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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 1:19’

Wheaton College Right To Fire Divorced Professor Kent Gramm

Posted by Job on May 13, 2008

Please read this article. Fortunately, this issue is not about whether a Christian college should employ a divorced person. That would be a tougher debate to get into than it would appear on face value because 1) Wheaton is a university and not a local church and 2) Kent Gramm is a professor and not a pastor (elder, presbyter, bishop, deacon, teacher, etc.). Wheaton says that they are attempting to run their university according to New Testament standards. That is fine, except that the New Testament only gives instructions on how to run local churches and to live as members of the Body of Jesus Christ. I am not certain whether those instructions apply elsewhere or should be enforced elsewhere. Were Wheaton owned and run by a local church for the purposes of training elders and deacons for that church – and for whoever else wanted to appoint or hire them – it would be a different story. But to the best of my knowledge, Wheaton is independent of any local church.

So, it would be a great issue to ponder and discuss from a doctrinal point of view, but one for another day. In this instance, I am spared from having to concern myself with such higher things by the actions of Gramm himself. Gramm, of his own volition, became an employee of a workplace that does not permit divorce. Further, the university is willing to make exceptions: “still, every year, the college has dealt with several cases in which it must evaluate the divorce of a job applicant or a staff or faculty member and consider whether it matches the exceptions laid out in Matthew 19 and the writings of the Apostle Paul.” However, Gramm removed himself from consideration for an exception by refusing to divulge the circumstances of his divorce to Wheaton’s administration for reasons relating to privacy and respect of his spouse of 30 years. In my opinion, this was a very appropriate decision for Gramm; he decided to be as Joseph in the Bible, who went confronted with the pregnancy of Mary decided not to make a public example of her but rather divorce her privately, and was called by the Holy Spirit “a just man” for his desire to do so (Matthew 1:19). But there are consequences to honorable self – sacrificial behavior; otherwise it would not be self – sacrificial nor so honorable. (Please note: I am not presuming Gramm to have been a cuckold as Joseph presumed himself to be, but rather stating that Gramm should not be looked down upon for refusing to divulge private details of his life – and that of his spouse – in order to save his job; perhaps by comparing him to Joseph I am making far too strong a statement.) However, the fact that the university is not rigid with the policy but is willing to examine each violator on a case – by – case basis acquits them of the charge that Jesus Christ laid against the Pharisees: omitting the weightier matters of the law i.e. judgment, mercy, faith (Matthew 23:23).

Yet that is precisely what Gramm is regrettably accusing Wheaton of doing according to this quote in the article above, which granted may be out of context as the media oft does to Christians: “Yet he said students are facing the same marital statistics as other Americans, and many will themselves someday divorce. “And I feel that it’s important for them to know that they’re not somehow rejected by God for having more or less normal lives and for having lives that didn’t work out the way they intended them to turn out,” Gramm said. “I would like to see a broader understanding of faithfulness and mercy, and a broader understanding of human weakness and how that plays out in life,” he said.” First of all, Wheaton is not claiming that Gramm is going to burn for eternity in the lake of fire. They are merely firing him for violating a policy that Gramm agreed to when hired and remained consenting to during the course of his 30 year employment there. The article makes it clear that others have been terminated from Wheaton under this policy during Gramm’s time there, yet there is no evidence whatsoever that Gramm personally disagreed with this policy until he himself was negatively impacted by it. If this policy is unjust and inconsistent with Christianity and the mission of a Christian institution, why did not Gramm object to it when it was someone else losing their paycheck?

Second, the fact that other people are going to divorce is not a justification for a Christian school’s rejecting such a policy. Other people are going to be homosexuals, commit rapes and murders, do armed robberies, and have abortions. Should Wheaton not have or enforce policies against those too? Also, future if Wheaton graduates seek employment at Wheaton and agree to the same policy as did Gramm, they should be fired just as Gramm was. It is mighty disturbing that fellow that has been teaching students for 30 years – longer than most of his students have been alive – is resorting to what amounts to being but a more sophisticated version of the “but everybody’s doing it!” defense.  

Third, Gramm with “And I feel that it’s important for them to know that they’re not somehow rejected by God for having more or less normal lives and for having lives that didn’t work out the way they intended them to turn out,” Gramm said. “I would like to see a broader understanding of faithfulness and mercy, and a broader understanding of human weakness and how that plays out in life” in particular, for him to make that statement after refusing the appeal process is mighty revealing. Quite simply, how is this any different from what a “gay rights activist” would say? A Soulforce member would say “I didn’t choose to be homosexual, all of the reputable scientists say that homosexuality is genetic, there are tens of millions of homosexual people in this country and the vast majority of whom are Christian, so what we need is a broader understanding of human weakness and mercy that causes Christians to stop hatefully and falsely claiming that homosexuality is a sin.” Now do not accuse me of calling Gramm’s divorce the equivalent of homosexuality, because I am only pointing out that Gramm is advancing the very same argument that gay rights activists use.

That said, Wheaton is very fortunate that Gramm chose not to pursue litigation, and that Joshua Hochschild, who was fired for converting to the cult of Roman Catholicism, did not do the same. Wheaton University receives taxpayer support in the form of federal and state financial aid (at minimum), so they are subject to government regulations that prevent discrimination on the basis of religion and marital status. Despite what Jay Sekulow and other religious right deceivers would tell you, the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion does not protect Wheaton in either the instance of Gramm or Hochschild because neither institution is compelled to receive taxpayer support. Other Christian institutions such as Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, and Hillsdale College refuse taxpayer support precisely for that reason. And consider my mention of homosexuality earlier: more than a few Christian colleges in California that allowed themselves to fall into the position where they cannot operate without the state of California’s tax money are now facing the prospect of either hiring homosexual faculty and teaching a homosexual rights curriculum or else be forced to exit the program and go bankrupt. Of course, the usual religious right suspects are screaming “religious discrimination homosexual agenda!”, but the fact is that their challenge will fail because they do not have a legal leg to stand on. Neither do the megachurch preachers being investigated by Charles Grassley for misuse of funds … they are claiming First Amendment protections that do not exist for them because they chose to organize themselves as nonprofit organizations, thereby removing themselves from the reach of “the power to tax is the power to destroy” Supreme Court decision protecting the tax – exempt status of churches, which by the way was given in 1819, almost 100 years before the Internal Revenue Service whose 501(c)(3) allow one to declare oneself a nonprofit organization existed. 

Update: Gramm’s comments in this  New York Times article

God won’t fire anyone because of their marital status, politics, theology or sexual preference,” Dr. Gramm said. The current divorce rates weigh heavily on Dr. Gramm as well, prompting him, he said, to tell his students why he was leaving. “I want them to know that God does not desert you when life suddenly gets real on you,” Dr. Gramm said. “And I want them to know that you can be a responsible, reasonable and decent person and not be able to work out a marriage with another responsible, reasonable and decent person.”

I state categorically that Gramm’s opinions on this matter are wholly inconsistent with Biblical revelation.

Update II: Apparently the results of a federal lawsuit shows that the actions of Wheaton in this matter – and in the matter of the Roman Catholic – were legal. Thanks to Robert Masters for correcting me on this issue, and also for providing the correct name of Wheaton College to me (I had it listed as Wheaton UNIVERSITY). www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=27676

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