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Category: General
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Getting in Front of Jesus: The Politics of Progressive Christianity (Part II)
By Brad R. Braxton

How can progressive Christians "get in front" of Jesus by using the gospel forward to address pressing social dilemmas? In response to this question, I will discuss two moments from Jesus' story and "remix" them. A remix occurs when fresh elements are introduced into an old framework, thereby creating a new story.

The Birth of Jesus: A Progressive Remix

According to the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was born in a social context where a cruel king worked on behalf of Rome to ensure Caesar's sovereignty. After learning of Jesus' birth, King Herod plots to kill Jesus. An angel warns Joseph of Herod's wicked intentions. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus become immigrants, fleeing the harsh conditions of their homeland to secure safety and a better future in Egypt. Unable to locate Jesus, Herod sends a decree to murder all children in and around Bethlehem who are two years old and under.

Every Christmas, Christians look back to the birth of Jesus. We even replicate the sentimental parts of the story with pageants and live nativity scenes. My progressive remix focuses on the more tragic elements of the story. Instead of looking back and adoring the "sweet little Jesus boy" in the manger, the story can be a launching pad for prophetic discipleship and twenty-first-century social justice activism.

Here is the remix: let progressive Christian communities insist that President Obama and Congress enact just and humane immigration reform. The story of Jesus might have been different if Joseph and Mary had been sent back to Israel from Egypt because they were considered "undocumented workers," or worse, "illegal aliens." There are many Latino, African, and Asian "Marys" and "Josephs" who are returned to deathly contexts because of U.S. immigration laws. U.S. immigration laws should protect and preserve families, especially those already victimized by economic and social oppression resulting from policies benefiting the United States.

Furthermore, progressive Christian communities should insist that our nation become serious about reducing youth violence. How can we read about the innocent children slaughtered in Bethlehem and not immediately think about the innocent children being slaughtered in our cities? In the ancient world, Jesus escaped death as a child because he had resourceful parents with a "holy hookup." But what about those parents in Bethlehem who lacked resources to escape? And what about the countless contemporary parents who lack the means and influence to live in well-policed neighborhoods with safe schools?

In Chicago, hundreds of young people are constant victims of gun violence. How can the United States posture as a leader of peace when we can't even ensure the safety of children in our schools and neighborhoods? If we can raise money and public interest in a failed attempt to bring the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago, we can raise money and public interest to fund serious violence prevention measures in Chicago and across the country.

Additionally, in order to prevent the further massacre of young people, progressive Christians must persuade President Obama and Congress to stop the deluge of automatic weapons that floods the streets of our country. We send brave men and women to fight Al Qaeda thousands of miles away but are scared to take on the National Rifle Association right across the Potomac River. By going beyond the story of Jesus' birth, we faithfully follow Jesus into areas of social engagement concerning immigration, violence prevention, and gun reform.

The Death of Jesus: A Progressive Remix

Jesus, a young, innocent African-Asiatic Jew, was sent to the Roman death chamber on trumped-up charges. A brown brother in his thirties wrongly executed by the state -- which century are we talking about, the first or the twenty-first? Indeed, twenty centuries after Jesus' execution, injustices abound and continue to sentence other young, innocent people to death, whether by lethal injection or suffocating poverty. In the name of a just God, this must stop.
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Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Same-Sex "Marriage" Is Not a Civil Right
by James W. Skillen

A gay-marriage advocate in Boston explained to a radio reporter that marriage is a civil matter, not a church affair. Those who want church weddings can have them, but marriage is a matter of civil law. And since it is unconstitutional to deny equal civil rights to citizens, it is unconstitutional to deny to homosexual couples the right to marry.

At this important moment in the U.S. debate over same-sex "marriage" and the likelihood of a long campaign to try to add a marriage amendment to the Constitution, it is important to evaluate the grounds of the arguments. In particular, we need to be clear about what constitutes a civil right.

