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Tony Perkins Op-ed: Military works to boot Christian ‘extremists’ from its ranks


Commentary by Tony Perkins, CP Op-Ed Contributor | Thursday, January 13, 2022

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/voices/military-works-to-boot-christian-extremists-from-its-ranks.html/

Military Chaplains
Bishops speak with military chaplains in New Orleans in this file photo. | (Photo: ENS / Sarah Bartenstein)

January 6 was a convenient background for a lot of Democrats, but especially the ones in Joe Biden’s Department of Defense. To them, it was a chance to highlight the dangers of conservatives — and fight to get them out of the ranks, once and for all.

Gearing up to the riot’s one-year anniversary in December, Press Secretary John Kirby warned that new rules on “extremist activity” were coming. “As Secretary [Lloyd] Austin has emphasized, the department is focused on prohibited activity, not on a particular ideology thought or political orientation. The department has always maintained a distinction between thoughts and actions.” So they say. But behind the camouflage, FRC’s Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin argues, is a different agenda entirely. And it’s not about weeding out extremism — it’s about weeding out the people of faith and principle.

“First of all,” he warned, “nobody in the [DOD] can define extremism. And because this is so ill-defined and because there are so many nebulous things associated with [it], what you’re going to see if that they’re going to start adding to it. And even though they say that they’re not after ideology — they’re not after people’s ideas or people’s faith or people’s leanings politically — that’s just simply not true. [They’re] going to start adding groups like ours — the Family Research Council — as an ‘extremist group,’ telling our troops, ‘You cannot be associated with them, because we stand [things like] biblical marriage.”

How does he know? Because it’s happened before. Remember, Joe Biden served under Barack Obama for eight years — and in that time, the duo turned America’s government into one of the most vicious, anti-faith institutions the country had ever seen. During the wave of “diversity training” in Obama’s second term, organizations like the American Family Association were on a hit list of “hate groups” that service members were ordered not to follow or engage. If they did, there would be consequences. If you’re associated with them, the military said, you’re risking a court-martial and dishonorable discharge.

So, this isn’t an empty threat. It’s not hypothetical. It’s already happened. Only now, unfortunately, it’s starting to progress. Thanks to radical groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), who’ve partnered with the Biden administration in this extremist witch hunt, it’s not going to stop with organizations like American Family Association, Family Research Council, or Alliance Defending Freedom. Under the Defense Department’s new regulation, just released before Christmas, anyone with a natural view of “gender identity or sexual orientation” or any other biblical truth that is politically incorrect could be labeled as an extremist.

Consider what these new regulations will eventually do to chaplains who are endorsed by religious denominations that actually believe the Bible. These chaplains will silence themselves on a growing list of “untouchable” issues or they will be silenced by the military for these teaching, which they’ve labeled “extreme.”

General Boykin has seen a lot of things, but he says he’s “more concerned about our military today” than he’s ever been in his life. He points to the vaccine mandates and the good people our country is losing. “We’re recruiting the wrong people, and we’re [kicking] out the right people. We’re upside-down in the military today, and this is going to destroy our [force] if somebody doesn’t step in and turn this around. And I hope that will be Congress in 2022, when [Republicans] retake the House and Senate.”

Until then, he agrees, there’s an intentional effort to purge conservatives from the ranks, and we need to stop it. Without a viable military, we live in a vulnerable America. And obviously, if Democrats can’t succeed in abolishing our force, like the Marxist squad wants, then they’ll settle for the next best thing: hallowing it out until it’s nothing but an empty shell.

We can’t sit on the sidelines and watch. We’ve got to be engaged — and even more so now, when things aren’t going the direction we want. When we see these threats against our freedoms, it’s all the more reason to be active, informed, and hopeful — because we’re anchored in the truth. And that hope doesn’t change. It doesn’t come around every four years. It’s new every morning as we see the glory and goodness of the Lord.


Originally published at the Family Research Council. 

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.

Over 400 million Christians live in ‘lands of persecution’: human rights activist


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Thursday, January 06, 2022

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/over-400-million-christians-in-lands-of-persecution-activist.html/

Iraqi Christians
Reuters/Thomas Peter

More than 400 million Christians live in countries that persecute churches — and that persecution is only worsening, according to the leader of a Roman Catholic human rights organization based in Italy.

Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACS-Italia, the Italian chapter of Aid to the Church in Need, told Vatican News in an interview published last week that there were around 416 million Christians who live “in lands of persecution.”

“I want to clarify that ‘living in lands of persecution’ does not mean ‘persecuted,’ but living in a land of persecution, however, exposes you daily to risks that may arise due to the behavior of the persecutors,” explained Monteduro, as rendered by Google translate.

“Unfortunately, all the reports of the charity agencies, but also those reports that involve the states most willing to do so, such as the United States and Great Britain, tell of a tightening of their conditions.”

Monteduro also told Vatican News that in “certain areas of the planet,” such as the continent of Africa, “the suffering of Christian communities is worsening” due to religious intolerance.  

“Across Africa, from sub-Saharan Africa to East Africa, there are at least a couple of dozen terrorist organizations that have the ambition, from their point of view, to install caliphates in their territories,” he continued.

He also spoke of violent persecution in India due to local fears that Christian groups are trying to convert Hindus to Christianity, adding that there was “too much indifference to these tragedies.”

Monteduro’s concerns over the rising intolerance of Christianity in Africa were echoed by the ecumenical Christian group Release International and its Persecution Trends 2022 report.

Release International cited multiple African countries, as well as the nations of India and North Korea, as regions that were “of growing concern” for local Christian communities.

In 2021 in Burkina Faso, for example, local Islamic terrorists engaged in a host of attacks on churches, including bombings, school burnings, assaulting places of worship and murders.

Release International also expressed concern about Afghanistan, which was recently taken over by the Taliban shortly after the U.S. pulled its troops out but left its military equipment.

“In 2022, there is a very real threat of higher levels of violent persecution in Afghanistan,” stated Release International CEO Paul Robinson, as part of the report.

“Our partners tell us that Christians who are unable to follow the outward forms of Islam, such as praying at the mosque and saying the shahada, the Islamic profession of faith, will stand out more clearly.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

A 2021-Wearied World Can Still Rejoice Over The Same Old ‘Thrill Of Hope’


Posted BY: KYLEE ZEMPEL | DECEMBER 20, 2021

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2021/12/20/a-2021-wearied-world-can-still-rejoice-over-the-same-old-thrill-of-hope/

thrill of hope at Jesus' birth, nativity scene

In your despair and weariness this tired Christmas, embrace the thrill of hope and the glorious morn it brings.

KYLEE ZEMPELVISIT ON TWITTER@KYLEEZEMPELMORE ARTICLES

Less than a week out from Christmas, we’re once again steeped in the season that compels us to marvel at the incarnation, bustle to and fro with family and friends, and radiate all the levity our hearts can muster. Yet if there’s one word that best encapsulates many dispositions as 2021 comes to a close, it’s “weary.” Although we’re closing the chapter on another year, it doesn’t feel like any of the tiring stories are ending.

Covid-19 is still with us after two grueling years, and it’s poised to be the forever pandemic. Many churches and schoolchildren remain masked and socially distant. Gas and grocery prices are up, and wallets are lighter. Afghanistan and our borders are still in shambles. Small businesses in cities such as Kenosha are still trying to rebuild in the absence of justice for senseless destruction. Family activities are less light-hearted after traumas like the Waukesha Christmas parade replaced euphoria with fear. Broken families in Middle America are picking up the pieces after tornados leveled their homes and took loved ones. Others lost their livelihoods for having a different opinion on vaccines than the president and the other people in charge.

Around every corner lurks another obstacle, driving even optimists to wonder when the next shoe will drop. Just when parents got their kids back into classrooms, they were tasked with rising up against propaganda and exposing districts that concealed sexual assault allegations. Churches were finally gathering again as God intended, yet Christians have been stuck combatting divisive and anti-gospel racial ideologies within their own ranks.

And work is exhausting — for noble educators, needlessly understaffed nurses and doctors, business owners who can’t get people to work, truck drivers, firefighters and increasingly imperiled police officers, and medically coerced airline employees, just to name a few.

Meanwhile, the news cycle is endlessly mired in woke absurdity, corruption, death, lies, elitist hubris, and soul-sucking diktats, and every time you start to think you can catch your breath, the bad news begins all over again. This is our reality, and it hangs heavily over us even when daily responsibilities or moments of leisure temporarily distract us.

But there’s another reality — a reality that’s more real than any of the multitude of concerns we shoulder and wounds we nurse — and that’s the reality of eternal joys. As Christmas calls us to remember, those eternal joys were actually embodied in a holy babe, fully God yet fully man, who arrived humbly to rescue broken people from their curse of sinfulness. He arrived to live the life we could not live and die the death we no longer have to.

The reason for this season can feel far away. The miraculous birth was in another age in a faraway place, after all. And our current struggles can make it seem inaccessible, like the realities of Christmas aren’t compatible with the realities of our troubles. How can a historical event outshine our acute despair and uncertainty?

These dual realities bring to mind the masterful imagery of C.S. Lewis, who described heavenly things with a kind of concreteness and unfading quality that mortals can hardly fathom. In 2021, as in “The Great Divorce,” everything temporal and hellbound is gossamer — it is passing vapor and fleeting ghosts — when compared to the lasting actuality of all we find in Christ, which though now is often hidden, is as real and concrete as diamonds.

Thus, although COVID despair and riot violence may seem far more tangible than the Christmas story, for instance, those things are not worth comparingwith the future glory that began with the birth of Jesus.

It’s here we stand, gazing upon the swaddled Savior of the world, who was sent to a sin-stained Earth to teach his followers about their own brokenness, about the hard-to-swallow truth that their lives and their problems are like a mist, which “appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

His path too would include temptation, loss, and eventually death. But it would also include resurrection, enabling him as the conqueror of death to pluck our helpless lives out of the pit of despair and sin, onto the Solid Rock, and into a Living Hope.

This season and these truths recall a familiar tune:

O Holy Night!

The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

This winter season as we’ve endured Thanksgiving and anticipated Christmas, it’s often been difficult to overcome this weariness and embrace joy.

But deliverance is here. It came in a dark and dirty stable, amid government decrees, weary travels, first-time parenting, and stressful logistics of acquiring basic necessities such as shelter. Thousands of years later, our new birth is still secured by the same Messiah that was born of humble beginnings and hope still emerges in the dark and dismal places. In your despair and weariness, embrace the thrill of hope and the glorious morn it brings.

Repent and believe. Trade your burdens and despair for hope. This is the gospel, and it is for you.


Kylee Zempel is an assistant editor at The Federalist. She previously worked as the copy editor for the Washington Examiner magazine and as an editor and producer at National Geographic. She holds a B.S. in Communication Arts/Speech and an A.S. in Criminal Justice and writes on topics including feminism and gender issues, religious liberty, and criminal justice. Follow her on Twitter @kyleezempel.

Democrats’ Massive Entitlement Plans Include Banning Christians From Government Childcare


Reported By Joy Pullmann | DECEMBER 13, 2021

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2021/12/13/democrats-massive-entitlement-plans-include-banning-christians-from-government-childcare/

Democrats’ current proposed $3.5 trillion welfare expansion would effectively ban faithful Christians from profiting from federal subsidies for separating infants and toddlers from their families. The current text of Democrats’ massive “Build Back Better” entitlement bill contains provisions that would require religious child-care providers to disavow longstanding theology about sex in order to receive federal child-care funds under a massive new early childhood program.

“The Democrats went out of their way to make sure and prohibit religious care providers from receiving any of these funds, and unanimously rejected an amendment to allow all child-care providers to be eligible for grants, including religious providers,” said Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, the ranking member on the House’s subcommittee on Worker and Family Support.

Democrats’ legislation would create a new federally controlled child-care entitlement available to the majority of families in the nation. The legislation authorizes up to $20 billion in the program’s first year, $30 billion in its second, $40 billion in its third, and an unlimited amount after that. The estimated cost of this program over the next ten years is $400 billion.

“Making faith-based providers of child-care and pre-kindergarten into recipients of federal financial assistance triggers federal compliance obligations and non-discrimination provisions,” note the leaders of several religious organizations in an opposition letter to Senate Democrats last week.

This means potentially forcing religious organizations to deny all theology that acknowledges basic truths about human biology and reproduction. Given the state of federal “nondiscrimination” law, this could include forcing religious organizations to allow males into female bathrooms, hire transgender babysitters, and teach small children that men can turn themselves into women and that theologically condemned sex acts are in fact morally good.

Just one-third of American children younger than five are placed in center-based care, according to federal statistics. Sixty-three percent of American kids ages five and younger are cared for by family, and 11 percent by a babysitter or nanny. Most American kids ages 0 to 5 who do have regular childcare are away from their parents only part-time. Among the minority of American families who enroll young children in full-time care, 53 percent currently choose a religious facility, according to a January 2021 survey of parents from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Family care was parents’ top preference for their children, with religious-based care the second-most preferred option in the BPC poll.

Democrats’ bill would also likely dramatically increase the costs of childcare by increasing the licensing requirements for people the government pays to babysit tiny children. Most child care workers have low education levels, but states usually don’t raise their licensing requirements because that would reduce the availability of government-controlled child care.

Numerous studies have found that the quality of language and interaction available to a child in infancy and early childhood is extremely important to that child’s intellectual and social development. Studies have also found that frequent one-on-one interaction between a small child and his parents benefits early language development even if the child’s parents are poorly educated. This effect disappears, however, if that poorly educated mother is employed to care for many tiny children at once instead of one of her own to whom she can fully dedicate her attention and conversation time.

Research also resoundingly finds that living with married parents provides far bigger positive benefits to children for their entire lives than does attending an early childhood program.

Large early childhood programs are of notoriously poor quality. The major existing such program, Head Start, has failed to improve attendees’ education and life prospects in all the quality research done on the program that has spent some $250 billion from taxpayers since it began in 1965. In fact, federal research has found that children who participated in Head Start later learned less in math and behaved worse than peers who didn’t participate.

The research that shows any long-term benefit to children of attending early childhood programs derives such results from small-scale, boutique programs that employed teachers and support staff such as doctors who were much better educated than the typical daycare or preschool employee.

Research also shows mass programs that separate small children from their parents decrease children’s intellectual abilities and increase their aggression, risky behavior, and later likelihood of committing crimes. They also tend to erode parenting skills. The more time a small child spends away from his mother, the worse such negative effects tend to get.

“The amount of hours spent in day care each week during the first four years of life was the key child care predictor of behavioral problems,” writes social scientist Dr. Jenet Erickson in a review of several such studies. “In fact, the statistical effect size of the relationship between day care hours and caregiver reports of behavioral problems at age four and a half was so strong that it was comparable to the effect of poverty. Importantly, these statistical effects did not diminish as children aged.”

High-quality studies found that children who attended Tennessee’s state-run pre-K program had worse behavior and academic outcomes than children who did not. Children who attended Quebec’s universal early childcare program were 22 percent more likely to be convicted of a crime in young adulthood compared to children who did not participate in the program. Children separated from their parents in their youngest years through Quebec’s program also demonstrated greater emotional fragility that lasted into adulthood.

“The left is at war with religion and family-centered things. They think cradle to grave, government knows best,” Walorski said.

Walorski has sponsored legislation that would expand tax-free savings accounts families can use to pay for their own child care, tutoring, enrichment activities such as music lessons and summer camp, and more.

‘Kill God’: Pennsylvania church vandalized with satanic messages


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/kill-god-pennsylvania-church-vandalized-with-satanic-messages.html/

pews, church
Getty Images

A Pennsylvania church was vandalized by unknown assailants who desecrated the property with graffiti depicting satanic symbols and the words “kill God.” The Lititz Church of the Brethren in Lancaster County was vandalized sometime between Thursday evening and Friday morning, police said, according to The Morning Call. The chalk graffiti displayed the phrases “kill God” and “hail Satan,” as well as the satanic symbol of a star inside a circle. The vandalism also featured the number 666, the biblical number for the Antichrist.

Eric Landram, the lead pastor of Lititz Church of the Brethren, told The Christian Post on Monday that the “chalk which was used left no permanent damage and clean up was minimal.”

Landram explained that such vandalism has not occurred on his church’s property in the past, so they are “are treating it as a one-time prank and are not concerned by the antics.” He added that apart from “what has already been reported, we have no additional comments to make at this time.”

News of the church vandalism grabbed the attention of the editorial board for Lancaster Online, which denounced the actions as “egregiously wrong” and “especially disturbing.”

“There is something especially disturbing about vandalism directed at a place of worship or a religious symbol. It seems designed to rattle people of faith who regard their sacred spaces as sanctuaries to which they go in times of both grief and joy,” wrote the editors.

“There was no lasting damage to the church. But memories of the desecration likely will linger. Even if it turns out to be the work of clueless young people. Or the product of a disturbed mind.”

The editorial board also cited a report by Axios published in October, which concluded that houses of worship of various faiths were “experiencing high amounts of vandalism, arson and other property damage.”

“2021 is on track to exceed last year’s spike in hate crimes in the U.S., many of them linked to religious bigotry,” Axios reported.

“The number of hate crimes reported in FY 2020 was the highest since 2001, when a wave of Islamophobia followed the 9/11 attacks, according to updated FBI data.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

In Case With Global Implications, Finland Puts Christians On Trial For Their Faith


Reported By Joy Pullmann | NOVEMBER 23, 2021

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2021/11/23/in-case-with-global-implications-finland-puts-christians-on-trial-for-their-faith/

In Case With Global Implications, Finland Puts Christians On Trial For Their Faith
Photo Image courtesy International Lutheran Council

Meet the man who appears to be the first in the post-Soviet Union West to be brought up on criminal charges for publishing long-held Christian beliefs. Juhana Pohjola wouldn’t be cast to play his own part if Hollywood made a movie about a bishop put on trial for his faith. The Finnish pastor has inherited a place in the church of Martin Luther, but it appears none of Luther’s pugnacity or vitriol. In person, Pohjola, 49, is forthright but unassuming, and gentle. Stereotypically, the Finn is thin and tall. He often pauses while speaking to carefully consider his next words. He listens attentively to others with far less impressive resumes.

In more than two decades as a pastor, Pohjola has ministered to congregations as small as 30. He has spent his life building a network of faithful churches across Finland, many of which started with a few people gathered for prayer, Bible study, hymn-singing—and communion, if they can get a pastor. In an in-person interview with The Federalist, Pohjola urged fellow Christian leaders to be willing to seek out “one lost sheep” instead of crowds and acclaim.

This is the man who appears to be the first in the post-Soviet Union West to be brought up on criminal charges for preaching the Christian message as it has been established for thousands of years. Also charged in the case that goes to trial on January 24 is Pohjola’s fellow Lutheran and a Finnish member of Parliament, Paivi Rasanen. Rasanen’s alleged crimes in a country that claims to guarantee freedom of speech and religion include tweeting a picture of a Bible verse. Potential penalties if they are convicted include fines and up to two years in prison.

Finnish Authorities: The Bible Is Hate Speech

Rasanen and Pohjola are being charged with “hate speech” for respectively writing and publishing a 24-page 2004 booklet that explains basic Christian theology about sex and marriage, which reserves sex exclusively for within marriage, which can only consist of one man and one woman, for life. The Finnish prosecutor claims centuries-old Christian teachings about sex “incite hatred” and violate legal preferences for government-privileged identity groups.

Writer Rod Dreher pointed out the witch hunt nature of this prosecution: “Räsänen wrote that pamphlet seven years before LGBT was added to the national hate-speech law as a protected class. She was investigated once before for the pamphlet, and cleared — but now she’s going to undergo another interrogation.”

Rasanen and Pohjola both have adamantly affirmed “the divinely given dignity, value, and human rights of all, including all who identify with the LGBTQ community.” Christian theology teaches that all human beings are precious, as all are made in God’s image and offered eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In advance of the trial, Rasanen and Pohjola have been interrogated by police for hours about their theology. Pohjola told me in the interrogation police treated Christian beliefs as thought crimes. In a statement, Rasanen noted that the police publicly admitted their interpretation of Finland’s law would make publishing the Bible a hate crime.

“It is impossible for me to think that the classical Christian views and the doctrine of the majority of denominations would become illegal. The question here is about the core of Christian faith; how a person gets saved into unity with God and into everlasting life though the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. Therefore, it is crucial to also talk about the nature of sin,” Rasanen told Dreher. “As we are living in a democratic country, we must be able to disagree and express our disagreement. We have to be able to cope with speech that we feel insults our feelings. Many questions are so debatable and contradictory that we have to have the possibility of discussing. Otherwise, the development is towards a totalitarian system, with only one correct view.”

Major International Implications

Humans rights lawyer Paul Coleman, who spoke to The Federalist from his Alliance Defending Freedom International office in Vienna, Austria, says Pohjola and Rasanen’s cases are a “canary in the coalmine” for freedom of speech across the West. ADF International is providing legal support for Pohjola and Rasanen’s cases.

“Although all European countries have these hate speech laws, and these hate speech laws are increasingly being used against citizens for things that they say, this is the first time we’ve really seen Christians face criminal prosecution for explaining their biblical views,” Coleman said. “…It’s unprecedented. We’ve not seen attacks on free speech on this level in Europe, and that’s why they are extremely important cases, not just for the people of Finland and Paivi Rasanen and the bishop themselves, but for all of Europe. If this is upheld in one jurisdiction, we will no doubt see it in other jurisdictions as well.”

Such “hate speech” laws exist in every European country and Western countries such as Canada and Australia, and descend from Soviet influence. Coleman called them “sleeper laws,” saying that in other countries “they could be used any time just like they are in Finland. People need to mobilize against these laws and overturn them.”

Legally privileging certain sexual behavior has thus broken western countries’ promises of equality before the law for all citizens, as well as enabling government discrimination against citizens who exercise their free speech and religious liberty, as in the Baronnelle Stutzman and Jack Phillips cases in the United States.

“Establishing standards of identity” also lets government meddle in theological controversies that are none of its business, said the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shaw, who directs church relations for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and has known Pohjola for decades. Pohjola’s church is an international partner of the LCMS.

From a natural law and historic Western perspective, “the government isn’t supposed to get into people’s brains and tell them what’s right and wrong to believe and say,” Shaw noted in a phone interview. “That’s not their realm. Their realm is in externals, things like protect people in their bodies, go to war when necessary, and punish criminals… This is really what’s at stake [in the Pohjola case]. Government has lost its moorings and doesn’t know its purpose.”

From Part-Time Pastor to Bishop

After theological study in Finland and the United States, Pohjola’s first congregation in Helsinki started with about 30 members, he says. It was only able to support him part-time at first. He remembered his wife accompanying the congregation’s hymn-singing on a piano while their firstborn daughter, a baby at the time, laid on a blanket on the floor nearby.

Finland’s state church began openly disobeying Christian theology concerning sex differences amid the global sexual revolution of the 1960s. So, Christians alienated by the state church’s embrace of anti-Christian cultural demands sought faithful pastors like Pohjola, who are known as “confessional” for adhering to historic Christian confessions. The resulting growth of his tiny congregation gradually led to establishing a seminary, then dozens of mission churches, which grew as the theologically unfaithful state church shrank. In 2013, 25 of these new confessional congregations formed the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Finland. Today, that diocese oversees 45 congregations and missions and is training 64 pastors.

That growth has been accompanied by suffering, including persecution first from Pohjola’s own church.

First Persecuted By His Own Church

In 2009, Pohjola was awarded the theological journal Gottesdienst’s Sabre of Boldness Award, which is granted “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ, while engaged in the confession of His Pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces, and at the greatest personal risk.” The award honored Pohjola, with other faithful Finnish pastors, for standing firm as Finland’s state church sought civil charges against them for refusing to disobey the Bible’s commands that only men be sent to lead spiritual warfare as pastors.

Like Luther before him, Pohjola was expelled by his own church body in 2014 for adhering to God’s word on this matter. The notice of his discharge declared Pohjola was “obviously unfit to be a pastor.” At the time, he responded with grief but also by saying that he must obey God rather than men, lamenting: “Instead of the Church being purged with God’s Word, she is being purged from God’s Word.”

In the interview last week, Pohjola said being defrocked from “his baptismal church” grieves him to this day. On his mother’s side, Pohjola said, his family includes Lutheran pastors in that church going back to the 17th century Reformation. But he could not disobey God’s commands to retain his social status or employment.

Division or Unity? Yes

Pohjola’s separation from Finland’s state church also had the consequence of uniting him and his flock with other confessional Christians across the globe. The International Lutheran Council is a global network of theologically unified churches, and like the confessional churches in Finland, that network is growing.

Mathew Block, the ILC’s communications manager, noted that the heightened contradictions between increasingly unnatural pagan practices and historic Christian teachings are causing a global “confessional realignment.” It’s forcing people to make a real decision about where they stand rather than allowing them to inhabit the increasingly nonexistent, indecisive middle. This is affecting churches all over the world. While it means divisions in some areas, it also is leading to unity in others. For example, despite other important theological differences, all the world’s largest Christian bodies agree with the doctrines for which the Finnish government is persecuting Pohjola. That allows them to speak in chorus to government leaders.

Already many dozens of top religious leaders across the world have formally raised their concerns with Rasanen and Pohjola’s prosecution to the Finnish government and the United Nations. Several U.S. members of Congress have also asked U.S. agencies to take action against Finland for these human rights abuses.

“I encourage Roman Catholic ecclesiastical leaders and all those who care for souls to speak up and join hands and lock arms with us as we talk about the absolute necessity of our historic Christian values of one man, one woman, marriage, and the freedom to be able to believe it, to say it, to publish books about it, and find practical ways through hospitality, education, and other social engagement to make society strong that way,” Shaw said. “All churches—one could even say all religions but in particular the Roman Catholic faith—this reflects their historic commitments as well.”

The Shepherd Faces Wolf Attacks for the Sheep

In August 2021, the international Lutheran church recognized Pohjola’s steadfast leadership amid persecution by supporting his election to bishop of Finland’s confessional diocese. The ILC hosted Pohjola’s November 2021 speaking tour in the United States, and is raising funds across the world to raise awareness of his case.

“Our mission has been that, if the shepherd sees that one sheep is missing, he knows,” Pohjola said of the churches he oversees. He noted that many people coming to faithful Finnish churches are seeking love and connection from a church family as the secular world becomes increasingly isolated and family-less, in no small part because of pagan sexual behavior and beliefs.

“People don’t go to church for social capital now. This is a serious life and they want to be serious with God. So, churches have to build communities that stand on solid Lutheran, biblical doctrine,” Pohjola says.

While he may not share Luther’s temperament, Pohjola’s response to his own persecution by church and civil authorities does mirror Luther’s simplicity four centuries ago: “Here I stand. I can do no other.” He adds a pastoral message to Christians watching governments turn on them today.

