Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Thoughts on talking to non-Christian relatives and friends during the holidays

So, suppose you have a relative or friend who grew up as a Christian but now they’ve fallen away and they are in some sort of situation where they are in continuous rebellion against God – e.g. – regular hooking-up, cohabitation, same-sex lifestyle, etc.. Although you might not see this person regularly, you may see them during the holidays at family gatherings, so let’s take some time to define goals and develop a strategy for those encounters.

I want to focus on two parts:

  1. What are you trying to communicate to this person?
  2. How much should you invoke Christian concepts with a non-Christian?

Let’s take a look at the plan.

Respect your opponent’s dignity and value

So for the first topic, I think that you need to accept the person as a person made in the image of God and therefore valuable and deserving of being treated equally. That does not mean you have to agree with them and celebrate their views when you disagree. They have equal dignity to you, but you don’t have to agree that their ideas are equally correct. It means that they have value because God made them and because he cares about them and wants to be reconciled with them. Whatever you say and do cannot set back God’s goal of being reconciled with them. When you speak, you don’t want to push them away from God. When you act, you don’t want to push them away from God. So you are striking a balance between respecting their dignity, but also not affirming them in their views. You can’t affirm something that is immoral just because they will like you, because you have to think of what God wants you to say to that person. You are his ambassador and that means you do your job for him first and foremost.

Christians often talk about the slogan “hate the sin, but love the sinner”, and I think that can be overused. You are obligated to love your family and your relatives. But the problem is knowing what the definition of love is. Love doesn’t mean affirming whatever a person wants to do whether it is right or wrong. Love doesn’t mean standing by silent while people do things when their beliefs about what they are doing are all false. To love someone means to tell them the truth, gently. And it means to be present and engaged in building them up in their relationship with God, however that might look given what stage they are at with God. Loving the sinner means investing in the sinner, and not wrecking the relationship by being unnecessarily hurtful while we can still have an influence. It’s a good idea when you disagree with someone about what they are doing that you keep in mind all the ways that you have rebelled against God in the past, and continue to rebel now, and will continue to rebel. If you keep in mind your own struggles, it will be a lot easier for you to hit the right note when discussing lifestyle with someone else!

Don’t answer “demarcation questions”

I was listening to the Dennis Prager show recently and he was talking about how people on the left are not really good at rational discussion because they are not able to state the views of people who disagree with them in a way that is respectful. He cited Jewish traditions on debate and argued that real debate requires that each side is able to outline the position that the other side holds and the reasons why they hold to it. And not in an insulting, straw-man sort of way, but in a way that the person on the other side can assent and say “that is my view, and those are the reasons for my view”.

People on the secular left seem to like questions that are really more like ad-hominem arguments, so that they can shut down debate. Prager’s example was “you do believe the Earth is warming, don’t you?” This question is designed to stop the discussion of global warming socialism by labeling you a nutcase for denying something that the questioner thinks is obvious. This is despite the fact that the IPCC has now admitted that there has been no significant warming in 15 years. They don’t want to hear your evidence, they want to humiliate you and dismiss you.

The one I hear around my office is “you believe in evolution don’t you?” This is how secularists in my office try to quickly dismiss me because I am not in their “tribe”, so they can cut short any serious critical thinking about their presupposition of naturalism. Thinking about the progress of science and questioning their assumptions is too much work for them, which is why they resort to these “demarcation” questions. Dividing the world up into “sensible us” and “crazy them” is very important to secular leftists – they would rather be divisive, dismissive and condescending so they can keep on sinning. After all, if you’re a total cretin, then they don’t even have to consider whether they are mistaken or not. If you believe in a flat Earth, then they don’t want to have to listen to the evidence for the Big Bang or the fine-tuning or the protein sequencing or the Cambrian explosion. They want to separate the world into black and white so that debate becomes unnecessary. Don’t fall for it.

