Are Conservative Christians Fueling Terrorism?

Chattanooga City Council member Chris Anderson tried to pin the terrorist act in Orlando on local legislators and other political figures because of their support for sexual mores in line with historic American and Christian values. His assertion is like that of others who immediately tried to blame those murders on conservative Christians. For those who know their history, such an irrational accusation is nothing new.

First, so there is no confusion regarding my response to Mr. Anderson, let me reiterate that the shooting was an act of terror by a Muslim who takes seriously the Koran’s call for individual Muslims to engage in violent jihad against infidels of various stripes. It was murder. It was wrong and would be wrong regardless of what drew the victims to the place where they were murdered.

That being said, Mr. Anderson’s reaction and that of others—blaming some calamity on Christians who don’t go along with current cultural values—is nothing new. If you’ve ever read The City of God by St. Augustine, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. In fact, the parallels are striking.

Here is how the Bishop of Hippo described the blame game that started with the fall of a debauched, utterly pagan Rome:

“Rome having been stormed and sacked by the Goths under Alaric their king, the worshippers of false gods, or pagans, as we commonly call them, made an attempt to attribute this calamity to the Christian religion, and began to blaspheme the true God with even more than their wonted bitterness and acerbity. It was this which kindled my zeal for the house of God, and prompted me to undertake the defence of the city of God against the charges and misrepresentations of its assailants.”

In defense of the Christian worldview, St. Augustine responded to two different wrong-headed assumptions by the blame-the-Christians crowd, both of which are pertinent here.

First, he spent several sections in his work refuting “those who fancy that the polytheistic worship is necessary in order to secure worldly prosperity, and that all these overwhelming calamities have befallen us in consequence of its prohibition.” While the issue then was the fact that Christians didn’t go along with the polytheistic religious beliefs of the culture, the problem now according to folks like Mr. Anderson is that Christians aren’t going along with what we might describe as the “polysexual theology” and its fundamental tenet, tolerance.

Back then the point was that if Christians hadn’t upset the gods of their culture, the Goths wouldn’t have prevailed against Rome, whereas the point now is that if Christians would just be tolerant and not talk so much about homosexual behavior and bathrooms, then the Muslim in Orlando would not have been provoked to do what he did.

The Romans were wrong then, and Mr. Anderson and his ilk are wrong now. But the second point Augustine made further drives home this fact.

St. Augustine pointed out that the Romans who blamed the Christians refused to “admit that such calamities have at all times attended, and will at all times attend, the human race, and that they constantly recur in forms more or less disastrous, varying only in the scenes, occasions, and persons on whom they light … .”

Similarly, there have been public shootings of multiple people in recent years, and not by conservative Christians. More to the point, since Mohammed, Muslims have practiced mass violence against “infidels,” including, in particular, against homosexuals.

Mr. Anderson and those like him need to realize that the homosexual community’s real problem is not conservative Christians, who have never advocated that its adherents randomly execute God’s vengeance for Him on those with whom they disagree. To the contrary, Christianity says that vengeance does not belong to the individual Christian.

The fact is that, like the Goths who invaded a Rome that was rotting from within, radical Islam is invading our country for the same reason. The homosexual community might want to worry more about that than about Christians who advocate for marriage between a man and a woman and the designation of bathrooms on the basis of biological sex.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.

Invite David Fowler to speak at your event

How Should Christians Respond If the Court Redefines Marriage?

Next Tuesday Tennessee will be in the national spotlight as the office of our state’s Attorney General will be arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court the wisdom of our state’s marriage laws. Over recent months I’ve been asked what I think Christians should do if we “lose.” Well, here are my initial thoughts.

I want my first response to be like that of my namesake, David, the King of Israel, a man after God’s own heart. There was a time when he felt as desperate over a situation in his life as I now feel about marriage and the future of our country.

When informed by the prophet that the son he’d conceived through his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba would die, David lay prostrate on the ground, wept, prayed, and fasted for his child’s life, even to the point that his counselors were afraid of how he would respond once he learned that his child had, indeed, died. But when God’s judgment was complete, this is what we’re told of the King’s response:

“Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat” (2 Samuel 12:20).

And that should be my response, too, because, like King David, I will know that God is just as sovereign and just as righteous and true in all His ways as He was the day before, and He is, therefore, just as worthy of my trust, my worship, my service, and my affections as He was the day before.

My second response will be to encourage the Church to make an honest evaluation of the situation, as did Nehemiah, who, after examining the walls of Jerusalem, said to his fellow Israelites:

“You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach” (Nehemiah 2:17).

You see, in my opinion, the Church needs to realize the distress that it, not just the culture, is in.

I honestly believe the Church is in distress not so much because the culture is falling down around it as it is because the Church’s own walls have fallen down and its gates have been destroyed. The people who most need a “sermon” about the law of God are the people of God.

When Moses charged the people of God with keeping the law of God as they entered the Promised Land, he said this:

“I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Deuteronomy 4:5,6).

Notice that what was to commend to the watching world the wisdom of God’s law was the beauty—the shalom—that they observed in the lives of and relationships among those who kept the law of God. It was the fruit of keeping God’s law that would lead others to want to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

When I read that a few years ago and then considered the rate of divorce and adultery and sexual sin within the Church, I couldn’t help but wonder if we, the people of God, have demonstrated enough beauty in our marriages to commend to the people around us the wisdom of God’s design for marriage. I fear the discussion we’re having in Court on Tuesday would suggest the answer is “No.”

And that leads to my third response. I’ll re-commit myself to making sure my own marriage is worthy of emulation by those who would observe it and encourage other Christians to make sure they do the same. It may not be the quick way forward that some would want, but it just may be the most effective one.

