Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss the “Respect for Marriage Act,” the tension between politics, state’s rights, and the church, religious liberty updates, and whether Christians should try to legislate morality.
First, they discuss the recently passed, so-called, “Respect For Marriage Act,” and its connection to Obergefell, Congress, and the Supreme Court (6:46). They then consider the cultural events that led up to our present time and why we strayed from biblical marriage (12:00). Dr. Denison explains Constitutional law, and why it’s relevant to the conversation of religious liberty, State’s rights, and whether Christians should defend biblical marriage in the legal arena (20:00). They hone in on the separation of the Church and State, and what the Bible says about Christian’s involvement in politics in the New Testament (33:00). They then discuss whether the Respect For Marriage Act impedes religious liberty (48:00). Dr. Denison closes by explaining the difference between the civil rights protecting LBGTQ people and the civil rights of ethnic minorities, and why we can’t make the legal comparison (56:05)
Resources and further reading:
- “Does the so-called “Respect For Marriage Act” threaten our religious liberty?” – Dr. Jim Denison
- “Why the Equality Act is the greatest threat to religious liberty today” – Dr. Jim Denison and Greg Baylor
- “Respect For Marriage Act: An Imprudent Compromise” – David French
- “The Equality Act: What Christians need to know” – Dr. Jim Denison
- “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” – Dr. Jim Denison
- “What does the Bible say about abortion?” – Dr. Jim Denison
About the hosts
Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.
Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.
Transcribed by Otter.Ai
Mark Turman 00:10
Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison forum. And we want to thank you for joining us for the launch of our second year. Dr. Jim is sitting down with us again, Jim, glad to have you with us today. So glad to be with you, Mark. Thanks for the privilege. So it’s, you know that that expression, time flies when you’re having fun, so hard to believe that we’ve done 50 Plus episodes of the Denison Forum Podcast and haven’t got the most recent numbers, but we’re hovering somewhere around maybe 100,000 engagements of people who have engaged with us through this particular platform. We’re grateful for all of you who have done that hope that you’ll continue to listen to us in year two, but we’re having fun with this right? Well, in fact, the only real problem we have here is that those that are listening to us can’t see what I can see right now. That’s what they don’t know is right across me on the table. This Dr. Mark Turman wearing a bright orange Whataburger sweater, I’m going to do my best not to be distracted as we have this conversation. And what you’re saying is, is you’re envious of the sweater that I don’t think that’s what I was saying. But perhaps so well, but I have to I have to reveal that I do have a career ambition here that I haven’t discussed with you. And I hope that there is some significant number of water burger executives listening to this podcast can hope I have met a few of them. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of actually dedicating three different water burgers in my town. And how do you dedicate a Whataburger when you ask? We can get into the weeds if you want to. Or we can get into the fries, as we should say here. But my goal is to become the chaplain at water bra and I am gonna share this goal are they aware of this goal, they hopefully becoming aware of my goal in this particular conversation will help that one hopes and I have shamelessly used anything and everything including my four year old daughter granddaughter, I have decked her out and all of the appropriate water burger gear which by the way you can get at the water store did not know that exists. So this is a PSA announcement for water burger at least so and so I’m just hoping that they eventually noticed that I am you know, their most rabid fan and that obviously results in a free water Burger number one or something perhaps larger. So you know, it’s one of those things of what Job would I give this job up for? And that will probably be it well, all right, we’re gonna. And if you don’t live in Texas, you probably have no idea what we’re talking about.
Jim Denison 02:37
But for those of us in Texas, Whataburger is kind of the national anthem of sorts. And so while in there, so when we finish this conversation, I’m actually going upstairs to talk to one of our team who’s from Georgia, and she has never had a water burger. I’m so sorry. So I don’t know how long we’re going to allow that to continue. But I have to fix that. So we need to correct that so that she can be enlightened, apparently so yes. So if you’re in this, why everyone’s listening to this. Conversely, if you’re in if you’re in Texas, you know, we can talk about fast food, water, burgers, and fast food otherwise, but anyway, we’re gonna get on to some other things to get to do this podcast and to have longer conversations about really important things like water, burger, french fries, and and milkshakes. All right. But kind of the big theme of what we do around here is what it means to help people and help believers to be cultural ambassadors. I like to sometimes say cultural missionaries, more than seeing themselves as cultural warriors, cultural warrior, has this idea that somebody needs to win and somebody else needs to lose, and that there needs to be a whole lot of ramifications from that. I think the idea of cultural ambassador cultural missionary is more in keeping with what God is calling us to. And I want to frame a conversation around how that looks particularly around this big, big area in our culture of sexuality and marriage. We’re launching this second year, right in the midst of the Congress and the President having created a law called the Respect for Marriage Act.
Mark Turman 04:15
And so called Respect for Marriage Act, and a lot of concerns, new concerns and some confusion, I think around that. But before we get into that, I have a story out of the news I am maybe you you can either react, not react or go any direction you want to this. Just wondered if you saw this story. It might be a metaphor. This was recently in the news that the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that a dozen bald eagles were hospitalized at the University of Minnesota raptor center after they poison themselves by eating carcasses of animals that were chemically euthanized and then dumped in the landfill and Nearly all of the Eagles are expected to recover fully. And as the reporter said, this might be a metaphor for the United States. When you reaction on
Jim Denison 05:09
a variety of levels isn’t that the case? What you eat is what you become
right? That’s not just true physically, as the Eagles are dead water burger or whatever anything
Jim Denison 05:18
else we might discuss. Marcus Aurelius said, the happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. Jesus said, at least in the King James translation as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he, our thoughts produce our actions and our actions change our lives. You know, I think it was John F. Kennedy that said, men live and die, kingdoms rise and fall, nations rise and fall, but ideas live forever. And so at the end of the day, and that’s why what we do is so fascinating to me. The ideas that we embrace and the ideas we drink, go so far, what we consume. In that sense, the life of the mind, as it were, is in so many ways foundational to who we are as a culture, and who we’re going to be as a culture. Interesting, the Jesus in the great commandments will tell us to love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, mind, strength, you can look at a variety of ways, but hard in the Bible, in the biblical psychology is the seed of intellect, emotions, and well, it’s the essence of who you are, well, I can’t see your heart. But I can see the outcomes of your heart. I can’t see what’s happening inside you. But I can see what’s happening because of what’s happening inside you. And so guard what you eat, guard what you consume, whether that’s physical or that’s intellectual, that’s moral, that spiritual that’s relational, we have to be good stewards at that point, because we become what we consume, as it were,
Mark Turman 06:30
it will set the arc of your life it will in whatever direction it’s going to be. So we’re stepping into 2023, which is hard to believe. I just don’t even know how to think about that right now is July 4 last week? That’s right. Exactly. And, you know, I’m I’m going to turn 60 in this new year. Very, that’s very hard for me to believe as well. But recent days, as we step into this new year, with the passage and signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, a couple of things from that experience that were reported, just want to set these things as context for us. The President Joe Biden said this upon signing this legislation, today is a good day a day America takes a vital step toward equality for liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone, toward creating a nation where decency, dignity and love are recognized, honored and protected. Reports of the signing ceremony indicated that there were perhaps as many as 5300 guests that were in attendance on the South Lawn of the White House, for this historic moment. And even some of the invited guests caught the attention of reporters, one of them being a person who had performed in drag in front of kids was in specifically invited to the ceremony. But that’s set the context for the formal institution of what is so called the RET Respect for Marriage Act, raising a new set of concerns and questions for Christians, and particularly about how they look at this, how they express their witness their their beliefs, their concerns about the biblical definition of sexuality and marriage. But to kind of frame this for us, Jim, can you kind of just walk us through some of the big milestones of Americans relationship to marriage, sexuality, over just say, the last 50 or so years, or even 60 years of my life for more than 1963? Some really significant pivot points, just in the time that I that you and I have been alive. So
