Bad Reasons to Oppose the New Indiana Law

I have read SO MANY articles and social media posts in the last few days bashing the new Indiana "pro-discrimination" law. The thing is, pretty much every reason I have read for opposing this law seems misinformed.

So, let's get clear on some things about the new Indiana law and some common bad reasons to oppose it.

First, here is what the law says: government can't substantially burden a person's exercise of religion and that individuals who feel like their religious beliefs have been or could be "substantially burdened" can lean on this law to fend off lawsuits.

So, what does it mean to "substantially burden" a person's exercise of religion? Consider the following case:
Sam is a Christian and a wedding photographer. It is part of Sam's religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is against God's will. Sam feels convicted that using his talent and resources to provide for a same-sex wedding ceremony is supporting and participating in an event that is sinful. So, if the government required Sam to provide his photography services for same-sex weddings, it would be requiring him to act against his religious convictions and partake in something he believed to be - not to be too dramatic here - A SIN AGAINST GOD.

In sum, this law is to protect people like Sam from being forced to act against their deeply-held religious convictions. This doesn't seem so harmful, but many people are concerned that this law will make it legal for businesses to refuse service to the LGBTQ community. In fact, many are requesting major conventions and sporting events to boycott Indiana because businesses will not be welcoming to everyone. So, let's consider some of the common bad reasons for opposing this law.

Bad reason #1: This law will let any businesses who disagree with certain lifestyles to refuse service to disenfranchised groups, like the LGBTQ community, making life even more difficult for them.

Reality: This is just false. The law requires that providing the service would be a substantial burden. Now, the interpretation of substantial burden will be left open to courts, but legal professionals confirm that the law is aimed at cases like Sam's and not cases where businesses deny service just because they don't want to or it makes them socially uncomfortable. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin confirmed that the law wouldn't stand up against businesses refusing to serve a gay person, but it would stand up against refusal to service a gay wedding. So, major conventions and sporting events need not worry that the law will allow their homosexual guests to be discriminated against during their tourist activities. But still, it seems like those calling for relocation of major events believe...

Bad reason #2: Many businesses in Indiana will actually start discriminating against the LGBTQ community.

Reality: Again, false. There have been no cited examples of this kind of discrimination happening in Indiana, and many businesses are putting up signs making it clear that they serve everyone. Sure, there might be a few cases like this guy who is happy that it is now legal to refuse to serve gay patrons at his restaurant. But the law doesn't actually protect cases like his, and I'd guess he's a rare case. Even though many American citizens are opposed to homosexuality for religious reasons, not many have religious convictions that it would be wrong to serve homosexuals in business. For example, I've been in Christian communities all my life and I've met hundreds of people who believe homosexuality is wrong. How many have I met that believe it is wrong to serve homosexuals? Zero. It is only special sectors like the wedding industry that would be an issue. But some people might believe that the law shouldn't protect wedding vendors because, after all,...

Bad reason #3: It's about business, not personal beliefs.

Reality: Businesses aren't moral agents, people are. When businesses are corrupt, we blame the people making bad decisions. And integrity requires that we act according to our convictions in all areas of our lives. Businesses shouldn't be all about economics and increasing profits. We praise business owners that make decisions that improve the lives of their employees or customers, especially if it means they sacrifice profits (for example, retailers that close one day a week for employees to have a day off). So condeming religious people for sacrificing profit based on personal convictions is inappropriate. In fact, it would be very concerning if we required people to act against their conscience because we don't want to harden people against their moral convictions. Sure, people might have misguided convictions, but it seems to me the appropriate response is not to impose a different set of convictions. Instead, we should reason with and disciple these people so they mature in their understanding. Furthermore, I don't believe a just government should dictate moral beliefs for its citizens.

Bad reason #4: Christians are picking on homosexuals because they believe homosexuality is a sin, but they aren't discriminating against people committing other types of believed-sins like pre-marital sex or liars, aka everyone on the face of the planet.

Reality: This law isn't about discriminating against the lifestyles of other people. It is about protecting people from having to engage in the believed-to-be sin themselves. So, Sam wouldn't be protected from refusing service to a couple engaging in pre-marital sex because providing photography for the wedding is not supporting the pre-marital sex. Sam is only protected in refusing to service a same-sex wedding, NOT because he is bullying homosexuals or he is more offended by homosexuality than other sins, but because he believes participating in a same-sex wedding is participating in the believed-to-be sin himself.

I'll probably add more bad reasons that I've read later, but my rant is over for now.


Teaching {unqualified}

I teach college students full-time. That's my job. Twice a week, students walk into my classroom, take a seat, get out a notebook and a pen, and they listen (at least that's what I tell myself) and occasionally discuss the day's topic amongst each other. Then, after about an hour has gone by, they get up and leave.

