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Jerry Davich: Pastor passionate against same-sex marriage

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Updated: May 7, 2014 6:10AM



Pastor Ron Johnson took the stage to confess he was more nervous than on election night.

“Five minutes until D-Day,” joked Johnson, a conservative Republican who ran and lost twice for state representative, in 2000 and 2012.

On this Saturday evening, more than 100 parishioners flocked to Living Stones Church in Crown Point to watch ABC-TV’s “Nightline Primetime” on a big-screen TV.

The show profiled Johnson and his wife, Marion, and their eight children, focusing on a “Purity Ball” they attended last fall in Colorado. The event allows fathers to vow their love and affection for their daughter before signing a purity covenant promising before God to protect her purity.

Johnson, his family and the parishioners mingled inside the church’s spacious youth group room. Minutes earlier, Johnson told me about his concerns regarding the TV show and how it would portray him, his church and his beliefs.

Would it make them out as Christian fanatics? Would it twist their holy words of faith? Would it mock them in front of millions of Americans or, more importantly, in front of their flock? Johnson wasn’t sure. Neither was his wife.

“We know who we are and we will be glorified no matter what people say or do,” she told guests.

“We want to make our lives an open book,” Johnson added before the show started.

Johnson is proud of his open-book faith and he unapologetically preaches it to anyone who will listen. He’s affable, energetic and charismatic. He’s also smart, opinionated and controversial. But, as he often says about his conservative Christian views, “The proof is in the pudding.”

Thirty years ago, his parents started Living Stones Church in their home through a grass-roots ministry of healing marriages. To this day, a sign outside the church still boasts that same message: “Marriages Healed Here.”

To Johnson, who wed his college sweetheart 30 years ago, marriage is more than just a word. It’s a holy covenant. One strictly between a man and a woman, and solely under the eyes of God. Period. End of discussion.

So when our country’s hottest social issue — same-sex marriage — marched into Indiana’s latest General Assembly, Johnson felt compelled to go to Indianapolis to profess his beliefs. In front of lawmakers, he testified in favor of the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriage.

While it’s not surprising that a minister favors the ban, Johnson’s appearance at the Statehouse put him at the forefront of the fight in this region. And on my radar.

Despite opinion polls saying more Americans (and region residents) favor same-sex marriage than ever before, and 17 states now allowing such marriages, Johnson is convinced America is sliding into the abyss.

It doesn’t matter that same-sex marraige will someday — someday — become law in Indiana. It doesn’t matter that more lawsuits will be filed to make this happen. It doesn’t matter that more Americans than ever are siding with this societal shift.

Pastors, Johnson insists, must lead the charge against it.

“If we don’t do it, who will?” he asked with a preacher’s passion when I met him in his office.

“We’re getting our brains beat up, but here’s the problem with most pastors,” he said. “They’re not used to being an activist. They’re not used to going to the Statehouse to defend this (issue) because it’s never been attacked before.”

Johnson, who writes a blog, believes that marital intimacy apart from a covenant commitment under God is a “fleeting illusion.”

“This is why commitment is the cornerstone of biblical oneness,” he wrote March 4. “Commitment is the treasury department of marriage, the place where the currency of trust is printed. The formula is rather simple: No commitment, no trust. No trust, no intimacy. It’s that simple. It’s what separates the fleeting flurry of a one-night stand from the deep, lasting union of marital intimacy.”

So is he saying that same-sex relationships are based on lust or romance, not love?

“When you equate love with sex, that’s a false equation,” he replied. “It’s a romantic, sexual love. The notion that having sex with a man allows me to marry that man is a complete redefinition of marriage. The left is masterful at hijacking language, including now the definition of marriage.”

Johnson served as youth pastor at Living Stones for 12 years, authoring a youth leadership curriculum called “The College of the Cause,” used to train thousands of teens in the basics of a biblical worldview.

“The media shares the liberal left’s ideology and sometimes we get trapped in our own ideology and can’t get out,” Johnson told me. “TV news show ratings show where most Americans are at with this issue. MSNBC is not watched by hardly anybody but their relatives.”

The majority of Americans, he claims, don’t agree with global warming, evolution, abortion and, yes, same-sex marriage. They just don’t have a voice to say so.

“That’s why the left hates grass-roots movements, hates social media and hates the church,” he said. “Because it bypasses their message.”

Freedom to Marry advocates in Indiana claim the majority of Hoosiers and Americans now side with same-sex marriage. Johnson doesn’t believe it, claiming the majority of Americans are against it but feel they are stifled by the raging bullhorns of liberal media.

“The liberal media establishment and the loudness of their voice gives the appearance that everyone in America thinks this way. But I have a doctorate. I’m not dumb. We’re not dumb,” said Johnson, who earned a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University in 2005 with a special emphasis in Christian worldview.

“There is a huge silent majority that has not found its voice,” said Johnson, whose congregation numbers roughly 500 members. “God’s word is our standard. He defines our reality, not me.”

Johnson blames the liberal left and its media mouthpiece for masterminding blame to conservative Christians for “attacking” the gay rights movement.

“We’re not attacking anybody. We’re just going along as it’s always been and now we’re made to be the aggressors,” he said, his voice rising. “We’ve been pushed into this corner and forced to say, ‘You’re not going to take away marriage.’ ”

“We didn’t pick this fight. The fight came to us.”



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