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A while back I spent a weekend as a guest at the house of some friends.  While I was there, another of their friends came to visit for the afternoon, a woman whose adult son is gay.

This lady, whom I have met perhaps a dozen times over ten years, wanted to talk about religion and sexuality.  Knowing myself and desiring to stay out of the conversation, I busied myself watching some sporting event on television in the living room, which happens to be attached to the kitchen, which is where this conversation was taking place.

This is what I heard.

“Most people think that the Bible says homosexuality is immoral, but they’re wrong…It’s like an urban myth.  The Bible doesn’t say that it’s wrong to be gay.  What it really says is…oh, I wish I had a Bible.  I would show you what it says.”  My friends, evidently not wanting to further incite her, didn’t volunteer the fact that in fact they do possess a Bible, and that it was within easy fetching distance.

Possibly encouraged by the apparent absence of a Bible, the visitor went on.  “I could show you, if you had a Bible, that the passages that most people think are anti-gay are actually not so.  They’re ambiguous.  They could mean anything, but people interpret them the way they want to.  It’s just that people have always heard that it’s wrong to be gay, but the Bible doesn’t say that.  The truth is, God just wants us to love one another, so as long as two people love each other, who can judge them?”

I wanted to speak up.  How curious I was!  I wanted to ask this visitor to show me that part of the Bible that has been misunderstood these many centuries.  I also wanted her to show me where in the Bible it is written that God only wants people to love each other, and doesn’t care who we give our love to, or how we give it.  But I also wanted to stay the rest of the weekend at this house, and I also wanted to be invited back.  So I held my tongue.

But here’s my pain.  I know what the Bible says about homosexuality.  I don’t know every word of the Bible, and I don’t understand everything I read in it – I’m no great scholar.  But I am a Christian who has studied and read the Bible.  So I understand both the content and the context of the Bible’s statements on homosexuality. 

And what does the Bible really say about this subject?

What God thinks about homosexuality:

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.  Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it.  A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.  Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways…” Leviticus 18:22-24

Is homosexuality an example of perversion?

“Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Romans 1:27

Can one be a homosexual and enter the kingdom of heaven?

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  I Corinthians 6:9-11

What is the Biblical model for marriage?  (note: these passages speak of the qualifications for a church overseer, deacon, or elder; the virtues which he must exhibit.  In so doing, they reveal the design for marriage.)

“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” I Timothy 3:2

“A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.” I Timothy 3:12

“An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobient.” Titus 1:6

Can one be a Christian and engage in sexual immorality?

“…among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person…has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”  Ephesians 5:3-5

The Good News:

But here’s the good news for anyone who is tempted to act out behaviors that are wrong: temptation is not the same thing as sin.  What do I mean by this?  I mean that even Jesus was subjected to temptation.  Read the gospel of Matthew.  “Then [following his baptism] Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.   The tempter came to him and said…” (Matthew 4:1,2)

So we can see that being tempted to do wrong isn’t wrong in itself; it’s when we fail to resist temptation that we sin.  And we can always resist temptation: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (I Corinthians 10:13)  The problem that most of us have is that we don’t want to resist temptation – we want to indulge in the behaviors and pleasures that have been forbidden to us here on earth.  The underlying reason is that we have a short view of our own future.  Most of us don’t live with eternity in view, nor with our own old age in view.  In fact, most people don’t even look five years or one year down the road; usually we’re focused only on the here and now.  That’s why James, the brother of Jesus, wrote with unusual frankess: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?  But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:4-10)  Later, almost poetically, James puts our lives in perspective: “…you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

Conclusion:

If you identify yourself as a gay person and you have read this far, then I thank you.  You have done more than I could have asked or expected of you, because this article includes a lot of plainly spoken truth that could have repelled you.  And as you may suspect, I’m not subject to your particular temptation, and I can’t speak to you as one who has been through your trials.  But like you, I am a human being, and we’re all essentially the same.  We are all in danger of being seduced by alluring and provocative temptations, and yet we all live under the same reality: We are loved and desired by a jealous God who will forgive all our imperfections if we put our sins behind us and trust Him.  Jesus said to one who was sincere and humble, “Your sins are forgiven.  Now go and sin no more.”  He loves you as much as he loved that woman 2000 years ago and he would do the same thing for you.

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I’ve always been a fan of Chris Matthews.  The MSNBC host and commentator has long been willing to criticize his fellow Democrats and was one of the few national figures to admit that Bill Clinton was a slimeball back in ’98 when the Lewinsky scandal broke.  Matthews has always been pretty transparent in terms of his political allegiance and his world view, so much so that most people (including me) gave him a free pass when during the Democrat primaries earlier this year he spoke of the tingle that he gets when he hears Barack Obama speak.  The reason for this permissiveness is that Matthews’ history of being tough on politicians from both parties bought him a lot of credibility.