“We have to learn from the past, Christians who have suffered under persecution, and be prepared,” Pohjola said. “But it’s not something to be worried about, because Christ remains faithful to His church and wherever he is leading us, He will come with us. He will provide everything that is needed for the future of His Christians and His church.”

You can hear Pohjola talk about his case and its implications during his November visit to the United States here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=413205860293995

And watch a Federalist Radio Hour interview with Pohjola here:


Christian Florist agrees to pay $5K to end lawsuit over refusal to serve gay wedding

Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers announces retirement

By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Thursday, November 18, 2021FacebookTwitterEmailPrintMenuComment121

Barronelle Stutzman
Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, speaks as supporters rally around her in November 2016. | (Photo: ADF/Screengrab)

A Christian florist has agreed to pay $5,000 to end a years long legal battle centered on her refusal to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony. She has also announced that she will retire so that her flower shop can be run by her employees. 

Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, was sued by Rob Ingersoll, a man she had done business with in the past, because she refused to provide a floral arrangement for his same-sex wedding in 2013. Stutzman was represented by the conservative legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, while Ingersoll was represented by the progressive group the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU argued that Stutzman’s refusal was a violation of state discrimination law. The florist suffered legal defeats in lower courts before her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected earlier this year. 

settlement has been reached in the legal case that allows Stutzman to avoid having to pay crippling fines and legal fees.  As part of the agreement, Stutzman will pay the same-sex couple $5,000 while the ADF will, in return, withdraw a petition to the Supreme Court for reconsideration.

During a Zoom call organized by ADF Thursday afternoon, the 77-year-old great grandmother announced retirement and plans to sell Arlene’s Flowers to her employees. She also intends to support others dealing with religious liberty legal battles.

“I’ve never had to compromise my conscience or go against my faith. I’ve met so many, many kind and wonderful people, who’ve generously offered me their prayers and encouragement and support,” she stated in a statement posted online after the Zoom call.

“There is a great deal of division at work in our country today, but God has shown me again and again that His love is stronger than the anger and the pain so many are feeling. And He’s given me countless opportunities to share His love with others along the way.”

In 2013, Stutzman refused to make flowers for the wedding of Ingersoll and Curt Freed because of her belief that the Bible describes marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. In response, Stutzman was sued by the same-sex couple, with a county court issuing a fine of $1,000 and deeming her liable for thousands of dollars in legal fees. Stutzman appealed the ruling, and the Washington Supreme Court ruled in February 2017 that she violated state antidiscrimination law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation when she refused to make the floral arrangement.

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the ruling against Stutzman and sent the case back to the state supreme court for further consideration.

The Supreme Court cited its 7-2 ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The justices ruled that baker Jack Phillips was mistreated by the Colorado commission when he was punished for refusing to design a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2012. Same-sex marriage was not legal in Colorado at that time. However, Washington’s high court reaffirmed its earlier ruling against Stutzman in June 2019, stating that her conduct “constitutes sexual orientation discrimination.”

In July, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, with conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch believing the nation’s high court should have accepted the appeal.

“After Curt and I were turned away from our local flower shop, we cancelled the plans for our dream wedding because we were afraid it would happen again,” said Ingersoll in a July statement.

“We had a small ceremony at home instead. We hope this decision sends a message to other LGBTQ people that no one should have to experience the hurt that we did.”  

ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner said that the settlement should not be seen as a “surrender of Barronelle’s beliefs.”

“Over the last eight years, Barronelle stood for the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans, even those who disagree with her about a deeply personal and important issue like marriage,” Waggoner said. “And in so doing, she’s inspired millions of others in their own public and personal battles to live their faith without government interference.”

Waggoner further stated that Stutzman “laid the groundwork” for the Supreme Court to take on similar religious freedom cases. 

Stutzman specifically mentioned her support for Christian web designer Lorie Smith and her company, 303 Creative. Smith pushed back on a Colorado law that she felt would require her to make services available to gay couples seeking help in creating wedding websites although same-sex weddings contradict the teachings of her faith.

This summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled against Smith. Smith has appealed her case to the Supreme Court for consideration. 

“The Supreme Court needs to affirm the right of all Americans to speak and live consistent with their conscience,” Waggoner argued. 

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

‘The Gospel of Christ is at stake’: Finnish bishop facing prosecution over Christian values


Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Thursday, November 11, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/finnish-bishop-slams-cancel-culture-the-gospel-of-christ-is-at-stake.html/

Juhana Pohjola
Bishop Juhana Pohjola of the Evangelical Mission Diocese of Finland, speaks at the Alliance Defending Freedom office in Washington, D.C., to discuss his prosecution for sharing a document expressing support for Christian teachings about marriage and sexuality, Nov. 10, 2021. | The Christian Post

WASHINGTON — A Finnish religious leader facing prosecution for publishing a booklet promoting Christian teachings about marriage and sexuality is warning that “the Gospel of Christ is at stake” as Western governments liken such beliefs to hate speech. 

The Rev. Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, spoke at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty law firm, Wednesday to discuss the prosecution he faces for publishing a booklet titled Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.

Paivi Rasanen, a Finnish member of parliament and medical doctor, wrote the booklet in 2004 when Finland was passing laws treating same-sex relationships as equivalent to heterosexual relationships under the law. The booklet concluded that the recognition of same-sex relationships had a detrimental effect on society. At the time of the booklet’s publication, the Finnish government was considering legislation that would enable same-sex couples to adopt children. 

In his address at Alliance Defending Freedom, Pohjola warned that his prosecution illustrates that “the Gospel of Christ is at stake” because of postmodernism and its accompanying cancel culture and hate speech laws, which he believes have been unfairly used against him: “When postmodernism first swept over Western countries, its basic core was denial of absolute truth. The only truth was that you must allow everyone to have his or her own subjective truth.”

“This hyper-individualism continues, but it has now a different tone. If you are against LGBTQ+ ideology, so-called diversity, equality and inclusiveness, you are not only considered to be old-fashioned … but rejected as morally evil. This is what the prosecutor general understands her duty to be, to protect fragile citizens and victims from the intolerant and hateful Christians.” 

After expressing concern about the development of “cancel culture” in Europe and Finland,” he said he agreed with political commentators in the U.S. about “soft totalitarianism in Western countries when all aspects of life, media, business, education, culture, courts, army and church parties are taken over by the same ideology that suppresses freedom of speech and suffocates differing opinions and viewpoints.” 

Pohjola devoted most of his speech to detailing the legal challenge he’s embroiled in. He recalled that on April 29, “the prosecutor general of Finland decided to bring charges against me and … a member of parliament, Mrs. Paivi Rasanen.” 

The indictment accused them of “incitement to hatred against a group which falls under the section of war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Pohjola read aloud the description of his offense, which stated that he “made and maintained available to the public opinions and allegations defaming and insulting homosexuals as a group on the basis of their sexual orientation.” 

Previously, the Helsinki Police Department “pressed charges against me and Mrs. Rasanen arguing that the pamphlet found on our webpage was discriminatory toward homosexuals” in August 2019. While “the police in charge decided to drop the case,” it ended up on the “table of the general prosecutor’s office.” Pohjola added that on Reformation Day, Oct. 31, 2019, “the prosecutor general of Finland announced that she had ordered a preliminary investigation on the subject matter.” 

“We were suspected of being guilty of incitement to hatred against a group,” he said. The Helsinki Police Department interrogated Pohjola on Feb. 11, 2020. He noted that “the interrogation took over five hours” and described the questioning as “cordial but tough.” When asked if he was “willing to take the pamphlet away from your website in two weeks,” Pohjola said no. He told the audience that “If I had said yes, the case … probably would have been settled.”

The booklet was one of several published by Pohjola in conjunction with the Detroit-based Lutheran Heritage Foundation. Other books in the pamphlet series discussed issues such as worship, the Lord’s Supper and sanctification. While the booklet did not generate “any media interest” at the time as “it was just one booklet among the other booklets,” it received renewed attention in recent years as the Evangelical Mission Diocese faced scrutiny for declining to embrace the “ordination of women” and what he described as “other unbiblical practices.” 

“The series [of pamphlets] was later put on our webpage without any fuss,” Pohjola asserted in his remarks. “We handed out this Christian teaching on marriage even to all the members in the parliament.”

“When the prosecutor general has … publicly said that she will give special attention to the hate speech cases when she steps into the office, she, of course, wants to maintain classical Western liberal freedoms of speech and religion grounded on our constitution,” he maintained. “But she interprets these rights in the light of [the] Equality and Discrimination Act.”

Pohjola lamented that “the tendency is to interpret more broadly … vague terms like defaming and insulting speech. And the more broadly you interpret them, you do it at the expense of the freedom of speech.”

“She will take the case if needed through as many appeals through higher courts, even on European Union level, because at [the] European Union level, European Union legislation affects also the national legislation. So, we are prepared for it as well and the judgment is important due to [the] precedent that it sets for the future free speech cases.’ 

“Prosecutor general has taken out of the context one line from there and one from here,” he concluded. “In the police investigation … I tried to draw the big picture of the pamphlet, which consists of basic points of Christian teaching, which is clearly all found in this pamphlet.”

Pohjola emphasized to government officials that the booklet was based on the premises that “We are all created in the image of God, we are all equal and share the inherent equality,” “We are all part of [the] fallen human race and therefore we are all sinners, homosexuals are not greater sinners than all the others, but nevertheless it is sinful to live in a homosexual relationship according to our faith,” and “according to the Christian view, sexual life is made to be in the confines of marriage between one man and woman.”

While Pohjola stressed that “We have again and again said that we confess the God-given dignity, value and human rights of those who we identify them as homosexuals,” “we also call homosexual acts sinful and in discordance with the created order and the will of God as found in the Bible.” He believed that the prosecutor general did not accept this distinction “since sexuality is so deeply rooted in the identity of a person.”

According to the prosecutor general’s line of thinking, “If we call the homosexual living style sinful, we deny the dignity of homosexuals. In other words, to reject homosexuality is to deny their human value as human beings and thus degrading their intrinsic worth and thus insulting them and thus defaming them. If you follow this argument to its logical conclusion, the [ramifications] for Christian teaching and religious freedom are severe.”

Pohjola attributed his prosecution and the widespread acceptance of the aforementioned line of thinking to the rapid decline in religiosity that has come to define his country: “Finland is a modern, safe, clean, wealthy country but on the other hand, it is committing demographical suicide and is under enormous pressure to take more and more immigrants. It is secular and it has lost its Christian and Lutheran roots and families aren’t doing well,” he explained.

“This case is only a faint echo of the cultural eruption that is taking place in Western countries,” he explained. “Although we still have the blue cross in our flag, Finland is not a Christian nation anymore. Church attendance is about 1% and maybe less. The less people know about the basic Christian teaching, the less they understand it and tolerate Christian teaching in the public square.”

Pohjola vowed that despite the legal headwinds and consequences he may face, he would “hold on to this truth and publicly teach it no matter what the cost is not because we want to wage a cultural war in the society but to call people to repentance and through faith in Christ, receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.” 

When Pohjola finished speaking, Sean Nelson, legal counsel on ADF International’s Global Religious Freedom Team, discussed the legal implications of this case. Nelson reported that in many third-world and authoritarian countries, “We regularly see criminal prosecutions and convictions for blasphemy and so-called religious offense laws in these countries against many different religious minority groups including but not exclusive to Christians.” “What we see in many authoritarian countries [is] the use of blasphemy, apostasy and anti-conversion laws to force religious minorities to hide in the shadows in fear of fully practicing their faith,” Nelson lamented. “Dozens of countries are still regularly enforcing their blasphemy laws in favor of majority beliefs and against minorities.” He highlighted ADF’s mission to “support those charged with blasphemy” and seek “the worldwide repeal of such laws.”

Nelson characterized “hate speech laws that have gathered steam in Western countries” as “secular versions of blasphemy laws.” According to Nelson, “Both laws are justified by the alleged harm that minority views, very often religious views cause to the majority, that the offense causes emotional and societal harm, even when the speaker is only sharing their genuinely held beliefs. They both work to marginalize certain views and exclude people from government and positions of influence.”

“They both use broad, ambiguous language and definitions that make it impossible to know precisely what is prohibited and that open the door for arbitrary and biased enforcement and they’re used to coerce others to change their views so that they aren’t punished,” he added. 

“These are also terrible precedents internationally as they provide cover to dozens of authoritarian governments that say, ‘If the west has no problem criminally prosecuting controversial speech, then what’s wrong with us doing that?’” 

Pohjola’s speech at the ADF came on the same day that six Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to Nadine Maenza, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, urging her to take the Finnish government’s actions “into consideration when recommending which countries should be added to the State Department’s Special Watch List,” which consists of countries that are hostile to religious freedom.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com


US State Dept. condemns Burmese military over burning of 100 homes, churches in retaliatory attack

By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor| Monday, November 01, 2021FacebookTwitterEmailPrintMenuComment1

Myanmar, Burmese military
This aerial photo taken on October 29, 2021, show smokes and fires from Thantlang, in Chin State, where more than 160 buildings have been destroyed caused by shelling from Junta military troops, according to local media. | STR/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. State Department released a statement Sunday condemning the “gross violations of human rights” after Burmese security forces fired heavy artillery into a town in the predominantly Christian Chin state, setting at least 100 homes and two churches on fire. The attack was in retaliation after a Chin militia shot and killed a Burmese soldier who was breaking into houses and looting properties, according to a report.

In its statement, the State Department said the Burmese military must be held accountable: 

The United States is gravely concerned by reports of gross violations of human rights that Burmese security forces have perpetuated in Chin State, including reports that forces have set fire to and destroyed more than 100 residences as well as Christian churches.  We condemn such brutal actions by the Burmese regime against people, their homes, and places of worship, which lays bare the regime’s complete disregard for the lives and welfare of the people of Burma.  These abhorrent attacks underscore the urgent need for the international community to hold the Burmese military accountable and take action to prevent gross violations and abuses of human rights, including by preventing the transfer of arms to the military. 

We are also deeply concerned over the Burmese security forces’ intensification of military operations in various parts of the country, including in Chin State and the Sagaing Region.  We call on the regime to immediately cease the violence, release all those unjustly detained, and restore Burma’s path to inclusive democracy.   

We will continue to promote accountability for the horrific violence that has been and continues to be perpetrated by the regime against the people of Burma.  We will continue to support the people of Burma and all those working toward a restoration of Burma’s democratic path and a peaceful resolution to the crisis. 

Nearly 10,000 residents of the town of Thantlang fled the area as the fire raged on, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported.

The Southeast Asian country’s military, locally known as Tatmadaw, started attacking Friday morning after the militia, Chinland Defense Force, killed a Tatmadaw soldier while he was looting properties.

The presence of the Buddhist nationalist military makes civilians and militias in conflict-ridden states nervous. The military has been accused of vandalizing places of worship and civilians’ homes, raping girls and women, abducting civilians to be used for forced labor and shooting civilians to death.

ICC quoted the India-based Chin Human Rights Organization as saying that several religious buildings, including Church on the Rock, Presbyterian Church, and a building attached to the Thantlang Baptist Church, the largest congregation in town, have also caught fire.

“The first rockets to be fired into the town landed at the entrances to the Thantlang Baptist Church,” ICC said.

Earlier this month, the military, which staged a coup on Feb. 1, attacked Rialti village near the Chin state’s capital of Hakha, Radio Free Asia reported at the time.

“We see this as a war crime because wherever they go, they focus on wherever there are large numbers of people — it’s a deliberate violation of religious freedom,” Salai Za Op Lin, CHRO’s deputy executive director, said at the time.

Op Lin noted that other Christian communities in Chin state had also been targeted since the military coup in February. “Now that the military has started a real operation in Chin state, we can expect a lot of such abuses and acts, and we urge the international community to keep a close eye on this.”

Last month, a beloved youth pastor, Cung Biak Hum of Thantlang Centennial Baptist Church, was shot dead as he tried to help one of his congregants save their burning home after it was set ablaze by the military during an attack on civilians in Chin state.

Information on his Facebook page showed that he was married with two sons and was pursuing a master’s of divinity degree at MIT Yangon.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews, highlighted the pastor’s murder in a tweet at the time, calling on the international community to “pay closer attention” to the “living hell” civilians have been experiencing there since a Feb. 1 coup brought back full military rule following years of quasi-democracy.

Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, including Christians, live in the various conflict zones across the country’s borders with Thailand, China and India. Hundreds of thousands of civilians, many of them Christians, have been displaced due to the escalation of conflicts in the zones since the coup.

Militias in those areas have been morally supporting pro-democracy protesters since the coup, which has led to the use of heavy weapons by the Burmese army. Thousands of civilians in the conflict zones have sought shelter in churches when their villages are under attack.

Christians make up just over 7% of the majority-Buddhist nation. Formerly known as Burma, the country is home to the world’s longest Civil War, which began in 1948. Myanmar is ranked No. 18 on Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution. The persecution level in Myanmar is “very high” due to Buddhist nationalism. Burma is recognized by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for egregious violations of religious liberty. 

“The military is notorious for its relations with the ultranationalist ultra-Buddhist group the Ma Ba Tha,” ICC’s Southeast Asia Regional Manager, Gina Goh, said in a statement earlier this year. “The military together with Ma Ba Tha has targeted the Muslims in the country, but they also go after Christians. Once they get a hold of the power, they might resort to things they were doing before they passed the power to the civilian government. They kill. They rape minority Christians.”

Amish survived COVID-19 better than most by not locking down, ceasing church gatherings: report


Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter | Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/amish-survived-covid-19-better-than-most-by-not-locking-down.html/

Amish
An open Amish Buggy makes its way to town. | Getty Images

The Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has made it through the coronavirus pandemic without experiencing a catastrophic loss of life despite their refusal to adopt many of the safety precautions portrayed as necessary to prevent widespread loss of life, according to a new report. While officials in most U.S. cities ordered businesses and churches to close for several months in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Amish continued working and never stopped worshiping together at church. 

On her news magazine series “Full Measure” Sunday, investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson reported on the Amish community’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which differed significantly from the approach taken by the rest of the country.

She described the Amish as a “Christian group that emphasizes the virtuous over the superficial.” In an effort to live a “virtuous” life, many in the group refrain from driving and using electricity. 

Attkisson traveled to Lancaster County, well-known for its large Amish population, to talk to locals about how they handled the pandemic. One person she spoke to, an Amish Mennonite named Calvin Lapp, explained: “There are three things the Amish don’t like: And that’s government; they won’t get involved in government. They don’t like the public education system; they won’t send their children to education. And … they also don’t like the health system.” 

“Those three things are all part of what COVID is,” he said. Attkisson noted that “after a short shutdown last year, the Amish chose a unique path that led to COVID-19 tearing through at warp speed.” The community gathered for a religious celebration in May 2020, where they all took communion. 

Lapp then described how the Amish take communion: “They dunk their wine into a cup, and they take turns to drink out of the cup. So you go the whole way down the line and everybody drinks out of that cup, so if one person has coronavirus, the rest of the church is going to get coronavirus.” 

While he acknowledged that “everybody got coronavirus,” Lapp defended the community’s approach: “It’s a worse thing to quit working than dying. But to shut down and say that we can’t go to church, we can’t get together with family, we can’t see our old people in the hospital, we got to quit working … it’s going completely against everything that we believe.”

About a year after the coronavirus pandemic first broke out in the U.S., national news outlets and The Associated Press wire service reported that the Lancaster County Amish community had reached herd immunity, meaning that “a large part of the population had been infected with COVID-19 and became immune.” However, precise data is difficult to come across because the Amish were hesitant to publicize coronavirus cases in their community. 

Steve Nolt, a scholar on Amish and Mennonite culture, told Attkisson that in some cases, “Amish people … refused to go to the hospital, even when they were very sick because if they went there, they wouldn’t be able to have visitors, and it was more important to be sick, even very sick, at home and have the ability to have some people around you than to go to the hospital and be isolated.” 

Nolt added that “even those who … believed that they had COVID tended not to get tested. Their approach tended to be ‘I’m sick, I know I’m sick, I don’t have to have someone else tell me I’m sick,’ or a concern that if they … got a positive test, they would then be asked to really dramatically limit what they were doing in a way that … might be uncomfortable for them.” 

“There’s no evidence of any more deaths among the Amish than in places that shut down tight. Some claim there were fewer here,” Attkisson maintained. “That’s without masking, staying at home” or taking the coronavirus vaccine. 

Lapp highlighted that the absence of a prolonged shutdown meant that the Amish “made more money in the last year than we ever did” as the rest of the country experienced economic hardships because of lockdowns. He described 2020 as “our best year ever.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

Wallace B. Henley Op-ed: Authentic authority and the threat of raw power


Commentary By Wallace B. Henley, Exclusive Columnist | Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/authentic-authority-and-the-threat-of-raw-power.html/

Biden and UN
Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-sixth session on Sept. 21, 2001. | UN Photo/Manuel Elías

On Friday, leaders of 136 nations took actions that should send a chill up the spines of their citizens.

The representatives of those countries acted on a proposal by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to establish a global business tax.

After recovering from my shock, questions blasted in my mind: Who gave this organization the right to implement a global business tax? Is this an ominous step toward the establishment of other worldwide regulatory mandates? At what point do other global groups act on the precedent by extending their powers into broad facets of policy that should be the purview of sovereign nations?

President Joe Biden and Janet Yellen, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, applauded the move.

They had both the constitutional authority and the power to do so. However, in the Biden administration, as in others, the balance between authority and power is delicate.

The big issue here has to do with executive authority and power, and the importance of holding it in balance.

The Bible and the histories recorded there, reveal the differences between authentic authority and raw power:

  • Authority is granted from the higher to the lower, while raw power is seized

As Jesus stands before the Roman magistrate, Pontius Pilate, He tells him, “You have no authority over Me at all if it had not been given to you from above.”

  • Authority is granted to those under authority, but raw power is submitted only to itself

King Saul learns this the hard way. He refuses to honor the commands of Samuel, the High Priest, the representative of God Himself. Saul disobeys, coming out from under Samuel’s authority, and loses his kingdom.

·  Authority is accountable to the higher authority; raw power is accountable only to its own interests

Though Jesus Christ is God Himself, in His incarnate existence, He acknowledges His accountability to God the Father, telling even His earthly parents that He had to give priority to His “Father’s business.”

  • Authority is sustained through healthy relationship; raw power is sustained by intimidation, manipulation, condemnation and domination

A priority of Jesus was to be “with” His disciples, building and leading them through relationship

  • Authentic authority is in the style of servant leadership; raw power is in the style of tyrannical control

“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life for many,” said Jesus.

All these reveal that true leadership that has the right of power must understand that it can do so only if it respects and yields to the authority granted to it. The leader, be it a president, CEO, senior pastor, head of household — whatever — must not take authority as his or her own possession, but as a trust.

I have watched and been fascinated by the American presidency since 1952. Both national political conventions were televised for the first time that year. As an 11 year old, I sat transfixed for hours watching the drama on our 12-inch black-white TV screen.

Within two decades, I would be standing in the Oval Office as a member of the president’s staff watching the president model the balance between authority and power.

In 1969, new in office, Richard Nixon had to help school systems in 11 southern states desegregate. He brought together multi-racial citizen groups from each state and authorized them with the power to implement educational equality in their own states.

In the fall of 1970, the most sweeping desegregation in history occurred peacefully.

Nixon had the authority, and he shared the power.

Many still hate Nixon and his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson. However, both men took actions based on the careful balance between authority and power that should earn them respect in history, balancing whatever misdeeds attributed to them.

Lyndon Johnson, in 1968, was deep in the morass of the Vietnam war. Cities were burning, and destructive rioting would break out during the Democrats’ summer convention in Chicago.

Johnson, regarded by his opponents as being a thug, nevertheless sacrificed himself for the good of the nation. On March 31, 1968, on national television, Johnson declared, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Six years later, mired in the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon told the world, “I have never been a quitter. To leave the office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interest of America first. … Therefore, I shall resign the presidency.”

Some still smirk at the very mention of Johnson or Nixon, but they were admirable in their actions. They remembered that constitutional authority is held by the people. When Johnson and Nixon faced the fact that they had lost the authorization of the people they realized they could no longer exert the powers of the Oval Office.

These were insightful, gallant actions by two men many still hate.

Is this in America’s future once more?

Does the action of an international group like the OECD mean that authority and power are gravitating to the global scale?

One hopes the Biden White House and his administration understand the nature of authentic authority and the threat of raw power.

Wallace B. Henley’s fifty-year career has spanned newspaper journalism, government in both White House and Congress, the church, and academia. He is author or co-author of more than 20 books. He is a teaching pastor at Grace Church, the Woodlands, Texas.

For media inquiries, contact:  ChristianPost@pinkston.co

Canadian tribunal rules that using ‘wrong’ pronouns violates human rights, awards $30K to trans-identified woman


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/canadian-tribunal-using-wrong-pronouns-violates-human-rights.html/

Pronouns, gender
Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

A Canadian human rights tribunal has ruled that a restaurant wrongfully fired an employee who demanded that the business use nonbinary pronouns, awarding the ex-employee $30,000. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal released a ruling last week in favor of Jessie Nelson, a former employee of Buono Osteria who prefers the pronouns of they/them. At issue was the restaurant using female pronouns for Nelson, with the business firing her and claiming that she had become too “militant” in the demand to be identified as nonbinary.

Tribunal Member Devyn Cousineau authored the opinion, concluding that the refusal to use Nelson’s preferred pronouns “amounted to discrimination.”

“All employees have the right to a workplace free of discrimination. Trans employees are entitled to recognition of, and respect for, their gender identity and expression. This begins with using their names and pronouns correctly,” wrote Cousineau.

“Like a name, pronouns are a fundamental part of a person’s identity. They are a primary way that people identify each other. Using correct pronouns communicates that we see and respect a person for who they are.”

The decision contrasted the actions of someone who uses a correct pronoun at first before accommodating a person by using the individual’s preferred pronoun and someone who intentionally refuses to use the preferred pronouns of an individual who identifies as nonbinary.

“I order Buono Osteria to include a statement in its employee policies that affirms every employee’s right to be addressed with their correct pronouns,” continued the tribunal. “I also order Buono Osteria to implement mandatory training for all staff and managers about human rights in the workplace. This training should be no less than two hours. I understand that Jessie Nelson has recommended a well‐regarded training provider and I encourage the restaurant to avail itself of this option.”

Tanner Hnidey, a Christian writer from Alberta, penned a column on his website denouncing the ruling as a rejection of objective truth and a disturbing restriction on free speech.

“Now it’s one thing for a person to think they are a different gender than they actually are. It’s one thing for a man to believe he’s plural when he’s singular in reality,” wrote Hnidey.