Jim Denison 08:45
sure, it’s a very interesting story really is, and I’m no expert here, but I think I can give us a bit of an arc and an overview of it. And really, the common denominator in all of this is the tension, the intended tension that our founders created between states laws and federal laws between what are federal rights like civil rights, civil rights acts of the 1960s. And states rights, as regards marriage specifically. And even as recently as Respect for Marriage Act, it’s made very clear there, that the federal government does not have the right to tell a state it must marry somebody Obergefell could be interpreted that way. According to Obergefell, Texas would have to marry a same sex couple if they wish to do that Respect for Marriage Act does not require that what it requires Texas to do is to recognize them say same sex marriage performed in New Mexico, let’s say because it recognizes that the federal government cannot tell the state what to do in the context of marriage relative to what it must do, but it can tell it what to recognize in the context of federal civil rights. And that’s a balance that’s a tension if you’re confused hearing that. So am I in saying that? That’s a lot of the Supreme Court’s work
Mark Turman 09:51
over all these decades, that kind of seems to launch us back into Okay, so Texas or any individual state could theoretically say to outlaw same sex marriage, as long as they recognized those marriages from other places,
Jim Denison 10:07
that’s if Respect for Marriage Act prevails, which will only happen if Obergefell falls. That’s something people don’t know about this Respect for Marriage Act is intended only and is legal, only a backstop, if Obergefell 2015 were to be overturned. This all on some level came out of justice Thomas’s statement back in a recent argument in which he made the claim that Obergefell was perhaps an even loving and 67, which we can talk about, where perhaps wrongly sided decided by the Supreme Court in that they were taking states rights away from them. And so it’s in that response, at least in one telling of the Respect for Marriage, that this was put forward. So if that ever fell, then this would at that point become the law of the land. So under Obergefell, what you just said, wouldn’t be the case, under Obergefell, Texas does not have the right to deny a same sex wedding, under Respect for Marriage Act, it does have the right not to initiate but must recognize that’s the balance that’s trying to be maintained here between states rights and federal rights. And that in many ways goes into the entire question you asked about the arc on marriage 67. Loving versus Virginia as another example, that’s the landmark decision in which the Supreme Court took the position that interracial marriages must be legal. Well, is that a state’s rights decision? It wasn’t Virginia. On the other hand, the Civil Rights Act preceding 67 made it clear that individuals could not be discriminated against on the basis of their race on the basis of their ethnicity. And so the civil rights legislation about civil rights for individuals who happen to be African American prevailed over the state’s rights ability to decide who to marry. Same thing with Obergefell, the decision was made that the federal right as a word to recognize same sex individuals as having same sex couples is having the same rights. And they made a constitutional argument for this prevailed over a state’s right to decide who we could and couldn’t marry. So it’s going to be this balance all through this issue, as regards what the Supreme Court can say what the states can say, what the Congress can do, it’s a very confusing
Mark Turman 12:03
part of why they’re gonna say, So 30 years ago, I ended up in a conversation with a person who was basically my age who was on the track of becoming a constitutional lawyer, and very intrigued me. And I thought, you know, if God hadn’t called me to ministry, that might be a really interesting path. But you get into this very, you know, long historical, like you said, tension between federal rights and the federal government and states rights and, and unless you kind of develop a career or real passion into the understanding of our republic, you may stay at some level confused about all of this. Yeah.
Jim Denison 12:43
And then the third element that factors in all of that, as well as not just the federal piece, the state piece, but also the cultural piece. And now we’re back in the 50s and early 60s, where and we’ve talked about this, it’s in the book, The coming tsunami, it’s in lots of literature, how the culture starts changing for various reasons, its understanding of sexuality, its understanding of sex as a sacred act between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. You see the legalization of birth control the 1960, which by the way, was only legally initially allowed for married couples. Most people don’t know that their birth control initially could not be prescribed to a single individual,
Mark Turman 13:16
which is an interesting thought process in and of itself, terrible all
Jim Denison 13:19
by itself is that now we’re back to those eagles and all of that, but but back in the day, the ability for an individual to have sex with less consequence in terms of becoming pregnant was a major step in a redefinition of what sexuality needs to be and ultimately what marriage needs to be. Now you move into the 60s in the so called sexual liberation movement. You’ve got Playboy and pornography, which is starting the 50s really proliferating. You’re thinking about Woodstock, you’re thinking about the the riots of 1969. And really the movement forward of LGBTQ activism and all of that goes to 73. And Roe v. Wade goes to 2015 and Obergefell. And at some point, I think it’s going to come to plural marriage as well, or polygamous marriage,
Mark Turman 13:57
but also kind of in a slightly larger context also includes views about things like divorce, oh, absolutely no fault divorce, and many people don’t remember that. It was then Governor Ronald Reagan in California who actually signed the first actual no fault divorce law in 19 6970. Right in there
Jim Denison 14:18
later said that he regretted it, he thought it was his biggest mistake, as a as a political leader. But at the time, he was influenced by all those individuals, especially in his background in Hollywood, and in the movie industry, who were in very abusive marriages are in very difficult marriages, and especially the wives who, prior to no fault divorce had such a difficult trajectory, trying to prove the abuse to a level where they could be granted a divorce. And until that happened, they were still in the abusive marriage and
Mark Turman 14:42
they wouldn’t win the case before then that you couldn’t get a divorce. It’s just much more difficult. That’s
Jim Denison 14:46
right now with no fault divorce, you could have a divorce, essentially, in your reason is to simplify all of that, and he would say it was to prevent abuse. Well, now marriage itself is significantly abused as a result of this, isn’t it? Because there’s so little consequence to get be married anymore. You don’t have the consequence of pregnancy, because of sexual sexual relations, you don’t have the consequence of remaining married or even the consequence of the gender that you will marry. And I think one day the number of people that you can marry, there are already two municipalities, I can think of the Massachusetts that are now civilly recognizing plural marriages, or polygamous relationships. One of the thing the Respect for Marriage Act expressly for aid is, is they could be used to authorize plural marriages. It did get ahead of that, because he had it understood that trajectory issue and that slippery slope kind of argument. So at least as it now stands, it would not be that if, let’s say Massachusetts recognized plural marriages that Texas would be required to recognize those, it expressly has that provision included as well, which is good news, I
Mark Turman 15:45
suppose. So that that could be part of what’s coming,
Jim Denison 15:48
I think and, unfortunately, is, in fact, Justice Roberts in his dissent, and Obergefell, made the point that the language used in Obergefell, is exactly the language and logic that you would be using to authorize polygamous marriage, if the state has no right to tell you what gender you should marry, it has no right to tell you the number of people you should marry, there are estimated to be 50 to 100,000, polygamous, Muslim relationships in America today. Because in Islam, a man can marry up to four wives. So the way it works legally is he marries his first wife in a legal sense, and his other three in civil ceremonies at the Islamic Center of the mosque or whatever. They’re not legal marriages, but they’re functional marriages. So the argument is, what right is it of America to discriminate against Muslims, at the point of the number of people their religion says they can marry?
