Mountains that matter and molehills that do not

When I heard that the President had renamed the highest peak in the United States I was not surprised.  People like to lay claim to high places and having traveled to Alaska and witnessed the majesty of the peak in question, I understand the point of the debate.  However, as a Christian, I see no reason to make a mountain out of this molehill.

Names change based on the people who see themselves as in a position to name something. Adam is Adam because God called him that but then Adam took over the name game. We’ve been calling it “King of the Mountain” ever since. I dare say that what we call most places today is not what the first people who laid eyes on it called them.

The proverbial king of the mountain gets to name it – just like your parents named you. So, what did your parents name you?  Did you live up or into that name? Along the way did you change your name or adopt a new name or amend the original name you were given?  How about a pet name, an alias or a title?

It has been my experience that people like nothing more than to be called by name. They are sensitive to how it is pronounced and they are quick to let you know if you get it wrong. Names matter to us. Its why name-calling cuts us to the core and why Trademark law is such a robust part of our legal system.

The subject today is a mountain, its place among a particular people and therefore, it’s debated name. That’s the way it works. The people who possess the land call the mountains what they will. Its a process that’s as old as recorded history and its a good lesson for a nation that’s too young to remember when our cities were called by other names.

Or are we? New York was once New Amsterdam.

And, there’s precedence for reversing course on names: Cape Canaveral was called Cape Kennedy for 10 years (1963-1973) and then returned to its original name.  Notably, the Kennedy Space Center is located at Cape Canaveral.

There are other mountains whose contested names are more serious.  Think for a moment about the hill in the middle of the city of Jerusalem. It is known among Jews as The Temple Mount. It is considered the holiest site in all of Judaism. It is where the first and second Temples stood but today most Jews only have access to a portion of the Western Wall. Why is that? Because Muslims control the mountain and they have named it The Dome of the Rock. That’s a mountain, not a molehill.

Speaking of mountains and molehills, what mountains really matter to you? Mt. Ararat where the Bible says Noah’s Ark landed after the flood?  Or maybe Mt. Sinai (also known as Horeb and Paran) where Moses received the 10 Commandments?  How about the Mountain of Transfiguration where Jesus’ glory as God was revealed to Peter, James and John? Or the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed, was betrayed and arrested? Or Calvary. Some mountains matter more than others – and it ultimately does not matter if another people calls them by another name.

Does the fact that someone else calls your former home their home change the reality that it was home to you?  I think we’re making mountains out of molehills when we get too worked up about a mountain that matters a great deal to people other than us. If Denali is the name that bears out meaning to the people of Alaska then let the mountain be called Denali.  It may be the highest mountain in the United States of America today but its name is a molehill issue. Don’t you suppose the Russians likely called it something else prior to 1867 when Alaska became the 49th state?

Mountain, yes.

What to call it? Molehill.

Don’t dismantle the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

In a story titled, “Religious groups: Don’t dismantle USCIRF,” World Magazine reports on the efforts by religious leaders to appeal to the U.S. Senate to reauthorize USCIRF.

I am one of the signers on the letter mentioned in this article.

J.C. Derrick writes:

A coalition of international religious freedom groups is urging the Senate to approve a six-year reauthorization for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and reject attempts to cripple the organization.

Eighty-six partners of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable this week delivered a letter to the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which currently is weighing two drastically different visions for USCIRF. The letter noted the authors agree on “very little” theologically, but they agree religious freedom strengthens cultures, stabilizes democracies, and is “the ultimate counter-terrorism weapon.”

“The most effective way to ensure the continuity of USCIRF’s essential mandate to protect and promote religious freedom worldwide is for the Senate to pass, in a timely fashion, S. 1798,” the groups wrote to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the Foreign Relations chairman, and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking member.

Last month Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., filed S. 1798, a reauthorization bill that would bolster USCIRF operations, allow it to designate non-state actors like ISIS and Boko Haram “countries of particular concern,” and mandate training for all foreign service officers.

Read the entire story here.

Trump, the Power of Positive Thinking and American evangelicalism

In a question and answer session in Dubuque, Iowa, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said, “I love the Bible. I’m a Protestant. I’m a Presbyterian. I went to Sunday school.”

