Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Election 2012 -- the Mormons win!

During the Republican National Convention several weeks ago, I turned to my wife and said, "No matter who gets elected, the Mormons will win this election."  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) have made incredible strides into the mainstream of American society in the last twenty years, and the last five have been just incredible.  But the Mormon church's emergence into public respectability during the RNC was amazing to watch.

I saw this coming about twenty years ago.  You may remember the Mormons' TV commercials in the 1980's -- beautiful family settings, caring relationships, and a 1-800-number that, if you called, promised to send you a free copy of the Book of Mormon.  About twenty years ago, suddenly these commercials changed and, instead of the Book of Mormon, they promised to send callers a free copy of the King James Version of the Bible.  At that moment, I could see the strategy unfolding: the Mormon church realized that belief -- the content of faith -- was going underground, and appearances and emotional associations were what counted.  They planned to step into the mainstream of American religion.  What could be more mainstream than the King James Bible?

We've seen this play out in the last two decades.  Four years ago Mitt Romney was marginalized from the Republican ticket mostly because of his religion.  Since then we've seen a spate of "I'm a Mormon" commercials on TV, radio, and internet.  They're classy, well-done commercials that clearly put Mormons in the mainstream.

During the Republican National Convention, one entire evening was devoted to a sort of Mormon religious festival complete with testimonies and touching tales of the care and devotion Pastor Mitt showered on those under his care.  No one shrank back from declaring their adherence to the Mormon religion.  No one toned down their personal faith.

So what?

Whether we're talking theology or sexuality, the mainstream of America has adopted a "whatever works for you" approach to truth.  It's considered rude to examine someone else's truth claims and weigh them carefully.  It's considered arrogant to have a standard of truth by which you evaluate events and teachings.  In the public square these days, if you make the claim that you are (for example) a "biblical Christian" and immediately you're labeled a fundamentalist, a homophobe, a hater.  "Tolerance" -- meaning you don't evaluate the truth-claims of others -- is the rule of the day.

I have nothing against a Mormon president.  The Mormons, after all, have developed one of the most successful religious systems for promoting strong families, successful businesses, and a solid work ethic.  These are all a good beginning toward being an effective leader.  By all means, vote for Mitt if you like.  I'm more concerned about competency in the Oval Office than I am about orthodoxy.

What strikes me in all this is as follows:  American religion and American life more and more are defined not by the question, "What is true?" but rather by the question, "What has meaning for me?"  Note that this question is purely individual.  We do not ask, "What has meaning for us?" because we don't know how to have corporate faith, which includes some measure of accountability.  We only know how to have individual belief, which can be as wacky as each of us are individually.

What the Mormons at the RNC had to do was not defend their wacky theology -- few Mormons even know what their church teaches, theologically and historically speaking -- but rather to speak of the meaning and satisfaction they've found in their religion.  Historians who expose Joseph Smith as a spiritual con-man equipped with angelic spectacles and ephemeral golden tablets that disappeared after he translated them sound like vengeful, intolerant meanies.  Though this does beg the question: as a leader in the Mormon church for any number of years, Mitt Romney undoubtedly knows and subscribes to the theological teachings of his church.  So he probably believes that God the Father was once a human being, and that he himself can become a god by following the tenets of his faith, and that Ann's greatest satisfaction will be to bear children for him throughout eternity.  He apparently believes in the magic spectacles and the golden tablets.  He likely accepts the idea that the ten lost tribes of Israel migrated across Asia to the Bering Strait, spread across the Americas, and became the American Indians (including Nephi and his crew that populate the pages of the Book of Mormon.)  It's a little troubling to me that a man in line for the Oval Office might subscribe to some of these ideas.

At the RNC we saw good, articulate people speaking passionately and reasonably about things like compassion and community.  They gave a face to Mormonism that sways the average post-modern thinker:  They seem like nice people and they have good values.  They should be accepted.

So no matter whether Romney wins or loses the election, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been catapulted into a new legitimacy in the minds of most Americans.  After 2012, when those Mormons knock on your door, you may be much more inclined to invite them in and listen to them with an open mind.  Don't worry much about what's really true in their theology or their history, what stands up to the bright light of scrutiny -- they're very nice people.  Enjoy the conversation.  Invite them back.  Hear them out, and eventually you'll consider joining them for church.

I predict that the already rapid growth rates of the Mormon church will increase even more in the next ten or twelve years.  In terms of religion, the Mormons have already won the 2012 election.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Valuable men

Today I am pondering what it means to live intentionally.  In a conversation about a week ago, a mentor of mine said he was dealing with the question, "What would the next ten years look like if I lived intentionally?"  I think it is a great question.  It makes me think of something I heard many years ago -- that the Hopi of the American southwest have certain men in their tribes who they call "valuable men."  I think it's a great term.

Fueling this particular ponder is the fact that I am grieving the loss of two valuable men.  Both are men in their 80's who have influenced me deeply, who are now at the end of their lives.

The first of these men, Tom, passed away last night as his body gave in to the ravages of cancer.  His wife and children have told me over and over again what a good man he is, how he has cared for them and led them, and how he has modeled excellence in every area of life. I have seen these things in Tom's life with my own eyes.  I have only known him for a couple years but I have been so impressed with his intentionality, his desire to stand for unchanging values, his positive spirit, and his unflinching love for Jesus.

The second of these men, Morris, is probably in the last hours of his life as I write this.  He came into my life because he is the father of my earliest friend (Kevin), whom I met the day I started kindergarten.  I was in and out of his house throughout my childhood.  I ate countless meals in his kitchen and attended church, concerts and other events with his family.  I sat in their living room during family devotions and heard Morris pray for his family and for the world.  I helped with milking and played in the hayloft of his barn.  I observed from very close range the deep relationship between Kevin and his dad.  I have known him nearly all my life, and I have been so impressed with his intentionality, his desire to stand for unchanging values, his positive spirit, and his unflinching love for Jesus.

Every young man needs older men to teach him, to call him to account, to tease him, to set him an example to follow.  So if you're going to go looking for an old man to adopt, what do you look for?  (And of course you can also read this in reverse -- if you're an old man reading this, what qualities in your life can bless younger men who might adopt you?)