Free expression of intelligent disagreement

My goal in dealing with an ex-Christian involved in a bad lifestyle is that I want to be their friend, but they must be aware of my view. That is a condition of me being their friend. And I want an opportunity to discuss these things should they come up naturally. I don’t want to be the initiator, but if the topic comes up, I want freedom to state my view, and respect to complete my thoughts and state my evidence. My goal with this person is not to give tacit approval to what they are doing by just acting like one of their normal friends and keeping my mouth shut so as not to offend them. My goal is to be present in their lives as someone who they know for sure disagrees with what they are doing and is intelligent and informed about his disagreement. In short, I am willing to trade spending time with them and doing activities with them (what they want) in order to get the freedom to intelligently and respectfully disagree with them about their lifestyle ( what God wants me to do with them, as his ambassador to them).

Moreover, if the opportunity never arises to state and defend my disagreement with their lifestyle, then I’m going to allocate less and less time to that relationship, since God is not being allowed into the relationship. I work for God, and I want him to be a factor in everything I do. In what I say, in how I spend my time and money, and so on. When I started my first job, the atheists used to offer to discuss spiritual things with me if I had a beer with them. I agreed to that, because they knew that I would only give them what they wanted – friendship – if I got what I wanted – the opportunity to be myself and be given time to explain my beliefs and my reasons for holding them without being interrupted or mocked. They were willing to let me do this, though, because they knew what I was talking about, so that’s on me to prepare to sound intelligent in order to deserve the opportunity to be heard. You have to decide if this person is going to allow you to be an ambassador. That is the criterion for deciding whether to have a relationship with them or not.

Should you bring up the Bible and sin?

It depends. I think if the person is claiming to be a Christian, and under the authority of the Bible on moral issues, then you should investigate how they square their views with the Bible. You might have to pull in Robert Gagnon or Scott Klusendorf or some other expert to make the case that their behavior is against the Bible. But in my view, their claiming of the Bible as support is likely to be a smokescreen. Sinful people choose their behavior first, and the Bible is not going to be relevant to their decision making once they are into the lifestyle of sin. Labeling their behavior as sin, citing Bible verses, citing Christian leaders… that’s all going to be as useful as you citing a Hindu or a Mormon to convince me of an eternal universe would be. I don’t care about religious opinions when it comes to the universe, because I have a prior commitment to science. A smart ambassador knows not to use authorities that are not accepted by their audience. People who are habitually sinning do not accept the Bible as an authority. You can clarify what the Bible says if they bring it up, but don’t rest on the Bible to make your case.

The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle

So what can you do to make your case? Well, your goal is to be allowed to express your disagreement and to state your reasons for disagreeing without being silenced or sanctioned. When they give you your opportunity to speak, you need to have prepared to sound as intelligent and relevant as possible. That means that you need to hit the books before you are asked, and find the reasons and the evidence for your view first. If the issue is binge-drinking and hooking up, you need to hit the books so you can find the peer-reviewed papers to deal with that. You might talk about oxytocin to counter casual sex, or you might talk about the cohabitation-instability link, or you might talk about how children are harmed by fatherlessness, etc. The point is that you want to have the perception among non-Christian peers that you are competent and informed apart from religion – which they don’t even accept. I find it amazing that Christians seem content to invoke their supposed righteousness in debates with people who don’t even accept the Bible. We need to not be so insulated in our own little Bible-cliques that we are no longer able to understand how to be persuasive to people who are outside the faith. You can’t invoke superior piety (alone) as an argument to someone who isn’t pious and doesn’t want to be pious.

Smoking is bad for your health

Basically, you want to make a case using mainstream sources that is equivalent to the case that you might make against their smoking, if they took up smoking. Your approach should be along the lines of “you don’t accept Christianity, and that’s fine, because I have a million non-Christian reasons why you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing, too”. You want to get to the point where you can show them that it’s not just a case of opinion against opinion, but a case of rebellion against evidence. Don’t be afraid to encourage them to look at the long-term effects of what they are doing either.

