Common Sense & Civil Disobedience

According to many reports, the Obama administration issued a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. The letter to school districts went out Friday, adding to a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration contains an overtly ominous tone as it describes what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against. The presidential directive does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid. Herein lies the issue: “the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law.” The executive branch of government was not established to interpret law, yet the current president acts as if he sees himself as the supreme Supreme Court justice. 

While this was happening, eight states filed a brief Siding with North Carolina in its legal fight with the Obama administration. And in Fannin County, Ga., a sparsely populated area bordering North Carolina and Tennessee, hundreds of people marched to a school board meeting in order to insist that the district adhere to traditional, anatomical standards in defining sex. Tim Moore, the Republican speaker of the North Carolina House, said, “We all have to wonder what other threats to common sense norms may come before the sun sets on the Obama administration.” Make no mistake about it, we are in the midst of an all out offensive by those that would rewrite what common sense, anatomy, and Scripture dictate. Only days before the intrusive directive, the United Methodist Church’s greatly anticipated 2016 General Conference opened with colorful pageantry and an evangelical message from Bishop Warner Brown, president of the Council of Bishops. Brown challenged the General Conference to heed the words of St. Paul: “So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up” (Romans 14:19). “Today, in this place, in this important time, by the power of God’s Spirit, may we once again collectively sing [the African phrase]: ‘Jesu Tawa Pano’ ̵ Jesus, we are here for you. Not any other agenda. We are here for you. Therefore, let us go! God is with us, the transformation of the world has already begun. Therefore go, make disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!” Who could argue against such powerful preaching; however, the day was not without controversy. Shortly before the conference convened dozens of LGBTQ advocates gathered in the convention center to participate in the unauthorized ordination of Susan Laurie, a prominent leader in the movement. Although the act of ecclesial disobedience grants Laurie no official standing in the UM Church, it does add to the list of infractions that threaten to splinter the worldwide denomination. Later that day the same advocates disrupted the celebration of Holy Communion during the conference’s opening worship service. As the elements were shared with delegates and thousands of observers, Laurie and other protesters opened alternative “Queer Communion stations” (not my description) where delegates and others could receive Holy Communion. 

The moral fiber of America is unraveling because we (believers) have opted for glitz and glamour rather than walking the narrow path as salt and light. Tragically, Christians have lost our voice, perhaps because we’ve no use for salt these days and no longer distinguish light from dark. Who could have anticipated a time in which anatomy no longer defines gender, and common sense is considered biased. When Christians chime in with those who oppose biblical morality, the curtain threatens to close on all of us. Though their causes differed widely from the current moral chaos, it may be time to reenact a page from the legacy of Gandhi, King and Bonhoeffer. If there has ever been a time for civil disobedience in America, it’s now. Doubtless, many will disagree with these thoughts, and in anticipation of those I conclude with much of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Roman church:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four–footed animals or reptiles.24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God–haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

(Romans 1:18-32 | NRSV)

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