The Pastor Protection Act

In the wake of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that determined same-sex marriage is a fundamental right according to the United States Constitution, there is an effort afoot here in Florida to recommend legislation titled “The Pastor Protection Act.”

It is an attempt to protect the right of pastors to perform only those marriages they deem to be in keeping with their religious beliefs. I am sure other states will be considering doing something similar.

Larry Griffin with the Lake City Reporter interviewed me and asked my opinion of the prospective legislation. While I appreciate the sentiment behind “The Pastor Protection Act,” I offered the candid opinion that it is “a waste of time.” I thought I would use this article to expound on my comment.

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of our nation. More specifically, it is what a majority of those nine black-robed justices known as the Supreme Court say it says. Article One, Section 27, of Florida’s Constitution, defining marriage as between one man and one woman, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge here in Florida. Any challenge to that ruling was dealt a coup d’etat by SCOTUS in its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The simple truth is that our state’s constitution and statutes are subordinate to the Constitution of the United States and the Supreme Court that interprets it. I believe my right to practice my convictions according to the Scriptures is protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

If the Supreme Court invents an exception to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, as they arrogated the right of the states to define and regulate marriage as provided in the Tenth Amendment, then no legislation here in the State of Florida can protect me. If SCOTUS does not uphold the freedoms enumerated to us in the Bill of Rights, then “The Pastor Protection Act” is a waste of time and will not be worth the paper it is written on.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion for the Court, found a fundamental right for same-sex couples to marry, but his ruling did not create a fundamental obligation on my part to solemnize such a union. That may be the next shoe to fall, but while governmental and judicial authorities can coerce me, they cannot ultimately force me to go against my conscience.

Our highest Court has proved to be incapable of defining marriage, the most basic unit of human society, and our President and Congress have been just as ineffective in providing common sense leadership in this matter.

Solomon tells us, “Many seek a ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord,” Proverbs 29:27. His point is simple, ultimate justice for man does not rest with any earthly authority whether by legislation or decree. My protection and plea for justice is lodged with a much higher Court of Appeal.

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Julie’s Resignation

Julie Rodgers recently resigned her position as a counselor at Wheaton College. Wheaton College is avowedly Christian in its worldview and educational mission. The school’s motto is “For Christ and His Kingdom.” Billy Graham graduated from Wheaton College.

Julie’s service at Wheaton received notoriety because she claimed to be a “gay Christian” who was celibate. As you can imagine such a claim stirred some controversy and conversation. All of which was laid to rest with her resignation. Julie felt compelled to resign because she had, in her own words, “quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now.”

I had considered writing about Julie’s situation before, but thought it best to wait because this subject tends to generate more heat than light. But her resignation and her reason for it prompted this article. I want to applaud her for being honest about her feelings and sensitivity to the plight of those who believe themselves to be gay and Christian.

Yet, I must be honest when I say she has brought more confusion than clarity to an issue that for many seems cloudy. I am concerned when anyone attempts to qualify his or her Christianity with an adjective. I do not introduce myself as a “heterosexual Christian.” My sexuality does not and should not define what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian should transcend every aspect of the believer’s life including his or her sexuality, and there is no facet of one’s life that should dictate or even rival what it means to be a Christian.

When Paul wrote, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28),” he was not denying the reality of race, social status or gender; he was making the point that all of these are subordinate issues to what it means to be in Christ and Christian. That is true of one’s sexuality as well.

Julie said she was gay but celibate. In other words, she is attracted to and tempted to engage in gay sex but has resisted the temptation and remained celibate. In Scripture one is not defined by their temptations, they are defined by their practices.

If one tells lies, he might rightly be called a liar, but if one is tempted to lie and instead tells the truth, he would be considered an honest man. Claiming to be gay while being celibate is not a biblical perspective, and confuses what being gay and being a Christian mean.

But this is also a matter of the heart and its allegiance. As it turned out, Julie’s allegiance to same-sex relationships was stronger than her allegiance to Christ. By deciding to support same-sex relationships she has chosen a decidedly gay course of action that cannot be reconciled with what it means to be a Christian counselor at Wheaton College. This is why she had to resign. I appreciate her honesty.

The Elephant in the Room

It’s the elephant in the room. You know, something so big it cannot be ignored. It’s the Supreme Court of the United States’ June 26 ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right and should be recognized throughout our nation in all fifty states.

It is a stunning reversal of cultural norms. Despite the naysayers, our nation’s earliest documents, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution are replete with wording that undeniably point to the fact our nation was founded in the midst of a Christian consensus and worldview. Biblical morality was the undisputed standard, the ideal, but not anymore.