First, find a man who loves Jesus.  There are plenty of old men out there who are just living older versions of lost lives.  A man who knows Jesus has a solidity, a stability that self-reliant men don't have.  There's also a humility in this kind of a man, because he knows he needs help beyond himself.  A lot of old men who know Jesus won't talk about that relationship much, sadly.  However, you can watch him for a while and see what's going on under the surface.

Second, find a man who is positive but not deluded -- someone who isn't afraid to say when something is good.  There are plenty of negative old curmudgeons out there, and they will not often bless you.  A man who can give thanks for the blessings in his life is an amazing gift.

Third, find a man who hasn't had all his rough edges worn off.  If you find a man who looks too perfect, it's probably better to stay away.  You're going to get sucked in and fooled by a shiny exterior.  No, as a role model you want a man who is still dealing with some issues.  Maybe he's a bit of a controller.  Maybe he rails against some of the things that are wrong with the world, or with you, or with himself.  Maybe he cusses or chews or picks his nose.  He might well tell stories that make you look around to see if your mother is listening.  None of these are deal breakers; in fact, if he doesn't have some rough edges he probably won't be of use to you.  The best role models are the ones who have come to grips with the fact that they're not perfect and are comfortable living in their own skin, even if that makes you a little uncomfortable.

Fourth, find a man who stands for solid values.  You don't have to agree with all his values, but you can learn a lot from listening to him talk about what's important to him.

It's worth mentioning that you will probably benefit most from a man who has done something with his hands.  Not to say that he can't be a teacher or a lawyer or a minister -- I've adopted men from all three of these categories.  However, even if his career has been behind a desk, he should probably be able to shoot a muzzleloader, or sail a boat, or rebuild an engine, or build a bunkbed, or something useful.  These kinds of hands-on activities anchor a man in the real world.

If possible, find a man who has a decent relationship with his own kids.  This means that his kids are independent and strong, but they choose to stay connected to him, and he's figured out that most difficult of manly tasks, how to give his kids freedom without totally cutting them off.  Certainly there can be some brokenness in these relationships -- there always is -- but you're looking for someone who can be a bit of a surrogate father to you, at least in some sense.  If his dysfunctions have driven his own kids too far away, you might want to reconsider.

Some of you reading this are fortunate enough to have one of these men for a father, or a father-in-law, or maybe a grandfather or an uncle.  That is a precious gift.  Don't make the mistake of neglecting these valuable men just because they're in your family.  Dig deep into those relationships and mine all the gold you can.

If you have an old man who meets most of these criteria, he's probably worth your time.  Figure out where he connects -- whether in the duck blind, the garage, an auction sale, or at a hole-in-the wall restaurant he frequents because they have good pie.  One of the best old men in my life has been a North Dakota farmer who used to stick his head into my office at church once a month or so and say, "You got time for pie?"  We'd go out and discuss the world at length and I would ask stories about how things used to be and how he sees things now.  Those were invaluable times!

While it's okay to study the heroes our culture lifts up, it's far better to find a valuable man and get close to him.  Listen to what's on his mind.  See things through his eyes.  You will learn more than you expected.  One of the most important lessons these valuable men will teach you is the one that Tom and Morris are leading me through today.  How do you walk open-eyed toward your own death?  How do you live life intentionally?  These men have figured out how to face the hard stuff, to work through the trials and difficulties.

One of the specific goals in my life is that I want to be an old man.  Not to say I'm so eager to live into my 80's -- this is not about length of life, but rather about quality.  When the time comes -- and I don't get to decide this, it is rather determined by younger men who see something in my life they desire -- I hope to be an old man, to be able to bless someone's life the way I've been blessed.  I want to live the kind of life someone else might find valuable.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's been scientifically proven ...

I'm always a little amused when issues of morality and ethics come up in public conversation and someone wants to trot science out to settle the argument.  In Minnesota's current "marriage amendment" conversation, both sides are quoting various scientific sources to claim the rational high ground.  

While I'm intrigued by the recent studies out of Texas that have indicated significant advantages for children being raised by a mother and a father, as opposed to two parents of the same gender, I don't base my support for that amendment on such studies.  Simply put, I try as much as possible to live my life in line with what the Bible recommends because I'm convinced that knowing Jesus and living obedient to him is the very best life possible.  In the same way, I want what is the very best for the society in which I live, so when I have opportunities, I try to sway that society toward a more biblical way of life.  (And no, to the critics, I am not talking about women wearing head coverings or stoning disrespectful children.  There are legitimate readings of the Bible as a whole that address those texts and place them in a wider context.  Email me and we can have that conversation if you like.)

Back to science.  We have been taught to believe that science is rational.  Science brings perspective.  Scientifically based decision making is better.  There is just enough truth in this attitude to keep us coming back for more.  

However, I think we are in grave danger if we simply believe that because "science" says something is so, it is so.  First, this is true because "science" rarely speaks with one voice on any controversial issue. Fact is, scientists are as diverse a group as humans in general and tend to disagree amongst themselves.  The fact that they disagree in scientific journals in articles using four-syllable words is what makes most of us think they're so smart and that they really have it all together.  Not so.

Second, the very scientific method, if we really understood it, militates against certainty.  Why?  Because using the scientific method you are constantly making observations, developing hypotheses, testing those hypotheses according to new observations, and going back around to revise your initial assumptions.  This very process we call the "scientific method" -- a process that is at the heart of all scientific knowledge -- is by nature based on skepticism, revision, and doubting one's earlier conclusions until they are absolutely proven -- which never happens in the scientific endeavor.  I'm not criticizing science at this point; if science is going to do its job, it HAS to operate this way.  But if you go looking to science for certainty, you might get into trouble.  

I love what M. Cartmill said on this score: "As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life - so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls."

Well said, and the comparison is apt: If you use your office as archbishop to meet girls, you have violated the very nature of the office.  If you use your office as a scientist to claim you have the facts, you violate the very nature of the office.

The other thing about science is that it is mostly practiced by scientists, and scientists tend to be human beings.  Human beings have a long track record of being wrong.  Here are a few examples:

Example #1 -- The Kaibab Plateau, c. 1906:
The best scientific minds in the area of wildlife management and environmental engineering wanted to create a lush paradise on earth for the estimated 4,000 mule deer on the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona in the early 1900's.  Using the best scientific techniques, they banned hunting and killed off hundreds of predators.  The deer flourished, until 1923 and 1924.  In those two years, it is estimated that about 60,000 deer starved to death on the Kaibab -- the direct result of the finest scientific minds of the time having their way.  (You can read more about this set of events here -- I have no idea why the critter at the top of the page is an African antelope.  Go figure.)