He went on to identify New York’s Marble Collegiate Church as the place where his religious identity was formed under the teachings of Norman Vincent Peale. The famous author of “The Power of Positive Thinking” so captivated the young Trump that he says, “you hated to leave church.”

Peale was very much the Joel Osteen of his day which may be why Trump sees his stock rising among a sector of American evangelicalism.

Trump has said that he’s winning support from evangelical Christians who he describes as “”incredible people who are really smart, and they want to see our country thrive.” But exactly who is he talking about?  The Tea-vangelicals? The social-justice evangelicals?

Trump’s “evangelical” supporters are the God-fearing, Christmas-churchgoing, Protestant work-ethic/manifest destiny believing, can-do capitalists.  They are in every denomination and none. They think of themselves as Christians but they see no real need to have every aspect of their lives aligned with an arcane morality.  Trump is tapping into the spirit and power of positive thinking that pervades the teachings of modern cultural evangelists like Oprah Winfrey and Joel Osteen.

Trump remembers this as pastor Peale’s philosophy, but most today know it by its echoes in the “health and wealth gospel.” If you listen, you can hear it in almost every line of Trump’s “I’ll make America great again” platform.  It resonates with the innate desire within every human to rise, be raised, and live a life that is worthy of their calling.

Theologically, it misses the mark, but politically it’s cat-nip to millions who see themselves as Bible loving Protestants who went to Sunday School when they were kids and hold out hope for a better America.

For 100 years big American celebrity personalities have been knitting the power of positive thinking into our cultural fabric.

Athletic coaches like UCLA’s John Wooden (1910-2010) who said “things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

Business coaches of every American generation like Zig Ziglar (1926-2012), Anthony Robbins and Seth Godin. Ziglar said “you cannot tailor-make the situations in life but you can tailor-make the attitudes to fit those situations.” Robbins says, “Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” Godin says, “Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.”

Social coaches like Oprah Winfrey who said, “the greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.”

Trump is dishing up what Americans have been programmed to crave: positive American Protestant.  It’s more Mahatma Gandhi than Jesus Christ but most Americans don’t know enough of the Bible to recognize the difference.

It was Gandhi and not Jesus who said, “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

Og Mandino (1923-1996) wrote a book entitled “The Greatest Salesman in the World.” My guess is that Trump has read it.  In it, Mandino writes, “Welcome every morning with a smile. Look on the new day as another special gift from your Creator, another golden opportunity to complete what you were unable to finish yesterday. Be a self-starter….You were not born to fail.”  These are the things we want to believe about ourselves and our nation and Trump is striking that chord.

Trump never comes right out and says that he’s running on a “Protestant work ethic/Spirit of Capitalism” platform, but that’s the infrastructure undergirding his mammoth personality.  He sincerely believes what Peale and now Osteen preach.  It resonates with generations of Americans who otherwise share no commonality.  The reason he gets away with so many things that are considered non-politically correct is that he’s saying so many other things that ring the deeply ingrained “Protestant work ethic/Spirit of Capitalism” bell that Max Weber identified more than 100 years ago.

We don’t consciously remember Weber nor even Peale. But we channel them all day long in every variety of coaching. From ball fields to board rooms to ministries the “can do” power of positive thinking parroted by parents, teachers, comedians, pastors, and even eight years ago by a “hope and change” candidate that became President, is projected by candidate Trump.

Trump doesn’t speak to the thin veneer of compulsory sensitivity training we’ve all endured. He speaks to the bones of who we are: people who love the Bible, are Protestant, and went to Sunday School. It doesn’t matter so much that he does not live a Biblical ethic in his personal nor professional life. It doesn’t matter that he fails to treat people as if they are all equally made in God’s image. What matters is that it satisfies the appetite developed by a cultural “can do” mantra.

People are tired of hearing that America “can’t.” Like the little engine that could, we know in our heart of hearts that we can! “Yes, we can!” Sound familiar? Resonate with something in you so deep you didn’t even know it was there anymore? Yep. That’s what Trump is touching and if he keeps ringing that bell then like Pavlov’s dogs then an overwhelming majority of Americans are likely to pull the lever for him in November 2016.

Highlights from my recent (August) national conference call

A recent meeting I had with Frank Wolf and Chris Seiple.

During my recent national conference call I was able to discuss many issues related to the Presbyterian Church (USA) as well as cultural and international issues of importance to all Christians.