Dedicated students communicate with me outside of the structured class time. Some students stop by the front of the room on their way in or on their way out to ask a quick question. Others come by during my office hours to catch up on a missed class or go over something they didn't understand. A few will even schedule an appointment with me outside of class just to chat.

It's crazy to me that these students will often ask about my own opinions and beliefs. They want to know what I think about Jesus. They want to know what I think about truth and knowledge, spiritual warfare, morality, love, and miracles. I answer these questions with care and consideration. These students want to know because they're seeking understanding; I don't want to mess that up.

Many college students are still formulating a comprehensive worldview. They want to know how all the different parts of life fit together. And so they ask me questions. What is truth? Did Jesus have a sin nature? Were Adam and Eve real people? Why live? Can we prove God's existence?

Woah. Do they know who they're asking? Do they know I don't have a Ph.D. yet? Do they know this is my FIRST YEAR teaching as an instructor? Do they know I don't have all the answers? Do they know how young I am? Do they know how unqualified I am?

Yes. I am unqualified. The more I learn, the more aware I become of all the things I do not know. I'm a young, unmarried woman still working for a degree. Hardly the stereotypical person you would seek out for answers. But still they ask, and still I answer.

I answer with hopes that God uses my words to speak truth into their lives. Paul tells us that God uses the weak and foolish things of the world to shame the wise. So that's what I want to be; I want to be a fool that God uses to magnify His wisdom over the world's philosophy -- so that no one can boast in man's wisdom but only God's power and righteousness.

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” - 1 Cor. 1:26-31


Choices, choices, choices.

I'm indecisive. I just spent about five minutes contemplating whether that first sentence was how I wanted to begin this post. (I know, you don't understand why I would question such an attention-grabbing, informative, compelling opener.)

When deciding on which scent of dish soap to buy takes almost ten minutes, making bigger choices in life seems overwhelming. I remember feeling that way when I was deciding my college major as a freshman. The trajectory of my whole life rests on this one decision, I thought. And to some extent, that was true. Then, I felt the same overwhelming feeling when I had to decide what to do after college graduation. I believed that whatever I do after college is the starting point of what I'll do for the next 35 years. And to some extent, that was true. Similarly, when I was deciding about grad school, I believed that committing to a 5-6 year PhD program is also deciding to put off having a family of my own. And to some extent, that was true.

But those decisions didn't really have the gravity I was placing upon them. Sure, they were important decisions that deserve careful reflection. But I'm learning more and more that instead of confining me to certain outcomes, the big decisions I've made for my life have given me greater freedom.

Here's why:

Many decisions are reversible. You can change your mind. You can quit your job. Upon graduating from college with a degree in Biology, my brother said that he now knows what he doesn't want to do. I think I read somewhere that the majority of graduates do not work in the same field in which they hold a degree. So in hindsight, I wish I would've felt less pressure when making that decision.

Not only are many decisions in life reversible, many decisions in life are not made by you. Some things just happen to you. How does that saying go? Your life isn't determined by your failures, but how you react to them. Something like that, anyway. Companies downsize, relatives become ill, preferences change. There are so many people I know that are having to figure out what they want to do with their lives many years after starting their careers. There are also many people I know that are doing something that they would not have chosen, but circumstances required it. In hindsight, putting so much pressure on my own decisions seems arrogant. I can't plan out the rest of my life with a few select decisions. Only God is in ultimate control.

So while I am accountable for the decisions I've made in this life, I am learning to take some pressure off of myself and enjoy the freedom I have in Christ.


Making friends. Again.

I need to learn how to make friends.

I mean, I need to learn how to make friends again.

Growing up, I learned how to make friends as a kid. I learned how to interact with classmates at recess, and how to find a spot at the lunch table. Despite not being familiar with all of the Spice Girls, I learned how to handle fourth-grade birthday parties and later, slumber parties. I had friends at school and friends (well, cousins) to play with at home. Friends were everywhere I went. The same continued to be true in high school and college. I lived with friends. I lunched with friends. I studied with friends.

But then I graduated. When I moved to a one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte, graduate school was my job. I had three courses that met once a week, typically in the early evenings. My classmates were for the most part older than me. They already had established lives, many of them with full-time jobs and families of their own. They weren't looking for new friends.

See, all of my life until then, friendships had been fairly easy. Everyone needed the people around them to fulfill their need for friendship. This peaked in college, where we were all in the middle of cornfields and couldn't go anywhere else but campus for entertainment.

One of the things I am realizing, though, is that my perception of adults not looking for new friends is inaccurate. Many adults, even those who are married with kids, do not have a strong group of friends. In fact, I'm starting to suspect that many of them feel the same way as I do. They're looking for friendships, but just haven't learned how to make friends again. They're making the same assumption about me as I make about them.

