Archive for May 8, 2012
Tags: Constitutional amendment, Domestic partnership, Domestic partnership in the United States, Durham, Massachusetts, Minnesota Court of Appeals, North Carolina, State Constitution
The main reason the people of North Carolina should vote yes for the proposed marriage amendment in that state has everything to do with preventing improper state court activism and nothing to do with unmarried couples, their benefits, or allowing domestic violence to go unpunished.
Here are some important facts voters need to know:
The main reason to approve the marriage amendment is to prevent state courts from improperly invalidating the state marriage law based on the state constitution.
Courts in nine states have invalidated their states’ marriage laws based on their state constitutions, with a 10th state waiting in the wings. Voters in Alaska, California, and Hawaii approved state constitutional amendments to overturn court decisions redefining marriage. The highest courts in Maryland, New York, and Washington overturned lower court decisions voiding their state marriage laws.
In addition, the state supreme courts of Connecticut, Iowa, and Massachusetts used their state constitutions to strike down their state marriage laws, and voters were unable to regain their authority to define marriage. The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently allowed a similar lawsuit to go forward challenging that state’s marriage law, demonstrating the need for Minnesota voters to approve a state constitutional amendment defining marriage this November.
Many unmarried couples are currently denied benefits under existing local domestic partner benefits programs in North Carolina.
Several cities and counties in North Carolina offer health insurance and other benefits to an employee and to some categories of unmarried “partners” while denying benefits to a broad range of unmarried relationships.
For example, a city employee in Durham who lives with and cares for his sick grandfather, or an employee caring for her adult brother with Down’s Syndrome, cannot receive “domestic partner” benefits from the city because they are “related by blood closer than permitted under the marriage laws of the jurisdiction in which they reside,” despite the fact that both couples are in a “committed relationship for mutual support and benefit,” as the ordinance requires. Passing or defeating North Carolina’s proposed marriage amendment won’t help those ineligible couples. In fact, even if North Carolina went so far as to redefine marriage, these unmarried couples would still be ineligible for a whole range of benefits and privileges.
There’s a better solution: local and state governments can decide to give benefits to a wide spectrum of people now ineligible for employee benefits by using a neutral definition of “dependent,” like “anyone the government employee can take as a dependent on his or her federal income tax.”
So, governments can certainly address the concern about benefit inequities for unmarried households, but they should do it comprehensively and not pretend that same-sex couples are the only ones with benefit problems, nor should they pretend that local “domestic partner” programs or redefining marriage resolves all problems of benefit ineligibility.
Local “domestic partner” policies treat unmarried couples better than married couples.
North Carolina law imposes on spouses and parents something it does not impose on any unmarried “partner”: a “duty to support.” State law requires parents (whether married or not) to provide financially for their minor children and requires spouses to support each other. Employers help their employees meet those legal obligations by, for example, allowing their dependents to join their health insurance plan. But unmarried “domestic partners” are under no state-imposed duty to support their unmarried partners because the counties and cities that create these programs have no authority to require such a thing.
Therefore, the “domestic partner” plans in Durham, Orange County, and elsewhere give the financial benefits of marriage to unmarried partners without imposing the duties of marriage. That means these local “domestic partner” ordinances treat unmarried couples better than married couples. If local governments want to give benefits to households under no legal duty to support others, they can do so with neutral criteria that apply to all unmarried households.
Women (and their children) are more vulnerable to domestic violence in unmarried relationships.
The distorted, fear-mongering claim that the marriage amendment will protect those who batter their unmarried partners from criminal prosecution is simply false and has been effectively refuted. This claim has not come true in any of the 30 states that have approved marriage amendments. Anyone who beats up another he lives with should be prosecuted criminally.
But there is a bigger issue here: multiple studies show that women in unmarried relationships and their children are more likely to suffer domestic violence than women married to the biological father of their children. We as a compassionate people need to warn our neighbors about living arrangements that expose them to physical harm. State authorities must prosecute batterers, but prevention is better. Approving the North Carolina marriage amendment would help promote this goal.
