Thayer Salisbury is a missionary in Africa, and he has some words of wisdom for those of us who live in the United States. He permitted us to reprint them here:
What Is Written? In Luke 10:26, Jesus asks a young man, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” He does not ask him, “What would you like?” or “What would you enjoy?” or “What year is it?”
We do not get all the news from the States. Living where we do, we get little of it. But we have been hearing a lot recently about a Supreme Court ruling that was “leaked” to the press before the justices had completed working on it. The reaction would be ridiculous if it were not so very wrong. Some claim that most Americans disagree with the draft ruling. Others claim that the majority agree with the draft ruling. Both positions are irrelevant and wrong.
It is not the court’s job to please the majority but simply to read the law. The question is not, “What do people think?” The question is, “What do our founding documents say?” No government official takes an oath to uphold what the majority wants. The oath is to “preserve, protect and defend the constitution.” The court is supposed to be specially insulated from public opinion so that they can more honestly respond to the question, “What does the constitution say?” That is their job. That is their only job.
About three weeks ago, I heard someone at a church conference defend a certain position by saying, “It is 2022. It isn’t the 1970s anymore.” I cannot imagine a more foolish thing to say. There is only one positive thing I can say for that person, “At least he knows what year it is.” The negatives are all too obvious.
The question is not, “What year is it?” The question is, “What is the correct position for a Christian on the matter at hand?” To find that answer, we must turn to the scriptures, not to the calendar.
As Jesus pointed the rich young man to the scriptures, so must we. When it comes to Christian teaching, it does not matter what I like. It does not matter what you like. It does not matter what month or year it happens to be. All that matters is what the scriptures teach.
We used to hear people say, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” I disagree with that claim. If God said it, it does not matter whether you or I believe it or not. God said it. That settles it.
This year, one issue not getting media attention is whether college officials can censor public speeches that promote religious issues on campus. In many cases, students promoting Christian values or Christianity as a life choice have been punished or expelled for doing so. Most of the cases have been settled out of court, but the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Chike Uzuegbunam’s case.
Uzuegbunam is a young man who was talking about his faith in Christ at Gwinnett College in Georgia. College officials stopped him and disciplined him for his words. The college maintains that the constitution does not protect speech sharing religious beliefs, and Chike Uzuegbunam filed a lawsuit against the school.
Uzuegbunam’s case will bring before the Supreme Court the question of whether universities can ignore the First Amendment and shut down religious speech on campus. This subject has enormous implications for the whole country. Does the government or universities have the power to stop religious proclamations in public?
In her 1903 book The Friends of Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall described Voltaire’s attitude toward a book he disliked in this way: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That has become a mantra of freedom of speech, but that viewpoint is being challenged today. For Christians trying to follow the example and command to preach the gospel, this discussion is critical.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Chike Uzuegbunam’s case, and you can learn more about it HERE.
In 2016, the Indiana legislature passed a law, signed by then-governor Mike Pence, requiring women to have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion.Planned Parenthood represented by the American Civil Liberties Union succeeded in blocking the law by tying it up in various courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Now according to Indiana’s attorney general, “Planned Parenthood has conceded defeat.”
Court challenges have blocked other Indiana abortion restrictions. A law passed in 2016, also signed by governor Pence, required the burial or cremation of fetal remains after an abortion. The Supreme Court upheld portions of that law. If you require that fetal remains be buried or cremated, you are admitting that the aborted baby was a human and not “an extension of the mother’s body.” Disposing of an aborted baby is not the same as discarding hair or fingernails.
With the ultrasound requirement, when a woman sees her baby moving its limbs and making facial expressions, she may decide not to have the abortion. One of the problems with abortions is that many women have guilt feelings and psychological reactions in later years. The ultrasound may avoid some of that.
The recent U.S. Supreme court decision in a Louisiana abortion law case is apparently why Planned Parenthood has conceded defeat. The Court struck down the Louisana law, but Planned Parenthood seems to be concerned that wording in Chief Justice John Robert’s opinion might justify other restrictions on abortion. Thus, the State of Indiana and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky agreed to ask U.S. District Court to dismiss the lawsuit and end the injunction.
The legalities of the abortion issue continue as various state legislatures pass new laws, and abortion advocates file suits against them. In this election year, the debate over abortion will continue. If we put the same amount of energy and study into producing solutions, the savings in money and emotional stress would be huge. As a parent of three adopted children, I can tell you that there is a massive shortage of babies for couples who cannot conceive and desperately want to have a child.
