Sunday, July 05, 2015

Growing Pains

This story has been kicking around for a few weeks. I only know about it because a friend drew it to my attention:

I didn't know about it because, frankly, I don't keep tabs on Kirk Cameron. 

I'm of two minds about discussing it. It may not be worth commenting on. But sometimes it's worth commenting on something that's not worth commenting on–paradoxical as that sounds. 

However, I'm going to comment because he repeats an objection to the culture wars that's popular with some nearsighted evangelicals.

In principle, Cameron's opinion carries the same weight as Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Matt Damon. Being a Hollywood actor doesn't make your opinion any wiser than anyone else's opinion. Being famous doesn't make you well-informed for far-sighted. 

I know precious little about Cameron. From what I've read, he's a former child star. In his heyday, he was touted as a "heartthrob." I'll have to take the word of (no longer) adolescent girls on that. 

Like many child stars, he hasn't had much of a career after sprouting peach fuzz. I guess he stared in the gold-plated turkeys of the Left Behind franchise. World Mag panned Fireproof

In fairness, there aren't many Christian Hollywood actors, so he probably feels he has a responsibility to present a public Christian witness. And that's commendable in principle. But he needs to know his limitations. He seems to be the Pat Boone of his generation: a third-tier actor who stared in some cheesy, forgettable Christian films, then became a social commentator. 

Getting to the substance:

"When people get too focused on redefining marriage, you're distracted from the bigger problem - fornicators and adulterers," Cameron said.
"If the people sitting in the pews are fornicators and adulterers, the church will destroy marriages much more quickly than those outside the church. When God's people mock marriage, God doesn't take that lightly."
Cameron declined to criticize gay marriage and same-sex unions, saying that's not a priority.
"I think the greatest threat to marriage is not other people's definition of marriage," Cameron said in an interview with "The church isn't taking God's definition of marriage seriously. It's not other people sabotaging marriage that's the problem."
"The church determines the moral temperature of the culture," he said. "On our watch we've let morality decay, the commitment to love and marriage fall apart. We've given in to an anti-biblical Christian worldview. We're simply failing to do our job as the church. Other people are moving into the leadership positions and steering the car right off the cliff. They're not the problem. It's those in the church who have taken their hands off the wheel and given up our place in the driver's seat."
The church has to reform itself in order to reform society, Cameron said.
"We need to be faithful in our own house," he said. "Jesus didn't go shouting at the Romans. He went into the temple. We have the same problem today that people had back then. We've had pastors drop like flies, guys I know. When that happens, it drags the name of Christ through the mud. When hypocrisy grows within the church, it's like pouring fertilizer on the weeds in your garden."

This may be well-intentioned, but it's hopelessly confused. 

i) I don't think it's coincidental that Cameron is not a pastor. If he were one, he'd realize the difficulties. 

Consider a typical situation: a minister takes a pastorate. That means he's taking the helm of a preexisting church, with an established congregation. All the members (or attendees) are initially strangers to him. They became members before he came on board.

It's not as if they sport t-shirts that say "I'm a fornicator!" "I'm an adulterer!"

It's unclear what Cameron thinks a pastor should do in that situation. Does he think a pastor should reinterview all the members?

A new pastor doesn't know which members were divorced, or why. In some cases, they had biblical grounds.

But even if the divorce and/or remarriage was sinful, that doesn't mean the new marriage is continuously sinful. Likewise, some of them were unbelievers before they got divorced or remarried.

Certainly it's a pastor's job to preach Christian sexual ethics. But pastoral authority is ultimately moral authority. Persuasion. He can't make anyone agree with him or do his bidding.

Undoubtedly there are many evangelical churches that need to tighten up their membership standards. And there are many evangelical churches that are lax on church discipline.