Mark Turman 16:33
So we’re there? Again, just trying to think my way through this is part of the response to that in the context of the United States anyway, that we might say, No, all four of those marriages need to be legitimized by the government so as to protect all four of those Cisely. That would
Jim Denison 16:51
be the argument relative to health care relative to legal support for them legal protections for them. Common Law relative to property rights, those other three are in many ways. Second class, it isn’t just because we are so called discriminating against Muslims, by not allowing so called plural marriage or polygamous marriage to be legal. That’s the argument. And it’s gaining force right now, in the culture. That’s one of the reasons Respect for Marriage Act was so frightening in its initial condition is that it very clearly would have required Texas, let’s say where you and I live, to require or to recognize a polygamous marriage that was performed in another state. So that got added as I understand it to the RFA in order to get ahead of that more for political reasons than anything else, I think, get past the filibuster and get it into law. That doesn’t mean that in the future, that couldn’t be changed. All legislation could be changed in the future, right.
Mark Turman 17:43
Which kind of brings me around to just one question that just seems to come up in this whole conversation. I can see people believers having this idea look, okay, 2015, I thought we settled this whole thing with a burger fell. And why? Why did the Congress go to so so much effort to bring this up again, and create this specific law? And often the conversation seems to be well, we would have not done all of this. If it hadn’t been for Judge Clarence Thomas and his comments in the summer last year, relative to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and including some comments around this and the idea of reviewing Obergefell. Do you think that’s legitimate? Do you think it simply was Judge Thomas’s comments that triggered the creation and the formalization of this law? Or would it have happened anyway,
Jim Denison 18:39
it would have happened anyway, I have no doubt about that. The so called Equality Act, which is far worse and the religious of Respect for Marriage Act had already been passed by the House twice. And that’s what Obergefell in place, and would have extended the thinking of LGBTQ activism on a level that would have had no appeal to religious Religious Freedom Restoration Act or any kind of First Amendment religious liberty at all. It’s a horrific possibility. It’s draconian, if you think about that. Well, that was already, as I said, had already been passed by the Congress twice to try to get back into this on a congressional level. But what game I think political covered and move forward with this was first of all, overturning roe meant that something like Obergefell could be overturned. They’d been the thought prior to that, that starry decisis they did once it’s been decided by previous jurisprudence that it takes an extraordinary argument to overturn. And so that’s why these landmark decisions are difficult over history to overturn. There hadn’t been on occasion, obviously, Dred Scott, horrific pro slavery kind of legislation, overturn that sort of thing, but it’s typically not done. And so if the if roe could fall in the Dobbs decision could Obergefell fall was the thing that caused people to wonder now, why would we be backward? We weren’t. And then just in his arguments in the context of DODDS is when Judge Thomas said that in his personal view, he felt that Obergefell like roe had been falsely decided relative to states rights that gave him that’s just my own opinion. I’ll be reading minds here. But that gave those who wanted the political win of same sex marriage advocacy, in a political context, a reason to come forward with a Respect for Marriage Act and move it to where it is. Now, as I said a moment ago, it is completely irrelevant as an exercise unless Obergefell falls. And so it doesn’t change anything today. It doesn’t we talk about this, but it doesn’t confer any religious protections for believers in whatever context they might be today, because it’s not law. It’s only there if Obergefell falls. And so it was in many ways, legal exercise, I guess, you could say, certainly gave political advantage to those who supported it on various levels. But while judge Thomas’s justice Thomas’s comments, certainly were used to move this forward, as I said, the Equality Act so called to call the Equality Act have been in discussion much Previous to this, right.
Mark Turman 20:57
So in some ways, just kind of to wrap up, maybe the the side on understanding constitutional matters. Really, the way that the Congress or the government was set up originally would have been that this would have been done in reverse that Congress would have created this law. And then later on, you would have had a case perhaps, like Obergefell, where the law was interpreted, but in this case, we did it in reverse.
Jim Denison 21:24
Exactly. So same with Roe v. Wade, precisely the case, the largest argument against both Obergefell and Roe v. Wade is in both cases, the justices discovered rights that are not clearly in evidence in the Constitution. And in that sense, wrote law that’s right function for Congress, as it were. Now, this goes to the living Constitution argument, versus the originalist approach. And so to simplify, my personal position would be that the judge the job of the courts, ultimately, the Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution as it now stands. And as it was intended to be understood, the living Constitution argument that Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others made was that the Constitution is a living document that must be continually reinterpreted, as is appropriate and relevant to the times. And so she was very clear about a lot of things. She was a brilliant person. But Justice Ginsburg, for instance, was very clear in saying, when the culture changes its position on subjects like abortion or same sex marriage, it’s the job of the courts to reinterpret the Constitution in ways that keeps it relevant to where the culture is going. And so in that sense, she would say Roe v. Wade was appropriate Obergefell was appropriate, that’s the job of the courts is to keep the Constitution relevant to the culture, I and others that would be originalist, and that would be the majority of the Supreme Court today would take the opposite position. It’s the job of the court simply to interpret the Constitution as it is, I would apply that to Scripture. My job as a pastor, as a preacher is to interpret the intended meaning of the text, not to reinterpret the text or realign it, to keep it on some level relevant to a changing culture. North is north. And as if we start reinterpreting north on the compass, Cambridge dictionary recently came out with new definitions of man and woman that make it clear now that a person can claim to be a man, even if they were born, if their gender at birth was female, and vice versa. Well, this good friend of mine asked once we start redefining words and dictionaries, where do we stop? Right? Which dictionary prevails? Which student answers on the test is correct? Do we need a Christian dictionary at some point, if so, who gets to write all of that, and so that goes to what the Constitution itself exists to be. But in the thinking of those in 73, and in 2015, it’s a living document, and therefore they could do I think the job of Congress in creating law, not just interpreting law.
Mark Turman 23:42
So we’re back to the reality of a number of these tensions that we live in as human beings. We live in this tension that okay, definitions matter, and words should mean what they mean. Yet at the same time, there is I think, I heard someone say years ago, there’s a 17% drift in language every year, where I remember this, this example, that a pastor used one time he said, you know, in the King James English, the word conversation is used, excuse me to refer to your whole manner of life, right to everything about the way that you behave. But today, we’ll use the word conversation to refer to what you and I are doing right now, which is simply talking to each other, and not to something larger. So words do change in some ways, but not wholescale. So we live in in that tension. We live in the tension between federal rights and states rights, we live in the tension. And this always comes up when a seat is open on the Supreme Court. Is this person going to be more of an originalist or more of the living document side of interpretation? You’ll hear that in various terms, but always comes up and is also within the context of our faith? About how we understand In the Bible, do we understand it in a stronger, more original list view? Or do we have more of this living document view. And we were faced with dealing with these tensions all the time.
Jim Denison 25:13
And even more foundational to that is the whole post modernist move that says that all truth is personal, individual and subjective, whether it’s the Bible of the Constitution, or your local laws, or whatever they might be that there is no such thing as truth. They’re just your truth and my truth, period. Now, of course, that’s a truth claim. It’s like saying, it’s a fact that there are no facts, right. But that, nonetheless, is where the culture has gotten to even beyond the Constitution, even beyond the Bible. And in that context, we have to tolerate all behavior that doesn’t, in my view, harm somebody else. Because I want the same tolerance for my behavior that I’m extending to you. And that’s even larger than the constitution.
Mark Turman 25:46
So is that practically to the point of saying, Well, okay, I’ll give you some room to change your definition. So that later on note, if I want to change my definitions, you’ll be in agreement with me or you give me that permission?
Jim Denison 25:58
I think so. Okay, so
Mark Turman 25:59
let’s talk about definitions for a little bit, particularly definitions around the word marriage, because I can remember back in the Clinton administration in the 90s, when we had this conversation, and we had what was called the Defense of Marriage Act were 93, many evangelicals contended for so that there would be a government federal government definition of marriage, that that law has now been overturned expressly, expressly because of this now 23 Respect for Marriage Act.
