Monday, August 26, 2013

Reflections on the Rwandan Genocide in the Light of James 3:7-9
John Barber, Ph.D.

Most of us know of the genocide in Rwanda that began in April, 1994. The Hutu tribe, in a mission of ethnic cleansing, committed itself to thoroughly wipe out the minority Tutsi tribe that had ruled Rwanda for many years. In a period of 100 days the Hutus killed one million people: 800,000 Tutsi and 200,000 Hutu sympathizers. To accomplish that required the death of one person every second for 100 days!

rwandan genocide - skulls of the victims

In August of 2013, I had the distinct pleasure of traveling to Kigali, Rwanda to conduct a 3-day pastor’s conference on the Cultural Mandate. Before I arrived, I read widely on the genocide, watched “Hotel Rwanda”, and a movie my son suggested, “Sometimes In April.” Although my reading and movie-watching helped set things in context, none of it answered the fundamental question that bewildered me. How? How could marauding bands, led by the Rwandan government, systematically slaughter one million men, women, and children with such a thorough resolve and with seemingly no conscience? HOW could such a thing happen?

Certainly there was tribal tension leading up to the 1994 genocide. For one, the majority Hutu tribe didn’t like being subjugated to the minority Tutsi. But that’s no reason for genocide. So people have looked to all sorts of lateral reasons, including historical, social, and economic, to explain the human liquidation.

What I would like to do at this point is to turn to the New Testament book of James. For here we find an important truth about human nature that just might point us in the right direction in our search for an answer to the perplexing question.

Referencing the human tongue, James 3:9 says “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.” Here James affirms that that all people are created in God’s likeness.” So for James the Genesis account of creation is historically true. Genesis 1:26 records,Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”

For James, and by extension for us, that means two things. (1) That people have a spiritual dimension which animals do not. (2) That people should not therefore treat other people like an animal by cursing and degrading them. In East Africa I didn’t like the sound of men whipping and cursing their mules to get them to bring carts of produce to market faster. Much less are people to be treated like this. Problematically, as James also points out, we do often use our tongue to bless God and to curse people made in God’s image. In v. 9, James says that to do that is sheer hypocrisy.

Such hypocrisy was a controlling factor leading up to the Rwandan genocide. In straightforward terms, the roots of genocide lay in Darwin’s theory of evolution. That theory of course denies James’ point that all people, tribes, and tongues are created in God’s image. Only a brief historical survey of the situation is possible here.

After WW 1, Belgium took full control of the Congo region, which then included Rwanda. Looking to Darwinian science and social Darwinism, Flemish scientists declared the Tutsi to be the superior race compared to the Hutus whom they subjugated to the Tutsi. What struck the Flemish was that the Tutsi looked European. They had long narrow noses, high brows, were tall, thin, and had other European characteristics. The only explanation the Flemish could contrive was that the Tutsi were once Europeans who migrated south to Ethiopia, then down to the Congo region where they settled.

The colonial minister in Rwanda in 1925 reveals the Darwinian outlook on the Tutsi people.

The Mutusi of good race has nothing of the Negro, apart from his colour. He is very tall, 1.8 m at least, at least 1.9 m or more. He is very thin, a characteristic which tends to be even more noticeable as he gets older. His features are very fine: highbrow, thin nose and fine lips framing beautiful shining teeth. Batutsi women are usually lighter skinned than their husbands, very slender and pretty in their youth, although they tend to thicken with age…Gifted with vicious intelligence, the Tutsi displays a refinement of feelings which is rare among primitive people. He is a natural born leader, capable of extreme self-control and calculated goodwill. [1]

Now this statement is as racist as it gets. In fact, the reader may have seen pictures or film footage of Flemish scientists measuring the length of Rwandan’s noses, from the very tip to the top of the brow. Why? To determine where individuals were on the evolutionary ladder. Scientists believed that the longer the distance from nose to brow the more likely the subject was of European ancestry. It is no wonder that when the tinderbox blew in 1994, the name the Hutu called the Tutsi to justify killing them was “cockroaches”—something the Hutus had been made to feel like while under colonial domination. So in the mind of the Hutu butchering a Tutsi to death with a machete was equivalent to exterminating bugs. Thank-you Mr. Darwin.

