Lou Engle regrets the promotion of Anti-Homosexuality Bill during TheCall Uganda; urges bill supporters not to give in to Western opposition

A little while ago, this statement appeared on Lou Engle’s blog:

TheCall Uganda Press Release: Part 2

Posted on June 10th, 2010

June 2010

Three weeks ago I returned from Uganda where I participated in TheCall Uganda. Prior to going I released a statement declaring the intent and purposes of my going there and holding TheCall. In that statement I clearly declared that TheCall was not going to Uganda to promote the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (”Bill”). Instead, the purpose of the event was to pray and fast for this nation in crisis.

I was actually asked to release a petition at TheCall for the people to sign in support of the Bill. I did not allow that to happen because the purpose of the gathering was not a political gathering; it was a prayer gathering. However, I had to leave the prayer meeting early to catch our flight back home. After returning home, I was told that the Bill had been clearly promoted after I left the meeting. I apologize that this took place and that my stated purpose of not promoting the Bill was compromised. I take responsibility for what was done on the stage of TheCall, even in my absence.

That being said, I am grateful that I had the privilege of going to Uganda and meeting Christian leaders who explained their heart concerning the Bill. Not one was carrying even an ounce of hatred for homosexuals. They actually desired to influence the lawmakers in Uganda to lessen the penalties. However, they were committed to raise up a principled stand to protect their people and their children from an unwelcome intrusion of homosexual ideology into an 83% Christian nation, an intrusion that is being pressed upon them by the UN, UNICEF, and other NGOs and Western colonialist powers.

These powers are threatening to withdraw funding from Uganda if they do not open their doors to these ideologies. They shared with me with broken hearts some of the painful stories of the effect of this worldwide pressure, as it is being pushed and promoted into their educational system. I appealed to them that in all their labor and their stand they express the mercy of Christ to broken people, but I also stood with them in their desire to not succumb to the political ideological pressures of the West and many of the voices of the Western Church that have come strongly against them.

These brothers in Uganda will give an account to the Lord on how sternly they stood as a prophetic community in their nation and we, the Church of the West, will give an account for our response when homosexual ideology swept into our nations.

For TheCall,

Lou Engle

I am confused by this statement. He apologizes for The Call being used for promotion of the bill and identifies the promotion as taking place after he left the meeting. And indeed, Minister of Ethics and Integrity Nsaba Buturo spoke directly about the bill after Engle spoke. However, Apostle Julius Oyet spoke just before Engle and also promoted the bill. According to the Religion Dispatches account (which matches other on-the-scene accounts which I am not at liberty to identify), Oyet spoke directly about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

“We call on parliament not to debate heaven. We call on them to pass the bill and say no to homosexuality,” preached Julius Oyet, a pastor with Life Line Ministries in Uganda who titles himself Apostle. Oyet also brought up the common Ugandan perception that homosexuality is an import of the West which “recruits” new members primarily by bribing children. “Father, our children today are being deceived by the West. To buy them, to give them school fees so that they can be homosexuals. We say no to that,” Oyet said with a rolling voice as a live band played smooth jazz in the background.

When Engle himself finally took the microphone at about 5 p.m., he dug almost immediately into the controversy, saying he hadn’t known about the bill and nearly canceled his trip over questions raised by his presence. But at no point did he contest Oyet’s support for the bill.

Why apologize for what happened in your absence if you don’t apologize for what happened in your presence? By not saying anything about Oyet’s call on Parliament “to pass the bill,” he dilutes the impact of his acknowledgement that the bill was in fact promoted.

Further confusing the impact of this statement is the statement about the intent of the bill promoters. It appears that Engle favors criminalization in that he commends those involved with The Call Uganda for seeking to lessen, but not eliminate the penalties. I am reading between the lines but it appears that he thinks they are correct to pursue a specific law relating to homosexuality but advises the Ugandan supporters to be stand less “sternly” as a “prophetic community” and “lessen the penalties.” In essence, since he views them as pursuing a reasonable goal with reduced penalties, he supports what the Ugandan bill supporters are doing. I suspect that is exactly what they believe.

I have altered the title of this post to reflect that his apology seems to be directed to The Call Uganda and not the bill itself. If he opposes the actual bill, it is not clear at all from this statement and actually seems to make it more clear that if the bill has lesser penalties, he is fine with it.

