May 17, 2017
The rampant biblical illiteracy in the media (not to mention religious hostility) isn't exactly surprising these days. Even some reporters who cover the religion beat don't always understand the subject they are covering. Sadly, this biblical illiteracy has consequences as a California teacher found out this week -- a lost job.
It all began when the San Luis Obispo high school newspaper published several pro-LGBT articles including a cover photo of a kissing same-sex couple. Michael Stack, a special education teacher at the school, was approached by several students concerned by what they read. Mr. Stack then decided to exercise his First Amendment right to submit a letter to the editor that contained a passage from the first chapter of Romans. His letter declared his love for the staff, the students -- but above all his love for God.
Out of this love, he proceeded to warn them "we are all accountable for our actions and that teachers are especially held accountable. I'm a teacher and I don't want to displease God any more than I already have with my sinful life so in obedience to Him, I'm asking you to please slowly read and consider the following excerpt from the book of Romans, Chapter 1, verses 16-32, in the New Testament." He concluded his letter saying, "I write you these things in order to lift up those who have stumbled, or may stumble, and put you back on the right path. I pray you each have a great summer, a wonderful life, and a perfect eternity." After the letter was published, a media firestorm ensued. News headlines falsely claimed he believes "gays deserve to die" – all pointing to verse 32 as evidence. Verses 26-27 do declare the sinfulness of homosexual acts; but it is only after verses 29-31 add a long list of other sins -- including "greed," "envy," and "gossip" -- that verse 32 says that "those who practice such things are worthy of death" (NASB).
You may recall, last summer, news headlines leveled the same accusation at a member of Congress who referenced the first chapter of Romans. At the time, Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at the Federalist, called out the media for distorting Scripture: "Maybe notice that the listing of sins indicts literally every single human on the planet. So if you're thinking that Christianity calls for the execution of gays, you have to think, on the basis of the same passage, it calls for the execution of everyone. And if you're thinking that, and you know anything at all about Christianity, maybe ponder whether everything you've written is embarrassingly wrong."
Mollie was exactly right then and the same is true now. Romans 6:23 says "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans can in no way be interpreted as a call for literal execution by human authorities. It is a reference to spiritual "death," or the denial of eternal life with God, which every single human being in the world is "worthy of" because every single human being is a sinner. It is only through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and faith in Him can any of us be spared the eternal "death" that we are "worthy of," and is instead granted eternal life with God.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.