Whether it is Hitler’s extermination of six million Jews, the Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot, in which 1.7 million people lost their lives, or the Bosnian genocide, in every case, a godless, secularist view of man lay at the bottom, according to which people are viewed as less than human. The irony is that today the vast majority of groups at work to ensure equality and human rights around the world reject James’ description of humankind—that each one of us are created in God’s image and are thus to be treated with dignity.

Now that we have a clue to “how” the genocide happened, let’s now ask a further question. What is the answer to man’s inhumanity to man?

While in Rwanda, I had the opportunity to visit The Kigali Memorial Centre. It is Rwanda’s national genocide museum. Toward the end of the multimedia tour and its grizzly pictures and heart-wrenching videos of survivors, the Centre offers what it thinks is the way forward so that such a tragedy will not happen again. The solution it offers is education. As I left the building I entered the large burial ground where the remains of a quarter million dead are buried. As I walked, I thought “education”? 

Now do you think that Hitler was uneducated? Was Pol Pot uneducated?  In fact, education was the start of the whole problem. A godless view of man was taught to the people who were then subjugated accordingly, which then, over the course of years, led to the blowing of the powder keg. In fact, after years of education, even though Rwanda is a quiet country now, the problem of tribalism still runs very deep.  For example, Hutu and Tutsi eat together, attend the same church, and schools. But even today if a Hutu man announces his intent to marry a Tutsi girl that young man can die.  

Possibly religion is the answer. On that same day I visited the Centre, I also stopped in to see the Hotel des Mille Collines, the site of the movie “Hotel Rwanda.” From there I traveled to a Roman Catholic Church where 10,000 Tutsi, including children, were viciously killed. The attending priest had assured the people of safety inside the church edifice, only to trick them by allowing Hutu murders to systematically kill all trapped inside.

Why would a Roman Catholic priest act in such a way?  It is because most of the educated priesthood within the Church of Rome had also accepted Darwin’s theory of man’s origin. In fact, years before the genocide, it was a Roman Catholic priest, Father Gitera, who looked to Social Darwinism to write “10 Commandments of the Bahutu.” That paper, steeped in Darwinian prejudice, became the precursor to the 1990 “Hutu 10 Commandments”, which was published by the Rwandan newspaper, Kangara. The first commandment of the 1990 version declared that any Hutu who even so much as befriends a Tutsi woman is a “traitor.”[2]

But the Roman priests added a religious twist to Darwin’s theory. They claimed that God used evolution to bring man into being. But this “religious” answer fails miserably. A Christian can try to explain the origins of man from a scientific-anthropological position using the theory of evolution. However, he will forever face the insurmountable task of explaining how a lower form of life evolved into the image of God, specifically, was able to take on God’s own characteristics. That chasm is just too far to cross. The only way life can bear God’s image is that God created it, whereby it reflects his likeness. 

If not education and religion, maybe politics is the answer. One thing I discovered while in Rwanda is that whereas Kenya and Uganda are English speaking, because of its history with Belgium, Rwanda is mainly French speaking. That affinity led to a working alliance between France and Rwanda. But since the genocide an effort has been underway, mainly through the schools, to shift the language from French to English. Why the change?

During the genocide a large group of Tutsi hid way up in the mountains hoping to escape Hutu killers. Once French troops arrived a commander assured the people they could come out of hiding. All was safe. So the people came down from the mountains only for the French military to retreat and allow the Hutu hiding in the bush to kill the lot. The French tricked the Tutsi because years before the genocide the Hutu had manipulated the French government into thinking that the Tutsi were planning to wrest Rwanda away from Flemish control. Since many within the French government had also acquiesced to Darwin’s theory, they too saw little problem with exterminating ill-fated “cockroaches.” Moral: if you’re looking for political solutions to today’s issues you’re looking in the wrong place. Politics can’t change people’s hearts.

If not education, religion, or politics, how then do we help to ensure that genocide will never happen again? It may very well happen again, but the only real hope the world has is found in Christ. According to James 3:7, “For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.” James here recalls God’s dominion mandate to Adam (Gen. 1:26-28) over the non-rational creatures, a charge which he says the human race has accomplished. It ought to be quite clear from this that since we are God’s caretakers of the creation, including crawling creatures, no one is to be called a “cockroach.” But because of sin we don’t listen. Our hearts are hard.

