A plea for civility and sanity from brave liberals and progressives

 

This is a plea for civility and sanity among brave liberals and progressives. It’s time for many of them to break the silence and oppose the tone changes and agendas in their party. They have good reasons to be concerned about the reputation of their side of politics.

The old vision of being known as a party of tolerance, civility and rational thinking has been hijacked by a vocal minority who use social coercion to bully fellow Democrats into their agendas.

Frankly, we need large groups of citizens from both sides of the political aisle to refuse blind loyalty to their party — especially if it requires violations of civility, tactics of manipulation and attitudes of arrogance and intolerance toward those who differ.

On the liberal side, the growing tendency toward these things portrayed vividly on cable networks like MSNBC, and required of the faithful, ought to be enough to move large numbers to threaten to become independents.

As a liberal, does it disturb you to hear Chris Matthews from MSNBC irrationally gush over President Obama as if he is a messiah? Does something bother you about the cynical and condescending tones of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell? Do you find it disconcerting to hear the president discredit a news outlet because it’s actually willing to disagree with him? I cringe when I hear Sean Hannity at Fox News mockingly refer to President Obama as the Anointed One. I cringed over the apocalyptic rhetoric that flowed from Glenn Beck.

Liberal Democrats once prided themselves on being a party of choice where one was free to think and be an individual. Now being a liberal requires uniformity to a growing list of litmus tests. For example, if you’re a progressive but believe that abortion actually destroys a human life, you’ll need to remain in the closet if you wish to be accepted in the party. You must oppose all things pro-life and support many other liberal causes with blind loyalty or risk rejection. If you admit to views that oppose the litmus tests, you’ll likely hear someone ask, “You’re not becoming one of those right-wing nuts are you?”

To be a member with full acceptance, you’ll need to toe the party line on global climate change, gay marriage and gun control. You’re not permitted to think logically or rationally about issues if it leads to differences from required party opinions. You must be anti-war while demanding the rights of women to serve in combat. You must oppose the evils of tobacco while supporting legalization of marijuana. You must boast allegiance to science while ignoring scientific evidence of abortion as the destruction of a human being.

I believe that there are many liberals who don’t like the tone that has taken over their party. Yet they fear the consequences of opposing it. They also know that one of the primary sources behind these changes is the attachment of their party to a small but radical pro-homosexual contingency.

Although many liberals and progressives don’t appreciate being associated with an agenda to change laws regarding marriage, they know that the slightest contradiction against this agenda will result in harsh criticism and social exclusion.

They know that the way this agenda is being shoved down the throats of Americans is becoming one of the foremost threats to civility. All reasonable people should find it alarming that a prominent pastor could be invited to give an inaugural prayer until a radical group discovered that he gave a sermon many years earlier explaining his personal views about homosexual behavior.

The Democratic Party is now dominated by litmus tests. The same criticism once used against conservatives is now true of Democrats.

It’s time for thoughtful citizens on the liberal side who desire to be known for reason and civility to protest these changes. It will take courage because of the bullying tactics used to force acceptance of required thinking, but if more liberals refuse to acquiesce, perhaps there is time to save the party. Then again, the best way to send a message might be for for large numbers of Democrats to become independents as many former Republicans have done.

Steve Cornell

* For a similar plea, see the opening of Dr. Ben Carson’s recent speech with President Obama present – Listen Here

The Roberts Opinion – a call to the people

I came upon some excellent insights into possible reasons behind Chief Justice John Roberts majority decision on Obamacare. If accurate, the call he wishes to go out to the people of this nation is as clear as it can be. 

“The Constitution, the chief justice notes, clearly gives the Congress the power to tax and spend. The ultimate constraint on that power, however, is not the federal judiciary but the people’s moral and political judgments. The chief justice thereby suggests that if ‘we, the people of the United States,’ do not like the way the Congress taxes and spends, it is not only our prerogative but our responsibility to do something about it by electing new representatives who will tax and spend differently.”

“…. the Roberts opinion is that the days of contempt-for-Congress-in-general linked to approval-of-my-member-of-Congress-in-particular (a widespread phenomenon, according to many polls) have to end. If “my member” is party to a power grab by the federal government over one-sixth of the U.S. economy, and if I disapprove of that on fiscal grounds, constitutional grounds, public-policy grounds, moral grounds, some of the above, or all of the above, then my duty is to help elect someone else, no matter how good “my member” is at delivering the Social Security check on time or straightening out my IRS problems, and no matter what party my grandparents habitually voted for. Thus the chief justice’s bluntly phrased reminder that “it is not [the Court's] job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” far from being a dodge of judicial responsibility, ought to be read, according to thesensus plenior, as a summons to a new national political maturity—a recognition that voting is not a glandular exercise but an exercise in moral and political judgment.”