For all of these reasons and others, North Carolina voters should approve the marriage amendment on May 8.
Jordan Lorence is a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C., office of the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation (www.telladf.org).
Tags: Ashley Madison, Bible, Christianity, DanSavage, God, Israel, Jesus, Old Testament
How can we quote the Bible in support of our moral values when the Old Testament contains laws calling for the stoning of a woman who lost her virginity before marriage? Actually, based on biblical principles, both Judaism and Christianity teach that such laws are not for today. But could you imagine what America would look like if sex outside of wedlock was as scandalous in our day as it was in ancient biblical times?
In his talk to high school journalism students, Dan Savage mocked the fact that the Bible “says that if your daughter’s not a virgin on her wedding night – if a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night – she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death.”
Was this law ever justifiable? In ancient Israel, which the Bible states was a theocracy instituted by God himself (according to the Torah, God delivered the children of Israel from Egypt and then spoke his laws to them from Mount Sinai) and which was part of a culture where it was almost unthinkable for a girl to lose her virginity to another man before marriage, a law like this was hardly exceptional.
That being said, by New Testament times, Jewish leaders had virtually abolished the death penalty for such offenses, Jesus stopped a Jewish crowd from stoning a woman caught in adultery, and Paul taught that there were spiritual consequences rather than corporal consequences for such offenses. As for today, in absolutely no shape, size, or form could I (along with every conservative Christian whom I know personally) ever dream of advocating the death penalty for premarital sex, nor could I could dream of advocating the death penalty for adultery or homosexual practice. Obviously not!
But let’s ask ourselves an honest question. While people on both sides of the debate categorically reject such legal punishments for sexual violations, is our contemporary society really in a position to make judgments on ancient Israel when it comes to sexual morality?
In America today, one in four teenage girls has been infected with an STD, and out of the hundreds of thousands of cases of gonorrhea every year, “teenage girls between 15 and 19 account for more cases than any other age group.” Some of the gonorrhea strains are developing into incurable “super bugs.” And we are the enlightened ones?
The CDC reports that one in 5 gay men has HIV, while gay and bisexual men account for half of the new HIV infections in the U.S., having AIDS at a rate over 50 times higher than other groups. (The rates are alarmingly high among gay teens.) Despite this, Dan Savage and his “husband” Terry Miller advocate being “monogamish,” admitting to at least 9 extramarital encounters between them since they have been together, even claiming that it has been a “stabilizing force” in their relationship. And Savage is criticizing biblical morality?
Let’s also consider the effects of the 1960’s sexual revolution on America. In 1960, 23% of black children were born out of wedlock; by 2008, the rate was up to a mind boggling 72.3%. In white America, children born out of wedlock rose from 2.3% in 1960 to 28.1% in 2008, an increase of more than 1000%. According to a Brookings Institution report published in 1996, “Every year about one million more children are born into fatherless families. If we have learned any policy lesson well over the past 25 years, it is that for children living in single-parent homes, the odds of living in poverty are great. The policy implications of the increase in out-of-wedlock births are staggering.”
And what about the modern plague of pornography? Recent surveys indicate that 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites, that 12% of all internet sites are pornographic, that 25% of search engine requests are pornography related, and that the average age at which a child first sees online pornography is 11. And we are the ones standing on the higher moral ground? (This recent headline reporting on the UK says it all: “Generation XXX: 13-year-old boy sexually abuses 5-year-old sister thanks to porn, says therapist.”)
Perhaps rather than focusing on the issue of the death penalty for premarital sex in ancient Israel – which, to repeat, I categorically reject as a legal standard for today – we should take a hard look at the destructive effects of the rampant, out of control, sexual promiscuity of our day. Perhaps rather than gloating about our “progressive” attitudes towards premarital, extramarital, and homosexual sex, we should rue the fact that in 1969, 21 percent of Americans believed that “Premarital sex is not wrong” while in 2009, 60 percent stated it was not wrong.