So 3:15-16 records that the world follows a wisdom from below. It is earthly, natural, and demonic.  It leads to jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder and every evil thing. “Every evil thing” could be a moniker for the 100 days of genocide. More importantly, for those who scratch their heads wondering “why” or “how” the Rwandan genocide occurred, we can take from James the sobering point that without Christ commanding our hearts, all of us are capable of the same thing!

But by repenting of sin and trusting Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, James tells us in 3:17 that we have access to a wisdom from above that dramatically alters our view of people. Its traits are “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” Put in the context of this discussion, with Christ as our wisdom, God empowers us to bless God, and also others, according to the dignity that is rightfully theirs as the image of God.

I hope to return to Rwanda someday. It is a beautiful place and the people of all tribes are so very special. Let us all pray for the continued peace of this land.

[1] Minstre des colones,Rapport del’administration belge duRwanda-Urundi, 1925, 34.Quoted in Aimable
Twagilimana, 44.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Traditional Dowry-System in Africa[1]

Arguments for traditional dowry 

1.     It stabilizes the marriage and prevents the wife running away from her husband.
2.     Payment of dowry demonstrates that the husband-to-be is capable of supporting a wife.
3.     Payment of dowry makes the wife feel that she is worth “something” and that her husband considers her valuable. It can be considered a proof of love.
4.     Christian missionaries have often supported and encouraged the dowry system as a safeguard to the stability of marriage.
5.     The parents of the girl feel repaid for all their expense of caring for her and educating her.
6.     Bride Price enables the girl’s parents to provide similar dowry for their sons to marry wives. Thus the bride price becomes a kind of revolving fund in the family.
7.     Payment of the dowry satisfies a deep longing for justice and legality in the eyes of the families involved.
8.     In our modern society with marriage breaking down, increased infidelity, pre-marital sex, adultery, and prostitution, the bride price tradition is seen as a factor that links modern African society to the strong moral standards of its pre-colonial past.
9.     Perhaps most important of all, dowry is understood to be an evidence that the man is serious about his intentions to make the marriage stable.
10.  The Bible tells us that dowry was an essential element of ancient marriage.

Arguments against traditional dowry 

1.     It degrades the woman to the status of a commodity being sold and bought.
2.     It makes marriage primarily an economic relationship in which the choice of a wife depends on one’s ability to pay rather than on mutual respect and love between bridegroom and bride.
3.     Since the wife’s motivations to be faithful and helpful to her husband are affected by the fear of her parents’ inability to return the dowry if she fails as a wife, it becomes more difficult for a love-relationship to develop that would make the marriage truly stable. Selfish economic factors do not build genuine love and fidelity.
4.     In modern educated society, young people tend more to want to marry the one of their own personal choice based on love. The girl's parents can easily thwart this by demanding of a worthy young man a dowry impossibly high for him to manage to pay. Thus, they can force her to marry someone she cannot truly love.
5.    The dowry system encourages hard-hearted but wealthy husbands to treat their wives any way they wish since they have successfully “paid” for them. The system also encourages the wife to consider herself virtually a slave to such a husband. Her parents cannot encourage her to resist in justice because they fear having to pay back the price paid. Thus the dowry system often contributes to the degradation of women.
6.     With the dowry system, the young married couple must suffer serious privation in their home because so much of the husband’s income must go to paying the wife’s parents the unpaid portion of the dowry. That creates unnecessary tension in the new home.
7.     The dowry-system contributes to polygamy, since the practice is rooted in both cultural and economic factors. It South Sudan, the practice has been traced to theft as men are eager to get cows.
8.     The dowry-system has shown to lead to divorce in that it replaces marriage as a means to honor God with a means of personal benefit. What happens to children in the case of a divorce? The dowry-system is even seen as one of the causes of immorality. Young people frustrated and defeated by excessive dowry demands tend to elope and live together without a proper marriage.
9.    The deep need for a foundation of legality and justice in marriage is better satisfied by the public vows of love and fidelity under God, witnessed and approved by family and friends.
10.  The intent of dowry was for the parents to return it to the newlywed couple, so that the girl would be taken care of, not to enrich the parents of the bride. This is still the practice in India today.

Does the Bible uphold the tradition of dowry?