“There has been a tacit sense, these past few years, that the choice before the American people in November 2012 is a choice between the path taken by a dying Europe and a different path to 21st-century societies of freedom and justice. That tacit sense of what is at stake on November 6, in terms of both the presidential and the congressional contests, is made explicit by the sensus plenior of the Roberts opinion. My constitutional and legal betters convince me that the chief justice may well have gotten it wrong on the constitutionality of the individual mandate. But he seems to have gotten many of the larger questions right. In doing so, he has made it unmistakably clear that if the American people think that Obamacare—its vast expansion of governmental power, its threat to the integrity of the healing professions, the manifest dangers it poses to religious freedom, liberty, and the right to life—is bad public policy, they have it in their power to do something about it, as mature citizens of a mature democracy” (by George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center)

Christians and Government: 12 points for reflection

 

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . . . “

“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary”
 (Reinhold Niebuhr).

I’ve summarized the 12 points below from Christianity and Democracy: The First Political Task of the Church (First Things) 

________________________________________________________

1. Because our hope is eternal and transcendent, Christians can participate in society without despair or delusion.

2. God has given us no one pattern for the ordering of societies or of the world. For almost two millennia Christians have pursued their mission within a variety of social, political, and economic systems.

3. Because the Church is pledged to the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus, it must maintain a critical distance from all the kingdoms of the world, whether actual or proposed. Christians betray their Lord if, in theory or practice, they equate the Kingdom of God with any political, social, or economic order of this passing time.

4. The Church is to be a zone of truth-telling in a world of dishonesty. In the century of Hitler and Stalin and their lesser imitators the most urgent truth to be told about secular politics was the threat of totalitarianism. The religious term for political totalitarianism is idolatry. The party-state declares itself to be absolute, and therefore not accountable to any transcendent judgment. Regimes that subscribe to this dogma assert that they themselves embody the final meaning of history and are therefore not answerable to any higher authority or morality. To the extent the intent has been actualized, millions have died, millions more have been imprisoned and cruelly repressed.

5. It is both politically and theologically imperative to assert that totalitarianism promulgates a doctrine that is incompatible with a Christian understanding of humanity and historical destiny.

6. Democratic government is limited government. It is limited in the claims it makes and in the power it seeks to exercise. Democratic government understands itself to be accountable to values and to truths which transcend any regime or party.

7. Limited government means that a clear distinction is made between the state and the society. The state is not the whole of the society, but is one important actor in the society. Other institutions—notably the family, the church, educational, economic, and cultural enterprises—are at least equally important actors in the society.

8. To mistake any existing or proposed social order for the Kingdom of God is a great crime against humanity.


9. Everything short of the consummation of the rule of Christ is unsatisfactory.

10. Democratic governance is based upon a morality of respect and fairness for all. It is responsive to the diverse moral judgments and meanings affirmed by individuals and institutions within society. It not only tolerates but rigorously protects those spheres within which people find meaning for their lives and share that meaning with others. Most importantly, democratic government does not seek to control or restrict the sphere of religion in which people affirm, exercise, and share their ultimate beliefs about the world and their place in it.



11. Human rights are not established by the state. The state is bound to acknowledge and respect those rights which have their source in the transcendent dignity of the human person created by God.


12. Those of us who are blessed to live under relatively democratic governments are stewards of a possibility that is to be preserved for the whole world. Democracy is not an achievement secured but an experiment to be advanced. It is both gift and task. In helping to sustain the democratic experiment, the churches act not only in their own interest but in the interest of humankind.


 

More thoughts on gay marriage

I am not at all interested in imposing on the Sate or Legislator a Christian worldview. I realize that in a pluralistic nation differences must be respected within lawful boundaries. As a citizen, however, I am committed to pursuing what is best for society as a whole and engaging in robust discourse about it. In a democracy, we should not oppose any group of citizens who bring their desires to the table for discussion and debate. But, at the end of the day, some people will have to live with limits to individual liberties for the general good. This is simply how ordered and civilized people must live.

Those who prefer something different from heterosexual relationships, understandably feel slighted because they face limits in ways that heterosexuals are not limited. This may seem like injustice but someone will always be able to make that claim because absolute freedom for all would destroy civilization.

Those who want rights and privileges for gay marriage should obviously be permitted to make a case for why they want the same rights or benefits that come with heterosexual marriage. Yet they should acknowledge that they are asking for significant changes from how things have been for centuries. I am not saying that history should trump all change but it should at least be respected. It places a more significant burden on those asking for a change. The case must be made for why it is in the best interest of society to expand the definition of marriage and those making the request must realize that their voice cannot be the only one permitted at the table. Coercion and manipulation do not promote freedom.

As I have tried to listen to the case being made for gay marriage, some of the arguments are just difficult to validate. If, for example, I am asked to view homosexuality as an unalterable condition of birth along the lines of race or gender, I cannot rationally or pastorally accept this way of seeing things. I believe that a better case can be made to treat sexuality of any kind in a context of choice.

When resolving ethical and legal questions about expressions of sexuality, individual choice must be considered as a primary factor. Arguments for sexuality based on possible genetic predisposition do not advance discussions about right or wrong or what is best for society. Although it’s possible to be physiologically inclined toward many different types of behavior, such impulses cannot be used to define personhood or to justify behavioral choices. On purely rational grounds, a society that intends to condemn certain forms of sexual conduct as illegal must treat sexuality in general in a context of human choosing – not as a predetermined condition.

