Supreme court case

Please pray as the Supreme Court begins to hear oral arguments in a case deciding whether the Obama Administration should be allowed to force business owners to violate their faith by paying for someone else’s abortion pills. Think about it: Imagine that Obamacare mandated provision of health insurance for the abortion procedure itself. Would you feel that companies like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties had a right to refuse to support it? Sound like a stretch? Don’t forget that abortion has been consistently framed in liberal politics as a healthcare issue for women. Why should this be a strange possibility? Beyond this case, I am personally not supportive of the role government is taking in healthcare but that’s an issue to address in the next two elections. Please pray and vote!

For thoughtful analysis

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Live Blog: Contraception Cases at Supreme Court

Steve Cornell

Sexual preference or Sexual orientation?

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Watch closely when the words change. Controlling the vocabulary is essential to controlling people.

Homosexuals once used “sexual preference” to talk about their sexual lifestyle. Now they reject the term “preference” and replace it with “orientation” in an effort to remove homosexuality from a category of choice. 

Homosexuals also use to say, “All we want is to be left alone to live the way we desire.” This was partly due to ways that gays were wrongly treated for choosing different sexual lifestyles. All decent citizens should oppose mistreatment and violence against others. Since same sex behavior between consenting adults is legal in every state, those who target gays for abuse or violence should expect to be punished for criminal behavior. 

But somewhere along the way, the effort moved from seeking protection to demanding normalization. A strategic change of terms from preference to orientation came as part of that move.  And the change has been largely based on an effort to promote the misleading and manipulative argument that equates race and gender with the kind of sex people want.

The change had noting to do with the emergence of any new scientific evidence but was solely based on a strategy to lead society to embrace the necessity and normalization of same-sex lifestyles. 

The entire agenda of gay marriage depends upon the comparison of same-sex behavior as an unalterable and necessary condition of a person’s nature equal with race and gender. The comparison, however, is false and manipulative. Ironically, this agenda has turned into a weapon to bully, intimidate and abuse anyone who dares to think or speak differently. Are homosexuals using the same behaviors toward others that were wrongly brought against them? 

As a matter of clarification, it should be understood that while a person can be born with many inclinations or desires — even a variety of sexual ones, it is foolish to elevate each person’s sexual desires to something intrinsically necessary to their nature.

While we can clearly argue that heterosexual behavior is necessary to the survival of humanity, this does not mean that we should validate all heterosexual choices as necessary and acceptable by claiming it to be part of one’s nature. Sexuality is inseparable from behavior — not a condition of birth like race or gender.

As with all sexuality, we should speak of homosexuality in a context of human choosing — not as a civil right. Two men could be caring friends with a deep affection for each other without being homosexual. Homosexuality is not part of their relationship unless they choose to engage in same-sex acts with one another.  

What do we say to the many people who have left a homosexual lifestyle on moral grounds? What do we say to people who willingly try to resist homosexual lust out of obedience to God? 

Even if I could prove that I was born genetically conditioned to be sexually attracted to women, it wouldn’t mean that acting on the attraction would always be the ethically right decision.

Sexuality is necessarily connected with volition. As long as we make laws that regulate sexual behaviors, we are implying that sexuality is not the same as race or gender (no matter how much one claims that the laws step on his rights by refusing him equality). 

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. Sympathy toward her for being in a troubled marriage is understandable but it doesn’t mean that her act of adultery was the morally right choice.

All law making involves impositions of morality to varying degrees — especially if someone can claim that the law excludes him or discriminates against him. Most laws also have religious connections. What do we mean when we talk about equality for all? The very nature of lawmaking easily conflicts with absolute options of equality.

Deceitful word games are not new. They’ve been used in similar ways when “fetus” was substituted for “baby” to push a pro-abortion agenda. The plan has been to use the terms often enough to change the way people think. Yet neither change (for same-sex preference or for abortion) was based on scientific evidence that required different terms. The changes are based on specific agendas to re-engineer culture around the morality of those using the new terms.

I realize that America is a free society where people are free to do this. But it doesn’t mean that everyone else must accept the deception and the agenda. This is where it gets ugly because a militant wave of hate has been directed from radical homosexuals toward anyone who dares to see things differently about same-sex behavior.