Canyon Ridge Christian Church in conversation with Martin Ssempa

In response to the Current TV documentary, Missionaries of Hate, Canyon Ridge Christian Church (Las Vegas, NV) today issued this statement to me regarding their mission partner, Martin Ssempa.

The mission partners of Canyon Ridge Christian Church are more than just names on a bulletin board or a web site, they are our dearly loved friends and family. Because of this, we take seriously our commitment to them.   When accusations or ill reports come to us about one of our partners and their ministry activities, we’re committed to do what the Bible instructs us to do; we go to our partners (when possible, going to see them face to face) and work through the issues with them personally. We don’t make public statements about our partners until we have worked through issues with them personally and brought those issues to resolution. We have been and are currently in conversation with Martin Ssempa and others regarding the controversy in Uganda and his activities in addressing it.

Martin Ssempa was featured prominently in Missionaries of Hate showing deviant porn to a stunned audience. He is shown praying with Islamic clerics for David Bahati, the author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This statement seems to move slightly away from their earlier position which was:

Canyon Ridge Christian Church partners with missionaries and ministry leaders around the world, including Martin Ssempa, for the purpose of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing humanitarian aid where possible.

 

With the oversight of our elders and missions team, we constantly evaluate our ministry partners and their activities. We will only support those who engage in and promote activities consistent with the redemptive and grace-filled purposes of Jesus Christ in the world.

 

Canyon Ridge Christian Church does not wish to enter into the debate over the legislation in Uganda. We do encourage those involved to seek God’s leadership in humility and grace and to follow Jesus command to love one another as they wrestle with this difficult issue. Our prayers are for the good of the people Uganda.

It seems to me that Canyon Ridge has entered the debate through their mission partner. He has become one of the public faces of the bill around the world and has recently partnered with Islamic clerics on a renewed effort to promote the bill.

More on Bryan Fischer’s theories about homosexuality and the Nazis

In various ways, over the last two weeks, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association has advanced three theories about Hitler, the Nazi Party and homosexuals. They are:

1. Hitler was an active homosexual.

2. Hitler could not find straight soldiers who were savage enough to carry out his evil plans, so he recruited homosexuals to do it.

3. Homosexuals in the Nazi military led to the Holocaust.

Fischer produces several quotes from historians and students of the Nazi movement to support him. It seems to me that he pulls these quotes right out of their context and uses them to paint an incomplete picture of history.

Hitler’s sexuality has been examined from several different angles. He is an enigma for sure, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to Fischer who called Hitler “an active homosexual.” In the historical record it is clear that Hitler displayed some interest in certain women but this was glossed over by Fischer. Even if Hitler did have a homosexual period –this is by no means proven — there was a clear shift in attitude toward homosexuals after the murder of Ernst Rohm. It is accurate to say that Rohm and several of the SA Brownshirts were homosexual. Hitler tolerated them until they were no longer useful and had them executed in 1934 during the Night of the Long Knive purge. The man who led the execution of Rohm and who later had responsibility for instilling the uncompromising cruelty of the concentration camps at Dachau and later as general inspector of all camps was Theodore Eicke. Eicke, not mentioned in Scott Lively’s book, was married with two children; very straight and very savage.

What follows are just a sampling of quotes which are relevant to Fischer’s theories.

Hitler avoided contact with women, meeting with cold indifference during visits to the opera alleged attempts by young women, probably seeing him as something of an oddity, to flirt or tease him. He was repelled by homosexuality. He refrained from masturbation. Prostitution horrified but fascinated him. He associated it with venereal disease, which petrified him. (p. 23)

–Ian Kershaw in Hitler: A Biography (2008). WW Norton & Co. 

“Diels says of Hitler, “He [Hitler] lectured me on the role of homosexuality in history and politics. It had destroyed ancient Greece he said. Once rife, it extended its contagious effects like an ineluctable law of nature to the best and most manly of characters, elimination from the reproductive process those very men on whose offspring a nation depended. The immediate result of the vice, however, was that unnatural passion swiftly became dominant in public affairs if it were allowed to spread unchecked”. (p.118) (Rudolf Diels was the first chief of the Gestapo)

–Frank Rector. (1981). The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals.  Stein & Day Publishing. 

