Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Indiana RFRA “fix” is a full repeal, religious liberty will be no defense

CNS News analyzes the “fix” proposed by Indiana Republicans.

Excerpt:

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long announced Thursday that they would submit a new versionof the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to Gov. Mike Pence to counter criticism that it discriminates against gays and lesbians.

“It was never intended to discriminate against anyone,” Long told reporters. “That perception led to the national protests we’ve seen.”

But a lawyer for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says the proposed legislative “fix” is not only unnecessary, it would undermine the religious rights of Hoosiers and leave them vulnerable to criminal prosecution for following their religious beliefs, the opposite of what RFRA was intended to do.

“We think the Indiana law is a very good law which is modeled on what has worked at the federal and state level for 20 years, and which is similar to constitutional provisions that are backed up by 50 years of jurisprudence,” Becket legal counsel Daniel Blomberg told CNSNews.com. “These laws work very well to protect the religious rights of minorities.

“All the Indiana law does is the same thing that’s been working very well for a long time,” he pointed out. “Today the Indiana legislature proposed a ‘fix’ that we think is 1) unnecessary; and 2) itself is broken and would create a very dangerous change in Indiana law.

“Individuals asked to be part of a same-sex wedding who decline because they feel it violates their religious beliefs would not be able to raise the RFRA under the ‘fix’,” Blomberg told CNSNews.com. “It would leave them defenseless. It also makes specific allowances for criminal prosecution. So not only is the ‘fix’ not helpful, it should not be accepted.

“We have a choice on how to handle these situations. We can allow government to drive religious people out of business, fine them and possibly imprison them, or we can allow religious people to have their day in court, and let the courts balance their religious claims against other competing values.”

Gary Bauer explains what’s at stake:

“Gov. [Mike] Pence is going through a rhetorical lynching,” Gary Bauer, former Republican presidential candidate and president of American Values, told CNSNews.com. “This is what we were warning about in the [Manhattan] Declaration, and why the Declaration was written.”

Besides upholding the “sanctity of life” and the “dignity of marriage,” the Manhattan Declaration, which was signed by Bauer and a number of other religious and political leaders in 2009, championed “religious freedom”. “No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions,” the Declaration stated.

It warned that “freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.”

Such restrictions “undermine the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism [Alexis de] Tocqueville so prophetically warned of,” the Declaration continued. “Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.”

“It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the tolerance movement used by the cultural Left in recent decades was just a poll-driven strategy and not an actual commitment to tolerance,” Bauer continued, adding that the Indiana law is being used to cut off debate and redefine anyone with traditional moral values as a bigot. “Every pastor and every parent should be deeply worried about what is happening in Indianapolis,” he said.

I guess I blame the church for this. I go to church. I know what goes on in there. It’s a sermon on the gospel every week. There is about 20 minutes of singing. Current events are never mentioned. The existence of God and the resurrection are never explained or defended. The Bible is just assumed to be true, and no issues outside it are ever discussed. Objections to Christian theism are never named, much less defended against. Reasons and evidence are never provided for the Biblical view on topics like abortion or same-sex marriage, much less economics, the environment, etc. The emphasis is on comforting people. The emphasis is on not judging. The emphasis is on making people feel good and leaving them free to do whatever makes them feel good.

I just don’t see young people having any interest in defending Christianity any more against the culture. I mean, I am seeing “pro-life”, “pro-marriage” evangelicals voting for Democrats because they want a bigger secular government.  They want more money to be transferred from Christian families to Solyndra so we can fight the global warming monster. They believed Obama about keeping your doctor, keeping your health plan, and not funding abortions – but Obama lied on all three of these. They want to vote for Obama’s promise that health insurance premiums will drop $3000 in 2008, and then vote for the same guy again in 2012 when the premiums have actually gone up $2500. They voted for Obama saying that he supported traditional marriage, but then his Justice Department declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Young Christians just don’t care about marriage as Jesus defined it – one man, one woman, for life.  They say they do, but then they vote for the party that opposes religious liberty when they get the chance. Global warming and raising the minimum wage are more important. Why? Because the secular culture told them so. And that’s their authority when it comes to voting.

