A Supreme Bench Slap

The Supreme Court has struck down California’s covid regulations limiting home Bible studies and prayer meetings. The per curium opinion closes with these words—

This is the fifth time the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise. … And historically, strict scrutiny requires the State to further “interests of the highest order” by means “narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.” Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 546 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). That standard “is not watered down”; it “really means what it says.”

The decision was 5-4, with Roberts in the minority.

It All Depends On What You Mean By “Equality”

The House has passed a legislative nightmare called the “Equality Act.” If it passes the Senate and becomes law, it would amend federal statutes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and it explicitly will destroy religious freedom protections related to sexual and gender identity. The bill explicitly states: “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”

Stephen Kruiser has suggested that the Equality Act is proof that the Democrats are clinically insane. OTOH, The Party may need the words “equal” and “equality” to have different meanings. Sometimes  two plus two equals four. But not always.

Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.

Minding Our Own Business

I’m a Christian, and I base my beliefs solely on my understanding of the teachings I find in the Bible. I try to steer clear of extra-biblical doctrines and traditions. The Apostles’ Creed is a brief summary of my core beliefs, and I see myself in fellowship with any baptized follower of Jesus who can say, “Amen,” to that statement of faith. This post is about an extra-biblical doctrine that has led to a heresy which has had unfortunate consequences in America. That doctrine is an eschatological view called Postmillennialism. The heresy is a belief that ties the Church too closely to the State.

Postmillennialism holds that eventually the vast majority of people living will be saved through evangelism and that the success of the gospel will produce a time in history when faith, righteous, and peace will prevail on Earth. After the Church has cleaned up Humanity’s act, Jesus will then return to a world fit to be ruled by Him. Postmillennialism was a dominate belief among various reform movements that did much good during the 19th Century, abolitionism, for example. On the other hand, it was also behind movements such a prohibitionism. Jesus told us that we will know people doing His work by the fruit of their labor. Given the enabling of criminal networks that resulted as unintended (I hope) consequences of the Eighteenth Amendment and the War on Drugs, I feel safe in suggesting that it may not have been God’s hand behind those uses of the State’s power.

My point doesn’t rely on whether Postmillennialism is a correct interpretation of Revelation 20. It may be, but I don’t think so. The problem is rather that too many of its adherents have become willing to use the power of the State to affect change in areas that are not the State’s business. The Bible is clear that God empowers the State to maintain order in secular affairs, and even the most corrupt modern governments do that to some extent. The Soviet Union, for instance, maintained a civil police force and courts to apprehend and punish thieves and other common criminals. However, it is the Church that is empowered to call men and women into relationship with God and to nourish God’s people spiritually. While the State may have a reasonable concern with behavior that affects public order, such as theft, it’s the Church that should deal with the moral and spiritual aspects of our behavior. We’re supposed to remember that some things are Caesar’s, and some thing’s aren’t—they’re God’s alone.

My reading of Daniel and Revelation lead me to believe that the State exists to maintain the secular order, but it isn’t always trustworthy. Indeed, it is often led by evil people.

If Postmillennialism is correct, we Christians should be evangelizing our neighbors and nurturing one another in order to bring about that world of righteousness. We don’t need to worry about the State because it will follow as a matter of course. However, if Postmillennialism is wrong, then we still need to be evangelizing our neighbors and nurturing each other, but perhaps in opposition to the State. In either case, the State is not the Church. It’s a part of the fallen world that God is in the process of redeeming through the work of Christ in His Church.

So what?

I’m seeing too many of my fellow Christians engaging in a circular firing squad over politics. May I suggest that probably isn’t what God is calling us to do as part the work of the Church?

Because we are called to be a light to the world, I believe Christians have a place in politics, if for no other reason than to encourage the State to do good rather than evil. However, we shouldn’t conflate our understanding of good politics with the Gospel. There are fellow Christians who I admire and respect who I believe are mistaken in their politics. We can agree on Who is ultimately in charge without supporting the same candidate for President. We can agree on the truth of the Gospel without drawing the same conclusions about public policy. We can love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and still have honest disagreements.

We need to focus on what’s really important. As the song says, “And they’ll know that we are Christians by our love.”