For example, if they are in a same-sex relationship and they want to have or adopt kids later on, have them defend why it is right for them to intentionally deprive a child of a mother or a father. If they are in a cohabitating relationship and have not yet gotten pregnant, have them defend having an abortion or raising a child fatherless. It’s amazing how people in these sorts of sinful lifestyles get blinded by their feelings and cannot think about what comes next. That’s your job – to be the sober analyst who asks “what comes next?”. And don’t forget to consider whether what they are doing is not only bad for them, but bad for people around them, and society as a whole. For example, if society has to pay increased health care costs for sexually transmitted diseases or for social programs to deal with the breakdown of the family and fatherlessness.

Please leave your comments about how you are dealing with ex-Christians in rebellion in the comments, and what you think of my approach, too.

UPDATE: I got some advice from a well-known Christian apologist. His point was that if all you have is the family meal, then it’s better to spend most of your time listening and just ask a few questions. That’s a good defensive strategy suited to the situation you are in at a family meal.

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New study: Half of children born last year will see their parents split by age 15

Dina tweeted this post from the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Children born last year are more likely than any previous generation to see their parents split up, research suggests.

Nearly half will experience family breakdown, according to a report by the Marriage Foundation think tank.

Its researchers estimate that 354,000 out of the 729,674 children born in England and Wales in 2012 will have parents who are separated by the time they reach the age of 15.

The report also suggests that married couples are much more likely to stay together than those who are unmarried.

The vast majority of children whose parents will still be together by their mid-teens will have a mother and father who are married, the report said. Only 5 per cent will have unmarried parents.

Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, said: ‘We continually hear about divorce rates shooting up and causing the exponential rise in family breakdown, but this is demonstrably not the case.

‘The percentage of marriages ending in divorce has actually fallen since 2005 to 42 per cent. For all marriages lasting over ten years, the divorce rate has barely changed since the 1960s.

‘It is the declining rates of marriage which provide the only conceivable explanation of the doubling of family breakdown since the 1980s.

‘Of the teenagers not living with both parents, just 32 per cent of cases involved divorce.’

Last week a report by the  chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw linked social problems in Britain to bad parenting. He criticised ‘hollowed-out and fragmented families’ where parents suffer a ‘poverty of accountability’.

Sir Michael said many children were ‘alienated’ from their fathers, and warned of social problems resulting from ‘making excuses’ for bad parents.

‘Some people will tell you that social breakdown is the result of material poverty – it’s more than this,’ he said.

‘These children lack more than money: They lack parents who take responsibility for seeing them raised well. It is this poverty of accountability which costs them.

‘These children suffer because they are not given clear rules or boundaries, have few secure or safe attachments at home, and little understanding of the difference between right and wrong behaviour.’

Findings from the Centre for Social Justice have shown as many as one million children are growing up without a father.

I think that if we really want children to have what they need, then we have to take a very strong position on the tolerance and non-judgmentalism that is so popular among the social left today. Because we are tolerant and non-judgmental, 53 million unborn children are dead. Because we are tolerant and non-judgmental, a record number of children are being raised without their mother or their father (or both). Because we are tolerant and non-judgmental, children are being saddled with the costs of fixing the results of irresponsibility decisions made by adults. Because we are tolerant and non-judgmental, we have run up a $17 trillion dollar debt so that the President can congratulate himself on how generous he is by spending money that other people earned (or will have to earn).

Maybe we need to stop thinking about being liked by our peers and start thinking about doing what’s right for children – born and unborn. A good first step would be to view anyone who espouses moral relativism as an evil, destructive, selfish and foolish person. When a woman brags to you about how she doesn’t judge anyone, you should look at her as someone immoral who cannot see the difference between policies/choices that harm children, and policies/choices that help them. At the very least, you should never marry someone who supports redefining marriage to include no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage. You should never marry someone who supports paying people taxpayer money to have children out of wedlock.

If a person cannot see how natural marriage protects children, then don’t marry them. We need to shame people who don’t protect children. It doesn’t matter what they say to you in order to sound nice. It only matters that they won’t condemn things that are clearly wrong. That makes them a threat to children, and unsuitable for marriage.