But even if all evangelical pastors were doing their job, even if all of them were able to do their job, a pastor in 21C American has no real power over what people do. Errant church members can be excommunicated. And that's good for the spiritual integrity of the church. But there's no social stigma, no social sanction, attached. 

ii) If a pastor has limited influence over his congregation, he has even less direct influence over the general culture. At best, there's an aggregate influence, if enough pastors say what needs to be said. 

Cameron uses metaphors and catchphrases like "On our watch we've let morality decay" and "Other people are moving into the leadership positions and steering the car right off the cliff. It's those in the church who have taken their hands off the wheel and given up our place in the driver's seat."

What does that even mean? What's he referring to? Does the car stand for the church or the general culture? It's not as if pastors were ever in the driver's seat of the general culture. 

Likewise, in what sense did we "let" morality decay? It's not as if Christians can unilaterally forbid social decay. We don't have that kind of control. If we mobilize our resources, we can exert a great deal of influence–yet that's the very thing that Cameron decries.

iii) He indulges in sweeping, scurrilous generalities about "the church." But "the church" isn't any one thing. There are many denominations, as well as tens of thousands of churches. Theey range along a spectrum from good to bad or middling. He assigns blanket blame to "the church," but that's inaccurate and unjust.

iv) The accelerated decadence of American culture is largely imposed from the top down by the power elite. For instance, there's no massive grassroots movement for homosexual "marriage" or unisex bathrooms and locker rooms. Indeed, there was strong popular pushback against homosexual "marriage" even in blue or purple states. It took dictatorial judicial intervention to thwart those movements. 

v) There's also the insinuation that unless the church gets its own house in order, it lacks the moral authority to comment on the general culture. That, however, is mistaken on two grounds:

a) Cameron's hasty generalization about the state of "the church."

b) The fact that this isn't based on personal moral authority, but divine moral authority. 

vi) In addition, you have Cameron's witless false dichotomy, as if problems within "the church" mean other people are not the problem. That's so simpleminded. It's a complete non sequitur. If the power elite is judicially or legally redefining marriage, if executive agencies are enforcing that policy, then they are a major part of the problem. This isn't redefining marriage in a dictionary, as if it's just about the meaning of a word. Rather, this is about law and public policy. If gov't is using its coercive power to sabotage the institution of marriage, then that's most assuredly a problem in its own right. 

At the risk of stating the obvious, that would still be a problem apart from whatever the church does, because that would be happening apart from whatever the church does. Secular totalitarians don't take their cue from the church. They have an independent agenda. And it's an agenda they vigorously prosecute in spite of the church. 

vii) Likewise, you have Cameron's knuckleheaded notion that "the church" should get its house in order first, before we turn our attention to the culture wars. But by then it's too late. It's not as if secular totalitarians will stop the clock while we sort things out internally, then graciously let us reenter the race. We can't let current trends go unchallenged, then revisit the issue at a later date. You can't lose the culture, but save the church. If you lose the culture, then to a great extent you lose the church. To some degree, Christians are inevitably the product of the culture they are born into, and must function in. The church isn't cloistered from society at large. And that's exacerbated by gov't agencies that clamp down on Christian parenting. 

viii) To say the church needs to reform itself is useless, circular advice. The good people in church already do about as much good as they can. And the people who aren't doing good will continue not doing good, because they lack that sense of commitment. Who does Cameron think he's talking to? The people who agree with him don't need to hear what he has to say, while the people who disagree won't listen in the first place. 

The people who share his outlook are already on his side, doing the best they can–while the people who don't share his outlook don't care what he says. That kind of rhetoric doesn't move the needle a millimeter. 

The faith of Israel

To my knowledge, Peter Enns rejects the historicity of most OT narratives. And he accuses inerrantists of imposing an artificial standard on Scripture.

One strategy some liberals use to rationalize their position is to claim that Bible writers never intended to write factual accounts in the first place. Inerrantists who read the Bible that way have never studied hermeneutics. We are operating with an Enlightenment epistemology. 

