Is Holston Home Practicing Hate?

Was a Jewish family the victim of hatred? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In a news story, a Jewish Couple went to Holston United Methodist Home for Children. They applied to adopt a child, but they were turned down because of their Jewish faith. Immediately, the conclusion was hatred and discrimination. Is this what’s really going on? Is the home anti-Semitic?

No, actually. Let’s suppose a family came that was Messianic Jewish and this included being Jewish by birth. They had come to embrace Jesus as the Messiah and agreed with the statement of faith of Holston. Would they get to adopt? Yes.

It’s not about being Jewish in the sense of genetic, but about is the child going to be raised in a home where their spiritual needs will be met, including being raised to believe in Jesus. The Holston group doesn’t want them to be put in a family where they will be told something false about Jesus and risk having their soul be lost forever. Whatever you might think of their actions, that is not a bad motive.

Now some secularists might complain, but that is misunderstanding the way a religious faith operates. Meeting the material needs is good, but meeting the spiritual needs is absolutely essential. A Christian organization cannot in good conscience deny such needs.

Suppose it was a Jewish organization that wanted to insist children be adopted into the Jewish faith and would not let anyone who believes Jesus is the Messiah or disbelieves in God adopt a child. That is their freedom. Suppose a Muslim organization didn’t want to give a child to a family that denied that Muhammad was a prophet. That was their freedom. Suppose an atheist organization didn’t want to have a child placed in the home of a crazy religious fanatic. That is their freedom. No adoption agency is obligated to give you a child because you want one.

This is also not denying that the families could be good and loving families. It is just saying that the belief system is the most important aspect. Rightly or wrongly, that is how it is and Holston should not be forced to act within their statement of faith.

In another link about this story, there is an interesting quote.

“The Tennessee Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, promises religious freedom and equality for everyone. Tennessee is reneging on that promise by allowing a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against Liz and Gabe Rutan-Ram because they are Jews,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate vice president and associate legal director at Americans United. “Laws like House Bill 836 must not stand when they allow religion to be used to harm vulnerable kids and people like Liz and Gabe who want to provide those children with safe and loving homes.”

It’s amazing that within the first two sentences, Luchenitser contradicts himself. The Tennessee Constitution promises religious freedom. Then he says because of that, the Holston agency cannot turn down a couple because they are Jews. However, that is part of the religious freedom of Holston, to see that children are raised in Christian homes.

No one’s religious freedom is being denied except for Holston’s honestly. They are being told they have to put a child with a family even if it goes against their statement of faith. The Jews are allowed to be Jews still and there are plenty of other organizations they can adopt from.

I’m also unsure what is meant by religious equality? Is this saying that all religions are equal? All one needs to do is study them to see that isn’t the case. Is it saying that all religious beliefs don’t matter? That’s something the state should have no say on. What it is doing now is essentially saying “Yes, Holston. We understand you think a child needs to be raised in an environment where they can grow up to embrace Jesus, but we don’t think that matters and you must agree with us.” The people complaining that Holston is discriminating are wanting to push a discrimination of their own actually.

In reality, discrimination is to some degree unavoidable. We all do it. We all have to do it. If I drive somewhere and I don’t think the area is safe, I lock my doors. (I do that anyway, but I definitely make sure my car is locked if I think there’s danger.) When we choose where to go to school or who to marry or who to babysit the kids, we discriminate. A person could show up at your door and say “I want to babysit your kids for you” and you have no obligation to let them do it.

Imagine being an atheist and hearing someone wants to tutor your elementary school children. Okay. You might be interested. Then you hear that they’re a young-earth creationist who wants to teach them science. Do you accept that? Are you being discriminating if you say no? Are you denying a child an education?

The problem with a story like this is it pulls at emotional heartstrings way too easily and most of us think on how we feel about the story instead of how the story is. When you hear the story, it’s too easy to assume anti-semitism at the start. When you look, it makes sense why Holston is doing this, and you could think they are wrong in their beliefs and/or actions still, but I would hope you would at least understand it.

Also, whatever faith you are or lack of faith you are, remember that as soon as the state takes a side on any religion whatsoever, they could just as well do the same to you. Do I want the state to determine that all atheist households are unfit homes and no one can let a child be adopted into one? No. I want every organization to have the freedom to choose who they want the child to adopt to barring some physical exceptions, such as registered sex offenders definitely can’t adopt.

Some have said the state should cease funding the Holston Home. If they want to, they are free to do so. The state can tell them that unless they adopt to all, then they can’t get federal funding. I don’t think I agree with that, but the state doesn’t owe them anything. Technically, we could even say it should be up to the state taxpayers since they are the ones who are providing the state with the money anyway.

