On Christian Nationalism

Santino Burrola recorded a video and posted it to TikTok.  He was fired from his job at a grocery store for the offense.  What did he do wrong?  Inappropriately filming someone in the restroom?  Dancing in the aisles while on the clock?  No.  He recorded thieves stealing from the store.  He peeled aluminum foil off the license plate of the get-away vehicle so that it would become visible.  Hoping that the culprits would be caught, he posted the video, and at least one of the thieves was caught.  For his actions in trying to stop people from stealing, he was fired.

The store cited its policy that employees should not interfere with people shoplifting to “minimize the risk to our associates.”[i]

If you read the title to this piece, you may be wondering how this story relates to Christian Nationalism.  It doesn’t seem to tie in at all.  Please bear with me, and I will try to show you how.  There is a Christian Nationalism which should be rejected and condemned vociferously, but there are also some thoughts and ideas which are labeled “Christian Nationalism” in an attempt to smear those who offer them as well as to dismiss those ideas without having to engage them and understand why they are held; and those thoughts and ideas directly relate to the Santio Burrola situation.

First, we must define Christian Nationalism.  There is no firm definition, at least that I have found.  In our postmodern society, this is par for the course.  The muddier we can make definitions, the more we can apply or deny them to a given situation, group, or movement. 

But I don’t play those games.  Muddying the waters only sows confusion and chaos.  Therefore, you do not need to guess my operating definition of Christian Nationalism.  It is this: The belief that God has given the U.S. a special blessing and destiny, and that to be American means to be explicitly Christian.  Therefore the United States should impose the Christian faith upon its population in public life including in its understanding and application of the law.  Many would call my definition too limited, and they would like to add several caveats to it including the following:

  • The U.S. was established to be an explicitly Christian nation.[ii]
  • That Christianity should have a privileged position in society.[iii]
  • That it provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.[iv][v]

I reject these caveats and additions, and I explain why below. However, I also believe it is important for Christians to unequivocally reject and condemn the definition which I have set forth. Why?

For two substantial reasons: First, Christianity is invitational, not impositional.  Plain and simple.  Nowhere does Jesus ever suggest that anyone be forced to become a Christian or follow Him.  In fact, when people reject Jesus, He lets them go.  He doesn’t zap them.  He doesn’t punish them.  He allows them to walk away to follow their own whims.  He focuses His attention on those who do accept the invitation to follow Him. 

Faith in Christ does not come by forcing people to follow Jesus.  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God and having one’s heart transformed by the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  This is our only and sole weapon of transformation and bringing of the Kingdom of God to earth.  Imposing the Christian faith by fiat does not change a heart, and the times when it has been tried have led to disaster.

Secondly, the Kingdom of God is in the world, but it is not of the world.  Martin Luther writes about this eloquently in his short piece Temporal Authority: To what Extent it Should be Obeyed, “What would be the result of an attempt to rule the world by the Gospel and the abolition of earthly law and force? It would be loosing savage beasts from their chains. The wicked, under cover of the Christian name would make unjust use of their Gospel freedom.”[vi]

The Kingdom of God operates by grace, and those who enter into it have no need of temporal law.  The Law of God is written upon their hearts, and so they actually go above and beyond what temporal authority calls for.  However, as Luther states, there are very few true Christians, so temporal law is necessary to curb sin. 

Those who seek to impose the Kingdom of God by following the belief of Christian Nationalism do not fundamentally understand Christianity, and, perhaps this is why, as the authors of Taking America Back for God found, the religiously devout do not adhere to those beliefs.[vii]

It would appear that a rejection of Christian Nationalism on these terms would be satisfactory, and we could simply bury the subject altogether; however, we cannot.  The topic actually becomes a bit muddier when one considers there are people within society, and within the church, who use Christian Nationalism as a pejorative towards those who believe that a) the United States was founded upon Christian principles and b) that Christianity should have a privileged place in society. 

Let me state unequivocally before I continue, I do not believe that Christianity should have a legally privileged place in society.  That is both unconstitutional in the U.S. and would actually fall under Christian Nationalism; however, when I speak of a privileged position in society, I speak from understanding two things: 1) That, as a Christian and particularly a Lutheran, I believe that all temporal authority comes from God, and 2) without grounding the fundamental rights of humanity as well as both values and morals, in a transcendent[viii] reality/worldview—specifically a reality/worldview that also allows respectful disagreement alongside those rights, values and morals—then a society will descend into chaos and eventually fall.  Explanation is in order.

