mr-knowitall's Diaryland Diary

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Response to Rumblelizard

Rumblelizard, I do appreciate your sincerity, and the depth at which you considered what I wrote. So often in my travels in blogging have I run into folks who only want to disagree, and not want read what is written. You have taken the time to consider, and respond accordingly… even if you disagree (in part or whole) with my beliefs; thank you.

There seem to be 3 areas of discussion, each of which I’d like to respond to. There is much I have to say in response, and I know that based on your perspective; much of what I say may not make sense. Therefore I shall endeavor not to be glib, and at the same time not write a novel. But given that this is a Saturday, and I have nothing to do… lookout, here it comes…

1. The Founding Fathers’ Discussion.

Our viewpoints are obviously skewed toward our individual values. My point is very simply that the writings of the founding fathers (even Jefferson’s) clearly articulate the importance of the Judeao-Christian ethics in the laws and operating principles of our country. Which makes sense because most leaders of the day (excluding Jefferson) identified themselves as Christians. There are too many examples of this. I find it amazing how when I look into the individual lives of those men how many of them had very deep ‘religious’ convictions.

You said, Our currency has "In god we trust" written on it because during the 1950s, there was a movement in Congress to differentiate America from "the Godless Communists."

Perhaps you were thinking of the pledge of allegiance? Because according to the US Treasury, LINK “The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War.” This was done at the behest of people who were sending letters to then Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase urging him to do so during the time of national crisis. This would not have happened in today’s political environment. Considering that the country was not yet 100 years old at the time, the fact it was implemented speaks greatly of what the mindset of our government was then. Perhaps these sentiments were carried over from the founding fathers?

You said, “Further, if the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy in this nation were literally a gift from God, does that make Jefferson and Adams and Washington and the rest of them on par with the apostles and saints? Were they directly guided by the voice of god, like the Councils of Carthage and Laodicea supposedly were?

I cannot speak to Catholic history, I’m not Catholic. And one need not be an apostle to be directed, or hear from God. Furthermore; according to the scripture, you do not need a decree from the pope to be a saint. All you need is forgiveness from God through Christ, and to then walk in His ways as best you can. And that is free for the asking. But consider the history:

Jefferson, whose faith at times seemed ambiguous, said in his second inaugural address, “that Being (meaning God) in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power, and goodness” He continued: “I shall need, too, the favor of that Being …”

At the Constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787, all but three of the 55 delegates were church members. Jefferson was not present because he was ambassador to France at the time. Nevertheless, in those days being a church member actually meant something. In fact; in order to be one, you had to confess a “working of the spirit in your life” which means you had to be a “fruit bearing” Christian.

Initially, the convention was going nowhere. It was hopelessly deadlocked because each member had his own ideas. James Madison later said, “Without the intervention of Almighty God, we would never have had a constitution.” The turning point seemed to be when Ben Franklin made a speech reminding the delegates of God’s intervention during the recent Revolutionary War. Apparently, many in those days thought it quite miraculous that a rag tag group of businessmen and farmers could send the global super-power of the day home. It seemed God was working on two fronts because of pressure the people of Britain were putting on Parliament. It seems they were tired of the tax burdens of the war.

Franklin said,

… “In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of dangers, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?”

“I have lived, sir, a long time, and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth--that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’”

“I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed, in this political building, no better than the builders of Babel…”

“I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

As a result of Franklin’s suggestion, the Convention was dismissed, local ministers were brought in to preach, and for the next 3 days they fasted and prayed. Because of this and other instances, I believe it is clearly evident that God weighed heavily in the minds of those who forged our constitution, to the point that they consulted His guidance to do it.

That is all I have to say about that.

2. The Semantic Discussion:

You said, . “I wonder, if the Christian Bible said that black people should be viewed as inferior, would that make it right? (And some Christians have decided that it does exactly that, citing the story of Ham and calling black people the "sons of Ham.") Could it be that when it came to gay people, Paul was operating with Judaic prejudices that were bred into him with his mother's milk?”

Firstly; I hardly call them Christians because people who hold to that doctrine wouldn’t have enough evidence to convict them of being Christians if they were on trial. What you’re referring to is Genesis 9:25 where Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” The curse was not on Ham, but on his son. His people settled in what is today Palestine, and according to scholars are extinct. Furthermore; I have a hard time seeing how that passage can be construed to extend beyond Canaan himself. I believe those who use that as a basis for hate need to study scripture a little more carefully before reaching that conclusion. I’m embarrassed that they use Christ’s name to identify their character.

Secondly; Paul was a Pharisee of high renown. He could quote Jewish law from memory. He persecuted the church, and presided over the stoning of Stephen. To say he didn’t have some Judaic prejudices would be presumptuous. You can extend the same to all of the apostles because they were all raised under the same Law: God’s Law.

You said, “I'm not trying to bait anybody, but coming from the perspective of an agnostic, Rick's arguments don't make a whole lot of sense.

