For my money, one of the most striking passages in the Bible comes in 1 Timothy 4:2, where Paul denounces “the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.” It’s a serious charge. And who are these folks? They are those who “depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (v1), who “who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (v3). Going back further, they are “false teachers” who “have made shipwreck of their faith” (1:19).
Here is how John Calvin, in the 1599 Geneva Study Bible, characterized what it’s like to have such a “seared” conscience:
Whose conscience became so hard, that there grew a callous over it, and so became to have a canker in it, and now at length required by very necessity to be burned with a hot iron.
Ouch. Clearly this is not a statement Paul makes lightly.
I thought of this extremely serious passage this weekend, when I received an e-mail from a self-professed pro-family activist accusing my conscience of being not seared, but messed up, for–of all things–disagreeing with the writer on politics. Here is the e-mail, which I think speaks largely for itself:
Charles, your post today about the NY Times can’t be serious. You truly expect to be taken seriously regarding your feigned ignorance regarding so-called “discrimination” against individuals who engage in homosexual behavior?
I find it very difficult to believe that someone of your experience does not understand the serious legal implications of Romney’s endorsement of Kennedy’s federal “gay rights” legislation, i.e., adding so-called “sexual orientation” to federal civil rights laws. (Perhaps consult with David if you truly don’t understand.)
The identical Massachusetts state law resulted in Catholic Chartities being forced this spring to either process homosexual adoptions or abandon adoption services altogether (which they did). The anti-”discrimination” legislation such as Romney endorses has also resulted in the Boy Scouts losing their offices in Philadelphia, the Sea Scouts losing access to city docks in Berkeley, the Salvation Army being prohibited from bidding on county contracts to serve the poor in Chicago, city employees in Ann Arbor being prohibited from donating to United Way via their payroll deduction plan, etc., etc. You can’t seriously be ignorant of these implications.
Prior to 2003, homosexual “marriage” wasn’t even an issue. Pre-2003, given that Romney endorsed every other element of homosexual activists’ political agenda, he was as far left as a politician could go on the issue. (And he publicly opposed and criticized the marriage amendment proposed in Mass before the state Supreme Court ruled.)
The only new fact exposed by the Times’, Associated Press’s, and Bay Windows’ quotation of Romney’s own written words was his clear endorsement of “gays in the military.” Plus the confirmation by Romney aides that his views on such issues–so clearly expressed in writing in 1994–”ha(ve) not changed.” (Thus, given your insistence that “Gov. Romney has changed,” you obviously need to get your story straight with Romney aides.)
Self-awareness check: As an evangelical, you support a candidate who–by his own words and deeds–endorses Kennedy’s federal “gay rights” legislation, endorses “gays in the military,” endorses same-sex benefits for government employees at taxpayers’ expense, endorses “domestic partnership” legislation, and appointed homosexual activists to the court and to high-level administration posts, and you believe all of these positions are consistent with “evangelical” values? (Please don’t hesitate to offer any evidence you have that Romney has flip-flopped on any of these issues as he has on others.)
Regardless of your either ignorance or rationalization of Romney’s clearly pro-homosexual record, the truth is finally being “outed” via multiple sources.
Once fully informed, social conservatives–including both evangelicals and Mormons–will not vote against Romney because of his religion. They’ll vote against him because his clearly-stated public policy views either remain anathema (“have not changed”) to the values of both, or have been so transparently reversed to pander to the same.
At some point, Charles, your conscience has to kick in.
Gary Glenn, President
I have only a few quick responses to this, as I don’t intend to dignify this style of politics with a lengthy answer or a personal reply via e-mail.
1. My post on Saturday never mentioned the Kennedy legislation of which Mr. Glenn writes. All it mentioned was the broad-brush issue of standing against discrimination, which is not the same thing.
2. As I said in the post, it was not meant to cover any and all things. I wrote it while on vacation, for crying out loud. Politics is not the center of my life. It isn’t the basis on which I claim others’ consciences to be deficient, it isn’t a cause to write detailed e-mails to strangers implying that they are fools for disagreeing with me, and it certainly isn’t a reason to hunker down at a laptop responding to every silly claim in the New York Times when my darling wife is waiting for me outside. Sorry.
3. I don’t much care what Gov. Romney thought in 1994 about so-called antidiscrimination legislation, because his actions as regards Catholic Charities in Boston show that he “gets it” regarding the way the idea of antidiscrimination can be perverted to create special rights. He hadn’t seen that in 1994; he has now.
4. Here’s a quick reflection this matter of learning things (or changing views) since 1994. Since 1994, Gov. Romney has clearly learned a lot about social conservatism. That’s why he has governed the way he has regarding abortion, stem cells, and “gay marriage.” He campaigned then as a social liberal, which he is not now. In contrast, most Republicans in 1994 campaigned as insurgents who would upset the Washington apple cart and govern according to conservative principle. Twelve years later, many of them have evolved into big-spending members of the establishment, and they’ve paid for it with the loss of their majority. In either case, a shift is evident. Which one do you like better?