Archive for October, 2012

This the second of two posts comparing the United Methodist “platform” (i.e., language from the UM Book of Discipline) with the official platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties. This post focuses on two issues: marriage and national security.

As noted in part one, for Christians living in a democratic society electing government leaders is a stewardship responsibility.

UMNS graphic

Elections give followers of Christ the opportunity act through the political process to advance a “Christian worldview” that promotes justice, virtue, and freedom. In the words of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, “The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state” (¶164B).

Even so, it is worth keeping in mind that the role of the church and the role of the state are not one and the same.

The official United Methodist Church positions quoted below have been approved by various sessions of the UM General Conference and are included in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012 (forthcoming).

Democratic Party positions are from The 2012 Democratic National Platform: Moving America Forward (full text in PDF). Republican Party positions are quoted from 2012 Republican Platform: We Believe in America (full text in PDF).

Issues and parties are listed in alphabetical order. The side-by-side comparisons are presented without editorial commentary, except except for one clarifying note.

ISSUE: Marriage and Family

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family. 

We believe the family to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity. We affirm the importance of loving parents for all children….

We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman.

We believe that God’s blessing rests upon such marriage, whether or not there are children of the union….

We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman….

God’s plan is for lifelong, faithful marriage. The church must be on the forefront of premarital, marital, and postmarital counseling in order to create and preserve strong marriages. However, when a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness.

We grieve over the devastating emotional, spiritual, and economic consequences of divorce for all involved, understanding that women and especially children are disproportionately impacted by such burdens. As the church we are concerned about high divorce rates…. We…support efforts by governments to reform divorce laws and other aspects of family law in order to address negative trends such as high divorce rates….

Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage….

Violent, disrespectful, or abusive sexual expressions do not confirm sexuality as God’s good gift. We reject all sexual expressions that damage the humanity God has given us as birthright, and we affirm only that sexual expression that enhances that same humanity. We believe that sexual relations where one or both partners are exploitative, abusive, or promiscuous are beyond the parameters of acceptable Christian behavior and are ultimately destructive to individuals, families, and the social order.

The Democratic Party 

We support marriage equality* and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.

We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

[*MThinker note: That is, marriage should not be restricted to one man/one woman. A man should be allowed to marry a man, and a woman should be allowed to marry a woman.]

The Republican Party

The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation….

Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic well-being of individuals.

Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects.

We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage.

We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.

ISSUE: Military readiness / National security / Arms control

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world. 

We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. We therefore reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy….

We insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to work together to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them.

We advocate the extension and strengthening of international treaties and institutions that provide a framework within the rule of law for responding to aggression, terrorism, and genocide.

We believe that human values outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped; that the manufacture, sale, and deployment of armaments must be reduced and controlled; and that the production, possession, or use of nuclear weapons be condemned. Consequently, we endorse general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

From the beginning, the Christian conscience has struggled with the harsh realities of violence and war, for these evils clearly frustrate God’s loving purposes for humankind. We yearn for the day when there will be no more war and people will live together in peace and justice.

Some of us believe that war, and other acts of violence, are never acceptable to Christians. We also acknowledge that many Christians believe that, when peaceful alternatives have failed, the force of arms may regretfully be preferable to unchecked aggression, tyranny, and genocide.

We honor the witness of pacifists who will not allow us to become complacent about war and violence. We also respect those who support the use of force, but only in extreme situations and only when the need is clearly beyond reasonable doubt, and through appropriate international organizations.

We urge the establishment of the rule of law in international affairs as a means of elimination of war, violence, and coercion in these affairs….

We are aware that we can become guilty both by military action and by conscientious objection, and that we all are dependent on God’s forgiveness.

The Democratic Party 

After more than a decade of war, we have an opportunity to retool our armed forces and our defense strategy to ensure we both maintain the world’s most capable military and adapt to the challenges of the 21st century….

