Insight on the News
Churches Under Pressure
“The issue of homosexuality is troubling religious groups throughout America,” states The New York Times. “They are under pressure from the outside to ease their traditional hostility and from within to revise their theology.” Underlying factors behind the pressures are the changing attitudes toward sex and the contention that Bible passages have been “misinterpreted or even mistranslated by opponents of homosexuality.” For example, critics of the traditional interpretation say that the city of Sodom was destroyed for lack of hospitality, so vital to ancient travelers, and for intention to rape the visitors—not for homosexual practices. They also maintain that, at Romans 1:26, 27, the apostle Paul’s reference to changing “the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature,” simply means “departures from cultural norms, not homosexuality as an aberration from nature.” Consequently, a number of churches have been modifying their attitude toward homosexuals, and some have even accepted homosexuals as ministers.
But is such “modernization” in harmony with God’s will? “No; I, Yahweh, do not change,” the Creator emphatically states at Malachi 3:6. (The Jerusalem Bible) The Bible also states explicitly that neither “men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; compare Leviticus 20:13.) Rather than calling on Christians to adopt a more liberal view toward those who sin against God, the Bible advises: “Put away all filthiness and that superfluous thing, badness, and accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your souls.”—James 1:21.
“Gallup surveys show that more Americans think religion is important to them than similar polls showed five years ago,” reports The New York Times. It adds: “On every scale measured by Gallup, Americans profess conventional theological beliefs.” Total church membership has also increased. But is this truly a religious revival? “While we are clearly a religious country,” says George Gallup, Jr., “religion doesn’t appear to be the center of many lives. The commitment is low in terms of religion having primacy.” Moreover, a comparison of church members and nonmembers revealed little difference as to personal morality. “Both samples,” says the Times, “showed considerable deviation from traditional Christian moral standards.”
While some analysts concede that there is a religious awakening, they find serious omissions. “It hasn’t sparked a revival of ethical rigor or study of the Bible for ethical principles,” says Professor Timothy Smith, church history specialist at Johns Hopkins University. “Without that, many people can feel spiritual and still indulge their secular yearnings for wealth, power and achievement. They can claim to be religious but not apply it to the ethical part of their lives.” As Jesus pointed out, such persons ‘honor God with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from him.’ Mere lip service, however, does not please the Creator. Such worship, he says, is “in vain.” (Matthew 15:8, 9) Rather, what is required is for a person to dedicate his life to God and to love Him with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30) Yes, God looks for those who will worship him “with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23, 24.
Impatient, self-centered, and contrary children are a growing trend, says child psychologist Thomas Millar. He holds that such children are linked to the increase in juvenile delinquency, broken marriages, and mental disease. The problem, says Millar in the Toronto Star, is discipline. Modern child-rearing theories have caused parents to feel guilty and afraid to discipline their children. “You can’t have a society without rules,” says Millar. “The parent has to train the kid to belong to society . . . this leaves the door open for a much richer life.” This advice, however, is not new. Centuries ago the Bible noted that “foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” It advised: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”—Proverbs 22:15, 6.