There is no doubt this is a complicated issue hinging on personal and religious freedom. One thing to avoid is accusations of moral turpitude. I can understand why the Jewish family wants to adopt. I can understand why Holston only wants to adopt to Christians as is clear from statements on their website.

That’s also the first step in resolving this. Truly understanding where everyone is coming from.

Too bad we never seem to get to that step.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Is Jesus An Idol?

Do we make an idol out of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife shared something that it was thought it would be good for me to respond to and, well, as you all know my wife gets first priority. A lesbian Methodist bishop, something to think about in itself, has said that we make an idol out of Jesus. Now I wanted to see what was said to make sure it was being understood. We don’t need any “Jesus is my boyfriend” type of messages out there. If that was the kind of thing being said, that would be fine, but no. Karen Oliveto has something different in mind.

For her, Jesus was indeed fully human, which we would all embrace as part of orthodoxy, but part of His humanity includes growing in moral character. It would be false to say that Jesus never grew as He walked this Earth. Luke 2:52 tells us that He did. It would be false to say Jesus came out of the womb knowing Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, how to do quadratic equations, the distance between here and Alpha Centauri, and pontificating the Summa Theologica.

It would also be false to think that Jesus because He was God and man was superhuman in everything that He did. While Jesus could walk on water, if you were to have a swimming race between Jesus and Michael Phelps, your smart money is better spent on Michael Phelps winning. Michael Jordan would beat Jesus in a game of basketball. If you want to talk about physics, someone like Stephen Hawking would know more about that than Jesus would have. Jesus came and played by the rules after all. We dare not think He was God so much that it eclipsed His humanity. His humanity was entirely real.

The difference is with moral behavior. Jesus did not grow morally because He was the only one who never sinned. He was born without a sin nature. He did not become a more holy person throughout His life. He was pure and spotless from the beginning.

Oliveto’s main text to show Jesus growing supposedly is the story of the Canaanite woman who had a demon-possessed daughter. In the interest of fairness, this is a difficult passage to understand. It is easy to see how some people could see the account and think that Jesus is awfully cold. This is a woman with a demon-possessed daughter. Why not help her out? Why speak to her in such a way to refer to her as a dog?

What I think is going on is that Jesus is not just helping the woman, but He is also teaching His disciples. His disciples would have known about Jesus’s willingness to help out Gentiles seeing as he’d helped the Centurion’s servant and He’d delivered the man with the Legion inside of him. Still, old ways of thinking die hard. The Disciples would have grown up with an inherent distaste for the outsiders. Even after the resurrection, it took a vision to get Peter to share the Gospel with a Gentile.

So when this woman comes to Jesus, Jesus I think was playing along with what the disciples were saying who just wanted her sent away. The account starts with the disciples seen as being in the place of favor since they are the chosen ones of Jesus and the woman being a shameful figure seeing as she is an outsider. Jesus tests the woman to reveal her not to Him, for He knew what was in her heart already, but to reveal her to the disciples.

So what happens? This woman turns out to have greater faith than the disciples. The result is a complete turnaround. The woman is honored and the disciples are seen as the shamed ones. Jesus did not honor their request, the MEN who were closest to Him, but honored the request of the woman. This would have been a hard lesson for the disciples to learn that day.

Oliveto is certainly right that Jesus stood against the cultural norms and prejudices of His day. She is wrong in thinking this was a new revelation to Him. Jesus regularly shattered the viewpoint of those around Him. His own ministry was a challenge seeing as He was not one of the educated elite. He regularly interacted with women, would speak to Samaritans, dined with prostitutes and tax collectors, etc.

Oliveto is quite likely reading too much of herself into Jesus. It is true that we can put Jesus into roles He was never meant to be into, such as Jesus being your boyfriend, but it is false to say that we are in danger of making too much of Jesus. In reality, we are likely not seeing Him as He uniquely was and is. Skeptics today are regularly trying to find similarities between Jesus and other figures in ancient history. What is far more interesting is noting how Jesus is different from all other figures. Jesus is in a class by Himself.

It’s not Jesus who is prejudiced and bigoted and needs to be informed by us. It is the opposite. We have our prejudices and bigotry, and the main one many of us have is the assumption that we in our cultural milleu are enlightened and in the right entirely. If our moral stances disagree with Jesus, we really need to look at those moral stances.

Oliveto has certainly opened us up to something though. Jesus is far more different than we realize. In reality, this article reveals nothing new about Jesus. It sure reveals a lot about Oliveto.

In Christ,
Nick Peters