Jim Denison 26:37
And by the way, the Defense of Marriage Act had enormous appeal across the board. It was almost unanimous in its in its adoption, I said, 93 back in the early 90s, when Clinton signed it on, signed on to it himself. And going forward past that President Obama, when he was campaigning made it very clear that he believed that marriage is only reserved for men and women, Hillary Clinton made that point along the way. And so there’s been a lot of change Chuck Schumer. And so there’s been a lot of change between here and there. And I’m not being critical of them. That’s certainly the case on the Republican side on a variety of subjects as well. But yeah, back in the 90s, that was expressly put in place to make very clear where the federal government understood marriage to be, as it was itself defining marriage. Now, its critics will come along and say, well, as much as I agree with you on the merits, once again, you’re doing the state’s job for them. Now you’re getting into space where you’re legislating morality on a federal level that I’ll be left in the States, as I understand the role of the states and the government in the Constitution. One of the changes mark that has Chaput happened in my lifetime, in our culture relative to jurisprudence, that I think is important to understand, in the constitutional context, the federal government is given and I’m no lawyer, but I think I can make this case, pretty succinctly, the federal government has essentially leftover responsibilities that all jurisprudence starts at home, the government starts at home. And that in the mind of the of the founders, it was the states that really were where authority was primarily to be to be rested. And the federal government existed only to do what the states could not themselves do, like have a national army, or eventually do an income tax. And that was a huge issue by itself, and things like social security and medicare and medicaid back in the 60s, even those were were hard to believe today, very much debated, because the thought was you’re taking over states responsibilities here. Well, if Thomas Jefferson was here, he’d be saying to you, the United States, if you look at the Constitution, you as small states has capital. Before the Civil War, people used to say the United States are now they say the United States is prior to that there was a strong argument. I mean, Jefferson even said, if the states wish to secede, let them do so. The the argument among the founders was that this the rights of the states were what were paramount. And then the government, the federal government existed only in a secondary sense to do what the states collectively or individually could not do. Well, now it’s all reversed.
Mark Turman 28:56
I gonna say that’s not that’s not the way we typically think
Jim Denison 28:59
of it. Now, the states are the minor leagues and the federal government’s the major leagues. And there was a day when the presidency was much more ceremonial spokesman for the nation than a person who has seemed to be the titular head of the government, as a king might be, or as a on Prime Minister might be in a different kind of government. So the psychology is all changed from what the founders would have recognized relative to the role of the federal versus the states. And marriage is just kind of the point of that spear.
Mark Turman 29:26
And probably a lot of things we could point to that have brought that about, certainly, something is significant is World War, sure, and the necessary the depression prior to that depression, such large scale problems that have led to this kind of shift in the understanding, but indiscriminate Jim Crow laws, Jim Crow laws, discrimination, everything discrimination, right, especially in the south, that was not going to be cured, except for civil rights legislation, right, the 60s. And so and we and we might even say even in this discussion, the whole issue of just human sexuality The and how we understand that how we relate to this part of our of our society relative to marriage that it is such a significant, foundational fundamental area that it crosses into all of the relationships of the states. So, in that sense, to what degree would you say that, that a any definition of marriage matters? And from an evangelical Christian perspective? Would we be more at peace with this? If we had said, Okay, well, we want to keep the definition of marriage that was adopted in the Clinton administration and will allow for something maybe under this definition of civil union, for anything that is not between a man and a woman, would that have been more palatable, would that have made this less divisive within our culture less divisive within our families?
Jim Denison 30:56
That’s a massive debate that’s happening right now, as regards how to see the Respect for Marriage Act in particular, and the larger context of how the church relates to the culture in general, to put two names before us, one would be David French, and we’ve had on our podcast, somebody I have great respect for and is himself a constitutional lawyer on a level that I’m not a new apparently only aspire to be. And so exactly his position would be in it is specifically with Respect for Marriage Act, that we need to understand here, that the whole definition of marriage is a legal construct. The marriage itself is in the purview of the civil government. And so we as believers want to participate in that conversation. We want to elect Christians who will be legislators, we, he’s not advocating at all for a kind of monastic withdrawal from society. But he’s saying, Look, this is a civil conversation that we’re having here. And legislating morality is a very difficult thing to do. You and I disagree with adultery, but we’re not trying to make it illegal. You know, we disagree with cigarette smoking, but we’re not trying to make it illegal. And so at that point, it’s really not our business, to be deciding what the definition of marriage itself must be. In a secular sense. We’re a secular government, the word God nowhere appears in the Constitution, we were intended to have you understand separation of church and state to have a secular government, a secular nation, as opposed to a theocracy, that might somehow otherwise be the option. And so that’s one way to answer your question is, look, you and I can have whatever defense of marriage or definition of marriage we wish, if we’re pastoring churches, we can work within that context, the state so far has not come along and said to us, we must even under Obergefell, we must perform same sex weddings haven’t gotten to that place yet. Now quality I could get us there, we’ll have to see. But to that point, we’re not there yet. So you and I can define marriage, how we wish, and let’s let the state do what it wants to do. It’s also it’s almost a render to Caesar Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s
Mark Turman 32:46
so is a significant part of the conversation. Like one of our friends that I read earlier this week on this topic, was talking about the conversation between JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis on this, the issue of how Christians should look at God’s truth. And if you want to put it in this context, God’s law becoming the law of a nation or of society, and that apparently, Lewis and Tolkien has significant disagreements or different views on this, where Lewis was basically arguing in the David French lives, right? That Okay, well, there’s, we have our faith reality, and there is a faith component component of our lives, that we adhere to the things that the Bible is teaching us. But this is not a theocracy. And this is not where our particular beliefs as Christians need to be imposed upon all of civil society. This is could be or could be right. And, and I think that’s where some Christians sometimes get the idea of, well, we need to go back to that time in history, whether it’s American history or some other part of history, where it was essentially a Christian theocracy, and the the laws of God, the 10 commandments, and other parts of Scripture were the law of the land, and that was the best of times. But there never really has been a perfect expression of that, and there never will be. That’s right. And the American experiment, as we often refer to it, as is this pluralistic environment of where we’re seeking to have freedom as Christians, but not just for Christians. Were even trying to have freedom for those who have no faith at all tried or claimed have no faith Amendment applies to all of us. And so we’re going, we’re going to have to try to operate in this tension. But it appears that in in the article that I read that token would have argued at the other way, that at any point that you that you allow to step away from what the Bible reveals is God’s truth. You’re headed in a destructive direction for
Jim Denison 34:57
everybody that does that, you know, Their conversation had to do specifically with marriage itself. And this was in a day back in the 40s, when divorce is becoming debated in British society on a level that’s almost just not fathomable to us, that’s how far we’ve moved in a bad direction, you would say, I think, as a culture from that point. And so Lewis was wanting to say, well, marriage can be civil over here, and religious over here, let the church do what it wants to do about marriage and let civil society do what it wants to do about marriage and divorce.
Mark Turman 35:24
And you see that in Europe, I had the opportunity to marry a couple in which the groom was from Belgium, and she was from the United States, they actually ended up having three weddings. They had a wedding here that I officiated, then they went back to his country. And they had a ceremony at the courthouse, which was considered by his country to be the real wedding. And then they went to a church in his country and had a third wedding. And that’s, that’s how you now see it played out in places in Europe.
