Sunday, July 19, 2009

Interview: Jason Hines

I first met Jason Hines in a Christology class when we were assigned to the same debate group. When he told us he was a lawyer, I figured we would do well in the debate. When I asked his law school, and he said, "Harvard Law," I figured we would probably win the debate.

Later that semester, I heard Jason give a paper that refuted some major arguments against homosexual marriage. Everyone in the room, including his professor, disagreed with him, but he argued his points civilly and well. Afterward, I asked him to do an interview for apokalupto. He agreed, but our schedules prevented us from talking until now.

a: Give us your background. What were you doing before you came to Andrews?

JH: I was a lawyer for just about five years. I was doing commercial litigation which is, in a nutshell, lawsuits about contracts, mostly between businesses.

a: Did you like it?

JH: It was intellectually challenging, and I like anything that is intellectually challenging. But did it get me up in the morning? No.

a: How did your ivy league education influence your Christianity?

JH: At an ivy league institution you’re going to meet people from all over, all walks of life, and some really intelligent people at that. It gives you a better perspective on what people believe and why they believe it.

But in terms of my own Christianity, being in an lvy league institution didn’t really affect that.
It probably gave me a greater desire for a higher spirituality. But I'm not sure I can separate out how much of that came from being at an ivy league institution and how much of that from my own personal desire to be closer to Christ.

I will say this: Any time you're in a secular environment, its going to challenge your Christianity. But even when you’re in a Christian environment, you're going to find challenges to your Christianity.

a: What is a Harvard trained lawyer doing at Andrews University?

JH: I ask myself that question every day [laughs]. No.

I found my calling at Harvard, although I didn’t know that at the time. Because, at Harvard I started thinking about religious liberty and morality and the law. I always had problems with the attempts of Christians to legislate Christianity, but I hadn't really thought it through.

I started getting involved in religious liberty in a serious way in 2004, when a friend of mine, who is also a former lawyer, and I started giving seminars on the topic. I found that was the type of thing that got me up in the morning. It took me awhile to figure out that was the type of thing I wanted to do full time, partly because I didn't want to go back to school, but God orchestrated things so that I would have to go back to school.

a: What areas of religious liberty interest you?

JH: My partner in ministry (Tim Golden, an ex-public defender, now doing his doctoral work) and I talk about the two main aspects of religious liberty. There's the practical aspect, which is, What do you do when your boss won’t let you take Sabbath off?

The other part is what we call the prophetic element. That's an understanding of who God is and what God is about, which is essentially freedom, informed by the Adventist prophetic understanding. That influences how we understand issues taking place in socio-political realm and the religious world. Looking at things, like abortion or homosexual marriage, through what we call the prophetic lens and then asking how to we respond to these types of things is the prophetic element.

This second aspect is what I’m more concerned with, which is why Tim and I are moving into academics more than practice. Because, we don’t see much of a shortfall in how the SDA church does practical religious liberty, but we think that the church losing its way in terms of the prophetic aspect of religious liberty. We seek to speak to all Christians, but particularly Adventists, because of our prophetic understanding

a: So where is the Adventist Church losing its way on religious liberty?

JH: Our difficulty is a very human difficulty, which is that we don’t like sin. We say, Oh, that’s a sin. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen.

But in doing that we try to take away people's God given right to choose what their morality is going to be. We see the Adventist Church joining with the evangelical church in a broader sense, not to engender relationship with Christ that would cause people to want to live their lives differently, but to dictate and cajole in order to get people to live the right way. There are people involved in religious liberty, Tim and myself are among them, who think that you shouldn’t violate the principles of God in order to uphold the principles of God. But our opponents don't see it that way.

a: I can tell this conversation is already heading to our next question. So, tell us about your project on homosexual marriage.