Let the naked truth be told: America today is the land of Ashley Madison ads encouraging adultery, celebrity sex tapes ad nauseam, staggering rates of sexually transmitted diseases, and reality TV shows like “16 and Pregnant.”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire, and his latest book is The Real Kosher Jesus.
Tags: Christ, Church, Divine presence, Epistle to the Colossians, God, holyspirit, Jesu, Lord
I love reading church slogans. You know, the ones you see on the marquee in front of churches. Recently I noticed a slogan that said, “Come in and experience the presence of God.” That one caught my attention, primarily because it’s an important promise to make and sometimes a hard promise to keep. Hard, because if we’re not careful our churches might reflect the presence of its people more than the presence of our God.
So what would a church have to do to display the presence of God? Its people would have to live like Him! Dynamics like hospitality, the loving acceptance of all kinds of people, a quickness to serve, a tangible love for one another that makes people feel safe and included regardless of color or class, and a patient tolerance of one another’s weaknesses would all be a great way to start. Paul said we should walk in a manner “worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10). And he also said that being worthy means that we will be humble, gentle, bearing with one another in love, eagerly maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3).
Let’s live in such a way that others will experience the presence of the God who lives in us—wherever we are, but especially at church.
The world gets a glimpse of God When those who claim to be The followers of Jesus Christ Are living righteously. —Sper
Those who walk with Christ bring the presence of God to everyone around them.
Tags: Asa, Azariah, Books of Chronicles, God, Israel, Israelites, Judah, Kingdom of Judah
“He went out to meet Asa and said to him, ‘Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you’.” — 2 Chronicles 15:2
Asa had a great start. The third king of Judah, he did what was “good and right in the eyes of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 14:2). His shining moment came when he was the underdog in a battle against Zerah the Cushite, with his million men and his three hundred chariots.
Asa did what any good God-fearing King would do. He prayed: “ . . . LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, LORD our God, for we rely on you” (2 Chronicles 14:11). And in expressing his total reliance on God, he indeed merited miraculous salvation.
That’s when Azariah the prophet relayed this message to him: “The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” Azariah explained to Asa that if he continued to rely on God, then he would continue to be victorious over any enemies that came his way. But if he strayed from the Lord, then surely, God would abandon him in kind. Asa was encouraged by these words, but later seemed to forget them.
After more than a decade of peace, Asa found himself confronted by the threat of war once again. This time it was his own brethren – the northern kingdom of Israel – who provoked him. Asa reacted very differently than he did when facing battle with the Cushites.
Instead of another heartfelt prayer, Asa relied solely on the help of men. He made an alliance with the King of Aram, and together they were able to defeat the Israelites. Asa was victorious but he was also chastised by the prophet Hanani for not having proper faith. Indeed, Asa was to pay a heavy price for his faithlessness.
A few years later Asa developed a disease in his feet – a disease that ultimately spread and claimed his life. Jewish tradition teaches that because Asa did not rely on God when he faced battle, it was as though he had no feet. He had no faith, and so he had nothing on which to stand. Since he did not make use of his spiritual feet, his physical feet were taken away.
The story of Asa is a tragic one. It reminds us that faith is something that needs to be cultivated throughout our lives. When we are young, it can be easier to believe in God and His providence. Then life happens, and it can get harder. Sometimes it’s because of our success that we forget God, and sometimes it’s because of our defeats that we cause our faith to falter.
Having faith is not like running a sprint; it’s a marathon. We need to exercise our faith right up to the finish line.
Tags: Christ, George Matheson, God, O Cross, O Joy, O Light, O Love, Thy (district)
When they buried the blind preacher, George Matheson, they lined his grave with red roses in memory of his love-life of sacrifice. And it was this man, so beautifully and significantly honored, who wrote,
“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee,
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
“O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee,
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
“O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee,
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shalt tearless be.