Jim Denison 35:58
Oh, sure. I did a wedding in Scotland a couple years ago. And I had to get permission to the Scottish Government to perform that wedding. It was a very long process, it was a very long document I had to fill out it took a long time to get there to where I was authorized on that one occasion on that one day at that one chapel, the University of St. Andrews, by the by the Scottish Government to perform that wedding. Because in their context, any religious wedding in their world had to be done under governmental approval, at least for someone on the outside. Well, the simpler way to get around that, and I’m seeing people here in Texas do this is to make an argument look in light of same sex marriage, and all that may come on the other side of it, plural, marriage, all that, let’s get out of the out of the legal marriage business altogether, let’s
Mark Turman 36:38
just let’s just take the term out of it completely, so So and recognize some other kind of union between persons,
Jim Denison 36:45
and then exactly. And so the movement has been called covenant marriage. And I’m aware of churches that have their own marriage license, as it were, that they’re drawing up around what covenant marriage, and they, when they perform a wedding, they sign that document, then they say, Now, if you want to be legally married, you gotta go down to the courthouse. If you want a legal marriage license, as we would recommend you to do for all sorts of legal reasons, go down to the courthouse and do that. But we’re going to be so out of this business, that we’re not even going to sign legal marriage licenses, as I have for 40 years.
Mark Turman 37:16
But it is it just that is to move in the direction of where Europe
Jim Denison 37:19
- That’s right, and what French would argue and what Lewis would have argued right? Now, Tolkien will come to the other side, and, and he would make the claim, look, if the Bible is right, it’s right for everybody. If Adultery is wrong, it’s wrong. If same sex relations are wrong, they’re wrong. And for us to defend the Respect for Marriage Act, because it gives us some religious protections, which we can come back and discuss that’s been much debated recent days, is maybe on some level of practical argument, but not at the end of the day of moral argument, that we ought to be standing for what is best for everybody. We believe biblical truth is best for everybody. And so we ought not be on any level endorsing jurisprudence or congressional action, that legitimizes what harms those who take so called advantage of its provisions. So what do you take on that? Well, here’s the challenge inside this market, I’ve gone back and forth on this myself, I’ve thought about writing articles on this and have not so far chosen to do so because I don’t know my own mind well enough to come to that place. One of the things that you do as you get in these arguments pretty quickly, is you start asking, Okay, what precedents are you creating here? If you take the talking precedent, on the face of it, as I understand it, and it’s not just his this would be all molars position? I think this would be Johnstone Street’s position, I think, certainly relative to the so called religious liberties that are theoretically protected, but maybe not so much. Once you start doing that, where do you stop? Now? Should we have a conversation about adultery? Should we have a conversation about pornography as it gets defined?
Mark Turman 38:47
Because I think if we go back in history, just to pause you for a moment, we would find that there were laws specifically outlawing adultery. That’s right. And even outlawing what the Bible calls fornication or sex between non married person that’s right, that there were specific laws, it was criminal to do these things. And that’s not so far in our past.
Jim Denison 39:08
That’s right. And I think Tolkiens logic would extend in that direction. We’ll go to the place that Okay, once we’re going to essentially impose or perhaps through jurisprudence, we get enough Christians elected office that we can win a vote here, or change the mind of the culture enough or have a spiritual renewal or spiritual awakening to the place where the culture says, okay, the Bible is right, about same sex relationships, what the god what God says is true, that these relationships are damaging to those that participate in them. And so I’m not just defending the right to be wrong here. I’m not just defending my own particular religious liberties. I’m saying this because I want what’s best for you. That should be our position here. I don’t want that to be same sex marriage because I don’t want people to do what’s harmful to them, whatever that behavior might be. But again, I understand that position, and I understand how that would be an argument against the Respect for Marriage Act, and that’s an argument that’s being made right now. I will Come forward before I took that position to ask how far I should go with it. Whether it is an A conversation relative to adultery relative to pornography, relative to any number of biblical prohibitions in coveting relative to understandings of identity and theft, there are a large number of theocratic implications once we start down that road. Now, if I say Okay, so for that reason, I’m not going to go there. Now I’ve got a wonderful precedent have created the other direction. Now, are there any biblical statements that we ought to be arguing for on a legal level? If we’re not willing to defend marriage, in the court of public opinion? And if we’re willing to, that’d be two worlds here, kind of the Augustinian world of God and world in a city of God and city of the world? If I’m willing to do that with marriage? Am I willing also to do that in other sexual expressions? Am I willing to do this on every level of morality? Once I start, take taking the lowest position and move that far? How far do I go down that road? That’s where I’m struggling myself. Right now. I think right now, for the current context, we’re pretty well settled out here. The argument for plural marriage does not seem to be gathering enormous momentum right now, a lot of people think it was included in the respect from Eric, mainly for political cover, or then because it’s an act actual reality. But who would have thought in 2005, that in 2015, Obergefell, would be a law, right. And so, you know, perhaps in 10 years, we will be having this conversation. And we’ll be really glad that Respect for Marriage Act, for bade states recognizing plural marriages, although that can be overturned by Congress as well. So really, to me, Mark, it has more to do with presione, the direction that makes us such a messy conversation.
Mark Turman 41:42
So I want to come back and give you a heads up, I want to come back to the issue of where the Respect for Marriage Act carves out some specific protections for people of religious belief and conviction that disagree with certain aspects of what it allows. But before we get there, my mind has run to if you were trying to put this conversation in the context of the New Testament, of Jesus’s time and of the early church, and specifically of the story of John the Baptist, Why does John the Baptist become a martyr? Well, you get into this interesting thing, that he is very much contending for the faith and for the war, the word of God and the will of God and the law of God. And he ends up in this strange tension with the governor of the land, what you might call the mayor or something guy named Herod. Herod is this pretty much despicable individual who is has a strange relationship where he is intrigued by John, he’s like He can’t ignore him. But he doesn’t agree with him. And he ends up arresting John. But But the scripture says very clearly, that John was telling Herod, it was wrong for him to have taken his brother’s wife. Yes. And that this becomes a pivot point in their relationship. Herod goes off basically, from what we can tell steals his brother’s wife, or his brother, Phillips wife, his brothers Phillips wife, is very much a political drama. I mean, this is all full of all kinds of scandal and everything you can make a movie out? Oh, absolutely, yeah. And that gets John thrown in jail, somewhat reluctantly, apparently by Herod, but because of Philips wife, who is now Herod’s wife, yes, he gets arrested, thrown in jail. And then there’s this party and trying to show off here and makes this very foolish mistake of promising his now stepdaughter to give her anything she wants, she consults with her mother, her mother says, I want the head of John the Baptist on a platter. And that’s how John becomes a martyr, is because he is speaking God’s truth, to power to civil power, where he essentially has no standing. And if you expand that out, if we’ve talked about in a number of podcasts before, in the world of the New Testament, in the world of Jesus in the world of the early church, they couldn’t have gone into Corinth, and changed the understanding of sexual practice and marriage. But they did start to live it out. So if we’re trying to think in New Testament terms, what is what is the New Testament, the example of the believers the example of Jesus, the example of John, the Baptists in this specific case? What does that say to us about this tension that we’re living in?