Young Christians just seem to be completely disloyal to God as he really is. I don’t think that Christians really want to have to think about what would work to defend God’s reputation and character from these attacks. They just want to do their own thing, and get the praise from men, rather than the praise from God. In my own case, I am now in my upper 30s and still very much respecting the Biblical standards around sex: no pre-marital sex, no adultery, no frivolous divorce. Why is it such a difficult standard for younger evangelicals to accept and to defend? They seem to believe that chastity, natural marriage, and natural child-bearing are all unimportant things. The only rule now is to have fun with sex, and to never judge anyone for breaking the rules. That’s not what the Bible teaches, but that’s what young Christians believe. Who is going to talk to them about it? Not the pastors. Not their parents. And not their friends.

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Should we fear mass murder more from Christians or from secular leftists?

Let’s take a look at what Josef Stalin did during his rule of Russia in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Library of Congress offers this in their “Soviet Archives exhibit”:

The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed.

The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful. Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited. By 1939 only about 500 of over 50,000 churches remained open.

Let’s see more from a peer-reviewed journal article authored by Crispin Paine of the University College, London:

Atheist propaganda and the struggle against religion began immediately after the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917. While social change would, under Marxist theory, bring religion to disappear, Leninists argued that the Party should actively help to eradicate religion as a vital step in creating ‘New Soviet Man’. The energy with which the Party struggled against religion, though, varied considerably from time to time and from place to place, as did its hostility to particular faith groups. The 1920s saw the closure of innumerable churches and synagogues (and to a lesser extent mosques) and the active persecution of clergy and harassment of believers. From 1930, though, Stalin introduced a less aggressive approach, and wartime support for the government earned for the Russian Orthodox Church, at least, a level of toleration which lasted until Stalin’s death. Under Khrushchev antireligious efforts resumed, if spasmodically, and they lasted until the end of the Soviet Union.

An article from the pro-communism Marxist.com web site says this about Stalin:

During the ultra-left period of forcible collectivisation and the Five Year Plan in Four an attempt was made to liquidate the Church and its influence by government decree. Starting in 1929 churches were forcibly closed and priests arrested and exiled all over the Soviet Union. The celebrated Shrine of the Iberian Virgin in Moscow – esteemed by believers to be the “holiest” in all Russia was demolished – Stalin and his Government were not afraid of strengthening religious fanaticism by wounding the feelings of believers as Lenin and Trotsky had been! Religion, they believed, could be liquidated, like the kulak, by a stroke of the pen. The Society of Militant Atheists, under Stalin’s orders, issued on May 15th 1932, the “Five Year Plan of Atheism” – by May 1st 1937, such as the “Plan”, “not a single house of prayer shall remain in the territory of the USSR, and the very concept of God must be banished from the Soviet Union as a survival of the Middle Ages and an instrument for the oppression of the working masses.”!

Now, if you were going to pick a hero of the Christian faith, you’d probably pick a real fundamentalist like William Wilberforce, who freed the slaves – because of his evangelical Christian convictions. Wilberforce took Christianity seriously – he believed every verse of the Bible, he tried to convert people to his faith, and he pushed his faith on others by passing laws. He was the worst nightmare of the secular left – a politically active Evangelical Christian.

But who is a great atheist who was politically active? When I think of a great atheist, someone who really did the most to oppose the “lie” of God’s existence, I think of Josef Stalin. So what kind of morality can we expect from someone who takes the message of Richard Dawkins and Dan Barker seriously and has the political power to really do something about it?

The Ukraine Famine

Take a look at this UK Daily Mail article about a great achievement of the atheist Josef Stalin, which occurred in 1932-1933.

Excerpt:

Now, 75 years after one of the great forgotten crimes of modern times, Stalin’s man-made famine of 1932/3, the former Soviet republic of Ukraine is asking the world to classify it as a genocide.

The Ukrainians call it the Holodomor – the Hunger.

Millions starved as Soviet troops and secret policemen raided their villages, stole the harvest and all the food in villagers’ homes.

They dropped dead in the streets, lay dying and rotting in their houses, and some women became so desperate for food that they ate their own children.