The ultimate answer is for men and women to live morally as God has called us to. When we stray from God’s instructions, we create all kinds of dilemmas.
Surrogate motherhood is becoming more common. In a surrogacy contract, a woman agrees to allow someone to rent her body to have their child. The parents do that because of an issue that the mother cannot carry the baby, or because they just don’t want to go through the inconvenience of a pregnancy and birth. We have read of movie actresses who do this to avoid having to be off screen for 9 ½ months. Some fertility specialists are selling surrogacy as a part of their offering.
The January/February 2019 issue of Citizen magazine (page 13-15) reported the case of a surrogacy contract running into difficulty. The surrogate mother had agreed to deliver twins–a boy and a girl. A male embryo and a female embryo were implanted into her body. At that point, complications arose. The female embryo failed to implant, and the male embryo split into male twins. The surrogate mother developed pre-eclampsia, and her organs began to shut down forcing delivery of the baby boys ten weeks early. This caused the boys to battle for their lives in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. The couple who had paid to have a boy and a girl became hostile because they weren’t getting what they had paid for. The couple were not interested in the boys, but the surrogate mother bonded with the twins. When they were placed in the neonatal unit, she was left “with a deep sense of emptiness, anxiety, and regret.” She is now advocating for a ban on surrogate motherhood.
The Supreme Court has refused to hear two cases on surrogacy issues. In both cases, the surrogate mothers wanted to keep the children. In one case the woman was carrying triplets for a single man who wished to abort at least one due to financial concerns. The other was a mother who learned that the couple she was working for had strong racial prejudices. In both cases, the surrogates lost. There are no national laws that deal with surrogacy, and every state is different. A documentary last fall titled “Big Fertility: It’s All About the Money” pointed out that the practice of surrogate motherhood exploits low-income women and families. We would suggest that surrogacy is wrong on a moral basis.
Like some other modern issues, the Bible doesn’t address surrogacy. The fact that the Bible does not condemn something doesn’t mean we can’t judge whether it is compatible with God’s will. The connection between mother and child during the pregnancy is unique. As the parent of three adopted children, I can tell you that the love we have as a family is massive. However, the relationship between my wife and my two girls was not the same as their relationship with their children born naturally. Data shows that babies bond with their birth mothers during the pregnancy.
Abortion advocates maintain that a baby is merely an extension of the mother’s body. So she has the right to exterminate the baby because it is just an unwanted part of her body. Surrogate motherhood assumes that the baby is a singular physical entity that can be engaged or terminated at the will of the adults involved, for any reason.
In 1927 Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated: “Three generations of imbeciles is enough.” He was explaining the court’s support of a Virginia program of involuntary sterilization in a case identified as Buck vs. Bell. The Virginia law and others like it in other states compelled the involuntary sterilization of those people deemed genetically inferior. More than 60,000 people in the United States were sterilized in compliance with the laws the Supreme Court upheld. It was connected to the eugenics movement.
The concept of eugenics goes back at least to the ancient Greeks, but it became a popular movement in Europe and North America in the early twentieth century. In 1931, advocates of eugenics, the movement to improve the genetic quality of the human population, held a “Better Babies” contest in Washington D.C. to popularize the movement. Adolf Hitler used the concept of eugenics to justify his promotion of one superior racial group and to eliminate the inferior groups.
Now in 2018, the concept of using science to produce superior human beings is even more realistic. That is because of a gene-editing tool called CRISPR which geneticists can use to manipulate DNA to control the traits of animals, plants, and people. Dr. Henry Greely of Stanford University says that CRISPR “might one day be used to engineer humans who are more intelligent, beautiful, or athletic.”
It is essential to understand that the potential for good with CRISPR is enormous. It may be possible to cure genetic diseases by using gene editing techniques. It may also be possible to produce useful new food sources. The problem is that gene editing can also be used for evil purposes. Dr. Greely’s statement brings to mind Adolph Hitler’s justification of the extermination of what Hitler considered to be inferior humans.
So what will CRISPR be used for – enormous good, or enormous evil? The answer to that cannot come from science. The religious convictions of those doing the research and those who use the research will decide whether CRISPR does good, or whether it will become a tool of war and ethnic persecution.
Virtually every significant discovery of science can be used for good or evil. Nuclear energy has the potential for enormous good by providing unlimited energy to everyone on the planet. It also has the potential for immense destruction. Dr. Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of the inventors of CRISPR. She has written that she has nightmares “of all the ways in which our hard work might be perverted.”