Example #2 -- Crisco.
In the middle of the 20th century, including my own childhood, Crisco was considered a necessity in most American kitchens.  Whether you were deep fat frying, baking, or just greasing a frying pan, Crisco was your best option.  I vividly remember when butter flavored Crisco first hit the grocery store shelves.  What excitement!  Crisco was the product of a candlemaker who was looking for something less expensive than beef tallow to use in his candle-making.  Working with a chemist -- a scientist -- he found a way to add a hydrogen atom to a liquid oil -- in this case, cottonseed oil.  This process of "hydrogenating" the liquid oil caused it to solidify and become much like butter or lard.  Promoters first advertised Crisco with the claim that it was "a healthier alternative to cooking with animal fats. . . and more economical than butter."  Later on, the promoters of Crisco would seize on an inconclusive government report that questioned the health implications of eating animal fats.  Dr. Fred Mattson grabbed hold of this report and used it to "prove" to the public that animal fats cause heart disease.  In the last thirty years, we are learning that hydrogenated fats are incredibly unhealthy for human bodies.  What's more, many people are exploring diet plans that are mostly based on animal proteins and fats, and they are enjoying great health benefits! So the earlier "scientific" claims about Crisco have been reversed, and these days nobody wants to cook with the stuff.  You can read more about the rise and fall of Crisco here.  

The Crisco Corollary:  Remember when margarine was considered better, healthier, more wonderful than butter?  Butter was animal fat, and animal fat was the root of a great deal of evil.  Margarine was MUCH healthier.  Today scientists have invented a term for the fats in margarine and Crisco -- fats created artificially by humans from non-food sources.  We call them "trans-fats" and now they are the root of a great deal of evil.

Example #3 -- low-fat diets.
Remember rice cakes?  In the 1980's and 1990's, rice cakes were supposed to be the dietary salvation of us all.  They tasted like styrofoam and had basically no food value, but scientists could use chemicals and make them taste like caramel or cinnamon without adding any calories.  The idea was that they would fill your stomach without introducing too many calories into your body and thus help you be healthier.  It was all part of the belief we all shared, noted in example #2, that animal fat -- and fat in general -- is bad.  So we all tried to eat low fat.  Pasta became all the rage.  Fat free cheeses (ewww ....) appeared on grocery store shelves.  Sales of beef plummeted.  Sales of chicken skyrocketed, because lean chicken with the skin pulled off it was one of the few acceptable meat choices.  People figured out ways to make bacon and hamburger substitutes out of turkey.  Breads, potatoes, pastas, and the like became the staple of our diet.  And we gained weight like crazy.  Obesity and Type 2 diabetes levels skyrocketed.  Today we have begun to realize that all these foods are high in carbohydrates, and it is carbohydrates that trigger the production of insulin in the body, and it is insulin that opens the way for the body to store fat in its cells.  Once again, the clear scientific wisdom ended up being wrong.

We could go on and on.  Doctors used to prescribe cigarettes as a calming agent.  Cocaine was used to treat tooth pain.  Just because science currently teaches something is "true" doesn't mean the data -- and the beliefs about truth -- won't be reinterpreted next week.  The real danger is when public relations campaigns grab hold of a few scientific facts and use them to promote a political agenda.  We are taught to view something as good and healthy and normal because "science" says it is.  This is happening around you right now.

I'm not against science.  Are you kidding?  I am alive thanks to a crew of scientifically informed medical people who treated me quickly and correctly in 2009 when I suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage.  The helicopter that flew me to North Memorial that day was built from technology designed by scientists.  On my belt I wear an insulin pump to provide carefully controlled amounts of insulin to my diabetic body.  (Note: I was diabetic long before the low fat diet craze, and mine is "Type 1" -- but that's a long story.)  

I'm not against science.  But in our public decision making, in our public debates, in our rhetoric and our discourse, we need to learn to be cautious about using science to "prove" a point.  The scientific establishment has many times changed its collective mind when new data became available.  Things we thought were totally safe -- playing with lumps of uranium, for example, and I am NOT making this up -- have turned out to be deadly.  Things we thought were impossible -- propelling a spacecraft through the vacuum of space using a rocket engine, for example -- have turned out to be manageable and sometimes even routine.

This is one reason I return again and again to the Bible as a powerful tool for discernment and decision making.  Not only do I have the Bible's text itself to instruct me; I also have a two thousand year tradition of companions on this journey who have left their reflections and their understandings.  Some of them were clearly kooks and I want nothing to do with their understandings.  Others were brilliant and I savor their writings, learning from their God-given wisdom.  

I love G.K. Chesterton's line in his book, Orthodoxy, about tradition: "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about."

By all means consult scientific wisdom when you have a decision to make.  But don't let the changing whims of our public perceptions of science -- far less reliable than scientific research itself -- persuade you that something is right or wrong.  Science can build you a weapon, but cannot advise about the morality of using it.  Science can describe a set of genes and chromosomes that will impact the life of a living thing, but science cannot assign a value to that life.  For those matters we need a source that will take us deeper.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Election exhaustion

It's a little strange how many people are tired of the election season this year.  In the debate last night, and several times in the past, President Obama has commented on how tired we all are of political commercials.  People on Facebook are now posting about how relieved they will be when the elections are over.   Yet we don't seem to be able to stop paying attention.  Maybe we suffer from an overdeveloped sense of duty when it comes to politics?  Or maybe we just can't figure out how to make up our minds and we're hoping something will eventually come clear.

The Jesus-follower lives in this odd in-between even more than most people in this country.  We recognize that we are called to submit to the governing authorities, to pray for our leaders, to exercise our citizenship here, to work for the good of our society.  But we also know that we don't belong to this world, that we have a heavenly citizenship that outranks our earthly citizenship, that our final loyalty is to Jesus as Lord, not to any earthly government.  When Jesus was before Pilate he said, "If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would fight."  The final conflict of our lives is not the conflict between Republicrats or Demicans, or even (dare I say) between Communism and Democracy or between Al-Qaeda and America.  We will not answer to God for which party we supported. (Though there may be, and often are, significant moral questions that cause the Jesus-follower to side temporarily with one party or another!)  This world and its powers are passing away, and we participate for the good of our society because God calls us into the world, not away from it.

