuaded a large segment of the population that being gay is, in fact, not a behavior, but an inherent part of who they are. In other words, they were born that way and cannot change. When one adds to this idea the proposition that privately owned businesses may not discriminate whom they serve on the basis of race, we arrive at the point where we are today, with Christian business owners being persecuted for not providing service to same-sex weddings. After all, so goes the argument, a gay or lesbian is no more in control of his homosexuality than a black person is of his race.

Big Business Support Gay Rights

If Christian business owners think they will find support for their position on homosexuality from others in the business community, usually considered one of the form conservative sectors of society, they will be sorely disappointed. A recent story in the local Cincinnati paper illustrates this point. The article P&G, others ask court to back gay marriage, informs us,

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule this summer on gay marriage, Procter & Gamble and hundreds of employers nationwide have signed an amicus brief asking it to strike down statewide bans.

Law firm Morgan Lewis filed the brief Thursday on behalf of 379 employers urging the high court to consider the burdens imposed on both employers and employees by a fractured legal landscape [n.b. what the amicus brief calls a “fractured legal landscape” is simply the result of constitutional right of the individual states to make laws where the Constitution does not explicitly grant power to the Federal government, this is not a problem to be solved, it is what the framers of our republic intended] with no uniform rule on same-sex marriage. The filing comes three months after P&G first publicly supported gay marriage.

And P&G is hardly alone in its support of gay marriage. By my count, the article listed 47 other firms as signers of the amicus brief, the names of which read like a who’s who of the largest, most prestigious companies in America. Click here for a complete list of all 379 corporate signers.

Conclusion

In the opinion of this author, the Gay Rights Movement is and likely will continue to be a major point of conflict between Evangelicals and the world. The groundwork for this conflict was laid during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s with its attack on private property. Cleaver politics by supporters of the Gay Rights agenda have convinced a large number of Americans that homosexuality is no different than being born of a particular race. And the marriage of these two ideas has propelled the Gay Rights Movement further and faster than almost anyone thought possible.

If Christians are to have any chance of winning this fight, they must fight on Biblical grounds. This means defending not just what the Bible has to say about marriage and sexuality, but also what the Scriptures teach about private property.


Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress, 3/3/15.

Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress, 3/3/15.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech before Congress, punctuated as it was with over twenty standing ovations, is the latest act in the decades long drama of US involvement in the Middle East. Growing up as I did in the 70s and 80s, America’s presence in the Middle East seemed a lot like the war between Oceania and Eastasia in 1984, we had always been there. The question was never raised whether this was a good idea. The only acceptable debate was over how much and what we should do.

An endless parade of American diplomats, military equipment, and of course, money flowed eastward, all which, we were told, were needed to make the world safe for democracy. But the funny thing was, no matter how much time money and effort was expended, the region never seemed very safe or very democratic. If someone did occasionally suggest, even mildly, that maybe, just maybe, the US should reconsider its activist foreign policy and perhaps at some future date possibly consider option of thinking about reducing our presence in this or that country or region, the poor fellow was immediately denounced and labeled with that most heinous of swear words – what really amounted to a scarlet letter for intellectual sinners. He was called the “I” word. He was dubbed an “isolationist.” And an isolationist was, by definition, someone so unstable, so untrustworthy, so obviously out of touch with reality that no serious person need pay him any attention whatsoever. Except, of course, to make him the butt of jokes.

This same mode of thinking is alive and well today. If anyone had any doubt, Netanyahu’s speech the past Tuesday, and the reaction by Congress, should have dispelled it. But is so-called isolationism really the foolishness the foreign policy establishment, the press, and much of the public say it is? What does the Bible have to say about foreign policy? These are questions worth asking. Some may find the answers surprising.

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“Judge not lest you be judged,” is a favorite quote of unbelievers. They delight in hurling them at Christians during an argument. And all too often, these words have exactly the effect intended, that is to reduce the Christian is reduced to silence. After all, are not these words not found in Scripture? Were they not spoken by Jesus himself? The answer to these questions is yes and yes. But do these words really mean, as the unbelievers seem to think they do, that Christians have not basis for making moral judgments? The short answer is no.