If they managed to fend off starvation, they were deported and shot in their hundreds of thousands.

So terrible was the famine that Igor Yukhnovsky, director of the Institute of National Memory, the Ukrainian institution researching the Holodomor, believes as many as nine million may have died.

[…]Between four and five million died in Ukraine, a million died in Kazakhstan and another million in the north Caucasus and the Volga.

By 1933, 5.7 million households – somewhere between ten million and 15 million people – had vanished. They had been deported, shot or died of starvation.

This is what follows when you believe that the universe is an accident, that there is no objective good and evil, that human beings are just animals, that no God will hold us accountable, and that human beings are not made in the image of God for the purpose of freely choosing to come into a relationship with him. The Ukrainian famine is an action that came from a man whose worldview was passionate atheism.

Atheism today

You might think that today’s atheists are much different than Josef Stalin, but understand that according to a recent survey of atheists conducted by atheists, 97% of atheists vote pro-abortion. How many people have been killed by abortion? 56 million in the United States alone. Atheists in a society like ours, founded on Judeo-Christian values, are obviously going to live a lot better than Stalin. For one thing, they don’t have the power that Stalin had to eradicate theism, although you can see Stalinism in the anti-Christian activities of groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation. But take away the Judeo-Christian foundations of this society, and what would you see atheists doing?

Remember the words of Richard Dawkins:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

Now, having said that, I readily admit that many atheists adopt Judeo-Christian values if their society is saturated with them, but they are acting better than their worldview requires. They are acting inconsistently with what atheism really teaches. It’s good for us that they do, but for how long?

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Should we fear fascism more from Christians or from secular leftists?

Two posts by Jewish author Jonah Goldberg from National Review supply us with the facts to set the record straight.

Let’s start with the first post, where Goldberg looks at the actions of the fascist Adolf Hitler.

1) Hitler wanted Christianity removed from the public square

Like the engineers of that proverbial railway bridge, the Nazis worked relentlessly to replace the nuts and bolts of traditional Christianity with a new political religion. The shrewdest way to accomplish this was to co-opt Christianity via the Gleichschaltung while at the same time shrinking traditional religion’s role in civil society.

2) Hitler banned the giving of donations to churches

Hitler banned religious charity, crippling the churches’ role as a counterweight to the state. Clergy were put on government salary, hence subjected to state authority. “The parsons will be made to dig their own graves,” Hitler cackled. “They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes.”

3) Hitler replaced Christian celebrations with celebrations of the state

Following the Jacobin example, the Nazis replaced the traditional Christian calendar. The new year began on January 30 with the Day of the Seizure of Power. Each November the streets of central Munich were dedicated to a Nazi Passion play depicting Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. The martyrdom of Horst Wessel and his “old fighters” replaced Jesus and the apostles. Plays and official histories were rewritten to glorify pagan Aryans bravely fighting against Christianizing foreign armies. Anticipating some feminist pseudo history, witches became martyrs to the bloodthirsty oppression of Christianity.

4) Hitler favored the complete elimination of Christianity

When some Protestant bishops visited the Fuhrer to register complaints, Hitler’s rage got the better of him. “Christianity will disappear from Germany just as it has done in Russia . . . The German race has existed without Christianity for thousands of years . . . and will continue after Christianity has disappeared . . . We must get used to the teachings of blood and race.”

5) Hitler favored the removal of mandatory prayers in schools

In 1935 mandatory prayer in school was abolished…

6) Hitler favored the banning of Christmas carols and nativity plays

…and in 1938 carols and Nativity plays were banned entirely.

7) Hitler abolished religious instruction for children

By 1941 religious instruction for children fourteen years and up had been abolished altogether….

And now the second post.

8) Hitler opposed the ideas of universal truth and objective moral absolutes

…Just as the Nazi attack on Christianity was part of a larger war on the idea of universal truth, whole postmodern cosmologies have been created to prove that traditional religious morality is a scam, that there are no fixed truths or “natural” categories, and that all knowledge is socially constructed.