I’m Not Making This Up, You Know

A Democrat representative who is allegedly an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church concluded a prayer he led in the House of Representatives with the word “awomen.” [Note: The term is so wrong that I’m having to fight with autocorrupt to get it typed into this post.]

I’m so old, I was taught to conclude my prayers with the word “amen” (Hebrew אָמֵן). The English word amen can be an adverb, interjection, or verb, and those parts of speech are genderless in English. It can also be a noun (a synonym for truth), and as a noun, its gender is neuter.

Grammar is hard.

The Star of Bethlehem

Roughly every twenty years, the paths of Jupiter and Saturn line up in the night sky, and the planets appear close together, an event called the Grand Conjunction. One occurs this evening. Look toward the southwest just after sunset, and if the sky is clear, you’ll see Jupiter and Saturn almost perfectly aligned, only about 0.1 degree apart. They haven’t come this close since 1623, but they were nearly aligned with the Sun and hard to see that year. The last time they were this close and relatively far from the Sun was in 1226.Grand Conjunctions occurred three times in 7 BC and again as a triple conjunction with Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars in early 6 BC. You can find more about those conjunctions and the Star of Bethlehem here.

Bad Science and Even Worse Theology

The Federalist reports that Nancy Pelosi wants to keep churches closed. When asked to comment on her archbishop’s statement that the state and local governments’ restrictions on worship violate the First Amendment, the Speaker said,

With all due respect to my Archbishop, I think we should follow science on this. And again with faith and science, sometimes they’re countered to each other.

Mrs. Pelosi is wrong in multiple ways in her statement. First, there is less science involved the medical response to the Wuhan virus pandemic than many people imagine. Good medicine, like good engineering, uses scientific knowledge and principles to the extent they are available and applicable to the case at hand, but sometimes a new problem must be dealt with without existing good scientific knowledge available. Guesswork based on experience may or may not give an optimal solution, and some guesses will be wrong. Today’s news about Nashville’s wrongheaded response in closing certain business is just one example of how fallible public health officials, mayors, and governors have been. Continuing to act as if a failed hypothesis is correct in bad science.

Second, while her invocation of science is bad science, her theology is even worse. Without exception, apparent contradictions between what we think we understand from science and theology wind up being caused by a lack of clear understanding of what one or both of them are trying to tell us—or from asking one of them to answer questions about which it has no answers. Science tells us how. Religion tells us why. (See the posts under the Science and the Bible tab in the menu above for more on this point.)

Third, her due respect for the pastoral authority of her Archbishop requires that she submit to his spiritual leadership. If she can not or will not, she has a limited range of options. She can go full Karen and speak with his manager. The Pope would probably take her phone call. (Come to think of it, she might even get support from Pope Francis.) Her other honest choice is to leave the Catholic Church. I expect she will do neither.

The voters of San Francisco are getting what they voted for. Good and hard.

Don’t Know Much Biology

There’s a post over at HillFaith that asks the question, “Is Being Gay Genetic?” The post contains a link to a video from the Colson Center that argues the evidence for a gay gene simply doesn’t exit. The post ends with these words—

That doesn’t mean such a gene will never be found, but it ought to encourage advocates on all sides of these issues to avoid definitive declarations about what the science does or does not prove[.]

Yes, the lack of evidence should lead both sides to be careful in their scientific claims. However, I suspect that if there is a gay gene or gay mutation, it should be recessive because it would tend to limit reproduction and be less likely to be passed to succeeding generations.

There are self-destructive or immoral behaviors which may be affected by genetics. Alcoholism probably is in some individuals. While our individual genetics may make some parts of our lives easier and other parts more challenging, our genes shouldn’t control our moral destiny.

Humans are clearly complementary sexual beings. We come together as male/female partners to create and raise the next generation. Living a life that denies that fact places one at odds with the truth not unlike an unfortunate character in a novel by Dostoevsky. Life is filled with difficult choices, but choosing truth always works best in the end.

Science tells us how. Religion tells us why. They complement each other, and we should pay attention to both.

Quote of the Day

Those who wash their body and cleanse their garments whilst they remain dirty by bad actions and principles, are described by Solomon as “a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness; a generation, oh how lofty are their eyes!”

—Maimonides

Quote of the Day

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

—I Corinthians 15