In the United States, it is understood that every individual human being is endowed with certain rights, and the founders of our nation stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence, those rights are self-evidently endowed by the Creator.  One must ask oneself two questions: 1) Where did this idea of fundamental human rights come from? and 2) Why say that they are endowed by the Creator?

The answer to the first of these questions is: fundamental human rights including that each human had inherent value and worth came from the Judeo-Christian tradition.  This is not a made up claim.  You can read the histories and practices of ancient civilizations and find that only within the Judeo-Christian tradition does one find that each and every person has worth and value; each and every person is created in the image of God; each and every person is allotted certain protections no matter if they are an insider or an outsider.  Here is the pertinent question: can a society hold onto fundamental beliefs when throwing out the very belief system that brought those beliefs into the world?

The answer to the second of these questions is: they are endowed by the Creator because if they were endowed by society or the government, then they can be taken away at the whim of society or the government.  Rights that are endowed by the transcendent can only be removed by the transcendent.  Rights that are endowed by the immanent[ix] can easily be removed by the immanent.  The reason the Civil Rights’ Movement in the U.S. was successful is that an appeal was made to transcendent rights which superseded laws that society had implemented.  Without such transcendence, one could have simply said, “The majority has spoken.  Your rights are granted by the state, nothing more.”  There would have been no counter argument.  Another pertinent question: Can a society which removes the underpinning of human rights from a transcendent Creator maintain human rights for everyone? 

The answers to these two questions begin pointing us towards the reason Christianity should have a privileged place in society. However, there is one more addition that must be made.  Christianity not only ensures fundamental human rights and grounds those rights in a transcendent reality, it also provides a moral framework which allows for disagreement and respect towards those who hold different positions.  Christians understand that we treat fellow Christians as family–this language permeates the New Testament, but what about those who are not in our Christian family?  They are our neighbors, and we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves–love being agape, the Greek word for a self-sacrificial love which calls for sacrificing ourselves for the sake of our neighbor.  There is a further call to love one’s enemies–again using the same Greek word.  Hatred and demonization of enemies; of the other; of someone outside one’s preferred group, is forbidden within Christian thought.  Is there another philosophy or religion which goes so far? 

Certainly not the godless, postmodern society which is rapidly gaining ground within our culture.  Postmodern thought has removed the idea of transcendence and has made everything immanent, and, unfortunately, even some within the church buy into this particular philosophical framework.  It is much to society’s detriment.

Let us return to the opening story of this article: Santino Burrola and his subsequent firing for wanting to stop thieves.  What philosophy/worldview undergirds the idea that thieves should be allowed to take goods unchecked?  What philosophy/ worldview undergirds the idea that those who seek to stop stealing should be punished?  It’s not the Christian worldview.  It’s not the worldview which undergirded the United States from its inception.  There is something else at play.  There is another stream of thought which is being privileged. In this case, it is the postmodern worldview/philosophy which somehow has accepted theft and demeaned those who try to stop it.  It would seem self-evident that privileging this philosophy/worldview is not good for society in the long run.  In fact, it will lead to chaos. 

As the great Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterson once said, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”[x]  A culture or society which does not believe in God, or at least have human rights rooted in a transcendent Creator, will then become capable of believing anything including that theft should be allowed and those who seek to protect another’s property should be punished.

It would behoove those who try to lump those who strongly adhere to the beliefs that the United States was founded upon Christian principles and that Christianity should have a privileged place in society to understand why we say such things and not simply dismiss us by pejoratively calling us Christian Nationalists.  We’re not.  We’re Christians, Lutherans, and citizens who love our country and what it stands for.  We want our country to be a place where justice, fairness, and freedom thrive.  We are convinced that in order for this to happen, we must have a shared understanding of human rights, values, and morals; and we are convinced by history, philosophy, and faith that this will be impossible without this being grounded in a transcendent reality which allows for disagreement.

Is there a better grounding than Christianity?  I don’t think so.