Hitler was prudish in his abhorrence of the “sins” of the modern big city like prostitution, homosexuality, and even immodest dress. He wrote of these matters as the “political, ethical and moral contamination of the people” and the “poisoning of the health of the body politic.” (p. 336)

–Robert Gellately (2007). Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe. Random House.  

In November, 1941 Hitler even signed a decree making homosexual offenses among SS members and policemen a capital offense. Two months earlier, Hitler had explained to Goebbels the Darwinian underpinnings of his opposition to homosexuality. After remarking that homosexuality should not be tolerated, especially in the Nazi party and the Army, Hitler continued:

The homosexual is always disposed to drive the selection of men toward the criminal or at least the sickly than the useful in the selection of men. If one would give him free rein, the state would eventually be an organization of homosexuality, but not an organization of manly selection. A real man would defend himself against this endeavor, because he sees it as an assassination of his own evolutionary possibilities. (p. 131)

Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress  (2009). Richard Weikart. Palgrave MacMillan.

There are many more such quotes and accounts which demonstrate the clear distain for homosexuality from Hitler and the Nazis. Last week, I noted that Lothar Machtan, who Bryan Fischer quotes at length, discounted points 2 and 3 above. For more on homosexuality and the Nazis, consult this link and this one.

Policy statement: Exodus International opposes criminalization of homosexuality

Today, Exodus International issued a policy statement regarding the criminalization of homosexuality.

Criminalization of Homosexuality

Exodus International opposes the criminalization of homosexual behavior as conducted by consensual adults in private. We strongly oppose the imprisonment, mistreatment, or death of homosexual men and women on the basis of their perceived or known sexual orientation. These actions breed cultural violence and institutionalized shame, neither of which reflect God’s redemptive heart.

In the blog post, Alan Chambers also expressed regret for the delayed response to information he received about the Ugandan ex-gay conference as well as the potential fall out.

That said, and without a wordy explanation or excuse, this public post is way overdue and I sincerely hope it clears up any speculation about how I really feel about gay and lesbian people, Ugandan or otherwise, the criminalization of homosexuality, Exodus’s connection to the now infamous Ugandan conference where Exodus board member, Don Schmierer spoke, and most importantly the grace of God.

First things first, I was personally lax in investigating thoroughly the pre-conference intelligence that was coming in from Timothy Kincaid, David Roberts and Warren Throckmorton, to name a few.  My initial belief was that their major concern was over Caleb Lee Brundidge’s association with Richard Cohen.  Again, no excuses, I was negligent in digging deeper and heeding their warnings.  While I did share my concerns with Don Schmierer prior to the event, he was on the ground in Uganda and I saw this as an issue that didn’t warrant him canceling his appearance there—after all, in my mind, Don was simply sharing his normal talk on parenting.  I do realize that his mere presence there, even as a private citizen, did give the appearance that Exodus was endorsing the conference and eventually the horrific political position that was fueled by that event.

I appreciate this acknowledgement. Alan is correct that some of the initial concern related to the involvement of Brundidge but as he says here, it was much deeper. The events in Uganda, played out over the last 16 months, have required U.S. Christians to rethink their stance toward homosexuals. As Alan’s remarks indicate, it is now necessary to articulate one’s position on criminalization. The Uganda situation unearthed a division among social conservatives about the law and homosexuality. Just yesterday, one of the voices of the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, again said that he favors a return to laws penalizing homosexual conduct.  The Ugandan initiative has touched many American evangelicals in a way that few issues have, forcing many ministries and leaders to choose sides. While I personally had little doubt that the policy of Exodus was to oppose criminalization, today’s announcement makes that clear. I applaud them.

McCollum contradicted Rekers in gay adoption case appeal

I posted last week that Florida Attorney General and Republican candidate for Governor, Bill McCollum hired George Rekers as an expert in a gay adoption case over the advice of his staff. The state lost the case and the ban on gay adoption was set aside by Judge Cindy Lederman. Lederman took strong exception to Rekers’ work, saying that Rekers’ testimony “was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence.” Despite the apparent harm the testimony did to the case, AG McCollum defended Rekers in a brief filed August 6, 2009 before a Florida state court of appeals seeking to overturn the lower court ruling. More specifically, McCollum defended Rekers’ religious writings and the evidence Rekers presented in defense of the ban on gays adopting children.

