California: Civil Laws vs. "Religious" Laws and the Freaked Out Evangelicals

OK. I debated with myself for quite a while before deciding to post this writing to my blog. I really don't want anyone to read this the wrong way. My wife has a cousin, one of the sweetest people I know who is in a committed same-sex relationship to another one of the sweetest people I know. The couple has a little one and from what I have seen they are excellent parents. For their sake, if no one else's, I really don't want anyone to think I am saying something I am not. Because my intention is not to talk about same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, but rather the Christian community's reaction to it - especially those who have a nationwide platform on TV or the radio. So with that, I hope those who read this will ask me before assuming that something written here is my words and not a quote (which I will try very hard to cite correctly). All comments are welcome.

Without further ado, here's what was rattling around in my brain:


As everyone knows, California became the next state to legalize same-sex unions, or marriage, or whatever the "politically correct" term is. I know there is a lot of controversy regarding the fact that this decision was handed down from the courts, overriding a ballot initiative from I don't know when - but I'm not going to talk about that. That's politics, which honestly I don't understand all that much (especially how it works in California) and that's for the governmental process of California to work out.

Also, I'm not going to talk about the "morality" of same-sex unions, or what the Bible says about "homosexuals". That's not my place. Instead I want to talk about the reaction of so-called "Evanglical Christian Celebrities" - those who have a platform to a national audience either through TV or radio.

First, let me applaud the authorities in California for making it clear that this was a Civil decision and has nothing to do with Religious freedom. A spokesman for the State of California on CNN stated (a paraphrase since I can't find the broadcast online any more) "we're not telling churches what they have to do. Whether they choose to perform these ceremonies or not is not for the state to decide, but the state courts have decided that these civil unions are the right thing to do...." So, even though same-sex couples are legally getting married, no one is forcing the priests, pastors, ministers, preachers, rabbis, or any other religious leader to do the marrying. I, personally, am a firm believer in the separation of church and state (at least where religion is not life threatening to those not able to decide for themselves).

Also let me applaud those whose job it is to speak from the pulpit who haven't made a big deal out of this. I'm sure the preacher at my church has an opinion on the matter, but I haven't asked him and when he preaches he hasn't said anything. The separation of church and state goes both ways. While the members of a church may talk among themselves, a political opinion shouldn't be expressed from the pulpit. In fact, it's my understanding that legally, political opinions CAN'T be expressed from the pulpit - at least if a religious organization wants to keep their tax exempt status. (At least that's how it works here in New Mexico, it may be different elsewhere, but I'd be surprised.)

The issue I have is with "Christian Celebrities" (for lack of a better term), such as Chuck Colson and Dr. James Dobson and their organizations for inciting panic in the Christian community by using their nationwide platforms to make people believe there is some kind of conspiracy going on that will cause us all to lose our freedoms of religion and speech.

Focus on the Family has sneakily found a loophole that allows them to use their radio program as a political platform. By creating a subsidiary called "Focus on the Family Action" - supposedly a taxable organization funded by taxable donations (not sure how that works, but it sounds "ify"). By doing this they can, at any time, air a program on political issues in the same time slot they use for Christian family issues. They just say "paid for by Focus on the Family Action" and they apparently can say anything. This is really upsetting to me. If they are going to air a program paid for by a separate fund than their regular programming, they should also air it at a different time. If I tune in to Focus on the Family, then I should hear a program about family issues, not blind sided by a discussion on political issues. If you air it at the same time, then its from the same people. Legal loopholes shouldn't allow you to play "whistle-blower" whenever you want.

So, since they do this, I have heard a couple of programs on this issue already. I have the highest respect for the good things that Focus on the Family has done, but I really think Dr. Dobson has crossed the line and is making religious mountains out of civil molehills. While he may be correct in saying that 'as California goes, so goes the country', I really don't agree that this signals the end of the world as we know it. You can't, and shouldn't try, to impose your morality on others, except in cases where the public welfare is at stake. For Dr. Dobson to cry that the judges in California "IMPOSED" same-sex marriage on the people and that this is a "disasterous loss for defenders of morality" is for him to cry wolf.

Another example is Chuck Colson and his daily 4 minute commentary "Breakpoint". Again, while I have the greatest respect for his organizaiton "Prison Fellowship" and all the great things they have done for the incarcerated and their families, I believe that Mr. Colson is using his radio platform to raise an alarm and incite panic where respect and and rational thought are needed. In his recent broadcast entitled "The Coming Persecution", he cites a few isolated cases as proof that California's civil decision will cause all our religious freedoms will soon be taken away unless we "get involved".

I am all for free speech. Anyone can say anything in this country, and that's a beautiful thing. And as such, we are also free to disagree. However, free speech doesn't allow you to yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater (unless there is one).  By sounding a battlecry where rational thought is needed is the equivilent of sounding just such a false alarm.

Let's all remember "Love thy neighbor".