It is easy to see that both political parties in the United States, are very concerned about who is going to be appointed as judges, especially on the Supreme Court. A president serves a four-year term, but the impact of a judge can be felt for generations. Many people voted for President Trump purely to keep liberal judges off the court. The legacy of Democratic presidents has always included their choices for judges.
As an example of the concern, a major battle revolves around U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb who has consistently ruled against issues of faith. Crabb ruled that “The National Day of Prayer” was unconstitutional. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her decision.
Judge Crabb has twice sided with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on questions of taxes. Three years ago Crabb declared that the clergy housing allowance violated the First Amendment. The Freedom From Religion Foundation had filed the suit. The Justice Department argued that the FFRF wasn’t harmed because they could claim the benefit for themselves. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed judge Crabb’s decision and restored the housing allowance.
The leaders of the FFRF applied for the benefit and were denied by the Internal Revenue Service. This fall the FFRF sued again saying that religious leaders had a preference over secular employees. Crabb has again ruled in favor of their complaint. The case will probably be appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
The important point here is the intent of the benefit. Ministers provide needed services to the community. Because their pay is rather poor, the government was trying to help them with a basic expense. Secular workers are generally better paid and in most cases are not providing low cost or free services to the community. Also, the housing allowance is justified by the fact that ministers are required to live in the communities they serve.
A new question has come up about who is fit to serve as a judge in American courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been screening candidates for judicial positions and some members of the committee seem to be establishing a religious test for judges. The indication is that faithful Christians should not be allowed to serve on the bench.
One of the candidates is Amy Coney Barrett who is a practicing Roman Catholic. The committee challenged Barrett’s fitness to serve as a judge because, in the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett has said that “faith informs her views.” However, she has also said that she is obligated to interpret and apply the Constitution and the laws, not her own beliefs. She was a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who was also a faithful Catholic. Senator Dick Durbin asked Barrett, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” What the senators seem to be forgetting is that the United States Constitution strictly prohibits a religious test for judges. That question should not even be asked of a judicial candidate.
Sometimes when atheists attack churches and people who believe in God, their arguments border nonsense. In an earlier post, we told about a state program for child safety in Missouri that was denied to a church solely because it was a church. A Supreme Court decision finally settled the matter.
The state had instituted a grant program which allowed owners of playgrounds to make them safer by purchasing rubberized playground surface material made from recycled tires. In 2012 Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia, Missouri, needed to replace the gravel on their playground with the safer material. The state denied their grant application saying that public funds cannot be given to religious organizations according to the Missouri state constitution. The case went to an appeals court where it ended in a tie vote. It was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 26, 2017, the court decided in favor of the church.
This case may sound frivolous, but it is an important issue. Churches run food banks, women’s shelters, street kitchens, relief agencies, counseling centers, and many other programs to help people. Churches provide those services more efficiently at less cost than government programs. The services that churches provide relieves the burden from taxpayers while providing more help for more people in need. If the government penalizes the work of the churches simply because they are “religious,” everyone suffers. Atheists provide none of those services to any great extent, if at all. We see foolish cases like this one increasing because of blind hatred for God.
The Alliance Defending Freedom represented Trinity Lutheran in this case, and they argued that Missouri’s “…religious exclusion sends a message that Trinity’s children are less worthy of protection simply because they play on a playground owned by a church.” The ADF also stated that “People of faith shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens–every child’s safety matters. The government shouldn’t make children in religious preschools less safe on playgrounds than other children.”
One of the delicate areas in our culture today is the issue of the separation of church and state. It might appear on the surface that this is a no-brainer, but like most things, it isn’t that simple. Romans 13:6-7 instructs Christians to pay taxes and obey civil authority, and in Luke 20:25 Jesus tells us “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” The Constitution of the United States is clear about the government not sponsoring a religion but also guarantees religious freedom. Every nation with a state religion has had enormous problems with what evolved from that endorsement. It is biblical and logical to keep the state and religion separate.
The current crisis which appears to be headed for the Supreme Court is the situation where a church is handling an issue too big for the state and needs money that the state has available to meet the need. In 2012 Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia, Missouri, needed to replace the gravel that was under their playground with safer and cleaner material made from recycled tires. This material was available from the state by simply applying for a grant to get the material. The state denied the grant to the church saying that public funds cannot be given to religious organizations according to the Missouri state constitution. The case went to an appeals court which had a tie vote.