“It’s quite another thing to force us to believe what another believes; coercing us to say what others want us to say. And that’s precisely what the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruled.”  

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Canadian pastor arrested at airport warns Americans: ‘You’re next’


Reported By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor | Sunday, October 03, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/canadian-pastor-arrested-at-airport-warns-americans-youre-next.html/

Artur Pawlowski
Pastor Artur Pawlowski | Courtesy of Artur Pawlowski

Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski, who was recently arrested on the airport tarmac upon his return home from a trip to the U.S., has issued a warning to Americans: “You’re next.”

The Canada Border Services Agency arrested the pastor last week for two outstanding warrants — one for not wearing a face mask and another for holding a church service in June. He has an upcoming court hearing on Oct. 13, where a judge will decide whether he’ll be sentenced to 21 days in jail for “contempt of court” for holding worship services in violation of lockdown restrictions. 

“If they came for me, be sure of it, they’re coming for you as well,” Pawlowski, who serves as pastor of Street Church and Cave of Adullam Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, told Fox News in an interview.

“What they’re doing today is identical to what I remember growing up,” added Pawlowski, comparing the measures taken by law enforcement officials to enforce COVID-19 restrictions to the actions taken by authorities in his native Poland when it was under communist rule.

“I was handcuffed like a common criminal, like a terrorist,” he said, talking about his previous arrest in May. “They wanted to break me. They wanted to show the whole world, ‘You see what we do to those who dare to speak against our tyranny? If you will follow … you’re next.’”

Pawlowski was born in Poland and lived under Soviet rule during part of his childhood.

video posted on YouTube in May showed that Calgary Police Service sent at least five police vehicles to arrest him and his brother, Dawid Pawlowski, from on the street. The brothers knelt on the road and refused to walk on their own during the arrest. A voice can be heard telling the officers, “Shame on you guys, this is not communist China. Don’t you have family and kids? Whatever happened to ‘Canada, God keep our land glorious and free?’”

Artur Pawlowski previously shared a video documenting police visiting his church in April. In that video, Pawlowski can be seen calmly greeting the officials at the front door. The public health officer presented Pawlowski with a warrant after previously interrupting worship services days earlier during the Holy Week. As he videotaped the encounter, one of the police officers accompanying the public health officer told Pawlowski, “you don’t have to get into her personal space,” as he attempted to zoom his phone in on the paperwork.

“You’re in my personal space,” Pawlowski responded.

He referred to the officials as “brown shirts” and “Nazi Gestapo communist fascists.”

Pawlowski told The Christian Post in June that police frequently monitored his church services to make sure he was abiding by coronavirus restrictions and social distancing guidelines. He said the intrusions weren’t necessary because he streamed the church services online. The livestreams illustrated that “I was not hiding the fact that we are not following those restrictions.”

As law enforcement repeatedly descended on his church services, “the mosques were fully operational.” He added that “no one harassed them, no one interfered with them.” 

“Not one Imam was being harassed or intimidated. And to this day, there’s not one Imam or one Muslim that has a ticket, even though we have video evidence and pictures [of] them gathering … through the whole Ramadan by the thousands,” he said.

Pawlowski’s YouTube channel includes a video of a gathering of thousands of Muslims that took place on the last day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, which police allowed without interruption. He estimated that “about 2,000 people, maybe more, were there.” 

In March of 2020, Pawlowski was informed that his church, which ministers to the homeless and less fortunate in Calgary, would have to “shut down and stop taking care of the poor.” He refused to obey that order, however, concluding that by issuing “orders to stop feeding them [and] giving them necessities of life, they were sentencing them to death. [And] some of them did die,” he said.

At the time, Pawlowski sent a plea to the ministers in Alberta asking them for an exemption from COVID-19 restrictions, but they refused to grant an exemption and ordered him to shut down. 

Gov’t restrictions on religion at high levels worldwide even before COVID-19 lockdowns: Pew report


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Monday, October 04, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/govt-restrictions-on-religion-worldwide-at-high-levels-pew.html/

Rome Colosseum
The Colosseum is lit up in red to draw attention to the persecution of Christians around the world in Rome, Italy, February 24, 2018. | Reuters/Remo Casilli

Government restrictions on religious practice remained high during the year before the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, according to a recent report by the Pew Research Center. Pew released findings from its 12th annual study on global religious persecution Thursday, analyzing 198 countries during 2019, the most recent year with data available.

When it came to public policy and laws that infringed on religious practices, 2019 had a similar rate of intolerance to 2018, which was noted as a year with a high rate of government-imposed restrictions. Pew found that 57 countries had “high” or “very high” restrictions on religious practice, which was slightly higher than 2018’s 56 countries that reported the same and the highest rate since 2012, which also reported 57 countries. It was also a considerable increase from 2014, when 47 countries were listed as having “high” or “very high” government restrictions on religious belief and practice.

“The analysis shows that government restrictions involving religion, which in 2018 had reached the highest point since the start of the study, remained at a similar level in 2019,” explained Pew.

“The global median score on the Government Restrictions Index (GRI), a 10-point index based on 20 indicators, held steady at 2.9. This score has risen markedly since 2007, the first year of the study, when it was 1.8.”

While government restrictions across the world remained high in 2019, the level of social hostilities toward religion and religious terrorism both saw a decline compared to earlier years. Pew found that 43 countries were found to have “high” or “very high” social hostilities regarding religion, which was lower than the 53 countries reporting the same in 2018 and well below the 65 countries reporting the same in 2012. Additionally, there was a decline reported in the number of countries experiencing “religion-related terrorism,” defined as including “deaths, physical abuse, displacement, detentions, destruction of property, and fundraising and recruitment by terrorist groups.”

“In 2019, 49 countries experienced at least one of these types of religion-related terrorism, a record low for the study. That was down from 64 countries in 2018, and from a record high of 82 countries in 2014,” continued Pew.

“Among the reasons for the decline in the study’s terrorism measures is that ISIS subsequently lost control of a large swath of territory in Iraq and Syria,” The report added. 

In 2017, the Trump administration declared that the U.S.-led coalition had defeated the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and seized the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate in Raqqa, Syria. On Dec. 9 of that same year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that the country is now “fully liberated” from ISIS.  

Since 2014, it’s believed that over 40,000 people from more than 110 countries had traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS’ caliphate. In the U.K., it was estimated that more British Muslims were fighting for IS than served in its armed forces. Although U.S.-led troops killed tens of thousands of jihadis, insurgents still remain in parts of the country and ISIS terror cells are operating worldwide. 

The Pew report added that “the number of violent attacks perpetrated by the group declined in Iraq in 2019, according to the Global Terrorism Database.’

“Still, ISIS’ multinational network of organizations remained active. Groups pledging allegiance to ISIS carried out bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, 2019, killing more than 250 people and injuring approximately 500 others at churches and hotels,” Pew added. 

Pew noted that the numbers reported in this study came before the 2020 government lockdowns that took place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which often involved controversial measures believed by many to be in violation of civil liberties, including freedom of religion. There has been extensive litigation in the United States aimed at state-level measures that critics claimed unlawfully treated houses of worship worse than comparable non-religious businesses. In the decision Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that pandemic restrictions could not treat churches worse than secular entities.

“ Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” read the majority opinion.

“The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Churches key to advancing ‘next Great Awakening’ by fixing broken families, marriage experts say


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Friday, October 01, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/books/churches-key-to-next-great-awakening-by-fixing-families-book.html/

THE VIEWS OF THE AUTHOR, AND THOSE OF THE PARTICIPANTS, DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THOSE OF WHATDIDYOUSAY.ORG.

Endgame
The front cover for the book “Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America” by J.P. De Gance and John Van Epp, which was released Sept. 6, 2021. | J.P. De Gance and John Van Epp

For years, Duval County, Florida, and its biggest city, Jacksonville, were known for having among the highest divorce rates in the state. And then something happened.

Various faith-based groups, including the Culture of Freedom Initiative, now called Communio, coordinated efforts with dozens of local churches to try and counter the tide of failed marriages.

The results were telling: From 2015 to 2017, Duval County saw its divorce rate drop by 28% and Jacksonville saw a 24% drop in its divorce rate.

Now Communio President J.P. De Gance wants to expand the initiative to help kickstart “the next Great Awakening in our country” by joining professional counselor John Van Epp, developer of the Relational Attachment Model series, to champion stable homes and families nationwide.

De Gance and Van Epp have come together to author the book, Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America (released on Sept. 6).

According to the authors, the way to save the declining American family is to have churches across the country more actively pursue family and relationship ministries.

“The message of the book is simply this,” they write. “Churches in America have the opportunity and responsibility to build relationship ministries and outreaches into their congregations and communities — congruent with their faith — that speak to the needs of singles, couples, and families, and, as a result, will grow their churches and transform their communities.”

The Christian Post interviewed Gance and Van Epp about their new book, including topics regarding how broken families are the leading reason why churches are in decline, why the Church is key to reviving the family unit, and advice to pastors on how to make sure their family ministries are strong. The following is an edited transcript from that interview: 

CP: Why did you decide to write this book?

Van Epp: Both of us have a history of working with organizations in the community marriage movement, so nonprofits. Churches were not directly involved, per se.

A lot of times, faith-based people were working with nonprofits to try to impact their communities to lower divorce rates, improve quality of relationships in general, and almost all were doing it with government funds. And we both had different involvement. 

Our frustration with all of that was as much good as it could accomplish, it never could change mainstream trends. And we came to believe, independent of each other, that it’s only, truly the Church in America that has the potential, the opportunity, and we believe the responsibility, to truly impact marriage and family trends, and dating trends, especially.

Not only among their people, but to reach out into the community and to step off the campus and into the community to build a relationship and offer that kind of content that will then warm people up to the Gospel of Jesus, but will also truly impact trends that are ultimately eroding the transmission of faith in America. So we believe the breakdown of the family is breaking down faith in America as well.

De Gance: My work before connecting with John was a combination of working with nonprofits that were secular and faith-based, but then we also did end up working with churches.

This is with our work in Jacksonville, Florida, which lowered the divorce rate substantially, and it was through trial and error that we recognized “wow, the church can be a huge change agent for marriage.” Not only because the church can affect its own membership, but we recognize that churches had the power to affect the community in a way that other NGOs can’t.

We recognized churches have the ability to affect their membership, we also realize that they can go way outside of their membership and affect their community, inviting folks in.

We need to have a call to action for the church to save the family.

CP: In the book, you wrote, “I had come to Washington to help save the country. But what if the best way for me to contribute to ‘saving the country’ didn’t involve Washington at all?” Do you believe too many people focus too much on using the federal government to change the country, and not enough on other ways? 

family, parents, children
Unsplash/Jude Beck

De Gance: Yes, absolutely. We have gotten away from our Tocquevillian past where problems were solved by voluntary civil society, by men and women working in their own communities, working through their churches to change real outcomes.

While politics is very important — I’m not dismissing it as important, and politics can change the culture, there have been examples of that — too many times, people of faith conclude that the best way to do it is “there ought to be a law” or “let’s come to Washington and lobby for changes,” when there’s a lot of work we can do, without getting anybody’s permission, right now, working in our church, working in our community.

Van Epp: Our government and our Constitution, we believe in separation of church and state, but some of what is happening in relationships, or you might even say a lot of what goes on in relationships, does have a true spiritual dimension.

The Church needs to speak to both the practical skill side of how to build and maintain relationships in healthy ways. So they need to have that kind of well-rounded understanding, but they bring to it the values, the consistent values of faith and a spiritual dimension that truly brings ultimate fulfillment in whether its romantic dating relationships, or ultimately marriage and family relationships, and that’s something that our government really can’t do.

If we become too dependent on [the government], which we believe is what has happened and we shirk our responsibility, then ultimately, the trends will not stay consistent with faith values and will head toward unhealthy, which is definitely what has happened in America.

CP: You argued in the book that the “collapse of the family is the major driver of the decline of Christianity.” Some say that things like the occasional major Church scandal or secular public education curriculums are the major drivers of Christianity declining in America. Why do you believe is the decline of the family instead of those other commonly claimed factors? 

De Gance: This is a big challenge with polling organizations who try to understand the reason why faith is declining by just simply asking people, “Hey, why don’t you go to church?”

The way surveys are drawn up, the respondents will give a left brain rationalization as to why they don’t do something. You got to dig deeper to get the underlying emotional cause of it.

We show that once you control for family structure, if you look at a millennial, and you look at a baby boomer, they go to church at almost the exact same rate. If I know one thing about both people, it’s that if they grew up in a home of continuously married parents, there’s almost no difference whatsoever.

So what that means is, if family structure was the same for millennials as baby boomers enjoyed, then millennials would be going to church as frequently as baby boomers. And, to me, family of origin just settles any questions on correlation and causation. 

The data overwhelmingly shows that church attendance varies significantly based on family structure, it’s the family structure that’s changed over the last 60 years and most folks who are trying to solve the problem of faith, are focusing on what we call “the smoke.” The symptom of the fire, the real fire is in the collapse of marriage and the home.

Van Epp: Look at how much money is spent on youth ministry. Because you think, “Hey, if we really just focus on this generation of young people growing up and really impact them, then we’re going to change the trajectory of their life because we’re going to infuse in them faith and faith values.”

And yet, with all of the emphasis of anywhere from $2 billion at a minimum, to up to maybe $6 billion a year spent on the youth industrial complex, from Christian college campuses, Cru and Navigators and InterVarsity, all the way down to staffing and churches, and look at that, it didn’t seem to make a dent in the trend line of each generation, from the baby boomers to the present, each generation moving by about a 10 percent increase away from faith, becoming more religious nones.

So we’re not trying to criticize investment in the youth, but point out that that was not correcting the problem. And what JP just mentioned, by just keeping the family, the parents married, and a young person growing up in an intact family, you have no decrease over the last three generations, you have no decrease in involvement in church. So therefore, that family structure seems to be the transmission belt of faith.

We have several chapters we call “the decoupling effect.” … Marriage was really viewed as a package deal socially, and what was coupled to marriage was sex, life partnership and parenting.

Of course, all through history, somebody had sex, a baby or partnership outside of marriage. But socially, it wasn’t until the ’60s decoupled those three things and they became really viewed as not only independent of marriage but personal rights.”

Fatherlessness also is highly related to the breakdown, the erosion of the transmission of faith.

De Gance: There’s significant evidence that the inability to attach to a father is a huge ingredient to expressions of agnosticism and atheism.

So we start to track that those young adults in our research with the right brain people, who said they reported being the most emotionally unattached or uninterested in church, also overwhelmingly reported having something other than a good relationship with their father.

While we all know there are good single dads or unmarried dads that are out there, on the aggregate, statistically speaking, an unmarried father is generally an uninvolved father and an unattached father. And that might be the secret ingredient as to why the collapse of marriage is destroying fatherhood, which is destroying faith.

CP: You noted in the book that while most pastors believe their churches have a strong family ministry, few actually do. What are some of the warning signs for pastors that they do not, in fact, have a strong family ministry at their church?

marriage, rings, couple
Unsplash/Samantha Gades

De Gance: First is, do you have a skills-based ministry where people are taught the skills to have a good marriage and good relationship and that those skills are practiced?

So a lot of times churches and pastors confuse preaching and teaching with practice.

Is your relationship and marriage ministry exclusively wrapped up in sermons or in just a witness talk or are you giving people the chance to practice the interpersonal skills that make marriages flourish?

[Often, churches have] the virtue of marriage down. They hold up marriage, they might champion marriage, in basic teaching, but the skills of marriage are non-existent. There’s almost this idea that faithfulness to the Gospel just begets great marriage skills and the reality is, as John noted, the decoupling effect over the last 60 years has created a lot of wounds in our culture and in our hearts and in our families.

And it’s more important than ever that the Church is teaching the skills to have a great relationship. Helping singles discern a good spouse, a good partner, to have the right cadence of relationship so that they can move into a healthy marriage. It’s so important for them — those who are married — early in their marriage to be taught and to practice the skills to have a good marriage.

The reality is, is the ingredients for a great marriage and a great relationship are known and knowable and are able for all of us to practice.

So if I am talking to a pastor, I would ask the question, “how are you helping your people know the skills of relationship health and practice them on a regular basis?”

Van Epp: Very simply, what JP just said, I would add that I have a relationship series that actually involves sermons. It’s a six-week series. It’s described in the book as called The RAM series, but churches license it, they get it, and they do it, and it has sermons, but it also involves everybody in the church.

However, I do think a lot of lead pastors lean a little bit toward being what I call “series junkies.” So once you do a really great series, as soon as you’re done, or even before you’re done, the big question is, “OK, what’s the next big series we want to do?” And they just bounce off of one. So a lot of churches do something about relationships, and then leave it.

So a real warning sign is, is healthy dating, healthy marriage content and skills-based content, part of your ongoing calendar every year?

Let’s look at the real practical side of things, let’s look at money. Does your budget have any money that is allocated on a consistent basis every year to marriage ministry and to help the singles with their dating relationships?

Because we’ve got to go upstream and help people long before they actually get married. And we’re not just talking money for the youth, let’s put that aside. We’re talking specifically for adult single dating and marriage family ministry. Is there really money in the budget?

Your wallet talks.

De Gance: We need, as a church, to recognize that even before the pandemic, the number of people getting married every single year was down 31% since the year 2000. It’s dropped 61% since the year 1970.

We can either keep doing what we’ve always been doing. If we do that, the last one out should turn the lights off, because that’s the direction the Church is heading if we don’t wrap our hands around the flight from marriage.

CP: What do you hope readers take away from you book?

Van Epp: My hope is that in reading the book or if they do the [RAM series] that it does kick off a real paradigm shift of their priorities going forward into the next 10 to 20 years.

We’re not talking about something that we think can be fixed in just a couple of years. We could make a huge impact if we get lots of churches involved, in working together in a particular community, like what Jacksonville had, they had over 90 churches working in the city of Jacksonville and over a three-year period, they made a huge dent of over 23 percent drop in divorce rate. If churches really work together.

My hope for the book is that it’s truly embraced by the Church in America, both Catholic and Protestant alike.

De Gance: We are not cultural fatalists. Anybody reading the book should be incredibly hopeful that healthy marriage is written into the human heart. And solutions to this are possible, and it’s the church that has the solution.

I always tell people, the fact that 85 percent of churches are spending nothing in this area is actually really great news. It means family and marriage has been in a free fall over the last 50 years and the church hasn’t yet entered the ring for real battle.

If churches actually became strategic, applied best practices, and reached out to their communities to renew relationships and marriages, we could see the next Great Awakening in our country in the decades ahead. And that’s what I hope pastors, and church leaders would conclude.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Eric Erickson Op-ed: The Progressive Freakout


Commentary ByErick Erickson | Sep 18, 2021 | DailyWire.com

Read more at https://www.dailywire.com/news/erickson-the-progressive-freakout/

A demonstrator holds up a banner saying "We've Only Just Begun" during the second annual Women's March in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, U.S. on Saturday, January 20, 2018.
Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Recent data from the Cooperative Election Study shows 20% of atheists have participated in a march or protest, compared with 6% of white evangelicals. Forty percent of atheists have contacted a public official, compared with 24% of white evangelicals. Fifty-two percent of atheists have donated to political candidates, compared with just 26% of white evangelicals. Pull back further, and the divide between progressives and conservative evangelicals shows the former, not the latter, more actively involved in protest and politics.

As progressivism secularizes, politics becomes religion. Virtue signaling replaces a Christian ichthus fish on the back of a car. Outrage becomes a signal for identifying heretics. If one is not outraged, one just might be a heretic to secular, progressive zealots.

This past weekend, college students took to stadiums across America to experience the joy of fellowship and football. Across television networks and social media, progressives decried the activity as unsafe. Outdoor festivities again became superspreader events in ways mass protests and ransacking small businesses did not during the riots and protests surrounding George Floyd’s death in summer 2020.

The Supreme Court let a Texas law stay in place because the plaintiffs in the case sued the wrong people. The Supreme Court refused to halt the law because the Court does not stop laws. The Court only stops people from enforcing the laws. When the wrong people are sued, the Court has no power to stop them. Progressives insisted, despite the dereliction of duty by the plaintiffs, that the Court should stop the law anyway. While four justices would have done so, they would have deviated from legal precedent.

Undeterred, instead of blaming the plaintiffs for their collective screw-up, progressives assailed the Supreme Court, Texas, former President Donald Trump, conservatives, and babies. They fixated on the worst-case scenario — rape. According to progressives, women who are victims of rape will have to carry their babies to term and face untold psychological trauma. They patently ignored that Texas cannot stop a woman from traveling to another state to terminate her child. Nor did they care to point out that rape accounts for, at most, 1% of abortions. To listen to the commentary on television, one would think rape and pregnancies therefrom happen constantly. Meanwhile, one doctor admitted to killing dozens of children in the run-up to the law taking effect, none because of rape, but rather because of the mothers’ convenience.

As the remains of a hurricane went up the East Coast, sending flooding with it, progressives freaked out about climate change. Never letting a crisis go to waste, politicians and supposed experts paraded onto television screens across America demanding Americans give up their way of life to stop storms. Storms will not be stopped by a battery-powered car. One would be hard-pressed to realize that from the media coverage.

Podcaster Joe Rogan received ivermectin from his doctor. The inventors of the drug received a Nobel Prize for ivermectin’s contribution to human progress. The drug has saved billions of people from blindness and parasitic infestation. It is also used in livestock, and a few people have tried to ingest dosages meant for horses. Rogan, however, got it from his doctor. Some doctors believe the well-documented anti-inflammatory properties of ivermectin can help prevent or combat the so-called cytokine storm whereby COVID-19 triggers a release of inflammatory proteins called cytokines into the bloodstream. The Food and Drug Administration has discouraged ivermectin prescriptions pending further study.

Progressives freaked out about Rogan and his doctor while assailing Texas for getting between a woman and her doctor. All of the freaking out is theater. In the postmodern age, one demonstrates one’s commitment to a particular truth or cause through performance. The screaming and wailing on social media and television is performance designed to both signal one’s commitment to a supposed truth and identify the heretics who choose not to perform.

As progressives continue making secularism a religion, the ritualistic outrage will get more intense, but this will also help discredit the progressive cause. Most people don’t have time for outrage these days as they struggle to get by thanks to progressives closing schools and causing inflation with massive spending binges.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at http://www.creators.com.

The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.

Chicago: 58 shot during bloody holiday weekend, including 8 children; 4-year-old boy killed by stray bullets


Reported by PAUL SACCA | September 06, 2021

Read more at https://www.theblaze.com/news/chicago-shootings-boy-shot-mychal-moultry/

At least 58 people have been shot in Chicago during Labor Day weekend, including eight children, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Five people have been killed in shootings since Friday evening, including a 4-year-old boy who was shot in the head.

Around 9 p.m. on Friday, stray bullets sprayed through the window of a home in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago. Two bullets struck 4-year-old Mychal Moultry Jr. in the head. He was getting a haircut at the time, according to Rahman Muhammad, deputy chief of the Chicago Police Department’s Detective Division. The boy’s father held him until paramedics arrived to take him to the Comer Children’s hospital.

“It’s hard enough with this mom and dad sitting in the hospital watching this little fella with tubes all down his body. He is trying to breathe,” community activist Andrew Holmes told WLS-TV about the boy when he was in the hospital.

The 4-year-old boy, who was visiting Chicago from Alabama, was pronounced dead on Sunday.

The Chicago Police Department is asking the public for help in the case to find those who committed the crime. Those with information can submit a tip on the Chicago Police Department website. The Saint Sabina Catholic Church and the All Kids Matter organization are offering up to a $9,000 reward to bring the shooter or shooters to justice.

“We’re sick and tired every day,” an activist with All Kids Matter said. “We’re staking this hospital out night after night. All these children get shot throughout Chicago.”

There were eight children shot during the bloody weekend in Chicago, including six kids shot in 12 hours from Saturday night into Sunday morning. Two of the wounded minors were recovering at Comer Children’s hospital as of Sunday morning. So far this year, more than 280 children have been shot in Chicago, 35 of whom have died from their injuries, WLS-TV reported.

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown gave an explanation why children are often the victims during a press conference on Monday.

“It’s always some other offender, gang member, criminal network, some beef, and they’re targeting some adult, and young people are nearby and they are shot as innocent bystanders,” Brown said.

Supt. Brown said the department seized 64 illegally possessed guns over the weekend.

Last weekend, at least 48 people were shot in Chicago, including six who were killed.

For the month of August, there were 78 homicides in Chicago, which is 14 more than August 2020. There have been 534 homicides in the city, according to data provided by the Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago had a total of 775 murders in 2020.

There were 372 shootings in August 2021, down slightly from 372 last year, according to Fox News.

The worldview of the Taliban


Reported By John StonestreetTimothy Padget

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/voices/the-worldview-of-the-taliban.html/

Taliban fighters
File photo of Taliban fighters posing with weapons in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan in this undated photo. | Reuters

After seeing the images out of Kabul in recent days, Maajid Nawaz, a former radical Muslim, said, “Barefoot Taliban conquered a palace. They believed in something and fought for nothing. I have lived with men like this in prison. It is difficult to describe just how seriously they take their cause. There is a lesson here for us in the West, if we are humble enough to see it.”

We hear the terror from Afghan women who now wonder what the lives of their daughters will be like, worried that 20 years of progress in women’s rights have disappeared overnight. We see the desperation of men so afraid of what might come next that they’re literally clinging to the wheels of American aircraft as they depart. Yet, we struggle to have a category for what they actually fear. Many Westerners don’t have the categories to understand the realities of Islamic fundamentalism.

Much of the world has long struggled to understand the worldview that is driving the Taliban conquerors today, or the ISIS fanatics from a few years ago, or the al Qaeda terrorists that struck on 9/11. These groups are driven by their own internal logic, their own worldview.

I’m not going to try to explain the entirety of radical Islam. However, there are a few key points about this worldview that can give us clarity in understanding what’s happening in Afghanistan and what we might expect in the days ahead. 

First, for radical Islam, this isn’t about this particular American president or the last American president or any particular foreign policy decision. This is seen as part of a war that’s been going on for over 1,000 years. 

In the wake of 9/11, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the second in command of al Qaeda, and in many ways the strategic planner for Osama bin Laden, spoke about his group’s goals for this war with the West. In repeated statements to the press, he referred to waging war until all Muslim lands were restored, connecting the conflict in Afghanistan and the battle for Palestine to a worldwide conflict that spans from Iraq to Spain. Yes, Spain. 

To American ears, it doesn’t make any sense. Iraq, Israel, we can follow. Palestine, sure. Spain? You see, what he knew and what many Westerners have forgotten is that the mostly Catholic country of Spain was once the heartland of the Muslim world. Centuries before the Turks or Indonesians followed Islam, Spain was the base of operations for a potential invasion of Europe. It wasn’t until 1492 that Spain was retaken for the Cross.