[i] https://www.cbsnews.com/colorado/news/king-soopers-employee-fired-video-theft/

[ii] https://sas.rutgers.edu/news-a-events/news/newsroom/faculty/3406-religious-nationalism

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] https://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/7996

[v]  I do not deal with this caveat in the article as it is not a theological point; however, this Pew article (https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2022/10/27/views-of-the-u-s-as-a-christian-nation-and-opinions-about-christian-nationalism/) shows that even within the African-American and Hispanic communities a majority of members of those communities support the statement that the founders of the U.S. meant for this to be a Christian Nation.  Not only that, the majority of African-American Protestants believe that the U.S. should be a Christian nation.  This caveat is actually not based in reality, but is based in an attempt to simply discredit Christian Nationalism by tying it to white supremacy without actually dealing with any arguments.

[vi] Luther, Martin. Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should be Obeyed.  Luther’s Works Volume 45. P.91.

[vii] https://learn.elca.org/jle/taking-america-back-for-god-christian-nationalism-in-the-united-states-and-andrew-l-whitehead-and-samuel-l-perry/

[viii] Something that is above and beyond or outside ourselves and this universe as we know it.

[ix] Those things found within the universe as we know it.

[x] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/44015-when-men-choose-not-to-believe-in-god-they-do

The Christian Alternative to Critical Race Theory

Editor’s Note: The conclusion of this article will be published in a second post on or about September 18, 2020.

Critical Theory—in particular, Critical Race Theory—has recently captured the Church’s attention, and in some corners of the Lord’s vineyard it seems, more significantly, Her imagination.  (For those unfamiliar with Critical Theory, this article will serve as a necessarily incomplete introduction.)  Springing from the same philosophers and theorists (Foucault, Derrida, etc.) who brought us postmodernism, Critical Theory seems to be suddenly taking the whole Western world by storm.

This is an illusion.  Though all but Liberal Arts majors would likely be unfamiliar with the Frankfurt School or even the phrase “Critical Theory,” everyone who has received an undergraduate education in the last thirty years has been familiarized with (and in many cases, indoctrinated into) its basic terminology and the categories of meaning by which it makes sense of the world.  For instance, for every one of my acquaintance at my own undergraduate alma mater of Penn State, the obligatory “professional writing” requirement for non-English majors was used by the professors as an opportunity to force-feed undergraduates Critical Theory.  As an example, a business writing class for music majors taught participants to write personal reflections on books like Stone Butch Blues, a lesbian coming of age story, instead of memos, letters to parents, and departmental requisitions.  Even if you think the exposure salutary, it demonstrates the tactics of Critical Theory, which, as its exponents readily affirm, “contains an activist dimension. It tries to not only understand our social situation but to change it, setting out not only to ascertain how society organizes itself along racial lines and hierarchies but to transform it for the better.”[1]

Solid introductions to Critical Theory by both its proponents and opponents are now widely available, and I encourage the reader to consult at least one of each to familiarize themselves with its outlines; otherwise, as commentator Phil Blair demonstrated in his response to a recent Christianity Today article, we may find ourselves employing it unbeknownst to ourselves.


Though articles abound that are critical of Critical Theory (hereafter referred to as CT) from a Christian perspective, as mine is, I hope to explore the topic from an at least slightly different perspective; I propose that while CT may properly diagnose some elements of our cultural ills, it necessarily misaddresses these maladies because it is in fact a secularized Christian heresy.

The Critic Is Often Right About What Is Wrong, But He Is Nearly Always Wrong About What Would Be Right.

I want to start by acknowledging what CT—and progressive ideologies more generally—often get right.  One of the functions of the people in a society that are typically deemed “liberal,” “left,” or “progressive” is to point out injustices when they accumulate.  Any meritocracy (where achievement or talent is rewarded with social and/or economic upward mobility) periodically and predictably accumulates inequity and unfairness at its margins.  At a biological level, talent and giftedness are inborn traits that often run in families.  Sociologically, families pass on habits and knowledge that maximize (or minimize) inherent capacities for greater achievement and reward.  The greatest patrimony that a family passes on in a meritocracy is not their wealth—though that certainly has undeniable advantages—but rather their knowledge and skills in accessing or leveraging the power structures of the meritocracy.

This does not mean that a meritocracy is inherently immoral. (What would we want, a system where lack of talent, industry, and skill is rewarded?) But it does mean that for all the good it may produce, it is a system that can put real people at a real disadvantage in accessing the social and economic rewards deemed legitimate by the value system at its foundation; it is a system that needs a watchdog that calls for course corrections when the process whereby “the rising tide that lifts all boats” creates eddies and riptides that prevent people from weighing anchor and setting sail.