One problem with that contention is historical Psalms, viz. 74, 78, 105, 106, 135, 136. It's essential to the Psalmist that God really did the things ascribed to him in earlier historical narratives. The Psalmist believes that happened, and that supplies a necessary precedent for his argument. Is God faithful? Will he act in the future as he acted in the past? Will he protect his people? Will he deliver his people? Will he continue to act on their behalf? The record and reality of his past actions is an indispensable presupposition of the Psalmist's argument.

Scholars like Enns can, of course, reject the Psalmist's viewpoint. But in so doing, they disassociate themselves from the faith of Israel. To the degree that scholars like Enns retain any religious outlook at all, it's completely foreign to the faith of God's historic people. 

Enns is very condescending towards Bible-believing Christians, but his own position is an ad hoc intellectual compromise that isn't consistently secular or consistently Christian. It's mostly secular, with some residual theology. Although he has contempt for Bible-believing Christians, secular philosophers would have contempt for his incoherent attempt to split the difference.  

All hands on deck

I'm going to comment on this:

i) His document has a tendentious title, as if his position was misrepresented, necessitating his "setting the record straight." 

ii) Licona's complaint about how this debate cuts into his research time is like a college prof. during the waning days of the Weimar Republic whining about how having to pay attention to political developments interferes with his publishing projects. Licona shows no awareness of the magnitude of the threat facing American democracy, or the American church in particular. He doesn't seem to cognizant of the degree to which the Obama administration and its allies are waging a Kulturkampf, or how a decision like Obergefell empowers and authorizes local, state, and Federal gov't to vigorously crack down on laws, institutions, and individuals that dissent from the homosexual agenda. Now that it's a "Constitutional" civil right, the state has a compelling interest in protecting that alleged right. 

To the extent that his response shows any budding awareness of the threat, which is well under way, that's a result of the constructive criticism he received from commenters like Lydia McGrew. If it hadn't been for her intellectual stimulus, he would not have made it this far. And these are just baby steps. Licona is an American in his 50s. It really doesn't take that much for someone who's lived here all that time to notice the sea-change in the political climate. 

He fails to see how this is just part of a larger orchestrated campaign to produce a secular totalitarian regime. How Obama has weaponized the Federal bureaucracy to persecute and prosecute ideological opponents. He fails to see how this furthers other elements of the secular agenda, like euthanasia, the erosion of parental rights, &c. 

The power elite is stating a coup d'etat. In the culture wars, we need all hands on deck. Christian academics can't be AWOL. It's easy for academics to suffer from tunnel vision. Licona writes a cursory reaction paper, then it's back to business as usual. 

That doesn't mean all Christian academics need to give the same attention to social issues as Robert George, Robert Gagnon, Wesley J. Smith et al. But they have a responsibility to inform themselves on these issues, even if that's not their specialization. There are lots of lay Christians who have the right instincts on the social issues, but don't have arguments at the ready.    

iii) His response is narrowly focused on the process issue. But Obergefell is so wrong on so many levels, so damaging and dangerous on so many levels. Certainly there's the process issue, but the policy dimension equally significant, if not more so. 

iv) Under our system of gov't, judges don't have the authority to make public policy. At best, that's the prerogative of elected lawmakers.

v) And even if (ex hypothesi), judges had such authority, they don't have the power to conjure up a Constitutional right out of thin air. A Constitutional right of SSM is judicial fiction. 

vi) Moreover, the authority of legislators to make public policy is not unlimited. To the contrary, the whole point of the original (10) Bill of Rights is to say these are rights and liberties which gov't cannot infringe. You can't outlaw these rights and liberties. 

vii) So, at most, Congress, a state legislature, or a referendum, could only legalize SSM. It couldn't make it a civil right. There's an elementary and elemental distinction between legalizing something and making it a civil right.

