Where is God in the Gender Revolution?

LGBT and GOD
LGBT and GOD
We live in an age of pluralism. While the word “pluralism” is applied to religion and the idea that there are many equally valid paths to God, the concept also applies to other areas of life. There is a push in intellectual circles now to say that democracy is not the only path to political stability, that even dictatorships may be equally valid. The current rage in the popular media, however, is to say that “gender is a spectrum”–a plurality of sexes. That was stated in National Geographic‘s January issue (page 61) which was totally dedicated to what it calls “the gender revolution.” Television specials and documentaries on transgender cases have become a major feature of the media, and people are flooded with a pluralistic view of the whole gender question.

The biblical position on this issue is quite clear. Genesis 1:27 indicates that God created male and female and blessed them. Genesis 2:21-24 tells us that woman and man were distinct with the Hebrew issa being used to differentiate woman from man who is identified by the Hebrew word is. These terms indicate how close man and woman were, but the wording leads to the conclusion that woman was taken out of man to meet a specific need–to be a “help meet.” So what do we make of the current situation where we have boys claiming they are really girls and girls claiming they are boys?

Let us say from the outset that it is not our job to judge or condemn those who are transgenders. We do want to suggest some causes to the gender issues and suggest that God has given us tools to deal with the issue whether it is in our bodies, families, communities, or culture. As you read through the National Geographic issue on “The Gender Revolution,” you have to be impressed with the fact that culture has a huge effect on the gender issue. The magazine has gone to one culture after another to show how the culture impacts and forces sexual identity and sexual roles on their people. As Westerners, we may be appalled at what is forced on children in other cultures, and yet in our own culture drugs are used to control and facilitate sexual identity. It may also be true that human pollution of our environment has caused some changes in our genome and in the chemistry of human hormones.

God gave us the ideal sexual arrangement. Not only is there a unity with woman being taken out of man, but we also see a combined oneness in Genesis 2:24 where man and woman were to become “one flesh.” That isn’t just a sexual reference, but a stable platform from which man and woman could live, make decisions, and build a family. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul emphasizes this oneness in very clear terms. In Romans 1:24-32 he castigates those who consciously reject God and His plan by deliberately corrupting God’s ideal sexual arrangement. There are adults who would be condemned by these verses for their attitudes and practices. However, that certainly does not apply to innocent children who are struggling with sexual identity due to culture or perhaps by drugs forced upon them.

There are real questions about whether claims of sexual feelings and biological drives have psychosomatic causes, as expressed in an article in New Atlantis by John’s Hopkins researchers that we discussed yesterday. But our role as Christians in this and all other moral issues is to offer help and support to those victimized by the culture, the drug establishment, or human contamination of God’s intended system of life. We are not the judges of others or the enforcers of God’s plan. At the same time, we do encourage others to realize that God’s plan for man and woman works. The lesson of history is that attempts to change that plan have universally brought pain and frustration to humanity.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Challenges of Sexual Preference Issues

LGBT
LGBT
One of the most contentious issues in our culture today is the challenge of the LGBT community to biblical Christianity. We use the term “biblical Christianity” because many denominations have denied that the Bible opposes homosexuality by either denying the inspiration of the passages that condemn homosexuality or by explaining them away. One might explain Genesis 19 and the story of Lot and the men of Sodom by saying that God condemned homosexual rape, but It is difficult to read Romans 1:24-27 and maintain that it refers only to rape. Various Old Testament laws condemned sexual behavior outside of marriage, and twisting Scripture to justify the current values of our society does violence to biblical Christianity.

The question then becomes, “Why would God create men and women with strong biological drives and only allow those drives to be satisfied in marriage to a single member of the opposite sex?” The companion issue is, “Why would God create a person with a strong attraction to people of their own sex and then condemn that relationship?” This question has led to a wholesale rejection of the Bible as the literal God-breathed Word of God by many, and to complete atheism by others. We have addressed this issue in the past, but new challenges are arising that make it important for us to answer the current situation.

The causes of LGBT are complex, numerous, and debated. Two renowned scientists at Johns Hopkins University Dr. Paul McHugh and Dr. Lawrence Mayer released a study last year showing that people are not born “gay” and that sexual orientation can change over a lifetime. Many years ago a study by Dr. Simon Levy and Dr. Dean Hamer seemed to support the idea that same-sex desires were inherited and a product of one’s genes. David Nimmons writing in Discover magazine (March 1994, pages 64-71) raised questions about the validity of the sampling used in that study, and Scientific American printed a discrediting article on the studies in November of 1995, page 26. In the twenty-plus years since all of this, there have been studies on all sides of the question of whether or not homosexual behavior is genetic. Reading through all of this contradictory research one is reminded of the old graduate student mentality, “Be sure your data conforms to your conclusions.”

