Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Are Biblical Values Under Attack in the U.S.?

Earlier this month a friend sent me an email that was mainly Dennis Prager’s June 30 article titled “Court Calls an End to Judeo-Christian America.” (That piece on Investor’s Business Daily’s website can be read here.)
Prager, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host and columnist who was born in 1948 to Orthodox Jewish parents, began his article with this assertion: “The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the redefinition of marriage seals the end of America as the Founders envisioned it.”
Prager’s piece is just one of numerous articles declaring that Christianity and/or biblical values are currently under attack in the U.S.—especially by the Supreme Court and by the President.
In a June 16 WallBuilders article, David Barton posted a screed under the title “America’s Most Biblically-Hostile U.S. President.”
Barton lists 96 incidences of President Obama’s “attacks on Biblical persons or organizations,” “examples of the hostility toward Biblical faith that have become evident in the past three years in the Obama-led military,” the President’s “open attacks on Biblical values,” and finally “numerous incidents of his preferential deference for Islam’s activities and positions.”
Prager and Barton of just two of many who think this way. But how can Christians who see things differently respond to such strong charges? Following is the heart of the response I sent to my friend:
The court certainly did not call for an end to Judeo-Christian America, although its ruling was contrary to what many people, such as Prager, think a Judeo-Christian America looks like. There are many Christians, however, who believe that the Supreme Court's ruling makes America more Christian, not less so.
Prager writes, "From well before 1776 until the second half of the 20th century, the moral values of the United States were rooted in the Bible and its God." But were those moral values compromised when freedom and equality were given to former African slaves and their descendants who lived in America? Some thought so. But I believe America became more Christian when freedom and equality were granted to Black people living in the country.
Were those moral values compromised when the right to vote was given to women (50 years after it was given to Black men!) and when there came to be more freedom and equality for all the women in the country? Some thought so. But I believe America became more Christian when freedom and equality were granted to women living in America.
The Constitution had to be changed to make greater freedom and equality a reality for Blacks and women. Was that a change in the moral values of the nation?
In some way it was, for many thought slavery and the subjection of women were taught in the Bible and that being faithful to the Bible meant being for slavery and for the subjection of women. But I think that was an incorrect interpretation of the Bible—and a position used by whites and then by men to maintain their position of power.
In much the same way, the Supreme Court decision about same-sex marriage grants freedom and equality to a segment of our society that has been discriminated against, vilified, and treated in many mean-spirited ways.
That decision is in opposition to the position of many Christians—just as the decisions to allow Blacks and women to be free and equal were. But I firmly believe that that decision is not contrary to the will of God or the teaching and spirit of Jesus.
The Gospel is always good news for those who are fettered and mistreated.


  1. Leroy, I think that with the decline/demise of Christendom, Christians are losing their especially privileged place in America. But maybe we are gaining freedom from the centuries long "Constantinian Captivity of the Church."

    1. I think you are correct, Charles. It is sad, though, that in their convention this month the Mennonite Church USA, the major expression of the Anabaptist tradition that has most consistently recognized the "Constantinian Captivity of the Church," was unable to move past traditionalism and biblicism to a more inclusive position.

    2. Leroy, are you acquainted with the book, "The Naked Anabaptist" by Stuart Murray? Thin book, under 200 pages including a study guide at the back. I read it a few years back and was impressed, although honestly I don't specifically remember the content. The nuts get rusted on the bolts of tradition and Biblicism. Takes a lot of WD 40 to get them loos.

    3. Yes, I also read this a few years ago and then got the Vital Conversations book discussion group my wife and I are members of to discuss it. I think it is a good introduction to Anabaptism, past and present.

  2. Advocacy and acts of liberation “for those who are fettered and mistreated” strikes me as the deepest meaning of ‘good news’. I have been and continue to be introduced to that meaning through the stories of Jesus. I am grateful that the ‘good news’ of liberation is announced in traditions other than my own. I wonder where we would be if we Christians were the only ‘announcers’?

    1. Dick, I appreciate the significance of the question you raised. But what troubles me most at this time is how so many Christians seem not to have understood what you refer to as "the deepest meaning of 'good news,'" and rather than announcing that gospel are fighting against it.

  3. Well said, Leroy. And, as you noted, large portions of Christianity welcome the recent change(s) as making us more Christian, not less. But, then, the insecure, the fundamentalist, and the demagogue have to define their "Christianity" as the only Christianity.

    1. Anton, I fully agree that there are many who are insecure, fundamentalist, and demagogues who define their "Christianity" as the only, or the only "true" Christianity.

      But there are others, like my good friend John Tim who posted the following comments, who are not particularly insecure or (hard core) fundamentalists or demagogues but who sincerely believe that they are being true to the Bible and faithful to Jesus in the position they hold on same-sex marriage and other controversial issues.

      It seems to me that we need to work on having conversations with those who hold differing views and the use of pejorative terms usually makes such conversations more difficult.

  4. Hi Leroy,

    I agree with much of what you say and feel Everyone should be treated equally and with respect, but when it is clear what GOD objects too are we to condone the deviate life styles?
    I am sure this is a debate that will go on until our LORD comes and takes us home, and I agree that the Good News(Gospel) is for the benefit of us All.
    Love for All is the answer and what JESUS died for.


