We Cannot be Silent – A Book Review

we cannot be silent

There is a revolution sweeping the nation and the world. Some are rejoicing over it while others are mourning the loss of what used to be. According to Albert Mohler, this revolution that is sweeping through our country and our world is wiping away sexual morality and redefining an institution that has been in place for thousands of years.

While some may think that this revolution sprung up overnight and suddenly appeared, others may realize that the revolution has been years and decades in the making. In fact, Mohler claims that the revolution came long before the legalization of same-sex marriage. It is this revolution that is the subject of his book “We Cannot Be Silent.”

In his book, Mohler walks through how he believes this revolution began, looking back at the sexual revolution within the United States. He carefully and thoughtfully walks the reader through this revolution, looking at the technological advancements that have taken place to aid and abet the revolution. Mohler suggests that the institution of marriage had already begun to weaken and experience structural integrity with the advent of birth control, artificial insemination, and other advancements. Mohler suggests that Christians began to compromise as well by failing to maintain “a vital voice and the ability to speak prophetically to the larger culture concerning matters of marriage, sex, and morality.”

Separating sex and procreation through the advent of birth control enabled a more carefree approach to sex. As long as sex was connected to the possibility of pregnancy, there was a biological check on sex outside of marriage and promiscuity. Birth control opened up a whole new opportunity for the two to no longer be so connected. Not only birth control, but the social acceptance of extramarital sex and cohabitation were among the other factors, “that have fueled the expansion of that revolution into terrain that the early sexual revolutionaries could never have imagined.”

Technological advancements were not the sole perpetrators, however. Mohler suggests that no-fault divorce also eroded the institution of marriage, making marriage more of a contract than a covenant. Mohler even suggests that, “In the end, we will almost surely have to concede that divorce will harm far more lives and cause far more direct damage than same-sex marriage.” Statements like this throughout the book helped me to gain respect for Mohler for his honest assessment of the situation.

Over and over again, Mohler points to the Christian church as compromising its own morals and values, not necessarily by condoning the behaviors that were embraced by society and culture but by simply not speaking out in opposition to what was being widely embraced outside of the church. Mohler is not accusatory of those with whom he disagrees but, like Jesus, reserves his greatest criticisms for the religious right who must share ownership of the current state of affairs and degradation.

Throughout this book, Mohler uses resources from both sides of the same-sex marriage debate. While he certainly has an agenda and viewpoint, he presents it fairly and humbly, without accusations to anyone but those who are within the church. Perusing the endnotes and the resources referenced there would likely interest those on both sides of this debate.

Mohler offers a humble confession and apology to the homosexual community for behaviors against them by the church. He says that the church has failed, “to reach out to our neighbors with true love, compassion, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The church has been guilty of an idolatrous pursuit of comfort which has lead us to associate with those who are like us. Mohler boldly states that, “Both love and truth are essential as we establish a right relationship with our neighbors in a way that consists with our ultimate commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Humble confessions like this, in my opinion, go a long way to trying to restore and repair the relationship between those within the church and those in the LGBT community.

He honestly confronts the cries of millions of evangelicals who have claimed that we live in a Christian nation when he says, “At this point, we must respond with the sobering reality that America has never been nearly as Christian as many conservative Christians have claimed.” While he still points to the Judeo Christian values on which this nation was founded, he doesn’t use them as a false support to claim that our nation is Christian.

Mohler addresses the transgender revolution as well. He is critical of the new ideology and mindset among many within the culture who are changing definitions that have been in place for years. He writes, “Arguing that we should draw a clear distinction between who an individual wants to go to bed with and who an individual wants to go to bed as requires the dismantling of an entire thought structure and worldview.” While he clearly states his points and leaves no room for misinterpretation of his own viewpoint, he still maintains a humility and Christlikeness by claiming that there is a need for the church to “develop new skills of compassion and understanding” in dealing with those who find themselves in the midst of their own personal struggles in this area.