It seems that the causes of homosexual tendencies are very much like the causes of cancer–there are multiple contributing causes. There is no question that sexual abuse in childhood can be a major contributing factor. There is some evidence that contamination from hormones being discharged into the environment as wastes may be a factor. The lack of a father figure in a young person’s life can be a factor. Chemical imbalances can also be an issue.

In spite of all the unknowns, there are several things that seem to be quite clear:

1) Same-sex attraction is not always, if ever, chosen. Many of the causes are things the person had no control over.

2) There is a difference between same-sex attraction and practicing homosexual behavior. We would refer you to page 22 of the September/October 2015 issue of our printed journal for the review of Guy Hammond’s book and our comments on it. (Available online at http://www.doesgodexist.org/PDF-Files/Bulletins/2015/SepOct15.pdf) You can be attracted to people of the same sex, but you can choose not to engage in sexual acts to support that attraction. We are not programmed by God to practice homosexuality or anything else. We have free will.

3) LGBT lifestyles are unhealthy. Studies on the life expectancy of “gay” men have consistently shown a much lower rate than the general population. HIV infections are far more likely in homosexual relationships. We have published data in our journal for many years giving the current statistics. Similarly, unhealthy lifestyles involve alcoholism, obesity, and indolence.

4) Blaming God for human choices is illogical. We don’t blame God because of the devastating effect of alcohol on humanity, and we should not blame God for the damage humans have done environmentally and socially. It is equally illogical to blame God because of our choices on sex.

5) “Homophobia” is unchristian. Christians should show the same love and compassion to everyone. Jesus called us as Christians to love even our enemies, to turn the other cheek when mistreated, and to live in peace as much as possible to the extent it depends on us. Every person is created in the image of God and is worthy of respect.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Embryos-People or Property?

Fetal Development
Fetal Development
A Missouri appeals court has ruled that a couple’s frozen embryos are joint property, not children. The woman sued her ex-husband for the right to implant the embryos they conceived through in-vitro fertilization. The court ruled that the embryos are joint property so both the woman and the man must consent to their use. This is in spite of Missouri state law which says that life begins at conception. The inconsistency of this ruling and of the mentality of the court is incredible. What would be the ruling if the embryos in question had been allowed to develop to nine months and the husband wanted to abort them in spite of the mother’s objection? Most pro-abortion politicians when asked the question of when an embryo becomes a human have responded by saying they haven’t investigated the issue, and yet that is fundamental to this entire debate. When the sperm meets the egg and fertilizes it, what is left if not a property or some other animal, it is a human being. We would suggest that the baby so conceived is a human and should have all the rights that you and I have. The court case was reported in Christianity Today, January/February 2017, page 20.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Morality

Right or Wrong
Right or Wrong
We live in a time of moral confusion, but every generation has felt that the question of morality was confused in their day. I can remember as a teenager in the 1950s feeling very confused about what was right and what was wrong. As an atheist, I had no real reason to bring my life into conformity with anyone else’s ideas of right or wrong, but I found that most of my friends who claimed to be religious were not a whole lot different than I was. In recent years we have seen an increasing number of religious/political figures involved in incredible moral turpitude. Atheists capitalize on these incidents to claim that religion has no relationship to morality.

Why should there be such a thing as morality? The more you investigate this question, the more you realize that the issue is rooted in the uniqueness of humans as being created in the image of God. Animals do not have a sense of right ideals or principles. Animals are controlled by instinct. A lion does not think of the morality involved in eating another animal. A beaver does not consider the moral issues involved in building a dam that floods a meadow and drives hundreds of other animals from their homes. On the other hand, humans may oppose a dam on the moral grounds of environmental impact.

The first step in discussing this issue has to be a consideration of the existence of free moral choice in humans. It is our freedom of moral choice that gives us the ability to change the direction of our future. Given a set of rules to govern life, every person must decide whether or not to conform to those rules. A burglar is not controlled in his criminal activity by the lock on the door or the presence of the police. These deterrents may temporarily delay the activities of the burglar, but they will not stop him from breaking into a house. The choice is up to the burglar. If his inner restraints do not stop him, he will break in and steal. Building jails and increasing police department rosters will never completely stop crime.

Free moral agency is one of the most important and most underrated capacities of humans. It is our freedom of choice that allows love to exist. I can enjoy the love of my wife because she has the option of not loving me. If she had no choice in the matter, there could be no love. Sexual love without choice is called rape and is recognized as a perverted, distorted, ugly substitute for love that bears no resemblance to the real thing. Without the freedom of choice, we become animals operating totally by instinct to fulfill our own selfish needs and desires.