[W]e have a special obligation to every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman who puts their [sic] life on the line for our nation. We must send them into harm’s way only when it’s absolutely necessary….

[W]e will continue to emphasize forward engagement in critical regions, while enhancing robust security partnerships to share the burden….

[W]e must address the threat that nuclear weapons pose to our security and to peace in the world. Despite the two decades that have passed since the end of the Cold War, large stockpiles of nuclear weapons persist, and more nations are interested in acquiring them. Nuclear testing and black-market trade in sensitive nuclear materials continue. And terrorists remain determined to buy, build, or steal the ultimate weapon.

[We] are committed to preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons and to eventually ridding the planet of these catastrophic weapons.

[E]nding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in full cooperation with our military leadership…reflects Democrats’ belief that all Americans deserve the same chance to…serve their country….

The Republican Party

We are the party of peace through strength…. We must deter any adversary who would attack us or use terror as a tool of government. Every potential enemy must have no doubt that our capabilities, our commitment, and our will to defeat them are clear, unwavering, and unequivocal….

We will accept no arms control agreement that limits our right to self-defense; and we will fully deploy a missile defense shield for the people of the United States and for our allies….

We recognize that the gravest terror threat we face — a nuclear attack made possible by nuclear proliferation — requires a comprehensive strategy for reducing the world’s nuclear stockpiles and preventing the spread of those armaments. But the U.S. can lead that effort only if it maintains an effective strategic arsenal at a level sufficient to fulfill its deterrent purposes….

We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness….

We support rights of conscience and religious freedom for military chaplains and people of faith…. We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Armed Forces as well as in the civilian world….

Related posts
Worth reading: ‘Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution’
What is at stake in the battle over marriage
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Bishop Lindsey Davis: The Church in time of war

Related articles and information
2012 Party Platform Comparison Guide (PDF) | Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
What they believe: Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama come from traditions far from Christian orthodoxy | Jamie Dean, WORLD (Oct. 20, 2012)
White Mainline Protestants going for GOP presidential candidate Romney by nearly 2-to-1 margin (60% to 34%) (click tab that says “White Mainline Protestants”) | Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (Oct. 9, 2012)
In bid to galvanize homosexual vote, Obama endorses state initiatives that would OK same-sex marriage Reuters (Oct. 25, 2012)
Obama campaign releases ad — targeted to young women — comparing voting to having sexual intercourse (video)
The campaign for immorality | John MacArthur, Grace to You (Oct. 1, 2012)
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)

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For Christians living in a democratic society, electing government leaders is a stewardship responsibility, presenting followers of Christ with an opportunity to influence government in the direction of policies that promote virtue and restrain evil.

UMNS graphic

In deciding how to cast their ballots, Christian voters should consider reflect on how the positions of the major political parties align with official church positions on particular issues.

The two main political parties in the U.S. tend to disagree more about means than ends, although on some issues significant disagreement exists about ends as well (most notably on tax policy, marriage policy, and issues related to the sanctity of human life).

This post, the first of two parts, compares United Methodist teaching on several major issues with the official platforms of both the Democratic and Republican parties. The side-by-side comparisons below are without commentary, except for two clarifying notes.

The United Methodist Church positions quoted below have been approved by various sessions of the UM General Conference and are found in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012 (forthcoming).

Democratic Party positions are from The 2012 Democratic National Platform: Moving America Forward (full text in PDF). Republican Party positions are quoted from 2012 Republican Platform: We Believe in America (full text in PDF).

Issues and parties are listed in alphabetical order. Additional issues will be covered in part two of this post.

ISSUE: Abortion

…Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers.

We support parental, guardian, or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions can be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood.

We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control,* and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics.

We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life….

The Church shall offer ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth….

Young adult women disproportionately face situations in which they feel that they have no choice [but to abort a pregnancy] due to financial, educational, relational, or other circumstances beyond their control.

The Church and its local congregations and campus ministries should be in the forefront of supporting existing ministries and developing new ministries that help such women in their communities.