So for the Jesus-follower, this election season is a lot of sound and fury in earthly terms.  We do well to make sure in this season that we are faithful in the spiritual disciplines, especially of worship, of scripture, and of silence.  Those three especially bring us back to a realization that beyond the clash and clamor of political campaigns, Jesus is Lord.  No matter what measures pass or fail, no matter who is elected or defeated in November, Jesus is Lord.  We are heirs of a kingdom that stands, though all of Western Civilization may be tottering in ruin.  It is in the strength of that knowledge that we work for the good of this world.

These lyrics may be slightly different than you learned the hymn, if you know it, but the older version contains truths that have been watered down in revision:

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pondering marriage from a biblical perspective

For several weeks I have been preparing for two forums I'll be leading this weekend to address the question, "What does the Bible say about marriage?"  Across Minnesota in anticipation of the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, churches are posturing with all the subtlety and grace of politicians as they campaign for one position or the other.

A word about the political debate: The amendment, which simply defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, will not immediately change anything in Minnesota.  Homosexual "marriage" is legal in Iowa, just to our south, but Minnesota currently has a law on the books that prevents homosexual unions being classified as "marriages" in Minnesota.  The amendment is designed to make it harder for Minnesota's judges or legislators to legalize changes to our marriage laws without voter approval.  A constitutional amendment would make it necessary for voters to approve or disapprove any proposed changes directly.

So basically, a "no" vote means you want to leave the way open for Minnesota's courts or legislature to lay down rulings or pass laws that legalize homosexual "marriage".  A "yes" vote on the amendment means you would rather have our state constitution define marriage as between one man and one woman, so that in the future any proposed changes should be voted on directly by the people of Minnesota.

Given the debate raging in Minnesota about the "Marriage Amendment," it seems like Jesus-followers should be approaching questions about marriage -- or any question, for that matter -- by asking, what does the Bible say about this?  In this political context, it seems prudent for our church to provide people a time to reexamine what the Bible says on the definition of marriage.  That's why we're hosting these two pastor's forums this weekend.  These forums will take place at Central Lutheran in Elk River this Saturday, October 21, 9-10:30 am, and Sunday, October 22nd, 12:30-2 pm.

Sadly, almost all the discussion around this proposed amendment begins with the question, "Do I think homosexual people should be allowed to get married?"  This question leads naturally to an examination of people we know or have "met" in the media who are homosexual.  Like most people, they are generally good.  Personally, my friends who happen to be homosexual are articulate, creative, bright, loving, delightful people.  (Otherwise, why would they be my friends?)  So when I begin with these friends in mind, it seems natural to want them to be happy.  Since we believe (without good evidence, I might add) that happiness means getting what you want, we say, "If that's what they want, they should be allowed to get married!"  We think at this point that we have settled the question.

As I have been preparing for these forums, I'm impressed by the depth and consistency of the Bible's attitude toward marriage.  The Bible does not begin with the question of, "What do you think?" or even with the question, "What do you want?"  On the contrary, according to the Bible both of those questions will get me in deep trouble.  Instead, the Bible begins with the question, "What does God want?"  We begin to get a glimpse of what God wants when we look at the design he implemented in his creation, and we read the Bible in order to understand his intentions regarding that creative design.

Two conditions come into view immediately when we take this approach.  First, there are some things we can say are God's intention.  An incredible diversity in the created order, for example, is part of God's good intention.  Humans acting sovereignly over creation in ways that reflect the loving, servant nature of God is another part of God's good intention.  There are other things we can say are not part of God's original intention, but are rather evidence of the brokenness of creation.  Violence of one human being against another is an example of this sinful brokenness.  Humans acting as tyrants over creation, exploiting it for our own greedy ends provide another example.

Therefore, just because we see something present in creation does not mean that God intends it that way.  What we see may be evidence of the brokenness of creation.  This is one reason we need to return to the Bible again and again, because without it we cannot distinguish God's original intention from the brokenness of creation.  We may look close-up at an oil slick on a pond and see a bright rainbow of color, beautiful swirls of purples and oranges that could make a striking photograph.  Until we back up and see the oil slick in its context and the damage it does, we might think it was an example of beauty and health.  The bodies of the dead birds and animals on the shore are an indication that our sense of "beauty" in this case might be misguided.

In the same way, the Bible takes us beyond our own context, our own wisdom, and gives us perspective to judge rightly.  One way it does this, for example, is by clarifying things we might rather leave unclear.  So the Bible says clearly that divorce is not God's intention.  In fact, Jesus says that Moses included provision for divorce in the law only "because of your hardness of heart"(see Mark 10).  Yet we have created a culture in which divorce seems like an easy way out of a difficult relationship.  Viewed close up, we may see in divorce the possibility for freedom and a new start.  Only looking at it through a biblical lens can we see the breaking of a covenant, the destruction of a one-flesh relationship, and lifelong wounds and grief that will ensue.  I recognize that in some cases divorce is regrettably necessary.  However, its prevalence in our culture has to lead the Jesus-follower to ask, how are we so far from what the Bible describes as God's intention for marriage?  Only through this lens are we led to a deep sense of repentance and a desire to stand for marriages that truly provide a life-giving core for stable families.

So what does the Bible say about marriage?  That could be a lengthy book, but let me offer a few highlights for your pondering.  We will dig into these ideas in more depth on Saturday and Sunday at the forums, as well as taking time to discuss how these apply to our understandings of marriage today:

1. In Genesis 1:26-27, male and female are named together as part of what it means for humans to be created "in God's image."  By itself this wouldn't mean much, but later on the Bible says a lot about the way a marriage of a man and a woman reflects the nature of God and God's relationship to his people.

2. Genesis 2:18-25 is without doubt the most significant biblical text on marriage, laying out a pattern for God's intention for marriage.  In this text, among many other things, God says it is not good for man to be alone, that he needs a "helper" fit for his needs (see next point for more on this), and a basic pattern for marriage relationships is laid out in 2:24-25.