However, on one point McCollum contradicts his expert without acknowledging the contradiction. Rekers testified that one might exclude Native Americans from adopting if it could be shown that, as a group, they had higher rates of many distressing conditions. Here is Rekers’testimony:

Q. Well, Dr. Rekers, earlier you testified that Native-Americans have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than the general population does, right?

A. Yes.

Q. It’s a very significantly elevated rate of alcohol abuse, I mean compared to the general population?

A. Yes.

Q. So if Native-Americans have significantly higher rates of alcohol abuse, and if they also have significantly higher rates of psychiatric disorders, and if they also have higher rates of relationship instability, is that enough for you to say that all of a sudden they should be categorically excluded?

The Court: I think you can add violence to that, as well.

The Witness: Yeah, violence, yeah.

Q. And violence, as well.

A. Yeah, if it turned out that a majority of the individuals in the Native-American population, that a majority of them were high risk for one of these things happening, as a lifetime prevalence, there could be a parallel rationale for excluding them, as adoptive parents, because it would be not only them, they would tend to hang around each other. So the children would be around a lot of other Native-Americans, who are doing the same sorts of things, you know. So it would be a high risk, and, in fact, since you can’t perfectly predict human behavior, the best you can do and the best the State can do is to look at risk levels, and if a particular kind of household poses multiple high risks for condition that would be detrimental for children, then that would be a rationale for excluding that group.

Perhaps, with hindsight, Dr. Rekers would reconsider his testimony. However, there is no indication that it was ever amended or directly addressed by the state of Florida. However, here Rekers provides a rationale for excluding Native Americans along with homosexuals.  The line of questioning seems as though it was designed to get Rekers to make some sort of distinction between sexual orientation and race.  However, at least in this instance, he did not.  

As I have looked into this, I have been puzzled about why Mr. McCollum would not dismiss his witness at that point or seek to distance himself from the testimony. I have also been puzzled about why Native American groups did not speak out when this was first repored in May. One representative of a Native American advocacy group, speaking on condition of anonymity said that such criticisms of Native Americans are made frequently and they do not take them seriously.

Perhaps one reason they do not take such arguments seriously is because such arguments would likely be dismissed in a real public debate or in a court proceeding. When arguing racial issues, courts take a more strict review of any governmental action to discriminate on the basis of race. Generally, on matters of race, if a government policy burdens an individual due to racial category, the government policy will not survive. AG McCollum argues in the 2009 appeal that the adoption case should be decided on a rational basis test. In this test, the government is generally given the benefit of the doubt in crafting laws when no fundamental rights or suspect classes are involved. McCollum argues and all agree that adoption is not a fundamental right and he also argues — and this is where the disagreement comes — that homosexuals are not a class worthy of the strict scrutiny test.

On page 8 of the appeal, McCollum discusses the matter of Native Americans and adoption.

McCollum here contradicts Rekers by saying that the category of Native American “would likely fail strict scrutiny.” This means the Florida legislature would have to have a much higher burden of proof as to why violation of the equal protection clause — e.g., excluding Native Americans — would serve a compelling state interest. What surprised me here, and perhaps it is because I am not a lawyer, is that the appeal narrative does not mention the testimony of Rekers in this section, even as Rekers is defended in the other sections of the appeal. Rekers clearly testified that the basis for exclusion in his opinion was the higher rates of distressing conditions. In the appeal, McCollum addresses the theory but does not address the fact that his own expert failed to make categorical distinctions.

The ways that some conservatives think about gays confuse me. On one hand, gays are considered a cohesive enough group with characteristics so common that they can be lumped together. When viewed this way, Rekers-style testimony is offered about the high rates of distressing problems and thus, how the entire group of people should be viewed negatively. However, on the other hand, some social conservatives do not consider homosexuals  to be related enough to be a suspect class. Some go so far as to say there is no such thing as a homosexual, rather heterosexuals with homosexual behavior or problems.

McCollum then continues his argument that sexual orientation does not warrant a strict scrutiny standard.

McCollum here continues to argue that one distressing condition is not sufficient, or else only Asian males could adopt. However, McCollum wants the appeal court to know that the lower court did not demonstrate any other group like homosexuals, who have as many problems. Without acknowledging it, McCollum disagrees with his expert to further serve his case.