    1. John Tim, I appreciate you writing and for standing up for what you believe to be true. But I have two things to say in response.

      First, as I tried to make clear in my book "Fed Up with Fundamentalism," what the Bible refers to with regard to what is often labeled "homosexuality" is most likely quite different from a loving relationship between two consenting adults. I think that God's "objections" to "homosexuality" are probably far different from that of many who think they are speaking for God on this subject by their condemnatory words. The Bible is not nearly as clear on this subject as most anti-gay Christians seems to think.

      In the second place, why is there such strong rejection of homosexuality, in spite of the questionable biblical support, but virtually no emphasis on Bible passages that are much clearer and more numerous. For example, Exodus 31:14 says, "Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people"(NIV).

      There are individual Christians, I know, who in their personal lives seek to keep the Sabbath holy, but in spite of the clear statements about this in the Bible I don't see much attempt to apply this to society as a whole--which, of course, I think is a good thing.

      But my point is, why emphasize "what God objects to" on some matters, especially those with questionable biblical support, and neglect other matters that are quite clear?

  5. Two Facebook Friends posted comments about this article that I shared on the Progressive Baptist Conversation group site. The first was from Mike Greer in Kentucky:

    "Leroy, you have done an excellent job of demonstrating the fatal flaws in Prager's logic and his assumptions. When I hear in his complaint (childish whining and breast beating) I hear his anger over losing the power and advantage that has traditionally come with belonging to a privileged white male ruling class.

    "All of the Bible talk is camouflage for the displeasure over the fact that the given of supremacy, privilege, and superiority that came with being a conservative, white male heterosexual is being dismantled. Up until this moment in our history it was safe and effective to justify inequality and injustice by saying God and the Bible guarantees my right to walk on the rights of others and to put my interests above all others.'

    "Not long ago most people could be successfully intimidated by this argument. Those days are finished. Prager's concern has nothing to do religious faith. It is all about throwing an anxiety driven temper tantrum over his experience of a loss of a place of political and economic privilege that was propped up by abusive and corrupted applications and interpretations of scripture.

    "Rather than a respect for scripture, the use of the scriptures for such purposes reflects an absolute disdain for them."

  6. The other Facebook comment was posted by Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson:

    "Both Prager and Barton could benefit from some objective study of American history. President Obama represents it far more faithfully than they do."

  7. Today Jim Leavitt of Boston posted these comments on Facebook:

    "Leroy, I think you have expressed the message that Jesus shared in his 'first' sermon in Luke 4:18-21.
    'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.' And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'

    "I agree that we act more like Christ, and therefore more like Christians when we free people from oppression, and the prison of being an outcast of society."

    1. Thanks, Jim, for your pertinent comments. For years I have emphasized four words that begin with the letter L: life, love, light, and liberty. My emphasis on the latter is partly based on the Bible passage you cited, and I appreciate you drawing attention to it.

  8. Thank you Leroy for your helpful explanation for those who want to understand the truth about the biblical message and the love of God for all humankind except those who want to keep and benefit of cultural enslavement. The narrow minded views of the world and biblical truth have argued a long time against the equality of African Americans and women and continue on against gay/lesbians etc no matter what persuasion.

    1. Thanks, Ed, for your pertinent comments also. It puzzles me why some Christians want to remain on the side of enslavement rather than on the side of freedom and equality.

  9. Interesting the variance within Christendom about how one reads and follows the Bible. Including the Mennonites - from moderate to conservative who have a more traditional take (friends and clients). One indicated that returning to the tradition practice of caring for those within the congregation and family and staying apart from government programs is once again becoming a necessity. Also saw this week about an Orthodox group who is backing out of signing state marriage licenses, and will only offer a Church sanctioned sacrament - regardless of what comes, whether taxes, persecution, imprisonment or other, they will not bend the knee to a government for that which violates their traditional worship of God (several bishops indicated that they would follow suit).

    1. Certainly there are variances within Christendom--and among Mennonites as was evident from their convention in Kansas City this month. But I have not heard of any Mennonites saying that "staying apart from government programs is once again becoming a necessity"--although that has been the Amish position all along.

      I also have no idea who any Orthodox bishop, or anyone else, would think that we now have a government "which violates their traditional worship of God."

  10. Dennis Praeger began his radio career at KABC radio doing a Sunday night broadcast "Religion on the line". I made it a point to tune in every week. He would invite a Christian pastor or priest, a Rabbi and a third minister from a non conformist (Mormon, Muslim, J.W., Buddist, Hindu etc...) organization to discuss religious topics. It was both informative and enlightening and always very civil, with one exception.

    Walter Martin.

    Martin incencsed Praeger with his fundamentalism.

    How odd is it that now Praeger would be cosely aligned with Martin, or possibly more extreme in his fundamental attitudes toward gays and lesbians than was Walter?

    Praeger left KABC and became increasingly hard right in his retoric and I found I could no longer appreciate his point of view when he predicted the demise of America if Barrack Obama were to be elected.
    History teaches us "The retoric of election is undermined by the realities of office"
    I do miss the old Dennis!!
    God Bless Obama. He is our President and as such deserves our up most respect and admiration!!