3. The much-maligned "helper" (or "helpmate" which is an inaccurate translation of the words "help meet for him", the King James Version's way of saying a helper fitting for him) is a powerful word.  In the Bible the Hebrew word "ezer" (helper) is applied only to God as the one who helps us, with one exception.  The word is applied to a human only in Genesis 2, specifically referring to the woman God created out of Adam.  So the idea of Eve -- or any woman -- being an "assistant" or a lackey is absolutely NOT what the text is talking about here.  The relationship described is a relationship between people of different physical structure, different gifts, different identity, but of equal value.  It is only in this context of complementarity that the statement in 2:24 that these two "become one flesh" makes any sense.

4. Within the culture of the Old Testament nation of Israel, cultural practices around marriage diverged from this original pattern laid out in Genesis 2.  Polygamy, Levirate marriage, concubines, and sexual relationships in the context of the worship of other gods (notably Baal and Asherah) were all common practices in the Old Testament, but the Bible does not endorse -- and in most cases strongly rejects -- these other contexts for sexual relationships.  The Old Testament also recognizes divorce as a reality, but clearly states that it is not God's intention.

5. The New Testament reinstates the Genesis 2 pattern of God's intention for marriage.  Jesus reasserts this pattern, most strongly in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, by quoting Genesis 2:24 and expounding on it. Jesus also goes even farther than the Old Testament in stating clearly that divorce violates God's intention for marriage.

6. This final point is perhaps the Bible's clearest teaching about marriage, yet it is the one that gets the least press and the least preaching time.  Throughout the Bible, the marriage relationship between a man and a woman is held up as a preview or metaphor for the relationship between God and his people.  For example, the entire Old Testament book of Hosea uses this metaphor in vivid ways.  The New Testament makes this metaphor explicit in Ephesians 5:21-33 and Revelation 19, among other places.  This understanding of marriage as a "window" into God's relationship with us is one of the most important biblical perspectives on God's intention for the marriage relationship.  Far from being about "me and what I want," marriage is about God communicating his desire for relationship and the dynamics of that relationship in a concrete way.  As we look at marriage between a man and a woman, we begin to understand that though we are radically different, we can enjoy an intimate, life-giving relationship.  This relationship requires us to go beyond ourselves, to abandon our own self-focused desires to serve and enjoy one who is radically different from us.  The nature of the marriage relationship points us to the intimate, life-giving relationship God wants with us, even though he is radically different from us.

Enough for now.

By the way, it is instructive that one of the Bible's harshest indictments of the Israelites in the Old Testament comes at the end of the book of Judges.  The Bible says that "all the people did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21:25).  In a democracy where each individual chooses to vote his or her own conscience, we have to be careful not to make that same mistake.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Take a deep breath

A year ago I was in the middle of a sabbatical.  It was a much-needed time to step back from regular rhythms and take a deep breath.  One highlight of that time was that I had the freedom to spend a great deal of time in the woods, which is one of the primary ways I reconnect to God.  The last few days, I was privileged to go up north to an old hunting shack that's been in my family since the 1950's and wander the woods chasing after grouse.  The woods are just beautiful, and the weather cooperated perfectly.  What a gift!

Another highlight from my 2011 sabbatical was that I took time to focus in great depth on the theological teachings of N. T. Wright.  A coworker emailed me this link today to a video of Wright's teaching.  I highly recommend that you find twelve minutes to take a deep breath, set your browser to "full screen" if you can, and watch this video.  Powerful stuff!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Submit to governing authorities?

One of the joys of my life is when people ask good questions.  So I was delighted when alert blog-reader Jacob sent this: 

I have really enjoyed your Jeff's Pondering face book post. I read the last one and thought it enlightening, but I have one question. You brought up how we need to submit to government and all that, but what about when the the United States wanted to be free from England and what they wanted for the colonies? Are you saying that this was wrong, and the leaders then should have just obeyed England? Then there is also Libya, Syria, Egypt, and many other countries. Is it wrong for them to have sought freedom, or what their version of it is? I'm just kinda wondering where the line is, or if there even is one.

Excellent questions!  I asked Jacob's permission to attempt to answer on the blog itself, and he was gracious enough to say yes.  So here goes.

First of all, it's helpful in the face of these questions to get outside our own situation to look for role models.  One excellent role model in this question of submission to government is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran pastor, pacifist, and conspirator in a plot to assassinate Hitler during World War Two.  Eventually Bonhoeffer was arrested, imprisoned, and finally hanged by the Nazis.  During two years in prison he wrote many reflections on the ethics of Christians and government, most of which are included in his book, Ethics, published from his collected notes after his death.  Here are a couple pointed quotes:

"According to Holy Scripture, there is no right to revolution; but there is a responsibility of every individual for preserving the purity of his office and his mission in the polis" (Ethics, p. 351)

By polis (Greek word for "city") Bonhoeffer means "public life of society" or something akin to that.  So Bonhoeffer, who took part in a plot to overthrow the government of his native country, recognized that Scripture contains "no right to revolution."  This is a critical point to make.  An individual who is convinced that his or her government is unjust has no right to foment revolution.  At the same time, that individual has strong responsibility as a citizen, and all the more if that person is a Jesus-follower, to speak out in favor of justice and moral righteousness, appealing to the state to rightly exercise its duties on behalf of its people.  A page earlier, Bonhoeffer speaks directly to this responsibility: 

"It is part of the spiritual office" -- meaning of Christians individually and of the church corporately -- "that it shall devote earnest attention to the proclamation of the reign of Christ as King, and that it shall with all due deference address government directly in order to draw its attention to shortcomings and errors which must otherwise imperil its governmental office." (Ethics, p. 350)
So the Christian citizen is doubly charged to speak out in support of the government's good, even if that means opposing a specific action or policy of the government in order to work for its greater good.  Note that this is not license for revolution but rather for outspoken political action when it is necessary.