The more widely the false comparison is accepted, the more people fear being accused of racial or gender discrimination. Who wants to be label a bigot or a racist or a homophobe? 

Radical homosexuals are free to sell their agenda but when they get ugly, Americans need to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!” “We don’t buy the false comparison and we won’t let you use it to bully others with your sexual lifestyles any more than we would let Phil Robertson move from his beliefs to hateful treatment of homosexuals.”

So what’s the difference between Phil Robertson (from Duck Dynasty) and gay activists? True tolerance. 

Phil stated his beliefs but didn’t demand nationwide conformity to them. Gay activists state their beliefs and demand nationwide conformity. And then they quickly demonize anyone who disagrees — repeatedly accusing good people of being racists bigots for holding a different viewpoint. 

If homosexuals want a radical revision of historic marriage laws from the standard used for most of human history, American history and the only one validated by Jesus (Matthew 19), they should expect to have to make a very strong case and to hear why others disagree or do not accept their case. This is just the way it works. It’s not about discrimination, bias or intolerance. These accusations must be firmly rejected as tools of manipulation to coerce and silence others. 

Steve Cornell

See also:

Should we avoid political engagement?

 

Should Christians pull back from politics? Given the growing polarization and divisive tone of politics, I understand why Christians might want to distance themselves from the whole project. It seems that no matter how graciously we engage, we risk being misunderstood as taking sides with a “Radical Right” or a “Radical Left.”

It’s not surprising to hear the old fundamentalist line, “Just preach the gospel.” I feel for those who want to avoid what appears to be a sure way to create misunderstanding or to get people mad at you.

But is this fear itself wrongly motivated? Is backing out of political engagement a responsible option for obedient Christians? Is it possibly contradiction of our identity as salt to the earth and light to the world? 

This was the topic of a recent post by Russell Moore. I like the way he summarized evangelical engagement on pro-life concerns as a model for other areas of engagement.

“What I’m calling for in our approach to political engagement is what we’re already doing in one area: the pro-life movement. Evangelicals in the abortion debate have demonstrated convictional kindness in a holistic ethic of caring both for vulnerable unborn children and for the women who are damaged by abortion. The pro-life movement has engaged in a multi-pronged strategy that addresses, simultaneously, the need for laws to outlaw abortion, care for women in crisis pregnancies, adoption and foster care for children who need families, ministry to women (and men) who’ve been scarred by abortion, cultivating a culture that persuades others about why we ought to value human life, and the proclamation of the gospel to those whose consciences bear the guilt of abortion.”

“That’s the reason the pro-life movement continues to resonate, with growing numbers, among young Christians. It’s very clearly not a singularly ‘political’ issue, but an issue that demands political, ecclesial, and cultural reform and persuasion.”

Being maligned or falsely charged should not lead Christians to retreat but be viewed (in principle) as an opportunity in the vein of I Peter 3:14-17; 4:19 -

“… if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threat; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. ….So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”

Moore does a good job outlining the nature of the calling for engagement, 

“We engage politically because we love our neighbors, we care about human flourishing. But we do so at multiple fronts. We engage on Capitol Hill (as I do), on issues ranging from stopping the abortion industry, to protecting religious liberty, to speaking out for human rights for the persecuted overseas. We cultivate churches that see the holistic nature of the kingdom of God and who shape consciences of people to live as citizens. But we always do that with a focus that we are not prosecuting attorneys but defense attorneys. We are seeking, ultimately, to point people to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

A false argument

Some leaders use a false argument disguised as a biblical case against political engagement. They ask, “Where do you see Jesus or the apostles getting involved in politics?”

Not only is this an argument from apparent silence, it overlooks the fact that those who lived during the periods of history represented in the Bible were not part of democratic forms of government. We are simply not living in the same political situation as Jesus or the apostles. This is part of what makes our function a little more complicated. We are part of a participatory system where we have opportunity to influence the formation of laws and policies for the common good. 

It’s careless and misleading to use this kind of argument from apparent silence to negate a calling to responsible citizenship.  

So as we pursue a common good with others and each one brings his or her beliefs, morals and values to the discussion, robust and respectful debate is often necessary. We must not shy from engagement or allow others to marginalize our voice.