1.     Jacob and Dinah
We read of a heathen man who tried to bargain with Jacob for his daughter Dinah to marry his son Shechem. The soul of my son Schechem longeth for your daugther: I pray you give her to him to wife. Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel [for my son] to wife (Genesis 34:8, 12). Dowry is mentioned, but Jacob did not ask for a high dowry. In fact, he did not want to give Dinah to this heathen husband at all, no matter how high the dowry offered. Jacob shows the true meaning of dowry in that he loved Dinah more than any amount of money. His request of dowry only served to secure her true happiness within the Lord's plan for His people (Deut. 7:1-3).

2.      If a man seduces a girl.
 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgin” (Exodus 22:16-17). Clerly that there was a bride price system in effect in ancient Israel. However, as we shall reinforce, the system was a physical transaction that pointed to the spiritual importance and worth of marriage.  Matthew Henry writes, “A law that he who debauched a young woman should be obliged to marry her, v. 16, v. 17. If she was betrothed to another, it was death to debauch her (Deut. 22:23-24) but the law here mentioned respects her as single. But, if the father refused her to him, he was to give satisfaction in money for the injury and disgrace he had done her. This law puts an honour upon marriage and shows likewise how improper a thing it is that children should marry without their parents’ consent.”

3.     King Saul offered his daughter Michal in marriage to David if he would kill one hundred Philistines (1 Sam. 18:20-30). It is clear from the story that although dowry, or bride-price, was an established custom in Israel, Saul was only interested in having David fall in battle (v. 25) even though Michal loved David (v. 20). Saul failed miserably at seeing the dowry as a physical indicator of the deep love relationship that is marriage.

4.     Parents who feared God did not keep the dowry but returned it to the couple to be used in building up their new home. “Rachel and Leah said to him, “Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father’s house? Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price. Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you” (Gen. 30:14-16). Not only did Laban deceive Jacob (Gen. 29), but their father never showed any real love for Rachael and Leah. They said he had “sold” them. Laban should have bestowed on the girls the bride-price received, that they might use it to establish their new home. Instead he selfishly spent it on himself.

5.    The worth of a wife is “priceless.” “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value” (Prov. 31:10-11).

Concluding thoughts

1.    The purpose of the dowry system in the OT when properly administered was to function as evidence of the spiritual suitability of an intended couple. More, it demonstrated to the parents of the girl that her interests were safeguarded by making certain that the young man who seeks her is one fully worthy of her. In our modern society, all the principles embodied in the dowry system can be fully satisfied in the case of a young couple who wish to follow Christ.

2.    In the OT, it was never the intent of the parents of the girl to profit from their daughter’s marriage. Rather, the dowry was to be held in trust or given back in whole for the wellbeing of the daughter and her children. What Laban received for his daughters should have been given back for their good and that of their children. This is how true parental love should administer the dowry system.

3.    Without exception, a happy, stable marriage is based on love and fidelity, as these qualities as established in Christ. Nothing must interfere with this reality.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

30-Second Gospel

Although Christians know the gospel, many cannot articulate it. Here are two different "30-second" gospel presentations (give or take) you can learn quickly and present to friends, family, or to strangers. 

Version 1

God says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Maybe you lied, took something that didn't belong to you, or simply lived for yourself rather than for God.  Regardless, once you sin, God says “the wages of sin is death.” That means eternal separation from God in a place Jesus called Hell. Now most people don’t want to admit they’re sinners. But God says, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” But here’s the Good News. Jesus did three very important things for us. First, he lived the perfect life all of us were supposed to live, but did not.  The Bible calls Jesus the “spotless lamb of God.” Second, he died on a cross and there paid the penalty for our sins so that we don’t have to. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is paid.” Third, he rose from the dead, conquering death so that we can have eternal life; and a full and meaningful life now. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” Everything Jesus did is practical for you when, by faith, you trust on him. To ‘trust’ means to believe that what Jesus did in his life, death, and resurrection he did for you personally, and that what he did, is all you need to have the gift of eternal life.