For radical Islam, once lands have come under the sway of Islam, it is vital that good Muslims do whatever it takes to return those regions to the House of Islam; places where Islamic law and teaching is practiced. Whether we’re talking about Catholics in Spain or Israelis in Palestine, these people are merely occupying what’s rightfully a Muslim land.

This connects to another element of this worldview that we often miss. For Islamists, the West is not the primary enemy. We’re merely in the way of where history’s headed. What they seek is the overthrow of false Muslim rulers who have been corrupted by the wiles of Western influence. These are, as Al-Zawahiri put it, the “near enemy,” and they must be cast down. Only then can true Muslims take control and implement the fullness of Sharia. 

In other words, what we’ve seen on the ground in Afghanistan and what we’ve seen in the Middle East for a long time is the working out of a worldview. None of the happenings of the last 20 years, or the last 20 days, can be understood without understanding the worldview. 

Now, every worldview answers questions. Among these questions are those that ask, what is wrong with the world, and what must be done to make it right? For Christians, the problem is sin and all of its myriad manifestations. The solution is conversion: the conversions of individuals, as well as the restoration of culture through the grace and work of Christ, and through His Church, the restoration of the goodness of His creation. 

For secularists and much of contemporary Western culture, the problem is ignorance. Through education and science, and by becoming aware of the perspectives of others, we can hope to improve the structural failings that have plagued our world. 

But the problem is seen differently in radical Islam. The problem is seen as the internal corruption of the Islamic states and the unwillingness of the rest of the world to bow to what is ultimately true. 

Here’s how Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis described it:

“For Usama bin Laden and those who share in his views, and there are many of them, the object of the struggle is the elimination of the intrusive Western power and corrupting Western influence from all the lands of Islam, and the restoration of Islamic authority in these lands. When this has been accomplished, the stage will be set for the final struggle to bring God’s message to all mankind in all the world.”

Now, I hope one of the things that you notice is that for a true Muslim, Islam is not a point of personal and private belief. Islam describes the actual condition of the world. It describes what’s happening and where history is going. And for radicals, whatever needs to be done to accomplish that mission is justified. Whatever atrocities are committed along the way will find their purpose in this overriding goal. 

For this goal, they are willing to sacrifice themselves by the thousands. Radical Islamic leaders are willing to be incredibly patient to see this goal accomplished, because they are fully assured that one day their work will indeed bear fruit. The brutality, the absolutism, and the unyielding determination that we see in radical Islam are driven by a worldview. Without a true and accurate understanding of the world, they’ll continue to pursue their ends by any means necessary. 

We are right to oppose these ideals because lives are at stake. Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas, like the bad ideas of radical Islam, have victims. How we push back on these forces will take many different forms, sometimes even force, but here’s what’s clear. We will never make headway if we fail to understand the worldview that animates the whole thing in the first place.


Originally published at BreakPoint

John Stonestreet serves as president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He’s a sought-after author and speaker on areas of faith and culture, theology, worldview, education and apologetics.  

Timothy D. Padgett (PhD) is the Managing Editor of BreakPoint.org with the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His focus is on cultural engagement, living out the Christian worldview, and the way Christians argue for diverse viewpoints while sharing a common biblical foundation, particularly regarding the relationship between church and state, Christ and culture, and war and peace.

Antifa throws flash bombs at children, injures pastor at Christian prayer event in Portland


Reported By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor| Monday, August 09, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/antifa-assaults-kids-injures-pastor-at-portland-prayer-event.html/

Antifa
Antifa members assaulting a prayer and worship event in downtown Portland, Oregon. | YouTube/Mary Todd

Dozens of black-clad Antifa militants carrying shields and melee weapons on Saturday assaulted Christians, including children, who were attending a prayer and worship event in downtown Portland, Oregon, featuring Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski. Portland police looked on as Antifa bear-sprayed Christians and their children, lobbed “flash bombs” into the crowd, and reportedly threw the sound equipment being used for the prayer event into the Willamette River, PJ Media reported.

In black bloc and riot gear, armed Antifa could be seen in a video physically confronting the Christian attendees. One of the members sprayed a congregant with what appeared to be pepper spray. The attendees stepped back to evade the assault, The Post Millennial reported.

“Where is your God now?” one of the Antifa members can be heard shouting in the video.

A woman attending the prayer event described the group as “ruthless.”

“Antifa just rolled in like an angry mob, started throwing flash bombs at everybody, macing everybody … rotten eggs,” CBN News quoted her as saying. “They threw a flash bomb into a group of kids that were out there from 4 months old to like 10.”

Pawlowski, who serves as pastor of Street Church and Cave of Adullam Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and has been seen in viral videos documenting his encounters with law enforcement over COVID-19 restrictions, was also sprayed in the face with mace.

An attendee who helped the pastor was quoted as saying, “Walked up to ask them to stop throwing things at the children. There’s kids down there. I mean, they’re toddlers and they sprayed me too.”

“Welcome to Portland. You won’t like it here, pastor,” tweeted an Antifa member, who identifies herself as Melissa Lewis on Twitter.

In an earlier interview with The Christian Post, Pawlowski spoke about his interactions with authorities over the past year and doubled down on his characterization of local law enforcement as Nazis and communists. Pawlowski has compared the measures taken by law enforcement officials to enforce novel coronavirus restrictions on churches to the actions taken by authorities in his native Poland when it was under communist rule.

In March 2020, he was informed that Street Church would have to “shut down and stop taking care of the poor.” Pawlowski refused to obey that order, concluding that by issuing “orders to stop feeding them [and] giving them necessities of life, they were sentencing them to death. [And] some of them did die.”

“All of those people wandering the streets, if I don’t feed them or someone like me does not feed them … they’re going to attack your house or break into your car,” he added. “You got to provide people with food if they cannot get it on their own for whatever reason. … Addictions or mental illness or whatever it is, those people will eat this way or that way. I prefer to feed them instead of letting them go and hurt other people to get what they need.”

The Saturday prayer and worship event in Portland was announced a month ago, which gave Antifa enough time to plan the attack.

Antifa has also attacked several churches in Portland.

US street preacher arrested in London says speaking truth is now a ‘hate crime’


Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Saturday, August 07, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/american-evangelist-jailed-in-uk-its-getting-very-bad-here.html/

Ryan Schiavo preaching
Ryan Schiavo, an American street evangelist, preaches in England. | Ryan Schiavo

After facing arrest and detention for preaching that homosexuality is a sin, an American evangelist is warning that “things are getting very bad” in the United Kingdom and other Western countries, suggesting that the situation has deteriorated to the point where they are “becoming communist.” 

Ryan Schiavo, who describes himself as an evangelist and missionary,” was arrested in London on July 22 for preaching that homosexuality is a sin. While Schiavo is an American, he spends a considerable amount of time in London and frequently ministers to British youth and others gathered in the public square.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Schiavo recounted the events leading up to his arrest and warned about its implications for free speech and freedom of religion in the U.K. and Western civilization as a whole. 

“I was preaching the Gospel on the streets as I frequently do, but it was about a 30-minute message, and in the course of a long message I can touch on many topics that I believe are pertinent,” he said. “At one point, I talked about the issue of homosexuality and transgenderism. I said that homosexuality is a sin; I talk about how it’s destructive, and the damage the transgender agenda is doing to children right now in the schools because it’s being pushed on children at a very young age here.”

Schiavo told CP that one of the things he said while preaching was that “the churches that have rainbow flags on them” were “not real churches.” His message drew the ire of one young woman, whom he believed was a lesbian. According to Schiavo, she was “very upset at what I had said, and so she called the police and the police came.” 

Ryan Schiavo
Ryan Schiavo, an American street preacher, is arrested by Metropolitan Police for asserting that homosexuality is a sin, July 22, 2021. | Courtesy of Ryan Schiavo

As documented in a video of his arrest, Schiavo was detained for purportedly violating Section 4A of the Public Order Act, which bans people from causing “intentional harassment, alarm, or distress.”

The law declares that “a person is guilty of an offense if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm, or distress, he — (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior, or disorderly behavior, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting.”

As Metropolitan Police officers moved in to arrest him, Schiavo declared, “It is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ.” He predicted that “God is going to judge this country so severely” because of its embrace of LGBT ideology.

“This is because I am a Christian!” he exclaimed. “That’s why this is happening.” 

Schiavo told CP that when he was taken to jail, he was “put in a cell for 10 hours and given a mental health evaluation by the National Health Service before being released in the middle of the night.” He lamented that situations like his “egregious” detention were becoming “all too common.” 

Describing the mental health evaluation to CP, Schiavo maintained that he was asked “personal questions about my family and about my work and how I was doing physically.” Schiavo cited the fact that he had to undergo a mental health evaluation as evidence that “things are getting very bad” in the U.K. regarding freedom of speech and religious expression.

“All these institutions are working together with each other; they’re anti-Christ,” he added. “It’s time for the church to wake up and to be prepared for persecution. Freedom of speech and expression are very much under attack in the Western world, and I’m concerned that many of these Western countries are becoming communist.”

Elaborating on his mental health evaluation, Schiavo recounted that he “did talk about the issue of homosexuality and transgenderism” with the man who was questioning him. “I said to him, ‘Would you call a banana a carrot?’ And the point I was making was this is what we do with people now. We call men women and women men.”

“I didn’t say that to him. I just said, ‘Would you call a banana a carrot?’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘If somebody was offended, I would.’ And I looked at him and I said, ‘I should be the one asking you the questions.’”

Schiavo contended that his mental health evaluation, which lasted for 30 minutes, was an effort to “convince me not to talk about homosexuality in public anymore.” He told CP that “he (the mental health evaluator) wanted me to affirm him and just say, ‘OK,’ and agree, and I never did.”

The evangelist attributed his hostile treatment by the police to the fact that British law enforcement officials are “so trained to hear ‘homosexuality’ or ‘Islam’ because those are the two most protected demographics in Britain right now.” He stressed that in the U.K., “you cannot speak against homosexuality or transgenderism and you can’t speak against Islam.” 

“So if they hear those words, their antennas are up because they go through all of this pro-LGBT training … in their schooling, … at every other level of society people do here, it’s being pushed on them,” he continued. “And so when they hear that word, they’re immediately thinking ‘hate crime,’ ‘hate crime.’” 

Although he wasn’t formally charged with a crime, Schiavo’s arrest puts him “in the national police records for three years.” He’s now working with the U.K.-based Christian Legal Centre to “get this overturned.” 

“I did not commit a crime,” Schiavo insisted. “It is not a crime in the U.K. to say homosexuality is a sin in public or to say that churches with rainbow flags on them are not churches. This is protected speech.” 

In a separate interview with CP, Linda Thacker, who attends church with Schiavo when he’s in the U.K. and videotaped the arrest, explained why she decided to document his interaction with law enforcement officials on camera: “I didn’t like the security guard’s attitude toward Ryan. He seemed very hostile.” 

“We wanted to make sure that there was no kind of false accusation,” she said.

Thacker characterized Schiavo’s arrest as “a bit of a wake-up call for me,” expressing concern that “the right to have free speech and to express how we feel personally about … anyone else’s lifestyle … will put you in the position of being called a domestic terrorist or some kind of hater.” Like Schiavo, Thacker fears that the U.K. is “heading toward a communist state.” 

Before his arrest, Thacker said there had been confrontations between Schiavo, his supporters and LGBT individuals that weren’t captured on camera.

“The lesbian was very threatening and kicked his drink down the road. [She] also tried to tear my husband’s Bible out of his hands, which she didn’t manage to do, but she got a leaflet out of his Bible … and flung it into the street.” 

While Schiavo did face hostility following his comments about homosexuality, he also received support, including from an atheist, who was featured in Thacker’s video. Schiavo told CP that while the man “said that he disagreed with 99% of what I said,” he nonetheless argued to the police that ‘This man has not done anything warranting … an arrest, he’s just exercising his freedom of speech.’” 

In spite of the man’s impassioned defense of Schiavo, the street evangelist lamented that the police “never even took a statement from him.” Instead, Schiavo said, “the police only took one formal statement on the street … and it was from this young girl … [who] was upset with what I said.”

“From the beginning, they weren’t interested in getting to the truth. … It was just this one girl’s testimony that they listened to.”

Thacker seconded Schiavo’s accusation that police had conducted a one-sided investigation: “All they were interested in doing was arresting him on the grounds of this lesbian that said that she had been distressed by what was said.”

Schiavo is not the only street evangelist to face legal consequences for sharing Christian teachings about marriage and homosexuality with the British public. As CP previously reported, British Pastor John Sherwood was arrested by police in April for emphasizing the biblical definition of marriage as he preached from a step ladder in the Northwest London town of Uxbridge.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

Commentary: As a former Muslim, I believe in faith in the public square


Commentary By Hedieh Mirahmadi, Exclusive Columnist| Thursday, July 29, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/as-a-former-muslim-i-believe-in-faith-in-the-public-square.html/

Hedieh Mirahmadi
Courtesy of Hedieh Mirahmadi

When I first became a Christian, I looked forward to a quiet life, basking in the love and beauty of having met my Lord and Savior.

Since I spent most of my adult life deeply engrossed in political battles over one issue or another, and serving my country in ways that were quite dangerous, the prospect of serenity was quite appealing. It was not more than three months that went by before the Lord gave me the vision for my ministry so others could experience the redemptive power of Christ.

At first, I wanted to ignore the call and pretend I didn’t hear it correctly. Starting a ministry and being public with my Christian faith meant I could be attacked or even physically harmed by Muslims seeking to impose the penalty of apostasy. It meant I was going back into battle. However, the Lord was relentless.

The inspirations came to me like a flood nearly every day, and then I heard the words, “Hedieh, you are battle-tested, combat-ready.” It made me laugh out loud because it was so true. My whole life and career were preparing me for this new mission to spread the Gospel at a time when being a follower of Christ is increasingly under attack. 

I have lived and worked in places where I escaped the outbreak of civil war, was shot at in the marketplace, and nearly lost my toes from frostbite because the heating in our compound turned off.  The Lord took all the inner fortitude and discipline of my past and combined it with the courage and strength that comes from being in relationship with Him.

He was using it all so I can serve the Kingdom. Whether it is writing columns and doing radio interviews, or witnessing to my hairstylist and speaking out at a School Board meeting, my faith in Christ is at the forefront of all that I do.  I often remember the Scripture, “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops,” (Mathew 10:27).

Some would say my enthusiasm stems from being a relatively new Christian, but I beg to differ. I had the good fortune of listening to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at church last week, and he made it so clear why all Americans should think of our faith in this way.

Mr. Pompeo talked about being an openly devout Christian during his time as Secretary of State, and how it informed all he did.  Though being asked ‘how does being a Christian impact your life?’ often had a negative connotation, that was irrelevant to him.  He responds with conviction and recounts his words that are clearly meant to inspire us:

“[Our faith] impacts everything you do; it informs every action that you take. It impacts how you think about the world, how you interact with people, and every day in your work life. Our founders believed deeply this was right and that the capacity to exercise our religion freely was important, and it mattered. …My oath was to the nation, I raised my right hand and swore that I would support defend the American Constitution, but I knew that if I did that with the Lord in my heart, I’d be more successful at delivering on that very outcome.”

Whether it was President Sisi in Egypt or Chairman Kim of North Korea, world leaders respected him for it, and there is nothing un-American or unbiblical about it. In his seminal speech in Cairo, he began the remarks saying, “I’m Mike Pompeo, and I’m an evangelical Christian.” His speechwriters tried to remove it, but he insisted on keeping it in.  He knew it was essential not because he wanted to talk about Christianity in a Muslim nation, but he wanted them to understand that the believers of Christ wanted good things for people everywhere and that it’s our responsibility to be faithful, no matter where we are. There is not one line that gets him more questions or comments about even to this day. Leaders of every faith, Christians, Jews, and Muslims worldwide, say they appreciated his honesty. They appreciated that he kept faith in the public square. They admired the discipline with which he practiced his faith. They appreciated his courage to talk about his values so they could better understand how our nations could work alongside each other to deliver better lives for people across the world.

Though some US officials criticized his openness, it never deterred him. Unfortunately, many government representatives wrongly interpret that the First Amendment prohibits talking about faith, but it does not. The freedom of religion is meant to protect the rights of people of all faiths to practice their religion without encroachment from the government. In my experience, it is a lack of religious conviction in our government officials that has led to disastrous policy decisions.

I will never forget being in a closed-door meeting at the White House during the Obama Administration, where a small group of us was invited to address the President on “countering violent extremism.” After nearly an hour of our passionate pleas and recommendations for stricter policies towards state sponsors of terrorism and other stringent measures, the President says he didn’t “get religion” and would not let people drag him into a war over it. Quite frankly, this sentiment explains why he did virtually nothing about the explosion of violence in the Middle East during his tenure. Suppose many of our senior US diplomats cannot appreciate the impact religion has on the way people live their lives and determine their priorities. How then can we properly represent our country as a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values?

Secretary Pompeo went on to say, “There’s no separation between faith and country because God governs in the affairs of men. Our success depends on virtuous people. Wherever that is— volunteering in the parking lot at church or serving in government. Our faith should form our character and inform our opinions.”

Being a Christian should be part of whatever we do. It’s not proselytizing; it is a belief that whatever religion someone believes in, they should be allowed to practice it freely. Hopefully, they will find the power of Christ revealed to them.   If our faith is not public and visible, how can we call others to faith in Christ? It is not just about being a good person.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14)

I am eternally grateful for receiving salvation after practicing Islam freely in the US for decades.  I also cherish the freedom to share my new faith with others. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, forit is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,” (Romans 1:16).

Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel.  She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.

Judge rejects churches’ challenge to Virginia’s LGBT antidiscrimination law


Reported by By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Thursday, July 22, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/judge-rejects-churches-challenge-to-virginia-lgbt-antidiscrimination-law.html/

Gay pride parade
Participants carrying a rainbow flag attend the annual gay pride. | Reuters/Annika Af Klercker/TT News Agency

A judge has ruled against a group of churches, schools and a pro-life pregnancy center challenging a Virginia law that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to state antidiscrimination law. Judge James E. Plowman Jr. issued a ruling from the bench last week in favor of the Virginia Values Act, which was passed by the Democrat-controlled state government in 2020.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring released a statement last Friday expressing support for the ruling, which will be entered as an order within the next few weeks.  

“Our landmark civil rights protections will remain in place, and Virginia will remain a place that is open and welcoming to all, no matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, or who you love,” stated Herring.

“I was proud to support passage of the Virginia Values Act and am so proud of our work to successfully defend the law twice against legal attack.”

In late September of last year, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of two churches, three private schools, and a pregnancy care center against the Virginia Values Act. In the suit, Calvary Road Baptist Church of Fairfax County and its school, Community Fellowship Church of Staunton and its school, Community Christian Academy of Charlottesville, and Care Net of Loudon County claimed that the new law forced them to compromise various hiring and employment practices based on their sincere religious beliefs.

“[The Act] puts the Ministries in an impossible position: they must either abandon the religious convictions they were founded upon, or be ready to face investigations, an onerous administrative process, fines up to $100,000 for each violation, unlimited compensatory and punitive damages and attorney-fee awards, and court orders forcing them to engage in actions that would violate their consciences,” stated the suit, in part.

“Even merely posting their religious beliefs on their own websites could subject the Ministries to prosecution and exorbitant fines. These penalties could easily exceed a million dollars, ruin the Ministries financially, and make continuing their Christian missions impossible.”

In March, U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton rejected a separate challenge to the Virginia Values Act, another lawsuit filed by the ADF, this time on behalf of Robert Updegrove of Bob Updegrove Photography. In his decision, Hilton argued that the Updegrove lacked the standing to sue since the Act “has never been enforced against” him “or any other person.”

“In the almost nine months since the statute became effective, no complaint has been filed under the statute,” wrote Hilton in late March. 

“No case or controversy exists when a person expresses a desire to change his previously compliant conduct to violate a new statute that no person, government or otherwise, has ever sought to enforce.”

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California Pastor Che Ahn warns church closures rooted in Marxist ideology


Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/california-pastor-covid-church-closures-rooted-in-marxism.html/

Harvest Rock Church, Ché Ahn
Pastor Ché Ahn speaks at Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, 2019. | Facebook/Harvest Rock Church

A California pastor who has challenged his state government over worship restrictions and church closures in response to COVID-19 believes such restrictions are rooted in Marxist ideology. 

In an interview with The Epoch Times published Saturday, Pastor Che Ahn of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, asserted that “When the pandemic happened, I think a lot of what I would call left-wing governors, you can call Democrat or liberals, but I feel they’re more left-wing, I think they seized the opportunity to really control society and one of the areas that I think they really like to control is the church because historically, the church has been the most outspoken against government control in this country.” 

While many proponents of limiting the number of people who can attend in-person church services point to public health concerns as the justification for their actions, Ahn attributes the restrictions to a more sinister motive: “Marxism is a religion. Humanism is a religion. It is putting the human at the top instead of God, and so, [socialism] will do everything possible to get people to reject worshiping the true God.” 

“That’s why we’re having such a battle in our nation against the values of our Founding Fathers who are mostly Christians and you know they had biblical values, Judeo-Christian values. So that’s why I feel there is an assault going on,” he asserted. 

Over the past year, Ahn has found himself among several pastors clashing with the government over coronavirus worship restrictions. California implemented particularly strict restrictions on worship services during the coronavirus pandemic. The state faced criticism for not imposing similar restrictions on secular businesses, which led to some pastors to designate their churches as “strip clubs” so they could remain open during the pandemic. 

In addition to limiting the number of people who could gather for in-person worship services, the state prevented people from conducting at-home Bible studies, which prompted Ahn to file a lawsuit against the state. Pastor Ahn took his challenge against the ban on all forms of in-person worship to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and later to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered the district court to rehear the case in light of its ruling in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo that struck down coronavirus worship restrictions in New York state. 

In April, more than a year after the coronavirus pandemic first began to spread in the U.S., California lifted its mandatory restrictions on religious services, changing the language on capacity limits regarding worship services from “mandatory” to “highly recommended.” In response to this move, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who represented Harvest Rock in its legal proceedings, expressed relief that California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom “finally dropped his draconian restrictions on churches.”

In May, the state of California was ordered to pay Harvest Rock Church $1.35 million in attorneys’ fees and legal costs that the church incurred as a result of its litigation against the state. Last month, a federal judge ordered the state to pay $1.6 million in attorneys’ fees to South Bay United Pentecostal Church and an additional $550,000 to a Catholic priest who also sued the state over its worship restrictions. 

At the same time, the same federal judge issued an injunction preventing Newsom and other state officials from “issuing or enforcing regulations” against churches and places of worship in response to the pandemic. Although Ahn was threatened with fines and jail time for holding in-person worship services in violation of public health orders, he maintained that he made the right decision by defying the state’s restrictions in his interview with The Epoch Times. 

“Thank God that we chose to be open, defying [Newsom’s] orders because we feel strongly that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, and no one’s above the Constitution, even our president or governor, and the Constitution protects our right, not only for free speech but for us to assemble, to worship, and they will not interfere with a free exercise thereof, ” he said. 

Ahn is not the only person warning about the advance of Marxism in the U.S. In a recent interview with The Christian Post, Kevin McGary, the co-founder of Every Black Life Matters, said “Marxism is really what we’re fighting on all fronts at the moment,” specifically noting its prominence in American education.

Even as churches in California no longer face the strict worship restrictions they were subject to at the beginning of the pandemic, Newsom could still face political consequences for the restrictions he imposed during the height of the pandemic. His private dinner at an upscale French restaurant, which took place as coronavirus restrictions prevented Californians from eating out, resulted in allegations of hypocrisy and accelerated the effort to recall him. 

The recall campaign gathered enough signatures to force a recall election, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 14. California voters will be asked if they want to remove Newsom from office. If a majority vote to oust him, the votes for replacement candidates will be tallied. In such a scenario, the replacement candidate that receives the most votes would become governor. 

The most recent poll of the recall election, conducted by Democratic pollster Change Research in June, found that 54% of California voters oppose the recall election compared to 40% who support it. However, a June poll from Republican pollster Moore Information Group found a plurality of likely voters (49%) support the recall effort and 46% oppose it. The most recent nonpartisan poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in May, found that 57% of Californians oppose the recall while 40% would vote in favor of it. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

DC to pay $220K for restricting Baptist church’s in-person worship during pandemic


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Friday, July 09, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/dc-to-pay-220k-for-restricting-in-person-worship-of-church.html/

Capitol Hill Baptist
Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. | Wikimedia Commons/Farragutful

The District of Columbia and Mayor Muriel Bowser have agreed to pay $220,000 as part of a legal settlement with a local Baptist church that sued the city over in-person worship restrictions during the pandemic. 

Last September, Capitol Hill Baptist Church sued the district over the government’s ban on outdoor worship services that had more than 100 people in attendance. In a settlement agreement and release approved on Thursday, the city agreed to pay $220,000 to the counsels representing the church, which broke down to $210,000 for the law firm WilmerHale and $10,000 for the national legal nonprofit First Liberty Institute.

As explained in the settlement, the district has lifted earlier meeting restrictions so that Capitol Hill Baptist can gather indoors for worship services.

“The District agrees that it will not enforce any current or future COVID-19 restrictions to prohibit CHBC from gathering as one congregation in the District of Columbia,” explained the settlement.

“The District further agrees that, should it decide that new restrictions on religious gatherings are necessary during the current, or any future, COVID-19 (or variant thereof) public health emergency, it will not impose restrictions on CHBC that are more restrictive than the restrictions on comparable secular activities, as defined by the Supreme Court.”

Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, said in a statement that Capitol Hill Baptist “is relieved and grateful that this ordeal is behind them.”

“All Capitol Hill Baptist Church ever asked is for equal treatment under the law so they could meet together safely as a church,” stated Sasser. “Government officials need to know that illegal restrictions on First Amendment rights are intolerable and costly.”

In March 2020, as part of the effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Mayor Bowser issued an executive order restricting the capacity for religious services of 10 or more people. The restriction was eventually expanded to no more than 100 people or 50% of the building capacity.

The 850-member Capitol Hill Baptist filed its lawsuit last September, arguing that the restrictions unfairly burdened houses of worship compared to comparable secular entities. U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, granted an injunction in favor of the church last October, arguing that the “current restrictions substantially burden the Church’s exercise of religion.”

“… the District has failed to offer evidence at this stage showing that it has a compelling interest in preventing the Church from meeting outdoors with appropriate precautions, or that this prohibition is the least-restrictive means to achieve its interest,” wrote McFadden.

Soon after, the church held its first outdoor service since the litigation began, meeting at Anacostia Park in Southeast D.C. on a Sunday morning. The attendees wore face masks and maintained social distancing in keeping with the official public health recommendations at that time.