But now Matthews has crossed a line that can’t be uncrossed.  On air, chatting with the always boring Joe Scarborough, Matthews made this bizarre statement.  “I want to do everything to make this work, this new pesidency to work.”  Scarborough responded with the only question appropriate under the circumstances: “Is that your job?”  Replied Matthews, “Yeah, that is my job.  My job is to help this country…this county needs a successful presidency more than anything right now.”

Chris Matthews, your accumulated professional capital is worth nothing now.  You’ve just admitted that you’re in the bag for a politician and that you’re more interested in making that politician successful than you are in doing your actual job (the one that MSNBC pays you to do), and that means that it’s time for you to resign your post and mail a resumé to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It’s a shame, too, because with the passing of Tim Russert you were the last liberal journalist I trusted.

John McCain wasn’t originally my guy – I was a Huckabee man in the primaries – but I’m proud to have voted for such a great and accomplished American for president.  In his concession speech McCain showed that he possesses class and self-possession that Barack Obama can only dream of.

You can expect this blog to remain mostly silent for the foreseeable future, but I remain a committed supporter of conservative Republican principles.  There will be postings from time to time and I’ll use this blog as an outlet for my philosophical murmurings when my wife gets tired of listening to me.  Most of all, I’ll be watching and waiting for Mike Huckabee to signal his intentions with regard to 2012.

Pray for Barack Obama.  He’s our president for the next four years and there’s nothing to do now but hope for the best.

If suffering builds character and struggling builds strength, then John McCain is a very strong man of great character.  His life story is well known, but just in case you missed it, he is a graduate of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis MD, he served heroically during the USS Forrestal fire, suffering injuries while attempting to save another pilot from the flames and explosions.  Later McCain was shot down by North Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire, held captive for more than five years, and endured countless beatings and torture sessions both before and after refusing to be released ahead of other prisoners who had been held longer.  By the time he retired from the navy in 1981, McCain had received 17 awards and decorations, including a Silver Star, Legion of Merit with a combat V and a gold star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with a combat V and two gold stars, two additional Bronze Stars, Purple Heart, and others.

A short question: what is the hardest thing Barack Obama has ever done?  Was it the long flight from Hawaii to his first college in California?  Was it his successful application to Harvard?  Maybe it was serving in the un-prestigious Illinois state assembly.

Just wondering….

In what amounts to a shocking coup, the reliably liberal editorial board of the Star Tribune newspaper has endorsed Republican Senator Norm Coleman’s bid for re-election.

To endorse Coleman, of course, the Strib had to snub a liberal comedian with a profane streak (Al Franken) and step over an idealistic third-party stalwart (Dean Barkley).  An excerpt from the endorsement:

“Coleman didn’t begin his Senate service as an agent of bipartisanship. But that’s the note on which he wound up his six-year term and which he has sounded repeatedly in his reelection campaign. We like the trend we’ve seen and believe Coleman is capable of taking it further.”

For the last few weeks we’ve all heard the whispers – mostly from the talking heads in the mainstream press – that Sarah Palin isn’t up to the job of the vice presidency.  Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric’s interviews with Palin were really more like pop quizzes, and the democratic mouthpieces couldn’t contain their glee with her sometimes less than stellar performances.

But tonight Governor Palin held her own in a debate with Joe Biden, and something very important happened: she justified the hopes of her supporters.

The conventional wisdom in the press was that Biden, the seasoned politician and veteran of dozens of debates at diferent levels of government, was going to wipe the walls with Palin.  This was the hope of the democrats and the fear of the republicans.  But the reality was different.

Palin was frank and candid, and seemed comfortable in her own skin.  She touted her resume as a mother, a mayor, a commissioner, and a chief executive.  She spoke of her admiration and respect for her running mate, John McCain.  And she did it all with ease and confidence.

There were things that the governor could have done better.  For instance, she should have demanded the last word on several occasions when Biden punctuated his comments with cheap shots and democratic applause lines.  And it would have been better if she had spent more time on offense against Barack Obama instead of defending John McCain (and herself).  But Sarah Palin did enough things right without getting anything terribly wrong, and her highly credible performance is bound to reinvigorate the Republican base that had initially been so energized by her, and whose enthusiasm had begun to wane.

In that respect, Sarah Palin won tonight by not losing.

I am a born-again, Bible-believing, evangelical Christian man from the midwestern United States.  Tonight, before turning out my bedsight light, I was reading a book called The Heavenly Man.  The Heavenly Man is an autobiographical account of the life of a Chinese Christian known as Brother Yun.  Brother Yun is fond of quoting a scripture for every situation he encounters, and while reading his book tonight I happened upon a passage of scripture that intrigued me.  Wanting to read more of it, I looked it up and read some of the surrounding text as well.  I should say right up front that despite my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I don’t read my Bible as much as I should, so what I share with you here, I share as a layman and as a fellow believer, not as a teacher or a preacher.