Version 2

We have three problems for which God has three solutions. Our first problem is a bad record.  All of us have sinned by breaking God’s 10 commandments. Maybe you lied, took something that didn't belong to you, or you have lived for yourself rather than for God.  That is sin. Our bad record comes from our second problem: a bad spiritual heart.  Jesus said, “out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts . . . ” Our bad spiritual heart leads to our third problem: a bad life.  We all know what problems our sins have caused. Selfishness leads to marital discord. Greed causes discontentment. And anger only ever hurts you, not the person you’re mad at. Now here are God's three solutions. First, Jesus lived a spotless life in your place so your bad record can be erased. God says, “through the obedience of the One,” that is Jesus “the many will be made righteous.” Second, Jesus died in your place on a cross for your sins, and there he destroyed the root of sin—your bad spiritual heart.  God says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Third, Jesus rose from the dead to overcome your bad life and so you can have new life.  Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” God’s three solutions to our three problems are God’s gift; received by faith, not by good works. God says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Agenda 21, Seven 50, and Environmental Fascism

(In addition to my article which is taken from my book Earth Restored, 2002; that's how long ago I warned people of a plan to overcome private property rights, PLEASE watch the full video below of how the city of Vero Beach, FL, overcame this anti-American agenda). 

In his booklet, The Decline of Property Rights and Freedom in America, Dr. Michael S. Coffman, president of Environmental Perspectives, details the original intent of the Founding Fathers, who saw our God-given right to own land as one of the foundational elements to freedom. Coffman also provides an overview of the systematic erosion of the right to private property in America, which has come at the hands of government interference and its usurpation of individual rights. I strongly recommend the reader get a copy of his booklet. The gist of Coffman’s thesis is that America is presently witnessing a move toward a “new feudalism.” Complete centralized control over most of this nation’s landscape will have the nefarious effect of elevating the federal government, and perhaps the United Nations, as the ultimate power over the lives of Americans. Personal liberty will be a thing of the past. 
In an article for Mining Voice, Dr. Coffman, notes, “With the Grand Canyon National Park as his backdrop, President Bill Clinton used the 1906 Antiquities Act to set aside one million acres of land into three national monuments in Arizona, Nevada, and California on January 11 [2000] this year.”30 This action was not done with the approval or review of Congress. In addition to the federal government’s unprecedented lock-up of public lands, “more than 20 million acres of private land could be purchased over the next decade with no congressional oversight.”31 Using the Clean Water Action Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture plan to administratively shift “water protection from point source pollution (a single factory or city) to non-point source pollution over an entire watershed.”32 Consequently, federal land use jurisdiction will extend to all of the 2,100 watersheds in America, including private property. This use of the Clean Water Action Plan will affect a total of “48 million acres of private property.”33
Just three days before leaving the White House, former President Clinton created seven new national monuments and expanded an eighth on January 17, 2001. All totaled, the Clinton administration designated more than three million acres as national monuments in 2000 and 2001. U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton has indicated that President Bush will not seek to reverse Clinton’s land-grabs, but only adjust them so oil drilling, coal mining, and other development can take place.
Moreover, the U.S. government is working to implement the UN’s Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Treaty), which was introduced during the June 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “Agenda 21 is a 40-chapter tome focused on reorganizing society around ‘sustainable’ use and development of the planet. Based on socialist principles of equal sharing of all natural resources, Agenda 21 sets a goal to control all human activity to protect the Earth’s ecosystems and biological diversity.”34 Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Biodiversity Treaty in the U.S. is currently being sought through The Wildlands Project, which is designed “to transform at least half the land area of the continental United States into an immense ‘eco-park’ cleansed of modern industry and private property.”35 This will be accomplished through the creation of “reserve networks” across America. These reserve networks will be made up of “cores,” and “corridors,” a mixture of both private and public lands. As a result, 50 percent of the U.S. continent will be restricted or considered off-limits to the public!
The Wildlands Project is essentially the pet project of David Foreman, the principle founder of the eco-terrorist group, Earth First. Foreman summarizes the strategy as an effort to “tie the North American continent into a single Biodiversity Preserve.”36 John Davis, editor of Wild Earth, is more to the point, when he says the Wildlands Project seeks “the end of industrialized civilization...Everything civilized must go.”37 This Orwellian nightmare would close many U.S. industries, block or remove highways and roads, stop all timber harvesting, and what is more, force many hundred of thousands of Americans to relocate.
It is in this context that Coffman urgently calls us to rebuild a system where government exists to protect absolute private property rights limited only by the principle of “harm and nuisance.” This is a system that places control of the environment at the local level, where it is regulated by a strict system of checks and balances. In “The Decline of Property Rights and Freedom in America: The Destruction of Our Founder’s Intent for the U.S. Constitution,” Coffman observes, “In turn, common law nuisance and harm provisions limit the rights of a property owner to harm their neighbor. Therefore, if an activity or use of property clearly causes harm to a neighbor by causing harm to the environment, the property owner must pay the cost of mitigation or restoration. These activities can be established in regulatory statutes where the regulators are accountable to those within their jurisdiction. However, if a regulation benefits the larger (i.e. a “public good”) without a clear and definable harm, reduction of property value must be compensated according to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Finally, if an activity or use does not cause a definable harm by itself, but does when added to all similar activities or uses preceding it, both the property owner and society should share the cost of diminished property value. Society must bear responsibility because it contributed to the problem as much as the proposed activities or use of the current property owner. Partial compensation according to the Fifth Amendment should be required.”38
He concludes, “In the final analysis, it is private property rights as constrained by common law and significant harm that is the ultimate answer to environmental protection. A continued reliance on heavy-handed laws and regulations will only serve to devastate landowners and deny them the ability and desire to develop creative solutions to our environmental problems. It will also deny them the incentive to creatively provide the natural resources this nation must have to provide the security and standard of living we all enjoy.”39

