Current Conversation: Christian Faithfulness and Human Sexuality
Topic #4: Constitutional Framework for Dealing with Public Policy Issues (October 2015)
- Micah Watson, William Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar-In-Residence Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science, Calvin College
- Kathy Lee, Professor of Political Science, Whitworth University
Leading Question: How should the U. S. Constitution inform Christian thinking about public policy issues in America?
Postings from the “conversation partners” are scheduled for October 1, 10, and 20. (presented below with the latest post on top)
For postings on all previous topics, go to Overview and click on "All Postings" for a given topic.
REVIEW AND APPROVAL OF SUBMITTED COMMENTS: Before submitting a comment on a given posting, please review our “Guidelines for Conversation” for our expectations for respectful engagement with those with whom you may disagree.
At the outset let me state what might be called my first principles. As a Christian and as a citizen of the United States, I view the Constitution both as a constitutive document for this country and also a ‘living’ document. It is, like the Bible, a text that requires interpretation; it is not self-interpreting. Because I have taught constitutional law I cannot help but then think of the Constitution as connected to judges, ultimately to the Supreme Court justices. I place myself within the Reformed tradition, and so view government as an institution that can be used to achieve justice.
While today I readily affirm the Constitution’s importance in creating our governmental structure as well as setting out aspirations, I grew up in a faith tradition which did not affirm the Constitution because the document omitted any reference to God’s sovereignty over all of life.
There are so many different angles and questions wrapped up in this topic’s leading question that it requires some disentangling before we can get into substantive claims about how to answer the question. We have no shortage of disagreement about how Christians should think about public policy, let alone how the Constitution should inform this thinking. Christians have a two-thousand year history of disagreement about how to interpret and apply the Bible, and Americans have been wrestling with how to interpret the Constitution for 228 years. Moreover, much depends on how we understand the purposes and functions of a constitution in general, and then the specific content of the U.S. Constitution in particular. There are a lot of moving parts. Unlike some of the other topics under consideration in this series of Respectful Conversations, it’s not obvious at first what a traditional and a progressive approach will have in common and on what points they will differ. I will proceed by laying out a series of claims—some descriptive and some normative—that will move from the general and hopefully less controversial to the more specific and probably contested. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to think together with Kathy Lee about these matters.
I believe that every decision a person makes is informed by one or more value commitments. If you dig beneath the surface of any decision, you will uncover underlying commitment to something judged to be “important.”
Therefore, as the third round of my nine-round electronic conversation on Human Sexuality draws to a close, the reader may find it helpful if I lay bare my value commitments that underlie this eCircle; the value commitments that constitute my most fundamental reasons for embarking on this challenging and controversial project.
The Christian values that informed my decision to undertake this project are Truth, love, and Christian unity, the bare contours of which I will now briefly outline.
- Christopher Grace, Professor of Psychology & Director, Center for Marriage and Relationships, Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University
- David Myers, Professor of Psychology, Hope College
Leading Question: “What is your understanding of the best findings from the academic disciplines of biology, anthropology, psychology and sociology relative to same-sex attraction, sexual orientation, and sexual behavior for human beings?”
Thank you, Chris, for your gentle and empathic spirit. And thank you for so aptly summarizing the gist of my first essay. You listen well. I now understand why you are so gifted at helping people create healthy relationships!
To clarify, I did not intend to imply that those who seek to honor a traditionalist biblical position on marriage are being hateful or mean-spirited. I simply wanted to note that the faith community’s understanding of a) marriage, and b) biblical wisdom about sexuality has evolved over time, and continues to do so. Perhaps, as the “Reformed and ever-reforming” perspective suggests should happen, the Spirit is continuing to work . . . as some of today’s biblical scholars, supported by psychological science, are leading us to rethink old ideas. Jesus beckoned us to worship God with our minds, which surely means being open—as you have demonstrated yourself to be—to continuing natural and biblical revelations.
A friend recently wrote “an argument among friends lies at the heart of our enterprise as Christian scholars. We each aim to give witness to the truth . . .” As scientists and Christians we are eyewitnesses to God’s Truth. What an awesome endeavor! We are eyewitnesses to His truth when we study nature as found in the observable created world, experiencing His reality and catching a glimpse of the holy in the everyday things around us—in a loving touch, in the gift of attention, and in the smile of a stranger. Yes, even in an argument with a friend.
It has been a joy and privilege to participate in this blog and converse with talented authors and scholars, if only by reading their insightful posts. I have sensed that we are fellow sojourners, each seeking encouragement from being united with Christ, comfort from his love, being like-minded, praying that our love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment. The previous post by David Myers, my conversation partner, reveals that this is his heart as well.
My thanks to Chris Grace for his gracious and thoughtful remarks.
Since this is a conversation, I’ll respond in a personal voice, speaking colleague to colleague (and with respect for someone whom I’ve understood to be an exceptionally fine teacher of psychology).
Yes, I do owe you, Chris, for the great privilege of assisting your teaching. Having been your text author for three decades has been an honor, and a keenly felt responsibility. Thank you.
Our agreements are several and substantial.
First and more importantly, we both respect, and seek to integrate, science and Scripture. You adopt “an integrative approach to Christianity and science that takes seriously psychological science and upholds the centrality of Scripture.” Your essay embodies that science- and faith-respecting perspective, by sifting science while affirming biblical wisdom. So does your Biola University, which has played a leadership role in hosting conversations about the interplay of rigorous science and biblical faith.
Integration is more than a mere academic exercise. It is enthroning Christ as King in every aspect of creation and every sphere of human endeavor, finding expression in our hearts and our conduct.
Science done well—by scholars committed to objectivity and free from obvious bias and political agendas—produces the best findings, which are then published in peer-reviewed academic journals.
Here are some findings that I find noteworthy relative to this blog topic
Most Are Straight, Some Are Gay, And Why It Is That Way: The Science and Future of Sexual Orientation
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided, but what do you think: Should same-sex marriages “be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?”
In 2015, a record 60 percent of Americans told Gallup, yes; only 37 percent said no. This flip from the 37/59 percent split a decade earlier (and from the 27/68 percent split of 1996), represents an astonishing transformation of public opinion. This momentum of gay support will likely continue as gay friends and relatives continue coming out, and as attitudes follow behavior (with same-sex marriage now the law of the land).