As Mohler talks about this shift within our culture, he raises consciousness of the breakdown that is taking place regarding tolerance and religious liberty. Mohler writes, “The remaining question is whether champions of tolerance are prepared to tolerate proponents of a different ethical vision.” Mohler rightly asks this question, wondering whether or not those who claim to be so tolerant are tolerant enough to be able to accept opposing opinions and ideas. It would seem that tolerance is an easy word to trumpet while not being quite as easy to actually live out, especially when it comes to tolerance of ideas that fly in opposition to your own.

He also speaks of the death of religious liberty, writing, “This is how religious liberty dies – by a thousand cuts. An intimidating letter here, a subpoena there, a warning in yet another place. The message is simple and easily understood. Be quiet and get in line or risk trouble.” He raises the alarm on the breakdown of religious liberty that he sees. While the erosion of those liberties may seem subtle, over time, these subtle shifts can result into a significant shift over time, a point that Mohler hopes to get across throughout the entire book.

Religious liberty is dying and tolerance is being advocated while seemingly only being a ruse for the tolerance of ideas that are embraced by the majority. What happens when there are those who embrace a minority viewpoint that is in opposition to the majority? The evidence up to this point has not shown that tolerance means much more than tolerance for the majority viewpoint, all others must fall in line and succumb.

The last chapter of the book is dedicated to hard questions for which Mohler provides his own answers. While that might sound harsh, if the reader has gotten to the end of the book, Mohler’s viewpoint won’t be a surprise. Those for whom this book was intended will most likely find this chapter helpful. Mohler may not change the viewpoints of anyone, but he does offer helpful insights. His status and position within his conservative denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, may be helpful to those who might not look as objectively at this topic as Mohler tries to do here.

At the end of the book, Mohler adds an addendum as the book had gone to press prior to the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Mohler claims that this decision is not just a legalization of same-sex marriage but a redefinition of marriage, opening up the possibilities for further expansion in the future into areas such as polygamy and other distortions of traditional marriage.

The majority decision and the rationale of the majority of the justices alludes to the fact that, “…any opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in moral animus against homosexuals. In offering this argument the majority slanders any defender of traditional marriage and openly rejects and vilifies those who, on the grounds of theological conviction, cannot affirm same-sex marriage.” Mohler’s frustration is evident here, implying the obvious question, “Is it possible to hold an alternate viewpoint without being accused of bigotry or prejudice?”

I appreciated Mohler more in reading this book. While I was familiar with him prior to this book, I felt like this book gave me a clearer picture of him and his views. His honesty and humility were evident throughout the book and I think that it would be hard for even those with opposing viewpoints to accuse him of being unfair, harsh, or hateful in laying out his viewpoints.

I have been personally impacted by the cultural shift about which Mohler writes. I have friends who are gay, some who have embraced same-sex marriage and participated in it. While I don’t embrace their viewpoints, I still love them just the same. My disagreement does not mean that I hate my gay friends any more than my dislike for Duke or the Yankees means that I hate anyone who embraces them as “their team.”

I think it’s important that both sides of this issue begin to address and answer some difficult questions. Whatever happened to good, old fashioned differing opinions? Why is it that we can’t disagree without somehow wanting to discriminate? Regardless of whether or not you agree with Mohler, the opinions laid out within this book are important to consider and formulate our own opinions, not simply embrace the opinion of the majority or masses.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

The Way Ahead

It’s been days now since news spread that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 in favor of same sex marriage being the rule of the land. In the hours and days following the decision, social media was full of memes, pictures, and posts from everyone on every side. Both love and hate were prevalent on my walls. Harsh words were exchanged, lines were drawn, and there was both rejoicing and lamenting.

For those who were pleased by this decision, this was a decision that was a long time in the making. They were pleased at how it felt like the beginning of equality to them. They were glad to be recognized rather than marginalized. They were grateful to be able to share things together that had once been reserved for others.

Now, I get this, and to be honest, I am grateful that the way has opened up for people to share things and benefits together, primarily in difficult and stressful moments in life. In situations at end of life and other significant moments along the way, everyone deserves to be able to share moments together.