If it's a right, then that has to be balanced against other rights. Since, however, SSM inevitably collides with 1st Amendment rights, even Congress or a state legislature can't elevate SSM marriage to the status of a civil right. If SSM conflicts with 1st Amendment rights, then those are automatically exempted. Even if homosexual "couples" are free to marry, even if that's not against the law, other citizens would likewise be at liberty, given freedom of expression, association, and religion, to disregard SSM. 

viii) In addition, I daresay all Christian denominations and Jewish groups in the US at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified opposed homosexuality. It would be a flagrant violation of original intent to prosecute modern-day Christians or Jews who take the same position as their forebears in that regard. 

ix) And that's even before we get to the deeper issues, like whether the state has a "compelling interest" in protecting natural (i.e. heterosexual) marriage.

x) Licona makes an offhand comment about persecution. Here's a more thoughtful analysis:

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Slavery and sodomy

Matthew Vines recently and repeatedly used slavery as a wedge tactic to justify the acceptance of homosexual "marriage." Slavery is frequently used as a wedge tactic by "progressive Christians."

I'd like to briefly draw attention to a biting irony, here. Slavery and homosexuality are far more analogous than Vines would like to admit.

People who suffer from addictions are enslaved to their addictions, whether it's pornography, gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse, &c. 

The same thing is true for active homosexuals. They don't control it–it controls them. 

They are in bondage to their homosexual passions. It's all-consuming. 

Active homosexuals are often the mirror-image of womanizers: men whose existence is a string of one-night stands. If they're not having sex with a strange woman, they're on the look-out for their next conquest.

It's not coincidental that Scripture compares sin to slavery. You can be more enslaved to a particular sin than literal slavery. Your addiction to a particular sin is psychologically compulsive as well as physically and financially demanding. It never lets up. 

40 trick questions for Christians

Homosexual activist Matthew Vines has posted "40 questions" for Christians:

This is in response to Kevin DeYoung. Before I comment on the specifics, a few preliminaries are in order:

i) Let's begin by stating the obvious: Vines is a young man with a young man's sex drive. He wants to have sex. That's understandable.

Unfortunately, he's homosexual, so he wants to have sex with other men. And for some odd reason, he feels the need to rationalize his lifestyle in the face of Scripture. There are many homosexuals who are chronologically adults, but emotionally arrested. They feel a childish need for parental approval. They can't stand the fact that Bible-believing Christians disapprove of their lifestyle.  

ii) Vines' questionnaire is terribly repetitious. Many of the questions are variations on the same question. Perhaps he padded the questionnaire to create an artificial numerical symmetry with DeYoung's questionnaire. 

As a result, in responding to Vines, I'm going to rearrange the order of the questions. I'm going to group some questions topically that are essentially the same question. Then I'll respond en bloc. That will avoid redundancy. 

iii) Vines resorts to the lawyerly debater's trick of posing deceptively simple questions. In reality, many of his questions contain tendentious assumptions. Likewise, many of the questions don't have yes or no answers. 

As a result, it would be inaccurate or misleading to answer many of the questions as is. We need to unpack tendentious assumptions or discuss the complexities of the issues. 

In addition to my response, Doug Wilson and James White have posted responses:

For the record, I wrote my own response before reading theirs.

Friday, July 03, 2015

The state of the race

It's been six months since I commented on the 2016 presidential contenders. By now I think we probably know who-all is going to run. This post is less about who I think ought to win than who is likely to win.

i) On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders is a sideshow, although he may expose Hillary's weak support. Moreover, if he's formidable in early primaries, she will have to tack even further to the left. That will generate awkward quotes when she runs for the general election.

ii) Jim Webb has thrown his hat into the ring. I doubt that a 70-year-old white man will wrest the Democrat nomination from Hillary. 

If he were the nominee, he might be a more formidable candidate to run against the GOP than Hillary. But since I doubt that's in the cards, there's no point detailing his hypothetical advantages. 

iii) On the GOP side, I think Christie has no realistic chance of securing the nomination. To begin with, Jeb is the default establishment Republican in the race. I don't see how Christie can dislodge Jeb. 