But making friends as an adult is different, and in my experience, much more difficult. I'm still learning how to do it.

I read an article recently that explained key factors in forming friendships. Here's what I remember:

  • friendships form from seeing another person on a regular basis, especially if it's a natural occurrence and you don't have to schedule to meet-up
  • friendships form after spending a significant amount of time with another person
  • friendships form as a result of confiding in another person
  • friendships form as a result of asking another person for help

So, with these in mind, I'm going to be a bit more intentional about making friends. And since I often struggle with those last two things, I'm going to need practice.

Is anyone else learning how to make friends again? Do you have specific tips on how to do so? If you're in the same boat as me, I'd encourage you to intentionally seek out new friends with me.


Change the channel.

With access to both Hulu Plus and Netflix, I can watch almost any television show I want. Not only that, but I can watch episodes back-to-back without (many) commercials at any time. All I need to do is press play.

But I've found with the availability and ease of watching television, my standards have dropped. Growing up, there were only a couple shows per television season that had an on-going plot, and they only came on once a week. So, every Friday night my family would all sit down for one hour to watch Diagnosis Murder. These days it isn't unusual for my family to all sit down in the living room and plug-in to laptops and iPads to watch whatever show we're currently consuming. Mom can watch her cooking shows while Konni watches teen drama and Dad watches the Tour de France. And as I have begun to watch television series alone, I have been faced with decisions to make about where my standards are.

Here are some of the reasons I have skipped over or quit watching certain TV shows:

  • Offensive language. This one is fairly simple. The more you hear words spoken, the more likely you are to think them or speak them. I don't want to subject myself to thinking or speaking offensive language.
  • Violence. This is both a moral stance and personal preference. Not only do I not want to be de-sensitized to physical harm, but my stomach can't handle it either. Don't get me wrong, though. I can (and do) watch murder mystery shows. For some reason, I can stomach the gruesome body parts and autopsy scenes, but the actual acts of violence require a hand over my eyes or a quick turn-of-the-head.
  • Characters with bad characters. Unlike the previous reasons, this one is harder to detect without actually watching some episodes. I tried watching Breaking Bad because I had seen lots of facebook friends post about it and knew that some respectable friends enjoyed it. But I only made it through three full episodes, and I regret the last two. Before watching, I was under the impression that the main character felt forced to supplement his chemistry teacher salary by making and selling meth in order to care for his family. As I watched, the main character made poor decisions and performed morally atrocious acts. I watched two more episodes hoping that the character would repent or redeem himself, but his moral character just got worse. I cannot continue to watch shows in which the main character the audience is supposed to "get-to-know" is someone I can't learn something from or shouldn't hang-out with.
  • Glorified immorality. This is somewhat different than characters with bad characters. In Breaking Bad, the main character's immorality wasn't glorified. Here I'm talking about shows that manipulate the audience to desire its characters to engage in immoral behavior. The characters might otherwise be kind, generous, honest, and loving, but their immorality is portrayed as both understandable AND desirable. For example, I have seen a few shows recently in which a main character is in a "loveless marriage" and finds an attractive friend of the opposite sex who "understands them." These shows get their audiences to want the main character to have an affair. It is one thing for a show to depict an immoral behavior as acceptable, but I cannot tolerate a show to depict an immoral behavior as desirable. This is the reason I didn't make it very far in Nashville or Scandal.

And here are some things I watch, but need further thought:

  • Homosexual relationships. I still watch because I also watch shows in which the audience is expected to approve of characters' pre-marital sex. I figure if my standards allow the implication of acceptable pre-marital sex it should also allow the implication of homosexual sex. I'm still thinking about whether I should watch this because at least the pre-marital sex is between a man and a woman the way God created sex to be. Homosexual relationships are an even further distortion of God's intention. The only show this calls into question for me is Modern Family, so not much is at stake.
  • Reality dating shows, aka The Bachelor. Okay. This one isn't as relevant to me anymore because I gave up this show a few seasons ago. But I gave it up because my TV preferences matured, not necessarily because it fell below my standards. I watched for the awkward dates, romance, and drama. I question whether I should have been watching at all because of the immodesty, sexism, and horrible example it is for real relationships. Yet, it didn't seem terribly harmful to my psychology and I know many mature Christian women who enjoy the show. So I'm still wondering about this one.

Do you ever change the channel for moral reasons? What makes you change the channel? Is there something I forgot to list or that I should think about including? What is right on the line for you? I'm interested in hearing others' thoughts on this as I continue to think about it myself.


Happiness is NOT the Truth.