But what about when the government stands so opposed to the kingship of Christ that it demands that the Jesus-follower compromise his or her own obedience to God?  Bonhoeffer speaks to this issue as well:

"The Christian is neither obliged nor able to examine the rightfulness of the demand of government in each particular case.  His duty of obedience is binding on him until government directly compels him to offend against the divine commandment, that is to say, until government openly denies its divine commission" -- meaning its God-given authority as stated in Romans 13 -- "and thereby forfeits its claim.  In cases of doubt obedience is required; for the Christian does not bear the responsibility of government.  But if government violates or exceeds its commission at any point, for example by making itself master over the belief of the congregation," -- Bonhoeffer seems to have in mind the Nazi practice of dictating theology to the German churches in the 1930's and early 1940's -- "then at this point, indeed, obedience is to be refused, for conscience' sake, for the Lord's sake.  It is not, however, permissible to generalize from this offence and to conclude that this government now possesses no claim to obedience in some of its other demands, or even in all its demands.  Disobedience can never be anything but a concrete decision in a single particular case ... Even an anti-Christian government is still in a certain sense government" (Ethics, p. 342-343). 
Again, you can hear Bonhoeffer, whose major concern is to live faithfully as a follower of Jesus Christ according to the clear word of Scripture, rejecting revolution and preventing zealous believers from claiming the error of the state as license for a general uprising.  At the same time, he acted against his own government and specifically against Hitler.  In conversations with his closest friends and family, also part of the conspiracy, Bonhoeffer "used an example of a drunken driver killing pedestrians on a main street ... He said it would be the responsibility of everyone to do all they could to stop that driver from killing more people" (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, p. 327).  Bonhoeffer had a keen sense that while the believer may be called to sacrifice his own life for the sake of his pacifist ideals, when it comes to protecting a neighbor, one may be called to a greater responsibility.

So, to get to the point Jacob raises, what would Bonhoeffer say about the American Revolution?  We need not wonder, for Bonhoeffer writes:

"The American democracy is not founded upon the emancipation of man" -- as the French Revolution attempted -- "but, quite on the contrary, upon the kingdom of God and the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God ... American historians can say that the federal constitution was written by men who were conscious of original sin and the wickedness of the human heart.  Earthly wielders of authority, and also the people, are directed into their proper bounds, in due consideration of man's innate longing for power and of the fact that power pertains only to God" (Ethics, p. 104). 

Now we have the basis to at least begin considering Jacob's questions and trying to draw out some line for responsible resistance to the government, recognizing as Bonhoeffer insists not only the sin of our government but also our own sinfulness, not only our government's inappropriate lust for power but also our own insatiable lust for control, or at least for influence, for power.

First, it is interesting on the basis of these quotations to reread the Declaration of Independence.  Jefferson and the founders were at great pains to list the specific offenses and ways in which they had tried to correct them within the channels of the British government.  Furthermore, they appeal to the authority of God over human governments.  Granted, this is not necessarily a Christian supposition, but rather a sort of naturalistic theology that, at any rate, recognizes divine sovereignty over human affairs.

Second, it is also worth noting that the colonies each had their own government, and it was the collective authority of these governments that rebelled against King George III.  This and other excellent points are made in a blog by Jesse Johnson of Springfield, VA.  The American Revolution was not a mob of individuals rioting for human rights, but rather a well-reasoned group of leaders from the various colonies debating together and seeking the best course of action for the collective good of their citizens in the face of oppressive policies from their overlord. 

Third, in the interest of honesty, let's recognize that it's very difficult for us as Americans to think or speak critically of our own origins.  We have been deeply conditioned to see the American Revolution as an ultimate good, and the possibility that Christians should have resisted the call to arms in 1776 fills most of us with uneasiness.  We are entirely too close to this situation to be objective.  It is instructive, though, to use the tools of our tradition to help us weigh these questions.  Voices like Bonhoeffer's are certainly helpful.  Another useful tool is the tradition, as old as Augustine at least, of "just war theory."  This teaching says that there are circumstances under which states are justified in going to war.  The question to ponder is, does the American Revolution qualify as a just war?  Read the wikipedia article linked above and consider for yourself.  As I look at the criteria of various theologians throughout the ages, the strongest answer I can come up with is "probably."  

Two questions remain.  First, what if Christians in the American colonies had not chosen to go to war during the revolution?  My guess and my hope is that through less violent means including civil disobedience, eventually (though probably not as quickly) America would have gained her independence.

Second, what does this say to the Arab Spring and the protests that have swept the Middle East in the last year?  Sadly, most of these protests have been more like the humanist violence of the French Revolution in 1789 rather than a reasoned revolution begun by legitimately constituted authorities.  At the same time, we need to acknowledge that the totalitarian governments in most of these countries have effectively eliminated any structures that might provide a nucleus of resistance.  It is worth noting as well that these protests are not all of one sort.  The Egyptians have had a very different experience, for example, from the Syrians.  Christians in both countries have been largely at the margins of the conflicts, hoping for peace and good order to erupt so that they might get back to their highest priority, that of being Christians.  

Perhaps the closest we can get to drawing a line is to make a few bold assertions:

1. Jesus-followers are called to submit to the government, to obey it as far as possible.
2. When government calls the believer into direct disobedience to God, in that specific instance the believer needs to disobey the government as a witness to the government's own nature as an institution created by God.
3. There is no license in Scripture for revolution, but the Jesus-follower may be called to act against his or her own government to preserve the life of the neighbor.
4. Any action taken in disobedience must be taken in great humility, and in the awareness of the devious and pervasive nature of sin, in ourselves as well as those we oppose.
5. As far as possible, action against an oppressive government should be taken through legitimately organized channels.
6. We do not simply protest against a government or a leader; rather, we stand up for the values and policies of government that provide for good order and basic care for the common good so that Jesus-followers can have freedom within society to proclaim the good news of God's love in Jesus.

Jacob, thanks so much for asking -- I have tremendously enjoyed thinking and reading my way through some of these partial answers to your excellent questions!

P.S. If you haven't had enough on this topic yet, click here to read a 1750 essay and some of the history surrounding it.  Rev. Jonathan Mayhew preached, wrote, and taught his way through Scripture (including Romans 13) specifically dealing with British tyranny in the American colonies.  Historically and biblically, it's well worth reading!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Biblical government

For my devotions this morning I was reading Romans 13.  I've been working my way through Romans and today I just happened to get there -- I didn't go seeking this chapter out especially.  But what a lot this chapter has to say about the origin and function of government!  I would encourage every American Jesus-follower to read this chapter and ponder it repeatedly over the next few weeks.  This would be an excellent way to ground yourself in God's word before our upcoming elections.