Thanks… will you marry me? ;)

Seeing that you are an agnostic; what Paul and other Jews believe would obviously not make sense to you because you do not believe in the Authority through which these laws were created. This in turn causes you to cast those through which they came in a different light. This further causes you to judge the motives through which they were derived as something less than Divine. Therefore; any arguments I make using the basis of my faith will be nonsense, and irrelevant to you. But don’t think that you or this generation would be the first to be skeptical of the Authority of God’s word. This has been debated throughout the ages, and yet our faith survives. This is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthiains 1:18-21, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

Which brings me right back to the point I was trying to make before: “How can Christians expect those who do not believe ‘The Bible’ to be God’s written word, to adhere to the all of the principles written therein?” In other words: In a free society, Christians cannot expect anyone to have to live according to their rules. I’ll even go a step farther: I don’t think God expects anyone to do anything apart from their free will. He has always given us the ability to choose. Otherwise He would be a tyrant, and we would be mindless robots. This dovetails into the whole gay marriage issue, which I will get back to later.

You said: Anyway, the theory that other people's sins invoking god's wrath against the entire country is kind of bogus in my mind, if you consider god to be a fair and righteous god.

Well that’s just it, God is fair, righteous, but he is also sovereign. His grace is conditional: First, you must believe, and second you must live your life accordingly. Here again; it’s up to you. I go my way, and you go your way. Either way is a leap of faith technically. Are you familiar with Pascal’s wager?

You said, If someone in a city across the country from you, whom you never met and don't even know the existence of, murders his wife, does god then hold you, Rick, accountable? Does he punish the entire Christian community for that person's sin? Are all Christians collectively guilty for the perceived sins of a few, over whom they have no control or jurisdiction? If they are held responsible, then what happens to the idea of a just and merciful god?

Apparently I failed to make myself clear on this point. That is what happens when you are running out time on your lunch break.

The best way to explain where this doctrine of national judgment comes from is to study the early history of Israel. A good place to start would be in the book of Judges through 2nd Chronicles. Here it is seen that God does not judge a nation on one arbitrary act. What he does do is judge a nation in an aggregate sense. The best example of this is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. (See Genesis 18:20-33) Abraham was pleading for the city of Sodom on behalf of his nephew Lot who was living there. And in verse 32 he asks God, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten (righteous people) are found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” An interesting point about that passage: God never once said He wanted to destroy those cities for the pure sake of homosexuality. In fact the only time it comes up is when in Genesis 19:5 the people of Sodom wanted to rape the angels who came to deliver Lot. The only reason God gave Abraham is found in 18:20, where God says, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.”

So, what many Christians are afraid of is our country coming to that point, and this is why they are as vocal as they are. They are just as concerned for their rights as the gay movement is about theirs. And I also think America is not quite to the point Sodom was.

So with all of that behind us, we can now get to the crux of our discussion.

3. The Gay Marriage Issue

You said, “until someone comes up with a rational and legitimate reason why gay people should be viewed as literally second-class citizens, it cannot be that they do not deserve the exact same rights under the law as straight people have.

Didn’t you say that marriage is a religious institution? And isn’t that a problem in your eyes because the state recognizes it, creating the ostensible violation of church and state? Perhaps the solution is to say that all marriages are civil unions, but not all civil unions are marriages; all legal rights extending to either institution, of course. But I believe, and will continue to believe that marriage in God’s eyes will always be defined as between a man and a woman. Furthermore; based on the obvious dogma of our forefathers, this would have been their intention as well. I’m relatively sure they never imagined such a thing would ever be an issue.

I will never do anything to prohibit anyone from making their own choices. I can’t. That kind of thinking in and of itself is immoral. Nightdragon being bisexual does not, or will ever stop him from being my friend. He’s a grown man, and can make his own choices. I will not shun him or be afraid of him. His choices have no effect on me, or mine and neither do any of choices made by most of the gay community.

However, I do have a problem, just like you do; when someone starts pushing their morality upon me and mine. I find there are some in the gay community who are very ‘in your face’ about their politics and they are forcing it upon me. They are telling me that I have to believe that it is an acceptable lifestyle. I thought it was my 1st Amendment right not to. If I don’t, they call me names like ‘homophobe, insensitive, and neanderthal’. That’s the same as me calling you a ‘heretic, heathen’, or saying that you are going to hell because you don’t believe as I do.

Perhaps dragon and I should wear the Scarlet letter ‘H’ around our necks telling everyone we’re homophobes. ;)

You said My basic premise, which no one has really addressed yet, is that gay/bi/transgendered people are, whatever the Christian religion might think of them, still American citizens, and as such, should enjoy the exact same rights and responsibilities as non-gay citizens.

Yes, they are citizens, and should be subject to all rights and privileges. No one can or should deny them that. But no church should be forced to recognize gay marriage, nor should anyone who disagrees with it. And in the secular sense then the government would not recognize any kind of gendered unions, but only the unions themselves. The Church itself would determine what is and is not marriage. If some religious organization wishes to recognize it as a legitimate union, then that is their right under the constitution.

This is the only plausible scenario that could exist as I see it. I know most Christians will never accept it under any conditions. I myself would not either. I wouldn’t because that is not what God intended marriage to be. But… I could live with it being law because it comes down to what I said before: “How can Christians expect those who do not believe ‘The Bible’ to be God’s written word, to adhere to the all of the principles written therein?”

Ultimately; Christ is my Judge. I have no control over what others believe and do; even other Christians. I maintain that Christians would do better to live how Christ commanded them rather than be so obsessed with the sins of those who don’t believe. There is a rising tide I see happening, and the old school thinking of Jerry Falwell is quickly diminishing. Most Christians I know think like I do. The problem with the Church over the last 30 years has been as Christ articulated in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

~Rick

4:47 p.m. - 2004-01-10

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