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. -Jesus

I almost wrote one of those annoying, get-up-on-my-soapbox Facebook statuses, but instead decided to post it here. So, excuse me while I climb up.

Many megachurches have come to use secular songs in their worship services. This post is not about whether or not megachurches are right or wrong to use secular music. This post is about whether megachurches should be using a particular secular song:

"Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do" - Pharrell Williams

In the past month or so, I've seen two megachurches perform this song. One of them performed it very well, actually. Both used the song at the beginning of the service in preparation for worship. But I'd like to take a minute and reflect about the words these churches used to prepare believers to bring glory to the Lord.

This seems like a very innocent secular song about happiness. It seems like a clean, wholesome, family-friendly, feel-good song. But these are not God's standards for worship. Bringing glory to God means displaying His character, which includes beauty, justice and truth.

The part of this song that irritates me the most is the claim "happiness is the truth." Let me be clear, HAPPINESS IS NOT THE TRUTH. Jesus is the truth. The gospel is the truth. Christ's suffering on the cross for you and me is the truth. The resurrection is the truth. So, worship leaders singing and imploring believers to "clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth" is not something that exalts the glory of God.

The use of this song in churches might also perpetuate a common misunderstanding of the gospel. Many people are led to believe that if they do what God wants, He will make them happy. But this is simply not true. Just ask Job. Or, better yet, look at the life of Christ. Jesus lived perfectly, yet suffered to the point of death. His life was not happy. His life was holy. In the Scriptures, we are called many times to be holy. Not happy.

Don't misunderstand me. Happiness is good and I'm sure God cares about our happiness. But it isn't what he expects of us and it has nothing to do with truth. I wonder about the believers in these churches that weren't happy. When I heard this song in these churches, I happened to be at a place in life where I am happy and I can rejoice in it. But some people suffer. I can't imagine how they felt when their worship leaders asked them to clap along because happiness is the truth. I hope that they did not feel like God was asking them to be happy. Or that something was wrong with them because they were not. In fact, suffering is a good indicator of obedience to the Lord and bringing Him glory. So, we shouldn't expect Christians to clap along, because happiness is NOT the truth.

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Personal Identity. In Christ.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Today's post is about personal identity. I specifically want to focus on the question of how we know someone is the same person they were in the past. In other words, how am I the same person I was when I was 10?

Philosophers like to use thought experiments to clarify difficult concepts. Derek Parfit uses thought experiments to illustrate what is required for someone to be identical to a person in the past.

The thought experiment is this: Imagine someone had a brain transplant. Their brain was transplanted into someone else's body. The person who wakes up after surgery has all of the same memories, character traits, beliefs, and desires. Their last memory is of being put to sleep before surgery and wake up to the doctor informing them that the surgery was a success. Is this the same person as the person before the surgery?

The common response to this question is yes. Most people can imagine that a person can survive a brain transplant, waking up to inhabiting a different body. I don't think I have this intuition, but since many do, I'll assume it.

What I'm really interested in determining is how we judge whether the person has survived the transplant. Apparently Parfit's qualifications are that they share memories, character traits, beliefs, and intentions. Certainly these are important factors we would use to judge whether the person had survived the transplant. 

The Bible tells us that Christians receive a new identity in Christ. So if our identity is made up of memories, character traits, beliefs and desires, what does it mean to have our identity in Christ? I'd like to suggest that receiving an identity in Christ means receiving new character traits, beliefs and desires. It also involves a transformation of our memories from being about ourselves to being about Christ and his sovereignty in our lives. So, unlike the person who survives the brain transplant, the person who accepts God's offer of salvation is transformed and no longer the same person.

But are memories, character traits, beliefs, and intentions the only essential properties of personhood? Let's consider another thought experiment, offered by another philosopher, Donald Davidson. (Warning: philosophical thought experiments are often fantastical in nature)

Imagine that you go outside and get struck by lightning and die. At the same time, a windstorm hits a swamp and molecules get arranged in the same way and form as you had. The result is a person who has all of your memories, character traits, beliefs, and intentions. This person walks out of the swamp looking just like you, and since they have all of the same memories, they believe that they are you. They walk to your home, talk and act just like you, interact with the people you know just like you would and live your life. Is this person the same person as the person who was struck by lightning?

The common response to this question is no. So if Swampman has your same memories, character traits, beliefs and desires, what does he lack that makes him distinct from you? My answer to an audience of philosophers is agency. My real answer is the soul. By both of these answers I mean the aspect of a person that has the power to act as a unique individual and be autonomous. Although Swampman shares the same psychology as the person who died by lightning, they do not share the same power to act.

So when we receive new identity in Christ, not only does our psychology change, but our actions will change, too. 

"By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." (1 John 2:5b-6)