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Bed and Breakfast owners forced to sell hotel after harassment by gay activists

Gay rights vs religious liberty

Gay rights vs religious liberty

The Blaze reports.

Christian bed and breakfast owners who once famously refused service to a gay couple in the U.K. now claim that they’ve been forced to sell their hotel following a contentious legal battle andongoing harassment.

Hazelmary and Peter Bull insist that they have been the victims of vandalism, death threats and website attacks since the 2008 incident. As a result, in addition to the impending loss of the Chymorvah Hotel in Marazion, Cornwall, England, the couple has also grappled with intense anger from their ideological opponents.

Since denying a room to Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, a gay couple, they have been forced to pay for legal representation and to compensate Hall and Preddy, all-the-while attracting fewer guests as a result of their stance on homosexuality (the hotel only allows married adults to share a bed).

“We were optimistic in the spring. Why wouldn’t we be with the summer ahead of us?,” Hazelmarytold the Daily Mail. “We have had a better summer than we thought but nowhere near good enough to pay our way. We were not even half-full. We must have been the only place in west Cornwall that had rooms left.”

[...]In an interview with the outlet, the Bulls said that they also had a dead rabbit nailed to their fence and that someone even removed the bolts from the tires on their car. They have also reportedly encountered death threats.

The Blaze also had an article about the Oregon couple who had to sell their bakery because of harassment by gay activists.

Excerpt:

But the harassment has also come in some very eerie forms, Melissa claims. In the early morning hours on Monday, the baker claims that someone broke into the Sweet Cakes truck, a vehicle the family uses to advance its business. The truck was parked in the Kleins’ driveway. This was particularly nerve-wrecking for Melissa and Aaron, astheir home, where the truck was located, is in a highly secluded area — one that is nowhere near where their former shop.

“Somebody came up into our driveway and rummaged through our truck and took stuff out,” she said. “The really strange thing is, they didn’t steal anything, they just made a mess. It kind of was a little creepy.”

The culprit didn’t take any money, she said, which was also odd, as the truck contained cash. While she’s definitely shaken by the incident, Melissa said that she feels safe, as her husband is a hunter who is trained to use a firearm. When he’s home, she’s fine, but when Aaron is out of the house, Melissa admitted that she does get a little scared.

In addition to losing their business, the Klein family has been impacted in other ways. Their children are now homeschooled — a decision that Melissa said she made this year following the media firestorm that erupted. And in light of the bakery’s closure, Aaron has gone back to work to help provide for the family.

The harassing e-mails haven’t stopped either. Melisa shared just a few of the messages she has received of late:

  • One message with the subject line “racist maggots” read, “People like you will burn in HELL, you racist pigs.“
  • Another read, “Your homophobic rants will not be forgotten and you will go out of business. This is the 21st century, a**holes.”
  • And another: “Do everyone a favor and fall off a cliff.”
  • One individual made it very personal: “Honey it would take a lot to make your ugly a** look good! You are ugly inside and out!”
  • And finally: “Maybe your god will send you some cat food to eat when you are living on the street?”

And those are just a few of the messages received over the past few days. Negative social media comments, too, have abounded.

This is what happens when cultural elites push the idea that their is only one side to the gay marriage debate. It probably doesn’t help that most Christians have not bothered to prepare a secular case against policies that we disagree with.  It’s very easy for the secular left to dehumanize their opponents when they think that our position is based on religion only. We have to find arguments that appeal to moral non-Christians in order to build a coalition that will defend basic human rights from gay activists.

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Fox Sports fires commentator Craig James for expressing disapproval of homosexuality

Mysterious Chris S. posted this article by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

Excerpt:

As a former quarterback, Craig James isn’t used to being on the defensive. But unfortunately, that’s exactly where Fox Sports is putting him in a story that should rock the football world. The retired Pro-Bowler became the latest face of the war on religious liberty, when — after one day on the job — Fox Sports gave James the boot for his conservative views on marriage. And here’s the kicker: he made the comments, not at the sports desk, but during last year’s Senate campaign!