“It is absolutely appropriate to take stock, to give thanks, to give honor to whom honor is due, to recognize the many blessings that our government continually secures and provides for us,” Associate Pastor Bobby Jamieson preached at the October 2020 service.

“The only conditions that justify disobedience to legitimate government authority, legitimate earthly authority are when they either command something God forbids or forbid something God commands.”    Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

82% of Americans say religious freedom is key to ‘healthy American society’: poll


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/82-see-religious-freedom-as-key-to-healthy-us-society-rasmussen.html/

Religious freedom
Religious freedom supporters hold a rally to praise the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby, contraception coverage requirement case on June 30, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois. Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, which operates a chain of arts-and-craft stores, challenged the provision and the high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

More than four-fifths of surveyed Americans believe that freedom of religion is an important aspect of a “healthy American society,” according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports and Summit Ministries.

In findings announced Tuesday, the report found that 67% of respondents said freedom of religion is “very important to a healthy American society,” while 15% said it was “somewhat important to a healthy American society.”

Some 9% of respondents said they believe freedom of religion was either “not very important” or “not at all important” to a “healthy American society,” while 9% said they were unsure.

Party affiliation only offered slight variance, as 86% of Republican respondents said freedom of religion is very important or somewhat important, while 83% of Independents and 79% of Democrats also responded that it was very or somewhat important.

The poll also found that 50% of Americans believe that churches and faith-based charities should not be required by law to hire people who oppose their religious beliefs, while 20% of Americans say they should be required, and 30% of Americans were not sure.

Summit President Jeff Myers said in a statement included in the announcement that he believed the findings showed “that the American people overwhelmingly support the continued protection of the Constitutional right of freedom of religion.”

“Yet, leaders in Washington, D.C., are aggressively pushing forward on legislative measures such as the mislabeled Equality Act, which specifically strips away religious freedom protections,” stated Myers.

“In an era of hyper-partisanship, freedom of religion retains broad, bi-partisan support among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.”

The poll drew from a sample of 1,000 likely voters in the United States, being conducted June 16-17 and with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in which they conclude that a Christian foster agency could not be forced to place kids in same-sex households.

Known as Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the high court ruled city officials were wrong to quit working with Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for refusing on religious grounds to place children with same-sex couples.

“Government fails to act neutrally when it proceeds in a manner intolerant of religious beliefs or restricts practices because of their religious nature,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the court.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”  

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Ted Cruz says the ‘Church is asleep,’ must ‘wake up’ to defeat ‘woke assault’: ‘Revival is coming’


Reported By Emily Wood, Christian Post Reporter| Monday, June 21, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/ted-cruz-calls-on-church-to-wake-up-to-defeat-woke-assault.html/

Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. on June 7, 2018. | (Photo: The Christian Post)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called for the Church to “wake up” if the “woke assault” is to be defeated in the United States, promising during his speech at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference on Friday that a “revival is coming.” 

Cruz’s address to the crowd of Christian conservatives gathered for the national evangelical grassroots organization’s annual conference held this year in Kissimmee, Florida, centered around two messages: the need to “defend America” and a coming revival.

“If we are going to defeat the woke assault, then all of us need to wake up,” the staunch conservative said, followed by applause from the crowd.

“The slumbering Church needs to wake up…,” Cruz continued. “We need to wake up. We need to energize. We need to engage. … We can win and we will win.”

Billed as the nation’s “premier pro-life, pro-family event”, the conference also included speakers such as former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other conservative congressmen and political leaders. 

“Today, politics is culture,” Cruz, a 2016 presidential candidate, said in contrast to the idea that “politics is downstream from culture.” 

“If you want to hold on to your faith, if you want to hold on to your freedom, then you have to rise and answer the call to defend America,” he stressed. 

The senator issued a “call to rhetorical arms” for Americans to be “prayer warriors” who organize, mobilize and go to the ballot box. He urged: “use your arms to vote the bums out.” 

Cruz said that out of roughly 90 million evangelical Christians in the U.S., only about half vote because the “Church is asleep.” 

While millions of lives have been lost to abortion and “values are being stripped away,” Cruz shared how his dad, Raphael Cruz, who is a pastor, says “no one bears more responsibility for that than the pastors in America … who hide behind the pulpit.” 

Cruz proclaimed that the nation’s foundations and “eternal principles” are under a “relentless” assault like never before. 

“America is great,” he contends. “Christopher Columbus discovering America was a good thing. George Washington was an American hero. Thomas Jefferson was an American hero. Abraham Lincoln was an American hero. Our founding fathers were extraordinary patriots. America has been a force for good in the world. We should stand for our national anthem.”

“Police officers keep us safe. Marriage is a holy covenant before God,” he continued. “An unborn child is a child. Children do best when they are raised by a mother and a father. Israel is our friend. The Wuhan virus came from Wuhan. And there is a difference between boys and girls.”

Cruz went on to explain that just a few years ago, each statement he made “would have been utterly uncontroversial and blazingly obvious, even to the most dimwitted among us.”

“And today, we are at a moment where saying those words can get you canceled,” he added. “Saying those words can get you fired. Saying those words can get you erased.”

Cruz condemned critical race theory, which is being pushed into school curriculums, calling it “bigoted” and “a lie.” He argued that critical race theory “seeks to turn us against each other” and is “every bit as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets.”

The politician said that even though the political left wants to convince patriots that they need to retreat and “give up on America,” such an argument is “built on a pile of lies.” 

“Common sense is there. It is real. And the American people are with us. We’ve just got to see it, we’ve got to believe it,” he said. 

Cruz said he remains hopeful despite the constant negativity and demoralization in politics because there is a “natural pendulum to politics.”

“The further and further and further crazy left they go, the more the American people are going to bring us back and pull this country back from the edge of the cliff,” the Texas senator said.  

He expressed optimism for the 2022 and 2024 elections, which could allow Republicans to reclaim Congress and the White House. 

“It took Jimmy Carter to bring us Ronald Reagan,” Cruz maintained. “Joe Biden is Jimmy Carter 2.0, and I’m here to tell you revival is coming.” 

He quoted Psalm 30, which says, “weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

“I’m here to tell you morning is coming,” Cruz encouraged the crowd. “We’re going to win in 2022 and retire [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer. And then we’re going to win in 2024 and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris a one-way ticket finally to our southern border.”

“Revival is coming,” Cruz concluded his speech. “God bless America. Revival is coming.”

Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: emily.wood@christianpost.com

Democrat warns Catholic Church it may be stripped of tax-exempt status if politicians denied communion


Reported By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor| Monday, June 21, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/democrats-warn-catholic-church-against-denying-them-communion.html/

National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Members of the congregation take part in a communion with social distancing during a mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception June 22, 2020 in Washington, D.C. The government of District of Columbia has begun phase two of reopening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with houses of worship resuming at maximum of 50% capacity, and no more than 100 people. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

As U.S. Catholic bishops draft a controversial document on whether priests can deny communion to politicians who support abortion, one House Democrat has implied that the Catholic Church should lose its tax-exempt status if churches institute such a ban.

“If they’re going to politically weaponize religion by ‘rebuking’ Democrats who support women’s reproductive choice, then a ‘rebuke’ of their tax-exempt status may be in order,” wrote Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., in a Twitter post lashing out at Catholic bishops.

Huffman’s post came after nearly 60 House Democrats released a statement of principles to warn the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops against what they deem as “weaponizing” the Eucharist. The statement was released after the USCCB voted Friday to approve the continued drafting of the document “on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.”

An overwhelming majority of the bishops (168) voted in favor of proceeding with the draft document, while 55 voted against proceeding. The bishops will continue working on the document, which will be presented to the public at a later date. While the document will provide guidelines for the reception of communion, it will leave “decisions on withholding Communion up to individual bishops.”

In their statement, the Democrats “solemnly urge” the Church “to not move forward and deny this most holy of all sacraments, the source and the summit of the whole work of the gospel over one issue.”

“… We seek the Church’s guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience,” it reads. “In recognizing the Church’s role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas.”

It continues: “We recognize that no political party is perfectly in accord with all aspects of Church doctrine. This fact speaks to the secular nature of American democracy, not the devotion of our democratically elected leaders. Yet we believe we can speak to the fundamental issues that unite us as Catholics and lend our voices to changing the political debate — a debate that often fails to reflect and encompass the depth and complexity of these issues.”

It adds: We believe the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is central to the life of practicing Catholics, and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory.”

The debate over whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should receive communion has intensified following the election of President Joe Biden, a pro-abortion Catholic who attends mass regularly. As he campaigned for president ahead of the 2020 presidential election, a priest in South Carolina refused to serve Biden communion due to his abortion advocacy.

Last month, more than 60 bishops also wrote a letter to Archbishop Jose Gomez calling for the delay of the debate over whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should receive communion, citing concerns that implementing a national policy on the matter would pose a threat to the unity of the Church.

Supporters of withholding communion from pro-abortion Catholic politicians, both inside and outside the Church hierarchy, point to the Church’s Code of Canon Law as the justification for their position. The Code of Canon Law states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Critical race theory sparks flurry of resolutions for annual SBC meeting, Denny Burk reveals


Reported By Leonardo Blair, Christian Post Reporter | Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/critical-race-theory-sparks-flurry-of-resolutions-for-sbc-meeting.html/

Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting
Morgan Bush, a messenger from Alabama, brings a motion during the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting on June 11 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala. | Matt Miller

In what is shaping up to be a historic annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, this month, the denomination’s Resolution 9 acknowledging critical race theory as a useful tool to explain how race has and continues to function in society is the target of multiple resolutions seeking to strip it of its power.

Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, revealed in a blog post Friday that he was aware of nearly 60 resolutions being submitted to the Resolutions Committee asking SBC messengers to condemn critical race theory.

“I am aware that a number of people have submitted resolutions relating to CRT. I know of at least three that are opposed to CRT (herehere, and here) and one that is in favor of CRT (here). As I write this, it looks like there are about 57 people submitting the exact same resolution as Mike Stone’s proposed resolution,” Burk wrote.

Mike Stone, the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia, and one of three nominees vying to become the next president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, recently proposed a resolution asking the denomination to condemn the theory. The proposed resolution also seeks to affirm the controversial portion of the November 2020 statement from the Council of Seminary Presidents that states, “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.”

“And these are just the ones I know about because they’ve been publicized on the internet,” Burk added.

“I have heard through the grapevine that there are other proposals that haven’t been publicized and that we won’t know about until the Resolutions Committee reports on them at the convention. This means that the committee is not going to be able to please all sides and likely won’t try to. It also means that they have their work cut out for them.”

Regardless of what happens, Burk expressed confidence that SBC messengers “won’t leave Nashville without a strong resolution against critical race theory.”

“I have heard of at least one effort to rescind 2019’s Resolution 9. If that came to the floor of the convention, I would support it, but I’m not sure if it’s possible under the rules (someone else who knows more about Robert’s Rules can weigh-in),” he wrote.

“But I’m also not sure that it’s even necessary. If the convention passes a strong resolution against CRT, it would serve as a de facto rescinding of Resolution 9 (sort of like subsequent resolutions became a de facto repudiation of the SBC’s infamous pro-choice resolution of 1971). For me, the priority is getting a strong statement against CRT. That is the main thing.”

The professor expressed support for a resolution proposed by Stephen Feinstein, a pastor at Sovereign Way Christian Church in Hesperia, California, and a chaplain in the United States Army Reserve.

“What I like about this is that it defines ‘institutional racism’ not as CRT does, but in terms of willful discrimination,” Burk explained.

“In CRT, no human agency is required at all for racism to be present in a given institution or system (as I have written about here). CRT says that racism is everywhere all the time and that all white people are racists whether they choose to be or not. Any racially disparate outcome is racism even if no one willfully discriminated against anyone.”

Burk argues that such an argument is “completely incompatible with what scripture teaches about sin and judgment, but this resolution fixes that.”

“It recognizes that sinful partiality can affect institutions and systems while not alleging that all institutions and systems are racist by default (as in CRT),” he wrote. 

Any member of a cooperating Southern Baptist church can propose a resolution for adoption by the SBC. However, the SBC Committee on Resolutions may decline to recommend properly submitted resolutions to the convention for adoption.

Prominent Southern Baptist Pastor Dwight McKissic, who founded and leads Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, warned earlier this year that if Resolution 9 is rescinded, he would leave the SBC. His threat came after he quit the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention after leaders adopted a “strongly worded, anti-CRT policy that denounces all aspects of critical race theory.”

McKissic’s declaration also came amid an exodus of prominent black Southern Baptist pastors, such as Ralph West and Charlie Dates, over the Council of Seminary Presidents’ renouncing critical race theory and intersectionality.

The 2021 annual gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention is set to take place in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 15 and June 16. More than 13,000 messengers have pre-registered for the event, according to Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee. Only four other conventions have attracted at least 10,000 messengers since 2000, he said. 

“This could be one of our largest gatherings since 1995 in Atlanta, when we had 20,654 messengers,” he recently noted.

California to pay $1.35M to settle Harvest Rock Church lawsuit against gathering restrictions


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Thursday, May 20, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/calif-to-pay-135m-to-settle-churchs-lawsuit-over-covid-rules.html/

Harvest Rock Church, Ché Ahn
Pastor Ché Ahn speaks at Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, 2019. | Facebook/Harvest Rock Church

California will have to pay over $1 million in legal fees and attorney costs as part of a settlement reached with Harvest Rock Church over litigation surrounding the state’s lockdown rules.

Last year, Harvest Rock and other ministries sued Gov. Gavin Newsom over a coronavirus pandemic lockdown order limiting the size and scope of worship gatherings they argued violated their religious freedom. U.S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal issued an order last week requiring the state to pay the plaintiffs $1.35 million in attorney’s fees and legal costs incurred in the case. The order also prohibited unfair treatment of houses of worship in emergency orders, explaining that the state government could “impose capacity or numerical restrictions on religious worship services and gatherings at places of worship that are either identical to, or at least as favorable as, the restrictions imposed on other similar gatherings of similar risk.”

“This Order does not prohibit the State from issuing recommendations, best practices, precautions, or other measures, as long as such promulgations make clear to the public that they are voluntary and not enforceable, continued the order.

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver, whose legal nonprofit represented Harvest Rock, said in a statement released Monday that “Newsom has now been permanently quarantined and may not violate the First Amendment rights of churches and places of worship again.”

“We are grateful for Pastor Ché Ahn, Harvest Rock Church, and Harvest International Ministry. Pastor Ahn’s leadership and courage has toppled the tyranny and freed every pastor and church in California,” he added.

Last July, Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, which includes multiple member churches, filed legal challenges to California’s gathering restrictions. A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled 2-1 against Harvest Rock last October, concluding that the limits were justified.

“The Orders apply the same restrictions to worship services as they do to other indoor congregate events, such as lectures and movie theaters,” the court majority argued. “Some congregate activities are completely prohibited in every county, such as attending concerts and spectating sporting events.”

But in December, the U.S. Supreme Court granted injunctive relief for Harvest Rock, in light of the court’s 5-4 ruling in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo.

In April, amid various legal challenges to the state restrictions, California lifted rules requiring houses of worship to adhere to capacity limits, changing the standards on places of worship from “mandatory” to “strongly recommended.”

“In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended,” a government website explained. “The linked guidance is in the process of being updated. All other restrictions in the guidance remain in place.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

TD Jakes warns the Church has become ‘deaf,’ consumed with ‘tribalism’


Reported By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter | Monday, May 03, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/td-jakes-warns-church-has-become-deaf-riddled-with-tribalism.html/

Bishop T.D. Jakes at the “Healing the Racial Divide” summit in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday January 15, 2015. | (Photo: A. Larry Ross Communications)

In an increasingly divided society, Bishop T.D. Jakes has warned that “tribalism” permeates even the Church of Jesus Christ and is causing it to become “deaf” to the plight of those beyond its four walls. 

“I think the first thing we need to do is go on an expedition and go beyond the borders of the safety of our sanctuaries and finally fulfill the Matthew 28:19 commission to go into all the world,” Jakes, leader of The Potter’s House megachurch based in Dallas, Texas, said on “The Edifi Podcast With Billy Hallowell.” 

“But before we teach them, let’s listen. Because I think there’s a huge disconnect between the sanctuary and the solar orbit that it encircles. And that difference makes a difference in how we approach the Great Commission.”

Jakes, who recently released his latest bookDon’t Drop the Mic: The Power of Words Can Change the World, lamented the “tribalism” he said is prevalent both in Christian and non-Christian circles.

Tribalism is defined as a “strong loyalty to one’s own tribe, party, or group.” 

He said people are “supported even by cookies on the phone and everything else to stay in your tribe.” 

“Tribalism always leads to war. Always,” the 63-year-old stressed. “You have to break down the wall and not build walls between us, but draw circles around us and begin to talk. … I’m talking about actually becoming friends with people. It’s hard to hate somebody you understand.”

Listen: subscribe to “The Edifi Podcast With Billy Hallowell.” 

Drawing from the example of Jesus and other biblical heroes, Jakes stressed the importance of empathy and “listening.” He warned that “if you speak fluently and lose your hearing, your speech will deteriorate down to the level of your hearing.”

“I think that the Church has become deaf,” he said. “And in so doing, we’re so busy teaching and talking. And we have our lines down pat and our talking points down, [but] we’re not listening.”

“And we have to be listening. We’re suffering as a country because we have a Congress, and leadership, and a society that doesn’t seem to listen,” he added. “They’re so busy fighting between the right and the left, that they can’t hear the people they represent. It seems not to matter what the people think anymore.”

The New York Times bestselling author emphasized that change doesn’t come from “people on TV,” but from average people learning to understand one another. 

“This is our country, not elected officials, not famous people, not rich people. This is our country,” he declared. “And if we want change, change has to start in our lives rather than becoming angry at what they are doing. It’s up to us to make it a better world. … The mic is in your hands. Let your voice be heard. But listen to other people as well.”

https://player.edifi.app/embed/index.html#/episodes/TD-Jakes-on-Culture-Chaos-and-Division-and-FOX-News-Shannon-Bream-Breaks-Down-the-Women-of-the-Bible/3926036

Jakes is not the only evangelical leader to warn of the dangers of tribalism within the Body of Christ. 

In January, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore warned that the crimes being perpetrated against religious minorities in China and elsewhere rely on “tribalism” and invisibility “where the rest of the world doesn’t pay attention.”

“The way of Jesus Christ says that we pay attention to our neighbor on the side of the road who is persecuted, who is being beaten,” he said. “So let’s pray for … persecuted peoples. Let’s pray not just individually, but together, and pray for them by name.”

“Let’s be the people who stand up for whoever is being made invisible, whoever is being intimidated and bullied in our own neighborhoods and in our own communities because we’re the people of Jesus Christ.”

‘A putrid threat’: China’s persecution of Christians ‘intensified’ in 2020: report


Reported By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter | Friday, April 23, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/chinas-persecution-of-christians-intensified-in-2020-report.html/

A villager climbs up the steps toward a cross near a Catholic church on the outskirts of Taiyuan, North China’s Shanxi province, December 24, 2016. | REUTERS/Jason Lee

Religious persecution in China intensified in 2020, with thousands of Christians affected by church closures and other human rights abuses, according to a new report from ChinaAid.  ChinaAid’s research on persecution in China last year documented nine church demolitions carried out by Chinese Communist Party authorities, affecting more than 5,000 members and attendees. Overall, CCP authorities persecuted 100% of house churches, the study found, with police summoning and questioning every church’s main leader. 

Under the direction of Chinese President Xi Jinping, CCP officials also worked to more fully control religion,” ordering Christians in both official, state-run churches as well as in house churches to fly the Chinese flag, and sing patriotic songs in services. Authorities also directed ministers and priests to “Sinicize” sermons, or alter them to conform to CCP ideology.

According to the report released this week, CCP authorities also invaded Christians’ homes, raided family gatherings, and interfered with parenting decisions. In numerous instances, authorities sued Christians for homeschooling their children or sending them to church-run schools.

“ChinaAid’s research for 2020 confirms that China’s persecution of Christians and of those professing any belief again exceeded incidents reported for the previous year,” the report says.

“As suppressed facts have emerged from dark, secret places, the fallout from the CCP’s persecution, like results from the unchecked Covid-19 pandemic, present a potent, putrid threat to challenge the outside world to pay attention.”

The group said it publishes its annual report to “not only increase awareness of religious persecution in China, but to promote religious freedom for all.”

ChinaAid’s findings come on the heels of the 2021 annual report from The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that identified China as an egregious violator of human rights, specifically toward Christians and Uyghur Muslims. The report notes that CCP authorities continued their unprecedented use of advanced surveillance technologies to monitor and track religious minorities last year.

“Although the CCP has long repressed religious freedom, in recent years it has become increasingly hostile toward religion,” the report says.

The Commission recommended that the U.S. redesignate China as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. Previous reports reveal that schools in China have been teaching children that Christianity is an “evil cult,while children are being taught to oppose religion, encouraged to question the beliefs of family members and report those closest to them to authorities.

USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer commented: “Communist China doesn’t only deny its citizens basic human rights, including the right to seek and worship God. It is also asserting itself as a new authoritarian model for developing nations around the world. It is actively engaged in undermining international human rights standards. It utilizes its growing military power to intimidate and threaten its neighbors.”

Open Doors ranks China at No. 17 on its World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted. 

Boyd-MacMillan, director of Strategic Research at Christian charity Open Doors, recently told Express UK that the CCP is becoming increasingly concerned about the Christian population’s growth and is cracking down on religion as a result. 

“We think the evidence as to why the Chinese Church is so targeted, is that the leaders are scared of the size of the Church and the growth of the Church,” Boyd-MacMillan said.

“And if it grows at the rate that it has done since 1980, and that’s about between 7 [percent] and 8 percent a year, then you’re looking at a group of people that will be 300 million strong, nearly by 2030. And, you know, the Chinese leadership, they really do long term planning, I mean, their economic plan goes to 2049, so this bothers them. Because I think if the Church continues to grow like that, then they’ll have to share power.”

Lebanon, a haven for Christianity, on the brink of collapse if world fails to act, experts warn


Reported By Emily Wood, Christian Post Reporter | Thursday, April 15, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/lebanon-a-haven-for-christianity-on-the-brink-of-collapse.html/

Damaged furniture is seen in the foreground as people attend Sunday mass at the partially damaged St. Antoine Church on August 16, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon. The explosion at Beirut’s port last week killed over 200 people, injured thousands, and upended countless lives. There has been little visible support from government agencies to help residents clear debris and help the displaced, although scores of volunteers from around Lebanon have descended on the city to help clean. | Getty Images/Chris McGrath

Lebanon, known as a haven for Christianity in the Middle East, is on the brink of financial collapse and teeters on the edge of failed-state status if its path is not quickly reversed, an expert roundtable hosted by a leading Middle Eastern Christians advocacy group warned.

“Lebanon is moving rapidly towards total state failure. Full collapse would take weeks to unfold but decades to repair,” former U.S. Ambassador Ed Gabriel, the president of the American Task Force on Lebanon, said during a media roundtable hosted by In Defense of Christians last Friday.

Richard Ghazal, a senior advisor for IDC, a nonpartisan Washington-based grassroots human rights organization, said Lebanon will not remain “the final remaining bastion of Christianity in the Middle East” if immediate action does not take place to reverse the country’s downfall.

The explosion in Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut on Aug. 4 led to over 200 deaths, thousands of injuries and the destruction of over 300,000 homes. The explosion worsened Lebanon’s financial and humanitarian crisis as the country with nearly a 40% Christian population was already in a state of decline.

The Lebanese prime minister resigned days after the deadly explosion and the protestors alleged the government was guilty of negligent handling of the explosives that triggered the blast. Before the fatal blast, nearly 1 million people in the Beirut area could not afford basic living essentials such as food, clothing and shelter. Around and 60% of citizens live below the poverty line due to political corruption and negligence, according to IDC.

Lebanon, a country with a population of around 6.8 million, shares borders with Israel and Syria.

Though it was once a financial capital in the Middle East, recent events, government corruption and the destabilization of its currency are causing international banks to flee as it is in a financial crisis. Foreign lenders such as HSBC and Wells Fargo are removing themselves from Lebanon’s central bank, while Bank of America and Deutsche Bank have reduced activities in Lebanon. The prevalence of Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah makes the country’s banks increasingly risky for international lenders.

Bishop Peter Karam, the patriarchal vicar and titular bishop of Acre of Phoenicia of the Maronites, said part of Lebanon’s financial crisis is due to the amount of corruption in the government. He compared the financial system’s mismanagement as a “Ponzi scheme.”

“We must admit the fact that there is a lot of corruption in Lebanon. A lot of corruption in Lebanon financially, politically, socially. … The collapse of the financial institutions in Lebanon is a very complex issue. …,” Karam said. “The financial sector in Lebanon was a model in the region for a lot of years. The country was known as the Switzerland of the Middle East. But now it’s just nonexistent because of mismanagement, corruption and political interference in the workings of the central bank and the financial sector.”

Ghazal said the whole world would feel the effects of Lebanon’s failure if it collapses.

“The Lebanese people cannot buy food or even the basic life essentials. So make no mistake about it, a total collapse in Lebanon will send economic humanitarian and even national security ripple effects around the region and then across the globe,” Ghazal explained.

Ghazal said the international community must respond to Lebanon’s worsening crisis through a United Nations-led summit to “re-chart its course going into the future” and restore its founding values of egalitarianism, accountability, the rule of law.

“We often hear the phrase, ‘eternal vigilance is the cost of freedom,’ well that’s never been more true than today in the case of Lebanon,” Ghazal said.

The panelists agreed that the international community must respond to Lebanon’s worsening crisis with a non-corrupt, reform-minded government. Stabilizing the currency will be a first step in the right direction, Gabriel, the former U.S. ambassador to Morocco, said. Gabriel recommended a “solid diplomatic effort” and an international conference led by the U.S. and France to provide humanitarian effort and stabilized armed forces.

Robert Nicholson, president of the Philos Project, a Christian advocacy group in the Near East, said the country’s geopolitical importance means its impending downfall would cause a ripple effect of ramifications across Israel, the U.S. and Europe.

“Lebanon is uniquely linked to the West,” Nicholson explained. “It’s part of the Arab world, but it’s just as much a part of the Western world. I sometimes think of Lebanon as kind of a ceasefire zone between these two worlds or civilizations or cultural-religious blocks.” He said Lebanon is on the “seam line between the Christian West and the Islamic [Near] East.”

“We talk a lot about, as Christians, the importance of this country to the [Christian] who live there. But Lebanon is just as important for the Muslims who live there and their co-religionists throughout the region,” Nicholson contended. “What happens in Lebanon affects the Christians, yes, and I am very concerned about that as a Christian. But it also affects many Muslims.”