In this situation, I don’t think there is a fundamental right to adopt or be adopted so I am not sure how this case will turn out.  However, a troubling thing here is the reasoning which invalidates individual rights due to membership in a particular group. It should make everyone a little nervous when individual gays are judged due to rates of distressing problems among larger groups of gays. Even on a practical level, such stereotyping can become the basis for predjudice and discrimination. Christians complain about this and we have freely chosen our beliefs. We don’t like it when such logic is used against us, and we should be very careful about where such thinking can lead.

McCollum overruled assistant to hire Rekers as expert

Documents have been released demonstrating the process behind hiring George Rekers as an expert in the FL gay adoption case. His staff opposed hiring Rekers due to bias Rekers had demonstrated in prior cases and in his writings.

McCollum’s office was brought in by the Department of Children and Families to defend the state’s three-decade old ban on gay adoption after it was challenged by Martin Gill. Gill is a North Miami man who wanted to adopt two foster children that are living with him and his partner.

Records show that DCF did not want to hire Rekers as an expert witness in the lawsuit because he wanted to charge $300 an hour. DCF only agreed to his hiring after McCollum strongly recommended it.

The state considered over 30 other people who declined.

The e-mails released Thursday show that an attorney in McCollum’s own office warned against hiring Rekers, whose testimony had been deemed suspect in an earlier Arkansas lawsuit that challenged a ban on placing foster children in homes with gay parents.

Assistant Attorney General Valerie Martin wrote in a July 2007 e-mail that after talking to Arkansas officials and reviewing the background of the former University of South Carolina professor that she would “recommend NOT using him.”

E-mails also show that during a conference call Martin — who said the state considered more than 30 possible expert witnesses — was ordered to hire Rekers “against my strong cautions.”

This is an interesting revelation. I was one of those 30 people contacted by the FL AG’s office. I declined the request because I did not think the law was defensible or appropriate. 

There are other aspects of this situation that are disturbing. For instance, Rekers testified that Native Americans could be excluded from adopting because of high rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicide as compared to other groups. Subsequently, McCollum’s office defended Rekers’ status as an expert. Rekers offered a legal basis for discrimination and he was defended in a later appeal. In the appeal of the lower court’s findings (allowing the children to stay with their gay parent), McCollum says gays and lesbians have higher rates of problems on a variety of distressing conditions and this is one reason they should be excluded. He erroneously said no one from his side argued that distressing conditions alone would be a valid reason to exclude an entire class. However, Rekers did say Native Americans could be excluded on the same basis as McCollum argues that gays can be.

I hope to lay this out with references next week.

Lothar Machtan comments on Hitler’s sexuality and the Holocaust

Over the last week or so, Bryan Fischer made a series of claims regarding homosexuality and the Holocaust. He summarized his arguments in an article on the RenewAmerica website:

Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.

In making his case, he relies heavily on two books: The Hidden Hitler by Lothar Machtan and The Pink Swastika by Scott Lively. Last summer, I did a series of posts critiquing The Pink Swastika. This morning I had a brief email exchange with Lothar Machtan regarding Fischer’s central thesis.  His current schedule did not allow an extensive interview at this time, but he did react to Fischer’s claim.

In the Hidden Hitler, Dr. Machtan argues largely from circumstances, inference and second hand accounts that Hitler was a homosexual. He is in the minority in his view but he presents an account that is important to consider.

Everything about Hitler is historically interesting and relevant. If Hitler was same-sex attracted, it would be of interest to students of history in the same way that historians have examined the imperial heterosexuality of Mao Zedong. Machtan told me that Hitler’s (alleged) homosexuality influenced his political career up to about 1934-35. However, he said in clear terms that Hitler’s cruelty was not due to his sexuality, saying, “Hitler’s atrocities primarily do NOT derive from his homosexuality.” Regarding the Holocaust, Machtan added, “Of course you CANNOT blame Hitler’s homosexuality for the Holocaust.” (Machtan supplied the emphasis)

I am about half way through The Hidden Hitler and am reserving my opinion until I complete it and perhaps until after I am able to interview Machtan. However, as I suspected, Machtan does not advance the simplistic causal links advanced by Mr. Fischer in the service of the culture war.

See my prior post relating to Bryan Fischer’s claims.