It did not happen overnight. In our growing affluence America became distracted from the Scriptures and we were willing to accept a nominal, superficial faith that changed little within and compromised the effectiveness of our witness without. As sexual mores grew lax so did our faithfulness to God and we allowed sensuality to seduce us. Homosexuality did not spring up magically overnight like a beanstalk in fallow ground; it found firm root in soil made fertile by heterosexual sin.

Thinking the dwindling faith of our fathers could be corrected by legislation, Christians slowly sold their spiritual birthright for a mess of political pottage, and like Esau we can do little now but weep over what has been lost.

Remarking on the believers’ unhealthy reliance on the political process, Cal Thomas wrote, “Few minds were changed, and culture became more deformed than reformed.” It was foolish to hinge our country’s future well being on such a flimsy frame. Culture will only change when the hearts of men, women, boys and girls are changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Politics nor the courts can or will save us.

What should we do now? We can start by repenting. We should have trusted God with the condition of our nation earlier and fuller. We should not despair, but trust our God. The Gospel shines brightest where sin is the darkest. I believe America is on the brink of a third great awakening and spiritual revival.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” Psalm 33:12. The nation that follows biblical principles enjoys the blessing of God because it practices what is right, promotes what is just, and protects its citizens from those enemies who prey on it from within and those enemies who would attack us from without. The recent decision is an attack from within.

This is not merely a Christian worldview. There is not a religion, a culture or civilization on the face of this earth that has flourished supporting same-sex unions that are biologically incapable of producing the next generation. Those who applaud the recent ruling should call to mind this is not have the last word, because the real Supreme Court does not convene down here.

Franklin’s Appeal

July the Fourth 1776 is considered the birthday of our nation. It was on July the Fourth that our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence breaking our ties with Great Britain and precipitating the Revolutionary War. This July the Fourth is our 229th birthday.

But the Declaration of Independence did not have the effect of law and did not make us a nation. It was the ratification of the Constitution of the United States more than a decade later that made us one nation under God.

The Articles of Confederation that had loosely united the original thirteen colonies during the Revolutionary War were not adequate to found a new nation. A Constitutional Convention was called and assembled at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 25 1787. By June 28th of that year, the convention was close to adjourning in disarray. United during the Revolutionary War by the common cause of liberty, the various representatives now found themselves divided over a number of domestic issues.

Benjamin Franklin, then 81 years old, rose to his feet and addressed the moderator of the convention, George Washington with these words.

“In the situation of this assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible to danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were graciously answered…

“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 probably 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 blessing on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

Cogent words from a man historians claim was a Deist. Franklin’s eloquent appeal to prayer for guidance was predicated on the teachings of Scripture, Matthew 10:29; Psalm 127:1; Genesis 11:1-9. As our nation celebrates another birthday we find ourselves groping in the dark again, and our only hope now as then is prayer and the guidance of the Scriptures.

How The Mighty Have Fallen

Recently Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) resigned his pastorate of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when it became known he had committed adultery. Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham.

In a statement he released to the Washington Post Tchividjian said, “I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair…as her affair continued, we separated…I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself.” His wife Kim later said, “The statement reflected my husband’s opinions but not my own.”

I find these revelations heartbreaking for at least two reasons. First, given the mutual betrayals of infidelity and the ongoing difference of opinion about what transpired, it seems certain another example of Christian marriage will end in divorce and disgrace, and another family will be fractured by what could have been avoidable sin. Tullian and Kim’s selfish acts are going to have some ill effect on their three children who are the most innocent in this matter. So I grieve the hurt and heartache that will have some lasting impact on everyone in their family.

Second, Tchividjian was the pastor of a prominent church, an author, founder of the ministry Liberate, a sought after speaker and has been a frequent guest of all the major news venues. He was very much in the public eye, and this revelation like David’s sin with Bathsheba will give “occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme,” 2 Samuel 12:14. There has never been a time in America when the claims of Christ and the credibility of the Church have been so closely questioned, and now a champion of our cause has succumbed to a very common sin. Our culture can be very unforgiving in this kind of situation.

But Paul enjoins us, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted,” Galatians 6:1. Tullian’s sin is inexcusable, but it is forgivable in Christ and there is always the hope of restoration to fellowship with Christ and His Church with the exercise of repentance.

Billy Graham’s grandson would have done well to have followed his grandfather’s rule to never be in a room alone with a woman, and like his grandfather guarded his ministry from scandal. Tchividjian has learned that his lineage and position of influence were no shield to temptation and the consequences of moral failure.

While restoration and wholeness can be restored through repentance, it remains to be seen if Tchividjian will ever fully regain the level of trustworthiness and influence from where he has fallen. As Paul said, those of us who desire to serve Christ are not immune to temptation, and this should be a lesson to us all. Pray for his restoration and be warned.