My Introduction to Irrationalism

As is the case with most who grow up in church, I was not taught to think rigorously. I recall many years ago asking someone at my church about a passage I did not understand. It seemed to me that there was a contradiction in Scripture, so I asked for an explanation and was given the standard quote from Isaiah 55, saying God’s thoughts and God’s ways are higher than ours. This was then interpreted to mean we just have to accept that some things in the Bible do not and cannot make sense to our finite minds. There are mysteries, tensions, and apparent contradictions in the Bible that finite man simply cannot understand with mere human logic.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my introduction to irrationalism. The person with whom I spoke provided me the best answer he knew. I have no reason to believe he had any intention of deliberately misleading me. And yet, mislead me he did. And it would be many years before, by the grace of God, I found my way out of that intellectual cul-de-sac.

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Ahab and Jehoshaphat listen to Michiah.

Ahab and Jehoshaphat listen to Michiah.

“Should you help the wicked,” asked the prophet of the defeated and humiliated king upon his return to Jerusalem, “and love those who hate the LORD?” The prophet was Jehu.  The king was Jehoshaphat.  The occasion was the aftermath of a crushing defeat inflicted by the Syrians on the allied armies of Israel and Judah.

Jehoshaphat was a godly man; one of the few good kings Judah ever had.  But in spite of this, he made a major spiritual and strategic mistake in seeking alliance with Ahab, the evil king of Israel.  I Kings 22 and 2 Chron. 18 provide the details of the alliance.  Jehoshaphat went on a state visit to see Ahab in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom.  During the visit, Ahab persuaded Jehoshaphat to join him in a grand alliance of Israel and Judah and to make war against the Syrians, all for the purpose of recapturing for Israel territory that had been lost to Syria earlier.  In other words, it was an Old Testament version of a crusade against the infidel.

Jehoshaphat made several errors that led to his defeat.  The first of which was that he, apparently, did not consult  the Lord before traveling to Israel to meet with Ahab.  The Scriptural record shows no evidence of Jehoshaphat ever seeking the Lord’s counsel as to whether he should go to Samaria.  It appears that he did this on his own.

Jehoshaphat’s second mistake was not heeding the voice of the Lord when it became clear that the military alliance would end in disaster.  The prophet Michiah plainly told Ahab in  Jehoshaphat’s hearing that the offensive against Syria would fail miserably.  His words were, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd” (I Kings 22:17).  Jehoshaphat heard all of this, and yet followed Ahab into battle anyway.

In all this, Jehoshaphat also managed to serve as Ahab’s dupe.  Ahab reacted angrily to Michiah’s prophesy of defeat at the hands of Syria, but he had the good sense to hedge his bets.  When Ahab and Jehoshaphat went into battle, Ahab disguised himself, but told Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes.  Jehoshaphat did so, and nearly lost his life when the Syrians mistook him for the king of Israel, against whom they had been ordered to fight.

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InquisitionIn last week’s post Must Christians Defend the Crusades?, I pointed out a common apologetical error of contemporary Evangelicals.  When the discussion turns to the obvious, gross sins committed by the Roman Catholic Church-State during the course of the Crusades and the Inquisition, rather than taking the opportunity to denounce these activities for what they are the evil fruit of the papal Antichrist, too often Christians implicitly or even explicitly defend them.  Take for example the following video of Southern Baptist minister Dr. Robert Jeffress on the O’Reilly factor from 2/6/15 program.  At about the 2:12 mark Jeffress begins his  comments on the Inquisition.

Jeffress’ words were, “The Inquisition lasted 450 years; there were 2,200 people who died.  That’s about 5 a year.  More people died on 911 in one day at the hands of Muslim terrorists than in all of the Inquisition.” In fairness to Jeffress, he is not attempting to argue that the Inquisition was a good thing.  But in his discussion with O’Reilly, Jeffress made at least two critical mistakes.  First, failed to draw any distinction between Roman Catholicism and Christianity, and thus left Evangelicals on the hook for the sins of Inquisition.  Second, he attempted to minimize the evil of the Inquisition, what was one of the most heinous crimes ever carried out by any organization in history.

And this was not some momentary slip by Jeffress.  In his 2/10/15 interview on Fox News with Gretchen Carlson, Jeffress was even more explicit in identifying Christianity with Romanism.  At about the 1:30 mark, he made the following comment, “Christians have done some terrible things in the past, but nothing compared to radical Islam.  For example, the President brings up the Inquisition [Jeffress is here referring to Obama’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast, the same ones he discussed with Bill O’Reilly].  Did you know that in the 450 years of the Inquisition there were about 2,200 people killed.  That’s about five a year.”  By his claim that, “Christians have some terrible things,” once Jeffress identified the Inquisition with Christianity, thus putting himself and other Evangelicals in the awkward and unnecessary position of having to answer for the sins of Rome.

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