In his book The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt contends that in the same way all the complex flavors of the world’s cuisines are composed of the tongue’s four basic tasting capacities—sweet, sour, salty, and bitter—the great diversity of moralities to which people ascribe are woven from the five basic “cognitive modules” with which we define and evaluate morality and justice.  Defined in terms of their antipodes, these modules are care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation.  Haidt names this Moral Foundations Theory.

One need not agree with Haidt’s thesis about the origins of these cognitive modules to see their utility as an interpretive grid.  In analyzing the political application of the theory, Haidt, who identifies himself as a liberal, discovered that those who measured as the most “liberal” registered highly in the care/harm and fairness/cheating categories but little to not at all in the other three.  Though caring and fairness were also the dominant categories for those who registered as the most “conservative,” people with these political leanings showed a near convergence with the other three concerns of loyalty, authority, and sanctity:

What this means is that if it seems that the proponents of Critical Theory are “tone deaf” to some of the moral concerns expressed by other, more “conservative” people, it is because they are.  For the “liberal” adherent of CT, the mere presence of inequity is all the proof needed that injustice is occurring.  Questions of whether people have demonstrated the social virtues of developing skills (that is, demonstrating loyalty to the system’s values) are largely not considered, or if they are, the need to do so is defined as part of the oppression inherent in “the system.”  Likewise, the need to “pay one’s dues,” which recognizes the system’s authority, is construed as more evidence of injustice rather than a period of necessary apprenticeship during which there is predicted inequity between those who have acquired the sought-after skills and resources and those currently acquiring them.  Finally, the need to exhibit sustained effort with or without immediate reward—the most sanctified value in a meritocracy—is despised most of all as the mechanism of systemic injustice because, although such effort generally yields overall improvement in the socio-economic position of a given class of people, there is no guarantee in any particular instance that the effort so exerted will result necessarily in equity.  The moral concerns of three of the five moral cognitive modules are not only temporarily bracketed to focus analysis on the issue of fairness, for the “liberal,” they quite literally do not register as things worthy of assessment and for the critical theorist, they are merely attempts to obfuscate the real issue, which is measurable equity.

Moreover, the proponent of Critical Theory does not need to provide measurable criteria whereby to evaluate the claims of their analysis.  The existence of the inequity natural to and predicted by a system that rewards merit is the prima facie evidence that revolution is needed.  Whether the proposed system could actually create the desired equity and whether that equity would be balanced with other moral concerns  (everyone living in social and/or economic squalor is, after all, a type of equality) need not be seriously contemplated, because the only value in view is equity, which is defined as fairness that provides the necessary care for everybody.

This is how these critics can be right about what is wrong (that is, in Critical Race Theory, the form of CT most affecting the life of the Church at present, racial inequities), but so wrong about what would put these wrongs right; their theories are not based upon a morality with a complex enough palate, capable of fine enough distinctions.

Eschatology and Anthropology

This is also in part why Critical Theory is a comprehensive worldview; in merely noting inequity, it believes that it has accounted for all the most significant moral variables—the only ones that count.  It must then flatten all human experience into the narrow interpretive grid it deems the only valid one.

Four Fundamental Questions

The late Ravi Zacharias helpfully delineated at least four fundamental questions of human life to which any worldview must propose an answer: human origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.  Because of the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial,” the issue of origins has dominated the intellectual landscape of the Western Church for the last 100 or so years.  First, it dominated the popular imagination as “yet another case” of backward religionists resisting reason’s inevitable march of progress in accord with the Enlightenment’s self-narration.  (Yes, this was first. Scopes deliberately implicated himself so that a trial would need to be held and Darrow deliberately had the trial played out by a sympathetic urbane media in the court of public opinion as part of his legal strategy.)  The attempts to condemn Intelligent Design as veiled religious dogma are the intellectual descendants of that controversy.  Secondly, it precipitated a growing crisis within the Church between Fundamentalists and Modernists, who believed a dating of the age of the earth to greater than 7,000 years was congruent with orthodox Biblical interpretation.  The inheritors of that dispute are the Young Earth versus Old Earth Creationist debates of today.[2] 

“Your theology can never be better than your anthropology,” was one of the favorite axioms my Prophets professor in seminary passed on to us from his mentor.  Of course, being self-consciously orthodox, I thought that axiom got it exactly backward; our theology—specifically our Christology and soteriology—necessarily defines our understanding of human nature, so our anthropology can never be better than our theology.