Click here to hear the entire “Conversation with Carmen” conference call,

OR

Click here to listen to only the general issues (ISIS, Planned Parenthood, etc.) from the call.


 

 

 

 

 

On Planned Parenthood:

“Although the videos are disgusting and will break your heart, its important in these matters to know what’s going on, and if that includes having your heart broken, then let our hearts be broken by the same things that break the heart of God. And let us have our eyes open and let us get ourselves activated and mobilized to be change agents and not just sitting around, letting things happen and then complaining about them. So its time for the PCUSA to open its big mouth about this issue”……”This is the real war on women. This is a war on children. Our failure to defend the lives of the unborn in our own country.”

On ISIS:

“ISIS is not going away. What they are doing in terms of their treatment of women – particularly christian women ought to have every single one of us on our knees at night praying and then in the morning on our feet actively calling congress.. this ought to be the compelling issue of our day. these are our sisters in Christ.”

and…

“ISIS enshrines a theology of rape. if you haven’t read it, then you’re not in the know. and if you’re not in the know then you cannot be an agent of change.”


Here are some of the helpful resources I mentioned on the call:

 

 

 

 

 

The flags we fly and the banner under which we live

A French tourist visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem waved an Israeli flag and four Palestinians responded by beating him up.

This is a story about provocation, retaliation and simmering hatred.

Overt “religious” acts are prohibited on the Temple Mount because it is a disputed holy site to which both Jews and Muslims lay claim. You cannot read your bible nor openly pray there. But waving a flag? Well, that may not seem overtly religious to you but in a region where religion is the driver of politics, waving the Israeli flag would be like a matador’s provocation of a bull.

Notably, the man waving the flag is a Christian, not a Jew and a citizen of France, not Israel.

It all reminds me of a conversation I had this past week with a young man driving a pick up into the bed of which he had mounted a large Confederate flag. As he drives throughout middle Tennessee the flag unfurls, whipping in the wind created by speed.

I have seen him several times but he’s always been on the move. When I saw him pull into the Sonic and I suddenly had need of cold drink. I pulled in to the open spot next to him, ordered my tea and then asked him, “so, the flag; how does it make you to feel to drive around with that back there?”

Studying me for a moment, he answered, “Good, it makes me feel good. I’m proud of that flag.”

“Why?” I asked.

His answer could have come straight out of a country music song, “Because its the flag of my people and no one can take that away from me.”

I continued, congenially, “Well, how do you think it makes other people feel when they see it?”

The first part of his answer surprised me, “If they can parade around with their rainbow flag then I can fly my rebel flag.” As he escalated he chose words that I cannot quote here because our obscenity filters would reject my post. Suffice it to say he doesn’t much care how other people feel. Its a free country and its his truck and he’s free to do what he wants.

All of which is true, but its also dangerously provocative.  I thought for a moment about sharing the verse about being as wise as a serpent but as innocent as a dove. I thought about asking if he were a Christian. I thought about asking if he’d ever heard of the idea of turning the other cheek. But my tea arrived and he turned up his radio and revved his engine and I took it all as an indication that the divine appointment was over.

This kid is literally my neighbor. He lives somewhere in proximity to me. I will see him again and I am asking God to prepare me now for the next conversation.

In the meantime, its important to acknowledge that America is not as volatile as the Temple Mount nor are racial tensions in America on par with the Israelis and Palestinians. But flag waving is provocative in both settings and for Christians the banner we fly ought to be that of Christ.

“His banner over me is love.” That’s what the Word of God declares (Song of Songs 2:4) and that is the reality in which the disciple is to live and move and find our being.

God is our refuge and our strength and in Jesus Christ He sets a banner of love over us that provides a covering for our sin (Hebrews 9:22-28) and the robe of His own righteousness (Luke 15:11-31) giving us a seat at the table. The banner placed over us by God now reads, “love.”

And not just any love. This is the love that loved when we were unlovable and unlovely. This is the love that laid down His life in sacrifice. This is the love that pursues us with grace, redeems and sanctifies. This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and gave Himself up for us, an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Consider that reality. No matter where you were born nor into what circumstance, no matter your nation nor race, in Christ you are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and the banner over you is love.  Your geo-political reality may never change, but you can live in perfect freedom under any worldly circumstance when the banner over you is Christ’s love.