30 Michael S. Coffman, “Globalizing Mining in America: Is It Environmental Concern That’s Driving Mining Out Of The United States Or Rather Politics On The Grandest Scale?” Mining Voice, March/April 2000. (; Internet).
31 Ibid.
32 Ibid.
33 Ibid.
34 Ibid.
35 Ibid.
36 Ibid. ???
37 Ibid. ???
38 Michael S. Coffman, “The Decline of Property Rights and Freedom in America: The Destruction of Our Founder’s Intent for the U.S. Constitution” (Bangor, ME: Environmental Perspectives, Inc., 1996), 38.
39 Ibid, 17.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Frederick Edwin Church and the Christian Vision of America

Frederick Edwin Church (1826-1900) was a devout Trinitarian and Congregationalist. Ministers and theologians were among his closest friends throughout his life. For years a student of Thomas Cole, he left his tutelage in 1846 and established his own studio in Hartford where he heard the sermons of Horace Bushnell at North Congregational Church. In those years Church would have been exposed to the ideas of the young Christian Romantic minister that had just published Discourses on Christian Nurture. I will comment briefly on only one of his paintings.

Niagara (1857) is a monumental piece both in physical size and meaning. Painted at a time when America was transitioning from an agrarian to an industrialized economy, and when a new sense of nationalism was in search of an identifiable cultural icon, the significance of Church’s picture of Niagara Falls found a ready audience. While Niagara Falls had been painted many times, even by his mentor Cole, Church brought a fresh awareness to the mammoth waterfall. Not only is his picture overwhelmingly larger than any other (his serial panorama was intended to encourage the viewer to feel as a participant in the story), but also he reversed his point of orientation from the conventional American side looking toward Canada to a view from the Canadian rim looking towards the vast openness of the American frontier. In this way Church highlighted Niagara Falls as the new cultural icon of a growing, changing, and prosperous nation. Like Bushnell and Coleridge, Church saw the role of the artist as prophet and seer. To him, America is a chosen people of God. He used biblical metaphors to express his message.

Above the falls we see a rainbow (something Cole never painted) – the covenant sign of God’s blessing to Noah. Church wants us to see America in the very same sense: having endured hardship, God has now set his sign and seal of promise upon Americans and is calling them to thrive in the land of their sojourning. The metaphorical Christian imagery extends to the very use of water in its concealed affiliation with the Christian waters of baptism, a rite that is also tied biblically to the deluge. Also, Church follows the basic idea of Christian Romanticism that nature is symbolic of God: the power of the falls is meant to point us to the power of God and his protection of the American people, as long as they heed his voice and obey his commands.