Unfortunately, the Western Church’s obsession with origins has led to a relative neglect of the way our understanding of who Jesus is and what salvation fully entails informs our understanding of what human beings are (our meaning), how we should live (our morality), and our purpose or telos (our destiny).  The preaching of Jesus predominantly as life coach, social activist, friend of sinners, prophetic preacher, social reformer or even atoning sacrifice for sinners, has led to the neglect of the consistent preaching of Jesus as the God-Man or Theanthropos, a new species in God’s economy of salvation.[3]  “God became man that man might become [like] God,” exulted Irenaeus of Lyons in his second century classic Against Heresies, going on to declare as the soteriological significance of that teaching that “the glory of God is a [hu]man fully alive.”

Great Tradition Christianity proclaims that the ultimate destiny of redeemed humanity is not merely to avoid hell (Jesus as the cosmic get-out-of-jail-free card) or to emulate Jesus as the finest example of a fully self-realized or perfectly moral human person, but rather to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).  Through our Sacramental union with Jesus, who was fully God and fully human, by faith in His promises, we are drawn into the perichoretic inner life of the Godhead, the most Holy Trinity.  As the Theanthropos, Jesus is the “firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29), not the only-born to be admired and worshipped, but whose life remains fundamentally distant from our own.

This teaching about the implications of salvation through Christ for our destiny as human beings thoroughly conditions and shapes all other elements of our theology.  In other words, remembering the fullness of our destiny as human beings in Christ has far more impact on our understanding of what is the meaning of human life and the morality by which it is to be lived than our understanding of our origins.

[1] Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. (New York: New York University Press, 2017), page 8.

[2] If you speak the first article of the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed without crossing your fingers, you are a creationist of one stripe or the other; it is important that non-fundamentalist Christians be absolutely clear on this point and think through the consequences of that position as distinct from a functional Deism.

[3] Justification by grace through faith—forensic justification—may indeed be the doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls as Martin Luther declared, but it was never meant to be preached denuded of the very Christology that makes it so powerful and poignant.

How the Revisionists Re-Framed the Sexuality Debates

Back in my college days, I was on the debate team. We would be assigned a general topic for the year, and a two-member team from one college would offer a proposal within the topic, while a team from a different college would oppose it. We didn’t know until a few minutes before the debate started whether we would be advocating the affirmative or negative side, nor did the negative team know how the affirmative would frame its proposal.

One of the tricks was to frame the proposal in terms that made it difficult to oppose. Probably we spent more planning time on that than the merits of the ideas at stake.

I have watched how those holding the revisionist position on sexual ethics have brilliantly re-framed the debate in ways that put those of us holding to traditional biblical ethics at a disadvantage in convincing others. They managed to frame the debate in such a way that any opposition to their positions seemed unjust or even sick.

This has been done in two ways. First, sexual orientations and behaviors were turned into issues of civil rights. Think how you see the = sign on bumper stickers; “All we want is the same right you have to be married to the person we love.” And since, as the argument goes, sexual orientations are not a matter of choice but perhaps even good things which God has created, gender identity and sexual orientation should be a protected civil right. So, it is stated as proven and obvious fact that sexual orientation is like race or ethnicity — a matter about which we have no choice. Even though science has failed to find a so-called “gay gene,” the statement that “we are born gay [or whatever]” has been repeated so often that it is generally accepted as true [see Orwell, the “big lie”].

I first heard this contention back in 1983 (yes I am that old) at a Conference on the New Lutheran Church at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Karen Bloomquist, who at the time served in the social affairs office of the LCA (and would later be the primary writer of the first ELCA sexuality statement, the one that went down in flames) was giving a presentation with a list of groups of people who should be protected, and included along with race, gender, and ethnic origin the matter of sexual orientation. I challenged her, and I still remember Prof. Robert Jenson sitting in the back of the room, grinning I suspect at my naïve surprise at her linking of these topics, for it had been done in the wider society long before I first heard it.

We all have sinful orientations. The Church calls it “original sin.” St. Paul speaks of it as “the flesh,” to which “the Spirit” is opposed. Not all of us are tempted in the same ways, but on other matters nobody will say, “God made me this way, so you have to celebrate it and be proud of me.” For instance, there is a proven genetic connection to addictions including alcoholism, but we would not celebrate drunkenness in an alcoholic. The ethical choice for an alcoholic is not to drink; it isn’t to go around proudly claiming, “God made me this way.”