Through and even beyond next Tuesday, April 28th, when the Court hears oral arguments, please pray for the institution of marriage. If you haven’t already, please join the Pray4Marriage movement. When people of prayer unite together and seek God’s face, history changes for the better.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.

Invite David Fowler to speak at your event

Has Vanderbilt’s Inclusiveness Been Exposed?

Back in 2012, Vanderbilt University decided to interpret its non-discrimination policy in a new way that resulted in several Christian student organizations being effectively “kicked off” campus. Now, as a result of recent actions by other so-called elite universities, Vanderbilt’s apparent duplicity and the real purpose behind its policy are becoming clearer.

To understand the present, one must understand the past. And the past is that in 2012 Vanderbilt “clarified” its existing non-discrimination policy, saying it was an “all comers” policy. This meant “all students are presumed to be eligible for membership in registered student organizations (RSO) and all members of RSOs in good standing are eligible to compete for leadership positions.”

The context for the “clarification” was the audacity of a Christian RSO to require that its officers profess a belief in sexual intimacy within the confines of a marriage and comport themselves accordingly. That, of course, meant that students who engaged in sex outside of marriage, including those who engaged in homosexual acts, could not be officers.

For Vanderbilt, this was not the simple act of a religious organization upholding its religious doctrines, as historically orthodox as they were, but it was an act of discrimination.

However, the targeted Christian groups pointed out that Vanderbilt was engaged in its own discriminatory practice—it was not applying its policy consistently to all types of student organizations. They pointed out that if Vanderbilt was really serious about eliminating all discrimination, including the sex and gender discrimination mentioned in its policy, then it would apply the non-discrimination policy to fraternal organizations, some of the most notorious discriminators in membership of any type of campus organization.

Vanderbilt dismissed the claim, saying that federal law allowed fraternal organizations to be segregated by sex. And that was true, but it was pointed out that federal law only allowed the discrimination; it didn’t require the discrimination.

Fraternal organizations did not have to continue to be sex-segregated. Vanderbilt ignored the legal point and just continued to cite the federal law. However, the intentionality of Vanderbilt’s disregard for what the law would have allowed it to do has now become clear.

Last month Wesleyan University in Connecticut, along with Dartmouth, began changing Greek life on campus. A spokesperson for Wesleyan University said, “With equity and inclusion in mind, we have decided that residential fraternities must become fully co-educational over the next three years.”

In 2012, Vanderbilt wanted to show leadership in non-discrimination and inclusivity among private colleges by its then rather novel interpretation of its non-discrimination policy. For all its insistence back then that it was against all forms of discrimination and was in favor of every organization being open to every student, Vanderbilt has not done what these universities are now doing.

Having not done for two years what it could have done, is it possible that Vanderbilt really wasn’t for broad inclusion and against all forms of discrimination after all?

Could Vanderbilt really just have been hiding behind the high-sounding rhetoric of inclusion and non-discrimination in order to get rid of those conservative Christian student groups that didn’t share Vanderbilt’s progressive, liberal sexual ethic?

I have my own opinion, but let’s give the University the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Vanderbilt just forgot to get around to doing what it surely believes to be the next right thing, and now that they see other universities leading the way, they’ll follow suit.

I hope so. But if they do, I also hope the fraternal organizations on campus who sat by in 2012 while the conservative Christian groups were being targeted by the University won’t expect them to rally to their defense. They aren’t there any more.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.
Learn more about all our RSS options.

Does a Politician’s Christianity Really Matter?

Because I have been a state senator and now lead a state organization dedicated to promoting public policies that respect God’s design for marriage and family, life, and religious liberty, I talk to a lot of state politicians and political candidates, particularly at election time. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most who talk to me this time of year are professing Christians. But a conversation I had the other day raised a question about the extent to which one’s Christianity matters.

Many who know me would be surprised to hear such a statement coming from my lips. I don’t say it because a person’s character or the basis for his or her understanding of right and wrong doesn’t matter to me. It matters a lot. But that’s not enough.

I say this because being a Christian doesn’t mean that the candidate for office understands anything about how our form of government is supposed to work. We would not hire a person to handle our finances, run our businesses, treat our illnesses, or do much of anything else simply because they said they were a Christian, even one we might call “devout.”

As a case in point, I spoke with a candidate for office the other day that, based on what I know, I would fully expect to see in the eternal presence of God. But the first thing out of the person’s mouth set off alarm bells for me and required a quick tutorial in the doctrine of separation of powers.

This person, whom I respect, mentioned that when it came to abortion I probably had more trust in the legislature to handle the issue correctly, the implication being that maybe the judiciary was either more trustworthy or better able to balance this sensitive issue. I quickly assured this person that I didn’t trust the legislature either and that, in my case, my distrust was based on real-life experience.

Then I explained that the issue wasn’t about the branch of government in which we should put more trust to make abortion policy, but to which branch of government the enactment of public policy had been entrusted under our state and federal constitutions.

There is only one real, right answer to that question: the legislature. And we’re in the mess we’re in today because, in part, both our politicians and a solid majority of Americans have apparently forgotten that. We only care about whether we get the result—the policy—we want.

That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why Congress and voters aren’t throwing out members of Congress right and left for not impeaching a President (and any President) who essentially keeps enacting or changing the law through executive orders and impeaching activist judges who violate the Constitution by twisting its words and by encroaching upon the legislature’s constitutional prerogatives.

Fortunately, at least for this one candidate, I think my little “refresher course” on constitutional government set things rights. But my point is that candidates who don’t understand our form of government and their responsibilities under that form of government aren’t the type I’m looking for, no matter how often they are in church or how personally holy they are.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.
Learn more about all our RSS options.