Apart from being a popular analyst, Craig also had political aspirations — aspirations he followed to Texas in an unsuccessful bid against Ted Cruz during the primary. In the course of the campaign, Craig was asked — as all candidates are — about his views on marriage and sexuality. James’s opinion happens to coincide with the research, which is that no one is born gay. And, as an orthodox Christian, he didn’t shy away from the eternal consequences of this sin or any other. “…[T]hey are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions,” he said before pledging not to support same-sex unions.

According to Sports Illustrated, the regional affiliate of Fox hired Craig without involving upper management. “Fox Sports executives were not happy with the hire by the regional network,” sources explain. High level executives felt he hadn’t been properly vetted (or, properly excluded, depending on how you look at it). When the news broke, a Fox Sports spokesman tried to explain away the network’s religious profiling. “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”

First off, Craig didn’t say them there — or anywhere in his commentating capacity. He stated his position as a candidate for public office — in response to legitimate constituent questions. To suggest that having an opinion on cultural issues disqualifies you from breaking down football plays is outrageous — especially when that opinion is shared by the majority of Americans! Is the grip of religious hostility so tight that Americans can’t even have an open debate for fear it’ll cost them their jobs?

Dr. Angela McCaskill, Jerry Buell, Julea Ward, Damian Goddard, Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, Crystal Dixon, and Air National Guardsman Layne Wilson certainly think so. To a man, they were all suspended, fired, or sued by their employers for their views on marriage — whether or not they expressed them at work! Like them, Craig James’s ousting had nothing to do with his job performance — and everything to do with this new climate of Christian persecution.

From the military to Fox Sports to city halls like San Antonio’s, the overwhelming message seems to be that when it comes to the public arena, conservative Christians need not apply. Let the network know what a disappointment their political correctness is by contacting Fox Sports and protesting Craig James’s dismissal.

By the way, I never miss the FRC podcasts and I mentioned both their daily and weekend podcast feeds in my recent post about my favorite podcasts. I start my day every morning with the Al Mohler Daily Briefing and the Family Research Council Daily Podcast during my morning commute. Take a look at my podcast post and see if there are any shows that you didn’t know about. There are good podcasts in there on fiscal issues, foreign policy issues, social issues and lots of science and Christian apologetics, too.

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Portland bar owner fined $400,000 for offending transexuals

Wow. Fresh on the heels of the Portland bakery closing comes this new story about a Portland bar closing.

Excerpt:

A North Portland bar owner is facing a $400,000 fine for discriminating against a transgender woman’s group.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries handed down the fine yesterday to Chris Penner, the owner of the bar formerly known as the “P Club.”

Last summer, one woman said they received a voicemail from Penner, who said they were not allowed to return because he didn’t want people to think he ran a “tranny bar.” In the voicemail, Penner claimed the group was hurting business.

“People think that A.) we’re a tranny bar, or B.) that we’re a gay bar. We are neither. People are not coming in because they just don’t want to be here on a Friday night now,” he said.

Under Oregon law, Oregonians may not be denied full and equal service based on sexual orientation. The law provides an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot legally deny service based on race, sex, age, disability or religion.

The fine is the first imposed under the 2007 Oregon Equality Act.

Since 2007, Oregonians have filed 11 complaints of unlawful discrimination in public places.

In addition to the massive fine, Penner also has to pay a $5,000 civil penalty.

The argument by radical gay activists is that free speech is less important their feelings of being offended. They don’t want to be offended by your disagreement/disapproval. And if they are offended then they have to threaten you and attack you and hurt you and hurt your business and hurt your career until you stop offending them. And everyone on the left thinks that this is fine.

I would expect moderate gays to be speaking out to defend the right of individuals to disagree and disapprove of behaviors that they don’t agree with, but I’m not seeing a lot of that.

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