Holding the lines
On the marriage and work treadmill
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June is a big month for gay parades. Jesus Outside the Lines, by New York, now Nashville, pastor Scott Sauls, is designed to appeal to younger Christians chafing at the evangelical-conservative alliance, so it’s significant that he stands firm on the toughest current issue. Sauls writes that he recently told a gay man who wanted affirmation regarding sex with another gay man, “the love of his life,” that “to affirm his union with the love of his life would mean I’d have to deny the love of mine.”
Sauls continues: “Christ, the love of my life … says that anyone ‘who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’ I am irresistibly drawn to him. I must be his disciple. … I grieve because I want my friend to be able to share life and be romantically involved with another person. I do not want him to be lonely or alone. Yet as a Christian I am bound to yield my personal feelings and wishes to the sacred words of Jesus.” Sauls notes that all the biblical references to homosexuality are negative, “with no affirmation to counter them.”
June Carbone and Naomi Cahn’s Marriage Markets (Oxford, 2014) looks at declining marriage (and the social problems that brings) through not only an economic lens but a class-emphasizing one as well. That leads to a cherries-and-oatmeal book: useful facts amid a porridge of conclusions. Carbone and Cahn argue that “the easiest way to reduce inequality is to reduce top incomes.” That might be a crowd-pleaser, but it’s far better to promote competition and help the poor gain greater skills.
Sadly, Carbone and Cahn minimize the importance of competition and offer this proof: Charles Darwin “understood from his study of peacocks’ tails that competition might produce considerable rewards for winners without necessarily benefiting the larger group at all.” Happily, people aren’t peacocks: American history shows that economic inequality creates tensions but the competition that leads to inequality tends to lift all boats over time.
One key task is to change high schools so kids not inclined to college gain training in technical subjects that prepare them for good jobs. Putting Education to Work by Megan Sweas (HarperCollins, 2014) shows how the work-study programs of Cristo Rey high schools are helping students graduate into jobs and not drop out into frustration: Evangelicals could learn from this Catholic experience.
The lack of job training for noncollege-bound kids is a big problem in high school today, and so is getting boys to read anything: An intriguing book series—talented screenwriter Brian Godawa’s novels about Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joshua, and other patriarchs—may be helpful. For example, David Ascendant, seventh in the series, has lots of angels and devilish “gods” bashing each other with swords in the This Present Darkness Frank Peretti tradition: Teenage boys will turn the pages.
Parents will need to decide whether the sword fights are appropriate, and they should also be aware of extrabiblical plot complications including Joab and Abishai visiting a prostitute, Saul’s henchmen slaughtering babies in Bethlehem, and Abigail knifing her husband Nabal. I asked Godawa about those, and he responded, “No biblical text for visiting the cult prostitute. However, Joab and Abishai’s history is a very dark one and they do some wicked things that even brings David’s curse upon them. … The Bethlehem slaughter one was just creative license to foreshadow Herod’s murder spree” in Godawa’s forthcoming Jesus Triumphant.
Godawa acknowledges that “Nabal was a tricky one. But I do have a justification for that creative license. The text says after his stroke, ‘And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.’ One could interpret that as a different ‘strike’ by God that finishes him off. … [S]o I made Abigail engage in justifiable self-defense as God’s means for striking Nabal, even after he had the stroke.” That’s a stretch, but I’d still rather have high-school boys read these books than play Grand Theft Auto. —M.O.