Consider, as an example, an adulterous woman who complains that her act of adultery (i.e. her wrongful heterosexual behavior) was because of her distant and uncaring husband. While feeling truly compassionate toward her for the difficulty she faced in her marriage doesn’t require validation of her act of adultery as the morally right choice.

Further, what should be said to those who (on principle) left a homosexual lifestyle? If these individuals have chosen to see their former way of life as wrong and immoral (as many have), how can they articulate their choice? How can we respect their decision as valid? Are they free to hold their view of homosexual behavior?

If we accept the suggestion that being gay is equal with being of a particular race moral opposition to homosexual behavior will be forbidden. In fact, if being gay is an unalterable condition of birth equal with race or gender, we should not be permitted to morally renounce it. But this comparison is faulty. There is simply no conclusive evidence that supports it. Personally, I see it as offensive to actual civil rights issues to demand that one’s sexual preferences be included with them.

The majority of citizens in this Country believe that anti-discrimination cases should be limited to unchangeable issues of nature like race, gender and matters of disability. Religious based discrimination is viewed as a separate issue addressed by the first amendment. Most Americans are either hesitant or strongly opposed to including people’s sexual desires and behaviors under anti-discrimination law.

The push on the part of homosexual activists to widen laws and ordinances to include their sexual orientation is perceived as an effort to force their lifestyle on others. People are fearful that a widening of laws and ordinances to include people’s sexual desires and behaviors is to acquiesce to an agenda designed to force the sexual lifestyles of a few on many.

Consenting adults are free to live in a homosexual relationship in this nation. If they make this choice, even though I disagree with the morality of it and I do not believe it is best for them, it is not my place to impose that opinion on them. If those who choose to live in homosexual relationships are mistreated by others, existing laws are adequate for restraining and punishing wrongful treatment. If we promote the true virtue of tolerance than those who disagree with the morality of homosexuality will learn to treat respectfully those with whom they disagree. Forced agreement is not true tolerance and will only backfire in a nation dedicated to freedom. I fully support more instruction and promotion of the true virtue of tolerance.

Although I morally disagree with homosexual relationships, I don’t look down on those who choose them as if they are inferior or below others. I am well enough aware of my own need for grace to restrain such self-righteous attitudes. Yet this should not mean that I cannot speak my viewpoint and live according to it. Since we’re talking about morality and not matters like race and gender difference of viewpoint must be respected when held respectfully.

If the State chose to give gay couples the same benefits and rights associated with marriage as heterosexuals without any legal obligation for this who morally oppose homosexual behavior, it’s not my place to impose on the State my morality. Like all other citizens, I should be permitted to voice my concerns if I don’t believe this is the best choice for society and, in a democracy, the State should not impose things that trump the wishes of majority of citizens.

If, however, the State exalts the sexual choices of those who want gay marriage to civil rights status (comparable to race and gender), it will open a social and legal Pandora’s box. Citizens will not be permitted to morally oppose homosexual lifestyles without risking accusations of discrimination and racism.

Teaching respectful treatment of everyone is essential, but forced affirmation of sexual preferences will threaten liberty in significant ways and cause unnecessary social unrest. 

Steve Cornell
Senior pastor
Millersville Bible Church
58 West Frederick Street
Millersville, PA. 17551

What does responsible citizenship look like?

It’s not easy to find well-balanced (accessible) statements on the role of Christians in government, especially of the representative form in the USA. Part of the problem is that we simply have no explicit parallels in Scripture to believers living in democracy. 

What does responsible citizenship look like for Christians when they are part of “We the people….”?

This morning, I read a very helpful article that looked at this question from the perspective of civil disobedience. Written by Mark Coppenger, (professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), the article answers the question, “When should Christians engage in civil disobedience?

I appreciated how Coppenger summarized Christian engagement: 

“As we make our case for liberty, we need to show our logic, expose the illogicality of our foes, link arms with co-belligerents, exhibit dignity in the face of indignities, and make it very clear that there are limits to our flexibility.”

Following this prescription will require humble and mature wisdom. One of our aims is to help people understand the very wise words of David B. Hart: 

“We are free not merely because we can choose, but only when we choose well. For to choose poorly, through folly or malice, in a way that thwarts our nature and distorts our proper form, is to enslave ourselves to the transitory, the irrational, the purposeless, the (to be precise) subhuman” (David B. Hart).

The words of Alexis de Tocqueville are equally compelling:

“The very dynamism of modern democracy has contributed to profound short-term thinking that devolved into forms of self-serving individualism. Increasingly unable to discern how our liberated actions impacted others—neither recognizing our debts to the past nor our obligations to the future—we see ourselves as wholly free agents shorn of history or future.” (Alexis de Tocqueville)

Steve Cornell 

For other helpful discussions on this topic: We Dare Not Defend Our Rights and Should Christians Really be Standing up for their Rights?