July 4th reminds us of the best and worst of American history. Many celebrate Independence Day and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. And there is much to be proud of as we remember the sacrifices of so many that keep freedom’s flag flying. Others consider the failure of the Founders and Framers to offer a clear road of Emancipation for the slaves, thus delaying justice for millions, costing our nation a horrible Civil War, the tragedy of Jim Crow, and the unfulfilled promises of the Civil Rights Movement. Add to this the almost 100% record of broken covenants and treaties between the USA and the indigenous Native American tribes and being suspicious of American ideals is understandable.
The USA is an experiment in virtue-based liberty and representative governance rooted in reverence of the Almighty, the equality of all people, and limitations on the power of government. But our history is a tapestry of tremendous and tortured narratives. We celebrate the Ellis Island Hospitality enshrined in the Statue of Liberty and forget the prejudice, racism, and exploitation of both slaves and immigrants. We rightly celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of our culture and forget the painful road toward prosperity for most workers.
What makes America truly great? First, we see that our first liberty, enshrined in the first 16 words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is complete freedom of conscience and religion for people of all faiths (or no faith) to live their lives and build their communities without government interference. Second, the promise of and potential for genuine access, equity, and opportunity for everyone. And third, our history of halting but continual progress toward justice.
Let’s celebrate heroes of the past and hopes for the future. Let’s feast in freedom and build a future so more can enjoy the fruits of freedom.
When historians look back at some of the moral currents of the early 21st
century, they will call it an “era of anthropological confusion.” It is
good that we are no longer imprisoning consenting adults for private
activity and that there is robust dialogue of gender and sexual identity
have forthright opinions of sexual identity and morality; however,
these are not the focus of this essay. Persuading folks that disagree
with my Christian convictions is better done in civil, personal dialogue
or in lengthy communication. Here I want to argue that all sides of the
current disputes on gender and sexual identity and practice are missing
an important factor as they seek to persuade, or, in some cases, coerce
conformity to their understanding of what is moral and tolerable.
mistake our entire culture is making on sexuality is profound: we have
made Eros the Almighty and sexual pleasure the defining characteristic
of human identity. This is tragically deficient anthropology, reducing
identity to one’s current sexual proclivities. There are great
complexities involved in how people feel and think about gender and sex,
and no one should feel marginalized. We do, however, need to dialogue
on these issues, especially regarding the education of children, without
labeling and libeling those who disagree with us.
agape love is our starting point, then other loves will find their
place. Agape compels thoughtfulness concerning our loyalties and
pleasures, our motives and our practices. At this juncture I am only
calling for thoughtfulness about sacrificial love. Agape sees people as
made in God’s image, worthy of dignity and respect. Agape love helps
people not objectify others or abuse people for pleasure. Friendships
rooted in mutual interests are possible without the intrusion of
unwelcome erotic demands. Comradery in a cause can include people of all
orientations and persuasions as they sacrifice for the common good.
are more than our erotic passions, wonderful as they are (in boundaries
of morality and mutuality). Choosing self-restraint is not repression,
but a loving decision. People of all persuasions can offer their best
efforts toward the common good. There is still a place for debating
gender and sexual issues in an environment of love and respect. Even
where we radically disagree, a commitment to sacrificial love allows us
to unite for noble causes.
we stop bowing before idols of immediate pleasure and choose noble
pathways of love and service? Can we debate without rancor and stop
labeling and libeling? Our preferred future depends upon a social
compact of principled liberty for all.
In 1984, a Christian poet and dissident from the
Soviet Union wrote a book, “Talking about God is Dangerous.” The wall
has fallen – and our angry culture is building a new one. Freedom for
one is liberty for all…let’s be civil and wise, but never give way to
censorship of ideas. Disagreement is not intolerance and choosing moral
and religious values does not make folks, “phobes.”
Debating our deepest differences with civility is the heart of ordered liberty. My Muslim friends regard Jesus as a prophet…I regard him as God, crucified and risen for my salvation. We disagree. I do not regard Mohammed as a prophet, but I respect my Muslim neighbor’s right to disagree with me. Atheists find my convictions quaint or even dangerous. I disagree with their arguments…and we can be friends. My biblical sexual ethic is at odds with many – and we can make the world a better place together caring for the vulnerable. But please do not castigate my ethics as intolerant.
Will we continue our historical progress toward true toleration or retreat to oppression and castigate anyone not sharing our precise language? I am confident that a free market of ideas produces much better fruit than a world of self-appointed, politically correct marshals waiting to pounce.
Let’s get to work and make our world better, one conversation at a time.