Tag archives: Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis, Homosexuality, and Genuine Love

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 12, 2011

Jim Walliss Sojourners magazine has decided not to publish an ad by Believe Out Loud, an organization which describes itself as follows:

We believe Jesus message compels us to welcome all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Show the world that you can be Christian AND believe in LGBT equality. Join the movement to unite a million Christians for LGBT equality in the church and beyond.

Although in past years, Sojourners has taken stridently liberal positions on all manner of hotly-contested issues, tacitly endorsing homosexuality is, apparently, too far a stretch. Sojourners constituency, board, and staff are not of one mind on all of these issues, wrote Wallis at the Sojourners blog this week.

This indubitably is true: At least one of the publications Board members, Ron Sider, is a signer of the Manhattan Declaration, as is contributing editor Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. In signing the Declaration, they joined other signatories (including this author) in affirming that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise? How, indeed.

Wallis, a man of the Left, in his blog avoids stating what he did in a 2008 Christianity Today interview:

I don’t think the sacrament of marriage should be changed. Some people say that Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality, and that’s technically true. But marriage is all through the Bible, and it’s not gender-neutral.

Wallis interpretation of Scripture in this statement is correct. But in his 2008 book, The Great Awakening, he argues for civil unions from the state and even spiritual blessings for gay couples (from congregations prepared to offer them). In that same book, and in repeated interviews that have echoed it, Wallis also disingenuously argues that matters related to homosexuality should not be fundamentally divisive. As he wrote in his piece this week:

… the major differences of theology and biblical interpretation in the church with regard to issues such as the nature of homosexuality, gay marriage, and ordination are not issues that should be allowed to divide the churches that local churches should lead the way here, and that an honest, open, respectful, and, hopefully, loving dialogue should characterize the church on these very controversial questions.

This makes no sense: To suggest that homosexuality, with all its implications about human dignity and sexuality, children and family, society and law, should not divide is sort of like saying a woman can be a little pregnant: Either she is or she is not.

Homosexuality is a defining issue for the church not only because of all of its social and moral implications, but most profoundly because the Bible offers no ambiguity as to its teaching that the only sexually intimate conduct sanctioned by God occurs within marriage between a man and a woman.

However, in his blog post, Wallis is not yet done playing intellectual Twister:

It is our hope that differing viewpoints are not silenced, but are lifted up in a display of Christian, and often interfaith, sisterhood and brotherhood. It is for this reason that we wish to engage first and foremost in dialogue on difficult issues within our editorial pages, and we typically do not display advertising relating to issues amongst people of faith that have unfortunately, and too often, been reduced to political wedge issues.

Really? So, someone who advocates for the Just War tradition will find a welcoming audience among SoJos editors? How about an explanation by Evangelical George W. Bush for Americas attack on Iraq, or by a believing Pentagon general engaged in Americas strategic defense? Or perhaps Wallis will soon publish articles on abortion, marriage and homosexuality by such theologians as R.C Sproul or John Piper, or on religious liberty by such scholars as Daniel Dreisbach or Mark David Hall, or by scholars at the American Enterprise Institute or the Acton Institute on the virtues of capitalism and the danger of coercive charity (which amounts to Wallis definition of justice). I await such with unbated breath.

Homosexuality is not a wedge issue, except in the sense that its advocates make it one. The teaching of the Bible and the position of its faithful followers has not changed. Those driving the wedge are the ones who would compel Evangelicals and orthodox Catholics to deny key components of their faith in order to accommodate a community of people whose insistence on theological acceptance is animated not by biblical teaching but moral desperation.

No matter what your theological perspective or biblical interpretation on the issue of homosexuality, every Christian has the obligation to defend the lives, dignity, and civil rights of gay and lesbian people, writes Wallis. Lives and dignity, yes. Civil rights insofar as they are law-abiding citizens? Sure. But civil rights based on their sexual practices? No. To affirm such is to create an unconstitutional class of rights based on a type of conduct, which opens the door for rights of a kind never imagined by our nations Founders or by simple common sense.