And if Jeb stumbles, Kasich is the logical fallback for the establishment Republican niche. Kasich is Jeb's understudy. 

Christie a liberal Eastern Republican like Giuliani, but he lacks Rudy's 9/11 afterglow (which has faded). 

iv) I think it unlikely that Jeb will secure the nomination. There's no enthusiasm for his candidacy, apart from party operatives like Karl Rove. The base dislikes him. And he has much stronger competition than Dole, McCain, or Romney.

v) Kasich is even less likely to secure the nomination than Jeb. To begin with, if Jeb stumbles, it will be too late for Kasich to step in. 

Kasich is lackluster. He's good on budget issues. And that's about it. He doesn't resonate with social issues. That's not his center of gravity.

vi) I think Walker and Rubio are the two contenders with the best shot at securing the nomination, with Jindal as the darkhorse candidate.

A lot may turn on debate performances, and who is even able to get into the debates.

On the plus side, Walker knows how to stand up to political thugs. Since Obama has turned the Executive bureaucracy into a partisan thugocracy, that's a job qualification. However, his knowledge of domestic and foreign policy is thin. 

Rubio is the favorite compromise candidate. Someone most GOP voters can settle for, with the fewest downsides. 

vii) At this point it's likely that Hillary's GOP opponent will be a much younger, much fresher candidate. In presidential debates, that will make her look haggard by comparison.

viii) Hillary's challenge is that she has a low ceiling of support. She needs to raise the ceiling.

There are lots of folks who will voter for her no matter what. But there are lots of folks who won't vote for her under any circumstances. 

She has phenomenal high negatives. She has more baggage than the DFW airport. 

Moreover, a lot of younger voters are ignorant of Hillary's scandals and hypocrisy. 

But paradoxically, the corruption of the Clintons is so notorious that it's like scar tissue. That's "old news." So familiar that many voters don't care. They're used to it.

There are people who will vote for any Democrat. And there are folks who want to "make history" by voting for a woman.

ix) Which brings us to Fiorina. She's certainly interesting. Her resume is far more impressive than Hillary's. 

In presidential debates, she'd neutralize the gender card. Hillary couldn't play that against her. 

However, I doubt that would be much of an advantage in the general election. If voters have two women to choose from, if whichever candidate they vote for will be a women, then voters who hanker to vote for a female candidate because she's a woman will go with Hillary. 

And that will hurt Finorina in the primaries. I doubt Republicans feel like taking a risk on her. There's too much at stake. Moreover, her conservative street cred is a bit forced. 

x) Ben Carson would probably be a good pic for surgeon general, HHS, or maybe the CDE. Cruz would probably be a good pick for attorney general. 

I haven't discussed Rand, Perry, or Huckabee because it think it less likely that they will lead the pack. 

SSM in Canada

In the wake of the SCOTUS decision on homosexual marriage, I've seen some Canadian Christians (i.e. Canadians who profess to be Christian) say American Christians are overreacting because Canada has had SSM for a decade without the dire consequences that American Christians predict. They accuse American Christians of alarmist rhetoric.

I hesitate to comment on the Canadian scene, since I obviously know less about that than the American scene, but it seems to me that they are ignoring political developments in Canada. For instance:

I'd also note that there comes a point where it becomes illegal to report on the dire consequences of SSM. That's "hate speech." Evidence is suppressed on pain of prosecution, then they turn around and exclaim, Where's the evidence?

Consider, for instance, how the "news" media covers for the homosexual community. That makes it hard to document the incidence of homosexual child molestation.

Was last week a bad week for conservatives?