They should also support those crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women explore all options related to unplanned pregnancy.

We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption.

We affirm and encourage the Church to assist the ministry of crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women find feasible alternatives to abortion….

[*MThinker note: A 2005 study found that 74 percent of women having abortions chose to abort their pregnancies because having a child “would dramatically change my life.” This suggests, at a minimum, that nearly three-fourths of abortions are for reasons of birth control. A 2002 study found that 54 percent of women having abortions had used contraception during the month they became pregnant, suggesting that abortion is widely seen as a birth control “back-up plan.”]

The Democratic Party

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.** We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.

We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.

[**MThinker note: In other words, a third party — either government or government-mandated insurance — should cover the cost for those who who lack the means to pay for an abortion.]

The Republican Party

…[W]e assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed….We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it….

We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy.

We salute those who provide them alternatives, including pregnancy care centers, and we take pride in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives….

[W]e assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed…. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage….

We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions — gender discrimination in its most lethal form — and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain….

We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy….

ISSUE: Environment

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation….

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind….

We believe in the right…to property as a trust from God….

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways we use and abuse it.

Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.

God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect.

Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies.

This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.

The Democratic Party

…Pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury are a threat to human health, and Democrats will continue to stand up to polluters in the interest of environmental and public health.

We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation — an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits….

We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice….

The Republican Party

…[T]he Republican Party believes in the moral obligation of the people to be good stewards of the God-given natural beauty and resources of our country and bases environmental policy on several common-sense principles. For example, we believe people are the most valuable resource, and human health and safety are the most important measurements of success….

Experience has shown that, in caring for the land and water, private ownership has been our best guarantee of conscientious stewardship, while the worst instances of environmental degradation have occurred under government control…. It makes sense that those closest to a situation are best able to determine its remedy. That is why a site- and situation-specific approach to an environmental problem is more likely to solve it, instead of a national rule based on the ideological concerns of politicized central planning….

ISSUE: Health care / Medical research

…Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted.

Creating the personal, environmental, and social conditions in which health can thrive is a joint responsibility — public and private….

Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all…

Like police and fire protection, health care is best funded through the government’s ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities….

The right to health care includes care for persons with brain diseases, neurological conditions, or physical disabilities, who must be afforded the same access to health care as all other persons in our communities….

We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.

We oppose the cloning of humans and the genetic manipulation of the gender of an unborn child.

Because of the effects of genetic technologies on all life, we call for effective guidelines and public accountability to safeguard against any action that might lead to abuse of these technologies, including political or military ends. We recognize that cautious, well-intended use of genetic technologies may sometimes lead to unanticipated harmful consequences.

The Democratic Party

We believe accessible, affordable, high quality health care is part of the American promise, that Americans should have the security that comes with good health care, and that no one should go broke because they get sick….

As a result of our efforts, today, young Americans entering the workforce can stay on their parents’ plans. Insurers can no longer refuse to cover kids with pre-existing medical conditions. Insurance companies will no longer be able to arbitrarily cap and cancel coverage, or charge women more simply because of their gender. People with private insurance are getting preventive services like cancer screenings, annual well-woman visits, and FDA-approved contraception with no out-of-pocket costs….

The Republican Party

We believe that taking care of one’s health is an individual responsibility. Chronic diseases, many of them related to lifestyle, drive healthcare costs, accounting for more than 75 percent of the nation’s medical spending. To reduce demand, and thereby lower costs, we must foster personal responsibility while increasing preventive services to promote healthy lifestyles.

We believe that all Americans should have improved access to affordable, coordinated, quality healthcare, including individuals struggling with mental illness….

We call on the government to permanently ban all federal funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage….

We call for expanded support for the stem-cell research that now offers the greatest hope for many afflictions…without the destruction of embryonic human life. We urge a ban on human cloning and on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos….

