Tag Archives: Constitution

Best Not to Comment on Things We’ve Never Read

Monday Morning Quarterback – Encouraging God’s people to be responsible, encouraging and uplifting in their use of social media.

I could probably spend the entire year using the recent “Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty” social media frenzy as illustrations for this series of posts.  I think we, as the church, probably showed a broader range of “how not to use social media” with that outbreak than with any other popular issue in recent memory.  We may come back to that well often for these Monday Morning Quarterback posts!

One of the embarrassing things I saw happening (often) in the posts and comments, even from Christian leaders, was arguments which made it obvious the person had not even read Mr. Robertson’s actual comments.  As an attorney, setting out to either attack or defend something I have not even read seems, well, a little crazy.  But what I read was worse than that.  I saw arguments posted that were just plain ignorant.

Constitution

For example, I saw Christian leaders couching Mr. Robertson’s statements (and the A&E Network’s backlash) as being a “free speech” issue.  And that’s when all the lawyers and genuine journalists (and other students of the United States Constitution) cringed with embarrassment.  That is because people who have actually read the First Amendment of the United States Constitution know all about the requirement of “state action” in order to trigger a First Amendment argument.  Here’s the actual pertinent language of the amendment, with appropriate emphasis added…

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…”

When we, as church leaders, go public with our discussions of important issues (like the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights), we really do make the church look foolish when we do not do our homework.  I’m not contending here that we …

Does Your Church Speak “Governmentese”?

Tuesday Re-mix –

How would you describe your church to your next-door neighbor?  How would you describe your church to that neighbor’s 6-year old daughter?  How would you describe your church to another pastor in your community?  How would you describe your church to the homeless person on the street?  HOPEFULLY, you answered each of these questions differently, because you cannot know how to describe your church appropriately unless you first know something about the person(s) to whom you are describing it.  Right?

The audience matters.  While the pastor down the street may want to know something about your church’s theology, your neighbor’s 6-year old daughter could not care less about that.  While your neighbor may want to know about your church’s location or your worship style or your ministries, the homeless person on the street just wants to know if there is a place there to get some food or to sleep for the night.  The point is, it is important to understand what the person wants to know before you start describing your church.

So what does the government want to know about your church?  What about the legal community?  Believe me, it is an entirely different set of questions from any of these, and probably different from anything you might imagine.  The government wants to know what kind of taxable entity you are, and if your are not taxable, the government wants to know why not.  The days when the IRS just “assumes” you are a church because of your name or just gives you the benefit of the doubt are long gone (if those days ever really existed in the first place).  The lawyers, on the other hand, want to know what kind of legal entity you are (that is a different question from what type …

Church Government: The Negative Space in God’s Word

Tuesday Re-mix –

In the world of visual art, the use of “negative space” is important.  In any sculpture or painting, the artwork sometimes says as much by areas is doesn’t cover as it does by actually covering.

You and I would call it the “blank space” on the canvass, i.e., the area where the artist chose not to paint.  That space becomes an integral part of the art itself.  In fact, some might claim that the negative space the artist creates in a particular work is what makes the work perfect.

I have come to believe that part of the perfection of scripture, i.e., the Word of God, is the “negative space” it creates within its pages…parts of the story intentionally not told or clarified, left out for reasons only God knows.

For example, wouldn’t you like more details from Jonah about exactly what happened inside that fish for three days?  If you were telling that story, wouldn’t you include that?  Or what about Paul’s fight with Barnabas, or his confrontation of Peter?  Don’t you think the details of those conflicts would be worth knowing?  Or what about a single instance of Matthew 18:15 (Jesus’ model for how to conduct church discipline) actually modeled for us somewhere?  Wouldn’t that be helpful?

For reasons only God understands, these and countless other “details” were omitted from the telling of His story.  But rest assured, He does have his reasons.  This “negative space” in scripture is a part of its perfection, it is critical in creating exactly the Word which God has preserved so perfectly throughout the centuries.  In any of these instances, a little more detail might seem harmless enough at first blush, but would ultimately take away from the Word God intended.

A perfect example is the New Testament’s lack …

Tension Between Two Friends: Church and State

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

As a practicing attorney and a practicing church mediator, I have an interest in issues pertaining to religious liberties.  In fact, it just may be that there is a series of posts coming in the future on this topic.  But with the  old debates in California over Proposition 8 and with the “experiment” by some conservative churches involved in political campaigning in the most recent presidential election, I noticed some pretty loose interpretations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  So, I thought I would chime in.

First, let me just say that, as a Christian lawyer (no, that is not an oxymoron) “the church” and “the state” are both good friends of mine.  I love them both and am loyal to them both.  So, I get a little miffed when either of them is misrepresented by “voices” in our culture who, frankly, haven’t studied either of them enough to be speaking on them in public forums.  Even  with 26 years of law practice and 30 years of Bible teaching under my belt, I don’t consider myself an expert on these issues.  But I think I can at least dialogue about them intelligently.  I cannot say the same for many of the voices I have seen and heard recently.  For the sake of the kingdom and the testimony of Christians everywhere, please do your homework before you sound off on issues of church and state.

Second, let me say that these issues involving church and state are dynamic issues, constantly morphing and shifting (even in the Supreme Court’s opinions over the last few decades) and are “blurry” to say the least.  So whenever you see or hear someone talking about …