Many liberal pundits gleefully said last week was a bad week for conservatives. But that's misleading. It treats the culture wars like a sporting event where one team wins, the other team loses, and the spectators go home. 
Last week was a bad week for everyone. When conservatives lose, everybody loses. When liberals win, everyone is harmed. Liberal policies are destructive. Even liberals are harmed by liberal policies. In a sense, liberal policies are more harmful to liberals than conservatives insofar as liberals have less insulation. Liberals often act on their ideology. So it's like injecting heroine directly into the blood stream. 
Nothing can be more destructive than success if you're successful at the wrong thing. Kinda like thieves who unwittingly steal radioactive material. Even if they get away with it, they don't get away with it. 

Biology and marriage

When marriage is decoupled from biology, there are at least two major consequences:
i) If marriage is no longer grounded in biology, if marriage no longer correlates with biology, then any "relationship" can be defined as a marriage, viz. homosexuality, consensual parental incest, bestiality, pederasty. 
ii) Instead of gov't recognizing a natural institution–which is ontologically independent of the state–gov't constitutes marriage. Marriage becomes a purely political artifact. Gov't can confer or revoke marital protections at will. Gov't now defines ex nihilo the fundamental unit of society. This is just another plank in the totalitarian state. 
iii) It might be objected that a biological criterion fails to rule out polygamy. Two points:
a) Even if biology is not a sufficient criterion, it remains a necessary criterion.
b) There's a difference between what is a marriage, and what is a good marriage. Polygamy is bad marital policy. That should be discouraged in various ways. 

Present trends in religious liberty

Muslims Mean It. We Don't.

"Which folks are happy to be contrarian and swim against the tide? Gays, obviously, and the hard left, which is one reason things tend to go their way. But also Muslims. Look at that woman in the ice-cream van at the top of the page. That's a British 'ice-cream lady' of the 21st century. At a certain level, it's ridiculous serving 99s and raspberry ripples in a burqa. But at another, far more important level, it's not in the least bit ridiculous: it's telling you that these guys mean it - and they've figured out that you don't." (Mark Steyn)

For a recent illustration of Steyn's point, see the study released last week by the Department of Labor concerning how Americans spend their time. The average for hours per day spent on leisure and sports was 5.30. The average for religious activities was 0.14.

The hidden camera in the voting booth

The secret ballot has been a fixture of American democracy since the late 19C. But in two blue states (Washington, Oregon), absentee ballots are the only way of voting. 

Just think about that for a moment. Suppose there's an election in which the party in power retains power. Most of the incumbents are reelected.

But in a state like Washington and Oregon, that means the party in power knows exactly who voted against it. The party in power knows exactly who all their political opponents are. They know the name, phone number, address, &c., of everyone who cast a ballot to vote them out of office. It's like having a hidden camera in the voting booth.

This isn't hypothetical. A few years ago there was a disputed gubernatorial election in Washington. There was a recount. State employees went door-to-door to question voters on the ballot they cast. 

Just consider the potential abuse of power. How the party in power could retaliate. It's worse than having the donor list for the opposition party. 

And imagine officials sharing that information with campaign consultants. They can do microlevel demographics on the electorate. 

Liberals talk about the "right of privacy," but they don't respect it. 

Doctor/patient confidentiality

Obamacare is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. The real goal is a gov't-run healthcare system. Barney Frank, an architect of Obamacare, admitted that in a 2009 interview:

Because we don’t have the votes for it. I wish we did. I think if we get a good public option that could lead to single-payer and that’s the best way to reach single-payer.

He didn't quite explain how Obamacare is transitional to a single-payer system. One possibility is that it's a softening-up exercise. It prepares the public for a single-payer system.

There is, however, a more cynical theory. That Obamacare was designed to destroy private healthcare by producing a death spiral in the private insurance market. Here's a description:

Obamacare’s community rating results in insurance prices that are higher for younger people than they would be in a free market, and its guaranteed issue allows people to sign up for insurance even if they get sick, so young and healthy people have ample incentive to forgo insurance. This leaves the insurance “risk pool” older and sicker and, hence, more costly to insure. Premiums will have to rise to cover those costs, leading some of the younger and healthier people who did initially sign up to then drop out. The risk pool then becomes even older and sicker, premiums rise again, and the process repeats.