Aside from this, my heart was still heavy after the SCOTUS decision.

I have friends who are gay, I have friends who are straight, I have friends who are liberal, I have friends who are conservative, I have friends who are Christian, I have friends who are atheists. Somehow, through it all and despite our disagreements, I have managed to stay somewhat connected with all of them. With so many differences, there have been times that I have felt hate, from all sides. Chances are that there were times that I came across with a less than stellar and Christ-like attitude and approach. When there were points of misunderstanding, I did my best to address them with my friends personally, privately, and appropriately. In fact, some of the dialogues that came out of those disagreements stand among my favorite of the past few years.

Despite my friendships and associations, my beliefs and convictions stand in opposition to this decision. In this, I understand the anxiety and even fear that has risen up among many conservatives. You see, for some reason, my disagreement and division over the definition of marriage has always been labeled as hate, it has always been interpreted by those with whom we disagree as bigotry. This saddens me greatly. How is it that we have come to a place where anyone with whom I disagree is labeled a bigot, a racist, a hate-monger, or worse? How has this language arisen from a situation in which we simply don’t see eye to eye?

As I reluctantly continued to maneuver through the vast waters of social media, I began to realize just how deep of an issue we have. We have begun to operate in generalizations rather than in facts and real information. We have ceased to have dialogues and conversations and have exchanged them for digital hand grenades, hurling them at one another with no consideration for feelings and emotions other than our own. We have not sought to find out what lies behind the labels that we place on each other but rather have swallowed whole those generalizations, assuming that the ugliest and most extremes of those generalizations are representative of the entire group.

We assume that the labels we hold to and the labels which we use are all encompassing and that they define a person. But labels don’t define people, people define themselves, but they can only define themselves when they are given voice to express their beliefs, their opinions, and even their reasons for disagreement.

As we come to situations in which we find ourselves at odds with each other, in which we are in disagreement, we need to answer some fundamental questions. Is it possible to disagree with one another and to still love one another? I certainly hope so, otherwise, I would be at odds in every single one of my relationships in life. Can I disagree with you and not hate you? I certainly hope so, otherwise, this world would be an incredibly hateful place. Jesus disagreed with many people. He spoke his viewpoint and spoke truth and then let it go from there. He did not hate to the bitter end of his life on earth, even when those with whom he disagreed nailed him to the cross.

We need to ask ourselves how willing we are to engage in intelligent and respectful conversations with those with whom we disagree. Are we willing to engage in those conversations even when they’re messy, even when they’re tough, and even when we come to the end of them and still don’t agree?

There is still fear and anxiety over future possibilities. There is still fear among those of us who hold to specific religious convictions that the religious freedom on which this country was formed and created may be stripped away from us simply because we cannot agree. It will be stripped away from us as a freedom to be able to disagree. It will be stripped away unless there is compliance, removing that very freedom which has just been provided and afforded to so many others. There is fear that the freedoms in our country to voice our opinions and to hold to varying and diverse viewpoints will be stripped away in the name of freedom and justice. It’s not a guarantee, but it certainly stands in the minds of many who fear what may take place in the future.

Despite these fears, I still find hope and I still have faith. I don’t find my hope in people, in organizations, or in decisions, but rather in Christ and Christ alone. I find faith. Some of that faith is in humanity and my fellow human beings who, regardless of their beliefs or our disagreements, are created in the image of God. My faith remains in Christ and his promises.

My hope and my prayer is that we can, in this country, fully understand, appreciate, and practice the idea of bi-partisanship and that we can do it with grace. We need to find a way forward where it’s acceptable for us to disagree but we can do so while still loving each other and working on so many of the ills of society together. That is a fundamental ideal on which this country was founded, the ideal of freedom. Freedom to think. Freedom to choose. Freedom to disagree.

It seems possible to me, but it’s not going to happen if we continue to generalize, judge, and hurl digital hand grenades at one another. I’m hoping we can do this one conversation at a time.