Family Research Council clarifies lobbying role on Anti-Homosexuality Bill resolution

Yesterday blogger Joe Jervis reported that the Family Research Council lobbied members of the House of Representatives against a resolution which expresses opposition to Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The measure, House Resolution 1064 (full text) was introduced February 3 by Howard Berman (D-CA) and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Relations the same day with 62 co-sponsors. The title of the resolution expresses the essential purpose:

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009” under consideration by the Parliament of Uganda, that would impose long term imprisonment and the death penalty for certain acts, threatens the protection of fundamental human rights…

Jervis refers to a required lobbying report filed quarterly with the House and Senate. That report in full is here for review. The cost of all lobbying activity for the quarter on all issues was $25,000. The section relevant to the Ugandan resolution is a disclosure on page 3 that FRC conducted some lobbying activity regarding H.Res 1064.

Tom McClusky is listed as one of the two lobbyists and so I contacted him to ask how FRC lobbied and with whom. While he declined to say which members were lobbied, he said, “We didn’t necessarily lobby against or for the resolution but tried to work with offices to make the language more neutral on homosexuality.” He added his recollection was that “the original language was incorrect on what Uganda was doing as well.” McClusky said the lobbying took place before the resolution was introduced but did not say what, if anything, was altered as the result of their efforts. As for the Ugandan bill, he said that the FRC has never taken a position on the death penalty. Regarding H.Res. 1064, he added, “We have not taken a public position on the current resolution.”

I appreciate the clarification but I am disappointed that FRC would not go on to encourage the passage of H.Res 1064. As an evangelical, I am sad that some Christian groups are neutral or even speaking in favor of the Ugandan bill. To me, it wrong and short-sighted for Christian groups to complain about being mistreated or disrespected when those same groups are promoting or refusing to condemn the same treatment to those who hold different views.

UPDATE: In response to the reports such as described above the FRC issued a statement on their blog:

FRC Statement on H. Res. 1064

by JP Duffy

June 4, 2010

Inaccurate internet reports have been circulating indicating that the Family Research Council lobbied “against” a congressional resolution condemning a bill proposed in Uganda. The Uganda bill would have provided for the death penalty for something called “aggravated homosexuality.” Unfortunately, those spreading these false rumors deliberately failed to obtain the facts first.

FRC did not lobby against or oppose passage of the congressional resolution. FRC’s efforts, at the request of Congressional offices, were limited to seeking changes in the language of proposed drafts of the resolution, in order to make it more factually accurate regarding the content of the Uganda bill, and to remove sweeping and inaccurate assertions that homosexual conduct is internationally recognized as a fundamental human right.

FRC does not support the Uganda bill, and does not support the death penalty for homosexuality – nor any other penalty which would have the effect of inhibiting compassionate pastoral, psychological, and medical care and treatment for those who experience same-sex attractions or who engage in homosexual conduct.

If homosexual conduct is not a human right, then what is it? I do not understand the opposition to freedom of conscience from those who say the government is too involved in our lives.

Exodus International denounces calls for gay executions

Last night, on the organization blog, Exodus International denounced recent statements by Bradlee Dean and You Can Run International regarding the morality of gay executions. The post Randy Thomas begins:

I was alerted to Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s post about Bradlee Dean’s (pictured) public comments saying that Muslim countries who call for homosexuals to be killed are more “moral” than American Christians. I listened to the segment of Mr. Dean’s radio program and was shocked. Click here to visit Warren’s blog and listen to Mr. Dean’s comments.

We called our contacts in Minnesota and apparently Mr. Dean is somewhat known in Christian circles there. They have run into him a couple of times but have not appreciated his strident tone. They were as upset by his statements as we are. I would imagine he will be getting a few phone calls.

What might those phone callers say?

Using Old Testament scriptures to condemn a person to death is not “loving” … it is incomplete theology and powerfully irresponsible. To say that murderous actions are more “moral” than tolerating free will is to completely ignore that Jesus did not call for the deaths of sinners. He died and paid the price for all of our sin, including those of us who have or do struggle with homosexuality.   He paid that transcendent price and still left us with the free will to believe in Him or not. That’s what makes faith in Him authentic and not coerced.

Putting down the stones of condemnation and serving others with humility, dignity and respect is the Christlike response. According to Jesus Himself, selfless sacrifice  has much more moral authority than the false piety of humans judging other humans guilty of breaking the law and deserving of social stigmatization and/or death.

