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Must God Keep Up With The Times? (Forbes.com) June 1, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
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Perhaps you have missed it amid all the heated rhetoric about gay marriage, but seemingly serious people have proposed that henceforth Almighty God—or at least God’s people and churches—must keep up with modern times. In order to advance same-sex marriage appropriately and constitutionally, conservative Christians, Orthodox Jews and Muslims must get over their commitment to ancient doctrines and ideas and drag God into the liberal paradigm of the twenty-first century.

Frank Bruni, columnist for the New York Times, wrote that Christians should rightly “[bow] to the enlightenments of modernity.” Bruni favorably quoted businessman and gay philanthropist Mitchell Gold who said church leaders must be made to “take homosexuality off the sin list” (as though that list is invented and maintained by man, not God). Hillary Clinton, speaking of reproductive care and safe childbirth at the Women in the World Summit, said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Even the Archbishop of Dublin, following the recent gay marriage vote in Ireland, said the church needed to do a “reality check” to see whether it had “drifted completely away from young people” today (is it really the church that is drifting, or young people and public opinion?).

And so we face a new challenge to religious liberty as codified in the First Amendment (free exercise of religion): one may freely exercise religion so long as it is in harmony with the spirit and understanding of the modern age. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the laws apparently now trumps the First Amendment free exercise of religion in that Christians and others may not freely exercise a religion that is not consonant with modern understandings and social practices.

Of course God may have a few problems with this. As far as we know, God may still be living in an Isaiah 55:9 kind of world, proclaiming, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God may still be hung up on notions of “absolute truth” or the “inerrancy of Scripture” that have been a hallmark of traditional, orthodox religion.

As legal scholar Richard Epstein points out, “the law is a blunt instrument that lurches first too far in one direction and then too far in the other.” Unfortunately this is now happening with some advocates of gay marriage who are promoting a larger legal change than seems necessary. It certainly seems plausible to allow same sex couples access to the institution of marriage (although personally I prefer to keep “marriage” a sacrament of the religious world and have the government license everyone for “civil unions”) and its favorable tax and legal treatments without inhibiting the free exercise of orthodox religions whose traditional beliefs include different understandings about sexual expression and marriage. While the law need not favor God’s approach to social matters, the First Amendment clearly allows the freedom to follow it, whether ancient or modern.

So, for example, it does not seem necessary, or even legally appropriate, to fine an Oregon bakery whose owners’ religious understandings do not allow them to support same-sex marriage $135,000 for declining to design and decorate a cake for a lesbian couple. Although public opinion has been moving rapidly in favor of same sex marriage, a recent AP-GfK poll found that most Americans thought it was even more important to protect religious liberties when they conflict with gay marriage. Indeed, there should be room to accomplish both.

It seems absurd to suggest that God must keep up with the (New York) Times, but there is an emerging liberal orthodoxy that brooks no dissent, even from God. Such thinking would be the beginning of the end of religious liberty under the First Amendment and should be no part of constitutional or legal understanding.

Link to Forbes.com:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2015/06/01/must-god-keep-up-with-the-times/

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