The banner of Christ is also a standard. His banner over you is love – telling you who you are; but His standard over you is also love – telling you how you ought to live.

Standard bearers lead the charge into battle which reminds us that Jesus is not all sweetness and light but He is also the Conquering King over the enemy waging war against our souls.

We are claimed as God’s own under the banner and we are called as God’s to serve under the standard.

God’s standard demarcates a clear distinction between that which is moral and immoral, righteous and unrighteous, holy and sinful, right and wrong, good and evil, blessed and cursed. Those who live under the banner of Christ, those who are Christians, must then follow the standards of God.

Temptation always exists to lower the standard or to replace the standard with our own experience or desire.  But the only way we can even stand in the presence of the one whose standard we bear is to live within the standards He has set.

You cannot stand in Christ nor in Christ apart from the standard of Christ. He is the banner and no other.

So, what flag are you flying and why?

The world isn’t dying (at a soul level) for lack of knowledge about our nationality, sexual expression, nor historical, racial, or other differences. The world is dying for lack of knowledge of Jesus.

Imagine if every Christian lived today with a physical banner waving over them that said “love.” It would serve as a declaration of your identity in Christ to the world and it would let others know that you were a person who lives in surrender to a God who so loves the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever would believe in Him would have eternal life.

His banner over me is love. It changes my view of myself, the world and my calling.

What banner are you waving today, what does that say about you and how is waving that flag advancing the cause of Jesus Christ in the world He came to save?

 

 

 

Name calling

The workshop opened with the invitation for each participant to share their preferred pronoun and how they would be identifying during our time together.  After listening to a few others answer I better understood what was expected of me. When it was my turn I said, “Hi, I’m Carmen and my preferred pronoun is ‘she’ and I identify as a heterosexual woman in a committed monogamous marriage to one man.”  Throughout the workshop I respectfully obliged those who asked to be called pronouns that were not aligned with their biological gender but with their fluid or preferred gender identity.  And there was an individual who asked that we refer to them as they.

There was a time when that sentence would have been nonsensical but in a world where parents pay for their teenage child to have a double mastectomy on her way to transgendering, nothing surprises us.  Those same parents paid to have their child’s eggs harvested before the massive doses of hormones rendered her body unable to reproduce. They are working very hard to make her a man and yet they want to preserve the female DNA with which she was born. When she becomes he – and he identifies as heterosexual – what will his wife say about him bringing eggs to the procreative process? That’s not the contribution the man is designed to make. But he is not, in fact, a man.

But I digress. This is actually a post about what people call each other. There was a time when I was Miss and then I took on other titles, including Rev. for a time and now Mrs.  Everyone knows it.  None of it is a secret nor the least bit mysterious. So, to choose to address me as something else is certainly intentional.

That’s why the salutation “Dear Mx.* LaBerge,” caught my attention. Following the asterick to the bottom of the page, I read the sender’s intent, “Mx. is the title used when the gender of a person is in transition, multiple, unidentified, or nonessential.” 

The person writing to me knows me well. Because she knows me, I am left to interpret her salutation as intentionally designed to offend. But lest others be confused, for the record, I am a woman.  I joyfully identify as a woman. I am not in transition, multiple, nor nonessential.  But neither is my gender nor my sexuality equivalent to my identity. Furthermore, I’m not offended by the attempt of this writer to offend me. I’ve been called so much worse than Mx.

As for name calling, when in doubt, just call me Carmen.

 

 

Donald Trump is a Presbyterian? Who knew?

Donald Trump’s remarks about his piety and Presbyterianism, given at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa yesterday, amazed many people, but for all the wrong reasons.

Given that his professed denominational affiliation is the Presbyterian Church (USA), I asked my colleague at the Presbyterian Lay Committee to respond to Trump’s offensive remarks yesterday (no, not his offensive remarks regarding John McCain not being a true hero…because Trump prefers heroes who don’t become prisoners of war).

Scott: What should Evangelical Christians think of Donald Trump’s recent comments about his piety? And, as one who has in the past been a part of the PC (USA) denomination, what do you think of his comments about being Presbyterian?

Carmen Fowler LaBerge: For a man who readily admits that he’s never asked God for forgiveness, considers wealth and national origin measures of a person’s worth, and disagrees with most of his denomination’s social witness positions, seeing Trump trumpet his Presbyterianism is a curious thing.