Same Sex- Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage – A Book Review

same sex marriageSean McDowell and John Stonestreet tackle a difficult subject in their book, “Same Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage.” McDowell, the son of famed Christian apologist, pastor, speaker, and writer, Josh McDowell, is a professor at Biola University. Stonestreet is cohost with Eric Metaxas of the radio program Breakpoint. Their experience has led them to write this book which is targeted at Christians who are seeking a different approach towards responding to same-sex marriage and the continuing battle that rages between culture and the Church. The authors state that the unfortunate fact about Christians is that, “we are far better known for being against gays than being for people.”

McDowell and Stonestreet state that both sides of the raging debate over same-sex marriage continue to use proof-texting to prove their points. The authors instead believe that we need to go back to creation, “the way God made the world in the first place.” They point out that, “Because sexual intercourse is the only biological process that leads to procreation, this implies that marriage requires gender diversity.” Out of all of the biological processes, it is the only one that can’t be accomplished individually but which requires the opposite gender.

The authors also point out that marriage is more than simply being happy. It is rather a covenant between two people and God. They believe that, “Marriage was designed by God to thoroughly join two image bearers in a permanent commitment, enabling them to fulfill their purpose of filling and forming God’s world.” In fact, since they make the connection between procreation and marriage, they believe that, “including same-sex unions as being a type of marriage would change the definition of marriage for everyone.” While there are certain exceptions of procreation being fulfilled within marriage (e.g., those who are infertile), the authors see this as one of the primary purposes God attached to marriage.

McDowell and Stonestreet state that their argument against legalizing same-sex marriage does not mean that they believe that same-sex romantic relationships should be criminalized. In fact, they say, it doesn’t even mean that committed relationships should have no legal protection when it comes to property, inheritance, and care of partners. The argument on which they stand as that by redefining marriage, we take away the purposes for which it was created by God.

So, how should Christians who do not support same-sex marriage approach the issue? McDowell and Overstreet say that as Christians, “…we must spend more energy getting our own houses in order than we do trying to correct those outside the Church. Those in Christ are continually to call each other back to His authority in all areas.” They state that, “There is too great of a difference in the morality that is being demanded by the Church and the morality that is seen in the Church.” Peter writes in one of his epistles that judgment begins with the house of God and if we do not deal with the sin in our own lives than we have no business trying to address that sin in the lives of others. Until Christians begin to take seriously the moral standards to which they hold others, they will never gain a voice in a world that sees them as judgmental hate-mongers.

The authors include some helpful resources such as a to-do list of things that can be done to build inroads into the LGBT community and show them the love that has been so notably absent from Christians in the past. They also provide suggestions for the long haul, reinforcing the need for Christians to take strong stands against sin in general rather than singling out a specific sin that seems more egregious to them. The example given is divorce, a sin that has been largely overlooked within the church and yet which still stands as a sin. They also include guidance for everyday questions, similar to an FAQ with some helpful hints of how to respond to questions or circumstances which readers may confront or be faced with on a regular basis.

I wasn’t sure what to think when I picked up this book. Based on the backgrounds of both authors, I was unsure that this would be as different of an approach as advertised. I was pleasantly surprised that the book lived up to the promises that it made. It was written for Christians but I could see some disagreeing with some of the stances of the authors, but those same people may just be the ones who have been responsible for the wide chasm that lies divides the evangelical church and the LGBT community. The authors do a good job of confessing the shortcomings of Christians in the past, holding fast to the convictions which they hold based upon the Bible, and laying out a more loving approach to an issue that has been not only causing dissension between the Church and the culture but causing divisions within the Church itself.

McDowell and Stonestreet take a loving and gentle approach without compromising their convictions. I would recommend this book to those Christians who have been struggling with their own response to this ongoing debate. Even if you disagree with the approach laid out by the authors, their approach, in my opinion, can’t be labeled as hateful, judgmental, or bigoted. They seek to go back to a more loving and Christ-like approach towards conflict in hopes of regaining a voice within culture and, more importantly, showing those with whom Christians disagree that the love of Christ can rule the day, even when we still disagree in the end.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)