Now, why do I bring this up? There's a tradition of doctor/patient confidentiality, as well as doctor/patient privilege. But a single-payer system will erase the doctor/patient confidentiality/privilege? To begin with, if physicians are actually gov't employees, then your medical records are gov't records. Even if technically, only a subset of gov't employees has access to the records, there is no real doctor/patient confidentiality. Also, it's trivially easy for "confidential" records to be accessed by unauthorized personnel. 

And even if the physicians don't work directly for the gov't, if many of the treatments require authorization by some gov't bureaucrat, then once again, there will be a gov't record of the patient's condition and treatment. 

Perhaps a parallel objection might be raised with respect to physicians who must request authorization from a private health insurance company. That's a problem, but that's still different from the gov't knowing all about your sensitive medical conditions.

Also, Americans didn't always have health insurance. That's not a given. 

No truce with the left

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Rules v. tools

Don't panic

"Theocracy" and SSM

On Facebook, Michael Licona expressed ambivalence about public policy regarding homosexual marriage. He suggested that since the US is not a theocracy, we shouldn't ban homosexual marriage. In addition, he compared homosexual marriage to religious liberty. 

Let's consider some basic problems with that argument.

i) If homosexual marriage is treated as a civil right or Constitutional right, then it becomes the duty of the Federal gov't to oppose state laws that deny or infringe a civil right. 

That's not just a question of gov't "allowing" the practice, but the Federal gov't disallowing state gov't to conflict with Federal policy. 

ii) Likewise, if it's elevated to the status of a civil right or Constitutional right, then it becomes a balancing act when that alleged right comes into conflict with other Constitutional rights (e.g. freedom of religion, expression, association). 

Other rights, which are explicitly protected in and by the Constitution, will be abridged to make room for this new alleged right. 

iii) In addition, it depends on what Licona means by "theocracy." Does he mean religious principles have no place in social policy?

One classic argument against homosexuality appeals to natural law. That's implicitly religious. 

By contrast, people who subscribe to naturalistic evolution deny natural teleology. They deny proper function in nature. On that view, homosexuality is just a natural variation. 

If, however, Licona thinks that religious principles are disallowed in that sense, then the law must treat all "natural" behavior alike. There is no natural right or wrong. Consider the legal and social consequences of that outlook. As one philosopher put it:

If we really took this line of reasoning seriously, we'd have to apply it to other conditions that virtually no one wants to see as perfectly normal. For example, one could argue that pedophilia is just a different way of being, and we should respect it. After all, it's caused by a brain condition, and all brain conditions are equally good. In terms of the arguments I see from the neurodiversity movement, I see no way to say the things they say while avoiding such a conclusion. There are plenty of ways to distinguish between the two cases, but I don't see how those are available given the extreme sorts of statements that I regularly see among neurodiversity advocates.But on one level, I can't blame the neurodiversity movement (and the more general relativistic outlook among other disability communities). After all, their view follows fairly easily from a particular version of secularized naturalistic thinking. Different neurological conditions stem from natural variation, and there's no other level of explanation but natural variation. There's no God who designed human beings to have certain capabilities. There are no natural purposes according to which organisms have a nature, and certain capacities are part of what a well-functioning member of their species will be able to do. There's no notion of well-functioning if your worldview doesn't allow for higher-level explanations about purposes and design, other than perhaps simply asking whether a particular organism fits into the way most members of its species are or whether it fits the patterns members of its species typically desire for themselves. There's nothing objective about what a healthy member of that species or a well-functioning member of that species would be like. There is no way we can have a notion of the way we ought to be if there's no ground for what it would be to be the way we ought to be.

iv) There's also the general problem of grounding social mores if you rule out religion. If secular reasoning can't justify objective moral norms, then public policy because an arbitrary exercise in power. 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Isaiah's Vision of the Lord

6 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Craig’s miracles lecture at Spring Arbor University

Buy the refs

The first lie is that there has been a “sea change” in American public opinion, and that all this tumult around us is the result of that sea change. This is not even close to being true. This has been a power play to establish such a sea change; it is in no way the result of it.
Teams that bite, kick, gouge, and otherwise cheat, and which buy all the refs for a tidy little sum beforehand, are not teams that are confident of winning in the ordinary way. 