JH: I’m planning to do my [MA in Religion] thesis on the issue of homosexuality generally, with the main emphasis on the ethics of passing laws against gay marriage. But I’m only using this issue as a spotlight to a broader issue which is the legislation of morality.

a: That's obviously a work in progress, but can you summarize your paper where you critique arguments against homosexual marriage?

JH: Basically I looked at the three prevailing rationales for legislating against gay marriage. The first is religious, which is outlawed by the constitution and forbidden by the Bible by what God says about enforcing your morality on others.

The second argument is the sociological argument, in which people cite studies about the effects of homosexual marriages on children who are raised in those relationships, and also the bad things that happen in homosexual relationships more than in heterosexual relationships. The issue here is correlation versus causation. In other words, if we said to homosexuals, (as a social construct, not a religious construct) Your relationship is acceptable, that may solve those problems, if they are caused by the prejudicial behavior of society towards homosexuals. Also, as many studies as you can cite showing the children of homosexuals have problems, I can cite studies that show they do better than other children.

The third issue (and this is what my professor is a proponent of) is a natural law analysis. It says, Let’s pattern our society after the natural world, which then leads into the sociological argument. My problem with natural law arguments, is they always turn out the way whoever is proposing them wants them to.

a: One last question, to be taken in good humor: Which is more difficult, Andrews or Harvard?

JH: I was more afraid at Harvard, but I work harder at Andrews. At Harvard law, you have to know the material before you get to class, because the professor’s going to call on you. So the rule is, if you don’t read, you don’t go to class.

When I walk into a class at Andrews, I’m not afraid. However, I have to study Greek 3 hours a night, have three books to read through, and 100-pages of research to write out between February and April. It’s not hard work, but I work harder.

I guess it feels better to not be afraid, so I guess Andrews is easier? But ask me at three o'clock in the morning on my fourth all-nighter in a row, and I'll probably give you a different answer.


  1. The predominant rationale I've heard from church attorneys against homosexual marriage has been that of strengthening the church's position against litigation (e.g. lawsuits against churches refusing to rent to homosexual couples for their marriage ceremony). The overall principle of religious liberty seems to be off the radar screen. Perhaps because these lawyers are involved more in the practical than the prophetic aspect of religious liberty?

  2. It would seem to me the biggest issue in the gay marriage controversy would be that found in contract law. That is marriage has traditionally been a contract between a man and a woman for purposes of family management. When we try to redefine the contact as between a man and man or woman and woman we are essentially redefining the term marriage as our society and law recognize it. so it is not really accurate to say that we are making laws against gay marriage, except in those cases where certain government administrators overstepped the law and laws had to be created to bring the actions of the state in line again with the laws of the state. Those were the things that happened in California and Oregon.

    In any case when you redefine a legally understood term or principle you open the doors to complete revision. In which case brothers could be married brothers and sisters practically any combination of people or multiple people could then enter into the contract and call it marriage.

    People automatically understand the difference and that is why the term is "gay marriage" with gay being the modifier of marriage. Because "gay" changes everything about the marriage, no more husband and wife, no more man and woman. Instead of demanding the meaning of marriage be changed the more logical position would be to create the legal entity known as "gay Marriage" or "Same sex marriage". Unfortunately for political reasons gay activists tried to circumvent the laws and the legislative process. Which is somewhat understandable being a population less than 5% of the American population they would not be a high priority in any legislators radar of importance. But there are certainly legislators who would have been willing to work on this idea had it been presented properly instead of simply pretending they were denied civil rights when those rights had never existed before.

  3. I actually see things more similarly to Ron on this issue. The reason I interviewed Jason was to show how when Adventists argue against homosexual marriage on the basis of scripture and out of self-interest we undermine our broader principle of religious liberty.

  4. Hi,
    My name is Shawn D'Abreu from St. Louis, MO and i'd like to get in contact with Mr. Hines and Mr. Golden. If you can, could you pass along my contact information? My email is i'm interested in interviewing them for my website and inviting them to my church for a religious liberty weekend.