He repeated on Twitter what he said during a Q&A at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, “People are always amazed to find out that I am Protestant (Presbyterian).”

Some of those most surprised are Presbyterians themselves.

But when it comes to Presbyterian theology and social witness, Trump is an equal opportunity offender.

Evangelical Presbyterians will find themselves offended by Trump’s trivialization of the need to ask God for forgiveness.

During Saturday’s Q&A Trump was asked whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness. CNN reports that Trump answered, “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

For the evangelical, there is no Christian faith without the understanding that in Jesus Christ God took the sins of humanity upon himself, creating the possibility of an individual’s salvation–which includes asking God to exchange the sinner’s sinfulness with Jesus’ perfect righteousness.

Theologically orthodox Presbyterians, for whom the marks of the true church include the “right administration of the Lord’s supper,” are going to gag on Trump’s trivialization of the sacrament of communion.

Although Trump admitted having not asked God for forgiveness, he said he does participate in Holy Communion.

“When I drink my little wine–which is about the only wine I drink–and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.”

For Christians, including every brand of Presbyterian, the wine to which Trump so casually refers is understood to be representative of the blood of Jesus Christ. And that “little cracker” is the body of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

First Corinthians 11:26-29 reads, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

But the most offended Presbyterians will be those of whom Trump claims to be affiliated, the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA). The PCUSA is pro-choice while Trump is pro-life. The PCUSA is pro-amnesty on immigration, Trump is not. The PCUSA is pro-progressive tax reform, Trump is not. The PCUSA is pro-gay marriage, Trump is not. The PCUSA has plans to overhaul the U.S. financial and political sectors in ways that are contrary to Trump’s known business practices. The PCUSA advocates for the redistribution of wealth, Trump, well, he’s not.

One wonders what it is exactly that Trump “loves” about his church if it’s not the core theology, the sacramental practice nor its liberal social witness. With the PCUSA’s current CEO vacancy and its financial management woes, if the Presidency doesn’t work out for Trump maybe he could offer himself in service of his chosen church. That would amaze not only the average America but the Presbyterians as well.

——-

(This post originally appeared at The Washington Times)

Pass or fail the test of humanity? Because you cannot unsee the video


The congressional inquiries have begun into Planned Parenthood and the video documented admission by PP’s chief medical officer that abortion is used as a front for the procurement of baby parts ordered by for-profit human tissue traffickers.  The “doctor” who casually swills wine and eats salad while discussing the manipulation of babies in utero to insure that the ordered parts survive the slaughter of the innocent fails the test of basic humanity. The question, having seen the video and knowing what we now know is, will we?

If your stomach is not turning and your soul is not grieving then dare I say your humanity has been lost.

The victims here include the babies but also the mothers. The doctor admits that procedures – like turning a baby from the head first position to the breech position – are commonly used to preserve particular infant parts for sale.

But U.S. taxpayers have also been victimized as we fund Planned Parenthood to the tune of a half billion dollars.  The woman in the video is, at some level, a government employee.  The organization she serves is funded by the U.S. government – which gets its money from the U.S. public.  Which means that all our hands have blood on them. Are we now content to return to the everyday living of our lives?  I’m not. I will not deny what I have seen and heard. I will not forget. I will not stand idly by as the smoke of incinerators rises over this land and a black market of baby body parts continues aided and abetted by my tax dollars.

I’m calling my congressman and I’m calling my senators. I’m also calling local affiliates of Planned Parenthood. I’m aligning my efforts with the efforts of others and I’m committing myself to asking people publicly what they are going to do. Impolite conversation? Yes. But again, did you watch the video? This conversation took place in earshot of dozens of other diners over three hours.  Think about that.

What can you do? Contact your Senators and Congressional representatives today.

Be clear that you want Planned Parenthood

  • defunded,
  • stripped of its non-profit status, and
  • prosecuted for criminal acts.  If you need some talking points, use this from Americans United for Life.

Planned Parenthood (or actually, Planned Parenthood Federation of America) was founded in 1916 as a U.S. non-profit organization “providing reproductive health and maternal and child health services.” I think its fair to say that the 100 years they’ve been in operation is enough. What we know now clearly indicates that they interested neither in maternal nor child health.