Jim Denison 44:41
You’ve got the apostles before the Sanhedrin, who were commanded legally, they have the right to do this. They had the religious authority to do this, the Sanhedrin to tell the apostles to stop preaching the gospel, and they say, We must serve God rather than men. And they take the John the Baptist approach, and they say to power, they speak to power. And they say, Look, I’m not willing to live in two worlds here. If I’m not willing to privatize my faith, I’m going to preach the gospel. And if you have to arrest me that arrest me,
Mark Turman 45:06
I’m not willing to only share my faith in the context of my family or a few close friends. That’s right. I’m not willing to limit it to that, because Jesus
Jim Denison 45:13
commanded me to make disciples of all nations to be his witness beginning at Jerusalem, and you’re going to obey my highest authority, which is ultimately I think, what all of us must do. So here’s a bit of why on the road in thinking about your career, terrific question. In the biblical era, there’s no question that the early Christians did not have anything like the kind of political standing it would take to change the laws of the day. And so they had to live within those laws, and work as they could within them. But on occasion, had to do that which was considered illegal in order to be faithful to the gospel. They couldn’t outlaw the abandoning of unwanted children, as horrific practices. That is, we have a letter from a Roman soldier written back to his pregnant wife saying, if it’s a boy, keep it if it’s a girl, throw it out. Well, they could not outlaw that. So they went to the trash heaps at night and rescued the babies and made them their own, could not love slavery, as horrific as the institution of slavery is under any context. So they went to the slave markets, bought the slaves and set them free. That was how they went about dealing with the laws of their day because he had no standing by which to change those laws. If you apply that thinking whole cloth to today’s conversation, you come out where Tolkien is, it’d be at a place where you’d say, pay whatever price it takes, in order to stand for biblical truth, whatever the consequence, and so whether that means I’m going to try to legislate morality relative to adultery, or pornography, whether that means I’m going to stand against the respect so called Respect for Marriage Act, because It codifies on biblical morality, and harms individuals who are going to live in that light. Whatever the consequence, I’m going to serve God rather than men. That would be the world in which the New Testament model will come forward. Well, the reason this is a bifurcated conversation is we’re not in that world anymore. We’re no longer in a world where the church has no authority in the culture, where the church has no means by which to affect legal and social change, that one could make an argument that the Supreme Court and the conservative appointments that have happened over the years is exhibit A, of the church engaged actively in jurisprudence. In this case, it’s either Roman Catholic or Jewish, all nine justices, and Rome, very conservative Roman Catholic theology. On some level, one would think, molding the worldviews of Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, and someday could do something with Obergefell. Who knows. And so at that point, you see the church directly in play and impacting it’s the James Davis on Hunter achieve your highest place of influence and lived there faithfully, manifests faithful presence in the legal realm was well, well, in the New Testament, we had didn’t have enough time to do that, and gotten there yet, you know, then when we get there, we become theocratic. We become the church dominating the state. Now, Pope’s are naming kings. And we’re back to, as you said before, this kind of legislating morality on a very broad level of consequence. Well, now the founder saw the result of a state church in Europe, they saw how corrupt it had become this, how impossible it is to legislate morality by humans, humans are falling people as well. So they wanted a third way of doing this a Free Church in a free state. It’s a free church, unlike the first century, but it’s in a free state, unlike the theocratic Middle Ages. And that’s the experiment where you and I are having this conversation today, with all the messiness, and all the challenges that it entails.
Mark Turman 48:26
And it is all of that Yes. Which so yeah, lots to think about there, we could spend a long time just in that direction. But let’s go back specifically to the Respect for Marriage X at the reason that I believe a dozen Republican senators, and probably some Democrats, as well, finally came to the place of agreeing to pass this bill was because of accommodations made for religious entities, and perhaps individuals as part of my question to you. But if you would call, you sometimes use the word carve out but accommodations, that basically says that churches and other religious institutions don’t have to recognize that which they don’t believe in or that they agree or don’t agree with. And then there’s this other reality, that’s complaint playing itself out right now on the Supreme Court relative to a web designer in Colorado, who refused to design websites for same sex marriages. So speak to that a little bit on the kind of the corporate larger side of institutions being protected in this in this law, and then also, how it may or may not apply to individuals.
Jim Denison 49:49
And the answer probably is that it won’t, that that will certainly be a matter of jurisprudence, just to cut to that Chase very quickly. So yeah, part of what’s so frightening in my mind about the whole process that got us to the Respect for Marriage Act is that it was brought forward by the house with no carve outs for religious exemptions at all, just as the Equality Act as twice passed the house with no carve outs for religious exemptions, and in fact, in the so called Equality Act, and express forbidding of appeal to the 93, religious restroom, Restoration Act, Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And so as it got to the Senate, there was nothing of what you just said, If Respect for Marriage Act had become laws, it was drafted in the house, there would have been no carve outs for churches for faith based adoption services for Catholic Charities for any organizations. It was when I think and I’m not trying to be partisan, I’m just trying to be historic, but it was when I think Republican senators came forward and said, We won’t, you have to get past the 60 vote filibuster, right this to get through the Senate, and you don’t have those votes unless we put carve outs in place. And that’s where those came about, and then came back to the house and the house adopted the act with those exemptions in place. And then the President signed that. And so that’s how we got to where we are right now. So from what I can tell, in the reading that I’ve done on this, David, French and others speaking into this, it does seem that those carve outs are somewhat robust, as regards faith based organizations themselves. And now we’re thinking about churches, adoption agencies, orphanages, places like that, that, in fact, some of them are guaranteed a kind of provision that they’ve been arguing for in the courts for years, that aren’t in place with Obergefell. And they’re much very much a matter of jurisprudence. And you have municipalities and states taking very negative positions Philadelphia recently relative the Catholic Church, claiming that they’re discriminating against LGBT couples, because they won’t adopt children to them, for instance, right? Well, this will cover that we think, now again, it only becomes a reality if Obergefell falls. So it’s more theoretical conversation right now. But it seems to be the case, from what I can read about this, that the Respect for Marriage Act does not in any sense, extend that thinking to religious for profit individuals, the individual who is more than willing to serve same sex customers, but by virtue of her religious beliefs, does not want her websites to be designed for same sex Wedding, wedding cake providers for same sex weddings, people like that doesn’t seem the Respect for Marriage Act would on any level extend to them. And so now, that doesn’t mean the sky is falling there in that space, necessarily, as you said, the Supreme Court is going to hand down what could be a landmark ruling, as regards the 303 case with the web developer in Colorado, as to whether or not it will extend First Amendment freedom of speech to religious individuals in the for profit space in question is whether Christians have the same freedom of speech everybody else does. You will have the same freedom of speech as a Christian that a non Christian does. And does that extend to my workplace or not? Or is that privatized? That’s a massive issue, again, you get into precedence? And does that mean I can be anti semitic and refuse my services to a Jew? Can I be a white supremacist and refuse to do a wedding website forum for an African American couple or for a Latino couple? And all sorts of precedents that you’re violating and all of that. So it’s, again, not easy. That’s why got the Supreme Court. And we’re going to see how it all turns out. But that seems not to have been provided answer your question in the Respect for Marriage Act itself.