Yet we should not approach engagement as an effort to win culture wars. Such language (and the demeanor that often accompanies it) is not fitting to responsible Christian participation in a representative form of democracy. But neither should we become passive when called to engage.

Let’s be as informed as possible and speak the truth with boldness while being considerate and kind toward opponents.

At the end of the day (or process), some of the laws might conflict with our beliefs, morals and values. If those laws try to force us to violate our beliefs, we will find far more explicit application from Scripture on how to respond.

Steve Cornell

Pope is wrong about the Church

In a recent interview, the Pope appeared to be offering some kind of olive branch in his comments about gay marriage, abortion and birth control.

The New York Times picked up on his message with a piece titled, “Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control.

I think I understand the Pontiff’s concerns about the dangers of becoming so focused on one or two issues that we lose sight of other pressing matters. But I also believe that his words were unfortunate, unnecessary and perhaps even misguided.

Let me explain.

On one level, the Pope played into the hands of a deceitful effort to paint the Church as overly preoccupied with things like abortion and homosexuality.  Yet remember that the Church has largely responded to the obsessive preoccupation of liberal media with promoting abortion rights and gay marriage.  

The Church is most often responding to the demands of liberal politics that the public conforms to only one view on these subjects. The Church is responding to a radical agenda on the left that uses the puppets of mainstream media to promote an ideology that they reinforce with deceptive polls.

We must not fall for efforts to promote a false image of Christians as obsessed with abortion and gays. We must not be blindly manipulated into misguided self-criticism.

Attorney David French summarized the issue well, writing that, “The criticism is so common that it’s often internalized and adopted by the church itself. Similar to our reaction to another leftist refrain (“Christians care about children until they’re born”), we act as if the critique is legitimate — as if it’s the result of some kind of empirical, good-faith analysis of Christian action in America. But it’s not. It is, pure and simple, a talking point. And it’s false. Demonstrably false.”

French argued that, “American Christians, in fact, are ‘obsessed’ with helping the poorest and weakest members of our society.”

“While the full scope and sweep of all Christian charitable activity (both in donations and volunteer time) would require book-length treatment, we can at least begin to isolate one critical factor: money. Our obsessions are reflected in our expenditures. Where do Christians put their charitable dollars? What is their charitable obsession?”

“We can find part of the answer by looking at the budgets of the largest and most influential Christian organizations. A website called Guidestar publishes the tax filings of most charitable organizations, so register (it’s free) and take a tour of Form 990s. First, you’ll notice that Christians do give lots of money to what I’d call “pure” culture war organizations, but not as much as the Left.”

A larger concern

On another level, given the gravity of abortion, why should we apologize for being obsessed with protecting unborn life? The occupant of a mother’s womb is a human life with the potential of becoming a mature human being. It’s a verifiable fact that abortion does not merely terminate a pregnancy; it terminates the life of a baby.

If you have children, look closely at them and remind yourself that had you chosen to abort any of them at any point from conception to birth, you would have ended the life of your child. 

More than 90 percent of induced abortions are performed for non-medical reasons. The large majority of surgical abortions are performed during the 7th through 10th week of pregnancy. By this time, a baby’s heartbeat, arms, legs and fingers are identifiable.

The thought of a mother’s womb becoming a baby’s death chamber is unconscionable. Perhaps our apology should be to the millions of babies whose lives should have mattered more to us.

But, here too, we must not forget that Christians are the majority (by far) on the front lines — leading the way by caring for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of young women facing unplanned pregnancies. 

Steve Cornell

Syria, Abortion and Hypocrisy

During his speech on Syria, President Barack Obama appealed to those he called his “friends on the left,” saying, “I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.” 

The president also said, “America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

On one level, I understand that we live in a world where international safety might require measures of accountability between nations. We must not allow our weariness with war to make us complacent to the dangers in the world. Admittedly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were partly based on misguided idealism about our ability to export democracy to the Middle East. But let’s not exchange this idealism for some kind of delusional isolationism. 

Whether we like it or not, we are living in a global community. Advanced capabilities in warfare like long-range missiles and chemical and nuclear power require us to be global in our concerns. The U.S. also is the most powerful nation in the world and with that power comes responsibility. 