Practically everything this man believed was 100% anti-Christian. But he fits in fine on the secular left. In fact, if you read out this list of actions to the groups who represent the secular left, I have no doubt that they would get to their feet and applaud the squashing of religious liberty and religious expression in the public square.

Conclusion

Adolf Hitler was a man influenced by two big ideas: evolution and socialism. His party was the national SOCIALIST party. Like the secular leftists in our own time, he was not a proponent of small government and individual rights, like religious liberty. He wanted to force his own values onto businesses and individuals that had a different allegiance, such as Christianity. He favored a strong role for the state in interfering with the free market and telling private business owners what to do. He was in favor of regulating the family so that the state could have a bigger influence on children. He did not like the idea that Christian parents would teach their children Christianity, instead of the doctrines that he favored. His ideas are 100% incompatible with Christianity and with capitalism, as well. Christians value individual rights and freedoms, small government and the autonomy of the family against the state. The differences are clear and significant.

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What the reaction to the Indiana religious liberty law tells us about the secular left

Hillary Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign

Hillary Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign

I surveyed three articles for this post, and we’ll see a little from each.

Jewish conservative Ben Shapiro has more in Townhall. (H/T Pastor Matt)

Shapiro writes:

Same-sex marriage, it turns out, was never designed to grant legal benefits to same-sex couples. That could have been done under a regime of civil unions. Same-sex marriage was always designed to allow the government to have the power to cram down punishment on anyone who disobeys the government’s vision of the public good. One need not be an advocate of discrimination against gays to believe that government does not have the ability to enforce the prevailing social standards of the time in violation of individual rights. There are many situations in which advocates of freedom dislike particular exercises of that freedom but understand that government attacks on individual rights are far more threatening to the public good.

You do not have a right to my services; I have a right to provide my services to whomever I choose. If you believe that your interpretation of public good enables you to bring a gun to the party, you are a bully and a tyrant. So it is with the modern American left, to whom freedom now means only the freedom to do what it is the left wants you to do at point of gun.

And Ben Shapiro again for Breitbart on what’s next for the secular left:

[…][T]he obvious next step is for the left to target churches for revocation of their non-profit status.

[…]Once non-profit status is revoked for churches on the basis of supposed discrimination against homosexuals, those churches become private institutions engaged in commerce. Which means that they are regulated as common businesses under anti-discrimination law. Which means they can be shut down or fined for failure to perform same-sex weddings. The left says this will never happen. Which means we are a few years away from it happening.

Religious universities will certainly be targeted, both as to their non-profit status and then for fines if they refuse to provide benefits for same-sex spouses, for example. Under the Bob Jones University case, which has already been touted by the left as the model for a federal case against same-sex marriage, universities will be considered discriminatory if they stand against same-sex marriage the same way Bob Jones University was with regard to its interracial dating standard. The difference, of course, is that dating between races is not the same as dating within the same sex. But the left has always equated race with homosexual behavior and will extend that equation to the law as it applies to institutions of higher education.

Just because religious schools are run by religious institutions does not exempt them from the wrath of the left. Leftists have already declared in states in which same-sex marriage has been approved that children must be taught about same-sex marriage in public schools; in California, for example, the law also requires that parents allow children to attend such classes.

This logic will be extended to private schools. Why should private schools be allowed to “discriminate” against same-sex couples by exempting children from learning about them? Why should homeschooled children be given state-credentialed status without being indoctrinated in the decency of homosexual behavior, all in the name of non-discrimination?

Here is an article from The Stream:

History teaches that mass vilification rarely stops short of spilling blood. The French Jacobins who spent the 1780s slandering the clergy in pornographic pamphlets went on in the 1790s to slaughter Christians by the hundreds of thousands. The Turks paved the way for killing a million Armenian Christians with a wave of propaganda. The Bolsheviks followed their “anti-God” crusade of the 1920s with starvation camps and firing squads. The Communist governments of Eastern Europe obeyed the same script, as scholar Anne Applebaum documents in her sobering study The Iron Curtain. The Hutu government of Rwanda prepared for its assault on the once-powerful Tutsis by incessantly describing them as “cockroaches” on radio broadcasts, which triggered a genocide.