Mark Turman 53:18
So all that to say, there’s going to be a lot more struggle as to how these things get applied and get lived out. We haven’t we haven’t, in the Respect for Marriage Act, written the final word by any stretch, by no means
Jim Denison 53:35
by no respect, the other side is very unhappy with it. Now, there are a number of progressives who are very unhappy with the so called progressives who signed on to it because it has those carve outs that allow religious organizations the right to discriminate, as they would say. And so really, for the first time in American history, we’ve come to a place here, and we’re nowhere near seeing how this is going to work out as a Free Church and a free state. When the state believes there’s a right which every American should be required by law to uphold, in this case, LGBTQ activism and same sex rights. And the Free Church argument says, is not a right, constitutional right, which every American must be forced to uphold its sexual freedom versus religious freedom. Chuck Colson years ago predicted we get to this place some day, and he thought religious freedom would lose. He thought the sexual impulse was too strong. The argument for tolerance was going to be too great and giving me the right to be wrong, which is how the culture sees us today was not going to prevail. Now we’ll see he was right about that or not. This has not happened before, even in 73 with the Roe v. Wade, landmark ruling that it was not required that Christian Medical providers perform abortions, even with the Death with Dignity acts that are now a fifth of Americans are living under some kind of euthanasia provision. So far, none of these laws require Christian doctors to perform acts of euthanasia on patients against their conscience. There’s jurisprudence right now about pharmacists, and whether or not they can be required to provide abortion fashion. So those are in the courts, even as we speak right now. But now we’re in a place where for the first time, if the Equality Act became law, for sure, religious Americans would be required to violate their conscience, not just that they would be willing to live in a country where others do things we consider to be unconscionable. But where I am required to participate, participate. So on some level, by extension, would I be required to make a pornographic website? Would I be required to provide my services to a web provider that endorses adultery, like the Ashley Madison unit was done? Would I be required to do that that’s in view now, on the way that hasn’t been the case in American history,
Mark Turman 55:55
not saying we’ll get there hope we don’t get there not trying to claim we will. But that’s a conversation that that’s where this can go is going in some ways. One last question while I have you and that is, it’s not an easy question. So. But let me see if I can get you to weigh in for at least a moment. It just kind of seemed odd to me that when the Respect for Marriage Act was moving forward, as it has in recent weeks and months to its passage, it included these this provision relative to race. Yes, interracial marriage into interracial marriage. Yeah. In my mind, that confused me initially from standpoint, I thought we would we were long way past that and should be, and should be, yes, but but it also comes back around to this conversation relative to sexuality, where many in our culture are saying that sexuality, sexual orientation, sexual identity is equivalent to race or to ethnicity? What’s a good way for Christians to think and respond to that argument? Because it is a growing, if not pervasive argument of, look, I in simple language, I was born this way. I didn’t choose this in the same way that a person of any ethnicity didn’t choose their ethnicity. I didn’t choose my sexual orientation preference, and some even would take that to gender identity.
Jim Denison 57:23
That goes to Soji law says, Well, yeah, first of all, it is interesting, isn’t it that that became part of all this back in 67. Loving versus Virginia, when the Supreme Court overrode Virginia law that forbade interracial marriage on the basis of civil rights legislation that was enacted in place and should have, in my opinion on a variety of levels, goes back to again to the federal versus the states. So when Justice Thomas made his statement before as regards whether or not the Supreme Court had overreached, in taking marriage jurisprudence away from states Loving versus Virginia comes to play here, because that’s an example of that. And so, if we are going to overturn Roe v. Wade, on those grounds, could we overturn Obergefell? And could we overturn Loving versus Virginia and give states the right to decide what they’re going to do about interracial marriage? The logic would extend in that direction you would think horrifically, from a moral point of view, I mean, probably we’ve had a lot of conversation about racism is sin. Right? Not at all wanting to suggest anything other than that and absolutely believe that interracial marriage is moral, absolutely is moral and biblical, and ought be the law of the land. I absolutely believe that to be the case on the moral argument, but I’m purely a states rights argument, did the Supreme Court overreach and 67 and removed from the state the right to make these decisions? If it did with Obergefell? Perhaps it did with loving as well, is why that got included in the Respect for Marriage Act to protect interracial marriage just as it protects same sex marriage. So that goes to your larger question that’s really been in the curriculum and in the culture for a large number of years and is very persuasive. I didn’t choose to be gay, just like I didn’t choose to be black, or choose to be Asian or choose to be Hispanic or choose to be Anglo. And so if you don’t believe that the state ought discriminate against me at the point of marriage or any other civil protections based on my unchosen ethnicity, and what right is it of the state to discriminate against me as regards my own chosen sexuality, or gender identity? It’s a very persuasive argument. It’s an argument toward tolerance, which is the key value in our postmodern culture anyway. And the logic is very simple. If it’s on a t shirt, it’s always good when your argument can fit on a t shirt and, and causes someone on the other side to take the side against history on a wide variety of levels. George Clooney some years ago made the point that those that oppose same sex marriage, were on the wrong side of history, just like white supremacist, were on the wrong side of history. Well, the last thing I want to be is cast on that side, right. Last thing I want to do is have anyone claimed that I’m a white supremacist, or I am on some level bigoted and prejudiced relative to racism, the sin of racism, and so you can see how powerful that would be and how persuasive it would be, and why even if I disagree on the merits, and on some level silences me In my opposition, just because even though I see the fallacy of what you get to ingest, second of that of that reasoning, I know the culture doesn’t see the fallacy of that. And so at the very least, it makes me less likely to be public and courageous and bold about my claims relative to biblical sexual morality lest I be thought, bigoted, prejudiced, discriminatory on the same level as a kk k member, whomever. When marriage equality was being discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin, who was himself a Catholic, even made the argument that those on the other side were akin to kk k members, burning crosses and yards. And so you see how pervasive that kind of thinking can be? Well, it feels logically on three levels. That first of all, while one may claim and it’s very much debated in the scientific discussions relative to genetics, that one was born, same sex attracted, there’s no question one is born with one’s ethnicity, right? That’s a debated question. Just to begin with. A scientist won’t necessarily give you that, that you were born gay when found
Mark Turman 1:00:58
the gay gene that that question has not been answered,
Jim Denison 1:01:02
nature or nurture has not been answered probably won’t be answered. As we now understand, and this is my work as a medical ethicist. The genetics relative to sexuality are far too complex for us probably ever, to be able to identify a specific set of genetic components that make a person gay or straight. There are too many environmental issues involved in this too much nature versus nurture in this, and none of that applies to ethnicity. Exactly, exactly. So the very premise of the conversation ought not be granted, that one is born gay, just like one is born black or born Asian, these are categorically different, categorically different it’s it’s apples and zebras. Right? It’s a category mistake to begin with. Now, again, I don’t expect the culture to understand that. And that’s why it’s a pervasive argument on a practical level. But first of all, that’s the first thing to say. The second thing to say, as the consequences of those two are very different relative to one’s personal agency. Much of the discrimination that has come horrifically against African American individuals across American history has nothing to do with their behavior has nothing to do with how they have chosen to be. My friend Tyrone Johnson that we’ve had these conversations with is going to be blank in every setting he’s in. And when he walks into our local pharmacy, there’s a chance as he tells me that someone working there is going to follow him around. Just because he’s black. Their stories he can tell you that have nothing to do with his behavior, nothing to do with choices on his part whatsoever. This just simply who is one chooses whether or not to live out one sexuality, whether to live one sexual preference. So the my mark, some of my heroes are celibate gays, people who are same sex attracted, but who believe scripture to be true as regards how one ought Express same sex attraction, and are choosing to be celibate, they have a choice that they can make there now.
