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There is one theme that pervades the discussion on gay marriage: “this debate is the same as the debate we had on skin color in the 1960s.” Memes fly around the internet comparing the two fights. One recently on my newsfeed showed a picture of an interracial couple from the 1950s and a gay couple from today side by side with a statement “both illegal marriages.” When Arizona tried to pass its “religious freedom bill” that would allow the religious to refuse service in some situations to homosexuals, the response was clear: ‘this is the new Jim Crowe’. As a result, Jan Brewer vetoed the bill (probably fearing looking like the new George Wallace).

But the comparison is a bad one. The two causes should not be compared. They are nothing alike. To compare them is not only confusing but insulting to anyone who hates racial discrimination.  

The comparison is wrong for one reason: Behavior is not skin color.

People often point to the idea that homosexual desire is innate. If it is innate, they argue, it is like skin color (something we cannot change) and therefore worthy of the same sort of civil protections. But is this true? A moment’s reflection shows the error of this thought. We are all born with a wide variety of innate impulses and desires (sexual and otherwise). Some of our innate desires and impulses are good and some are not. We all judge our desires and make decisions on when, how, and whether to act on them. These innate impulses are not behaviors. The fact that we have an innate desire/impulse in no way means that acting on that desire (behavior) must be accepted, licensed by the state, or endorsed by the public.

This concept is manifestly true based on the fact that we all regularly do not act on a whole host of our innate desires. We don’t because doing so would often be often be socially unacceptable (and sometimes illegal depending on which desire in which context). Only some behaviors are socially acceptable (depending on the culture, legal code, and situation). We all filter our innate desires and choose which behaviors are good and which are bad.

We cannot automatically assume that because a desire is innate the corresponding behavior must be accepted by all…..that is almost never true. Desire is not behavior. Behavior is not innate.

Very few behaviors are established as civil rights in our country and I have a hard time seeing why this one sexual behavior should be classified alongside skin color. 

The current debates (i.e. gay marriage, sodomy laws, and conscience laws and etc) are all about behavior. No one is discussing thought control. The innate desires are not being restricted – no, there are questions about behaviors. And such discussions are appropriate and good. There is nothing hateful when we determine to reject certain behaviors as bad (we all do that every day).  In fact, behaviors must be evaluated, judged as ethical or not, and rejected (or embraced) as part of living in a civil society.

There is fundamental difference between skin color and behavior. It seems obvious but our society continues to confuse the two. It is time this confusion ended. 

“When Luftwaffe [a German military in Munich] medics learned of these experiments, they objected on religious grounds. Himmler was outraged at their objections. He decided to circumvent their objections by transferring Rascher [the doctor performing the experiments] to the SS, where Christian qualms were not a problem.” – Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas, 511.

From Desert News:

“In the race for souls, demography counts for more than eloquence. And demographic reality is very much slanted against secularism: what no one has noticed is that far from declining, the religious are expanding their share of the population because secular birthrates have plunged below replacement,” says Kaufmann’s website regarding his research.

Others have also noticed these trends. “The world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35 percent in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030,” says a summary of a Pew Forum study.

“Despite the rapid growth of Islam, Christianity seems set to remain the biggest religion in the world for the next 20 years. There are currently more than 2 billion Christians — 30 to 35 percent of the global population — making it very unlikely that there will be fewer than 2.2 billion Christians in 2030,” says a post on CNN’s belief blog, based on the Pew Forum’s findings.

I would echo the last paragraph and add to it that Christianity should increase ground against Islam in the next 20 years. Read more here. 

At this rate….

June 4, 2011

Ben Stein says that the Arab Spring is a hoax. He says this based on the results thus far. The revolution in Egypt has given rise to anti-Israel, anti-US forces throughout the region. No western style democracy has broken out.

I will agree that the Arab Spring is a hoax but I don’t say that  based on results. I say that based on process. Cult defines culture. The god you worship defines what you are. The revolutions that are taking place are not changing the religious dynamic. Therefore they will not change the culture. Therefore political upheavals will just rearrange the furniture.

It is very common to hear that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. Here is an article on cnn stating this.  This case is made by studies (such as one by U.S. Center for World Mission) that show that as a percentage of the whole Islam is growing at a rate of 2.9%  and Christianity is growing at a rate of 2.3%. From there it is easy to throw a projection out into the future and show that if the rates of growth remain the same that Islam will surpass Christianity at some point. But this is really not a helpful way to look at things.

In terms of numbers, Christians add more to their numbers every year than Islam. Multiply 2.9% times the total number of Muslims (1.3Billion) and multiply 2.3% times the total number of Christians (2.1 Billion) and you will see that every year Christians add about 11 million more people to our ranks than Islam does.

But what about the rate? Islam is much smaller than Christianity. The smaller you are the less people you need to add every year to grow at a faster rate. If you want to use growth rate as the judge of the fastest growing religion (not adjusted for size) than Islam is nowhere near the fastest growing. Some cult you and I have never heard of is growing at a rate of 100% because Jimmy Joe Cult leader from a suburb of Saginaw just convinced another couple to join him and his wife at their compound in the woods. At that rate, the cult of Jimmy Joe will be the world’s largest religion by far in 100 years!

So what do I expect to happen over the next century? It is very difficult to predict what will happen to birth rates and conversion rates in the future. Islam has higher birth rates in many areas right now but certainly not everywhere. For example, the highest birth rates in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa where Christianity is much more prevalent than Islam. Further more, Christianity tends to win converts at a much higher rate. So, what is with the lower growth rate in the world today? I would point to Europe. For the last 1000 years Europe was Christendom. That is where the stronghold of the Christian numbers were. But today, many countries in Europe have lost large numbers of adherents. Western Europe is now only 60% self proclaimed Christians. Further more, Europe has incredibly low fertility rates. As a continent, they are well below the replacement rate (2.1) at 1.5 babies per adult female.

And while this situation in Europe may be discouraging, I think this should be a huge encouragement when reflecting on the overall growth of Christianity. Think about it: Christendom collapsed in terms of adherents and birth rate and yet Christianity grew dramatically in the 20th century. It is unlikely that another cultural shakeup like we saw in the 20th century will happen in the 21st. Further more, there are indications that Europe’s slide into secularization may be slowing. From the Wall Street Journal:

After decades of secularization, religion in Europe has slowed its slide toward what had seemed inevitable oblivion. There are even nascent signs of a modest comeback. Most church pews are still empty. But belief in heaven, hell and concepts such as the soul has risen in parts of Europe, especially among the young, according to surveys. Religion, once a dead issue, now figures prominently in public discourse.

And the fertility rates are tied directly to religious fervor. From the European Journal of Population:

By every available measure, American women are more religious than European women. Catholic and Protestant women have notably higher fertility than those not belonging to any denomination in the US and across Europe. In all European regions and in the United States as well as among all denominations the more devout have more children.

So, in places like Europe, you are seeing a slowing of secularization and higher birth rates among the devout Christians. This doesn’t indicate to me that the 20th century slide will continue in the 21st. Further, the rest of the world helped maintain Christian growth in the 20th century and this growth is giving every indication of continuing. The church continues to make unbelievable gains Southeast Asia, Africa and South America.

Amazingly, despite the heavy persecution, Christianity is even making gains in some Islamic nations. Time Magazine reports:

More surprising, though, is the boom in Christianity[in the Islamic nation of Indonesia]…..the number of Asian Christian faithful exploded to 351 million adherents in 2005, up from 101 million in 1970, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, based in Washington, D.C.

All of this indicates to me that Christianity is going to continue to be the largest religion and that far from losing this position, it will expand greatly in the 21st century.