Lucas Miles Op-ed: Satanist TikTokker thanks progressive Christians


Commentary By Lucas Miles, Op-ed Contributor

In a shocking new TikTok video, a man wearing sinister looking red-colored contact lenses, illuminated by an eerie red glow, who refers to himself as a member of the “Lucifer Gang”, takes a moment to thank “progressive Christians,” saying, “There is a wave of Christian people that I have met on this app, and I have found favor among them. Progressive Christians are what the world needs right now.” The TikTokker, whose page is filled with anti-Christian arguments, as well as content promoting witchcraft, ‘dark energy’, and satanic imagery, goes on to say regarding progressive Christians, “We both agree that religion needs massive amounts of change.” 

Courtesy of Lucas Miles

For those new to the term, ‘progressive Christian’ isn’t simply a reference to a democrat who is a Christian, but rather a specific viewpoint of both Jesus and the Bible.  Progressive Christianity, also referred to as ‘Liberal Christianity’ or the ‘Christian Left’ (For more on Progressive Christianity, see Lucas Miles’ new book, The Christian Left: How Liberal Thought Has Hijacked the Church), emerged from Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophers like Voltaire, Kant, and Hegel, as well as French Roman Catholic Richard Simon, often referred to as the ‘Father of Biblical Criticism.”

Progressive Christianity introduced to the world a belief in the ‘historic Jesus’, as an intentional distancing from the Biblically orthodox Christ presented in the scriptures.  For the Christian Left, while the Bible may contain certain truths and historical accuracies, it cannot be trusted as a whole and requires human reason to evaluate each and every passage to determine whether or not that specific passage can be used to create a reliable portrait of Jesus.  As such, a progressive view of scripture tends to reject and reason away all supernatural aspects of the Bible, including the miracles of Jesus and the resurrection. In the progressive historic view, Jesus is a good teacher, a social reformer, a rabbi, and a Cynic philosopher, but rarely the Son of God or Christ, the Savior of the world.

In our day, while beliefs among the Christian Left vary, most hold to a critical view of scripture (as opposed to a traditional view that holds the Bible to be the inerrant ‘Word of God’), an acceptance of Darwinism, a normalization of progressive views of gender and sexuality, and an emphasis of Jesus’ role in social justice and societal reform. Among those often regarded as being modern adherents to a form of Progressive Christianity are author and scholar Bart D. Ehrman, Democratic politician Pete Buttigieg, and journalist Jonathan Merritt. For Ehrman, his historic view of Jesus led him to a form of agnosticism, whereas Buttigieg still claims denominational affiliation with the Episcopal Church.

Describing his own ‘de-conversion’ from traditional Christian faith, Merritt, a contributing editor at Religion News Service, confessed in a tweet, “Like many, evangelicalism provided me with some wonderful gifts for a season, but I feel like I have grown beyond it in many ways. Its tools and frameworks are no longer sufficient to sustain me in this phase of life. While I honor my heritage, I’m mostly seeking God elsewhere.” For Merritt, his elsewhere, appears to be a form of progressively ‘woke’ Christianity – the kind affirmed in the aforementioned TikTok video.

The reason this video is noteworthy is because it demonstrates the growing chasm between a Biblical view of Christianity and progressive view of Jesus. In the same video, the TikTokker goes on to attack traditional Christians, warning, “Between your flawed bibles, asinine ideals, and just outright misinformation – we’ve had enough.” 

Surprisingly, due to the departure of certain Biblical ideas, such as the Lordship of Jesus and original sin, progressive Christianity apparently is able to stand unified alongside satanism, since the cause of division, namely viewing Jesus as Savior, has been removed. Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, while still offering love to someone caught in the deception of satanism, cannot find agreement or unity in belief, as the apostle Paul wrote, “What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil?”  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lucas Miles is the host of The Lucas Miles Show and the author of the new book, The Christian Left: How Liberal Thought Has Hijacked the Church (Broadstreet Publishing, 2021). Follow Lucas on Twitter at @LucasMiles.

Vatican says Catholic Church can’t bless same-sex marriage: God ‘cannot bless sin’


Reported By Emily Wood, Christian Post Contributor 

Saints Peter and Paul Church is a Roman Catholic Church in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, directly across from Washington Square. | Getty Images

The Vatican released a statement Monday announcing that churches have no power to bless same-sex marriage since God “cannot bless sin,” which clarifies Pope Francis’ stance on same-sex unions.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a formal response to a question about whether Catholic churches have the power to bless same-sex unions. The question comes when “plans and proposals for blessings of unions of persons of the same sex are being advanced” in some “ecclesial contexts.”

“… It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage …,” the Vatican statement reads.

“As is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex. The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan.”

In a Monday interview with The Christian Post, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, which claims to be the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization, said the statement was “very much” welcomed because it removed doubt about the Vatican’s position on this topic.

“This [decision] finishes it,” Donohue said. “There’s nothing left to discuss. It’s non-negotiable. The Vatican left nothing on the table with these people pushing this agenda. It made it very clear that the Church can bless homosexuals as individuals, but it will never ever bless homosexual unions, never mind gay marriage.”

Same-sex marriage can’t be considered lawful in the Church because there are no grounds to consider it “even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,” the statement written by Cardinal Luis Ladaria, a Spanish Jesuit, shared.

The Vatican’s statement comes after Pope Francis said during a documentary interview last October that he believes civil union laws should be created to legally cover same-sex couples in the civil sphere.

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” the pope said.

Donohue said this was an awkwardly-phrased statement by the pope. But while some Catholics have urged Pope Francis to bless gay marriage in the past, the statement released today settles his position on same-sex unions.

Donohue said the statement came from the top doctrinal office of the Catholic Church and would not be released without receiving the Pope’s blessing.

“I was actually struck by the fact that it was so definitive,” Donohue said. “They really slammed the door shut on this issue. And I think it’s welcome because some Catholics and non-Catholics say, ‘Well, where is the Church on this issue? It seems to be bending toward their way.’ And now, I think this will put an end to it. And if people who are Catholic don’t like it, well, they are going to have to change their status then.”

In its statement, the Vatican said that the unlawful blessing of same-sex unions is not “a form of unjust discrimination, but rather a reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them.”

The Vatican’s response said the Christian community and pastors should “welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclination” and find appropriate ways to “proclaim to them the Gospel in its fullness.”

“But [God] does not and cannot bless sin: he blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him. He in fact ‘takes us as we are, but never leaves us as we are,’” the statement added.

The Catholic Church’s stance goes beyond gay marriage since it will not bless any union against God’s design of marriage, Donohue concluded.

“We can take it a step further,” he shared. “The Church will never bless cohabitation. This is not just with homosexuals. There are guys and gals who live together outside of marriage, and the Church does not recognize that. This is not strictly about homosexuals, although they are the ones who are pushing for it, obviously. But it would apply to any union that is outside of [licit marriage].”

Critical race theory provides answers very different from what Christianity offers


Thousands of people gathered in the heart of Atlanta to worship, pray, and repent for systemic racism in late June 2020 for an event hosted by OneRace Movement. | Courtesy of Adventures in Mission

Francis Schaeffer described how ideas escape the ivory towers of universities and think tanks eventually to shape how ordinary people think, speak, and view their world. In 2020, one idea made that journey in record time. Not that long ago, conversations involving Critical Race Theory were largely relegated to academic papers, classroom discussions, and scholarly journal articles. Today, dialogues about CRT can be found across social media, in corporate boardrooms, and even in the Church.

As a theory, CRT descends from European and North American philosophical traditions, particularly Marxism and Postmodernism. Like these worldviews of its intellectual ancestry, CRT sees the world in terms of power dynamics. In this way of thinking, social evils such as poverty, crime, or oppression result not from universal human frailties but from Euro-Americans intent on securing and increasing their economic and social power. Based on this metanarrative, equality and justice demand privileging the stories of those kept out of power. CRT sees members of the oppressed group as morally right, and members of the oppressor group as morally wrong.

CRT, like any worldview framework, should be evaluated. That, however, is easier said than done, even in the Church. Advocates often point to common ground between Critical Race Theory and the Christian worldview (for example, the commitment to justice and human dignity), and label any critiques of CRT as convenient ways to avoid confronting injustice and racism (which may not be true, but often is).

Many Christian critics, myself included, are specifically concerned with how CRT conflicts with a Christian worldview, particularly in areas of identity and morality. Not everyone agrees. Recently on Twitter, a defender of CRT boldly tweeted, “Whoever told you CRT is a worldview was either lying to you or didn’t know what they were talking about.” Of course, assuming malice or greed is a way of dodging the question rather than making an argument.

Another Twitterer offered a different response, “If CRT is bad because it’s a ‘secular worldview’ and we must only derive our worldviews ‘biblically’ then I better not see a TRACE of Aristotle or Plato in your worldview either, brother.” This one is a slightly more clever way of missing the point or, specifically misunderstanding what it means for a worldview to be “biblical.” To have a Christian worldview is to hold views that are consistent with the Bible, not to only have views that are in the Bible. The problem with Critical Race Theory is not that it isn’t found in the Bible; it’s that it offers a very different explanation of humanity, sin, and redemption than the Bible does. 

Like the postmodernism that birthed it, Critical Race Theory can be considered a worldview. It does more than just offer a handful of specific ideas about race and society; CRT offers a complete framework of beliefs, a universalizing story of the world. CRT describes who we are, what’s wrong with the world, and prescribes how to fix it and what “better” would be. In other words, like Christianity, CRT answers the basic questions any worldview does. Except, the answers CRT provides are very different than those Christianity offers, even if both worldviews recognize the world is broken by evils such as racism and injustice.

Critical Race Theory has critical errors. By simplistically reducing evil to power dynamics and external social realities, CRT denies moral agency and the redemptive potential of entire groups of people because of their racial identity. 

At the same time, those who oppose Critical Theory must do more than simply write off all its concerns. Like Marxism, Critical Theory is something of a Christian heresy, taking the Christian themes of human dignity and justice and a world remade, and re-orienting these causes under new management. Most pertinently, CRT is slipping into the space where the Church belongs but is too often absent.

If we don’t want unbiblical explanations of life and justice sweeping through the Church or culture, we’d better make sure we communicate and embrace the full ramifications of Christian truth for society, and then act justly and love mercy. If we rob our Faith of its social implications, we are no longer talking about Christianity. Such a personalized, privatized moral system may make us feel better, but it will never stand up to the rival worldviews of our day.

Over the next four Tuesday nights, The Colson Center is hosting an online course taught by Dr. Thaddeus Williams, on his book, Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth. This is the book I’ve been waiting for, the book that carefully and biblically walks through a Christian view of justice. Dr. Williams carefully explains not only why theories like CRT aren’t true, but what the Bible asks of Christ’s followers when it comes to justice. Space is limited. Register today at breakpoint.org/Williams.

Because, the best antidote for the failings of Critical Theory and its inadequate worldview is for the Church to understand and live consistently with the Bible.

Originally posted at breakpoint.org

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. “BreakPoint®” and “The Colson Center for Christian Worldview®” are registered trademarks of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

John Stonestreet is the President of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and co-host with Eric Metaxas of Breakpoint, the Christian worldview radio program founded by the late Chuck Colson. He is co-author of A Practical Guide to CultureA Student’s Guide to Culture and Restoring All Things.

Nepal: Miracles drive one of the world’s fastest-growing churches


Reported By Jackson Elliott, Christian Post Reporter 

Nepalese Christians Reuters/Shruti Shrestha

In 1999, doctors diagnosed Nepali Christian Gita Shakya with a painful, paralyzing spinal growth. Doctors told Gita and her Christian son, Suroj, that her best option for healing was a risky, potentially lethal surgery, Suroj said in a written testimony shared with The Christian Post.

Surgery was also expensive, and Gita’s husband, Babukaji, a Buddhist priest, refused to pay his Christian wife’s expenses. Doctors in Singapore gave 19-year-old Suroj two days to decide whether to let his mother live in terrible pain or risk her death. He prayed, then decided it was best to do the surgery. But he didn’t know what he would tell his family if Gita died, he said.

“At that time, I felt so alone in Singapore because it was my first visit, and I had nobody to share my problems with besides talking with the Lord in prayer,” he added.

Suroj heard a knock at the door. It was a group of local church members who wanted to pray for Gita. After 20 minutes of prayer, a miracle happened, he said. Gita stood up. She kicked out with her left foot, which hadn’t moved for years. She punched out with her left arm. Suddenly, she could move. Gita started to weep and praise God, Suroj recalled.

“There was no pain and sadness, which she had before. Her face was changed into joy and happiness,” he said.

Afterward, Suroj said doctors didn’t believe Gita was the same woman. Babukaji didn’t believe his wife had been healed without surgery until he saw she had no scars. Then along with his son, Suman, he became a Christian.

Such stories happen often in Nepal, said Suroj, who’s now a 41-year-old church elder. Despite persecution and poverty, the Nepalese church has grown incredibly quickly. The South Asian country has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world.

To secular Westerners, it might seem impossible. But the mountains of Nepal have witnessed incredibly fast church growth in part because of miraculous healings. Suroj told CP that he became a Christian at 8 years old after God healed him from food poisoning.

“Firstly, church growth is because of miracles,” Suroj asserted. “[If] people don’t [get healed] from the hospital, they go to the church and ask for prayer from the church leaders. When the church family and church leaders pray for the sick people, they are getting healed.”

To those who see the world from a materialistic viewpoint, reports of miracles might sound impossible or far-fetched.  The miraculous break nature’s laws and can’t be replicated. But that alone doesn’t disprove their existence, Wheaton College Intercultural Studies Professor Scott Moreau told CP. Not all of reality can be understood by using scientific methods.

“It’s not that science clashes with religion [when it comes to miracles],” he said. “They have completely different toolkits to get at the understructure of reality. One has testable formulae, but miracles don’t work that way.”

While miracles can’t be explained by natural laws, Moreau said they can be observed or verified.

“You can examine whether the reports of a miracle are consistent with each other,” he said.

People around the world agree that miracles exist, Moreau added. The fastest-growing Christian denominations around the world emphasize the miraculous.

Church growth in Nepal

In 1951, Nepal reported no Christians in its government census. And by 1961, that number increased to just 458. Today, the World Christian Database ranks the country as the 12th fastest-growing Christian population in the world with 1,285,200 believers, said database co-director Gina Zurlo. The real number might be higher.

“In some countries, fast growth rates of Christians are due to migration. In other countries, high birth rates may contribute more. But in Nepal, the main factor for growth is conversion from other religions,” she explained. “We estimate that Nepal is 4.25% Christian.”

Most Nepalese people today practice Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion. The polytheistic Hindu religion values behavior and community belonging over belief. Until 2008, Nepal was a Hindu kingdom. For Hindu radicals, being Nepali means being culturally Hindu, Pastor Tanka Subedi told CP.

Subedi leads Nepal’s Family of God Church and serves as director of the International Nepal Fellowship.  Although most Hindus live in peace with Christians, he said some fiercely oppose the Gospel.

“The prime minister himself says he doesn’t believe in God but is Hindu,” said Subedi. “State media and government officials [say] Christianity is coming to Nepal to destroy our culture. It’s challenging to evangelize people who have that mindset.”

The pressure and violence Christians experience from Hindus places the country at No. 34 on Open Doors USA’s global persecution watch list. Nepal is known for criminalizing actions that lead people to change their religion, International Christian Concern South Asia Regional Manager Will Stark told CP. Hindus fear Christianity because it threatens the Hindu caste system, Stark said. They believe that people get reincarnated based on what they did in their past lives. Bad people are reborn to do degrading or “unclean” jobs. They are “low caste” or “untouchable” because it’s believed that they spiritually pollute other Hindus. Hindus in higher caste positions often treat them with cruelty or contempt.

When Christians preach equality before God, Hinduism crumbles, Stark asserted.

“The Gospel tells you that all people are equal and Jesus cares about you and being your personal Savior,” he detailed. “The caste system is based on dividing out or stratifying the community. Without the bottom of the pyramid, the rest of it doesn’t really exist.”

Nepal’s anti-conversion law says that “‘any act that causes a religious conversion will be punished.” This broad wording gives police the right to punish Christians for even mentioning the name of Jesus in public, Stark noted. Hindu radicals who attack Christians also justify their actions by saying they were enforcing the law.

Bishwa Raj Pokharel, spokesman for the Nepalese National Police, claimed, “One can choose the religion they want to follow,” in a statement to the Global Press Journal in response to a January article about Christians who accused police of targeting them for their faith.

“But one cannot take advantage of a person’s situation and induce them to change their religion. The law says that you can change your religion, but you cannot change someone else’s religion.”

Persecution increasing

Government persecution has increased recently, said Subedi.  In 2019, Nepalese authorities threw 73-year-old Christian Cho Yusang in jail for distributing Bibles. Two weeks in prison damaged his health so severely that he had to be admitted to a hospital.

After an orphanage closed this year, Nepalese Pastor Hari Tamang opened his home to shelter children for 10 days. In response to his generosity, police arrested him on false charges of trafficking and attempted religious conversion.

According to Open Doors USA, Christian persecution in Nepal rose during the watchdog organization’s 2020 reporting period as pressure is high for Christians “in every sphere of life.” The group reports that governing authorities in Nepal “make life difficult for followers of Christ.”

China and India both support Nepal’s government in its persecution of Christians, but for different reasons, Subedi said. India wants Nepal to remain Hindu, while China fears that Christians will support political movements to free Tibet, he explained. Despite rising persecution, Christians continue to share their faith, Subedi said, because the government can’t arrest them all.

“We come from a persecuted background. We were never free. We are used to it,” he said. “There’s not necessarily a state apparatus to use [the anti-conversion] law for mass arrests.”

People also feel eager to become Christians because of the reality of the Christian faith, Subedi added. God works visible miracles in churches and traditional healers can’t compete. Christians point to a historical Jesus in contrast to mythical Hindu gods.

“If you go deeper [into Hinduism], you find nothing. They’re just stories from different places with different gods,” the pastor contended. “When you hear about Jesus, it is solid. It is a fact. It happened in history and people can accept it. People are looking for a real God. All the Christians pray for healing and healings happen.”

Suroj stressed that Christianity also changes the lives of believers.

“When a man comes to the church and accepts Jesus, his life will be changed,” he said. “Before coming to the church, he used to take alcohol and smoke. But after coming to the church, he leaves all these things. The people who are not Christian want to come to the church and leave all the negative things in their life. People from other faiths feel excited and amazed that these things happened.”

Subedi noted that so many people become Christians in Nepal that it’s difficult for current believers to teach them all. He estimated that the church grows between 5% and 10% per year.

“The Hindu people are so scared of the Christians,” said Suroj. “They know that the Christian community is growing in very large ways. They are scared that if it happens for a few more years, in Nepal there will be no more Hindu people.”

In an increasingly connected world, many religions have spread far from their original homelands. Buddhism has gained popularity in America over the decades, and ideas from Hinduism influence popular American movies like “Star Wars” and “The Matrix.” In Asia, Christianity has grown more rapidly than ever before. But there’s a difference between the way Western people have sampled Eastern religions and the way Eastern people have believed in Christianity, according to Wheaton College Anthropology Professor Brian Howell.

“They are two really different phenomena. In the West, people are picking up Eastern religious influences in a very piecemeal fashion. They are doing it as self-expression,” he told CP. “With people finding Christianity, they are finding a community and a tradition they can connect to globally.”

Americans want some Eastern religious ideas; Nepalese people want to become Christians, Howell said.

Nepalese believers tend to gather in churches smaller than 100 people, although some churches are far larger, said Suroj. Believers in rural villages want practical teachings on how to live out their faith, while believers in cities want to know more about Christian theology.

“Giving, repentance, all these practical things, we teach in the church. We also teach the theological part of the Bible because the church believers we have in Nepal are about 60% uneducated people,” he said. “They love to learn and hear practical things.”

Church members in Nepal also help and care for each other, he said. They become family.

“The Christian people face many problems from his or her [Hindu] family and community,” Suroj added. “The church helps these Christian brothers and sisters in whatever way the church can. We are staying as one family. We help each other, we care for each other, we teach and we support each other.”

As it grows, the Nepalese church faces many difficulties, said Subedi. Poverty and persecution cause problems, but the biggest need is pastors who can help people fully understand their faith.

“This is one of the biggest challenges, to disciple people,” he said. “A lot of pastors in the villages haven’t gone to school. My organization tries to teach them at home. There is a huge need for training pastors and leaders in the villages.”

New Testament communities

In countries with heavy persecution, small churches grow faster, Moreau explained. House churches split as they grow larger and believers commit to share their faith. Small churches also resemble the New Testament Church.

“If it’s a house gathering, it tends to be more organic. If it’s in buildings, it tends to be more programmatic. The biblical evidence seems to point to the more organic method as the norm,” he said. “In the Muslim world, the organic churches have grown bigger faster simply because when a church becomes visible in the public arena it can get shut down very quickly.”

As Nepal’s church has grown in size and reputation, a small number of people have tried to join for the wrong reasons, Suroj said. Christians in Nepal have a reputation for politeness, hard work and honesty, so people become Christians in an attempt to get a job or visa.

“They think, ‘If I become a Christian, I can easily get a job,’” he said. “One family came to my church office and was asking for a Christian certificate even though they are not Christian, churchgoers or baptized. They offered money to the church and said if the church wants money, we need the baptism certificate.”

In many ways, the church in Nepal resembles the church of the New Testament.

At once hated and admired, it’s a new community that people join even at the cost of their families. It heals the sick, helps the poor and transforms sinners. People want the life the church gives, sometimes even for the wrong reasons. Despite persecution, it multiplies.

“It’s like the time of Jesus for Nepal. Believing in Jesus means you are a second-class citizen. You may be disconnected from your family,” Subedi said. “It’s a big sacrifice to follow Jesus. It was bigger in the past, but it has not changed a lot. We’re still considered second-class citizens, outcasts from many things. It costs you a lot.”

Op-ed: Why does the media give a pass to Biden’s faith?


Commentary By Jason Jimenez, Op-Ed Contributor

Biden, the 46th president, is America’s second Catholic President. The first was John F. Kennedy — when he became President in 1961.  From the start of his campaign, Biden wanted everything to be about his faith. A favored campaign slogan for the Biden camp was the “battle for the soul of the nation.”

(Courtesy of Jason Jimenez)

It didn’t matter the media outlet. They all loved reporting on how Biden was a “deeply devout Catholic” and that his faith is a huge factor in “shaping his politics.” Even Speaker Pelosi publicly praises Biden’s faith and willingly admits that his Catholic faith has shaped his career and public policies. An article in The New York Times stated, “President Biden, perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief in half a century, speaks of how his Catholic faith grounds his life and his policies.”

Interesting, isn’t it? How the media and every single big-time progressive politician have no problem mixing Biden’s faith with politics. But suppose you are a Christian who is pro-life and not in favor of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage. In that case, the response you get from the Left is the complete opposite. How was Judge Amy Coney Barrett (also a deeply devout Catholic) treated during the Senate confirmation hearings? Senator Dianne Feinstein and her colleagues didn’t praise Judge Barrett for her faith. Instead, Senator Feinstein expressed her concern about how Judge Barrett’s faith might influence her decisions by stating, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.” But if the Left is so concerned about a person’s faith interfering with their public service, why isn’t the Left disparaging Biden from talking about how his faith shapes his public policies?

The main reason? Because President Biden is as much of a progressive as he is a Catholic. He is what I refer to as a “Progressive Catholic.” Don’t believe me? Listen to what he said in his book, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, “I’m as much a cultural Catholic as I am a theological Catholic.” Biden continues, “My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world, comes straight from my religion. It’s not so much the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, or the prayers I learned. It’s the culture.”

Because Judge Barrett is a conservative Catholic and not a progressive, liberal Democrats are concerned about her “dogmatic” positions embedding on her judgment. Therefore, she must be censored at all costs. However, in President Biden’s case, he gets a pass because he’ll keep on advancing progressive policies like the Equality Act (which will eviscerate religious freedoms in America), government funding of abortion, and the Green New Deal.

It’s not a question of whether President Biden has a right to express his religious beliefs. He has that right under the Constitution. It’s really about charging the media for being inconsistent by not allowing conservatives to do the same.

Let’s hope the media will admit to their intolerance and learn to be more receptive to Americans who hold conservative viewpoints.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jason Jimenez is president of Stand Strong Ministries, a faculty member at Summit Ministries, and a best-selling author who specializes in apologetics and biblical worldview training. Check out www.standstrongministries.org.

‘Screams echoed throughout the building’: Women raped, tortured in China’s ‘re-education’ camps


Reported By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter 

Ethnic Uyghur members of the Communist Party of China carry a flag as they take part in an organized tour on June 30, 2017, in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province, China. Kashgar has long been considered the cultural heart of Xinjiang for the province’s nearly 10 million Muslim Uyghurs. At an historic crossroads linking China to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, the city has changed under Chinese rule with government development, unofficial Han Chinese settlement to the western province, and restrictions imposed by the Communist Party. Beijing says it regards Kashgar’s development as an improvement to the local economy, but many Uyghurs consider it a threat that is eroding their language, traditions, and cultural identity. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Women imprisoned in China’s network of internment camps in Xinjiang are subject to horrific torture, systematic rape, and sexual abuse as the country’s Communist leadership seeks to “destroy” those it sees as a threat, a graphic new report has revealed.

report from the BBC highlights interviews from several former detainees and a guard who shared firsthand accounts of their horrific experiences in China’s internment camps in the Xinjiang region. Estimates suggest that over 1 million to as many as 3 million Uyghur Muslims and other minority groups in Western China have been subject to these internment camps, which are intended to strip Uyghurs and other minorities “of their culture, language and religion, and indoctrinate them into mainstream Chinese culture.”

Tursunay Ziawudun, a woman who spent nine months inside one of these camps before fleeing to the U.S., told the BBC that women were removed from the cells “every night” and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men. She also recalled how police tortured her with electric shocks and, in one instance, violently abused her when she was unsure of her husband’s whereabouts, kicking her with their heavy boots. Because of the severity of the abuse, rape, and torture, Ziawudun said that there were “many people in those cells who lost their minds.”

“Their goal is to destroy everyone,” she said. “And everybody knows it.”

Gulzira Auelkhan, a Kazakh woman from Xinjiang who was detained for 18 months in the camp system, recounted how she was forced to strip Uyghur women naked and handcuff them before leaving them alone with Chinese men.

“My job was to remove their clothes above the waist and handcuff them so they cannot move,” she recalled. “Then I would leave the women in the room and a man would enter —  some Chinese man from outside or policeman. I sat silently next to the door, and when the man left the room I took the woman for a shower.”