Now, let me say a word first of all about the "separation of church and state."  Though our Constitution does not use this language, nor does the Bill of Rights, I recognize the basic principle here as something that is set up by our First Amendment.  The language there actually says,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So what does it mean that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?  In context, this language ensures two things:  First, that the United States does not have an official religion like so many countries in Europe had at that time.  The U.S. government is run separately from the exercise of religious freedom.  Second, the government is to keep its hands off religious freedoms.  The U.S. is designed to be a country where people have legal freedom to choose their religious participation and practice.  Some countries in Europe had been experimenting with this concept of religious freedom for a few decades leading up to the writing of the U.S. Constitution, but the concept of religious freedom was still largely untried.

Interestingly enough, the issue of "separation of church and state" -- language that comes not from the Constitution but from a letter by Thomas Jefferson -- comes up these days when we think government is favoring one religious practice or institution over the others.  Note that this is not the concern of the First Amendment.

Okay, before we get too far down that road, what about Romans 13?  We should point out that Romans was not written under the authority of a government allied with Christianity.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The government in Rome had all kinds of official religion, from the worship of the pagan gods to the religious tribute given to the Roman emperors, most notably Caesar Augustus who had been dead for decades but who was worshiped at this time as a god.  (At the time of the writing of Paul's letter to the Romans, people didn't worship the current Roman emperor; that practice came about a few decades later.)  In Romans 13 Paul makes a few salient points.

1. Governments are instituted by God.  They receive their authority from God.  This means that those who serve God should overall be obedient to the existing governments.

2. Governments have a legitimate interest in the good conduct of their citizens.  They exist to punish wrongdoers so as to limit lawlessness and keep basic order for the good of all.

3. Governments use physical means, including violence, against wrongdoers.  They "bear the sword" in order to keep a basic sense of peace in the face of those who would break the law.

4. Governments have a legitimate need to levy taxes upon their citizens, and those who serve God are obliged to pay their taxes.  Along with the obligation to pay taxes, those who serve God recognize our call to give honor and respect to our governing authorities.

5. Interestingly enough, Paul calls the governing authorities "ministers of God."  Since Paul sees God as sovereign over all creation, governments are instituted to serve God's purposes.  This does not mean that the emperor (or president) should be a Christian.  Such a thought would have been far from (though not inconceivable to) Paul's mind.  Rather, "ministers" here means servants.  So the same idea is in 13:4 and 13:6 -- that the governing authority is God's servant, quite possibly without recognizing it himself or herself, to do the basic function of government -- that is, to keep order.

So what does this mean for us?

Lately I've been watching the new NBC show, "Revolution."  This is a post-apocalypse sci-fi show in which all electronic technology has ceased to function.  Governments fall and chaos ensues.  People kill each other for food and for the most basic of needs, and anarchy reigns.  Very soon after, warlords arise -- much like what has happened in Somalia, Afghanistan and many other places -- and through their militias, they keep basic order, even if it is brutish and unpleasant.  There are interesting undercurrents in the show about the role of government and the need for basic order.

Note that the words of Romans 13 are not just written to Jesus-followers with amazing freedoms like we have today; they are also written to Jesus-followers in places like mainland China, where it is a crime to be part of an unregistered church and registered churches are carefully limited by the government.  These words apply to believers in England, where church attendance is around 3%, and to believers in Kazakhstan, where speaking about Jesus in order to convert another person is a criminal offense.

We are called to honor the government, and the government is instituted by God to keep basic order, bearing the sword for the peril of the evildoer.  Note that the government is not called to follow Jesus, at least not according to Paul in Romans 13.  The government serves God by serving the basic needs of its citizens for order.  You can add a lot of stuff into the category of "basic order."  Roads and bridges.  Police and fire fighters.  Basic legal structure.  Some sort of care for the most needy to prevent them from turning criminal.

One interesting political discussion in this election year is this:  How much of a "safety net" do we need our government to provide for the sake of good order?  Both Republicans and Democrats (and Libertarians, for that matter) recognize the need for a government to keep good order.  The larger question is, how much should government go beyond that basic task?

Romans 13 says little or nothing about this.  What do you think?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Slow news day

Do you ever get bored by the news?

Of course you do.  The lead story on the evening news is a program to replace sewer lines in downtown Minneapolis, say, or maybe a feature on shifting demographic trends in America's ten largest cities.  You see the news anchors straining to try to make it sound interesting, and all the while you know they're really straining because one of the camera operators off set has fallen asleep.  Sometimes I wait for that well-made-up anchor to look straight into the camera and say, "People, go do something worthwhile.  Nothing worth reporting happened today.  We're just going to broadcast an old "Bonanza" episode and go home to our own families.  Tune in again tomorrow."

That never happens, of course.  It's a marketing thing.  We have to believe that whatever the nightly news tells us is of utmost importance.

This morning, for instance, one of the big headlines on CNN has to do with evaluations of Mitt Romney's comment about shutting off PBS funding and putting Big Bird out of work.  It's not an analysis of Romney's budget ideas; rather, the headline reads, "Celebs weigh in on Big Bird."  Slow news day.

I hate to admit I feel a vague sense of disappointment when it's a slow news day.  Somewhere deep down I much prefer a crisis.  It's not that I want a bombing or assassination or hurricane or crime spree. It's just that I want something important to be going on.

As I watch other Jesus-followers, I see a similar thing.  We often look like football players on the sidelines during a huddle.  We stand, we watch, we hope, we pray, we check out the scoreboard and the Jumbotron, but nothing is really going on.  We're just standing there waiting for the Coach to call our name and say, "Krogstad!  Get in there!  I have a job that only you can do!"

Occasionally a crisis comes up, and we need to be ready to respond.  But most often, we wait.  And that is a tragedy.

As I read the New Testament, I don't think Jesus' intention was for us to wait until a crisis demanded our attention.  I know that there was that thing in Acts 1 about waiting for the Holy Spirit -- but the Holy Spirit has already been given to us!  So now the task is for us to use all our image-of-God creativity to find ways to do good things (Ephesians 2:10) in Jesus' name.