Though Niagara was received as a new cultural icon of nationalism and industrialism, Church, like his teacher Cole, was wary of the implications of economic expansion for nature. The American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) echoed this circumspection in The House of Seven Gables (1851):

What we call real estate – the solid ground to build a house on – is the broad foundation on which nearly all the guilt of this world rests.[1]

American novelist Herman Melville (1819-1891)[2] shared Hawthorne’s view, as seen in his masterpiece, Moby Dick (1851):

Hereby perhaps Stubb indirectly hinted that though man loved his fellow, yet man is a moneymaking animal, which propensity too often interferes with his benevolence.[3]

[1] Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables, Chapter XVII, “The Flight of Two Owls.”
[2] His classic Moby Dick is about the search for truth and self-discovery in the midst of battling with one’s own demons. Both Melville and Hawthorne, as opposed to the Transcendentalists, focus on the more negative side of human nature. They combine realism, allegory, and moral issues.
[3] Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 93, “The Castaway.” American Literary Classics.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ten Reasons Why “Same-Sex Marriage” Affects Your Marriage
John Barber, Ph.D.

Supporters of same-sex marriage often ask its opponents, “How would same-sex marriage negatively affect your marriage?” Here are just ten ways:

1. Same-sex marriage reduces the worth of your marriage

Redefining marriage to include people of the same sex is a legal endorsement of the fungibility of a man and woman in marriage. To set “any two persons” on a par with a man and a woman in marriage is to reduce the worth of their roles. To draw an analogy, if a government declared the price of coal to be equivalent with the price of gold, would the cost of coal go up, or would the cost of gold come down? The price of gold would come down. Traditional marriage is the gold standard of marriage. People who affirm gay/lesbian marriage as equivalent in worth to the marriage of a husband and a wife devalue the worth of your marriage.

2.  Your marriage will be forced to abide by the social strictures of same-sex marriage

By legalizing same-sex marriage the state becomes its official advocate. Thus, in every public forum where marriage rights extend to gays and lesbians, the state will expect you to comply. Local judges will be called upon to conduct the new civil ceremony. Any restraints within the public schools to advocate for the LGBTQ culture will be removed fully. In the private sphere, owners of rental properties must agree to accept same-sex couples as tenants. Businesses offering wedding services will be forced to cater same-sex ceremonies, and much more. If your traditional marriage touches these, or similar areas, you can expect it to be affected.

3.  The rights of spouses to dissent same-sex marriage will be infringed

Once “marriage-equality” is achieved its advocates will work through the courts and other means to silence dissent. Should you and your spouse refuse to comply with any new regulations pursuant to the redistribution of marriage rights, even if that failure is based on conscientious objections, you can be penalized. If it is an intrinsic value of a heterosexual married couple to oppose same-sex marriage, and that right is infringed, then that marriage has suffered injury. Many black churches, in replying to the objection that Christians ought to stay out of politics, have argued that political speech is inherent to the Black Church experience. The inherent right of heterosexual spouses to protest gay/lesbian marriage will suffer damage under the new definition of marriage.

4. Same-sex marriage will absorb your marriage into a new view of reality

The basic argument for same-sex marriage states that there is no fundamental difference between the rights of gays/lesbians and heterosexuals to marry. Supporting the legal claim of “gender equality” is a view of human sexuality that erodes natural, gender-specific, differences between men and woman. The result is a “unisexual” view of personhood which, rather than affirm diversity, blurs it beyond recognition. The unisexual view of personhood is part of global move toward a hermaphroditic understanding of reality. According to this vision of things “all religions are equal” (unireligion); “all nations are equal” (one world order), etc. Ironically, diversity, the very thing secularism claims to champion, is what it destroys. Unity (two people becoming one) and diversity (a husband and a wife) are held in perfect balance in traditional marriage. 

5.  Same-sex marriage makes the concepts of husband and wife irrelevant in your marriage

When the California Supreme Court held  In re Marriage Cases (2008) held that “California legislative and initiative measures limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violate the state constitutional rights of same-sex couples and may not be used to preclude same-sex couples from marrying” (News Release 26, May 15, 2008, In re Marriage Cases, S147999),  the court order decreed that all marriages would have the respective parties designated as “party A” and “party B.” That ruling was a result of the Court’s acknowledgement that it could afford by statute domestic partnerships all the rights and privileges of marriage but not labels similar to “husband” and “wife.” That left gays and lesbians free to refer to their relationships any way they wanted e.g., spouse-partner, life partner-significant other, wife-wife, husband-husband, or whatever! The fact is that words have meaning. The elevation of same-sex marriage to that of traditional marriage, combined with the use of random nomenclature to designate parties in same-sex marriage, absorbs and reduces time-honored roles of husbands and wives into a morass of meaningless linguistic jargon.