The Biblical book of Revelation is perhaps the most misunderstood (or misinterpreted) of the books of the Christian Bible.  I can say this despite my own limited and imperfect understanding, because anyone who will look can see the conflicting understandings and interpretations of its text which exist in the modern church; it just can’t mean everything that people think it means.  It’s doubtful that any of the other Biblical texts have been interpreted in so many conflicting fashions.

But one of the beautiful aspects of the book of Revelation is the messages to the seven churches of Asia, which are present in chapters 2 and 3.  At the time of its writing, the so-called seven churches of Asia were the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

These messages were written specifically to each church: a unique message for each of the seven churches named, each message tailored to the character of each church, its strengths and weaknesses.  For instance, the first message in the series was written to the church in Ephesus and acknowledges first the virtues of that church: hard work and perseverance, a refusal to tolerate wicked men, and discernment of which apostles were true and which were not.  And yet there is also a shortcoming in this church: it had lost the fervor with which it had originally embraced the Gospel.  “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love…Repent and do the things you did at first.”

To each church an edifying word was sent, first praising the virtues and then pointing out the particularly grievous sin or shortcoming of that particular group of believers.

The reason I got out of bed to write this message to you tonight is found in the message to the church in Sardis.  When I happened upon this passage tonight I was struck by its perfection in describing the evangelical Christian community in North America.

“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:1-3)

I won’t waste your time by attempting to interpret this passage for you.  Its potential application to the complacent and self-satisfied modern evangelical church in North America seems so obvious to me, I’m going to trust that upon meditation you will also find it speaks to you.

Wake up, Christians!  Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

Sarah Palin, human being

Sarah Palin, human being

Feminists ought to thank Sarah Palin.

She’s going to win the vice presidency, and in doing so she’s going to break the glass ceiling.

The feminists’ favored candidate (Hillary You-Know-Who) has personally kept the glass ceiling intact for years with her obnoxious and condescending attitude, her sense of entitlement, and her smugness, her reputation for calculation…so many people find her so repellent that she could never succeed.  And yet all of America has been watching and waiting for her to achieve the ultimate success, and she’s been sucking up all the oxygen in the upper atmosphere of female politics.

Ironically, their worst nightmare is the woman who is going to succeed where they have failed.  They’re probably feeling that success is a litle bit overrated these days.

It must be disheartening for Democrats to see how well Sarah Palin has been received as John McCain’s running mate.  Women love her, men love to look at her, working class people and outdoorsmen identify with her, and her popularity is (at least for now) greater than that of anyone else that either party has to offer.  All this, and most people still really don’t know much about her.

Sounds familiar to Republicans.  For the last year and a half we’ve been hearing praise and adoration for Obama based on little more than his ability to read a speech and his skin color, from people who really didn’t know anything about him.

What does it all mean?

It means that people still vote for superficials.  People are still essentially the same today as they were twenty years ago, fifty years ago, and one hundred years ago.  People know that they can’t learn everything about a candidate, so they’re looking for someone who they identify with; we look for external markers that tell us this person is genuinely what they appear to be.  When mothers and grandmothers look at Palin they see a mother of five with a daughter who is pregnant and a son who has a developmental disability.  When evangelicals look at Palin they see a mom who could have aborted her imperfectly conceived child, but chose life instead.  When outdoorsmen look at Palin they see someone who genuinely likes to hunt and fish (not one who, like Bill Clinton, sits in a duck blind for an hour, fires a round into an empty sky, and then walks out of the blind with a duck that someone else shot).  When high-achieving, competitive people look at Palin they see Sarah Barracuda, state basketball champion and mother of a hockey player.  When frustrated idealists look at Palin they see a self-sacrificing whistleblower who took on her own party and won.

That’s why the Republican base isn’t even paying much attention to what Sarah Palin says.  It’s the same thing when Obama speaks – democrats hear some indistinct mix of nouns and verbs and adverbs and pronouns and beatiful, glittering, quavering adjectives.  “Elbow, snowflake, green grass, macaroni, you and I, best friends forever,” he says.  And their eyes fill with tears because he’s tall and handsome and black and he has a deep voice and he might actually win.

Yep, they’re a different color, a different gender, and a different party, but it’s pretty much the same thing going on.  That’s politics.  Welcome to campaign 2008.

From my beautiful wife, on the subject of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy and Sarah Palin’s candidacy: “Who cares?  It’s not like Sarah Palin got her daughter pregnant!”

From Peggy Noonan, on why Evangelical Christians aren’t judging the Palin family harshly: “…Modern American evangelicals are among the last people who’d judge her harshly. It is the left that is about to go crazy with Puritan judgments; it is the right that is about to show what mellow looks like. Religious conservatives know something’s wrong with us, that man’s a mess. They are not left dazed by the latest applications of this fact. ‘This just in – there’s a lot of sinning going on out there’ is not a headline they’d understand to be news.”