The point here is that before the mob resorts to violence, they first have to dehumanize their opponents. That’s what we saw from the secular left in response to laws defending individual religious liberty against the secular state.

I think that it’s important for us to engage the source of secular leftist radicalism – the university. This is where the next generation of radical leftists are indoctrinated. I think that Christians need to be studying apologetics, as well as economics and politics. We need to have Christians study harder things in better schools and take more influential jobs. This is a major failure of the Christian church – we have been too focused on spirituality and piety at the expense of effectiveness and influence. Churches are simply not set up to connect the prosperity, liberty and security that Christians need to act as authentic Christians in the public square, to specific battles over laws and policies. We are not persuasive or effective in those battles.

We really need to be more engaged and well-rounded, but all I see the church doing is the gospel, the gospel, the gospel – every week. I don’t even know whether my pastor is pro-life or pro-marriage, and he certainly has never shared any reasons for his flock to be. And as far as apologetics, politics and economics? Forget it. I wonder how many young evangelicals in his church voted to set in motion the forces that would see him presiding over gay weddings , or having his children taken away from him lest they learn that there is anything wrong with abortion. But I’m sure he is very good at reading devotions, singing praise hymns, and doing Bible study. We need to be training influential young Christians and raising effective children.

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Richard Carrier debates Mark Goodacre: Did Jesus exist?

It’s April Fools today, and I have an April Fool for you – his name is Richard Carrier.

Debate topic:

Richard Carrier is the world’s foremost proponent of the “mythicist” view of Jesus – that he never actually existed as a historical person. He explains his theory that St. Paul only ever spoke of Jesus in the spiritual realm and that the Gospels are “extended parables”. Mark Goodacre is NT professor at Duke University. He contends that Carrier’s mythicist view is extremely far fetched and the evidence for the historical Jesus is beyond reasonable doubt.

Here are the participants:

Mark Goodacre is an Associate Professor in New Testament at the Department of Religion, Duke University, North Carolina, USA. He earned his MA, M.Phil and DPhil at the University of Oxford and was Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham until 2005. His research interests include the Synoptic Gospels, the Historical Jesus and the Gospel of Thomas.

Richard Carrier holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in ancient history, specializing in the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, particularly ancient philosophy, religion, and science, with emphasis on the origins of Christianity and the use and progress of science under the Roman empire.

The debate can be listened to here:

This debate took place on Justin Brierley’s “Unbelievable?” show based in the UK.

Carrier uses the letters of Paul as his sources, because they are the earliest. He doesn’t think that there is enough there to ground Jesus as a real person in history. Goodacre responds by looking at the letters of Paul to see what facts about a real, historical Jesus are there, and also which other eyewitnesses Paul talked to. In particular, Carrier has to respond to the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15 as well as his meeting with Peter and James, two other eyewitnesses, twice in Galatians. 1 Corinthians and Galatians are two early Pauline letters that are unanimously regarded as authentic. Carrier’s strategy is to try to introduce parallels between myths and the historical Jesus.

Goodacre also raises the crucifixion a historical fact about Jesus, which is a virtually undeniable fact about Jesus that is not even denied by people like the radical atheist John Dominic Crossan. Goodacre says that the crucifixion story would be embarrassing to the early Christians. They would not have invented a story of their Messiah-candidate being crucified – it was considered to shameful of a way to die. Carrier responded that other groups make up history that is embarrassing to them all the time. Goodacre says this practice was not common among the groups of Jews that we know about. Carrier says that there are other unknown groups of Jews that we have no evidence for who did do that. Then he calls arguing based on the practices of the Jews that we do not know about an “argument from ignorance”.

Carrier talks about how Philippians has that embarrassing passage about Jesus abandoning his divine capabilities to humble himself by becoming an actual human being, and says that this is evidence that he was not an actual human being. (Unforced error!) Philippians is another one of the Pauline epistles that is not in doubt. Carrier then says that John invents historical reports in order to emphasize certain things about Jesus, and therefore that means that other non-John sources are therefore all falsified by John’s exaggerating on some details. He then cites the radical atheist John Dominic Crossan to say that historical narratives are actually extended parables.

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