If you think through this to any depth at all, you begin to see why we are having a difficult time establishing moral guidelines in our day. If we accept the idea that we are merely animals, totally and completely driven by those instincts and drives that govern all other animals, then morality does not exist! Belief in mechanistic, opportunistic evolution of human beings removes morality and all that goes with it. That includes the family, marital fidelity, family responsibility, integrity, and responsibility toward others. Even the most vociferous atheist will attempt to deny this assertion because we all realize it leads to a dog-eat-dog, jungle aspect of existence.

The starting point of morality is recognizing that we were uniquely created by God with an eternal soul created in God’s image. The consequence of that is free will which has implications in all areas of our lives. Human suffering, the proper standards of how we should live, and our view of how we fit into God’s plan are all rooted in our understanding of who we are and the value we have. The “naked ape” hypothesis cannot adequately deal with this aspect of our existence which is so vital to social order and peace.

Christians must speak out on the foundations of moral issues and teach the uniqueness and value of the human soul. We have a proven guide of conduct. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Rose, Mixed Blessings, and Life

Roses
Roses
There is probably no flower in America that gets more notoriety than the rose. Our music is full of songs about roses–“I Want Some Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” “Paper Roses,” etc. We send roses to people for virtually all special occasions and to convey and emphasize all kinds of messages.

Those of us who grow roses are keenly aware of another side of roses–they have thorns. I love to grow roses because they are so easy to grow. Roses are very forgiving to “klutzy” gardeners like me. They do fairly well even when you forget to fertilize them. Even when you forget to spray them until the bugs have eaten off all the leaves or the black spot has covered the foliage, they seem to rebound and carry on. The only thing I do not like about caring for roses is weeding them. Every time I reach to get the weeds out of my rose garden, one of those treacherous thorns catches me and penetrates even my work gloves to draw blood. There is a tendency to castigate the plant for stabbing you when all you were trying to do is help it.

Many things in life are like roses–children, for example. They are beautiful in many ways, and in many ways a joy to help them grow and nurture. When you try to weed out the things you know may strangle and hurt them, you frequently get wounded by the child. Marriage is another beautiful thing that can bring incredible joy, pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment into one’s life. But there is always some pain in marriage too. The Church is beautiful and a joy to work with, but it is almost impossible to get involved in helping the Church grow without getting hurt in some way–usually by the ones you are trying to help.

The skeptic might look at this circumstance as an illustration of God’s ineptness. If God exists, why should there be thorns among the roses? It is the thorns in marriage and child raising and the Church that cause many to abandon these institutions. Even in our limited ability to understand, I believe we can see the answer to this question which, on the surface, seems to be a flaw in the design. The rose is not only a thing of beauty, but it is also an excellent source of vitamin C. One of the frustrations of growing roses is the fact that a variety of animals and birds like to eat the flowers. It is only the thorns that protect the plant from predation that would destroy it.

In the same way, our dealings with one another have to be conducted so that each person has a certain amount of protection. When I hear a parent bemoaning the independent streak in their teenager, I sometimes ask them if they really want a child who is dependent on them for life. When someone is complaining about their spouse having a different viewpoint on things, I wonder if perhaps their spouse may be right at least part of the time. Sometimes a different perspective prevents us from making foolish mistakes. When I see struggles in the Church over whether my choice of an action or activity is best for another person, I have to ask whether I want the responsibility of always having to have the right answer for every situation.

The writer of Hebrews said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11). Anything really worthwhile takes effort and demands a price. Do not let the thorns of life keep you from the real beauty.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Legalizing Marijuana and Being a Convicted Christian

Marijuana
As of November 11, 2016, the number of states in the US that have legalized medical marijuana is 28. The Gallup poll tells us that 60% of all Americans approve the legalizing of marijuana. Celebrities like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog now have their own marijuana lines. Tech companies like Microsoft have developed software for cannabis growers. In Colorado, nearly half of all marijuana sales are for THC-infused items. Pot shops sell ice cream laced with THC as well as cannabis-infused breath spray, energy shots, and bacon brittle. There are now marijuana massage oils, body lotions, and lip balms.

There are some reasons why one might support making marijuana legal. Criminalizing the use and sale of drugs has produced the violent drug cartels and has filled prisons with people who were not in power positions with the cartels. Legalizing marijuana allows the states to tax it. In Colorado, the income to the state has generated 2.4 billion dollars in economic activity and has created 18,000 full-time jobs. Promoters of marijuana now point to scientific data showing that marijuana is less dangerous to the individual than alcohol or tobacco. From a political and economic standpoint, it may seem that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing.