The Chinese men “would pay money to have their pick of the prettiest young inmates,” she said, stressing that the physical violence she witnessed amounted to “rape.”

Qelbinur Sedik, an Uzbek woman from Xinjiang, who was forced to give language lessons to the detainees, said the women’s camp was “tightly controlled.” She said there were “four kinds of electric shock” women would be subjected to — “the chair, the glove, the helmet, and anal rape with a stick.”

“The screams echoed throughout the building,” she told the BBC. “I could hear them during lunch and sometimes when I was in class.”

Sedik said that one time, she asked a Chinese camp policewoman about the rumors of rape. The women replied, “Yes, the rape has become a culture. It is gang rape and the Chinese police not only rape them but also electrocute them. They are subject to horrific torture.”

Interviewees also shared how they were required to watch propaganda videos praising Chinese President Xi Jinping and sing patriotic songs. They were also forced to undergo medical tests, take pills, and were forcibly injected every 15 days with a “vaccine” that brought on nausea and numbness. Women were also forcibly injected with IUDs or sterilized.

One former prison guard shared how women were forced to memorize books about Xi Jinping. Those who failed to complete the task were punished with food deprivation and beatings.

“I entered those camps. I took detainees into those camps,” he said. “I saw those sick, miserable people. They definitely experienced various types of torture. I am sure about that.”

China has repeatedly denied that it is persecuting ethnic groups in Xinjiang; however, reports reveal it is actually expanding its network of detention facilities.

An earlier report documented how hospitals in Xinjiang were ordered to abort and kill all babies born in excess of China’s mandated family planning limits — including newborns born after being carried to full term. The orders were part of strict family-planning policies intended to restrict Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities to three children.

In January, the former Trump administration officially designated China’s persecution of minorities in western Xinjiang Province as “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.”

“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the time, adding that the Chinese Communist Party — which he described as a “Marxist-Leninist regime that exerts power over the long-suffering Chinese people through brainwashing and brute force” — is “engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group.”

The Biden administration has not stated whether it would maintain the previous administration’s declaration that China is committing genocide against its Uyghur population. White House Press Secretary Psaki told reporters at a press briefing that Biden has “spoken before to the horrific treatment” of Uyghurs, but she will “check” what the Biden administration’s policy will be, RCP previously reported. However, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that he believes genocide had been committed against the Uyghurs.

Christian leaders have urged Christians in the West to care about the persecution of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities. In September, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said that the crimes being perpetrated against religious minorities in China and elsewhere rely on invisibility “where the rest of the world doesn’t pay attention” and “tribalism.”

“The way of Jesus Christ says that we pay attention to our neighbor on the side of the road who is persecuted, who is being beaten,” he said. “So let’s pray for the Uyghur [and] for other persecuted peoples. Let’s pray not just individually, but together, and pray for them by name.”

“Let’s be the people who stand up for whoever is being made invisible, whoever is being intimidated and bullied in our own neighborhoods and in our own communities because we’re the people of Jesus Christ.”

Op-ed: HuffPost blaming Christian curriculum for Capitol riots is slanderous


Commentary By Adam Rondeau, Emory Thompson, and Angel Parrish, Op-ed Contributors 

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Recently the Huffington Post ran an article that was extremely hostile to Christian education here in the United States. The overall implication of the article was that the January 6 rioting at the Capitol building was directly tied to the government allowing and possibly funding conservative Christian education in the US.  Specific curricula were cited and quoted (specifically, A-Beka, Bob Jones and Accelerated Christian Education) and blame was explicitly and carelessly lobbied at these schools and curriculum.

“Their religion-centered, anti-Democrat, anti-science, anti-multicultural message mirrors the Christian nationalism seen at the U.S. Capitol riot.”[1] 

Courtesy of Adam Rondeau

Such brash and unfair bias cannot go unanswered. The overwhelming majority of schools using these curricula are highly civic-minded American patriots. They love God and their country and deplore violence of any kind. Painting an entire demographic with a wide brush based on hear-say alone is slanderous. It is also disingenuous. The year 2020 was filled with leftist progressives rioting and looting all over the country in response to their own perceived inequities, yet none of that is alluded to in the Huffington Post article. If the author was seeking to be equitable, would she not have to acknowledge the possibility that government schools and their curriculum might bear some blame for those riots? Indeed the article concludes with just the opposite reaction.

The following statement from the article claims to have intellectual authority but is severely lacking in credulity.

“Scholars say textbooks like these, with their alternate versions of history and emphasis on Christian national identity, represent one small part of the conditions that lead to events like last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, an episode that was permeated with the symbols of Christian nationalism.”[2]

Exactly who are these scholars that the author is referring to? There are no footnotes or cited sources for this particular example, and of the three “scholars” quoted within this article, only one implies this thought process. Therefore, the reader’s only recourse is to give full trust to the statements of the author or practice intellectual independence and question the statements and opinions as presented. We choose the latter.

Courtesy of Emory Thompson

Linking terrorism to Christian education and its biblical worldview being communicated is grossly misleading. Consider Franklin Graham and the work of Samaritan’s Purse, which has helped countless suffering and needy people in the US and abroad. It is the same worldview that these schools and curricula seek to advance.  American students using the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum annually donate to the BLESS outreach, which sponsors literacy programs in third-world countries, giving thousands of children the opportunity for advancement through education. Consider a very large Florida Christian school that utilizes A Beka and Bob Jones curricula, and funnels all the profit from that school and a thrift shop to help to fund a completely free medical clinic, two homeless shelters, and a food pantry. These are only a few examples. Conservative Christians and their churches and schools are not promoting or involved in riotous activity, but rather in activities that fulfill the Greatest Commandment to love God and neighbor. Students are taught to be contributing members of society who work for the common good of the nation around them.  This is an accurate representation of conservative Christian education in America.

A Clash of Worldviews

At its core this article is about a clash of worldviews. The author is a committed progressive and is defending her ideology. She feels that conservative Christian schools are seeking to undermine evolution and far-left progressive policies and therefore attempts to expose them as such. And this we have in common with her because Christians feel the same exact way. Why? Because it is true. This is the clash of worldviews that the apostle Paul so brilliantly contrasts in 1 Corinthians 2:14.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Courtesy of Angel Parrish

Conservative Christians can and most certainly have gone through the curriculum of the government schools and point out all the issues that we have with the worldview being presented. Whether it be evolutionary history[3], radical revisions of history (i.e., the 1619 Project), sex-education curriculum developed by Planned Parenthood, transgender and homosexual ideology, etc., etc., etc. But that would be a relatively futile tit-for-tat approach.

The most fundamental issue at stake is that progressives are now openly contending that one worldview is dangerous and are laying a foundation for the ostracization of the religious freedoms of anyone who disagrees.

Freedom of Speech First Requires Freedom of Thought

Those Christians that believe they have a responsibility to educate their child with a biblical worldview cannot consider public education a valid option. The courts have been clear over the years that there is no freedom of religion in a public school, nor is there freedom of speech for students or teachers regarding content that contradicts their sincerely held religious beliefs. Here are just some examples from the past 30 years.

  1. 1990 Webster v. New Lennox School District (7th Circuit Court of Appeals). School districts may prohibit a teacher from teaching creation science. It further states that this is not a violation of a teacher’s freedom of speech.

  2. 2000 – Minnesota State Court rules that there is no right for a teacher to present evidence both for and against the theory of evolution. This means that teachers are not allowed to question evolution in their own classroom.

  3. 2005 – US District Court refused to allow a school district to put disclaimer labels on textbooks regarding evolution being a “theory” and that other theories existed, including intelligent design and creation.  It was appealed. The appeal resulted in the schools agreeing not to denigrate evolution either orally or in written form.

  4. 2005 – US Court ruled that schools could not maintain an Intelligent Design policy. Judge stated that Intelligent Design “is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community.”

It is of great concern that the Huffington Post (and they are not alone in this sentiment) considers the worldview of conservative Christians as dangerous and worthy of suppression. The tone of the article is clear that Christian education in the United States is a danger to our democracy. For example, a previous student of a Christian school was interviewed and the following summation was offered:

Last week’s insurrectionists could have been her classmates, her teachers, her pastors. She felt a wave of recognition as she watched the pictures on social media.[4]

One of the grossest misrepresentations is embodied in this quote:

“That whole belief system revolves around the idea that you want the rest of the world to think like you,” said Garman, who is now a social worker. “It’s a ‘the ends justify the means’ type of thing.”[5]

But isn’t the whole point of the article that the author takes issue with the way conservative Christian educators think? That their worldview is inferior and dangerous? Doesn’t she intimate that allowing this thinking to continue is dangerous to our society? It’s the same old progressive logical fallacy – tolerance is only extended to those that agree with them.

Perhaps the greatest danger to our first amendment right of free speech are the intellectual chains that are being forged around minds. If there is not freedom of thought then there cannot really be any freedom of speech. Consider these words from Richard Dawkins, arguably one of the secularist’s most staunch apologists:

“How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents? It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods? Isn’t it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought out?” [6]

Do Christian parents still have freedom of thought and speech to impart those beliefs to their children? So long as America is a free nation they do, but it is quite clear that the secular, progressive worldview would like to eliminate those freedoms.

The Real Threat

Christian education is not a threat to the safety and well-being of our democracy nor is it a driver of terrorist threats. The real threat of Christian education is that it provides a viable alternative to the progressive worldview, and that terrifies the left. Their philosophies, which are built upon the sand of humanism, are so fragile that they cannot allow anyone to counter them.

So how should Christian education respond? In faith – that which overcomes the world. Hebrews 11 reminds us that we can obtain a good testimony in this world through faith. The examples presented in Scripture are the basis of our worldview and must set the example for our response.  We continue in the course set before us, teaching what we know to be right.  We continue to set the example that we believe in a Sovereign God to preserve our thoughts and belief, regardless of opposition.  We continue to teach by example our love for fellow man, kindness for those around us, compassion for the hurting.  We respond with the faith that brought us to this place, believing that God can do the work we cannot.  We continue to believe that the Bible is not just a book, but the very Word of God.  We can’t fight the powers of progressivism through words and legislation; they are not our weapons.  We have the same power of prayer and faith that we started with.  Opposition is not new. Christian education must stay faithful to the mission of communicating a Biblical worldview to the next generation. Because if the real threat to humanism is the Truth we believe in, it is all we have.


[1] Klein, R. (2021). These Textbooks In Thousands Of K-12 Schools Echo Trump’s Talking Points. Huffington Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/christian-textbooks-trump-capitol-riot_n_6000bce3c5b62c0057bb711f

[2] IBID

[3] See Evolution Exposed: Biology from Answers in Genesis: https://answersingenesis.org/store/product/evolution-exposed-biology/?sku=10-2-261&

[4] Klein, R. (2021)

[5] IBID

[6] Cited by Ken Ham and Greg Hall, Already Compromised, Master Books, June 2011; Richard Dawkins, The God Delusions (Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin, 2006, 2008), p. 315

Dr. Adam Rondeau has served as a Christian educator and administrator as well as a pastor for over two decades. He is an author, adjunct professor of the Bible and currently serves as the director of ViewPoint Christian Academy in Southbridge, Massachusetts as well as the Assistant Administrative Director of Global Christian Educators Association. He holds three earned degrees in Christian Education, Theology and Leadership.

Emory Thompson is the Administrative Director of Global Christian Educators Association with experience working for a Christian curriculum company. A fourth-generation preacher, he has a heart for Christian Education and for the people of the world. He is senior pastor of Golden Mountain Ministries in Sparta, Tennessee.

Angel Parrish is a Christian educator, writer, and editor living in The Villages, Florida. She has written curriculum for several Christian and conservative education companies for 25 years.  She is the Director of Educational Services for Global Christian Educators Association.

Biggest churches push ‘superficial Christianity,’ ‘phonies’ now being exposed: John MacArthur


Reported By Leonardo Blair, Christian Post Reporter 

Pastor John MacArthur announced during the Shepherd’s Conference held earlier this month that next year’s conference will include a summit on biblical inerrancy. Photo taken March 7, 2014. | Grace Community Church

Some of America’s biggest churches support a culture of corrupt, “superficial Christianity” and made a lot of money doing it but the internet is now making it harder for “phonies” to survive, Pastor John MacArthur recently said. Speaking at the pulpit of Grace Community Church in California for the first time after a brief absence during which some speculated he may have been ill, MacArthur suggested that the pandemic combined with the technological shift in ministry has led to a “sifting and shifting.”

“We had for decades, people trying to create a cultural Christianity that would appeal to nonbelievers, that was accepting of immorality, accepting of homosexuality, accepting of racial hatred. There was a kind of superficial, shallow Christianity that watered down the Gospel, didn’t talk about sin, tried to have a positive message. And it was very successful. And I get it because I fought that battle well for almost all the time I’ve been here,” he told his congregants in a sermon just over a week ago.

He explained that one of the things he likes to do is to call the church to repentance but it was a tough call because “superficial Christianity made a lot of money” and “elevated a lot of charlatans.”

It was successful. The biggest churches in America are part of it. It was very hard to call people to faithfulness when you could be so corrupt and so successful in Christian religion. That was the battle. Now I think there’s a sifting and a shifting,” he said before alluding to sex scandals surrounding prominent Christian figures like late apologist Ravi Zacharias and former Hillsong Church Pastor Carl Lentz without mentioning their names.

“First of all, phonies are going to have a hard time hiding with the internet. We’re seeing one after another after another. Dead ones and alive ones. This dead apologist had a deviant sex life. This cool dude rock and roll pastor was immoral with multiple women for years and years,” MacArthur said.

“I look at all that and my thoughts were I don’t think if it weren’t for Jesus Christ that I could sell anybody on Christianity. We preach Christ, right? And you’re attracted to Him, right? But if there are people out there looking at Christianity, it has to be uninviting, maybe even repulsive. Who are these people? Filthy rich, immoral, corrupt, narcissistic. If it weren’t for Jesus Christ, Christianity would have no appeal,” he said.

MacArthur also explained that despite efforts by government authorities to shutter his church during the pandemic, he has managed to defy every restriction and remain open regardless of fines and court actions against his church.

“They tried every way to close Grace Church. And I think it is true that there is no more scrutinized church in the United States of America than Grace Community Church,” he said, calling out major media organizations like ABC, CNN and the Los Angeles Times as well as “ungodly bloggers” who tried to discredit his church.

“I’m still here,” he said.

MacArthur said the decision to remain open in defiance of government restrictions has been a blessing to his church. He said even though the church had not collected an offering in the last 10 months, congregants “have given more in the last 10 months than any 10-month period in the history of this church.”

MacArthur fought for his church’s legal right to hold indoor worship services amid the pandemic and said even though his church has faced fines each Sunday for their defiance, the congregation has only continued to flourish.

“In the middle of the lawsuit, the Lord has grown our church. So this was a very small tiny local church until COVID. One thousand new members, baptisms,” he said, calling his new members “Grace refugees.”

“Did you hear the testimonies in baptism Sunday night? There’s a new evangelical term. I love it. It’s ‘Grace refugees,’” he said as his congregation laughed.

“It’s the people who had no other church to go to so they came here as church refugees,” he said to more cheers.

“And aren’t we happy about that? Aren’t we blessed? We’ll take you whoever you are even if you’re a Presbyterian refugee. People have flown in from all across America, driven in from all across the West every Sunday to be with us. Some of you only came here because it was the only church open and you found it wasn’t just a church that was open. It was a church that was presenting the Gospel and the Word of God,” he said.

Thunderous applause — We can kill our children and change our sex


Commentary by Shane Idleman, CP Guest Contributor

“The wicked freely parade and prance about while evil is praised throughout the land” (Psalm 12:8).

Photo: Shane Idleman

Almost a year ago, I wrote an article with a similar title when the so-called Reproductive Health Act passed in New York with thunderous applause in the state Senate chamber. I could not believe what I was reading: People actually applauded the slaughtering of children. Was I having a dream . . . a nightmare? Was this real?

Regardless of your political views, we should all be heartbroken at the state of our nation today. For example, by supporting certain candidates, many are cheering that healthy 9-month-old babies can be removed limb-by-limb. You may say, “But I’m not cheering abortion.” If you support those who support it, you are — let that sink in.

You’re also cheering that children can be influenced by transgenderism and be encouraged to change their sex (which is not possible by the way). Cheering that Congress will attempt to remove all male pronouns. The list of insanity that you’re supporting is endless.

Granted, these issues have been in America for years, but there is a huge difference between a politician who encourages perversion and murder, and one who fights against it. And I’m getting very frustrated at those who say, “But the Republicans haven’t done much to stop abortion either.” The reason is that adversaries in the House and Senate have fought for abortion rights. The enemy of our soul has done a great job preventing the shutting down of abortion mills and silencing churches via silent pastors. The view that Republicans haven’t done much is really just an excuse and a straw man argument.

I’m not writing this from a political party standpoint — I’m writing this from a God-fearing standpoint. When human life is devalued, atrocities such as the Holocaust, slavery, sex-trafficking, and abortion occur. God help us when we ignore our calling to confront evil. But how did we get here and what can we do?

The Church Must Be Revived

As I said in my recent sermon and article, both titled, The Great Reset of the Church: In the same way that Jesus warned the lukewarm church in Laodicea, He warns us today: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot . . . So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (See Revelation 3:15-17.)

I believe that the church in America resembles the Laodicean church more than at any other time in our history. Sadly, conviction is replaced with complacency, and God’s glory is often replaced with gimmicks and marketing ploys. Just look at the top sermons viewed on social media today. The preachers are motivational speakers, not voices “crying in the wilderness.” It’s about being bigger and better instead of holier and humble. 

Like many today, the Laodiceans thought that they were in the center of God’s will. They were large, wealthy, and involved in the community. They looked at numbers, but Jesus looked at the heart and said that they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” His strong words were meant to convict and challenge, not coddle and comfort. In order to confront the massive cultural shift mentioned above, the church must be revived: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6).

Two Primary Areas of Ungodly Influence

How did we get here? A deathlike, deep slumber, has overtaken the church and God has allowed the complete breakdown of society. The beacon of light has faded, the salt has lost its savor, and the message of the cross has been edited out of most sermons. We have lost our fervor for the truth. Consider the following and how they may have played a role in where we are today — applauding murder and perversion:

The media is influencing the church. The politically correct police are on high alert. You can mention God as long as you don’t mention His absolute truth. You can mention Jesus as long as He was just a good teacher. And you can embrace religion as long as it’s all-inclusive. Pastors are required to be politically correct rather than biblically correct to be accepted. The trend in churches is to be welcoming, but primarily affirming. Sermons are designed to tickle the ear but not convict the heart. God help us.

Additionally, many Christians enjoy programs about the occult, vampires, witches, zombies, illicit sex, and other perversions of the truth. A Christian should not be entertained by darkness. If we are, our heart needs spiritual resuscitation. “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

The church cannot be political . . . unless it’s “politically correct.” I’m often reminded of God’s words to Jeremiah, “I have not sent these pastors but they ran. I have not spoken to them but they spoke. But had they truly stood in My counsel, they would have turned the people from their evil ways” (paraphrasing Jeremiah 23:21). I agree with Leonard Ravenhill here: “We need more prophets in our pulpits and less puppets.” God uses true prophetic voices to confront and convict.

I make no apologies for the controversial content of this article. When we fail to confront, we confirm. When we fail to confront destructive ideas and philosophies, we are, in essence, confirming them. To state the obvious, we become part of the problem. We cannot change what we will not confront.

As I often say, This battle is for the very soul of our nation. It’s our choice — stand or fall. Watch the video on defending the faith here.

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. Shane’s sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at shaneidleman.com or wcfav.org. He is the author of Feasting & FastingIf My PeopleDesperate for More of God, and Help! I’m Addicted. Follow him on Facebook at: facebook.com/confusedchurch. You can also follow Pastor Shane on the new free speech platform Parler https://parler.com/profile/ShaneIdleman/posts.

Wallace B. Henley Op-ed: Christ’s Kingdom without Christ? Time to reset to ‘radical’ church (pt 2)


Commentary By Wallace B. Henley, Exclusive Columnist 

Wallace Henley, former Senior Associate Pastor of 2nd Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. | Photo by Scott Belin

Against the backdrop of current events — especially the increasingly frenzied preoccupation with the “reset” of the global order — a sometimes puzzling statement of Jesus becomes clearer: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been treated violently, and violent men take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12 NASB)

The Message paraphrase brings out an important nuance: “For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s Kingdom.”

We are living through an era when people under secular banners are trying to force the coming of the benefits of Christ’s Kingdom and conformity to its high values of love, equality, respect for those unlike us, and caring for the disenfranchised and victims of discrimination.

What’s wrong with this? The answer: Without Christ and the Holy Spirit it is fleshly striving that deteriorates into judgmentalism, legalism, and terrorism.

The violence sparked by agitators, the “cancellation” of resistant people and institutions, the passion of destroyers to kill and maim in the name of their self-sanctified causes we have seen before, many times in history.

This we do not need again.

It is not revolution we need, but transformation. Revolution is force from outside-in, and transitory, requiring armies of czars to sustain it. Few phenomena reveal this as glaringly as the 18th century French Revolution, or China’s 1960s Red Guard movement.

Transformation, however, works from inward to outward. “Conversion,” an inner change of heart, is vital to the movement Christ brings to the world.  It is wrought neither by sword nor czar, but by the continuing work of the Holy Spirit within the person. For radical transformation we must have the whole of the Trinity: The heart of the Father, the mind of the Son, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Hardly anyone understood this better than Salvation Army founder William Booth, who spoke prophetically in the 19th century when he said,

The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.

There may be much disagreement about a reset to a globalist vision and policy initiatives, but General Booth described a “reset” that is urgently needed.

In Part 1 of this series on the radical church we noted that the word “radical” refers to “roots.” Thus, the reset needed now in churches everywhere is back to their New Testament roots and recovery of their true identity.

I use here the term, “churches” rather than the The Church to stress the importance of locality in God’s vision for His gathered people. In the Old Testament God instructs Moses in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and calls the lid the “Mercy Seat.” “There I will meet with you,” says the Lord. (Exodus 25:22, emphasis added)

God is omnipresent but humans are limited to the strictures of time and space. Therefore, the Omnipresent One must establish a localized point spatially and temporally where He can interact with beings bound to the local. Centuries later the Lord will show Solomon how to construct and order the Temple, and tells him, “I have consecrated this house which you have built, by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there always.” (1 Kings 9:3 NLT)

But Nebuchadnezzar destroys the Temple in 587 BC, it is rebuilt under Herod and dedicated in 164 BC, then demolished under Roman leaders Titus and Pompey in 70 AD.

Where, then, are God’s eyes and heart focused now?

Jesus Christ is born into the world as the Focal Point for God’s engagement with His creation and the beings made in His image that He sovereignly places there. Jesus Christ is the continuation of the Temple ministry. He is the “There” where humans trapped in locality can meet and interact with the Most High God.

Jesus Himself says as much when He is chastised by religious authorities for cleansing the Temple. “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” He says. “

What?” they ask in surprise. “It took us forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?”

“But when Jesus said, ‘this temple’, He meant His own body,” explains John 2:21-22 (NLT and paraphrase).

Suddenly John 1:14 jumps into view: “The Word became flesh and dwelt (‘tabernacled,’ or ‘pitched His tent’) among us.” And as God’s intense holiness and glory were manifested in the Holy of Holies within the Temple, so, says John, “and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John had also witnessed Christ’s transfiguration, when the outer shell of His human body was temporarily dimmed so that His core disciples could see Him as He really was and is, in the full splendor of His Being.

Jesus Christ is the continuing “meeting place” between God and humans, the “locality” during His incarnation where God’s eyes and heart are continually focused.

Now Jesus’s statement to Simon Peter at Caesarea Philippi becomes clearer, when He gives to the church represented in Peter and all others who make the confession, “You are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

The “keys” signify the authority given to Christ’s church to stand against the powers of “Hades,” or Hell. This is a transmission of the same authority that had been localized in the Jerusalem Temple, then localized in the incarnate Christ, then localized and globalized in the worldwide church.

Therefore, churches now must undergo a reset that begins with the ontological and proceeds to the functional.

More about this in Part 3 of this series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House and congressional aide, and author of more than 25 books. His newest is Two Men From Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar, Trump, and the Lord of Historypublished by Thomas Nelson.

Religious persecution in India, China will increase in 2021: report


Reported By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter 

A woman wears a protective mask as she passes a church on February 8, 2020, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. The number of those who have died from the Wuhan coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, in China climbed to 724. Getty Images

Though religious persecution in China and India is expected to increase in 2021, exposure to the Bible is increasing in North Korea, the world’s most repressive country, according to the annual Persecution Trends survey from Release International.

In its latest report, RI, an international Christian watchdog organization for persecuted Christians worldwide, said that persecution is “thriving” in China and will likely increase in the new year. RI cited the recent passage of tough new laws controlling religion, the shuttering of numerous churches, and the increasing number of registered churches forced to install CCTV cameras and put up posters proclaiming communist ideals and beliefs.

However, the Chinese Communist Party has “bought the silence of the international community” through increased dependence on trade, it said.

“The government of President Xi Jinping is increasing its ‘clean up’ of anything that does not advance the communist agenda. They appear to believe that they can achieve this by systematic opposition,” the group warned.

Corroborating other reports, RI said that China has been exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to tighten restrictions on underground believers. Earlier this year, it was reported that amid the outbreak, impoverished Christian villagers in China were ordered to renounce their faith and replace displays of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi or risk losing their welfare benefits.

“The Chinese government is trying every way to take advantage of the virus by increasing the crackdown against Christian churches,” said RI partner Bob Fu, of ChinaAid. “It has accelerated particular campaigns, such as the forced removal of crosses.”

The group also predicted that in India, intolerance toward Christians and other religious minorities will continue to grow during 2021, largely due to growing Hindu nationalism. RI noted that incidents targeting Indian Christians have risen steeply since 2014, when Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power.  It cited statistics revealing Christians suffered 225 incidents of religiously motivated violence during the first 10 months of 2020, compared to 218 incidents in the same period in 2019. Many of these attacks were by vigilante mobs.

In September 2020, Hindu extremists incited mobs of up to 3,000 people to attack Christians in three villages in Chhattisgarh state.

Thomas Schirrmacher, the newly-appointed head of The World Evangelical Alliance, which represents over 600 million evangelical Christians worldwide, previously told The Christian Post that Hindu supremacism is the driver of much of the persecution in that country.

“Elections are won by the prime minister with this topic: ‘India is for the Hindus,’ and suddenly Muslims and Christians find themselves in a country that clearly wants to get rid of them,” he said. “They promote the idea that an Indian by nature is a Hindu. So if he is not a Hindu, he has been stolen, and must be re-converted.”