It is certainly true that the contention over marriage is about civil law. Marriage law has long been a state matter, and in the United States that has meant, literally, a state rather than a federal matter. In any case, the law has until now taken for granted that marriage is an institutional bond between a man and a woman. Moreover, marriage is something people of all faiths and no faith engage in. Churches, synagogues, and mosques may bless marriages but they do not create the institution. In that sense the question of marriage is not first of all a religious matter in the sense in which most people use the word "religion."

However, to insist that the question of marriage is a matter of civil law and not first of all a religious matter does not take us very far. After all, the argument is about what government ought to do about keeping or changing the legal definition of marriage. The debate is not between husbands and wives within the bond of traditional marriage—like a court case over divorce and child custody. No, this debate is about whether the law that now defines marriage is itself good or bad, right or wrong. And to join that debate one must appeal, by moral argument, to grounds that transcend the law as it now exists. In that regard, the question of marriage is not about a civil right at all. It is about the nature of reality and interpretations of reality that precede the law.

Those who now argue that same-sex couples should be included, as a matter of civil right, within the legal definition of marriage are appealing to the constitutional principles of equal protection and equal treatment. But this is entirely inappropriate for making the case for same-sex "marriage." To argue that the Constitution guarantees equal treatment to all citizens, both men and women, does not say anything about what constitutes marriage, or a family, or a business enterprise, or a university, or a friendship. An appeal for equal treatment would certainly not lead a court to require that a small business enterprise be called a marriage just because two business partners prefer to think of their business that way. Nor would equal treatment of citizens before the law require a court to conclude that those of us who pray before the start of auto races should be allowed to redefine our auto clubs as churches.

The simple fact is that the civil right of equal treatment cannot constitute social reality by declaration. Civil rights protections function simply to assure every citizen equal treatment under the law depending on what the material dispute in law is all about. Law that is just must begin by properly recognizing and distinguishing identities and differences in reality in order to be able to give each its legal due.

One kind of social relationship that government recognizes, for example, is a free contract by which two or more parties agree to carry out a transaction or engage in some kind of activity. Let's say you contract with me to paint your house. The law of contract does not define ahead of time what might be contracted; it simply clarifies the legal obligations of the contracting parties and the consequences if the contract is broken. Governments and lawyers and the law do not create the people, the house, the paint, and my desire to paint your house for a price that you want to pay. The point is that even in contract law, the law plays only a limited role in the relationship. The law encompasses the relationship only in a legal way.

If someone wants to argue that two people who have not in the past been recognized as marriage partners should now be recognized as marriage partners, one must demonstrate that marriage law (not civil rights law) has overlooked or misidentified something that it should not have overlooked or misidentified. For thousands of years, marriage law has concerned itself with a particular kind of enduring bond between a man and a woman that includes sexual intercourse—the kind of act that can (but does not always) lead to the woman's pregnancy. A homosexual relationship, regardless of how enduring it is as a bond of loving commitment, does not and cannot include sexual intercourse leading to pregnancy. Thus it is not marriage.

The much disputed question of whether same-sex relationships are morally good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, is beside the point at this stage of legal consideration. The first question is about identity and difference. This is the material legal matter of properly recognizing and identifying what exists and distinguishing between marriages and auto clubs, between schools and banks, between friendships and multinational corporations. It has nothing to do with civil rights.

To recognize in law the distinct character of a marriage relationship, which entails sexual intercourse, involves no discrimination of a civil rights kind against those whose bonds do not include sexual intercourse. Those who choose to live together in life-long homosexual relationships; or brothers and sisters who live together and take care of one another; or two friends of the same sex who are not sexually involved but share life together in the same home—all of these may be free to live as they do, and they suffer no civil rights discrimination by not being identified as marriages. There is no civil rights discrimination against an eight-year-old youngster who is denied the right to enter into marriage. There is no civil rights discrimination being practiced against a youngster who is not allowed the identity of a college student because she is not qualified to enter college. There is no civil-rights discrimination involved when the law refuses to recognize my auto club as a church. A marriage and a homosexual relationship are two different kinds of relationships and it is a misuse of civil rights law to use that law to try to blot out the difference between two different kinds of things.
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