6.  Same-sex marriage will obfuscate the state’s interests in your marriage

As Justice O’Connor said in her concurring opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is a “legitimate state interest.” (Lawrence v. Texas, 123 S. Ct. 2472, 2487-88 (2003) (O’Connor, J., concurring). Such interests are predicated mainly in the fact that heterosexual couples can produce children which facilitates social order and the longevity of the state. State interest in marriage extends to the well-being of a child, for should a family fail to protect a child that responsibly can fall to the state. However, if marriage is to have any social value the social meaning of marriage must remain apparent and protected. For, “the contribution of family life to the conditions that develop and sustain long-term personal fulfillment and autonomy depends (among many other important factors) upon maintaining the family as a legally defined and structurally significant entity.” Bruce C. Hafen, The Family as an Entity, 22 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 865, 867 (1989). Anything less than preserving the traditional definition of marriage creates an imprecise relationship between the state and your marriage

7.  Same-sex marriage defeats the purpose of the state’s interest in benefiting your marriage

A reason the federal government bestows numerous benefits on families with children, including child tax credits, is due to their social significance. The intent and design of heterosexual marriage is to provide the normal and stable conditions for the birth and upbringing of children. Homosexual marriage is not aimed at providing such conditions. Its chief purpose is the personal gratification of two individuals whose relationship is inherently barren. A major agenda item of gay activists is to secure a range of federal, state, and local benefits, hitherto enjoyed by traditional marriages. Should that goal be met fully, courts would only serve to empty traditional marriage of its significant social meaning, other than the respect of personal preferences. Should that ensue, would the federal government (especially one burdened economically) still see the necessity to continue to extend tax breaks to married heterosexual couples with children? Child tax credits could be offered to gay/lesbian couples who adopt. But the government could also choose to "level the playing field" by maintaining deductions for dependents whether they are children or spouses. 

8. Same-sex marriage challenges the nature of your marriage

If marriage is a civil right for all, then what is to stop other types of non-traditional relationships? Why not permit incestuous and polygamous marriages? Why not allow marriages between adults and children? How about nuptials between people and animals? Will the age of tolerance permit Muslim men to take multiple wives while Muslim women are restricted to one husband? These horrific possibilities destroy the nature of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman. 

9.  The redistribution of marriage rights modifies your marriage as a natural entity afforded legal recognition

Marriage is a naturally occurring relationship. A purpose of U.S. law is to create a flourishing context for the family to govern itself. Put differently, the state does not create marriage but is to create complimentary environments in which martial life is legally recognized and protected. Redefining marriage by legal fiat changes this point of reference. It shifts the legal posture of the state from recognizing a preexisting institution to creating the institution after its own image and likeness. The state would become the originator of your marriage. Case in point, the Hawaii Supreme Court called marriage “a state conferred legal partnership status.” Baehr v. Lewin, 852 P.2d 44, 58 (Haw. 1993).

10.  The legal legitimization of same-sex marriage affects your status as a father or a mother

In a prominent Massachusetts case allowing joint custody for the partner of a child’s biological mother, the court ruled that a “de facto” parent “performs a share of caretaking functions at least as great as the legal parent.” E.N.O. v. L.M.M., 711 N.E.2d 886, 891 (Mass. 1999). One can safely assume that no husband has faced the need to be acknowledged a “de facto” parent of his wife’s child. Let’s assume that the titular “marriage” is between two men and that one of the men is the natural parent of a little girl. Affirming that the male partner in a gay marriage is equivalent to the natural relationship of a mother in “caretaking function” is not only preposterous. It marks a monumental shift in the posture of the law toward the capability of parents within marriage and therefore the status of both mother and father relevant to their child. 


ACLU of Northern California. "Landmark Cases."

Duncan,  William C. "The State Interests of Marriage." 2 Ave Maria L. Rev. 153. (2004).

Hafen, Bruce C. "The Family as an Entity", 22 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 865, 867 (1989).

New Release, "California Supreme Court Rules in Marriage Cases." Release Number: 26.  May 15, 2008.

Legal Information Institute. "Lawrence vs. Texas." Cornell University law School.

Baehr v. Lewin. Hawai’i Supreme Court 74 Haw. 645, 852 P.2d 44 May 5,