“This idea was not on the market 10 years ago, and has led to an increase in discrimination and killings of Indian Christians and other minorities,” he said, adding that Christians in Western countries must “speak up” for those persecuted for their faith.

The report was part of RI’s annual Persecution Trends Survey, which was published in the recent edition of Release International’s Voice magazine. In addition to China and India, RI predicted Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt and Nigeria will also face increased persecution in the coming year. Interestingly, the group said that RI partners have been able to double their distribution of Bibles to Christians in North Korea throughout 2020, despite COVID restrictions. According to Open Doors USA, North Korea is ranked No. 1 on its list of countries where it’s most difficult for Christians to live.

“This has been the most creative year we have witnessed in the underground church to date,” the group said. A previous report found that the percentage of North Korean citizens who are exposed to the Bible is steadily increasing every year despite extreme persecution.

Before 2000, only 16 people claimed to have seen a Bible. After 2000, up to 559 North Korean defectors said they had “seen a Bible,” even though religious literature is banned in the isolated country.

Hungary passes constitutional amendment defining marriage as between man and woman, bans gay adoption


Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter FOLLOW

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech in front of the National Museum during Hungary’s National Day celebrations on March 15, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary. Hungary’s National Day celebrations commemorate the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against the Habsburg monarchy. | Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images

The eastern European nation of Hungary has passed a constitutional amendment that will preserve the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The Ninth Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary, the country’s equivalent of a constitution, was passed in Parliament last week by a margin of 134-45. The amendment, which was backed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, will amend Section L paragraph (1) of the Fundamental Law to read: “Hungary protects the institution of marriage as the association between a man and a woman and the family as the basis for the survival of a nation. The foundation of the family is marriage and the parent-child relationship. The mother is a woman, the father is a man.”

“The main rule is that only married couples can adopt a child, that is, a man and woman who are married,” said Justice Minister Judit Varga, Reuters reported.

Varga, who sent the amendment to Parliament last month, said it will also work to provide “all children with an education based on the values of the Christian culture of Hungary and guarantees the undisturbed development of the child according to their gender at birth,” Hungary Today noted.

“The Fundamental Law of Hungary is a living framework that expresses the will of the nation, the form in which we want to live,” Varga wrote in the justification section of the bill. “However, the ‘modern’ set of ideas that make all traditional values, including the two sexes, relative is a growing concern.”

“The constant threat to the natural laws of the forms and content of human communities, to the concepts arising from the order of Creation that harmonize with them and ensure the survival of communities, and, in some cases, the attempt to formulate them with a content contrary to the original raises doubts as to whether the interests, rights and well-being of future generations can be protected along the lines of the values of the Fundamental Law,” she added.

The passage of the Ninth Amendment comes less than a year after Parliament voted in favor of a measure that defines gender as “biological sex based on primary sex characteristics and chromosomes.” Like the measure preserving the traditional definition of sex, the Ninth Amendment faced strong pushback from LGBT advocacy groups.

“This is a dark day for Hungary’s LGBTQ community and a dark day for human rights,” said David Vig, director of Amnesty Hungary. “These discriminatory, homophobic and transphobic new laws — rushed through under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic — are just the latest attack on LGBTQ people by Hungarian authorities.”

The government of Hungary, led by Orban, has worked to uphold the influence of Christianity on its laws and culture as much of the rest of Europe continues to become more secular. Orban previously described Christianity as “Europe’s last hope.”

Hungary was one of the 31 other countries that joined the U.S. in signing the Geneva Consensus Declaration, which asserts that “there is no international right to abortion.” Rather than rely on immigration to counteract the country’s declining birth rates, the Hungarian government implemented pro-family policies designed to incentivize people to have children.

The United States tried and failed to pass the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would have enshrined the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman into the U.S. Constitution, in 2006. At the time, several states had passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in response to a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Less than a decade later, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the constitutional amendments, declaring that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Of the 29 countries that have legalized same-sex marriage, more than half of them are in Europe.

Rick Warren: COVID-19 has ‘revealed a fundamental weakness in the Church’


Reported By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter 

(Screengrab Saddleback Church)

Many churches across the U.S. are scrambling in the wake of COVID-19 because they’ve focused solely on worship instead of other aspects of ministry, Pastor Rick Warren of the California-based Saddleback Church has said.

“COVID revealed a fundamental weakness in the Church,” the pastor recently told Relevant magazine in an interview. “Most churches only have one purpose: worship. And if you take worship away, you’ve got nothing. They’re in a hurry to get back to worship because that’s all they’ve got.”

But the 20,000-member Saddleback Church is built not on one purpose, but on five,” Warren explained.

“You take one circle out, we’ve still got four other circles. We’ve got ministry going on. We’ve got mission going on. We’ve got fellowship going on. We’ve got discipleship going on. Those all stand on their own.”

As a result, removing worship didn’t shut the church down, The Purpose Driven Life author contended. In fact, Saddleback’s seen over 16,000 people come to Christ since March — and is continuing to see about 80 new conversions a day.

“We’re in revival,” he said.

When the pandemic first hit, Saddleback’s leadership “looked around and made a list of all the different problems that COVID was creating,” and then met those needs.

“For instance, the first one was food,” Warren said, adding that Saddleback partnered with every school district in Orange County to develop “food pantry pop-ups.” Now, the church is the largest food distributor in Southern California,” having served over 3.5 million pounds of food to over 300,000 families.

“We teach our people that every member of the church is a minister,” Warren said. “Everybody’s a missionary too. You’re a witness. Those people already know how to share their faith. When people would pull up they’d talk to them about the Lord.”

“Of those 16,000 people who have come to Christ, over 12,000 of them have come through personal, one-on-one witnessing by my members. Not led to Christ by my sermons. By one-on-one evangelizing.”

Though California’s strict limits on church attendance during the pandemic have angered churches across the state, Warren stressed that he doesn’t believe places of worship are being discriminated against.

“They might have a discrimination case if theaters weren’t closed, football games weren’t closed … But they are,” he added. “We’re not being discriminated against. This is a safety issue. Regal Cinemas closed down 650 theaters. Disney laid off 28,000 people. We’re not being discriminated against.”

Suggesting that “some churches are willing to gamble the health of their people,” Warren said he is not.

“The good shepherd prays for his sheep, cares for his sheep. One day I will be responsible. I don’t want to be a super-spreader. I’m not doing this out of fear; I’m doing this out of love. You wear a mask for love your neighbors, yourself.”

Researcher Warren Bird, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, previously told The Christian Post that as the COVID-19 pandemic fades away, the churches that “do small groups well” will most likely be “stronger” than those that do not.

“In light of the pandemic, so much of church health today depends on a vibrant, small group system underneath the big gatherings, whether they’re in person or online,” he said.

“Much like in the pandemic, the churches that are most threatened are those with preexisting health conditions,” Bird explained. “The churches that are going to have the hardest time re-surfacing will be ones that depended solely on the Sunday morning gathering. They will have a hard time re-gathering, rebuilding momentum, and reestablishing their mission as a church.”

As many as one in five churches could permanently close due to shutdowns stemming from the pandemic, David Kinnaman, president of the prominent Christian research organization Barna Group, recently said.

As time passes, Kinnaman said that “we’ll look back at this pandemic as a fundamental change to the way Americans” handled church attendance.

Exponential CEO Todd Wilson recently said that “what is church” is “going to become “one of the key questions coming out of COVID,” as the digital way many are currently worshiping is “more of a missionary impulse for evangelism.”

“Personally, I’m predicting it’s going to become more of a debate, not less, as we move into the future,” he said. “It seems like the new normal is going to involve greater digital than pre-COVID. … All of a sudden, churches are going to think about, ‘Why do I even have a physical building? Why do I need it? Why not be completely digital?’”

“At some point, we’ve got to go through that question of, ‘What, physically, is church?”

2,200 Nigerian Christians hacked to death in 2020; 34,400 since 2009: Intersociety report


Reported By Jackson Elliott, Christian Post Reporter 

Christian mourners at the burial site of the Rev. Alubara Audu who was killed by jihadist herdsmen at Buda, Kajuru in Kaduna state, Nigeria, in September 2020. | Emeka Umeagbalasi

When radical Islamists murder Christians in Nigeria, the government lists their deaths as having other causes, according to new report released by Nigeria’s International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law. The newly-released report indicates that deaths which the Nigerian government describes as random banditry or inter-tribal violence, actually result from radical Islamists attacking Christians, said Intersociety leader and founder Emeka Umeagbalasi.

Since 2009, 34,400 Christians have been murdered by radical Islamists, with 2,200 slain in the last year, the report says. Radical Muslims have also killed an estimated 20,000 moderate Muslims.

” … the most dangerous dimension to radical Islamism in Nigeria is its secret rise and spread and clandestine control of state power through Fulani Jihadism. In other words, the Nigerian Government’s major local and foreign policy direction, in clandestine practice, is ‘Fulani Jihadism’ — a policy pursued with utter alacrity and through different colors and disguises including pro-jihadist or radical Islamic policies and conducts. To cover up these, the present Nigerian government has also created an international machinery of falsehood and propaganda with well-funded or oiled international lobbying campaigns targeted at misinforming and misleading key and strategic international legislative, diplomatic and democratic institutions or bodies especially the EU, U.S., U.K. and Australia and their Parliaments; the Commonwealth and the U.N. and other internationally respected state and non-state actors,” the report states, in part.

“What the government here is doing is mapping out strategies. [It’s] a kind of script that’s given to media, local media and what have you,” Umeagbalasi said.

According to Umeagbalasi, Nigeria’s government tells media that Fulani tribe herdsmen travel south fleeing desertification and kill during conflicts with local farmers. The truth is that Fulani tribesmen travel south because they are radical Islamists looking for Christians to kill. They don’t attack Muslim villages, and traditional cattle-grazing methods don’t support enough cows to justify fatal conflicts with farmers.

The Nigerian government hides these attacks because it supports radical Islamists, Umeagbalasi asserted. President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim. He is also a member of the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, which supports radical Islamic tribesmen, he added.

“Buhari sets aside the Constitution. He makes appointments without recourse to the Constitution,” Umeagbalasi continued. “In the Constitution, it is forbidden for the government to have a state religion. The Constitution made it clear that the composition of the armed forces of Nigeria should reflect regional or religious balancing, but the president is not listening to that.”

Instead, Buhari stacks the government with Muslims in positions of high authority, the Intersociety report said. Since Buhari’s 2015 election, Muslims have occupied 32 of the most important 39 positions in politics, security, lawmaking and the judiciary, even though Nigeria has even numbers of Muslims and Christians.

In June, five of Nigeria’s major Islamic groups made an alliance with each other to rise up against Christians. The killings of Christians in Nigeria aren’t random acts of violence, but a calculated attempt to conquer Nigeria for Islam, Umeagbalasi claims.

“The country is being taken over by the caliphate,” he said. “When they are done in the north, they will now come to the south.”

In response to the rise in attacks, Nigeria’s government has done little or nothing, the report says. They consistently under-report casualties of Christians. Sometimes, the government buries murdered Christians using Muslim funeral rites in an attempt to convince the world that Christians aren’t under attack.

“The Government of Nigeria clandestinely will direct the Army Commander or Commissioner of Police in charge of the incident area to organize a press conference denying the killing or linking it falsely to another cause such as ‘attack by bandits’ or ‘rival communal violence’ or ‘killing associated with kingship/chieftaincy/intra communal violence’ or ‘reprisal violence’ or ‘cult-related killing,’ or ‘killing arising from armed robbery and kidnapping,’ or ‘road accidents,’” the report reads.

Rather than sending the military or police to defeat heavily armed terrorists, the Nigerian government orders its forces to stand down and retreat if fired on, said Umeagbalasi. In some cases, the Nigerian Army allegedly participate in the killing of Christians. Some Christians in the Army told him that commanders who tell their soldiers to fight terrorists get transferred to assignments where they can’t make the country safer.

“There is a security code given to Nigerian armies not to shoot or arrest Fulani hitmen,” Umeagbalasi said. “Christian Army leaders drew my attention to it. The soldiers said there was an instruction from the president [that] nobody should shoot. If you are under attack, you should retreat.”

Andrew Brunson warns hostility against Christians in US will get worse


Reported By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor 

Andrew Brunson speaks at a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom hearing on religious freedom issues in Turkey at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2019. The Christian Post

American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned for his faith in Turkey for two years, predicted that persecution of Christians in the United States will intensify due to “hostility toward people who embrace Jesus Christ and His teaching.”

“The pressures that we’re seeing in our country now are going to increase, and one of these pressures is going to be hostility toward people who embrace Jesus Christ and His teaching, who are not ashamed to stand for Him,” Brunson said during a virtual event, called “Global Prayer for U.S. Election Integrity.”

“On my return to the U.S. just over two years ago, for the first time in my life … most of my life I’ve been focused overseas … I really, I have an urgency for this country, for the United States, and not just with this election,” continued Brunson, a Christian missionary who lived in Turkey for more than 20 years. “It’s not precipitated by this election, but it has been growing in me these last two years.”

He said his concern is that “we’re not ready for this pressure,” and warned that “not being prepared is very, very dangerous on a number of levels.”

“Whoever ends up prevailing in this election, I believe that persecution is still coming and it’s coming quickly and it’s coming soon. So if President Trump prevails, it will delay persecution at a government level, but this will not keep us from the hostility that’s rising in our society toward followers of Jesus,” he warned. “And I want to mention here that Jesus was the most loving, kind person in history, and yet He was called evil and people are not going to just disagree with us.

“They will say that we are evil and they will justify everything they do to us because they will paint us as evil people. What is heavy on my heart is that we need to prepare ourselves to prepare our own hearts.”

Pastor Brunson, who was taken into custody by Turkish officials along with his wife, Norine, in October 2016, said he thinks “one of the purposes God had for me in my imprisonment was that I learned perseverance at a deeper level again and again and again, as I was repeatedly broken and finally He rebuilt me.”

He added that helping prepare others to persevere was also one of the purposes.

The Facebook event was part of a series of special live prayer events for election integrity and against election fraud, the organizers said.

In Turkey, Norine was released soon after, but Brunson was thrown in prison, accused of plotting to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Following two years in detention, Brunson was released last October after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the country.

Brunson shared details about his imprisonment in Turkey, revealing he experienced a crisis of faith while in detention. “I was actually very afraid,” he admitted. “The issue, actually, is what we do when we’re afraid. There are things to be afraid of.”

The pastor also warned in March that being a Christian in the U.S. might soon come with great personal risk with the culture becoming increasingly “hostile” to believers.

“There is a price to following Jesus. There is a price in other countries. We hear about that. But increasingly, I think that there will be a price to be paid here,” he told hundreds gathered at the National Religious Broadcasters Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, at the time.

“It is normal to be afraid. The issue is, will you stand in spite of your fear? Will you remain faithful? In the end, people are going to pay a price for the sake of the Gospel. Overseas, yes, but also here … there is a cost to following Jesus.”

John MacArthur: World ‘perfectly suited for the Antichrist to come’ amid COVID-19 chaos


Reported By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter 

Pastor John MacArthur announced during the Shepherd’s Conference held earlier this month that next year’s conference will include a summit on biblical inerrancy. Photo taken March 7, 2014. | Grace Community Church

Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur has warned that today’s world is “perfectly suited for the Antichrist to come” amid the chaos and “lawlessness” stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

MacArthur, whose Sun Valley, California-based church has repeatedly sparred with authorities over COVID-19 worship restrictions, said on Sunday that world governments “have done something that’s never been done in human history” by making the pandemic issue and the response “global.”

“Now we are a global world. And that is a setup that we’ve been waiting for through redemptive history since the Lord promised that there would come, in the future, an Antichrist who would have a global government,” the 81-year-old pastor said.

“We literally have such power over people globally that we can shut them down so they can’t function,” he said.

“This suits the world of Antichrist. As you look at the book of Revelation, there’s the mark of the beast, the number, and if you don’t have that, you don’t buy, you don’t sell, you don’t exist. Everything about you, they know — the people who have access to all your data. They know all of it. You can go out of existence virtually any moment [and] somebody decides that. This is the kind of world that appears to be perfectly suited for the Antichrist to come, bring a certain amount of peace, [and] the world falls at his feet.”

MacArthur, who also runs a syndicated Christian teaching radio and television program, described the Antichrist as the “instrument of Satan,” adding: “And of course, all hell breaks loose, and in that time of the Great Tribulation, God’s judgment comes, at the end of which Christ returns.”

The pastor said that while he’s not predicting that “the Lord is coming soon,” the unrest seen today reflect those prophesied in Scripture.

“The Bible says in the End Times there will be lawlessness. And there is lawlessness [today] and an escalating lawlessness and an effort to create more lawlessness by taking restraints away,” he said. “This is a world that could find itself in such absolute chaos that the right satanic leader who promises to fix everything could be given the title of king of the world. That Antichrist, aided by the false prophet, is what we see in the book of Revelation.

“We have the kind of weaponry that could destroy a third of the population, a fourth of the population, as you see in the book of Revelation,” he continued. “We have the kind of technology that can literally erase people out of existence. So, it’s just up to us to be sure that we’re looking at the signs of the times.”

MacArthur and his megachurch have made headlines in recent months after the church decided to resume in-person services in violation of California’s ongoing public health and court orders.

“I’ve been here 50 years; the church is 63 years old, and this church has never had any kind of mandate from the government to close,” MacArthur said in an interview with Billy Hallowell in August. “So when they came up with this mandate it seemed to be so rare and so unusual that we were listening.”

Upon hearing dire predictions about the death toll, MacArthur said it was “enough to make anybody with common sense” pause and take steps to ensure no one was endangered. The church initially moved to a live stream model and closed down in-person services — but within a few weeks, MacArthur said parishioners started showing up again.

Listen to MacArthur explain why his church is defying orders on the Edifi with Billy Hallowell podcast

Despite facing the prospect of fines and the threat of jail time as a result of his refusal to comply with coronavirus regulations, MacArthur has maintained that it’s the church’s biblical responsibility to stay open and hold worship services.

“Of course, my biblical hero apart from the Lord Jesus Christ is the Apostle Paul,” MacArthur said in September. “And when he went into a town he didn’t ask what the hotel was like. He asked what the jail was like because he knew that’s where he was going to spend his time.”

“So I don’t mind being a little apostolic — if they want to tuck me into jail, I’m open for a jail ministry,” he continued. “I’ve done a lot of other ministries and haven’t had the opportunity to do that one. So bring it on.”

Churches across the U.S. have grappled with how to operate amid ever-changing circumstances presented by state government lockdowns in response to COVID-19.

Ed Young, founding and senior pastor of Fellowship Church, told The Christian Post that the spiritual ramifications of refusing to meet outweigh the hype of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Look at our culture. There is so much going on right now spiritually, especially among young people facing depression, anxiety, and attempting suicide,” Young, who leads the evangelical megachurch in Grapevine, Texas, said. “I have counted the cost of not opening our church versus opening, and I believe that risk and faith go hand in hand. It’s critical to reopen churches.”

But Christian geneticist and U.S. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recently advised most churches to postpone in-person services due to COVID-19 until at least summer 2021, when most Americans are expected to have had the opportunity to get vaccinated.

“I know people are tired of hearing these messages and having to be acting upon them, but the virus does not care that we are tired. The virus is having a wonderful time right now spreading through this country, taking advantage of circumstances where people have let their guard go down. We need to be just absolutely rigorously adherent to things that we know work. But they don’t work unless everybody actually sticks to them faithfully without exception,” Collins said.

“Churches gathering in person is a source of considerable concern and has certainly been an instance where superspreading has happened and could happen again. So I think most churches really ought to be advised, if they are not already doing so, to go to remote, virtual kinds of services. That’s the way I’m having my experiences as a churchgoer,” he said.

Church Leaders Who Cancel Christmas Services Are Clinging To Government Lies, Not Christ


Church Leaders Who Cancel Christmas Services Are Clinging To Government Lies, Not Christ

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Wednesday against discriminatory targeting of religious groups with COVID-19 restrictions marked a significant victory in the ongoing battle to preserve religious liberty. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, hostile stakeholders in public office have assaulted the first freedom through superciliously labeling religious services “nonessential.” Christians in much of the country now find themselves in the demeaning and intolerable position of being allowed to worship only in the manner and on terms dictated by politically motivated governors.

Respecting authorities’ claims about an unknown disease made sense early in the outbreak, but now after better scientific information shows many initial fears are false. Yet politicians refuse to come clean while ignoring their own rules forbidding us from fulfilling our Christian duties. So it is time for us once again to assert that church is the most essential activity, period. Instead of valiantly fighting in the vanguard, however, many religious leaders have quickly retreated.

It is one thing for a church leader to prayerfully consider the individual needs of his church, striving to maintain unity among members in disagreements, protecting the health of the vulnerable, and offering stability amid uncertainty. It is quite another for shepherds to forsake the assembling of their flocks and enable the propaganda that congregating freely to worship God is selfish and “could kill grandma.” This unbiblical stance also overlooks the hypocrites in public office and the media who don’t even play by their own silly rules and ignore the data, for much lesser purposes than the health of our souls.

Many such religious leaders are neglecting the soul-saving mission of the church. The notion that being a good Christian requires indefinite cessation of communal worship — and for Catholics, the suspension of the sacraments — to prevent the spread of illness is a falsehood that has confused the faithful and undermined religious freedom.

Supreme Court Upholds Religious Liberty

In the case brought by the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Supreme Court held that “the restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.” In a concurring opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch posed a pertinent rhetorical question: “Who knew that public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?”

Gorsuch held that “the only explanation for treating religious places differently seems to be a judgment that what happens there just isn’t as ‘essential’ as what happens in secular spaces.” He warned that “in too many places, for far too long, our first freedom has fallen on deaf ears.”

For several months now, elected officials and many church leaders around the country have flagrantly ignored religious liberty. States such as California, Oregon, and Washington have witnessed a new wave of post-election crackdowns on religious services. In San Diego County, churches are currently prohibited from holding indoor services. Meanwhile, a San Diego court just issued a temporary order exempting coronavirus restrictions from applying to a strip club, ruling that such entertainment constitutes “constitutionally protected speech.”

In Oregon, new restrictions limit faith-based gatherings to a maximum of 25 people regardless of church size but allow businesses to continue operating at a reduced percentage of their total capacity. Archbishop of Portland Alexander Sample rightly argued that allowing a measly 25 worshipers in a cathedral that can seat 1,000 isn’t data-driven and doesn’t make sense.

The Church Is Essential

expressed concern back in May about politicians labeling religious services “nonessential” and allowing the state to determine on what terms churches can hold services. At that time, Washington bishops effectively thumbed their noses at President Trump for declaring that state governments should allow houses of worship to reopen.

The bishops instead hitched their wagon to Gov. Jay Inslee’s rogue horse. Hence six months down the road, Inslee again targeted Washington churches as part of his latest round of arbitrary fiats. Church capacity is reduced to 25 percent, and congregational and choral singing is prohibited.

Meanwhile, the very authorities who tut-tut and wag fingers clearly don’t adhere to or believe in the merits of their own nonsense rules. Sanctimonious public officeholders have lectured us about keeping business closed, taking unemployment on the chin, staying home, and wearing masks while they visit salons, attend private dinners, and jet off out of state for holidays with family. The duplicity of notorious mask shamers such as CNN’s Chris Cuomo and White House correspondents Kaitlan Collins and Jonathan Karl has similarly been on display.

The hypocrisy is not limited to the secular sphere. Pope Francis condemned peaceful lockdown protests despite the World Health Organization’s warning against using lockdowns as the primary means of controlling the virus. Francis believes that closing churches, businesses, and schools, and forcing people out of work are all “necessary for people’s protection.” He has even canceled public celebration of Christmas liturgies at the Vatican.

Yet Francis didn’t appear particularly worried about Wuhan virus transmission when, free from any semblance of social distancing and masks, he enjoyed a cozy chat about poverty and social justice with a group of handsomely paid NBA players and fellow pals of the Chinese Communist Party. Evidently, on protecting the freedom to assemble, to provide for one’s family, and even to freely worship, government-imposed restrictions are non-negotiable, but when it’s about racial and economic politics, the holy grail of neo-Marxists, lockdowns are a suggestion only.

Against this backdrop, Christians should be prepared for the usual suspects in public office and the press, facilitated by an array of religious leaders, to crack down on Christmas celebrations. We will no doubt hear more of the “we do this not out of fear but out of love” mantra. Given, however, that the survival rate is 94.6 percent for those 70 years and older and between 99.5-99.997 percent for those 69 and younger, rapid breakthroughs in therapeutics have been announced, three reportedly effective vaccines are on the way, and government authorities are flouting their own restrictions, the “love thy neighbor” lecture is becoming as tedious as it is false.

Christians Need Church to Obey God’s Commands

The Gospels tell us the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We cannot fulfill the second greatest commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves if that love is not solidly founded in an encounter with God. This means gathering with the faithful in sung praise and thanksgiving, as we read in Psalms and was the custom from the earliest church, as well as explicitly commanded in scripture.

The Greek word for church, “ekklesia,” comes from the Old Testament and originally referred to the assembly of the people of Israel. When St. Paul first used the term, he intended it as the new community of believers in Christ. This “ekklesia” is not a human association borne of common interests and beliefs but a summoning by God himself.

For Catholics, the encounter with God is achieved even more profoundly through the sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus is literally and wholly present — body and blood, soul and divinity — under the appearances of consecrated bread and wine. Whatever way you look at it, religious services are essential, and church leaders should say so.

Religious leaders must get their priorities straight. No doubt, pastors are genuinely concerned for the health of the most vulnerable in their communities and trying to accommodate the confusion and fears of their congregants. Some must feel their hands are tied by unsupportive leadership. Still others, I suspect, find themselves effectively cornered by congregants whose political indoctrination runs deeper than their catechesis.

Nevertheless, the role of preachers is to win souls for Christ, not to protect us or themselves from physical infirmity. St. Paul urges a return to God through Christ and cautions against domination by earthly pleasures and preoccupations. In other words, if, as St. Ambrose of Milan taught, we have a wound to heal, Christ is the doctor; if we are parched by fever, he is the spring; if we fear death, he is life; and if we are in darkness, he is light.

After a dismal year, and in sober anticipation of Joe Biden’s threatened “dark winter,” it is more important than ever for Christians to unite in praise of the Light that shines in the darkness and which the darkness has never put out. We should demand that our religious leaders mark the Nativity with fitting pomp and ceremony and refuse to support churches whose pastors spread or cower behind the lie that the celebration of Christmas is nonessential.

ABOUT TYHE AUTHOR:
Carina Benton is a native Australian living in Washington state. She is a practicing Catholic and has taught for many years in Catholic and Christian schools. She is a mother of two young children.
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