We oppose the FDA approval of Mifeprex, formerly known as RU-486, and similar drugs that terminate innocent human life after conception….

Related posts
Bishop Timothy Whitaker: United Methodists must stand against ‘violence of abortion’
How did the UMC come to define health care as a ‘right’?
Book review: ‘Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century’
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
United Methodist Church facing health bill fallout
House Speaker thanks UMC for help in passing health bill
UM pro-life group urges Sen. Ben Nelson: ‘Do no harm’
‘Church and Society’ decries pro-life amendment to health bill

Related articles and information
White Mainline Protestants going for GOP presidential candidate Romney by nearly 2-to-1 margin (60% to 34%) (click tab that says “White Mainline Protestants”) | Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (Oct. 9, 2012)
2012 Party Platform Comparison Guide (PDF) | Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
President Barack Obama’s pro-abortion record | Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com (Oct. 21, 2012)
The campaign for immorality | John MacArthur, Grace to You (Oct. 1, 2012)
The Obama Democrats: This isn’t the party of FDR, Truman, JFK or Clinton | Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 12, 2012)
Missed opportunity to vote for life | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September-October 2012)
United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones addresses pro-life event | Connor Ewing, IRD (Jan. 22, 2010)
United Methodists and abortion today | Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Feb. 9, 2009)
United Methodism on abortion | Paul T. Stallsworth, On the Square—First Things (May 29, 2008)
United Methodist Church continues decades-long crawl to pro-life direction | John Lomperis, LifeNews.com (May 23, 2008)
The sanctification of human life (a historical overview of the Christian church’s position on abortion and other issues related to the sanctity of human life) — Chapter 2 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)

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October 1, 1509: Birth of John Calvin (below right), French Protestant reformer, in Noyon, France.

john-calvinIn 1536 he published his first edition of his classic Institutes of the Christian Religion (Google Books preview), which became the most systematic Protestant doctrinal statement of the Reformation.

October 6, 1536: English reformer William Tyndale, who translated and published the first mechanically-printed New Testament in the English language (against the law at the time) is strangled to death. His body is then burned at the stake.

October 10, 1821: Law student Charles Finney, 29, goes into the woods near his home to settle the question of his soul’s salvation. He experiences a dramatic conversion, full of what seemed “waves of liquid love” throughout his body.

Finney later becomes American history’s greatest revivalist. Some 500,000 people are converted during his revival services.

October 14, 1735: John and Charles Wesley, cofounders of Methodism, set sail for ministry in America.

October 15, 1900: Former Methodist Charles Fox Parham opens Bethel Bible Institute in Topeka, Kansas, where Agnes Ozman and other students would speak in tongues on New Year’s Eve and begin the 20th-century Pentecostal movement.

October 19, 1609: Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, founder of an anti-Calvinist Reformed theology, dies at age 49 in Leiden, Netherlands.

October 26, 1950: Mother Teresa founds the first Mission of Charity in Calcutta, India.

francis-asburyOctober 27, 1771: Francis Asbury (left), sent from England by John Wesley to oversee America’s 600 Methodists, lands in Philadelphia.

During his 45-year ministry in America, he travels on horseback (or in carriage) an estimated 300,000 miles, delivering some 16,500 sermons. By his death, there are 200,000 Methodists in America.

October 27, 1978: The complete New International Version (NIV) of the Bible is published. It becomes the most popular English Bible translation of late 20th and early 21st centuries. An updated version is released online in 2010 and in print in 2011.

October 28, 1949: Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador’s Auca Indians (Huaorani people), writes in his journal the most famous of his sayings: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

martin-lutherElliot and four fellow missionaries are murdered while trying to evangelize the violent Huaorani tribe. A group of 10 warriors kills them in a brutal attack on January 8, 1956. Later, many of the Huaorani come to faith in Christ.

October 31, 1517: A monk named Martin Luther (right) posts a list of 95 complaints and concerns about the Roman Catholic Church on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking what became known as the Protestant Reformation.

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.

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