As an aside, homosexuality seems to bring out the inner-Moses in a lot Christians these days. Calls to harshly criminalize homosexuality based on Mosaic law leave lots of questions about what other actions would be included in the long arm of current law (e.g., adultery, parent cursing, bearing false witness).  Thomas goes on to summarize the behavior of Christ toward those who were outcasts in his society and shunned by the Pharisees — any casual reader of the New Testament knows that legislative solutions were not in Christ’s playbook.

On the other hand, the You Can Run folks are hung up on law being the remedy. On their YouTube page, one of the Sons of Liberty (except for people you disagree with) calls for the state of Minnesota to enforce the sodomy law which was set aside by the Supreme Court. This video is consistent with their recent statements, made from the Heritage Foundation, praising African nations for prosecuting homosexuals.

Liberty is not just for people of your faith. Freedom, if it means anything, means the freedom to choose your beliefs and guide your moral life.

Children International has a good deed for you to consider

Garrett Kenyon with Children International wrote to make me aware of a situation that could use some love. I want to let this speak for itself:

César’s story began like millions of others – just another poor kid from the slums, struggling to survive. When he was 3, César and his brothers left an unstable home to live with their grandmother, Elsa, a little woman with a huge heart who’d do anything for “her boys.” The move was good for the brothers. On society’s ragged edge, love shields the young like nothing else can.

As soon as they were old enough, Elsa enrolled the boys in the sponsorship program. Life began to improve gradually. They were even able to attend school, something Elsa couldn’t have afforded without sponsorship. “The program helped a lot,” César remembers, “especially when we started school.”

They needed all the help they could get. Elsa was nearly 60 when she took on the responsibility of raising the three boys. But age wasn’t her only disadvantage. Years earlier, Elsa had lost a leg in a tragic accident. In a country where the disabled are openly shunned and even the healthy struggle to find work, the handicap made finding a job impossible.

So Elsa improvised. She staked out a busy spot in the financial district and began “watching cars.” When people parked in her area, Elsa protected their cars from vandals and thieves. When the drivers returned to find their vehicle unharmed, she hoped they’d give her a small courtesy tip.

But courtesy can be hard to come by when you’re invisible.

For Cesar, things could have been better, but his situation went from bad to worse.

The Grind

That’s when César made a brave decision. Like most teenagers, he dreamt of making a better life. Sponsorship had taught him that the key to success was education, so he studied hard. However, with one brother injured and the other in trade school, César chose to sacrifice his own dreams for his family’s survival. His decision wasn’t uncommon. Millions of reluctant children make the same choice every year.

Eventually, César found work as a bus driver’s assistant. Guatemala City is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and of all the places to work there, a bus is, by far, one of the most hazardous. The gangs that terrorize the city regularly target bus drivers. When a bus enters a gang’s “turf,” a toll is demanded for safe passage. Some drivers refuse to pay, but the consequences are dire. In 2009 alone, 170 bus drivers were murdered. It’s become an all-too-common tragedy in a city gripped by violence.

But César had no other options. “It was the only job I could get,” he says. Luckily, his driver “always paid.”

An average workday for César started at 4 a.m., washing the bus. An hour later, the bus rolled out of the station, to which it would not return until 10:00 at night. César worked throughout the entire period. “My job was to charge the toll, get change, and ‘pull’ more passengers onto the bus.” He worked the 18-hour days with no complaints, never losing the warm, enthusiastic smile he was known for.

By the end of the day, his voice was hoarse from all the yelling. “Sometimes I’d get sleepy. While the driver ate dinner, I had to keep pulling passengers to fill the bus.” But despite the long hours, César “really liked that job.” He was helping the people he loved, finally pulling his own weight. It was a great feeling.

Becoming Invisible

In the end, it wasn’t a gangster’s bullet that brought César down, but an improbable accident. One morning, while “pulling” last-minute passengers, the bus pulled away from the curb. Normally, César would simply hop in the door before the bus picked up speed. But this time, for some unfathomable reason, his pant-leg got stuck in the bus’ wheel spokes. When the bus pulled away, it dragged him, rolling over his foot and crushing it instantly. Though César was rushed to a hospital, doctors were unable to save his foot. By the time he awoke from the sedatives, they had removed it. Continue reading “Children International has a good deed for you to consider”