Mark Turman 1:02:46
But as you can, if you’re white, black, brown, Asian, whatever, you don’t get to choose that when you are or when you’re not. That’s
Jim Denison 1:02:54
the point. That’s the point, I can choose what to do about my same sex attraction, if that’s the case, for gender identity dysphoria questions, that sort of thing, I can choose whether to move into puberty blockers or gender reassignment surgeries, that I don’t have a choice to make on an ethnicity level. So that’s another reason it’s not the same argument. Now, I’m not saying that simple at all. And as a heterosexual male, I would never claim it’s easy for me to say to a same sex attracted person that they simply should just be celibate, right? And just make it that simple. I’m not trying to at all say that, but I’m saying there’s behavior here. That isn’t the case over here. On the third level, there are consequences that are very, very different than the two spaces. No doubt, even today, even all these years after decades after civil rights legislations of the 60s, that ethnic minorities, especially African Americans, face horrific discrimination in our culture. I wish that weren’t true. But it is. We’ve had conversations about the center of racism before we’ve talked about the fact that whites are twice as long as blacks are either twice as likely to be convicted as whites of the same crimes, that they are twice as likely to serve long prison sentences as whites for the same crimes, that there are municipalities where blacks are pulled over in the daylight far more frequently than after dark for traffic stops. Because after dark, the policeman can’t see the color of their skin. Normal stories like that. I mean, I could go on with examples of that, where individuals through no fault of their own and ethnic minorities are suffering consequence in the culture, relative to same sex attracted individuals not the case. While certainly one can claim and untried, and it’s tragically the case, that same sex attracted people have been victims of discrimination in our history. I’m not at all trying to say that’s not true, categorically has been the case, but not on the same level. For instance, financially same sex couples, just as a demographic group have a higher income than heterosexual couples do, just taken as groups just taken as categories, right in America. It’s the case in America that in a lot of America, you’re actually in a preferred place, culturally, when one comes out. out when one steps into same sex kind of behavior or moves into same sex, kind of expressions, gay pride, parades, things like that, that our culture now is much more preferring that position, we’re seeing Pride Month becoming more of a thing. Every year we’re seeing LGBTQ advocacy, even with children, American Girl doll conversations we’ve been discussing recently that sort of thing. And so the culture is swung over to a place now, where on college campuses, I’m told by college ministers that college students who come out as it were, are celebrated as courageous on some level as martyrs. And if their parents disagree, well, then they’re even more martyrs, you know, against their bigoted, prejudiced parents, that sort of thing. And so my African American friends are very frustrated in these conversations, that civil rights have been co opted by LGBTQ activists, on a level that just completely unfair to their story. While they still face rampant discrimination on some levels, LGBTQ individuals, not nearly on the same level. In fact, in some ways, they’re experiencing better outcomes. Just demographically, as bad as it is to say, that is the case for a great number of especially African Americans. So on those three levels, it’s just not the same. It’s why so many civil rights leaders of the 60s have been very opposed to making that same analogy. And that’s one of the reasons that you see African, historically African American churches being even those that would be very much aligned with progressive values and other areas not being aligned in this space. Because they’ve seen the degree to which their civil rights ongoing fight argument is being co opted by LGBTQ activists. And so even though they be aligned as progressives and others, they’re opposed on the logic of this argument.
Mark Turman 1:06:40
Yeah. So very, very intriguing. And very helpful, I would say. But to try to frame that is to say that these are categorically different conversations, because of chemistry or, or biology, biology, because of choice, and because of consequences, right? Those three things make these this idea of sexuality, sexual preference, sexual identity, and race or ethnicity completely different. I would agree with that. And that that’s, that’s why you have to separate those conversations. That’s right.
Jim Denison 1:07:13
The only place in which they share any overlap is that it’s both talking about minorities. And one of the reasons we’re a democratic republic and not a straight democracy is we do want to respect the rights of minorities. If we were up here, democracy, the majority vote would prevail every time right, whatever the mind, whatever that might be, right, we’d have no role in the conversation. The good news here is that we do respect minorities and should respect minorities. And that’s true, whether it’s a sexual minority or an ethnic minority, discrimination is wrong. Oppression is wrong. Individual individuals who are same sex attracted, being abused by society or culture is just wrong, being discriminated against relative to employment relative to housing or relative to insurance. I think it’s just wrong. Now, that’s not endorsing same sex behavior at all. But one point I would make, and we’ve talked about this before, the Bible, I think, categorically forbids same sex behavior, not same sex attraction. I think that’s a difference. Every time the Bible speaks of LGBTQ issues it does in the context of outcomes in the context of behavior. And so again, I’m back to a point that sounds simple to make as a heterosexual male, that one can decide how one wishes to act out, when sexual identity or attraction. And the Bible is pretty clear, I think as as regards how it wishes you to do that, but simply be a same sex attracted person, and face discrimination, by the culture, I would say is wrong. Right. And we Christians ought to be arguing for all minorities in the context of the fact that God made all of us in his image made all of us in His likeness, that we’re all image bearers, and that God loves all of us, being gay is not the unpardonable sin. In fact, wherever scripture lists that as a sin, First Corinthians six, for example, it’s just one of a catalogue of sense. And it’s, I think, wrong for the church to elevate that to an unpardonable sin status. Right. You know, one of the things Mark I’ve observed over the years as pastors tend to preach against sins are not tempted by personally, you know, you don’t see all these preachers preaching against obesity, you know, so much. And so it’s really easy for people like me to come along and gain currency and a cultural warrior kind of psychology bike, by arguing against sins that Don’t tempt me, and not talking about sins that do. We ought not be in that place, right? We want to be those people who are demonstrating God’s grace. We’re beggars helping beggars find bread. We’re all in this together. I, I’m tempted by sins, some of my same sex attracted friends aren’t tempted by and who’s to say, in all of them, Which of us is the greater center, the end of the day, we’re all saved by grace and we all want to share that grace
Mark Turman 1:09:42
and to live humbly that’s right that way. And in that to be the best salt and light to be the best cultural missionary we can and motivated by God’s love for us and God’s love for all people trying to share what we understand and kind of recognizing at the end of this outcasts realizing these things are are complex, they, they are challenging for us on a personal level, but also on a corporate level as a community of faith. And as a country of people. These are difficult and large scale issues. And hopefully it’s been helpful today. But missionaries are willing to share they’re willing to serve, we ought to be willing to do that several examples of that, that you gave, and in various contexts, we ought to be willing to sacrifice to, to whatever degree God leads us, and if necessary, sometimes we may have to suffer. That’s just part of what being a Christ follower is all about. And sometimes the culture is more leaning in our favor. Sometimes it’s definitely not. And so we’re gonna find ourselves in those situations, and believers have always been in those situations, we’re
Jim Denison 1:10:50
not in a unique position, my Cuban friends wouldn’t understand this conversation. They wouldn’t think we’re horribly discriminated against as we’re talking about religious freedom exemptions, to be able to make wedding cakes in their space, our Chinese brothers and sisters would not understand our conversation, believers in the Muslim world wouldn’t understand this conversation. But I love the model that you keep pointing out here. I was a missionary for a summer in East Malaysia when I was in college, a missionary is no better than the people they share with. There are no sense coming in to say that I’m superior to you on any level, I just know something you happen not to have been told. And I’m here simply to tell you what someone told me. Now warrior comes into battle thinking my sides, right and yours is wrong. And I need to win, which means you need to lose. And so if I go to war, I’m going to war against a belligerent that bombed us at Pearl Harbor, or that attacked us at 911. And you’re morally wrong, and I’m morally superior, and I’m coming in to win this battle against you. That’s why being a cultural warrior is so much the wrong psychology or, and the wrong biblical worldview as well. That’s why being that missionary, who is just like you, I was no different than the Malaysians I met except I had heard the gospel they hadn’t heard. That was the only delightful people. My goodness, we get to a whole nother podcast about my experience in East Malaysia and the hospitality of those people. The graciousness that they extended to me, the wonderful summer I had living on the island of Borneo it and getting to know them and being connected in solidarity on some levels with them. It was one of the best summers of my life. I just happen to know something,
Mark Turman 1:12:16
just to be that beggar who found some bread that’s all around the bread. There’s light
Jim Denison 1:12:20
in the cave, and I happen to see it, right. I want to show everybody else the same way. It’s there for all of us. I’m no better than anybody else. I just happen to see that light. I want you to know what I know. That’s all we’re hearing.
Mark Turman 1:12:30
Right. Thanks for the conversation today. Jen has been very, very helpful. And thank you to all of our listening audience for stepping in being a part of this very, very significant conversation. If this has been helpful to you. Please rate review us on your podcast provider and share this with others as you have opportunity. We look forward to joining with you next time on the Denison Forum Podcast. God bless you