Once we turn sexual orientations into civil rights instead of behavioral issues, we have been placed at a significant disadvantage in defending the biblical view of sexuality. And that is exactly what has happened.

A danger of seeing sexual orientations as civil rights issues is that this paves the way for the power of government, especially its power to tax, to be used against groups including churches which do not accept this new definition of justice. Already the Supreme Court has declared (I believe disastrously) that tax exemption is not a right but a privilege bestowed by the government to organizations that share its values (the case involved Bob Jones University, and a similar one involved Rev. Moon). Several prominent politicians have publicly proposed that churches which refuse to conduct same-sex marriages should be denied tax exemptions.

A second brilliant move by the sexual revisionists is even more frightening: They have basically declared that anybody who opposes their viewpoints on sexuality is mentally ill.

Think of what that term “homophobia” means: “homo” means “same” and “phobia” is fear. It is a pseudo-scientific term coined to cut off any debate about the rightness or wrongness of same-sex sexual activities. If you disapprove of same-sex sexual relationships, you are obviously homophobic, and shame on you! End of discussion.

In my state, our Secretary of Health started life as Richard but is now Rachel. And the media is trumpeting how those who make unkind statements about her are “transphobic.”

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t lie awake nights in fear that a group of transgender people are going to attack me. Nor do I wake up screaming because of a nightmare that some crazy doctor is attacking me with a knife. I guess there might be such a thing as homophobia, in the sense that a person may be insecure in their masculinity or femininity. But most of us do not go through life obsessed with fear of gay or lesbian people or inclinations. I have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, and they are generally nice people. I just don’t agree with this aspect of their lifestyle. But then there are reasons to disapprove of a lot of things I do too (file that under the topic of original sin, even though most of my sinning isn’t all that original).

Not only does turning traditional sexual ethics into mental illness cut off any constructive conversation, but it puts us in a very vulnerable position, which is exactly the intention. Call me paranoid, but I can see that in a certain cultural climate, folks like me might be compassionately “treated” in a kind and gracious attempt to release us from our bondage to our phobias.

Let’s be clear: All gay and lesbian people, all transgender people, are precious children of God for whom Jesus died, as he died for all us sinners. They are our neighbors whom we are commanded to love as we love ourselves. All of us (including me) need to avoid unkind comments or actions toward these people.

And it is true that there is such a thing as gender dysphoria, where the brain and body fail to communicate accurately in fetal development, so that the brain thinks it is one gender while the body develops as the other. This is tragic, and Christians can and will disagree on how a person deals with this aspect of the brokenness of our fallen world. Similarly, there seem to be very complex factors in a person being attracted to a member of the same sex. I accept that persons normally don’t choose to be gay or lesbian (although today there seem to be some exceptions like Katy Perry “I kissed a girl,” who try it for kicks and to prove their open-mindedness).

What does this mean for us? For starters, I believe we need to repent of any nastiness or unkindness we practice or feel toward what are called “sexual minorities” (I won’t try to name them all). We are not called to hate anybody, and when we come across that way, we simply confirm the opinion of those who believe we have a serious prejudice or mental illness.

And on a societal basis, we need to treat all people with justice and fairness. The time is probably long past when pastors should be agents of the state in officiating at marriages. We should let the government do its thing, and if people want God’s blessing pronounced on their relationship, that would be our role where we believe we can do it with integrity.

But we need to keep reminding ourselves and others that our concern is not with orientations or inclinations but with actions. We can’t always change what we feel, but we can have some control over what we do. I am not saying that this is easy: I think of Mark Twain who said that it was easy to quit smoking; he must have done it a thousand times. And most of us can relate regarding our struggles with our particular temptations.

I am not optimistic that we can change the framework in which sexual ethics is being argued today, but we need to be aware of it and be prepared to challenge it. Once behaviors outside the boundaries of heterosexual marriage are turned into civil rights, and especially when opposition to them is defined as mental illness, we have our work cut out for us. It will require a lot of wisdom and patience to counter those assumptions (for they are assumptions, not proven facts).

And if we fail to love other sinners, we don’t deserve to win an argument either. So let us keep our focus directed toward love for all our neighbors, even as we look for opportunities to account for the hope that is in us, but always with gentleness and reverence (see 1 Peter 3:15-16).