“O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee,
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red,
Life that shall endless be.”
There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful red which no other artist could imitate. The secret of his color died with him. But after his death an old wound was discovered over his heart. This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his pictures. The legend teaches that no great achievement can be made, no lofty attainment reached, nothing of much value to the world done, save at the cost of heart’s blood.
Tags: Book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel, God, Israel, Israelite, Lord, Prayer, Redeemer
Therefore, say to the house of Israel, The LORD God proclaims: House of Israel, I’m not acting for your sake but for the sake of my holy name, which you degraded among the nations where you have gone. I will make my great name holy, which was degraded among the nations when you dishonored it among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD. This is what the LORD God says.
Reading the book of Ezekiel is a little like hiking through a thirsty desert. Chapter after chapter, we confront desolation and despair. We hear more about the sins of Israel and her neighbors than we would prefer to know. For those of us who have been making the trek through Ezekiel, chapter 36 comes as a drink of cool water in an oasis of hope. In this chapter, God promises to bring his people back to Israel and to return the land to fruitfulness.
Why will God do these things? Why will he redeem his people and restore the land? God’s answer may at first seem surprising, even off-putting: “House of Israel, I’m not acting for your sake but for the sake of my holy name, which you degraded among the nations where you have gone. I will make my great name holy, which was degraded among the nations when you dishonored it among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD” (36:22-23). We might expect God to act because he cares for his people, or because he is a merciful, forgiving God. Yet, what the Lord says is that he is restoring Israel for the sake of his name. God wants to make his “great name holy.” I know it seems almost like a sacrilege to ask, but we might surely wonder: Is God too concerned about his name?
If I told you that I wrote these Daily Reflections primarily so that people might know and glorify my name, you’d rightly say that my motivation was skewed. But I am not God. It is profoundly right and good for God’s name to be known and glorified. Since God’s name represents his character, we’re talking here about people knowing God as holy and great. This is a matter of worship. And it is utterly right for God to be worshiped. So, what would be egotistical for me is proper and good for God.
But not only for God. You see, God wants his name to be known among the nations, not only so that they will think of him highly, but also so that they will come to know him as the only true God. In a sense, God’s “name project” is an evangelistic mission. He wants all nations to know he is the Lord, the one true God, the Savior of the world, the God of compassion and mercy (see Exod. 34:6-7). So, by making his name known, God is not only enhancing his worship. He is also helping the world to know him, his holiness, his mercy, his grace.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond when you hear God expressing such concern for his name? Why is it okay for God to seek to glorify his name in a way that would not be appropriate for you and me? In what ways do you help people to know and honor God’s name?
May all peoples come to know you, Lord, as the only true Savior and Redeemer. May I live in such a way that people are drawn to you as they see your presence in me. May my lips and my life glorify your name. Amen.
Tags: First Epistle of John, Gary, Gary Indiana, God, Jesu, John, Leslie, Religion and Spirituality
In the courtroom while waiting for his case to come before the judge, Gary heard story after sad story of people who were losing their homes. Many went through the procedure as if it were familiar to them. But one woman named Leslie seemed bewildered. Gary sensed that she didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
He tried to silence the quiet voice inside him that was urging him to help, but he couldn’t. He thought of many reasons not to get involved. First, engaging strangers in conversation is not one of his strengths; second, he was afraid of being misunderstood. But he thought that the prompting was from God, and he didn’t want to risk being disobedient.
When Gary saw Leslie leaving the courthouse, he spoke to her. “Ma’am,” he said, “I heard your testimony inside the courtroom, and I believe God wants me to help you.”
At first Leslie was suspicious, but Gary assured her of his sincerity. He made some phone calls and got her connected with people in a local church who provided the help she needed to keep her house.
God has called us to active duty (1 John 3:18). When we sense His prompting to help someone, we should be willing to say, “I believe God wants me to help you.”