I regret living in a world where we sometimes have to kill people to restrain evil. I also find it morally unsustainable to stand idly by while people are being tortured and unjustly killed. Sometimes, aggressive violence must be stopped by principled force. 

In his book, “Love in Hard Places,” D. A. Carson raises important questions: “Where an enemy is perpetuating its horrible holocaust, is it not an act of love that intervenes, even militarily, to prevent that holocaust if a nation has the power to do so? And is not restraint in such cases a display, not of loving pacifism, but of lack of love — of the unwillingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of others?”

Yet, on another level, it’s a bit difficult for me to think of America as the moral leader when it comes to the safety of children. How can we argue for the safety of children from chemical attack in another country when (especially among those on the left) we fiercely defend the legal right to abort millions of babies in this country? 

Some will likely take issue with this comparison, but no matter what title you use for the occupant of a mother’s womb, it’s a human life with the potential of becoming a mature human being. It’s an indisputably verifiable fact that the life of the fetus is more than a “product” of conception. Abortion does not merely terminate a pregnancy; it terminates the life of a baby. 

If you have children, look closely at them and remind yourself that had you chosen to abort any of them at any point from conception to birth, you would have ended the life of the child. Induced abortion is the deliberate destruction of an unborn child.

If you’re unconvinced or offended by my comparison, at least do some research on what happens in an abortion. Induced abortion is the premature expulsion of a human fetus through surgical or chemical means. More than 90 percent of induced abortions are performed for nonmedical reasons. The large majority of surgical abortions are performed during the seventh through 10th week of pregnancy. By this time, a baby’s heartbeat, arms, legs and fingers are identifiable.

The thought of a mother’s womb becoming a baby’s death chamber is unconscionable. In a country where the laws allow abortion, should we expect to be viewed as a moral leader in protecting innocent children in other parts of the world? 

Perhaps the humility and resolve President Obama mentioned should start with our own nation. Jesus gave some excellent advice for all of us to follow when he said: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). 

Steven W. Cornell is senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church. He is also a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

 

I am grateful to live in a country that is far different because of bold leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. Yet our honor for the fearless leadership of a man who was willing to put everything on the line for a costly battle for human rights is sadly overshadowed by commemoration of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

We grieve the loss of more than 50 million precious lives over the past 40 years of so-called “abortion rights.”

Let us pray that our president would be inspired by the courage, boldness and sacrifice of Martin Luther King Jr. to stand in the great tradition of those who against all odds opposed oppression and violence.

Those who value all human life appeal to you, Mr. President, to promote policies that end the horrors being unleashed on the precious lives of unborn citizens.

We need laws that compassionately help the women facing unplanned pregnancies and protect the lives of their babies.

Steve Cornell

Letter to the President of the United States

 

Dear President Obama,

On Martin Luther King Day (January 21), we honor the fearless leadership of a man who was willing to put everything on the line for a costly but worthy battle for human rights. I am grateful to live in a country that is far different because of bold leaders like Dr. King.

Yet celebration of our progress will be sadly overshadowed by commemoration of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (January 20). On this day, many citizens of this nation will grieve the loss of 54 million precious lives over the past 40 years of so-called “abortion rights.”

To visualize this tragic loss of life, a group from Michigan invited readers to think about three of their stadiums: The Big House in Ann Arbor, Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, and Comerica Park in Detroit. To host more than 54 million fans, all three of these stadiums would need to fill to capacity 240 separate times! (PRC).

Mr. President, I ask you to stand in the great tradition of those who against all odds opposed oppression and violence. I appeal to you only to promote policies that end the horrors being unleashed on the precious lives of unborn citizens. We need laws that compassionately help the women facing unplanned pregnancies and protect the lives of their babies. Please be a voice for those who are not permitted to speak. 

I appeal to you to resist the pressures of popularity and political expedience and to hear the silent screams of these vulnerable citizens. Please acknowledge their personhood  and rescue them from brutal destruction at the hands of “professionals.” The unborn need a president who values their lives.

May the courage, boldness and sacrifice of Martin Luther King Jr. inspire you to be the president who says, “Never again!” 

with prayer for you,

Steve Cornell

A prayer of honor to our Creator:
 
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When 
I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  (Psalm 139:13-16)