Secular morality

The whole notion of “secular” reasoning was invented to ground morality and ethics in principles that are universally recognized. The whole point of the Enlightenment project was that once we all agree to the “secular” principles laid out in, say, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason or John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty everyone would lay aside their religious peculiarities and agree on everything and bloodshed and war and bigotry and ignorance and hatred and conflict would end. So, then: since we live in this secular utopia where only secular ideals govern, well-nigh 300 years on from Kant, name one issue of public policy everybody agrees on.

Party politics

i) Every time we have a new election cycle, we have the same debate. It goes something like this:

"You Christian Republicans are so naive. You imagine that if you can just elect a Republic president or Republican majority in Congress, that will return the country to conservative values. How often must you be hoodwinked by cynical campaign promises before you learn your lesson? The only solution is a third party."

There are variations on that objection, but that's the gist of it. By way of reply:

ii) We can only work with what we've got. In a better world, we'd have better options. But we must play the hand we were dealt. 

iii) A perennial problem with the third party option is that a third party is a getaway car with square wheels. There are never enough third party voters to make it a viable national party.

iv) In fairness, someone might object that that's circular. If everyone who is now wasting their votes on Republican candidates formed a third party, there'd be enough voters to make it a viable national party.

To begin with, I have no evidence that there are enough voters to make that happen, even if they all threw in their lot with the same party.

But suppose there were enough voters, and suppose they all joined forces. Problem is, in my experience, many people who hanker for a third party object to the GOP, not because it's too liberal, but because it's too conservative. They dislike the GOP because they dislike the religious right. They view Democrats and social conservatives as two sides of the same coin: both groups want to use gov't to control human behavior, but curtail it in different directions. 

Basically, they're secular libertarians. So if they got their wish, the third party would be even less accommodating to social conservatives than the GOP. It would be even less representative of my own policy priorities than the GOP. 

I'm not saying everyone who waxes wistful for a third party shares that outlook, but at least in my experience, many voters want a third party as an alternative to the GOP because they wish to decouple their locomotive from the Christian railcars. 

v) I don't vote Republican because I think that's bound to advance my political views, or even because I think that will likely advance my political views. That's not how I frame the issue.

Rather, it goes like this: if you fight, you may win or lose, but if you surrender, you are bound to lose. If you don't try to score goals, and you do nothing to block the other team's play, you effectively forfeit the game. I'll take a 10% chance of winning over a 100% certainty of losing. 

The Democrat party is utterly intolerant of social conservatives. Utterly intolerant of Bible-believing Christians. Increasingly hostile to the Bill of Rights and the consent of the governed. That's a party which has nothing to offer someone with my views. 

Suppose I have a teenager who's diagnosed with leukemia. The prognosis without treatment is that he will be dead in a year. The prognosis with treatment is that he's got a 40% chance of surviving 5 years, and maybe he will be cured. (I'm pulling those figures out of thin air.)

Those are poor odds. But it's worth it to me to have another five years with my teenager. If he foregoes treatment, there's nothing to gain and everything to lose. If he undergoes treatment, there's nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I don't vote Republican because I'm an optimist about the GOP, but because I'm a pessimist about the alternative. I don't vote Republican on the presumption that the GOP will serve my interests, but because it's a dead certainty that Democrats will oppose my interests. 

v) This isn't carte blanche for the future. I'm referring to both parties c. 2015.