A hundred years of child sacrifice in America is enough. Watch the video. Weep for the victims, pray to God for mercy for the mothers who now live with the horrific knowledge that their babies were shredded and sold off in parts, and then find the courage of your convictions to call your lawmaker – regardless of their political party or your own. If you don’t speak up about this you will have failed the test of basic humanity.

You will also have failed the test of the gospel for these are surely the least of these…if you cannot find your voice for them, then for whom will you ever find a voice to speak justice?

In April of 1945, German civilians were confronted with the reality of what their nation had been doing in the concentration camps. They claimed that they did not know. But they could also not “unsee” what they had now seen. the same is now true for us. We cannot unsee the video of the “doctor” swilling wine talking casually of the murder, dismemberment and sale of baby parts.  So, having seen it, what will you now do?

File this away somewhere with hope for the future

Four days in advance of its July 14 release, those who have been anxiously awaiting Harper Lee’s new book Go Set a Watchman can read the first chapter online for free.

Lee wrote Watchman in the 1950’s before the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. But publishers rejected it. That now seems almost impossible to imagine. That’s why I’m posting this very brief blog.

I’m holding out hope that the time will come when the publisher who passed up my first book proposal will look back and wish they’d made a different decision.

For now, I’m filing away the manuscript and setting to work on other projects. No, I don’t expect to pen the next great work of classic fiction.  But I do hope to find favor with a publisher who sees what I see at the intersection of the eternal and the everyday that people might be more fully equipped for the opportunities we all have every day to keep the divine appointments God has set.

So, I’m celebrating the release of Go Set a Watchman and the hope it engenders in authors everywhere whose rejected manuscripts lie collecting dust. Maybe you wrote them for such a time as this?

What President Carter did not say in support of gay marriage

On Tuesday, during an interview with Jimmy Carter about his forthcoming memoir at 90, Huff Post Live’s Marc Lamont Hill worked the conversation around to the topic du jour: gay marriage.

Carter deftly deflected the initial question saying that he has no problem with it. Then the former President, aware of his stature as a public moralist, offered up his opinion that as an evangelical Christian, he does have a problem with abortion. Not distracted, Lamont pressed the gay marriage question again, asking Carter specifically whether he believes Jesus would approve of gay marriage.

Carter answered: “I believe Jesus would. I don’t have any verse in scripture.”

When Lamont continued to press Carter to speculate “intuitively” about how Jesus would feel about gay marriage, Carter added,

“I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.”

Carter knows the scriptures. So when he says “I don’t have any verse in scripture” to support his “personal belief,” he’s speaking volumes.

Biblical support for same-sex marriage does not exist. There is not one verse in either the Old nor the New Testament that can be used to positively assert that God affirms homosexual relations of any variety. The best arguments are based on stripping the existing scriptures of their plain meaning, reinterpreting texts, or simply arguing from silence. Because Jesus never expressly condemned same-sex marriage, it is argued, he must have been in favor of it. In debates of every kind, the weakest argument one can make is the argument from silence.

Jimmy Carter is a student of the Bible. He continues to teach Sunday school every Sunday he’s home in Plains, Ga. Even as President of the United States, he continued to teach Sunday school whenever possible. He knows what the Word of God says and he knows well what it does not say. He also knows the power of the bully pulpit he possesses as a former President.

His affirmation of same sex marriage in the Huff Post interview is just that–the affirmation of a man. It should not be construed as the affirmation of God.

In this photo taken Sunday, June 8, 2014, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter, left, sits with his grandparents Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter during a church service in Plains, Ga. Religion offers a powerful connection with many in the South, and Democrats looking to halt Republican gains in Georgia, Kentucky and elsewhere are finding their faith to be a valuable asset. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Putting words in God’s mouth is dangerous business. Deuteronomy 4:2 says, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you” (ESV). God repeats that teaching in Deuteronomy 12:32, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it;” and confirms just how seriously He means it in Revelation 22:18-19.

Make the arguments that will be made for legitimizing same sex marriage, but leave Jesus out of it. He didn’t say anything about it and, much to the chagrin of those whose personal belief is otherwise, the canon of Scripture is closed. God has said what He has said. Our challenge is to live in response to what He has said, not manipulate it according to our will.