So for example, Christians in Minnesota are waiting to vote yes or no on the Marriage Amendment.  But if you're pro-marriage (and every Jesus-follower should be pro-marriage) can you find creative ways to build strong marriages aside from the election?  There is a rampant epidemic of divorce in our culture.  There is a rampant epidemic of cohabitation before marriage that leads to quasi-families where children don't live with the stability of mom and dad being committed to each other.  What can a Jesus-follower do to build strong marriages?

I guarantee you it won't make the evening news, but you could get together with a couple others and lead the Alpha Marriage Course in someone's living room.  It's one example of a great tool to enhance marriages.

Another example: There is an epidemic in this country of unwanted pregnancies, too many of which end up in abortion clinics because young pregnant women are terrified and looking for a way out.  So every January churches put crosses on their lawns and Jesus-followers stage protests in state capitols to advocate a change in the Roe v. Wade laws in this country that make elective abortion legal.  But can we deal with what leads to unwanted pregnancies?  What can be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies?  I'm not talking about distributing condoms.  The problem goes much deeper than that.  One factor -- one huge factor -- in unwanted pregnancies is that teens are looking for affection, looking for significance, and looking for relationship.  The absence of solid relationships between parents and kids is one huge factor in that.  So what can Jesus-followers do to help build strong families, to help build parents who will provide a solid relational foundation, to help teens find affection, meaning, and something worth doing in appropriate relationships?

Maybe this is why these things are not on the news.  As soon as we start talking about real problems and their honest causes, we find that the problems grow beyond our ability to fix them.  Any attempt on our part to do something worthwhile is going to feel like spitting in the wind.

Maybe our job is not to fix these problems. Maybe our job is to be salt and light in the middle of the problem.  Maybe our job is not to eliminate abortion, but rather to make a difference to a half dozen young people who find relationship, meaning, and something worth doing instead of going out and experimenting with sex because they're bored and curious and lonely.  Maybe our job is not to change our culture's view of marriage, but rather to invest in a handful of couples whose marriages then become beacons for someone else.  It's a ripple effect.

So maybe a slow news day is the Spirit's call to his people to get up, shut off the tube, and get creative. Rather than waiting on the sidelines, we need to realize that in this game, we're not limited to just having eleven players on the field.  The playing field is enormous, and we're called to get out there and do our creative best.  Yes, we need to listen for the Coach's voice, but in the meantime we can look around and see a relationship that needs tending, a person who needs care, a small need we can meet.  Our tiny, seemingly insignificant actions then become what the gospel of John calls "signs" pointing to Jesus.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reflecting on the presidential debate

Did you watch the presidential debate last night?  I caught about half of it, partly on the radio as I drove home from Confirmation Class at church, and partly on television.

It is no secret that I have been disheartened by the political process throughout this election season.  Last night did nothing to perk up my natural optimism.  Both candidates were articulate and forceful, though I think Romney won by a nose on both counts.  Both did their best to hold the other accountable for the details of past performance and future proposals.  That's not bad, not bad at all.

What makes me sad is this: these two are so close to each other on their positions.  Romney criticizes Obama's health care plan and says he would repeal it.  Yet the plan is essentially modeled after a plan Romney's government in Massachusetts put through on a state level.  Obama, by his own consistent account, holds a deep faith in God; yet it is Romney who pledged himself last night to keep God in the public square.  Obama talked about the importance of our military and how seriously he takes his role as commander-in-chief.  Romney waxed eloquent about how he would not cut any military spending.  Yet in spite of the fact that they're so close on what they're recommending and what they've done in the past (yes, I recognize that there are legitimate differences as well, especially in their work histories) these two vilify and berate each other.  They carefully paint the other as the problem.

What makes me sad is that at this point, as is increasingly the case in American politics, it's NOT about what is good for the country.  It's about my side winning.

If we could sit these two men down in a closed room without cameras and audiences and tell them they had to come to a compromise, it wouldn't take an hour.  They're just not that far apart.  But these two will never have the opportunity to compromise, because they will constantly be in front of the cameras, in front of the Tea Party, in front of Nancy Pelosi's cabal, in front of the extremists in both parties who can't stand the thought of giving in.  It's about my side winning.

Jesus' followers must not imitate the world.  We can't begin to think that it's about my side winning.  Instead, we must keep firmly in mind that we belong to the One who is already victorious.  We are called, as I've said before in this blog, to live as exiles in this world, working for the good of this place.  We work for the good of this place not because we want to win, but because we know that Jesus is already Lord here.  The world's systems -- the extremists, the party loyalists, the manipulators and the schemers and the power-brokers -- will continue their self-destructive quest to win.  But Jesus is Lord.

We live here recognizing that God's call to us means we serve Jesus in this place by working for the good of this city, this neighborhood, this country.  We don't have to worry about my side winning or losing, because Jesus has already conquered.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I had a reality check on the drive to work this morning.  I took my wife out for breakfast just because we could -- it's nice being empty nesters and having a flexible schedule -- so I was driving in to work a little later than usual.  I turned on NPR to see if any new crises had erupted overnight.  Seems like life is pretty calm out there, with the exception of Syria and Yemen and Libya and Mexico and the presidential campaigns and a few other sources of tension and conflict.

What turned my head around was a lengthy interview with a blogger and columnist who had written "a moral case for premarital sex."  This woman's argument included the following statements:

  • The argument for premarital abstinence is based on the belief that women's bodies are dirty and bad.
  • The "purity industry" (her term) sees women as belonging to a man; therefore a daughter belongs to her father and then at the wedding ownership is transferred to the husband.
  • Abstinence and "girls gone wild" commercials are two sides of the same coin.
  • The solution to our oversexualized culture is not to limit sex to marriage, but rather it's about how you treat yourself and whoever you're in relationship with.
  • Sex is good and natural and we should not limit it.
  • The statistical trend of people marrying later means, of course, that people are having sex before marriage.  This is good and should be encouraged.
This woman's arguments were treated as legitimate and compelling by the interviewer.  Callers did not challenge her views but rather tended to agree with her.

If you are a Jesus-follower and don't agree with her views, know that the culture around you is rapidly walking farther and farther away from what you believe.  You can't expect the world around you to affirm your views; rather, you need to be prepared to hold on against a powerful current that says you are out of touch and, truth be told, a little wacko.