There is no love in affirming something that, however sincerely held, remains objectively wrong and ultimately harmful to those who practice it. To show Christian love to a homosexual means, in part, graciously, winsomely, and patiently affirming that he or she bears the image of God and is precious to the Creator. It is also, with a humble and merciful spirit, to share Gods unambiguous plan for human sexuality and the hurtful consequences of veering away from that plan.

Not to do so is less than loving, less than biblical. Less than Jesus.

On the Presidents Easter Prayer Breakfast Comments

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 19, 2011

To an eclectic group of religious leaders[1], President Obama spoke movingly today at the White House about the meaning of Easter:

The humility of Jesus washing the disciples feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross. And were reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection. In the words of the book Isaiah: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this Amazing Grace calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that Ive not shown grace to others, those times that Ive fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of … His Son and our Savior.

Remarkable: A pretty clear presentation of the Gospel from a man who arguably is Americas first post-modern President. He even quotes from Isaiah 53, a prophetic passage that describes vividly the suffering of the coming Messiah.

Heres what he said about the Bible:

… in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective. Children help do that. A strong spouse helps do that. But nothing beats Scripture and the reminder of the eternal.

Hes right. Yet Mr. Obamas reading of Scripture seems highly selective. In a speech to the Evangelical Leftist Jim Wallis Call to Renewal conference in 2006, heres what then-Sen. Obama said:

Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.

This statement trivializes serious biblical interpretation. Mr. Obamas apparent philosophy of exposition is that no one can ever say with any real authority thus saith the Lord since, one is left to assume, the Lord said so many obscure, grim, and evidently impracticable things. The Bible according to Mr. Obama becomes a Rorschach blot to which we each bring our own meaning. This is particularly troubling in a President who frequently invokes the Bible in his speeches, often to justify his political stances.

The reality, of course, is that the Old Testament civil code was intended only for theocratic Israel. The ceremonial rituals of Israels religious worship were representative, and fulfilled in Christ. The moral law, however, is constant from Genesis through Revelation. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus intensification of the Law of Moses, intended to demonstrate both the way His followers should treat others and the inability of fallen men to practice perfectly Gods standards which is why they need the Savior.

President Obama persistently refuses to acknowledge the personhood of the unborn child. He is the strongest advocate for the homosexual agenda ever to work in the Oval Office. His position on religious liberty is captured by the notion that faith is best expressed within the walls of a church, but is taken outside those walls only at the legal peril of the faithful (and if the Employment Non-Discrimination Act were enacted into law, profound intrusions by the state within those four walls would happen, as well).

It is good to read the Presidents expression of Christian faith. Now if he would search the Scriptures and apply them, as appropriate, to public policy, many believers would sing Amazing Grace with even greater gratitude this coming Resurrection day.


[1] The guest list ran the spectrum from the respected Evangelical leader Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City to Nancy Wilson, moderator of the aggressively homosexual Metropolitan Community Churches.

 

Obama, Reason, Revelation and Abortion

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 19, 2009

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. - Barack Obama

Then-Senator Obama made this statement during his speech to Jim Wallis’ “Call to Renewal” conference in 2006. Note two things:

(1) He effectively denies the commonality of natural law and the conscience the foundation of the universal values he commends and links opposition to abortion only to the revelation of Scripture.

(2) He also suggests that opposing abortion cannot be justified by our “common reality.”

As the first point, is the President prepared to argue that no “self evident truths” exist? Is the assertion that all men are created equal and have rights endowed to them by a Creator too culture-specific for Mr. Obama? And is the validity of these assertions determined simply by the number of people who agree with them?

As to the second point, is the “common reality” determined by the 50 percent plus one? If so, did the “common reality” of the Japanese military state in the 1930s surely justify the rape of Nanking?

Mr. Obama calls for our being amenable to reason. Yet he is unreasonable in refusing seriously to interact with the irrefutable scientific evidence that personhood begins at conception and, if so, that every person has value independent of his or her mother from that moment and therefore possesses and should obtain a legally-recognized right to life.

Perhaps the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer captured it all most clearly:

Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.

Ethics (New York; Macmillan, 1965), pp. 175-6.

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