From a purely political standpoint, however, there are some good reasons to oppose the legalization of marijuana. In Washington State, the number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for THC rose by 48% between 2013 and 2014 when legalized marijuana hit the market. Also in Washington, the number of DUI arrests during the first six months after the legalization of marijuana nearly doubled. The number of patients hospitalized in Colorado for accidentally ingested marijuana rose from 809 patients per 100,000 to 2,413 after marijuana was legalized, with a large percentage of the victims being children. The use of marijuana by Americans has more than doubled in the last 12 years to 8.4 million people. The long-term effect of marijuana use is just beginning to be studied, but the adolescent use of marijuana has been shown to cause significant losses of IQ points and an increased risk of psychotic illness. In my hippie days, LSD was said to be harmless by its proponents, but we now know that certainly was not true. It is undoubtedly not true for marijuana.

You may have noticed that the title of this article includes the term “convicted Christian.” First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that our bodies are “God’s temple” and that the Spirit of God lives in us. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him: for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” A little later in chapter 6:15-20 Paul goes on to repeat the concept that our bodies are members of Christ himself and raises the issue regarding uniting with a prostitute. He concludes the discussion by saying “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Paul encourages Christians to “abstain from every appearance of evil.” The question becomes, “What is our first priority?” Is it serving God or finding pleasure while trying to avoid getting in so deep that we lose our souls.

Saying that marijuana is less dangerous to the human body than alcohol or nicotine is an incredibly poor argument to justify using marijuana. Just as Christians should oppose the use of marijuana, we should oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. Do we really mean what we say when we talk about “dying to sin” in the language of Romans 6? It is important to understand that what we are addressing in this discussion is the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. Are there medical uses of marijuana that can make it a positive tool of medical science? The answer is yes. That answer is also true of alcohol. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy to “take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.” Paul certainly wasn’t telling Timothy to get drunk. The use of alcohol in the time of Paul to fight contaminated water and infection was not the same as an alcoholic drink used to take the drinker to non-reality. Marijuana may have some great uses in treating cancer, pain, and any number of ailments. To be used medically, for the most part, the marijuana would not be smoked. The medical use of anything God has given us is certainly not at odds with the teaching of the Bible. There are may be good uses for marijuana, but there are also destructive uses. Data from The Week, November 25, 2016, page 11.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Gay Community Hurt by Media’s Downplay of CDC Report

Homosexual Lifestyle
Atheists and skeptics have accused the Bible and Christians in general of being homophobic. This accusation is inaccurate and actually the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Jesus and the Apostles taught very clearly that Christians are to take care of everyone, and no passage says to avoid taking care of the homosexual. We are to love our enemy, do good to those who are opposed to us, and never return evil for evil. (See Matthew 5-7.) By the same token, Christians are obligated to oppose all forces that bring evil, pain, and suffering to others.

Last September the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the spread of HIV and AIDS in the United States. The report made it very clear that homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, but that material was largely ignored by the media. Here are some facts from the CDC:
1) Gay men are 2% of the population, 55% of all HIV cases, and 67% of all new cases of HIV.
2) Gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 accounted for 92% of the new HIV cases and 27% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men.
3) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% (29,418) of the new HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 or older and 67% of the total estimated new cases in the United States.
4) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% (11,277) of the cases of people diagnosed with AIDS.
5) One in six gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

The Bible clearly teaches that God’s plan was for men and women to have sexual relationships in the context of marriage to members of the opposite sex. Christians need to encourage people not to live destructive lifestyles. We are not “alcoholifobic” because we oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. We are not “abusophobic” because we oppose any form of abuse. We want people to live in a way that keeps them healthy, and we will do what we can to urge people to make good choices. But if they make bad choices we will still love them, encourage them, and try to help them become free of destructive lifestyles. Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, and we will work towards stopping the spread of diseases which homosexual acts tend to spread. We will also work to help those who are victimized by their destructive lifestyle choices.
Data from http://cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/group/msm/cdc-hiv-msm.pdf
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Drug Alcohol–Worse than Previously Believed

Alcoholism
Christians are told to take care of their bodies because they are the temple (dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit and we should not defile that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) We are also told to stay away from “all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) I am always amazed when I hear people who claim to be Christians trying to justify the use of alcohol when there is so much data to show how evil and destructive it is. A recent report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that “alcohol is the second most deadly drug in the United States, behind only tobacco.” Between 2002 and 2014 alcohol deaths increased by 37% in the United States. Alcohol now accounts for more fatalities than overdoses from prescription painkillers and heroin combined. The Center also reports that alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer. Most people are not even aware that alcohol use contributes to cancer, but the data is very clear. Data from The Week, December 23/30 2016, page 27.
–John N. Clayton © 2017